Thursday, March 22, 2012

In Theaters: "4:44 Last Day on Earth"

He’s shaving. “Why even bother?” she asks, not unreasonably. The world’s going to end at 4:44 the next morning, you see, so facial hair grooming probably shouldn’t be much of a concern. And there’s the question: faced with the last day of existence, would you keep those little habits in place? Would you maintain that two years of sobriety? Would you reach out to those you’ve neglected? What exactly would you do with those final, precious hours? These are the questions asked by 4:44 Last Day on Earth, a melancholy but compelling drama from Abel Ferrara, a filmmaker I must confess not keeping proper tabs on in the years since his breakthrough picture Bad Lieutenant. But I always knew he was out there, making his gritty, uncompromising little films, and 4:44 is a difficult yet thoughtful effort.

In Theaters: "The Raid: Redemption"

Note: This review was written at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film was shown under its original title, "The Raid." I'm keeping that title intact, because I'm stubborn. This is also why I refuse to call The Rock "Dwayne Johnson."

The Raid begins with perhaps the most direct scene of exposition you’ve ever seen. A SWAT team is on their way to a morning raid. The destination is a tenement building that has been taken over by underworld boss Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who’s filled it with crooks and lowlifes—and a narcotics lab. Their plan (“we’ll take the place, floor by floor”), their foes, the dangers; it’s all laid out in almost comically straightforward dialogue, and while it may not be artful, at least it’s honest. This is all the stuff they’ve got to get out of the way. It’s what we need to know to get these 20 cops in the doors, which are then locked behind them as Tama comes over the PA and tells his sketchy residents that anyone who bags a cop can live there as long as they’d like, rent-free. “Now go to work,” he tells them. “And please, enjoy yourselves.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On DVD: "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 CarrĂ© (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.

New on Blu: "The War Room"

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full twenty years since a governor from Arkansas, best known for boring America to tears with a mercilessly lengthy speech at the 1988 Democratic convention, came from behind to win the Democratic nomination for president, and then the contest itself. But the anniversary of the Clinton campaign is worth noting—it was a period that changed the way elections were run and won, and the similarities between Clinton’s campaign and first term and that of Barack Obama are instructive (and occasionally eerie)—and has been duly contemplated, first in the excellent two-part American Experience documentary Clinton, and now in a fully-loaded Criterion edition of The War Room, Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker’s masterful behind-the-curtain look at the campaign.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On DVD: "Carnage"

Roman Polanski's Carnage begins at what appears to be the end. Two pairs of parents, the Longstreets (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) and the Cowans (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz), have met at the former's apartment because their two sons have had a fight. We see that inciting incident at the conclusion of the opening credits, an burst of barbaric but childlike violence. The adults are very much insistent on being, well, adult about the whole thing; they've penned a letter and agree that the boys should meet, under some circumstance, to talk it out. The Cowans put on their coats. But they do not quite make it out the door; something keeps pulling them back in to this little confrontation, which slowly but steadily goes clean out of their control. "We're all decent people, all four of us!" Mr. Longstreet insists, but by that point in the afternoon, he's not even convincing himself.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Week in Links

From Flavorwire:
Nick Offerman on His New Films, Nudity, and Being Ron Swanson

Nick Offerman’s giggle is a joy to behold. His high-pitched snicker has occasionally surfaced on his TV show, Parks and Recreation, where its enthusiasm and timbre sharply contrasts the no-nonsense nature of his already iconic character, libertarian parks department director Ron Swanson. But it’s always popping up in interviews, and it even comes out a couple of times in Somebody Up There Likes Me, the tragicomedy premiering here that he co-produced and co-stars in. It’s one of three films the busy actor has at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival; he also has a cameo in 21 Jump Street and a supporting role in Will Ferrell’s Spanish-language comedy Casa de mi Padre. “When it comes to specific roles,” he told me, “I really just try to eschew anything that is remotely Ron Swanson-esque, and I do my best not to have a mustache.” And that’s when he giggled. It’s incredibly charming.

Dunham and Apatow on ‘Girls,’ HBO’s Next Insanely Great Series

When word started to circulate that Girls, the new HBO comedy series from writer/director/star Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture) concerned a group of young single women living in New York, the lazy Sex and the City comparisons were immediate. We do not know if those musings were already out there when they shot their pilot episode, so it’s impossible to know whether the Sex and the City reference in it was reactive or preemptive. But this much is certain: a character’s obsession with the show (and whether she is “a Carrie” or “a Miranda” or whatever) is used to illustrate how insipid and insufferable she is. Well played, Dunham. This is all good and well, because Girls is everything Sex and the City wasn’t: smart, honest, grounded, funny, and painful. Yes, it’s about four women in Gotham, and the sexuality is pay-cable graphic. And it is about women who are both sympathetic and kind of awful; the primary difference, of course, is that Girls actually knows that they’re kind of awful.

How Mike Birbiglia Turned a Trip Through a Window into One of the Year’s Best Films

AUSTIN, TX: Mike Birbiglia told the sleepwalking story for the first time at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. That was the first time he told it to a big audience, anyway: “I had told it on the road—I was on this Comedy Central Live tour, and I had come out with an album called Two-Drink Mike, and I found that for the first time in my career, I showed up in places and people knew my jokes. So I couldn’t tell those jokes anymore. Comedy’s not like music: once you’ve heard it, you’ve heard it, you’re done. And people were like, ‘Ha ha, what else?’ And I had been developing this one-man show, Sleepwalk with Me, and I just started telling stories from the show, that I had written never imagining that they would be in stand-up.” The centerpiece was the true story of how his sleepwalking condition go so out of hand that it led to him jumping out of a second-story window at a La Quinta Inn in Walla Walla, Washington. The injuries sent him to the hospital, which was enough for him to finally see a specialist. At Just For Laughs, he says, “I told the story and it just killed, in this way that was getting kind of monstrous laughs, and was really connected with the audience. I came off-stage, and Doug Stanhope said to me, ‘Do you tell that story on stage?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m trying to.’ And he said, ‘You should tell that.”

Aubrey Plaza Talks ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ — Which Is NOT a Time-Travel Movie

The cast and crew of the wonderful new film Safety Not Guaranteed (playing this week at South by Southwest, after winning many hearts—including ours—at Sundance) would very much like you to know that their film is not “a time travel movie.” Sure, it is about time travel; it concerns a maybe-crazy, maybe-not semi-survivalist (Mark Duplass, above right) who is looking for a partner to accompany him on a journey in a time traveling machine that he claims to have built. But, as co-star Jake Johnson insists, “It’s a movie about time travel, but it’s not a movie about time travel.” Duplass concurs: “This really isn’t a time travel movie. It’s a relationship movie, kind of seen through the prism of time travel.” And writer Derek Connolly is firm on the point. “The time travel was like this thing that existed,” he says, something that “was there for themes and as a second level of meaning, but I didn’t ever really consider it a time-travel movie.” So, it’s not a time travel movie then (though director Colin Trevorrow can't resist mentioning that, when shooting began, he and Connolly received signed original Back to the Future posters from Robert Zemekis, inscribed “Best of luck on your time travel movie”). What they can agree on is that it is a warm, relationship-driven comedy/drama—and that it is the first leading role in a feature film for Parks and Recreation favorite Aubrey Plaza.

This Week in Trailers: ‘Dark Shadows,’ ‘Hemingway and Gellhorn,’ and more

Every Friday here at Flavorwire, we like to gather up the week new movie trailers, give them a look-see, and rank them from worst to best—while taking a guess or two about what they might tell us (or hide from us) about the movies they’re promoting. We’ve got seven new trailers for you this week, including new films from Nicole Kidman, Clive Owen, Kate Hudson, and a new Johnny Depp-Tim Burton collaboration. Check ‘em all out after the jump, and share your thoughts in the comments.