BUSHWICK And Bombs

BUSHWICK

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Ex wrestler turned action here Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) and actress Brittany Snow (Pitch Perfect): An Unlkely Pairing But, Trust Me, It Works!

The premise sounds a little far-fetched (screenplay is credited to Nick Damici and Graham Reznick)  – certain Southern states secede from the Union and invade the lowly Brooklyn suburb of Bushwick in hopes of establishing a beachhead in Manhattan.

However, the filmmakers (Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott are listed as directors) get a lot of bang for their buck, considering their overall budget would barely cover Johnny Depp’s coffee break.

But that premise? I mean, North vs. South? A second American Civil War? That couldn’t happen again, could it? Well, could it? Um …. could it?

FASTER

 

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This must have looked good on  paper. But, seriously, guys, don’t you have something better to do with your time?

ASSASSIN’S CREED

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What the …….. oh, never mind!

TV or not TV: Is That a Question? (WOLF HALL)

Think Westeros has intrigue (and a high body count)?

Wolf Hall - poster

Try the court of Henry VIII in 15th century England (and, unlike the Lannisters, this is based on real facts.(Kudos to screenwriter Peter Straughan for boiling down Hilary Mantel’s two door-stopping historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies in this six-part BBC/PBS miniseries now on DVD.)

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Damian Lewis (left), Mark Rylance (middle) and Claire Foy (right) in “Wolf Hall”

Award-winning actor Mark Rylance (he has won or been nominated for every major award except the Grammy) stars in a thoroughly immersive performance as Thomas Cromwell, a wily manipulator trying to survive and prosper in the court of Henry VIII (played with mercurial elan by Damian Lewis).

PS Claire Foy, so good as a young Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown, portrays the doomed Anne Boleyn (although her character doesn’t know she is doomed in the early stages of this drama. Far from it!)

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Stuff I Watched (And Maybe You Will) 2

WIENER-DOG

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Despite a terrific cast  this is a step down for filmmaker Todd Solondz’ usual dyspeptic wit.

“Hilarious!” says one blurb on the back of the DVD. Funny. I wasn’t laughing. I mean, I can handle pitch-black humor as well as anyone but there’s gotta be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Oh well, at least it’s a Todd Solondz movie you can take yer mom to (if yer ma is a so-called “zoomer”, chances are she is fairly liberal.)

Stuff I Watched (And Maybe You Will, Too): LATE SPRING

 

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I’ve read a lot of articles namechecking Yasujiro Ozu over the years but I personally have never had the opportunity to access his films until recently. (When it comes to Japanese cinema, I’m more of a Kurosawa man myself.)

Perhaps  Akira Kurosawa’s best-known films with their emphasis on action and/or suspense have proved to be more accessible to western audiences. (Hollywood has adapted several Kurosawa films, the most successful being The Magnificent Seven, an Americanized version of Seven Samurai ( which featured the mighty Toshiro Mifune – one of my all-time favorite screen performers.)

Late Spring - book

Mr.  Ozu specializes in understated family dramas like Tokyo Story (recently voted No. 1 in a poll of 358 directors conducted by Sight and Sound magazine) and Late Spring, part of a series of “seasonal” works which also includes Early Summer and  Autumn Afternoon.

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Yasujiro Ozu directing Late Spring

Ozu films were not widely available globally until the 1970s, according to film prof Louis Giametti. They were considered by distributors to be “too Japanese” to appeal to foreign audiences.  Mr. Ozu was, Prof. Giametti writes, “a champion of traditional values, particularly that quintessential Japanese institution, the family.”  For that reason, things may appear to many Western viewers to be moving too slowly as Mr. Ozu meticulously records details of everyday Japanese family life. He is not interested in heavy drama. The characters move at their own speed: they will not be rushed.

Late Spring - Criterion

Recently I spotted a Criterion Collection reissue of 1949’s Late Spring at the local library.  Lovingly remastered by the Criterion folks, the package also includes scholarly yet accessible essays plus some words from the master himself. The package also includes a second disc, Tokyo-Ga, a documentary by the great German director Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, Buena Vista Social Club), recording his 1983 odyssey to Japan in search of the Tokyo which inspired Mr. Ozu’s films. Along the way he meets and interviews Chishu Ryu, a regular in Ozu films and Mr. Ozu’s longtime assistant, Yuharu Atsuta, who comments on the master’s unique style (he always liked to film with the camera several feet above the floor and using 50 mm lenses). On Mr. Ozu’s preferred method of shooting, Prof. Giametti writes “Ozu treated his characters as equals …for the most part, they are ordinary people, neither very virtuous or very corrupt … kept his camera neutral and dispassionate. Eye -level shots permit us to make up our own minds …”

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Chishu Ryu in “Late Spring”

Thanks to Mr. Ozu’s film I felt I really knew this family and thanks to Criterion’s thoughtful packaging and the accompanying Wenders documentary I felt I knew a little more about Yasujiro Ozu and his art.

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The one and only Setsuko Hara in Late Spring

Notably missing from Mr. Wenders’ doc is frequent Ozu leading lady Setsuko Hara. Ms. Hara, with her luminous eyes and expressive features, plays a devoted daughter to her elderly professor father (Ryu) in Late Spring. She will learn to her sorrow that she must leave her father and start her own life. Despite the appearance (to some) that little is happening the film is quite poignant and the ending can be ineffably sad.  After the passing of Mr. Ozu in 1963 Ms. Hara retired from acting, resumed her real name (Setsuko Hara was a stage name), went into seclusion, refusing all requests for interviews and died in 2015. But we can still view her haunting femininity and screen presence on film.

Some things need no translation.

Late Spring - T-shirt

 

 

 

 

Stuff I Watched #5 – JOHN WICK 2

Like most American thrillers. there is enough fetishistic depiction of weaponry to make a gun collector drool.  (There is even a style of fighting in the movie which is referred to boastfully in the Extras as “gun fu”.)

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Gotta give Keanu credit, though. Now in his early Fifties.the former teen heartthrob still manages to keep his name above the title.

 

Stuff I Watched #4: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

Director Colm McCarthy and novice screenwriter Mike Carey (adapting the script from his own novel) do their best to pump fresh blood into the tired zombie genre (for example, the Z-word is rarely used – here the flesh-eating critters are called “hungries” and contacted their condition through a fungal infection).

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Gemma Arterton in “The Girl With All the Gifts”

Brit beauty Gemma Arterton dispenses with make-up to reveal the natural beauty within (and has seldom been more convincing) as a teacher who lets her emotions get in the way of her job. Veteran actress Glenn Close (sporting an unflattering butch cut) is characteristically convincing as a scientist so focused on her work that she is oblivious to her humanity.

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GLENN CLOSE IN “GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS”

Add Paddy Considine as a volatile soldier to the mix and you have the human ingredients for a zombie- excuse me – apocalyptic thriller with a sting in its tale.

But the film really belongs to feature film newcomer Sennia Nanua (no fair telling you who her character really is ). She joins a select group of young female performers including Oscar-nominated Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the  Southern Wild), Dafne Keen (Logan) and Millie Bobby Brown (Netflix’s  Stranger Things) whose seemingly effortless and naturalistic performances place them in a class all their own.

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The gifted SENNIA NANUA