After the Hype #106 – Birdman



This week Bryan and Jon take on BIRDMAN, with the help of Cody, Ryan, and Anthony. There’s a lot of love to go around, except for that pesky ending, which our heroes can’t quite seem to agree on. Do yourself a solid and check out this episode.


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Trailer: Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth

Paolo Sorrentino has been a darling on the festival circuit in the past few years with both 2008’s Il Divo and 2013’s The Great Beauty. The latter of which walked home with the Best Foreign Language Oscar of that year.

Here he has oldsters, played by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel ,struggling with retirement (or rather, impending retirement) at a boutique hotel in the Alps. The trailer for his latest, Youth, angles it as both an emotional and a pedantic experience. That sounds about right. Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda also star.

The film certainly looks gorgeous, was well received at Cannes, is playing on this side of the pond at TIFF, and opens commercially in December.

Fred and Mick, two old friends, are on vacation in an elegant hotel at the foot of the Alps. Fred, a composer and conductor, is now retired. Mick, a film director, is still working. They look with curiosity and tenderness on their children’s confused lives, Mick’s enthusiastic young writers, and the other hotel guests. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. But someone wants at all costs to hear him conduct again.

Finite Focus: Tomatina

If you have seen today’s “Google Doodle,” or read this VOX story, you will know that today is the 70th Anniversary of La Tomatina. The strange Spanish festival in which as many as 50000 people have a tomato fight and soak in the acidic juices until the authorities fire-hose the lot clean.

In Lynne Ramsay’s magnificent 2011 film, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Tilda Swinton plays a mother who is resentful of both her having a child and her own upper-middle class domestication. She remembers her experience in Buñol, packed between young writhing bodies kicking around and basking in red juices. In another part of the film, Ramsay also uses Swinton framed in a grocery store by a wall of canned (tamed) tomatoes as the prison that mid-life has become.

The flashback sequence was shot during the 2010 Tomatino festival with Swinton in the middle, gloriously wide-screen and slow motion. The scene ends with Swinton’s mother waking up and leaving her house to find it (and her car) splashed in red paint by her fellow citizens, as her son, possibly stewed in the resentment and frustration of the mother, has grown up to become a neurotic sociopath responsible for murdering his fellow students in a school shooting – which of course is young people splashed in a different kind of red. Nature, meet nurture. Symbolism meet irony.

DVD Review: The Ang Lee Trilogy

I‘m a big fan of Ang Lee. On top of the modern classics he’s directed like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, I also like the Oscar winning Life of Pi a lot and I’m even a supporter of his underrated comic book movie, Hulk. In particular, I’ve always been impressed by how diverse his output is. His career didn’t start that way though. His first three features form an unofficial trilogy, often known as the ‘Father Knows Best’ trilogy, due to their thematic similarity. These three low key comedy dramas were quite well regarded on release, but somehow they’ve never been available on DVD in the UK. Thankfully, Altitude Film Distribution have taken it upon themselves to rectify the situation. I set aside some time to watch these three films I’ve waited to see for a long time, to give my verdict.

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Review: American Ultra

Director: Nima Nourizadeh (Project X)
Writer: Max Landis
Producers: Raj Brinder Singh, Britton Rizzio, David Alpert, Anthony Bregman, Kevin Scott Frakes
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 95 min.



My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd


In theaters right now, you can see The End of the Tour, one of the best films of Jesse Eisenberg’s career. You can also see American Ultra, an Eisenberg film that skews much further towards the opposite end of the spectrum. If it weren’t for some unexpected choices of questionable genre fare like Now You See Me and 30 Minutes or Less, it’d be quite hard to figure out what would lead the actor who has starred in such impressive, intelligent projects as The Social Network, Night Moves, and The Squid and the Whale to sign up for something as juvenile and misguided as this. Coming from Nima Nourizadeh, the director of Project X, it’s no surprise that American Ultra is such a haphazard experience, where the most amusing thought is trying to figure out what was going through the mind of someone who puts off the kind of highbrow intellectual persona that Eisenberg does while he was sitting on the set of this stoner action comedy, whose existence would be quickly forgotten if people were even aware that it was released in the first place.

In the film, Eisenberg plays Mike Howell, a convenience store worker and stereotypical pothead who suffers from severe anxiety attacks, one of which gets in the way of a vacation to Hawaii he had planned with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), where he was going to propose to her. As he punishes himself emotionally for not being able to get over his fears and make her happy in the way he desires, CIA agent Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) discovers that a death order has been put out on the participants of a top secret program she ran which trained elite assassins. This includes Mike, whose memory had been erased after the program had been disbanded, with his anxiety being the government’s way of keeping him under lock and key in the safety of a small West Virginia town. Agent Adrian Yates (Topher Grace) sends his own dangerous recruits to take Mike out, but Lasseter gets to him first and turns the switch on his dormant abilities to allow him to defend himself against the forces moving against him. When the assailants arrive, Mike shoves a spoon into one’s throat and shoots his attackers dead in the parking lot, before reverting back to his regular personality and appropriately freaking out.

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Review: The Tribe

Director: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky
Writer: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky
Producers: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky
Starring: Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy, Alexander Dsiadevich, Yaroslav Biletskiy
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 132 min.



My original posting of this review can be found at Film Frontier


TThere’ve been a number of films I’ve found challenging to watch over the six years I’ve been writing about film – Amour, The Tree of Life, Only God Forgives, The Last Airbender. But I don’t think I’ve ever struggled with a film as much as I did with the Ukrainian crime drama The Tribe.

Presented entirely in Ukrainian sign language, with no translations, no subtitles, no voiceover, and only ambient noise as a guide, director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s debut feature is a visceral and one-of-a-kind motion picture that deserves to be seen on a large screen, mostly because watching it on any other platform would eliminate most of its impact. Even if you come in mentally ready, nothing will prepare you for the eerie experience of sitting in a theater full of people that remains silent for two hours. The Tribe demands that viewers use their eyes and imaginations to digest the story being projected using only the characters’ facial expressions as a guide. But what’s the point of a brilliant conceit and bravura filmmaking technique if there isn’t an interesting narrative or fleshed-out characters to back it up?

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Carlos’ Review Round-Up

Here’s a quick sampling of my week’s watches. You can find more of my reviews at Always Watch Good Movies.


Mistress America (2015)

Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Country: USA

Acclaimed film director Noah Baumbach reunites with Greta Gerwig, once again co-writer and actress after the candid “Frances Ha” in 2012, to deliver one more of those special contemporary American comedies that has been making him a persistent mention in the genre. “Mistress America” embarks in the same spirit of “Frances Ha”, presenting a few true moments of genius when portraying the lively adventures of two women who just met in Manhattan: the lonely college freshman, Tracy (Lola Kirke), and her hyperactive hoped-for stepsister, Brooke (Gerwig). The temperate ‘Baby Tracy’ tries to get acquainted with the city, falls asleep in the classroom, and nourishes feelings for a colleague who let her down when he appears with a comically jealous new girlfriend. Tracy, much less impulsive, becomes totally dazzled, inspired, and influenced by Brooke, who in turn, is a creative ‘New Yorker’, a resident of Times Square, who doesn’t produce as much as she plans. The latter is the one injecting a kinetic force throughout the film that makes it talky, eventful, and accelerated. This different individualities work great in terms of narrative balance, making us look to these two new friends in a distinct manner. Their admiration and availability for each other are not only sweet but also salutary for both of them – just like connecting with real family. The film is packed with hilarious situations, colorfully shaped with both frontal and sarcastic tones, and enveloped with the energy of the city. However, and regardless the huge possibilities, I cannot hide a bit of frustration for not being able to consider it a masterwork. The simple reason is that the climax didn’t work so well for me. The scene when Brooke, at the house of her self-seeker friend Mimi Claire, finds out that her entertaining peculiarities are being used in Tracy’s fictional short story, turning the tables on everyone, was too staged (resembling “Carnage”), failing to convince in a crucial moment of a film that had already conquered me. If Lola Kirke was a revelation, Greta Gerwig was flawless, giving the best performance of her career.

Unexpected (2015)

Directed by: Kris Swanberg
Country: USA

“Unexpected” is a drama of circumstances, set in an inner city of Chicago. It stars Cobie Smulders and Gain Bean, respectively as a high school teacher and student, who coincidentally find out they’re pregnant during critical phases of their lives. The third feature film from Kris Swanberg, wife of the film director Joe Swanberg (“Drinking Buddies”), is fictional, despite the filmmaker is living in Chicago and formerly had been a schoolteacher. The film starts with Sam (Smulders), reading online the top ten symptoms of pregnancy and the description for a job as coordinator in a museum. It’s not difficult to guess that she was pregnant indeed, and the museum was nothing less than her dream job, which she applied without high hopes. More difficult to guess was that one of her most liveliest and promising students, Jasmine (Bean), was also pregnant. Clearly, these women have different realities and options, and in both cases something in their actual lives has to be sacrificed for the sake of the new ones that are coming. Sam has all the support of her boyfriend, John (Anders Holm), and the couple doesn’t hide the happiness when they get married in secret; the only factor still in discussion is if Sam agrees on being a stay-at-home mother. In turn, Jasmine, carrying a tough past on her shoulders, breaks up with her immature boyfriend and ponders giving up college. A true friendship is established between Sam and Jasmine as they offer each other help and support while learning from their differences. “Unexpected” is evenly loaded with realism and familiarity, which are the best and the worst in the film. The direction of Ms. Swanberg is earnest and avoids fluctuations, but the material, treated with indelible comfort, blocked my true emotions, reason why I never felt anxious or worried for the protagonists’ future. The most memorable scene, also nominated as the nastiest of the year, has to do with ‘drinking’ Cheetos.

Mr. Holmes (2015)

Directed by: Bill Condon
Country: UK/USA

“Mr. Holmes” might not ring a bell for the less attentive, but if the name Sherlock was mentioned somewhere in the title, you would instantly guess that the film is about one of the most famous detectives in our planet. However, the year is 1947, and Sherlock Holmes, magnificently played by Sir Ian McKellen, is long-time retired with 93 years old, getting more and more debilitated, forgetful, and a fusion of emotional and a bit grumpy. Regardless these changes, he’s still polite, efficiently assertive when transmitting information, and conscious about his own errors from the past. Returned from a recent trip to Japan that brought him good and bad surprises, Mr. Holmes is happy to be at his farmhouse in the English countryside, where he solely has the company of his devoted housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), and her young son, Roger (Milo Parker). The latter is very clever and shares the same enthusiasm for mystery cases and bees as the detective, who takes pleasure in teaching every detail of beekeeping while stimulates the boy’s perceptiveness about his own writings and those of his ex-partner, Dr. Watson. Nonetheless, not everything is easy, and the old Holmes struggles every single day with his memory and with a particular case that keeps coming to his rusty mind, involving a depressed woman called Anne Kelmot (Hattie Morahan). This is the second collaboration between McKellen and filmmaker Bill Condon, who directs with the same rigor and formalism that he has already accustomed us; the first one was 17 years ago, with the mesmerizing “Gods and Monsters”. Here, the heartfelt story, based on Mitch Cullin’s novel, “A Slight Trick of the Mind”, is more about aging and how to learn from our experiences in life, than really solving a mysterious murder case. For this reason, “Mr. Holmes” might not be a good choice for the ones looking for puzzles and enigmas. It’s not a perfect film, but Mr. McKellen’s performance together with the undaunted message conveyed with gentle, resolute tones, makes it slightly above the average.

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