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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 | instagram | letterboxd 

 

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Entries in Reviews (308)

Friday
Jul032015

Review: Magic Mike XXL

This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad. It is reprinted here with in the Director's Cut version. i.e. it's longer this time...

 

When Magic Mike opened three years ago it was something of a risky proposition. Male stars exploiting their bodies for a young male star’s dream project loosely based on his own stripping career which he felt no shame about? Who would have guessed? Cut to three years later: Magic Mike and Friends (minus The Kid and Dallas “alright alright alright”) have returned to movie theaters with much teasing and blockbuster fanfare to a relatively new pop cultural context they helped create: male objectification is increasingly the norm. Just ask Chris Pratt, the ascendant superstar of the moment (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) who has acknowledged that his new body was key to his ascendance and that he’s all for it… the objectification.

This wondrous new world of happily exposed man-flesh makes Magic Mike XXL feel curiously demure. Usually sequels go for more-more-more but XXL (the title is a misnomer) downsizes even as the stages get larger. There’s less plot since it’s essentially a road trip movie but most curiously there’s much less nudity even if the women this time around seem a lot more eager to see it.

This withholding is smart and funny at the beginning of the film in a sensational opening dance number starring Mike alone in his workroom. [More...]

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Monday
Jun152015

Review: Sense8, season 1

Tim here. We've had a little more than a week now to play around with the new Netflix series Sense8, which has hopefully been enough time for everybody to process it. For myself, I'm still working on that: it's a whole lot of show, frequently not to its benefit. But it dreams no little dreams.

The show is the brainchild of J. Michael Straczynski, whose Babylon 5 largely created the "pre-planned serialized television" in the 1990s, and siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski, of The Matrix and its many attempted follow-ups, all of which have been met with widespread derision and a small but freakishly adoring cult. In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that I'm part of that cult. I even really liked Jupiter Ascending. So feel free to not trust anything I have to say about anything ever again.

Straczynski's achingly earnest liberal humanism blends seamlessly into with the pie-eyed optimism and sincerity of the Wachowskis' post-Matrix work, especially the swooning globalist poetics of Cloud Atlas. The result is a show that wears its politics and its sentiment right out in the open, with actors navigating big mouthfuls of dialogue that sound like an op-ed first, a stoned philosophy student's stream-of-consciousness second, and things that human beings would ever say out loud to other human beings third (another legacy of Babylon 5. I'm not even entirely sure I mean that as a complaint. Artlessness born out of sincere passion is a very different thing than a simple lack of talent. It's charming, albeit in a shaggy way.

More...

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Monday
Jun152015

Sydney Film Festival: '54' Rises Like a Phoenix

Glenn here offering thoughts on some of the films at this year's Sydney Film Festival. Here he is on the '54: Director's Cut'.

The history behind Mark Christopher’s wannabe decadent, sexually-charged disco epic 54 is almost as interesting as the real life nightclub it uses as its setting. Originally conceived as a disco-themed coming-of-age drama like Saturday Night Fever blended with the hedonistic dungeon-like underworld of Cruising, all signs pointed to the film being a crazed and sexy paean to a world that no longer exists. And then Miramax got involved. There's a long history of director's cuts of famous films or those from famous directors (Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now) or cult titles (Dark City). 54 was neither, so how did it get into this position?

After a few fated audience test screenings, Miramax decided to change tact with 54. Cutting out 40 minutes of footage that showed an openly queer antihero and replacing it with 25 minutes of newly filmed material aimed to exploit the exploding popularity of stars Ryan Phillippe and Neve Campbell. Released to scathing reviews, the film ultimately limped at the box office, Mike Myers had a supporting actor nomination rescinded by the New York Film Critics Circle (at least according to the director) and was likely never thought much of since. Mark Christopher’s career was essentially ruined in the process.

Knock on wood with more after the jump...

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Wednesday
Jun032015

Review: Aloha's Good Intentions Can't Rescue It

Michael C here to try to make sense of what I just watched. Cameron Crowe’s Aloha is one of the most bewildering cinematic experiences in recent memory.

Gone is the filmmaker behind Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire that could gracefully execute romantic gestures grand enough to capsize lesser movies. Gone even is the maker of follies like Elizabethtown who missed the mark by a mile but at least left a coherent mess in his wake. In his place is a guy that can barely scrape together a moment of believable human interaction in Aloha’s 105 minute running time. Crowe is so besotted with his notions of spiritual uplift against a mystical Hawaiian backdrop, so dizzy with big statements about life and love and redemption, that he appears to have lost his bearings completely. Aloha’s outpouring of emotion is fed into the malfunctioning machinery of the screenplay and spat out the other end as gobbledygook.

Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a cynic with a heart of gold in the Jerry Maguire mold. Gilcrest is a soldier coming off a series of vague professional disasters given the cushy task of obtaining a blessing from some native Hawaiians so the army can relocate an ancient burial ground (I think). Returning to Hawaii means seeing the girlfriend he ran out on eighteen years ago (Rachel McAdams) and her new family. Gilcrest is escorted on this mission by spunky young fighter pilot played by Emma Stone. The pairing generates all the romantic sparks of a guy babysitting his rambunctious younger cousin on a weekend road trip.

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Wednesday
May272015

Review: Far From The Madding Crowd

In Far From the Madding Crowd, a new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel, every eligible man wants Carey Mulligan’s winsome Bathsheba. But she cannot be tamed! (Funny how commitment phobia reads as strength in a female protagonist and weakness in a male protagonist). Or at least she won’t “settle” for less than what she’s already planned for herself. Nevertheless the wanting continues and the camera, observes her, often at a distance as with a memorable shot of Bathsheba laying back from her saddle, as if enjoying the tactile and visual sensations of the powerful creature beneath her and the vibrant foliage and sky above her.

(This review contains a general trajectory ending spoiler but it is based on a 151 year-old classic novel.)

Three bachelors and Bathsheba's issues after the jump... 

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Tuesday
May262015

Review: Tomorrowland

Michael C here. Last week I was here to announce that one of my anticipated 2015 titles exceeded my expectations. This week I need to come to grips how another of my most anticipated could miss the mark so badly.

Like the theme park from which it takes its inspiration, the future in Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland is not a tangible thing, but an idea, a gleaming Jetsons cityscape forever just over the horizon inspiring the better angels of our nature with its promise of utopia. It’s not “the future”. It’s THE FUTURE! 

Unfortunately, where Disney World can get away with organizing a collection or attractions around nothing but a spirit of uncomplicated hope, a movie needs to build a structure around those feelings, and it’s there that Bird’s film struggles. It aims to stir the soul but its impact is dulled as it gets lost in its scattershot, thinly conceived screenplay. Enjoyment of Tomorrowland depends on one's ability to appreciate its vibe of retro optimism enough to overlook how far short it falls of its lofty ambitions...

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