Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars (in an excellent performance) as a charismatic and compelling sociopath who crosses ethical and legal boundaries to grow his business as a stringer--someone who sells eyewitness content to news outlets. It's a riveting film, exciting in the way a well-made film is exciting when you have no idea where it's going, and can't believe what it's letting its characters get away with. A stylish flick shot like a thriller, structured like a noir, deceptively reminiscent of a character study, the film rewards active, engaged viewing. Easily one of the best films of last year, definitely in my top five. Reminded me a lot of a movie from 1974 in the best way. ****

Dumbassed Lifetime movie about girls getting older men to pay them for sex, but structured like the stupidest Sex and the City episode never made. Hey, man: college is expensive. Stop shaming young women for making an asset out of the corners we push them into. *

Look, I think these movies are cute. This one closed the door on the series in a fun, surprisingly emotional way. ***

Wow, this was fun to sit with. I love the Mad Max movies, and this one recaptured that feeling in the characteristically bizarre, balls out, crazy way as the others did. I wish more action movies would just go ahead and be radically visionary and just go for it the way this movie does. Especially franchise reboots and whatever they're calling them now, which are so slavish about continuity and delivering the exact same formula. Like all the Max movies, George Miller doesn't seem to care about continuity, so why the hell should we? Especially when this movie is so goddamn enjoyable and looks so beautiful and has a narrative heft without just telling you repeatedly what the themes are. I saw one critic describe this flick as The Gotterdammerung of Drive-In Movies, and that's kind of the perfect description. This is the feeling I so often hope for from gonzo movies and almost never get anymore. ****

After a sexual encounter, a girl is followed by... something. And it wants to kill her. A surprisingly effective horror film that works entirely on dream logic. Any attempt to explain what was going on or expound on themes would've destroyed this. It's so much scarier when we don't know why anything is happening, and I found this movie really compelling in the way it didn't insist on itself. ****

Update 9:52 PM: I really like this piece on io9 about the themes of mortality and awareness in It Follows. It's much more what I thought of the film than the somewhat simplistic idea that it's about STDs.

L'INFERNO (1911)
Italy's first feature film, based on Dante. It's tedious in some spots, the way most silent films can be, but some of the imagery is really fantastic. They go full-on literal interpretation, creating that kind of early 20th century phantasmagoria that is so wonderfully disturbing. ***1/2

I'd never seen this before, and... look, it's stupid, but it's kind of hilarious and fun in how stupid it is. Is there a RiffTrax version of this, because that would be great. Jennifer Aniston is a bitchy young lady from the city who moves with her dad to a run-down North Dakota house. Then Chubby from Teen Wolf accidentally frees a trapped leprechaun who attacks them, demanding they return his lost gold. You can't tell me this wasn't purposely played for laughs; except for the gore and swearing, it's like a kiddie horror comedy. **1/2 stars because it's funny and Warwick Davis is clearly having a great time hamming it up as the Leprechaun.

The real lesson of this Lifetime movie is this: don't steal your daughter's college fund to pay your bills because you mismanaged your money and then just expect her to act like it's no big deal. Because then, you know, she'll turn the afterschool tutoring/babysitting program she created into a prostitution ring to make up the cash she needs. (Actually, this movie did have a chance to say something interesting about misogyny and how criminally expensive higher education is and how a lot of what happens only happens because we drum it into kids' heads constantly that if they don't get a college education right away that they have no future and their lives are ruined, but it totally blows it.) Overly serious, kind of icky, hella stupid. *


Autumn said...

I loved (and my husband hated) how Mad Max just dropped you into a story and expected you to figure it out, I had loved the old movies and this one just completely blew me away. Some of the best movie news I have heard all year is that George Miller hopes to make it a trilogy.

It reminded me of hitting the end of a really good fantasy novel, where you don't quite want to leave that world yet. You want to read faster because the story is compelling but you want to slow down because you don't want it to end. When I reached the end of the film and it was triumphant and the story was concluded, I still wanted more. And I don't even care if it's the same people or the same time or the same place. Just drop Max in anywhere and tell me a great story...please?

Carl said...

I loved how Mad Max focused on Furiosa and ignore the existing continuity. I walked away with the impression it was someone telling a Mad Max story for a particular (Furiosa's) point of view. If we go that way, we don't have to stop at a trilogy, and we can cast ANYBODY as Max (though I loved Hardy's performance). I think that approach could add a legendary feel to it, making Nax an even more mysterious legendary figure.

Carl said...

Please ignore my typos. I'm doing his from my phone and it hates me and has a vested interest in making me look dumb.

SamuraiFrog said...

Autumn: That feeling about getting to the end of a fantasy novel is exactly how I felt at the end of Fury Road. The great thing about Max--and about the way George Miller approaches these movies with no nods to continuity--is that you really can drop him in anywhere, because he's really a force in the stories of others.

Carl: Boy, the Mad Max movies are really that way; the viewpoints of other characters, with this Western archetype moving the story along. And you're right, anyone could be Max. I liked Hardy, too; I did not miss Mel Gibson at all. I never thought until right now that Max is a lot like the Man With No Name.