Cinecast Episode 408 – Enjoy the Ineptitude

And so it is that we weed through the dregs that are the end of August. So much so, that Kurt refuses to join us for the beginning of this episode in lieu of getting to hang out with Guillermo del Toro for a screening of an early Hitchcock picture (more on that later…). In Kurt’s absence, Matt and Andrew lament our experiences with Nima Nourizadeh’s American Ultra and Aleksander Bach’s piece of shit known as Hitman: Agent 47.

But what better way to rekindle the passion, than to look back over the past half decade (kinda) and embrace (or berate) each other for our top ten picks for the “best” films of the last 5+ years?

Then we feel the need to at least mention a title or two (both old and new) in the Watch List – A moral panic crime thrillers, Nazi Germany and the latest power-house performances from Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro. So, love and FFs (you’ll have to listen to decode that acronym) all around then, folks!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

 

 
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After the Hype #106 – Birdman

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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

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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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