Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
Jan de Bont's "Speed 2: Cruise Control" is one of the most maligned movies of all time, earning the wrath of critics and audiences alike. It has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of two percent and an average IMDB grade of 3.5--levels usually reserved for such monstrosities as The Village People's "Can't Stop the Music" (8/ 3.7) and the insult to all things good and decent that is Adam Sandler's "That's my Boy" (21/ 5.5). Judging from its box office performance, more people hated "Speed 2" than actually saw it. Yet I have to admit that after watching it on its opening weekend in 1997, I left the theater more than happy and was not surprised by the thumbs-ups it received from Siskel & Ebert. Then all hell broke loose. When I dis a movie a friend likes, all he has to do is bring up "Speed 2."
Lust. Caution. Lust, Caution. Lust...Caution.
The English name of Ang Lee's 2007 film consists of two words. Taken separately, they stand alone as individual concepts: Lust, a primal, human urge; Caution, an evolved, societal tool. Put them side-by-side, and contrast emerges: primal versus evolved, individual versus society, incongruent. Poke a little hole in the membrane that separates the two, and dynamics shift. Lust surges in the face of Caution. Caution stares right back, coolly, unflinching.
You'll probably despise the main characters in the coldly lavish new South Korean film "The Taste of Money" (2012). I was about to describe them as belonging to the top 1%, but given how shallow and hateful these people are, I think it would be more accurate to say "the bottom 0.01%." They're a plutocratic family at the very top of South Korean society. They run a big, influential conglomerate like Samsung and LG (which are also family businesses at their core). They can buy and do anything because of their wealth and the power which comes with it. In their view, they deserve to be called VVIPs, or very, very important people.
Some people hate "Dune" because it's nothing like the novel, but venerate "The Shining" for the same reason. You can't please everyone when you adapt a book to film, so you're better off hoping you'll please anyone. Even if it's just a handful, it's those few who will be your fiercest defenders against the purists. So let's start with what Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" isn't: If you read the book, it's not the book you read. It includes plot elements from "The Hobbit," details that weren't fleshed out in "The Lord of the Rings" movies, bits from the "LOTR" appendices, and stuff that was created for the sake of this new trilogy.
Like Mary Poppins, Disney World is "practically perfect in every way." But what our jolly 'oliday with Mary didn't reveal were the slight imperfections alluded to by that phrase's quantifier: Practically perfect? I'll bet Ms. Poppins' small glitches were legendary when they occurred. Maybe her umbrella flights damaged the ozone layer, or her spoonfuls of sugar helped wreck Dick van Dyke's Cockney accent. I speculate about near-perfection because I've been to Walt's Orlando resort 19 times, and while most of these visits went off without a hitch, when things did go wrong, they went wrong in unforgettable, spectacular fashion.
I walked into "Life of Pi" with extremely high expectations. After all, Ang Lee is a masterful director who helmed two of the greatest modern love stories in film. The trailers assured me that it was a must-see for the visuals alone, and then a friend said that it would transform me to another world through groundbreaking use of cinematography to manipulate the membrane of water. I walked in expecting the greatest use of 3D in film history; I walked out with much more.
"Transsiberian" is a Hitchcockian thriller decorated with icy wintry landscapes. It sets its tone right at the beginning, carefully developing an unstable feeling while loading the story. It steadily amplifies a sense of dread within its closed space. We sense something terrible will happen, and it does happen, but we are surprised because we suddenly find the movie rapidly accelerating on an unexpected course--and it never stops until it reaches to its finale literally approaching toward it from the opposite side.
"Port of Shadows" begins a revival run at the Music Box on 1/25, and is in the Criterion Collection.
Noir revolves on a shorthand of recognition; a cruel fact expertly utilized by Marcel Carné, when he cast two of the most identifiable of French film stars in his 1938 classic, "Port of Shadows" (Le Quai des Brumes). A pressing fog floods Le Havre in the director's pre-WWII drama, but even in the thickest mists, Jean Gabin and Michel Simon, then catapulted to fame recently in "Pépé le Moko" and "Boudu Saved from Drowning" could never find secrecy from their characters' shame-ridden pasts.
After watching Tim Burton's remake of "Planet of the Apes" (2001), I concluded there was no need for another "Ape" movie to ever be made. Thirty-three years of progress in makeup technology didn't help the latter version become any better than the one that inspired it. That's why, hearing there would be a "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" a decade later, I had no expectations and feared the worst, but the results were pleasantly surprising. We often associate the word "remake" with a lack of creativity so when an exception turns out, it's important to look back and try to understand the reasons behind this.
* "Detention" is available on Blu-ray and Amazon Instant, and "Girl Walk//All Day" is available for free on Vimeo.
In its drift from one receptive viewer to the next, a cinematic motif or choice soundtrack selection bristles at the prospect of first exposure. Luis Bacalov's titular, Elvis-aping ballad for "Django Unchained" washed recently for the first time over many filmgoers' ears, and thus became their primary recollection. The same can and should not be said, however, about the western's mid-climax "duet" from 2Pac and James Brown later on, which aimed for adrenaline but landed on awkward bafflement instead. Call that disappointing instance decoupage or mash-up, but a post-modern cut-and-paste can also work wonders under the right framework: Two remarkable films from 2012 - Joseph Kahn's madcap teen genre "Detention" and Jacob Krupnick's feature-length music video "Girl Walk//All Day" - operate on the opposite assumption; that their usage of pop culture sources finds audiences second-hand, and in doing so ensure their unique re-appropriation attains an euphoric fusion overall.