I Got It at the Library: NOSTALGIA

Screenwriter Alex Ross Perry may have noticed some friends packing up stuff for their late parents. Perhaps  he was faced with the onerous task himself. He may have thought, Now there’s a good subject for a film.

Trouble was, nobody wanted to see it.

At least that’s what I gathered from the box office and reviews (Critics gave Nostalgia a rating of 35% on the Rotten Tomatoes.com website and the audience “reviewers” weren’t too enthused either. Ouch!) Okay, it does drag a little.

A pensioner in his 80s (Bruce Dern),  surrounded by objects collected over the years tells an insurance agent (John Ortiz) he doesn’t care about any of it. This leads to another story about a widow (the great Ellen Burstyn) devastated by the loss of her house. She says to the agent, What is the first thing you grab when your house is burning. In her case the only thing she managed to save was a treasured possession that belonged to her late husband

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The sometimes uncomfortable but essential “NOSTALGIA”

Perhaps the most sobering part of the film features Jon Hamm and the great Catherine Keener as a brother and sister duo who return to the house they grew up in to clean up after their parents who have moved to Florida. Catherine’s daughter (Annaliese Basso), your typical millennial i.e. early 20s, cannot relate since she never spent any time in the house and, furthermore, has no use for her grandfather’s vinyl albums. (“Whatever I want, I can download.”)

Basically, the theme of the film is the sentimental attachments we form to objects collected over a lifetime and what to do with them at a critical juncture. (For millennials, the film makes the point that everything of value is on phones and/or on laptops and if those objects are destroyed, there are no keepsakes to remember them by.)

Despite the negative feedback from various sources, I would recommend the film as required viewing for all boomers of a certain age. (In North America we call it “downsizing”. Europeans are more pragmatic. They refer to the process as “Swedish death cleaning.”)

For those to whom the film applies (I plead guilty) the film’s subject matter can make for  uncomfortable viewing. In fact, I had to watch it in installments because I related so deeply to the film’s subject matter.

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I Got it at the Library: “THE COMEDIAN”

Robert de Niro plays a washed-up 1980s sitcom star seeking to reinvent himself as a hip (and very blue) stand-up comic but all the audiences wanna see is the character he played in the long-ago series.

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Robert de Niro in THE COMEDIAN – Also pictured is (top) Leslie Mann (Mrs. Judd Apatow in private life), Danny Devito and Broadway legend Patti LuPone (Middle) and Edie Falco (Bottom).

Kinda reminds me of the plight in which Bojack Horseman finds himself in the animated Netflix hit (back in the Nineties, according to the show’s premise, Bojack starred in a silly, family-friendly TV series called “Horsin’ Around” and the show still follows him around like a bad smell.)

Of course, there is one important difference (outside of the fact that Mr. de Niro is not animated):  Bojack Horseman is actually funny.

King for a Few Moments, Anyway

It may have been a mistake to include a “blooper reel” with the extras on the DVD version of The Dark Tower.

It proves that even the cast (which includes Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey) couldn’t get through this woeful adaptation of a Stephen King novel  without breaking up.

Dark Tower

Oh well,  at least the movie shows the mighty Elba doesn’t need the James Bond franchise. Judging from his action chops in this pic, he can start his own franchise. 

Though the vaunted McConaissance is well and truly over.

I Got It at the Library: High-Rise

Recently I was watching Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel High-Rise.

Adapting Ballard novels for the screen is always a challenging proposition. Even the great David Cronenberg had problems with his notorious 1996 adaptation of the Ballard novel Crash .

Now director Ben Wheatley and his co-conspirator Jump have tried their hand. U.K. film-maker Wheatley does have a gift for highly visual (and often disturbing) imagery but despite that and committed performances by a British A-List cast that includes Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston and Sienna Miller, Aussie import Luke Evans and America’s Elizabeth Moss it was hard to tell what was driving the alleged plot.

high-rise poster

I guess one of the things Mr. Wheatley was aiming for was a broad satire on class distinctions (the idle rich live in sumptuous spreads at the top of the building and the struggling lower classes live in the lower part of the building and understandably want to move up) but that whole thing was done better (and more coherently) in South Korean film-maker Joon Ho Bong’s Snowpiercer. 

To paraphrase Will Shakespeare (or whoever wrote Macbeth) “Tis a tale written by an auteur, full of sound and fury, signifying something.”

high-rise - WTF
WTF?

 

Oh, What a Feeling ……

Recently I found myself with my ass on the grass near a shopping mall.

There were  two cop cars (with policemen inside them – putting a lie to the cliche, Where is a cop when you need one?), an ambulance, two young women (one looked genuinely concerned, the other one just looked bored, both were attractive, I couldn’t help noticing) and an older gentleman with a cel phone. Gee, my very own crowd scene!)

The world was spinning around me. In a previous lifetime, I might have quoted the vintage Crowbar lyric, “Oh, what a feeling, what a russhhh!” Unfortunately, I had not consumed any alcohol and I haven’t smoked anything in years. So it was kinda alarming.

The doctor at the local Emergency informed me that I was suffering from vertigo. And not the kind you get from watching too many Hitchcock movies.

Interesting. And to think I used to pay good money to feel like this.

Vertigo
No, not that vertigo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asian Action Flick: The Original Is Still the Greatest!

I’ve learned two things while watching The Raid 2 (now streaming on Netflix): 1) “Pencak Silat”, a term used to denote a certain type (or types) of Indonesian combat style (or styles) may be the most polite form of martial arts.

raid - poster 2

A single combatant (among an army of bad guys) lines up to test the skills of our hero (Iko Uwais), only to be crippled within seconds. Then, another combatant steps to the plate, only to be crippled within seconds. And so on … 2) Once a young director (Welsh-born director and enthusiastic advocate of martial arts Gareth Evans, in this case) has seen his original  become an unlikely commercial and artistic hit (The Raid: Redemption even played at several prestigious film festivals) he uses what is presumably a bigger budget to stage even more fights and, of course, a car chase (no action flick worth its body count is complete without it.) The frightening thing here is that the writer/director has stated in interviews that The Raid 2 is the movie he wanted to make in the first place – except he didn’t have the money.

Raid - poster

So The Raid:Redemption had to be confined to one building. It was that compression of action combined with tight editing, unique setting (Jakarta, Indonesia) and introduction of novel fighting skills that arguably made The Raid:Redemption such a respected box office hit in the first place. To make the same film again, but  even with more fights,  the obligatory car chase and an expanded plot (Our hero now takes on the criminal kingpins of the Jakarta underworld) did not bode well at the box office for the filmmaker … despite the favorable critical and audience rating on rottentomatoes.com.

Maybe I am old school but a bewildering number of fight set pieces stitched together with a semblance of a plot (John Woo’s Manhunt also got a nod of approval on the RT site) does not a great action movie make.

And while I am on the subject. how come the most charismatic action stars these days are all young Asian guys like Donnie Yen, Tony “Ong-Bak” Jaa and the aforementioned Mr. Uwais?

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Iko Uwais In Action

(If you want to include Asian women in this line-up. how about Ziyi Zhang or the great Michelle Yeoh)  Probably cuz they do can execute the most complex,choreographed fight scenes and look cool doing it. (Although the coolest star of them all, for my money will always be Chow Yun-Fat.)

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Writer/director Gareth Evans

John Woo’s Manhunt: Not a Killer Film

Woo - Manhunt

“Manhunt” (currently streaming on Netflix) plays like a remake of “Hard-Boiled” (with Chinese actor Hanyu Zhang and Japan’s Masaharu Fukuyama as reluctant team-mates, replacing Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung) – with a few of Mr. Woo’s other, better films from his ’90s heyday thrown in for good measure. (Yes, there are white doves , one of Mr. Woo’s trademarks, but no Chow Yun-Fat this time around). Perhaps reviving “Hard-Boiled”  is not as cynical as it may seem. According to various sources, a remake of Mr. Woo’s Asian action classic “The Killer” is in the works (by film-maker Woo, of course)

The alleged (and only barely coherent) plot seems to be just an excuse to string together a series of action set pieces (Mr. Woo’s specialty) including a galvanizing speedboat chase (hmm! think I saw something like that in a Bond picture). The dialogue careens crazily (and for no apparent reason) between English and what I can only assume is Chinese and Japanese. (I am informed that most Asian exports utilize this practice but I still found it distracting. Thank NF for subtitles!)

Back in the Nineties Mr. Woo had highly paid Hollywood heroes like John Travolta and Nicolas Cage working for him and Quentin Tarantino raving about his skillz as an action auteur.

Woo - Broken Arrow

Then came “Windtalkers” and “Paycheck” and suddenly John Woo didn’t look so golden.

Oh well, there was always the burgeoning Asian market. But after several period dramas (the Red Cliff and The Crossing series) John Woo is back in America lensing action sequences that defy gravity and heroes that never seem to perish despite multiple wounds.

Critics with fond memories of the original “The Killer”and “A Better Tomorrow” and/or Hollywood hits like 1996’s “”Face/Off “and 1997’s “Broken Arrow” give this film a passing grade (67%) but the audience (14%) was less than enchanted.

Woo - Killler

And in this case I’d have to agree with the audience. Although, considering where Mr. Travolta and Mr. Cage’s careers have migrated in the meantime, perhaps a re-teaming with John Woo may be a good idea for all three.

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John Woo