Blindspotting: Moonstruck and Fatal Attraction

BlindSpotMoonstruck6

.
The year was 1987. It was a tumultuous time…A breathless population tried to come to terms with the loss of Shelly Long from Cheers while simultaneously trying to choose sides in the great “Debbie Gibson or Tiffany?” debate. Fortunately Spuds Mackenzie and the announcement of Euro Disney were there to quell the public’s fears (not to mention the arrival of Prozac).

Side note: there was also the premiere of a little upstart cartoon series called The Simpsons which created an industry of people quoting and borrowing humourous ideas from it – something which continues today unabated.

BlindSpotFatalAttraction4
BlindSpotMoonstruck5

In the movie houses, adultery was on the minds of the American film-goer as two of the year’s biggest releases used it as a central theme. Both Fatal Attraction and Moonstruck had characters cheating on their spouses (and almost-spouses) with varying degrees of consequences – none of which appeared to be lasting. Through different approaches and styles (one a sharply written comedy/drama, the other a consistently paced thriller), they each seem to end up at the same conclusion: infidelities certainly can’t be swept away, but don’t worry since you’ll be forgiven. Since Moonstruck’s main arc really deals with two suffocating people who stumble into each other (and subsequently allow each other to blossom), that’s likely not the fairest assessment of the film. But I’ll get to that later.

The story opens on Loretta (played by Cher), a tax accountant who seems to have the market cornered on frumpy. She’s unsure about the marriage proposal she’s just received from Johnny (Danny Aiello) because she’s had bad luck before – in fact, very bad luck since her previous husband was killed by a bus. Now she insists that everything be done just right including the actual proposal (she even makes Johnny do it all over again by getting down formally on one knee in the restaurant). When he tells her he has to fly to Italy for his dying mother, her biggest concern seems to be that they set an official date for the wedding. She doesn’t actually want or need him to help, but just agree to the date since all he’ll have to do is show up. It’s quickly established that Loretta isn’t exactly passionately in love with Johnny and even tells her mother (played in Oscar-winning form by Olympia Dukakis) that she doesn’t love him. Her Mom’s response of “Good, when you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can” sets up the issues she has with her own husband (Vincent Gardenia in a possibly too spot-on casting choice). But back to Loretta for the moment…

Would you like to know more…?

Review: The Croods

A very brief and somewhat biased history lesson: Dreamworks Animation, after years of foisting smarmy talking animals, questionable pop songs and a litany of fart jokes on indiscriminate family audiences, released How To Train Your Dragon. It was a film with no small amount of ambition in terms of visual aesthetics and had an abundance of heart. Usually, Dreamworks Animation sits in the long shadow of Pixar, who around that time were putting out Cars 2, so it was a bit of a topsyturvy world which lasted only the briefest of moments as Pixar quickly recovered with their third quality Toy Story movie and Dreamworks numbly churned out Madagascar and Shrek sequels. All this is to say that when Dragon co-director Chris Sanders was the man put in charge of Dreamwork’s latest feature, The Croods, and Monsters University seems lazy as all hell, 2013 promised similar downside-up deja vu.

Maybe not.

After watching The Croods die a slow death-by-committee, I feel that perhaps the original story of a fearful and conservative prehistoric family forced to find a new home in an unforgiving world outside their comfort zone, would represent some risk-taking in the narrative department. The film skims some pretty controversial themes for a kids flick in this particular young century. The first is the cave clan’s ongoing over-reaction (espoused in a myth-making Chauvet-esque prologue), ) to the demise of their immediate neighbours; a healthy concern for survival that edges into fear, uncertainty and doubt. The world is a dangerous place for those of the cro-magnon variety. Exchanging comfort and freedom and a zest for living for security, painting the crudes, excuse me, Croods as a bunch of xenophobic ugly Americans as their 9/11 event fast approaches. The event, here geological, in some way echoes Star Trek II‘s ‘Genesis Project’ and for a time, it feels like the film is going to espouse some old fashioned Roddenberry logic, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Couple this with the idea that one generation often has to make big sacrifices for the benefit of prosperity of the next, and the ongoing baby-boomer disaster that is the current world-wide economic meltdown, and you’ve got some heady subtext for a brightly animated Quest For Fire riff. Indeed, the film struggles with the generational gap between wide-eyed optimism of youth and pragmatic caution of folks who have witnessed a fairer share of death and loss; that is to say there is a smidgen of the anxious dad of Finding Nemo (and possibly the only time ever you will be able to compare Albert Brooks to Nicholas Cage.) Even further, it throws out the can-do spirit of the use of new and untested technology (fire and, oddly, shoes), as a way of advancing into the darkness with the risk of torching oneself in the tall dry grass; this instead of the conservative, tried-and-true idealogy – hiding in the dark and waiting for the danger to pass. The film piles all these things on its plate with an ambitious, almost effortless, glee, then takes the safe, conservative, non-confrontational approach to the whole darn thing. The Croods may say one thing, but it wants to keep hiding in its safe market-tested cave. Damn you Dreamworks.

Would you like to know more…?

Guy Pearce is Simply One of a Few Citizens Seeking Justice.

I‘d immediately write this off as a piece of Direct-to-DVD trash (ala last years Tresspass), if it were not for Roger Donaldson at the helm. Like John Frankenheimer and Sidney Lumet before him, Donaldson (Thirteen Days, The Bank Job), tends to consistently make solid more-or-less-grounded genre efforts that stand above the usual array of hack-work polluting the action-thriller section. No he’s not quite as good as his similarly named (I often confuse the two!) contemporary Roger Mitchell (Changing Lanes, Enduring Love) but if you want yeoman’s work, Donaldson is your man.

Here a shaved headed Guy Pearce drops a Star-Chamber-esque service into the lap of every-man Nic Cage (as if!) following the maiming of his wife (January Jones) leaves her hospitalized (probably some irate X-men fan.) The faustian bargain: We’ll give you vigilante justice if you owe us an undisclosed favour down the road. Of course the favour down the road has Cage dodging the sliding rear wheels of a 6 tonne flatbed truck. Lots of intensely silly mayhem ensues. Seeking Justice looks to sit somewhere in the middle ground between modern vigilante fantasies; not as outright stupid as the similar Gerard Butler-vehicle, Law Abiding Citizen nor as talky or restrained as the Jodie Foster-vehicle The Brave One.

Of course, it will be worth watching this movie, when it drops into theatres March 16, just to get to this image:

Nic Cage and Nic Kidman go VOD: Trespass Trailer

 

Proving that Port of Call New Orleans (Kurt’s Review) was the exception more than the rule for glossy exploiters, Millennium Films, aka the modern day Golan-Globus/Cannon, along comes a movie that stars both Nicholas Cage and Nicole Kidman, has a wildly commercial concept, and yet it is straight to DVD. And this after the company managed to foist crap such as 88 Minutes and Righteous Kill into the multiplex (Maybe Al Pacino is the key…)

Trespass is a hostage/heist film directed by Joel Schumacher (Batman & Robin, The Lost Boys) with a lot of chrome and expensive wood, but apparently very little brains. How do I make this assessment after only viewing a trailer, well, the trailer gives the whole plot away. Typical Millennium, typical.

In a private, wealthy community, priority is placed on security and no exception is made for the Miller family’s estate. Behind their pristine walls and manicured gardens, Kyle, a fast-talking businessman, has entrusted the mansion’s renovation to his stunning wife, Sarah. But between making those big decisions and keeping tabs on their defiant teenage daughter, Sarah often finds herself distracted by a young, handsome worker at their home. Nothing is what it seems, and it will take a group of cold-blooded criminals led by Elias, who have been planning a vicious home invasion for months, to bring the Miller family together. When they storm the manor, everyone is tangled up in betrayal, deception, temptation and scheming. Kyle, Sarah and Avery will take the ultimate risk to make it out with their lives – and their family – intact.

The trailer is tucked under the seat.
Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 223 – Just the Alien from Cloverfield and Super 8?

 
 
A bit of a break in the usual routine as summer comes closer to a close – In this episode of the Cinecast director Jim Mickle (Stake Land and Mulberry St.) joins Kurt and Andrew for a chat on Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens and Errol Morris’s Tabloid. We mix up the typical show order and do DVD picks first (as Stake Land hits DVD shelves this week!), then our main reviews, with liberal sprinkling of Netflix instant watch suggestions throughout the show before finally ending on The Watch List. This allows for a lot of delightful tangents and director/screenwriter insights. Hope you enjoy this one, it’s a keeper.

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


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_223.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
Would you like to know more…?

Now Playing at the Row Three Rep: Women in a League of Evil (to Destroy Men)

[Row Three programming if we owned a Rep Cinema]

Cult Women Conspiracies

The Wicker Man (2006)
Exodus (2007)
The Dark Secrets of Harvest Home (1978)

Believe it or not, it is quite difficult to find very many films with women en mass conspiring to emasculate men. Considering most films are written and directed by men, it is rather surprising that this theme does not pop up more often. Sure, there is the evil asian ghost with long hair, or the jilted psychotic ex-lover come back for revenge, but consider the number of movies about satanist cults and other underground Masonic-type boys clubs, and it is rather odd.

 

 

The original Wicker Man (1973), considered by many (myself included) to be one of the great films of all time. An epic mash of folklore, mystery, religious ideology, music, suspense and finally horror, mainly dealt with Christianity and Paganism and how the two clash when a Scottish cop locks ideology with the local lord. The film, like many great horror films lately, was destined for a remake. The bafflingly bad result did terrible at the theatre, being released at the career nadir of one Nicholas Cage (and a downward slide for its director, former playwright Neil LaBute who achieved notoriety and success with the one-two punch of In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, films that took the battle of the genders to interesting places.) The remake drops the religion angle, and takes the paganism rather out out context to deliver a daffy Nic Cage vs. Women tale. There is a famous you-tube clip consisting of a collection of cold-cocks to the face and Sgt. Cage brandishing large handguns to the various female denizens of an island off the coast of Portland, who are practicing old century ways to keep their bees producing boutique grade honey. That Cage’s hangdog short-tempered investigator was dumped and abandoned by his fiancee (who retreated back to this island, and shows up here as a would-be ally) is only icing on the cake. While nearly everyone embarrasses themselves in an exercise of camp-in-slow motion including Leelee Sobieski, Frances Conroy and Molly Parker. The iconic Ellen Burstyn (no stranger to Horror iconography, having starred in the biggest horror picture of all time, The Exorcist) gives a solid but wasted turn in the Christopher Lee role. Sure, the pretty cinematography (just outside of Vancouver) make this a fun one-off viewing, even while it is takes a large crap on the power of the original. In the strained effort to set it in the United States instead of Scotland, much of the plot detail and other cultural motivation is rendered rather incomprehensible and certainly out of any historical context. Then there is the 21st century addition of lot of bad CGI bees which I suppose make the scene compliment Cage’s ‘mega-acting’ well enough. The remake ends with a giggle, not the soul chilling fires of people certain in their beliefs. It is the best parody of the 1973 classic that could ever be made, and it does it with a stony-straight faced earnestness. Camp Classic!

Would you like to know more…?

Talk Amoungst Yourselves (in Venn Diagram form)

 

The fine and intelligent folks over at The Film Stage posted the above Venn Diagram as a way of processing the banal, the geek, and the thespian elements of polarizing actor, Nicholas Cage. They have loads more commentary over there, but feel free to talk amoungst yourselves in the comments section over the course of the last long weekend of the summer (a summer, one might say, that was pretty shitty at the multiplex)

Bookmarks for May 28-31

  • Culture Warrior: This is Not a Banksy
    Thought-provoking piece on art, the art documentary, and specifically the Banksy film Exit Through the Gift Shop.
  • When Is a Musical Not a Musical?
    I think Rosenbaum hits the nail on the head here with Godard – “But Godard’s critical influence on me and many others has stemmed in part from things he hasn’t been able to do as a director. Relative to his own models, he failed to make thrillers out of Breathless and Band of Outsiders, a war film of Les carabiniers, a melodrama of Contempt, science fiction of Alphaville and Anticipation (from the anthology film The Oldest Profession), or even Shakespeare of King Lear. Part of this failure is inadvertent, part deliberate and purposeful: an ability to take things apart and understand how they function isn’t always matched by an ability to put them back together again.” If you can put up with failure for the sake of experimentation (and somewhat solipsistic experimentation at that), you’ll like Godard. If you can’t, you won’t. It is pretty much that simple.
  • Observations on film art : Metropolis unbound
    A great piece from David Bordwell about the Metropolis restoration. He discusses the shifts and additions to the narrative due to the new footage, then looks specifically at Lang’s use of cinematic space to drive both narrative and theme rather than relying on intertitles.
  • The overactors – Mad, bad, and dangerous to the scenery
    “…even such self-aggrandising performances are still usually tuned to the key of supposed psychological realism; no matter how obvious or obnoxious, the actor is resolutely “in character” and therefore, somehow, inherently authentic. It seemingly matters little that Method’s furrowed-brow mumbling is, in its own way, as stylized as a kabuki mask. ”
  • Malick, Coppola could lead strong crop at Venice (or Toronto) for 2010
    Here is hoping for Tree of Life for Tiff, but ather potentials on the fall festival circuit include Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Anton Corbijn’s The American, Julian Schnabel’s Miral, Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole, Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary, Robert Rodriguez’s Machete and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest. Screendaily mentions many, many more.
  • 15 Grossly Misleading Movie Posters
    Movies are both an art form and a business, so while it’s the artist’s vision that dictates the direction, it is sadly entirely up to clean shaven men with business degrees to decide how to sell it. And while we understand it’s their job to twist the truth to maximize a movie’s appeal, sometimes they go completely insane and just start making shit up. Occasionally, they hit on a better idea than the movie ever did…

 

You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this:

Millar’s Crossing: Extended Thoughts on Kick-Ass

In Carl Matheson‘s early aughties piece on the humour of TVs The Simpsons, he talks about something he calls hyper-irony: “The flavor of humor offered by today’s comedies is colder, based less on a shared sense of humanity than on a sense of world-weary cleverer-than-thou-ness.” Of course this is not designed to be perjurious, but rather complimentary, insofar as any fan of The Coen brothers reacts to the humour of their equally cleverer-than-thou takes on both genre and cinema. Matthew Vaughn’s new superhero adventure certainly plays in this sandbox and it does it very well. It walks the line of ‘what if’ while soft-shoeing around comic nerd fantasy and realism. Knowing full well that the bulk of comic-book entry points are from the adolescent pure fantasy point of view (Iron Man‘s wise-ass chauvinist inventor stud billionaire anyone?), that is the tone that wins out in the end, but damn if it still wants you to believe that things are set it in real world. I think it is this sort of high-wire act that got The Dark Knight such critical and audience love, although it was done without any sort of ironic distance by Christopher Nolan and company. Kick-Ass seems to specialize in this sort of tone and succeeds (not in making high-art) where the makers behind the film version of Millar’s Wanted completely failed to find the right proportions of grounded-ness and ironic fantasia. Vaughn and Goldman have certainly done the author a service.

Would you like to know more…?

Super Hero Parody + Japanese Cult + Wanted + Children = HitGirl

This is so hilariously wrong that I am curious how many parents may take their children to see Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass after something like Percy Jackson & the Olympians. Well mommy and daddy probably will not if they see this highly amusing Red-Band teaser for the film that proves that Quentin Tarantino isn’t the only director who can re-purpose Japanese school-girls and severed limbs into something distinctly Western-Hemisphere. If the film was to live up to the promise of this teaser, I’d say that someone made Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted for the pre-teen set. Anyone want to see Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust) actually attempt the Battle Royale remake?

Trailer *Language definitely NSFW* is tucked under the seat.

Would you like to know more…?

How to Undersell. Werner Herzog: Bad Lieutenant Trailer

BadLieutenantMovieStill
After the sales reel for Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans set the internet aflame with anticipation, talk about anticlimatic with the presentation of the first official trailer. Sure elements of craziness are showcased here, but they are done in such a low key way, that the marketing is really not playing to the films (or its nascent cult) strengths. The final film is a very solid guilty pleasure (Kurt’s Tiff review here). One would think that the powers that be would sell what they have; and that is many moments of unrestrained Nicholas Cage behaving badly. Here, they want austere inter-titles and slow mellow grooves. Wrong. Wrong!

Trailer is tucked under the seat.

Would you like to know more…?