Friday, 6 May 2016

REVIEW - HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS (MICHAEL SHOWALTER)


Hello, My Name Is Doris communicates ideas we understand in a language to which we've become well accustomed as moviegoers. So what makes it feel so refreshing? Insight and precision, combined with a mildly alternative perspective, give this indie comedy a shot in the arm, filling it out with development of character and scenario alike that's as advantageous to the narrative as it is to the comedy. Michael Showalter fondly engages in hipster dialect and culture, whilst satirising it with awareness and exactitude (qualities which many satirists overlook and replace with bile), never resorting to cheap nastiness. This is crucial, since it's directly connected to the film's presentation of its central figure, Sally Field's office worker Doris. Between Field's heartwarming, hilarious performance, and a thorough and sympathetic comprehension of her character, Hello, My Name Is Doris manages to work as a charming character study, an affable comedy, and a piquant manifesto against ageism. Its positive attributes are multitudinous, then, but only within the inherently underwhelming frame of the conventional, indeed downright stereotypical indie blueprint which Showalter adheres to all too readily. He's smart and talented, and could push himself further in this regard - shot compositions are plain, editing is unremarkable, soundtrack is lazily pretty and twinkly in that offensive way. There's a better movie beneath these stylistic trappings, one which showcases the abilities of an older female actor without condescension or excessive cliche. That's what makes Hello, My Name Is Doris, in spite of itself, so refreshing.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

REVIEW - CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (ANTHONY RUSSO AND JOE RUSSO)


Good enough, if you want it to be. And who's to argue that, after 300 movies in the last five years, the 'Marvel Cinematic Universe' hasn't become a kind of alternate reality, a story of such detail and such (financial) magnitude that it has acquired a weight of such significance as to actually matter? And indeed, if you want it to matter, then yes, Captain America: Civil War does matter, I'm sure. It's good enough. But it doesn't matter to me. Every time I sense a new development occurring in the sphere of superhero movies, I wonder if we've finally reached the zenith, or the nadir, of these movies, like they surely can't progress, or regress, further. And yet they surely can, and always do. Civil War feels like a turning point to me - no longer content with adequate filmmaking (at best), Marvel must now matter. And they're going full force, but with dreary insularity - not commenting upon the world outside, but upon the world within, their alternate reality; it's not for nothing that this is now known as a 'universe'. The characters engage in pithy, pointless, quasi-political discussions about issues that they don't understand, and that bear little-to-no relevance to the real lives of us viewers. It's not self-referential, it's self-obsessed, and ridiculously portentous; thus, its success is predicated upon those viewers subscribing to the reality of this fabricated universe, and deciding that, if it matters to Captain America, it matters to me too! Civil War seeks respect in its unintellectual intellectualism, though the politicking is merely a sideshow for the obligatory mega-scale mayhem. It'll draw such respect from people inclined to care about the micro-details within this sorry subgenre, in the same way that some people consider adding chocolate chips to their vanilla ice-cream a radical, exciting departure. There are other flavours out there, people! Captain America: Civil War is vanilla ice-cream, just with added chocolate chips, and it's not good enough for me*.
* Vanilla is actually my favourite flavour, but you know what I mean.

SECOND TRAILER FOR THE HANDMAIDEN


For those of us who don't understand Korean, what about this dialogue-free trailer for Park Chan Wook's Cannes-headed The Handmaiden? No clearer, though no more confusing either, and equally as tantalising! Check out the first trailer too, complete with all the Korean you don't understand!

REVIEW - DEMOLITION (JEAN-MARC VALLEE)


An obnoxious infatuation with Hollywood cliche comes to a head with Demolition, Jean-Marc Vallee's third consecutive American feature and firmly the worst yet. This is a more talented director than almost anything in this film would allow you to appreciate: the way he rejigs classic dramatic constructs, infuses them with unforced naturalism, his empathy for characters, his rapport with actors - all either fully or partially concealed beneath the trite cluelessness of Demolition's scenario and script. It's such a shame because my appetite for fine filmmaking will surely never wane, whereas my appetite for movies about white, heterosexual manchilds finally discovering their true worth and making a meaningful connection with the wonderful world around them is an appetite that's actually never even existed. It's a perfect vehicle for Jake Gyllenhaal, though, and by now you likely know why; anyway, beyond serving as a blatant vanity project (Jake has a hot body, the ladies all love Jake, Jake is smart and successful, Jake has a hot body, Jake is respectful to women, Jake has a hot body, Jake is macho, Jake dances, Jake is accepting of gay people, Jake has a hot body), this is exactly the kind of undemanding, semi-comedic part at which he excels. Between himself and Naomi Watts - undervalued as ever - they both prove and provide what worth this inane film possesses. It's beneath them, and beneath Vallee, and it's probably beneath you too. But did I mention that Jake has a hot body...?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

TRAILER FOR BRILLANTE MENDOZA'S MA' ROSA


Them Filipino filmmakers do know how to put the work in. Brillante Mendoza returns, naturally to Cannes, with Ma' Rosa. Little is yet known about the drama, which has no international theatrical releases confirmed, though it's surely bound to see its profile raise after its Cannes competition premiere later this month. The above trailer is the first look we've gotten of the film.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

REVIEW - MAPPLETHORPE: LOOK AT THE PICTURES (FENTON BAILEY AND RANDY BARBATO)


Brace yourselves: Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures dives head first into the story of its subject's life, hard, fast and throbbing. You can feel the blood rush through Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's minds as they embark on an exercise of illumination and education - a necessary project in enlightening a cloistered audience, and a noble purpose to serve, but what further purpose does this rudimentary documentary serve? We see a lot, we hear a lot, and we learn a lot, and there's no doubt as to the validity of such a direct, informative approach when dealing with topics that have so long been excluded from public consumption and conversation. Bailey and Barbato's knowledge and empathy give Mapplethorpe a lively, engaging tone as it races through its story, but their artistic ambitions are limited, marking an inexcusable oversight for a biopic of such a talented artist. The film hews too closely to biodoc convention, and with a level of haste that often precludes the kind of measured musing that's normally encouraged of the artistic audience. Robert Mapplethorpe's character is thoroughly examined, his work comprehensively presented, but too little time is allotted toward allowing the viewer to appreciate the most salient details; in place of such is too much time toward trivial recollections of his childhood, his lifestyle, his celebrity status. All of meaning, naturally, just perhaps not this much. The titular advice might be best: just look at the pictures.

Friday, 29 April 2016

REVIEW - A BRIEF HISTORY OF PRINCESS X (GABRIEL ABRANTES)


In reverence and irreverence, through profundity and vulgarity, Gabriel Abrantes imagines a six-minute stand around a sculpture. He observes Constantin Brancusi's most misunderstood work, a bust of Marie Bonaparte, with an informed mind, however, though the thoughts and opinions with which he infuses this short film align nicely with his light, nonchalant style. As such, A Brief History of Princess X examines not only its sculptural subject, but also the process of conducting such an examination. Here we see the creation of art - its origins, its intended purposes - and the consumption of art - its presentation, its interpretations, its legacy. Abrantes' lighthearted tone turns flippant in his narration, which sets this short out on unstable, unpromising grounds; only in the final few moments does an acknowledgement of Brancusi's achievements, and - more pointedly - of their underappreciation in the public arena, excuse the film's jaunts into juvenility. Yet even these are understandable, as A Brief History of Princess X is equally about perception of 'Princess X' as it is about its true beauty, itself only fully fathomable when one is able to consider that perception, and to know the facts of its creation, all smartly delineated in Abrantes' film. Production values are solid, no more nor less opulent than is required for a film of this duration and of this style. Keep an eye out for a few familiar names in the credits, and you'll realise that this film's qualities are by no means accidental. A little context goes a long way.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

REVIEW - MEDITERRANEA (JONAS CARPIGNANO)


There and back again in an enlightening discovery of futility and despair. Jonas Carpignano's Mediterranea queries whether the better life that the refugees and migrants of the third world seek actually exists or not. Its dispassionate, indistinct advocation of assimilation arises from a feeling of cultural erosion, as American and European culture bleeds into the rest of the world, yet expects so much in return for the rest of the world bleeding back. Carpignano's empathy is palpable throughout - the vivid blues and yellows of hope, the rich, muddy browns of poverty, the intimate hand-held photography, the vibrant musical cues. It's a language of presence, yet the film tells a story of absence - great geographical and cultural distances, language barriers, and the void of purpose and fulfillment for these foreign bodies. The juxtaposition of language and content here is awkward, since in this case there's little to no assimilation; they remain separate, communicating mutually exclusive messages. This leaves Mediterranea with a void of purpose itself, resulting in a simple string of events, occurring as they do because they do, striving to achieve some humanitarian condolence from the viewer, rather than additional artistic admiration. It's a worthy story, handsomely presented, and holds some worth of its own in being one of so few stories on this topic. But would that Mediterranea knew its potential worth. As it is, the feeling that this film best communicates is that same futility felt by its characters. Strong and solid filmmaking, but little more.

TIME TO CHOOSE - CHARLES FERGUSON DOC TRAILER


Every scientifically-sound climate change film is a worthy one, but in the hands of Inside Job director Charles Ferguson, you can count on Time to Choose being a damn good one too. After screening at the Telluride Film Festival last September, the documentary's US release on the 3rd of June will be its first theatrical engagement. Looks to be an informed and engaging film with an urgent message, so make sure to watch the above trailer, and ofc to watch the film when it arrives in cinemas.

OFFICIAL TRAILER FOR THE FITS


Anna Rose Holmer's directorial debut The Fits has been making the festival rounds since it first screened last September at the Venice Film Festival. Reviews for both the film and young lead Royalty Hightower's performance have been strong, and the film will hope to capitalise on its critical acclaim when it opens in the US on the 3rd of June. Check out the first trailer for the film above.