Review: Song To Song

SongToSong

And so the prostitute says, “Create the Illusion, but don’t believe it.”

I am not sure if that is Terrence Malick’s thesis with Song To Song, an elliptical fairy tale of despondency, but the film does feature Val Kilmer wielding a chainsaw on stage at the SXSW music festival, so there is that.

It also embeds clips from Eric Von Stroheim’s Greed, offers heartbreaking relationship advice from punk rock goddess Patti Smith, cheerfully cuts off Iggy Pop in mid-sentence and makes a little time for Natalie Portman to wait tables and attend church services kitted out in Erin Brockovich inspired push-up bras.

Song to Song is Malick’s fifth film in six years, not including his forthcoming Europe-set WWII epic, to be released later in 2017. Apparently, The film has been in production in one way or another for seven years; long enough to recast Christian Bale (or re-purpose his footage into Knight of Cups) and lose Arcade Fire completely in the editing room. This means that the overall process overlaps all the way back with Tree of Life, the touchstone for his current mode of cinema.

The ongoing price to pay for scrapping conventional storytelling (and, you know, actual scripts) has yielded his work some superb benefits … for those keen to tune into his wavelength. Of course, this is not for everyone, and do not be surprised when many film-goers drawn in by the marquee actors and musician cameos flee the experience in frustration. Like it or not, Malick has, for some time now, been in the business of capturing elusive, immersive, Steadicam dreams of time and place that he subtly bends into narrative in the editing room.

Here he films in the in-between spaces of Texas, be it backstage casual at South By Southwest, the concrete and glass boxes of the wealthy, or windswept desert pools in the wilderness. You would not recognize this as the same Austin in the front half of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof or the sprawling walkabouts of so many a Richard Linkater joint. And though the film features an impressively programmed and multifarious playlist, the soundtrack is less the music, and more the palpable ennui of gorgeous white young things trying to find themselves in a confusing world of indulgence.

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Trailer: Jackie

Let the Oscar-bait commence! Actually, that is probably not fair to apply that in a derogatory way to Pablo Larraín’s bio-pic of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the near-mythic ‘Camelot’ period of the United States of America (a term Onassis herself coined). The Chilean director’s previous Tony Manero and The Club are far from the usual trophy middle-brow. Indeed, in the trailer below, there is a Malick-esque kind of cinematography going on, and a far more challenging approach to the subject matter than one might expect. I now regret not using my TIFF ticket to see this. Either way, the film is getting a release this December.

A searing and intimate portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, and placing us in her world during the days immediately following her husband’s assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a psychological portrait of the First Lady as she struggles to maintain her husband’s legacy and the world of “Camelot” that they created and loved so well.

Trailer: Jane Got A Gun

JaneGotAGun

If we are a tad late posting this trailer for Natalie Portman western Jane Got A Gun, it is apropos of the project from the very start. Scottish auteur, Lynne Ramsay was originally to direct the project, but at the beginning of shooting, she resigned just prior to day one of shooting. Much of the supporting cast walked with her, and now we have the Gavin O’Connor, Joel Edgerton version, which involves a lot of ominous talk, a lot of gunfire, and somehow, a hot air balloon. Against considerable odds, the film is now finished and coming soon to a theatre near you.

The 2015 Western bonanza continues. Check out the trailer below.

Trailer: Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups

Instantly recognizable as a Terrence Malick film, Knight of Cups has the same low-and-wide photography, the philosophical voice-overs, the general human malaise peppered with joy, that has been his signature directorial style since his coming out of hiatus with 1999s The Thin Red Line. Christian Bale plays a rich asshole in California who is reflecting on whether rich asshole was a good of life-goal. Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman co-star, and he extended cast is across the board exceptional: Imogen Poots, Kevin Corrigan, Brian Dennehy, Jason Clarke, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Shea Whigham, Ryan O’Neal, Ben Kingsley, Michael Wincott, Nick Offerman, Wes Bentley, (and Antonio Banderas is apparently on hand in the trailer to reflect women as fruit flavours.)

Whether or not the subject matter is appealing to you, the West coast vistas, and insides of mansions and nightclubs make this one of the top visual looking films of the year.

Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups

Knight of Cups

With Cannes off and running, there are going to be dribs and drabs of trailers, posters and film stills as things are hawked in the large film marketplace that dominates the festival (and remains more or less outside of the bulk of press coverage.) Leading the charge is this first still from Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups Christian Bale in his third outing with the director stars alongside with Natalie Portman, who will be possibly following in the (bare) footsteps of Jessica Chastain and Olga Kurylenko. will be starring with Imoogen Poots, Cate Blanchett and Antonio Banderas supporting. The film still itself is about as typical an image from a 21st century Malick movie as one can gets: A couple on a beach, maybe frolicking, maybe twirling.

I’d give you the plot, but would it really matter? You watch a Malick film for the cinematic vitality, not the plot points. Am I excited for this and hope it finds the proper investments to get a bigger release than the woefully neglected To The Wonder? Hell yes.

Mamo #296: Sweet As

One month later to the day, Matt Brown returns from Middle Earth and Matt Price regales him with everything that’s happened in Hollywoodland since he’s been away. New Zealand travel tips abound! Plus, yet another random stranger asks our opinion about Episode VII! It’s like nothing’s changed at all.

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo296.mp3

Top 10 Corrupt Movie Cops

Apparently our friends over in the criminal justice department are also big movie dorks as well. And what kind of movie would they like the best? The kind with corrupt officials of course! So I stumbled upon this list the other day about movie cops gone bad. Seems like an easy topic to list off, but there were several on here I almost forgot about. There are probably hundreds more, but here are ten good ones. Beware that there may be some *SPOILERS* in the text that follows. And I need to rewatch L.A. Confidential someday soon.

 
 

10. Dudley Smith, L.A. Confidential
You may want to think of James Cromwell as the sweet farmer who gave a pig a chance in Babe, but he shows another side of himself in L.A. Confidential. He basically controls the organized crime in L.A., blackmails city officials to get his way, and murders (or has someone else murder) everyone that gets in the way of his quest for drugs and power. It’s hard to even keep track of all the people he kills during the movie and before it even starts. This may have just been the unedited Babe sequel, Babe: Pig in the City.

 


 

9. Norman Stansfield, Leon the Professional
If you haven’t seen this film, you should if only to see a bad-ass 12-year-old Natalie Portman. She plays Mathilda, a girl whose whole family has been murdered by corrupt DEA agents headed up by Norman “Stan” Stansfield. Mathilda’s father had been keeping cocaine for the agents, but they found out he’d been keeping some for himself, and Stansfield, who’s addicted to drugs himself, decided to take out the whole family. Mathilda was out shopping when the murders happened, so now Stansfield wants to find her and kill her. She’s not totally helpless since she finds a father figure in the hitman down the hall, but it’s still not very nice of this officer to be trying to gun down a little girl.

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Cinecast Episode 208 – It’s Gonna Be Ass-Tastic!

 
 
Welcome to another edition of the Cinecast, wherein the boys talk a little Joe Wright and Super-Spy-Assassins with the weekend release of Hanna. There is no Gamble on the show today, but in order to properly plumb the depth and nuance of Your Highness, we bring in a mystery guest. Then it is on to Kurt’s 3 days in Asheville, NC watching action films and stunt folks from around the world ply their trade at ActionFest. A recap of some of the highlight titles (from Bangkok stunt-reel filmmaking to white knuckle mountain climbing thrillers and Mixed Martial Arts Kumite) along with plans to revisit next year. DVD and netflix picks round out a show that is on-target and efficient, but a tad on the foul-tongued side. Fair warning.

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


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_208.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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A Film’s “Intent” and “Valid” Film Criticism

I‘m not a film critic. Yes, I write some reviews and have a weekly show in which I sit around and bullshit with my friends about newly released film. In that sense sure, I guess I am a critic. But in that sense isn’t everyone a critic of any form of art or experience they have that they talk about? What I mean is that I’m not paid for what I do. It’s not a career (obviously). I didn’t go to film school and I don’t have a degree in journalism or broadcasting. I’m just a dude with an opinion in which the 21st century allows me to share that opinion with the masses.

So I think it’s time to address something that’s been bugging me for quite some time; an accusation that has been tossed around on our Cinecast (and others) far too often (of which I admit I am equally guilty). This notion that you’re “reviewing the movie not for what it is but what you wanted it to be.” I think that statement can careen down a real slippery slope and in most cases (not all) is totally invalid. Can’t you throw that accusation at anyone for just about any criticism of any movie? Our recent discussion of Rango has spurred these thoughts.

If someone were to say they didn’t like Speed Racer because the dialogue is terrible, I don’t think it’s fair to say, “well that’s just not what the movie was aiming for.” Well maybe not, but that doesn’t mean it’s an invalid criticism. The dialogue is pretty terrible in that movie. It’s hackneyed, elementary and corny. Sure it may be reminiscent of the original animated television show and sure that may be what the producers intended but that doesn’t mean someone has to like it or that it couldn’t have been done better. I personally happen to like Speed Racer quite a bit but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who walks out of the screening and says, “man I just don’t think I could’ve taken one more second of Susan Sarandon’s one dimensional character and her campy acting!” That’s an absolutely fair comment to make.

So yes, that person wanted that movie to be something different. In essence, any review out there that is negative of something is essentially saying just that isn’t it? If the film had done something just a little bit different it might be more positive looking in that particular “critic’s” viewpoint.
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Everyone Loved “The King’s Speech” – Especially Britain

About a month ago I told everyone I know to mark David Fincher’s The Social Network on their Oscar ballot right now. It was a lock. It’s over. Guaranteed. While I will be sticking with that pick, it’s looking more and more like a closer race than I thought. The King’s Speech has been eating up audiences and the buzz is pretty much at its peak. On top of that, it nabbed 7 BAFTA’s last night (winning half of their 12 nominations) which just keeps the freight train a truckin’. Having said that, Fincher did get the win for Best Director and Best Screenplay, so I think there’s still a chance his film will get Best Picture come Oscar day.

Other than that, nothing here all that surprising or hard to predict. Another ho-hum Oscar season in which just about everything is either a lock or a 1 in 2 chance of winning. So just like last year, it seems there are really only two horses in this race. Who will cross the finish line first?

BAFTA Winners:

Best Film
The King’s Speech

Outstanding British Film
The King’s Speech

Director
David Fincher – The Social Network

Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer
Chris Morris – Four Lions

Leading Actor
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

Leading Actress
Natalie Portman – Black Swan

Supporting Actor
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

Supporting Actress
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

Original Screenplay
The King’s Speech – David Seidler

Adapted Screenplay
The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin

Film Not In The English Language
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Animated Film
Toy Story 3

Original Music
The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography
True Grit – Roger Deakins

Editing
The Social Network – Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter

Production Design
Inception – Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowa

Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland – Colleen Atwood

Sound
Inception – Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick

Special Visual Effects
Inception – Corbould, Franklin, Lockley, Bebb

Make Up & Hair
Alice in Wonderland – Valli O’Reilly, Paul Gooch

Short Animation
The Eagleman Stag – Michael Pleas

Short Film
Until the River Runs Red – Paul Wright, Poss Kondeatis

Orange Wednesdays Rising Award
Tom Hardy

 
 

The Other Woman: Natalie Portman

Portman’s other film at TIFF last fall didn’t play to critics and fans as well as her current, Oscar contending project, Black Swan received. In fact apparently it was received rather negatively. “Love And Other Impossible Pursuits,” now being released to North American audiences as The Other Woman will already be upon us within the next few days. Personally, I hadn’t even heard of the film – maybe overshadowed by its Aronofsky directed older brother – but now it looks like the studio plans to latch on to the popularity of Black Swan and get this thing in theaters now while the buzz is still blazing.

Directed by Don Roos (”The Opposite Of Sex,” “Happy Endings”), the film revolves around Portman’s character who steals a man from his wife and then must bond with her new stepson while dealing with the loss of her own child. It looks like pretty heavy handed melo-drama but in this camp that isn’t always a deal breaker. In fact it’s quite often a selling point. It looks clear (from the trailer below) that Portman will continue her streak of awesome performances; co-starring with Lisa Kudrow, Lauren Ambrose and Scott Cohen.

We’re getting the film via on demand next week (Jan. 1) and then a theatrical distribution begins on February 4th. I don’t know, Portman alone is enough to get me to watch and I tend to enjoy gawking at others’ misery. So I may get my trusty ol’ PS3 downloading this asap. Is this your kind of thing? Will critics warm to it? Check out the trailer under the seats and sound off…

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