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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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Entries in Reviews (584)

Monday
Aug202012

Review: "Sparkle"

This review was originally published in my column at Towleroad.

Leaving for the theater to see Sparkle, the boyfriend wrinkled up his nose. "Is that that Dreamgirls remake?" he asked rhetorically. He doesn't care about movies (...I know!) so I just said "yes" rather than getting into it. Sparkle, like Dreamgirls before it, does pair an "American Idol" alum in her big screen debut (Jordin Sparks / Jennifer Hudson) with a genuine legend (Whitney / Beyoncé) to tell the story of a troubled female pop trio in 1960s Detroit attempting to make it big as Motown explodes. But the similarities are cosmetic. (Which is not, unfortunately, to Sparkle's benefit. If you're going to load up your screenplay with familiar clichés, rob from superior work!)

The immediate jarring difference between the two films is first noticeable in the Jennifer/Jordin continuum. In both films the biggest talent of the trio has to play second fiddle to "the hot one" but only in the earlier property does the Major Talent bristle mesmerizingly against her runner-up status; Jordin's "Sparkle" is a willing wallflower, happy to let her sister (the crazy gorgeous Carmen Ejogo) sing all of her songs whilst shimmering in the warmth of the spotlight. Sparkle's sister's name is "Sister" and their group is called "Sister and Her Sisters" and the men competing dramatically for their hands (that's a euphemism for vaginas) are named "Stix" (Derek Luke) and "Satin" (Mike Epps). So any moviegoer with a sybilant "S" should avoid all discussions of the movie

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Saturday
Aug112012

Moviegoing Diaries: "Bachelorette" is the Best

 [Editor's Note: Beau texted me this morning all tweaked out with "Bachelorette" pleasure so I asked him to be more specific and was he ever. - Nathaniel] 

Thank you, little baby Jesus. Last night, I was given a present. Unlike mirth, gold and whatever else you got, mine came running up, sweating, coke stains under her nostrils, blinking fervently and then yelled out:

‘I’m here. The FUCK you want?’

Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher misbehave in "Bachelorette"

I’ve been frustrated with the lack of quality in 2012 releases. With the exception of Moonrise Kingdom, Take This Waltz and Magic Mike nearly everything has disappointed. Even those with something to offer here or there commit some kind of strange habitual plot seppuku and just fucking die on the spot. 

I was not as taken with Bridesmaids as so many others. With the exception of McCarthy, its narrative, beats, notes and tones that were so familiar as to warrant a cliche moratorium. This is what I wanted Bridesmaids to be, and even to compare the two right now I feel, does Bachelorette a major disservice. You can already see the comments and stock quotes coming linking on to the other, and when I texted Nathaniel this morning, I purposefully avoided doing so.

What I felt and texted was this

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Monday
Aug062012

Review: "Total Recall" 

This review originally appeared in my column at Towleroad

It's hard not to feel sympathy for Colin Farrell. His secret movie star weapon is those long, thick unmistakable eyebrows. When he's in distress his brow lifts and pulls them up into a converging point, creating a perfect triangular frame for big brown orbs of boyish angst. "Help me!" is written all over his eyes. That same furrowed brow expression with just minor flickering shifts can also say "Please love me!" and "Aren't I funny?" and "..." His capacity for impish excitement and moral confusion were a perfect match for his best star turn to date in the hitman seriocomedy In Bruges (2008) and it helps the TOTAL RECALL do-over more than it should.

Farrell plays everyman Doug Quaid who doesn't realize he's actually someone else because his memory has been erased. A trip to the fantasy memory banks of "Total Rekall" (a reversal of Eternal Sunshine's "Lacuna Inc" since the company aims to give you false memories rather than take real ones away) upsets his reprogramming and suddenly he's killing soldiers with the trained might of a futuristic Jason Bourne. Returning home his formerly loving wife (Kate Beckinsale) tries to kill him.

Quaid realizes he's completely lost in a false life with no memory of the real one. Cut to: plentiful moments of Farrell Furrowing!

But you shouldn't have time to think about the magic and mystery of physiognomy while you're watching an action movie. If you do your mind wanders and questions come cascading in like...

"When did Kate Beckinsale's Hair becomes self-aware like SkyNet?" When?!?

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Saturday
Jul282012

Belated Review: "The Dark Knight Rises"

Though it's normally best to get straight to the point with reviews The Dark Knight Rises (hereafter refered to as TDKR) presents something of a quandary. How do you jump right in to speaking about this particular film when Christopher Nolan's last Batman film has so long ceased being "just a movie". So we begin with a three part preface... 

What?!? Nolan can blow seven reels of a non-origin Batman film before Bruce suits up and you object to me blathering on for three paragraphs before I review the movie? Double standards!

First, I believe that Michelle Pfeiffer's performance as Catwoman is one of the greatest performances of the 1990s, the very definition of what an actor can do when they understand their auteur's vision, get the heightened play of specific entertainment genres, and are capable of imaginative stylization. It pissed me right off that people tried to pretend that no one before Heath Ledger had ever delivered Oscar worthy work within the comic book genre. So Batman Returns is my favorite Batman movie (yes, I know it has flaws. Shut up) and I entered the movie naturally resistant to Anne Hathaway's Catwoman.

Second, I saw the movie alone on Saturday, the morning after it opened. I failed to convince any of my friends to go with me and wasted my second ticket. To my great shame even though I think it's stupid to let fear change your routines (I was on a plane exactly a week after 9/11 as scheduled) I did briefly find myself thinking about where the exits were* against my will and flinched at the frequent gun battles in the movie. When I returned from the movie a friend snarkily asked me "So was is worth risking your life?" and I wanted to punch him. In a non violent way. See, every movie is worth risking your life for because movies are totally safe. Movies do not kill people, people do. People with access to firearms especially which is a lot of people given our nation's embarrassingly pro-tragedy gun laws.

*I'm super happy to report that I've been to the movies twice after this and never once thought of this.

This is a LOT of baggage to take into a movie already. I get that. And then there's the small matter of my teflon resistance to understanding the genius of Chris Nolan and residual frustration with fanboy culture that demands that I do. I was discussing the push and pull between mandated blockbuster movie culture and blogging demands last week with Rob, a reader, on facebook who paid me the nicest compliment:

I like the balance you strike. Sorta: this is here, can't ignore it, we're all gonna see it, Christian Bale is gonna sound funny, and we move on.

Rob nailed it. Yes. Yes. Yes. Hee. And we move on... finally, to the [spoiler heavy] review

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Sunday
Jul152012

Review: "Farewell My Queen"

An abridged version of this review originally appeared in my column at Towleroad 

There are numerous reasons why the Marie Antoinette story has fascinated artists and storytellers for centuries now. From the Court's commitment to theatrical flamboyance with a blind eye to the consequent suffering of the masses (modern pop culture echos were seen as recently as The Hunger Games this spring), to the complexity of the Queen's intimate lonely gilded cage tragedy played against the backdrop of a vast messy violent history. One could argue that the now mythic story is super relevant all over again in this era of rampant socioeconomic injustice and the angry gap between the 1 and 99%. 

Benoît Jacquot clues you in early that he means to tell the famous story differently in the just released French import  Farewell My Queen. For one, it's told "backstage" through the stressful lives of the servants. Consider it the French Revolution: Downton Abbey Edition... without Maggie Smith or the jokes.

The German actress Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) plays the troubled big-spending transplanted queen, Léa Seydoux (Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol), the film's actual lead, is her bosomy devoted servant Madame Laborde, and Virginia Ledoyen (8 Women) is the Queen's Object of Affection, the Duchess de Polignac. The French people were so unhappy with this rumored affair that the ostensibly powerless Duchess was fairly high on the list of the 286 heads demanded for the guillotine! [More...]

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Thursday
Jul122012

To Woody With (Tough) Love

Dear Woody Allen,

I will always be there for you. Stop punishing me for my loyalty!

Back in 1984 my older brother drove me to see Broadway Danny Rose. I don't remember why. I'll readily admit that much of the movie went over my head but I laughed and laughed at the helium scene. To this day it's the only thing I remember about the movie which I never saw again. (There were always new and old Woody Allens to see so there was little time to rewatch!). My brother laughed, too. The next year I cajoled my entire family into seeing The Purple Rose of Cairo -- even though they kept grumbling about you stealing the Oscar from Star Wars -- because it was about the movies and because you made it.

It was a turning point. I was already heading towards cinephilia but that blissful melancholy miniature classic handed me a map to get there quicker; my destiny was sealed. 

As a reward to you and a treat to myself I go to each and every Woody Allen movie in the theaters. For a good long time this ritual reaped enormous rewards and I rushed out on opening night. I learned to live with the occassional dud and I still rejoice when you have a success --  hello Midnight in Paris! Nice to know ya --  but as the balance began tipping towards the "uhhh" side of the quality scale, I got lazier about it. It's been quite some time since I rushed out on opening night. I still see them but the passion has gone out of the trip ... it's now something mundane, like a favor you'd automatically do for an old friend without ever considering saying "no." You've a lifetime pass.

And so it was when I hit To Rome With Love, your follow up to a resounding success that brought you your third Best Picture nomination! Talk about wasting your post-Midnight advantage...

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