Monday, August 27, 2012

End of Summer Blahs: Premium Rush, The Apparition and Compliance

Well, it wasn't the greatest weekend for movies, that's for sure.

The best picture I saw was David Koepp's "Premium Rush," which won this week's cinematic lottery by simply not being terrible. It's a fast-paced, often amusing, but never better than pretty good thriller. It's fun - especially Michael Shannon's off-the-wall performance as the movie's heavy - but nothing to write home about.

I had stronger feelings about "Compliance," albeit not very good ones. The film, directed by Craig Zobel, was one of Sundance's more controversial selections this year. And I hate to have to describe it that way because that's clearly what the filmmakers are so desperately going for - to be the movie that divides people and gets them cranky.

Well, mission accomplished, but not in the way I'm supposing it's intended. The picture is a faux provocation. It's one of those films where you can almost just see the invisible hand of the director wagging his finger at you in scorn for sitting through the proceedings, which entail the humiliation of a young woman at the hands of a pretty sicko crank caller. And yet, I'm not the one who made the movie, am I? So there.

I'm not even going to go into "The Apparition." Let's just say the supernatural villain of the picture frequently appears as a large blob of mold. That enough for you?

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming week, I'll definitely catch "Lawless," but also several of these new releases - "The Tall Man," "For a Good Time, Call..." and "The Possession."

Next week is the first official week of the fall movie season. Thank God. This summer hasn't been the worst on record. In fact, very few of the major releases were outright terrible. But it's certainly been among the most bland.

There are a number of movies I'm very excited about this fall, including "The Master," "Django Unchained," "Amour," "Holy Motors," "Killing Them Softly," "Life of Pi," " Zero Dark Thirty" and "Promised Land." And I'm holding out hope that "Only God Forgives," "To the Wonder" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" get released this year.

Also, I'm going to follow up on Sight and Sound's 2012 poll with a list of my own. For some time, I've planned on putting together my own movie canon. So, at the end of this year, I'm going to compile what I believe to be the 1,000 movies that are required viewing. More on that later.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Baby, You're a Rich Man: 'Cosmopolis'

David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis," which is based on the novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, is one of the year's most cerebral films and one of the director's strangest in a while. And although I liked the film and was compelled by it through and through, I don't believe it ranks with Cronenberg's great films of the past 15 years - namely, "Crash," "Spider," "A History of Violence," "Eastern Promises" and "A Dangerous Method."

There's a lot to praise in the picture, from it's bizarro mood, which is established early on and maintained throughout the proceedings, the solid performances from both Robert Pattinson and the supporting cast - especially Samantha Morton - and the smorgasbord of ideas at play. It's a good film from the director, but maybe not a great one.

I also caught up with "The Expendables 2," which is just as absurd as you're probably thinking it is. It's no more and no less than that. Yes, it's pretty bad. OK, it's occasionally amusing. But I wouldn't go as far as recommending it.

Here are my reviews for both films for Patch.

I also managed to finally catch "Celeste and Jesse Forever," which starts out a bit twee and ends in a different place than I would have expected. It's a nice little comedy and it has one of the most inappropriately funny jokes of recent memory.

This coming weekend, I'll see "Compliance," which I didn't get to last weekend as well as some of the weekend's new releases - perhaps, "Premium Rush" and "The Apparition."

Monday, August 13, 2012

'Bourne' Again

Hey, you only get a chance for a headline like that once in a blue moon, so sue me.

I enjoyed "The Bourne Legacy" a bit more than a majority of critics, whose cumulative reviews for the picture have placed it at a mediocre 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, if you pay attention to that sort of thing. I thought it was a decent entry in the series and an intense film.

I also had a soft spot for "Hope Springs," which follows Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as an aging couple who attend a marriage counseling program in Maine. It's a charming film that is, at first, funny before it veers off into more serious territory. On the whole, it was likeable.

My feelings were more mixed toward the weekend's other two new films - "The Campaign" and "Red Hook Summer." The first has a few sidesplitting moments, including one in which Zach Galifianakis hears some outrageous confessions at the dinner table with his family, but the film is, on the whole, a mixed bag. It doesn't really break any ground or tell us anything we don't already know about politics and its ending, which involves a complete about-face from both characters, is not earned. At least, in my humble opinion.

As is the case in most of Spike Lee's films, "Red Hook Summer" provides some serious stuff to chew on. But it's not among the director's best. For every riveting sequence, there's another with underwritten dialogue, overlong sermonizing (literally) during its church sequences and some amateurish acting. I'd almost recommend it because it's ballsier than most other films in cinemas right now, but the film is a mixed bag.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend, I'm getting all revved up for David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis." I'll also catch up with "The Expendables 2" and, either this weekend or next, the controversial "Compliance."

Monday, August 6, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'Total Recall' and '360'

The fact that I couldn't even make an attempt at a witty/smarmy headline should tell you everything you need to know. It wasn't the most inspiring weekend at the movies.

That's not to say that the selections I caught up with were that bad - just nothing to, pardon the expression, write home about.

"Total Recall" was a perfectly serviceable - but inspiration lacking - remake of the superior 1990 film by Paul Verhoeven, which was, in turn, based on a Philip K. Dick story. The new version has some decent action sequences and a helluva lot of chase scenes. But it's sort of unnecessary.

Fernando Meiralles's "360" is a bit better than his last outing - "Blindness" - but is still a far cry from his early work - "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener." It's one of those multiple character films in which stories occasionally intersect. That's fine for a setup, but the problem here is that there does not appear to be a unifying theme. Or, at least, a very weak one. The picture has some solid performances, but it's lacking a certain something.

Here are my reviews.

I'm still catching up on some of the films I missed in the theater this year. I recently saw "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding," which dabbles in cliche but is just charming enough. Then, there's "ATM," a micro-indie thriller that is compelling enough until it completely ceases to have any point whatsoever in its final moments. I'm not going to even get into "Detention," which aims to be a "Cabin in the Woods" and falls way short. No, seriously - way short.

This coming weekend, I'll be seeing Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer," "The Bourne Legacy," "Hope Springs" and "The Campaign."