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Monday
Jul072014

Beauty Vs Beast: The Two Jakes

JA from MNPP here - The year 2014 is halfway over and since Nathaniel seems to be having fun listing his picks for "the best of so-far" I felt like joining in - my favorite movie of the year here at the half-point is Denis Villeneuve's doppleganger creep-fest called Enemy, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal as two men (maybe?) who find each other (maybe?) through chance (uh... maybe?) and the destructive effect that this has on their lives (definitely).

If you didn't catch the film in theaters (I managed to twice but I realize I am extraordinarily priviledged for that; its release was a puzzler) it came out onto DVD and so forth two weeks ago, so hopefully you've set aside the time - as I said when I reviewed it way back when this movie is the dream of a movie I would be able to make if I were a movie-maker. It hits all my buttons and then some, including ones I never even knew about -- Jake Gyllenhaal ordering another Jake Gyllenhaal to take his clothes off? Sure!

On the surface this week's "Beauty Vs. Beast" might seem a trick question (and maybe it is, just like the whole movie might be a trick movie) but Jake's performance in the film does make Adam (the teacher who's with Melanie Laurent) and Anthony (the actor who's married to Sarah Gadon) two distinct men - it's usually not hard to tell who's who because of posture alone, and the differences only seem to branch out (and yes, perhaps double back...) from there. So have at 'em...

 

If you haven't seen the film now before voting my point is go watch the movie right now! And then vote. Of course a vote for Jake, any Jake, is a winning vote all the same. And on top of telling me which Team Jake you prefer in the comments I'd love to hear y'all's theories about the movie. This movie brings them forth!

PREVIOUSLY Last week we got ourselves pre-juiced for Showtime's Masters of Sex, which returns on July 13th, by asking y'all to choose between the Masters & Johnson at the show's heart - I can't say I was surprised to see that Lizzy Caplan bounces the highest on the bedsprings of most of our hearts. She walked away with a full 85% of the vote. Said par, getting a hearty chuckle outta me:

"I love her so much I'd even invite her to a pool party... even if there were going to be girls in bathing suits there."

Monday
Jul072014

Halfway Pt. 3: Sound, Songs, Score. What Did You Enjoy Listening To?

Having covered the most astounding visuals from the first half of 2014 let's move on to Sound. This is when I suddenly become shy, mutable, and tongue-tied as a critic. You may read this post at any decibel level but please know that I'm whispering it. A truth: sound is the aspect of filmmaking for which I feel least qualified to judge. I try to absorb what's happening in underscoring and with the mix and editing. I'm definitely more attuned that I once was. But the fact remains that my ears are neither as well trained nor as aggressive in consumption as my eyes. I love to hear other people talk sound and scoring (I recommend the book The Conversations by Walter Murch which is on film editing but it touches on sound as well) so please do share your favorites in the comments. I'll probably learn something if you do. At the very least I'll have more to consider. 

If I had to vote right now...

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Henry Jackman); Godzilla (Alexandre Desplat); The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat); Noah (Clint Mansell); Snowpiercer (Marco Beltrami)... though I'd be hard-pressed to tell you why in all five cases other than that I responded to the music and thought it a fine match for the material tonally

BEST SOUND MIXING & EDITING: In these categories I'd undoubtedly go with some mix of the otherwordly bestial movies like Godzilla, Noah and How To Train Your Dragon 2 and I'd most definitely opt for Under the Skin and not just because my BFF and I leaned toward each other and whispered Yaz's "I Before E Except After C" lyrics during the enormously creepy vocalizations in the first minute of the film. But other than that I'm open to suggestions...

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: And now we can raise our voices again after the jump because I have five I LOVE already and we're only half finished with 2014. Guess what they are...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jul072014

Halfway Pt. 2: Visual Cinematic Achievements of 2014

Before the holiday weekend we wondered what AMPAS voters might latch on to had they had to vote right then on the Oscars. It was a hypothetical exercize since we all know the studios backload the year and 85% of the intended contenders for "best" honors are as of yet unavailable. On to something not at all hypothetical.

Consider this my tracking sheet for the film bitch awards at year's end. It also doubles as an FYC directed at Academy members. Awards are too often regarded as trivial pursuits but they aren't at all. Award winners and nominees go into the history books or web archives as it were and, later, baby cinephiles seek them out for cinematic education. I speak from experience and I've heard so many similar growing up cinephile stories over the years that I know this to be true. So think carefully over even movies you didn't love when you weigh titles for "Best" in various categories. You owe it to future generations to really focus on the last word in "For Your Consideration"

Here's what I'd vote for (at the moment) in the visual categories if the year ended right now. I hope you'll join me in sharing your favorites (that have already opened) in multiple categories.  

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Seamus McGarvey isn't lighting and composing in a vacuum for this visual fx behemoth, but much of the painterly grandeur and awe that Godzilla, would be king of blockbusters, conjures relies heavily on his gift; While black and white films often win praise solely because they're novelties in the 21st century, Ryszard Lenczewski & Lukasz Zal's work on Ida would be stunning in any color, with its diffuse sensitivities and meticulous emotional focus; Darius Khondji is easily among the most neglected of Oscar-ready DPs with a filmography that includes stunning films from multiple A list auteurs and he does another fine job with the warmly retro but never inappropriately romanticized period work on The Immigrant; Hong Kyung-pyo's nails amazing technical challenges on Snowpiercer and his lighting often makes the grim fascinating imagery pop; and, finally, Daniel Landin serves Jonathan Glazer's mesmerizing purposes beautifully with the eery, cold aesthetics of Under the Skin... like peeks into some unfathomable abyss.

Smart costumes, mutant powers, and big hair are after the jump

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jul062014

Box Office: The Studios Fail America on the 4th of July

Amir here with the weekend’s box office report. ‘twas quite a sad one at the multiplex; Positive adjectives were hard to come by. Tran4mers topped the charts again, but even that franchise has tired its audience so much that it now lags significantly behind the previous installments. Tammy came in second, but this one is also way behind last year’s Melissa McCarthy vehicles like The Heat. Maybe people are finally realising that having a superstar who doesn't fit Hollywood's notions of traditional beauty is completely different from having a superstar who doesn't fit Hollywood's notions of traditional beauty solely to make fat jokes about her.

 

Deliver Us From Evil was a big flop, this one falling behind director Scott Derrickson’s previous films, despite finding some major champions among critics. And if those are not enough underachievers for one week, there was also Earth to Echo, not just beating Deliver Us... as the weekend’s most awkwardly titled offering, but also beating it on the disappointment scale. This was the only new family option of the weekend, but it finished behind the leftover How to Train Your Dragon 2, which is another massive disappointment in its own right.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
01 TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION $36.4 (cum. $174.7)
02 TAMMY $21.1 NEW (cum. $32.9) Review
03 DELIVER US FROM EVIL $9.5 (cum. $15)
04 22 JUMP STREET $9.4 (cum. $158.8) Podcast
05 HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 $8.7 (cum. $140) best movie dragons
06 EARTH TO ECHO $8.2 NEW (cum. $13.5) 
07 MALEFICENT $6.1 (cum. $213.8) Podcast
08 JERSEY BOYS $5.1 (cum. $36.7) Review
09 THINK LIKE A MAN TOO $4.9 (cum. $57.1)
10 EDGE OF TOMORROW $3.6 (cum. $90.8) Capsule / Top Ten Thus Far

Perhaps Begin Again and Snowpiercer could have emitted some positive vibes with their relatively strong expansions, but no, hang on a minute! Dinesh D’Souza’s America – a sequel to Obama’s America? Oh, who cares anyway? It’s not like that first film made any damn sense – beat both of them to finish just outside the top ten. Yes, Dinesh D’Souza! Enough has been written about the hypocrisy and sheer stupidity of this man to make one think that a multimillion dollar opening and an A-Fucking-Plus Cinemascore is out of reach for his films, but no. It’s still possible. America has disappointed us all. The silver lining is that he, too, is lagging far behind his previous film.

What did you watch this weekend? Please give us some positive vibes to counteract Hollywood's failure to schedule anything worthwhile on such a big moviegoing weekend.

See Also: Nathaniel's Top Ten at the Halfway Mark

Friday
Jul042014

Baby You're a Firework

 Happy Fourth of July !!!

Watch an unexpected but quite American movie, enjoy the fireworks and your long weekend, and we'll see you here again Sunday night.

(On Monday morning we continue our Halfway Mark celebration surveying cinematic achievements of 2014 thus far)

Friday
Jul042014

Review: Melissa McCarthy > Tammy

An slightly abridged version of this review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

One of the best developments of movie advertising this past decade is the use of single scenes as teasers. Remember when The Devil Wears Prada used the opening sequence, fashion magazine peons freaking out about the arrival of Miranda Priestley as a perfect hook? Do you want to see more? Yes Ma’am! 

Tammy employed a similar tactic at first giving you a peak at the actual movie instead of a greatest hits montage. The first tease was a single scene of Melissa McCarthy clumsily robbing a fast-food restaurant in a dumb paper bag mask: too large to clear the counter, too blind to lock a storage room door, too sweet to be threatening. “You want some pies? You want pies” It’s a very funny sequence promising a slapstick filled comedy about a bumbling amateur criminal. Melissa McCarthy is currently on top of Hollywood’s food chain after three consecutive smash hits (Bridesmaid, Identity Thief and The Heat) the first and last of which are top-notch comedies, continually funny, bracingly rude and totally rewatchable. 

Unfortunately, the robbery proves to be Tammy’s single best bit and, oops, we’ve already seen the whole thing. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jul042014

Beauty Break: Headdresses

I've been holding on to this picture of Sigourney Weaver as "Tuya" from Exodus for a couple of days without any idea what to say about it other than 'thank god Sigourney's signature directors still love her'. Between Ridley Scott (Alien) and James Cameron (Aliens), Lt. Ellen Ripley will always find her way back to decent roles on the big screen.

But I don't understand the casting of that movie at all. Everyone is SO white, like pasty white. Especially Joel Edgerton as Ramses. In The Ten Commandments that role went to Yul Brynner. Though Brynner was also white, a white Russian to be exact though that sounds alcoholic and we're not talking about how drunk looking at Yul makes me, he had that exotic visual flair that had Hollywood casting him in every conceivable ethnicity. Kind of the way Ben Kingsley who is Indian British is used now, only sexier.

Let's stick with the sexy.  The Film Experience loves a good headdress on the big screen. Here are some of the best.  

Click to read more ...