Two movies you should see: a buzzy queer indie and a struggling would be blockbuster...
Chris Mason Johnson, a former dancer turned writer/director, really comes into his voice with his second feature. (He previously directed The New Twenty). Test is about a young dancer named Frankie (Scott Marlowe) in San Francisco in 1985 who, like most gay men at the time, fears he might have AIDS. He learns of a new test he could take to find out. The surprise of Test is that it's not really about AIDS despite the setting and time period so much as a slice of life drama about a young man struggling to face his fears and live his dream. Frankie is an understudy learning a dance he might never get to perform. And a young gay man beginning a life he might never get to live. Test is beautifully lensed for a micro-budgeted indie (I was shocked to hear that the cinematographer is a first timer) and though the pacing and subplots are hit and miss the dancer/actors are endearing and the centerpiece performance is just completely electric stuff. B+
P.S. Here's my interview with the director at Towleroad
I'll share excerpts that I didn't use for that piece soon that I think you cinephiles/musical addicts will enjoy. Test is playing in New York and available OnDemand and at iTunes.
EDGE OF TOMORROW
I had planned on avoiding this but the reviews, which I didn't read but gleaned were raves, caught me off guard. If you've also planned to skip, reconsider. I thought a movie that absorbed the very soul and structure of a video game (repeat until your kinetic memory gets every move right) would be highly annoying but I was wrong. It's sharply written, well acted and often exciting even if some of its moves are familiar (Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day meets Aliens?). Tom Cruise is extremely well cast as a smarmy coward who is all surface and has to actually work his way towards heroics and soul. And Emily Blunt, memorably dubbed "Full Metal Bitch" is approximately 1000% believable as an action heroine, proving yet again that she should be a much bigger star.
I can't say that I necessarily believe this would hold up to repeat viewings and, like every current action movie, there's too much CGI, too much generic dystopian destruction, typical color palette, but it was so entertaining and cleverly structured that I feel too generous towards it to quibble. But... I am not a fan of the ending which makes no damn sense whatsoever, even given the elaborate suspension-of-disbelief conceit. B+
The Los Angeles Times reports that one of the last remaining silent era actors has passed away. The actress in question, Carla Laemmle, had an easy in to the movies: her uncle Carl Laemmle founded Universal Studios and invited her family to live in a bungalow on the lot. Carla only had a small part in the horror classic Dracula (1931) but a key one: she uttered the first line of dialogue. She didn't appear in many pictures in her long life, dying at 104 years of age, but she apparently just recently filmed a role in a new horror film Mansion of Blood (2014) starring Gary Busey.
In happier news - this is not a double RIP - Lupita Tovar, a Mexican beauty who starred in the Spanish language version of Dracula that same year (in those early days of sound they made simultaneous alternative versions for other markets with the same sets and costumes) is still with us at 103 years of age. Lupita also comes from a movie family or, rather, began one. She is the mother of Oscar nominee Susan Kohner (Imitation of Life) and grandmother to the directors Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz (of About a Boy fame)
Related: Oldest Living Screen Stars of Note
Broadway World James Whale's Showboat finally on DVD
AV Club whoa. The Grand Budapest Hotel made entirely out of Legos
Antagony & Ecstacy reviews The Fault in Our Stars with the best review title going anywhere. The rest of the review is another reminder that Tim Brayton is one of the essential online critics.
AP "Dame" Angelina Jolie? She just received an honorary title in England
Deadline Keanu Reeves will take the role vacated by Daniel Craig in that Courtney Hunt (Frozen River) Renée Zellweger picture The Whole Truth so it's back on
In Contention is The Judge with Downey Jr and Duvall an Oscar contender?
Deadline Tom Hiddleson will star as Hank Williams in an upcoming biopic and do his own singing!
The Black Maria looks back at the brief swing music renaissance in 90s cinema. Oh I used to love Swing Kids
Employee of the Month interviews the incomparable performance artist Taylor Mac
Yahoo horrifying slapstick bathroom humor of Paddington teaser will break the hearts of anyone who loved the actual dignified humble character of Paddington in book form. Sigh... here's another flop for Nicole Kidman (who does not appear in the teaser)
Pop Watch wants blockbusters to lighten up and return to fun times. Agreed. Love the list of who is to blame.
Though we already gagged over this on Twitter, if you haven't yet seen it because you were mainlining OITNB or (gasp) offline, here is Sarah Paulson introducing her new character... excuse me, new characters on American Horror Story season 4. Meet "Bette" and "Dot"...
I can't think of an actress on TV that I'd like to see two of more right now, can you?
Glenn here looking at a film from my homeland. As I sat watching David Michôd’s The Rover surrounded by a room of American film critics, I began to think about politically-motivated cinema and how it is perceived by audiences who do not have a distinct knowledge of the subject at hand. Like many “new waves” that come about (which is basically a fancy term for “look, we’re finally paying attention to you!”), these films are usually the result of angry artists using their form to critique a government or regime. Some do it with unmistakable blunt force, while others take the allegorical road. In the case of The Rover, it’s the latter. So as I sat then more-or-less engrossed (more on that in a little bit) and admiring what Michôd was saying about Australian geopolitics (intentional or otherwise), I couldn’t help but think that – quite frankly – a lot of people aren’t going to get it.
People that I asked seemed to be aware that the film was working on a level higher than mere outback action fodder, but would be hard-pressed to explain what it was all about. I don’t blame them – I wouldn’t want to follow Australian politics either right now if I weren’t personally invested in it. It's truly depressing. Furthermore, it’s not like I can claim to know the impetus behind any number of film movements, political or not. However, with The Rover I think it’s a tougher case to decipher because Michôd and his collaborators have made a very sparse film. These thoughts I was having came about during one of The Rover’s quieter scenes, of which where are many. It's film that surely could have been wound tighter in the editing room (although the work of newcomer editor Peter Sciberras is still effective, especially in the film’s impactful and exciting opening act) and perhaps a little more forthcoming with its details, if only to allow the international audiences that it’s bound to attract after the Oscar-nominated Animal Kingdom more of an access to its themes.