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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Friday
Aug222014

Review: Frank

Michael C. here.  The audience can be forgiven if it assumes that Lenny Abarahamson’s Frank will be another cookie cutter indie quirkfest. The title character certainly seems at first glance like a contrived package of screenwriting conceits. Played by an actor we have to take on faith is Michael Fassbender, Frank is an artist who, despite a recent stay in a mental institution, still wears at all times a beach ball-sized fiberglass head with a smiling Howdy Doody face. Frank is the lead singer of an avant-garde band with an unpronounceable name (the Soronprfbs) and an unlistenable sound. When they perform it looks like five people having a synchronized nervous breakdown. With this shooting gallery of easy targets we sit back and wait for the movie to rain down mockery on its characters, sort of like a Napoleon Dynamite for hipster musicians.

The great surprise of Frank is that it avoids the easy jokes, aiming for something altogether more interesting. Abrahamson accepts these bizarre characters at face value and follows them with thoughtfulness and an open mind, often to funny places, sometimes to bracingly dark ones. It’s a tricky tonal balancing act, but the film rarely steps wrong. In passing up the cheap shots, Frank finds unexpected depth beneath the weirdness. 

We first meet Frank and company through Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) a would-be songwriter who spends his days wandering the streets hoping to find the inspiration to jumpstart his dormant creative engine. [More...]

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Friday
Aug222014

Viola Davis. 'Holy s***, that woman can act!'

Here's Matthew Eng on where we are in the career of one of the great screen actresses... 

“Holy shit, I love watching this woman act!” is what I immediately thought during Viola Davis’s doozy of a “big scene” in Get on Up, which nearly every review of Tate Taylor’s surprisingly strong James Brown biopic has been well-inclined to praise. As Brown’s aged, long-estranged mama, Davis—with the aid of terrific star Chadwick Boseman and some pretty expert makeup artists whose numbers Clint Eastwood should find immediately—manages to reinvigorate a set-up familiar from any number of tortured artist-biopics (i.e. absentee parent comes groveling years later to abandoned child-turned-superstar at the peak of his fame) with the same smart, electrifying clarity of character and tender yet tough-minded emotionalism that should be long-recognizable by now to anyone who has seen Doubt or Antwone Fisher or Solaris or Won’t Back Down, or else FencesKing Hedley II, or Seven Guitars on Broadway, or, more likely, witnessed Davis’ extraordinary, one-woman rescue job on Taylor’s The Help.

Holy shit, I love watching this woman act. It’s not the first time the thought’s run through my head.

Davis is, as usual, great in Get on Up, a superior musical drama that’s prone at times, like all entries in this genre, to some patchy plotting and tacky set-pieces, but which sports the affecting ensemble, sobering insights, and stellar, sweat-stained concert sequences that Eastwood and his animatronic Jersey Boys could only dream about. Davis’ role is also, as usual, brief but crucial to the movie at-hand. [More...]

 

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Friday
Aug222014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Has Gone Global & Retro Cinematic

Tom Hiddleston after his challengeI know it's for a good cause but we're definitely reaching saturation point for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Soon, like maybe in 5 minutes, it will be over. But ALS is enjoying huge fundraising numbers so good on them for dreaming it up. I hope all these celebrates dousing themselves with freezing water are donating a dollar for every viewing of their videos and vines.

I've avoided sharing any because how would you choose? I mean other than skipping my beloved childhood idol Olivia Newton-John who kind of misses the point, filling her thimble "bucket" of ice with undoubtedly warm pool water before trickling it over her gorgeous blonde head. Let's just say Her Chills Weren't Multiplying. She Was Not Losing Control.

So why am I posting this? To note that this ice bucket madness which was mostly music stars at first has gone global. Here's Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi doing it below and challenging French actress Sophie Marceau. Her House of Flying Daggers co-star Takeshi Kaneshiro also did one but his is oddly subdued / silent. 

(Other Asian stars getting in on the action include Xiamoing Huang and Li Bingbing who he challenged. He also challenged Fan Bingbing so if "Blink" gets in on the action, I want her to do it in costume. Plz and thx.)

The ice bucket challenge has also gone retro cinematic. Steven Spielberg did it a few days back. But the best one -- or at least the highest budgeted-- is surely The Foo Fighters doing it 1970s Sissy Spacek/Carrie style. I'm just disappointed that they didn't challenge Sissy Spacek, Betty Buckley, and Piper Laurie in the process, you know? though at least Stephen King was name-checked.

If you'd like to donate to ALS to thank them for giving us all this ginormous celebrity wet t-shirt contest you can do so here

 

Friday
Aug222014

Look Who's Talking (1989) and the Perils of Revisiting Childhood Faves

Hello everyone, Manuel here jumping aboard my personal DeLorean and taking a trip to 1989 to catch up with what’s still Amy Heckerling’s biggest box office success, the comedy Look Who's Talking.

There's a certain joy and sadness in revisiting films you remember enjoying as a kid. Some, because of their continued playback on cable or at your own home theater, seem to age with you so that their flaws become endearing while their wonders become treasures you hoard as if they were intended just for you. In this, films can be like old friends. Catching up with one you haven’t seen in over a decade can be a terrifying prospect. Have they aged well? Do you still share the same sense of humor? Will there be awkward silences where there were laughs before?

Much like its stock male lead, Look Who’s Talking is a flawed, sloppy, lovable creature. It may feature the scariest CGI baby that side of Ally McBeal, but at its heart it’s a funny rom-com that handles its “women having it all!” plot with aplomb. Heckerling’s quippy film follows Mollie (Kristie Alley) whose married lover (George Segal) knocks her up, refuses to divorce his wife for her (doing so instead for his younger interior decorator), leaving her to raise young Mikey by herself. John Travolta plays James, a roguish cab driver who after helping Mollie deliver her son, begins babysitting for her and well… you can probably guess where the film eventually lands. Certain things have aged better than others. The performances still shine. Proving why they were stars before they were Kathy Griffin punchlines, Travolta and Kristie show that a great rom-com needs great chemistry at its center to succeed. Indeed, Travolta’s on-screen charisma remains undeniable whenever he’s dancing while Alley’s comedic timing shows why she was a sitcom superstar. And that doesn’t even cover the presence of always welcome Olympia Dukakis who proves she can do raucously funny no-nonsense mom in her sleep. My favorite exchange from the film is Mollie asking her mom why she married her father:

-He looked good in a uniform.

-Yes, but didn’t they all look good in uniform?

-No... I didn’t care for the sailors and their bell-bottoms!”

It’s all in the delivery, but there’s a spark in Heckerling’s script that is undeniable. The same cannot be said for the central conceit of the film. Hearing Bruce Willis’s voice as Mikey’s inner monologue is as bizarre as it sounds and adds very little to the film as a whole; maybe this explains the diminishing returns of the film's two sequels which relied more heavily on its voice actors (Roseanne Barr, Diane Keaton and Danny DeVito) and thus on its rickety gimmick?

Mikey, voiced by Bruce Willis

If Look Who’s Talking is indeed an old friend, it’s one I’ll be unlikely to catch up with any time soon. She's just as nice as I remember her, if not as funny but her schtick gets old very soon (am I the only one impervious to cute kids in films unless they're named Richie and are (s)mothered by Julianne Moore?). Now I’m scared to see other old friends from that time (I’m looking at you Willow!) for fear I'll be just as disappointed.

What childhood staple have you revisited recently? Are there films better left as untouched warm memories of sitting around with friends in party hats while celebrating one's sixth birthday?

Thursday
Aug212014

Tim's Toons: All Dogs Go to Heaven, the strangest animated film of 1989

Tim here. We’re talking 1989 this month at the Film Experience, and as any dabbler in the history of animation knows, 1989 is most important for being the year that Walt Disney Feature Animation get back on track after some two decades in the wilderness with the smashing success of the fairy tale musical The Little Mermaid.

That’s not what we’re here to talk about. The Little Mermaid doesn’t need me: it’s a stone-cold all-time classic that everybody reading this has an opinion on already. Instead, I would like to take you to the other animated feature that opened on November 17, 1989, and which crumpled in the face of Mermaid’s juggernaut performance at the box office. That day, y’see, also bore witness to All Dogs Go to Heaven, a film which shriveled up and died in the face of Disney's singing crabs and diva octopodes.

This was the fourth feature made by Don Bluth, who had once been the heir-apparent to the Disney studios until he fled that company during the joyless production of The Fox and the Hound in 1979. Throughout the ‘80s, he and his succession of companies had represented an old-fashioned, back-to-basics alternative to the confused, often unpleasant films Disney was miserably trying to hawk, and his two biggest successes – 1986’s An American Tail and 1988’s The Land Before Time – found him effectively beating his old employers at their own game.

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