Transporting us to the wild and wonderful world of the year 2001, Josie and the Pussycats is less a live-action adaptation of the comic strip trio than it is a quirky critique of commercial culture. Nearly every frame is saturated in product placement, to the point where it becomes eye-rollingly absurd. But this gimmick does not stop there. As demonstrated by its delightful script, the film implicates a wonderfully inventive and satirical plot as as backdrop for everything that occurs. During the time of its release it may have seemed completely ridiculous (which could explain its failure at the box office), but in retrospect, I think it captures the overall superficial tone of "MTV culture" in ways that are often quite hilarious.
While the three leads are perfectly fine in their roles, the show is mainly stolen by Alan Cumming and Parker Posey's supporting roles as the sinister heads of a record company set to manipulate the minds of consumers via subliminal messages. It's a ridiculous concept, but both of these performers have proven to pull off ridiculous rather well. Here, it's no exception. The cameo by Carson Daly is also one of the more hilarious moments of the entire film. I guess what I'm trying to say is that more people need to give this film a chance. It is definitely not the disposable biopic that its advertising makes it out to be. In reality, it's smarter AND funnier. (And it passes the Bechdel Test, so that's gotta be worth a few extra points!)
3 months, 2 weeks ago
Initially, a film about the life of Andy Kaufman directed by Miloš Forman and starring Jim Carrey seemed a bit risky to me. However, to my delight, I've found that so much more is done with the material than I could have originally anticipated. Much like much of Kaufman's antics and his commitment to always be "one step ahead" of his audience, the film playfully teases viewers with half-truths and utter lies to always ensure a surprise around the corner. Its narrative frequently blurs reality and fiction, to the point where it even manipulates our emotions. By the end, we're left scratching our heads over what conclusion to make of it all. I think this method is sometimes not done as effectively as other moments in the film, but for the most part, it is fresh and satisfying.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not?), Jim Carrey does an excellent job at embodying what it was that made Kaufman so eccentric and zany. Realistically, I couldn't imagine any other actor capturing it even remotely as accurately, mainly due to the impossible colorfulness of the character at hand. In all, however, the film ends on a pretty solid note, delving into feel-good territory and wrapping on a message to be happy with the external world - a perfect way to sum up the life of such a unique individual. Contrary to what its outward appearance may imply, Man on the Moon is a must-see. Just like its protagonist, there is much more buzzing beyond the surface.
3 months, 2 weeks ago
How this film got a nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars is beyond me. While Zemeckis has directed some of the most beloved films in the past, here his direction hits rock bottom. Flight's script is lazy, uninspired, and predictable. From the way the narrative progresses to the nonchalant way characters are presented and thrown away, nearly everything about this film is boring and clichéd. This, of course, is with exception to the beginning plane crash scene, which is impressive in its sheer simplicity. However, the quality plummets from there, gradually turning into a complete mess.
The film's shining beacon of hope lies in Denzel Washington's performance. He really nails his character, yet the material he is given is a tragic disgrace. I especially took offense to the film's ending. Without giving anything away, I found it ridiculously mean-spirited, taking the easy way out and offering absolutely no sense of redemption for our protagonist. Not that the writing even gives us any reason to sympathize with his character in the first place, as he is represented as a depthless, one-dimensional character with unclear motives and zero development. Washington is much deserving of his Oscar nomination, but unfortunately is also smack-dab in the middle of a film that does not deserve him.
I nearly forgot to mention that this film is preachy as all hell. Its obvious religious symbolism is scattered here and there, even at the most ridiculous instances. Moreover, it is a culprit of some of the worst "black and white" narrative progression I've ever seen. The "bad" characters are penalized, while the "good" (read: pious, religious) characters are rewarded. Even from the way the film ends, the overall message seems to be little more than "drunk people are bad people and deserved to be punished for it". Essentially, everything that could possibly go wrong with this film does, and often in very preposterous ways. This is surely one of the least-deserving critically-acclaimed films in years and outside of Washington, it would be better if this was just simply forgotten.
(Also, the musical cues are RIDICULOUS. Seriously: "Under the Bridge" and "Sweet Jane" playing over a heroin sequence? "Sympathy for the Devil" every time Goodman's character (a drug dealer) is in the picture? I swear, at one point the protagonist snorts cocaine, enters into an elevator, and "With a Little Help From My Friends" is playing as musak. Fuck this movie.)
3 months, 2 weeks ago
In contention for the most fun name for a sequel of all time, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, surprisingly, delivers rather well. It follows the general layout of the first film: hip breakdancing street kids vs. the old, rich, white men who want to interfere in their fun. And just like the first film, the actual narrative is thinly laid through the generous portions of music and dance montages, making it not so much about the story than about the importance and pleasure of dancing.
With a higher budget, however, this film brings a bit more to the table. A wider variety of locations and larger numbers of extras offer some pretty inventive dance sequences. A couple of my favorites are the scene at the hospital and the one where Turbo dances on the walls and ceilings. Overall, it's all good fun. Once again, the characters and story are a bit too bland and one-dimensional to be incredibly profound. But with great music and talented dancers, this film, like its predecessor, proves to be entertaining in a time capsule sort of way; too fun to be wholly disposable.
3 months, 3 weeks ago
Maybe it's because I'm not exactly in its target audience, but I don't get the appeal of Top Gun. Nowadays, the attractiveness of the film seems to dwell on little more than camp value. Iconic scenes and lines of dialogue from the movie have been burned into mainstream society. Jokes have been built around the homoerotic subtext involving the many male characters of the film. In addition to this, we have fast planes, a ridiculous neon-laced sex scene, and a young Tom Cruise frequently flashing his pearly whites.
However, with exception of its novelty appeal, I didn't find Top Gun very enjoyable. The story was flimsy and predictable, offering very little to a table than a conventional narrative arc and individuals that were mere husks of real characters. Its extravagance came off as annoyingly narcissistic; overall, just not a very enjoyable film. I think this may be the kind of flick that I would enjoy in a group or theater setting, where laughing at its unintentional humor feels more welcoming. For now, however, I've concluded that it's just a bland film, and I cannot join in its love.
3 months, 3 weeks ago
I'm really saddened by my discontent for The Young Girls of Rochefort. Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg has quickly become one of my very favorite musicals, and I've had pretty high hopes for this one. From the start, the aesthetic even seemed similar: lush scenery, vivid colors, dazzling widescreen cinematography, and beautiful costume designs. But alas, not even the inclusion of the always-superb Catherine Deneuve could save this one.
The music and dancing, though pleasant enough, didn't quite add benefit the film in ways that the best musicals often do. It really did feel like this movie was simply riding on the coattails of Cherbourg, with a similar sing-song narrative progression, but much blander content. While Cherbourg had be completely enthralled by its intense melodrama, the characters of Rochefort had absolutely nothing that would entitle me to care about their "plights". The story is rather boring, which makes its whimsical mood seem superficial, when it would otherwise be quite delightful.
The song and dance numbers are easy to hum along to, but don't really add too much. I was also expecting Gene Kelly's character to be more vital to the narrative, but tragically he proves to be one of the most uninteresting parts of the film, not to mention that his character enters the picture in one of the laziest, most clichéd ways imaginable. But while I did have my share of problems with the film, I didn't quite hate it. It has its fair share of fun moments, particularly scattered through the first two thirds. Demy's noticeable wane in quality, however, just plain disappointed me. I'd take Umbrellas over this flimsy flick any day.
3 months, 3 weeks ago
Jim Sheridan's In the Name of the Father seems to be one of the more underappreciated Best Picture nominees, at least of the past two decades. I'm sure that he's more appreciated in his home country of Ireland, but it seems that Sheridan is also one of the more underrated modern directors. This film is proof alone that the general public should recognize his work more often. It offers the tale of a true crime against humanity; the themes dealt with here being false accusations and imprisonment. Yet another film about the injustices of the judicial system, but this one having more meat on its bones. If there was one word to describe it, that word would be fuckinginfuriating.
This film proved to me just how multifaceted of a performer Daniel Day-Lewis is. As our protagonist, the falsely accused Gerry Conlon, he is absolutely genuine, well-rounded, and full of humanity. Even in these early days, he offers signs of exceptionality; personally, this may be my favorite performance of his. But that's not to say anything less of anyone else here. Pete Postlethwaite offers a terrific supporting performance here, as Gerry's father. The scenes between him and Day-Lewis are among the best in the whole movie, as their chemistry practically floats through the screen. These two performances alone act as a powerful driving force through the tense gripping narrative. There were multiple times where I found myself clinging to the edge of my seat, due to my being completely concerned with the outcomes of these characters' trials. Only great acting can make one care so deeply about such people.
As I'd said before, this film is pretty anger-inducing. Based on the true stories of the Guildford Four, the idea that such travesties had occurred at the hands of those in power is inconceivable. A film that could make me so angry at such numerous moments is worthy of my utmost praise. Besides all of this, it is also well-paced and truly, truly passionate in its portrayal of its subjects. It goes to show that Jim Sheridan is a master at his talent of filmmaking. I'm really glad to have decided to get around to In the Name of the Father, and I do think it's one of the better prison dramas out there. This should not be missed.
3 months, 3 weeks ago
I don't see many documentaries about homophobia and social justice overseas floating around (unless I'm just not looking in the right places). Nonetheless, I'm glad I stumbled across Call Me Kuchu, which documents the fight against an Ugandan bill set to make homosexuality punishable by law. While misguided at points and not quite instilled in the overall history of the nation, it offers a personal portrait into this struggle through numerous individuals deeply affected by the bill. There are also moments where we get intimate looks at the pro side of the bill, those of which are often deeply disturbing.
There's something I find fascinating about documentaries that progress despite unforeseen circumstances while filming; last years Queen of Versailles is a good example of this. With Call Me Kuchu, it is the murder of the documentary's subject that holds production at a standstill. The unpredictability of such a dreadful occurrence not only makes the narrative eerier, but also makes the film's overall message far more profound. It is a film that fights for greater worldwide advocacy of social and personal justice. While it isn't mind-blowing or even all that education, I really don't think it needs to be. It captures the dismal corners of the world that allow for such things to happen, and announces that, even in this day and age, progression is merely a flash in the pan for many. It calls for action, doing so passionately and leaving quite a lasting impression.
3 months, 3 weeks ago
Nothing could have prepared me for how unrelentingly dark Splendor in the Grass is. Covering a story of sex and insanity between two teenaged lovers, it is a film that certainly isn't afraid to deal with ghastly subjects. Its depth is pretty amazing for its time, considering that it came out the same year that West Side Story (also starring Natalie Wood) captivated audiences with its very different tale of romance. I can't exactly say the story was very realistic, but it is impressive with its willingness to dive into its depressing subject matter mercilessly.
This is possibly Wood's greatest performance. It's the role that truly expanded her versatility beyond the "child actor" range. Her range of character and emotion is spectacular, and she totally steals the show. While none of the other performances were quite her level, what really stood out for me was the level of hypocrisy and double-standard regarding sex, much of which is relevant today. The truly constricting advice that the teenagers' parents really displays the cultural background that motivates the 1960's rebelliousness that defines the Baby Boomer generation. For that, I appreciate the significance of such a film, as well as the risky content that is to be repeated in later teen sex dramas and comedies.
I love Elia Kazan as a director, but frankly I don't find this to be one of his better works. The second half isn't quite on par with how great the film starts off. With the exception of Wood, the acting performances are a bit rusty. And honestly, I found the film to be rather spiteful, especially with regards to the fate of the two protagonists. I felt that there was a contextual message to be found in the lot, regarding the aforementioned conservative atmosphere of the drama, but it may have been hidden underneath the misfortune and depressing circumstances of our characters. Nonetheless, the content is worthwhile for the most part, and its status as a classic of its era is deserving.
3 months, 3 weeks ago
Perhaps I'm a bit biased about my love for this film. For one thing, the Coen brothers are two of my favorite filmmakers working today. Secondly, I love folk music and the whole U.S. in the 1960s atmosphere, and this film is largely driven by both of those. Thirdly, character studies are my Achille's heel (well, one of many). Finally, I like cats. Enough said.
I'm not gonna lie, I haven't been extremely fond of the output of the filmmaking team the past few years. Which is one reason why I think I found Inside Llewyn Davis so completely invigorating. The titular character felt completely realistic and tragically relatable, due in a huge part to Oscar Isaac, who definitely owns every moment of his screen time. Another huge driving force is the music, which captures the corresponding moods absolutely perfectly. From the beautiful, melancholic "Fare Thee Well" to the infectious "Please Mr. Kennedy", this soundtrack is among the best to come out all year and really moves the film along at a relaxing, steady pace.
I guess if I had any complaints, it would be that I wished some of the supporting performances had a little more time than they were granted. In particular, the film needed much more Carey Mulligan, whose brief appearances were biting and hilarious in all the best ways. Also, I think the flick wandered aimlessly a bit around the final third, when it felt like it wasn't sure how to build a resolution. As a whole, however, it's a wonderful final product, and one of the best musical-related films to have come out recently. It's so glad to see the Coens dwelling in mind-blowing territory once again.
4 months ago