Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Night Netflix: "Meek's Cutoff"

Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff is not a film that is interested in burdening us with a lot of exposition. The title card gives us the time and place: “Oregon, 1845.” The opening sequence is free of dialogue and composed almost entirely of long, languid takes—a group of settlers, executing a river crossing. The action is done plainly, without flourish. It is a good ten minutes before we get a good enough look at Michelle Williams, the star of the picture, to recognize her. There are no proper introductions, because we are joining a story in progress.

Friday, December 9, 2011

In Theaters: "New Year's Eve"

Let’s start with the music, because that’s a good a place as any. The score for Garry Marshall’s all-star clusterfuck, New Year’s Eve, is provided by John Debney, and he worked for his paycheck—every single moment in the film is smothered in music, slathered in it, every potential change in emotion or tempo telegraphed, loudly, by the non-stop music. Sad scene? Slow piano. Charming, cutesy scene? Gimme an uptempo, jazzy number. Hey look, there’s Zac Efron—he’s young and hip, so let’s switch this plinky music over to somethin’ with some guitars in it! Yay-uh! Oh hey, here comes Colombian sexbomb Sofia Vergara! Put in some salsa music!

You guys, I’m serious, they put in salsa music for her entrance. I guess we should be relieved that it’s such a painfully white movie, if for no other reason than to spare us the sound of a gong accompanying the entrance of any Asian characters.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

In Theaters: "I Melt With You"

In the opening sequence of Mark Pellington's nihilistic drama I Melt With You, the screen is filled with phrases of despair, in big block letters: “I AM A MAN”, “I AM AFRAID,” “I AM DIVORCED,” “I CAN'T GET HARD,” “I LOVE YOU,” and so on, and so on, until the title is rendered in similar fashion. Subtle, eh? What follows is a movie not so much bad (and certainly not as bad as its Sundance buzz would suggest) as it is overcooked. There is boldness in its ambition, and truth in its implications, but it's all slathered in a thick coat of shouting and preening.

In Theaters: "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

Eva (Tilda Swinton) is a woman who has learned to walk between the raindrops. She keeps her head down; she ignores the people who stare or point. Something terrible happened in her recent past, something involving her son Kevin (Ezra Miller), and she feels responsible. She's trying like hell to get on with her life, but that's clearly not going to happen; she's too haunted, by whispers, memories, ghosts.

Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin tells Eva's story within a fractured narrative that becomes a dreamlike intermingling of her complicated past with her tortured present. It also does so without telling us more than we need to know about either, yet never seeming to withhold information; in spite of our uncertainty (particularly in the opening scenes) about how one thing relates to the other, Ramsay's such a confident and assured filmmaker that we feel adrift but not lost.

In Theaters: "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"

Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Solider Spy is an uncommonly intelligent motion picture, a spy thriller that is less interested in gadgets and explosions than it is in pauses and looks. Based on the novel by John le Carré (earlier adapted into an acclaimed BBC miniseries), it is a complicated film, requiring the sort of attention and patience that audiences can no longer be relied upon to bring to the theatre. It’s the kind of movie we’re always hearing they don’t make anymore, until they do. And here it is.

In Theaters: "Young Adult"

Mavis Gary, Charlize Theron’s leading character in Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, is unapologetically brusque, brittle, and unlikable. The ghost-writer of a young adult franchise, she treats her work with such contempt that the Word file for her current masterpiece is called “pieceofshit.doc.” She wakes up each morning in her clothes, sleeping off the previous evening’s drinking, and pours Diet Coke down her throat. Her only consistent companion is her tiny, unappreciated dog. She spends her life in a dissatisfied daze, with the aural accompaniment of E! reality shows.

And then she gets an email. Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), her high-school boyfriend, and his wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser), have had a baby. The email gets her goat. It must have been her ex’s cry for help. How miserable he must be! And with that, she packs a back and drives back to her hometown to win him back. “Don’t you get it?” she asks a skeptic, incredulously. “Love conquers all!”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On DVD: "The Hangover, Part II"

One of the first lines spoken in The Hangover Part II is "It happened again." The same character proceeds to say, "No, this time we really fucked up!" Later, another character says--hold on, let me check my notes--"I can't believe this is happening again!" These lines are the comedy sequel equivalent of "I'm gettin' too old for this shit!" That's some lazy, lazy writing friends, but it's right at home in The Hangover Part II, which is one of the more crass motion pictures in recent memory.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This Week's Links

For The Atlantic and Flavorwire:
10 Films That Avoided the NC-17 Rating and Suffered for It

Shame, a candid and pwerful look at sexual addiction from director Steve McQueen (no, another Steve McQueen) is out in limited release tomorrow, and as we reported last month, it’s going out with the NC-17 rating—no children under 17 admitted, under any circumstances. The rating, many have surmised, is due to the film’s copious male nudity, and that’s how the American ratings system works: all the naked ladies you want, but the erect male member= automatic NC-17.


For The Village Voice:

The Door Opens in New York
The hard, sharp banging of the titular object in 59E59’s production of The Door puts the audience on edge from the moment the lights go up—it rings through the small black box theater like a gunshot, and returns at regular and unexpected intervals. “Drives you ‘round the bloody bend, doesn’t it?” asks Boyd (Tom Cobley).


For Flavorwire:

Open Thread: What Are Your Essential Holiday Movies?
Well, the Thanksgiving holiday is over, the only turkey left is that weird slab of half-fat and half-dark meat, the recycling can is overflowing with empty beer and wine bottles (seriously, somebody better take that out), and it’s time to start thinking about Christmas—specifically, Christmas viewing. It’s little wonder that the “holiday movie” has become such a venerable moviemaking standby; whether the resultant picture is good (A Christmas Story) or not so good (Fred Claus), there’s a pretty good chance that studios can count on perennial DVD sales and TV bookings as a revenue stream.

There are plenty of memorable holiday films, and yes, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see a list or two centered on them in the upcoming weeks. But as the season gets underway, we thought we’d keep it simple, and ask you the basic question: What are your essential holiday movies? What do you always watch once the Christmas season is in full swing?

Gift Guide: The Best Gifts for Movie Geeks
Now that Christmas shopping season is in full effect, it’s time for your Flavorwire to swing into public service mode. Yes, yes, all the lists and links and commentary are fun, we know you’re saying, but where are the shopping tips? What do I get my movie-obsessed cousin Donovan? Do I have to actually communicate with him to find out what he wants? Those phone calls always last twice as long as I want them to, and his breathing patterns are disturbing! Fear no more, gentle reader, for after the jump, you’ll find a collection of films and books guaranteed to warm the hearts of your film fan relatives on Christmas morning, which they’ll enjoy to the fullest before fleeing the premises to catch the 1:20 matinee of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Check them out and add your own after the jump!

Video of the Day: The Opening of ‘Community,’ ‘Parks and Rec’-Style
In our house, we dance to the TV theme songs. (Don’t judge; you’ve done it too.) And not just the easy ones, like that incredibly catchy Community theme, or the rollicking little instrumental that starts Up All Night. Nope, we even get our march on to the theme from Parks and Recreation. It’s not even that the songs are all that good—we’re just so happy to be watching these shows that a little groove (even a seated one, which is my specialty) is a nice way to show our appreciation.

Trailer Park: Off the Grid
Welcome to “Trailer Park,” our regular Friday feature where we collect the week’s new trailers all in one place and do a little “judging a book by its cover,” ranking them from worst to best and taking our best guess at what they may be hiding. We’ve got six new clips for your perusal, ranging from a teaser for a flick that puts Tim Riggins on Mars to an extended, eight-minute version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trailer; check ‘em out after the jump.