Steven Soderbergh is a name that carries either plenty of weight or none whatsoever depending on who you talk to. For those who went to see theOcean’s trilogy mostly for its star-studded cast, namely George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, perhaps the director’s name will fall on deaf ears. For others, the film nerds, Soderbergh is akin to a demi-god. His contributions to modern American cinema in both its mainstream commercial and art house forms are not to be overlooked. Arguably his most interesting works are those for which he chooses to meld star power with his more artistic inclinations, as with The Informant!, Che, and his 1991 oddball neo-noir, Kafka, starring Jeremy Irons and a host of other familiar faces.
With the (wider) release of Abdellatif Kekiche’s widely-discussed Blue Is the Warmest Colour (aka La Vie d’Adéle), Ricky, Josh and Simon thought it a good time for a roundup of recent, acclaimed fare that touches on LGBTQ issues and depictions. First up is Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake, a noirish thriller that takes place entirely within the open confines of a gay cruising beach; second is the aforementioned Blue; and last (and – spoiler alert! – least), comes Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club, which ultimately prompts us to recommend a completely different film, though to find out which one, you’ll just have to listen ’till the bitter end.
With I Am Legend and Constantine in his filmography, two not entirely successful features but both ones with impressive sequences here and there, director Francis Lawrence would seem an adequate fit for a populist sci-fi or fantasy franchise instalment. Established fans of either Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games novels or Gary Ross’ first film adaptation can rest easy regarding Lawrence being given the keys to the remaining films in the series, à la David Yates with the Harry Potter franchise: Catching Fire is a very strong blockbuster, an improvement on its predecessor, and Lawrence’s most consistently effective effort to date.
Fitting, perhaps, that Rush has a script so obsessed with speed that it moves right past telling a fully developed story. There’s a lot in Ron Howard’s latest film that feels different, from the young, international dual leading men, to the overtly stylish cinematography. But even if Howard is using Rush as a moment at which to change things up as a director, Peter Morgan’s script is a detriment. Morgan’s writing is the equivalent of an anxious little boy on Christmas morning, waiting impatiently while the rest of his family open their presents, to the point where he rips through the wrapping paper on his own gifts so quickly that he inadvertently breaks what’s inside.
A few days ago, I’d never been to an Alamo Drafthouse location, whereas I’ve now spent hours upon hours inside of one. I was in comically close proximity to roughly 2,000 people over the last week, the same 2,000 people. I had to not get even remotely awestruck when I walked into the men’s bathroom at the Lakeline Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, and Elijah Wood walked by me to exit. Or Doug Benson. Or Pat Healy. Or Harry Knowles. They’re all real! I can prove it, even if I didn’t speak to any of them.
When punk music first began to appear on the music scene in New York and London, the movement caused a veritable explosion. Punks were dirty, they swore, they spat, hated everyone in charge and didn’t care what anyone thought of them. The word ‘punk’ means a hoodlum or worthless person. Punk music embraced this as a point of pride. The punk movement was exciting but from the beginning it was a man’s world. This is the world that Lukas Moodysson’s heroines seek to change with their music in We Are the Best!
Nicole Holofcener is one of the strongest voices working in movies today. Her films, often about the lives of everyday women, are consistently sharp and observant; her new movie Enough Said does not stray from her already terrific track record. As a writer, she has a way of portraying her characters as people we know or someone we could know. There is an authenticity to the way she writes and directs her films that is sadly lacking in most of today’s movies and those who are willing to seek her films out will be thankful for the experience. Enough Said, debuting at TIFF 2013, will be far too familiar for some, but the film is equally hilarious and tender that it balances out to a really enjoyable experience.
Artist Matt Ferguson’s Batman vs. Superman art on his Twitter.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler is an intensely silly film, but all things considered, it’s silly for unexpected reasons. A movie that offers up the image of John Cusack playing President Richard Nixon, with the only distinction between Cusack’s normal visage and his Nixonian veneer being a Pinocchio-like nasal extension, should have its silliness all sewn up in such goofy celebrity casting. But instead, what makesLee Daniels’ The Butler almost entertainingly ridiculous is less the eclectic, deliberately weird cameos and more a flat, sappy, and inconsistent-to-the-point-of-being-schizophrenic script that very badly wants to tie its title character to Important Events of the 20th Century without fleshing said character in at all.
I don’t remember when I’d first heard about the film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Y/A sci fi novel, Ender’s Game – a few weeks ago, a few months – but despite all the talk about the book being some sort of cult fave which has sold millions since it’d first been published in 1985, I’d never heard of Card or the novel before. And having heard of it, I wasn’t particularly interested in reading the book (which I understand is quite good), or seeing the movie (which may be quite good).
Oh, it had nothing to do with Card’s outrageous statements on homosexuality (we’ll get to that in a bit) of which I also knew nothing. It was more my having had my fill of young questing heroes in some fantasy/sci fi milieu delegated by fate and circumstance to crush some great evil. Harry Potter, Frodo, Percy Jackson, Lyra Belacqua, the four Pevensie kids off through a clothes closet to Narnia, the Lemony Snicket and The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) broods, Katniss Everdeen, the videogame geek in The Last Starfighter (1984), the young princes from Krull (1983) and Dune (1984), the souped-up versions of Snow White and giant-killing Jack and looking glass Alice, Muppety The Dark Crystal (1982), Tom Cruise doing the quest thing in Legend(1984), and did I neglect to mention six installments of Star Wars?… I’m long past being done on the youthful fantasy quest thing.
Technology has us hypnotized. We stare at the blinking blue screen for hours and soak in all the bite-sized information. We are put at ease by our use of social media sites that fool us into thinking that we are socializing with others when in reality we are just sitting alone in a room with nothing but the cold glare of the computer for comfort. In Japanese filmmaker Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s creepy Pulse (Kairo) (and, to a lesser extent, its horrid 2006 American remake), that isolation and mesmerization is explored to its full potential and given a horrifying twist.
If Calvin and Hobbes, those most delightful and beloved comic-strip characters, made a monster movie out of one of their fever-dream playtime japes, it would probably look a great deal like Pacific Rim. The sweaty, breathless determination with which the film’s main concept plays out, as well as how frequently it aims to top itself, is both charming and a mild hindrance. (Cartoonist Bill Watterson was able to get away with such boyhood tomfoolery because he was working with a much shorter amount of space and time.) Co-writer and director Guillermo del Toro has broken free of his almost quaint, homemade style in Pacific Rim, delivering, in many ways, the ultimate summer movie, for good and ill.