Friday, July 10, 2015

Hiatus


As should be clear from the fact that posts have slowed to trickle and from there to a dead stop, I am taking a step back from blogging for the indeterminate future.

If anyone wants to get in touch I can always be reached at SeriousFilm@gmail.com.


Review: Mad Max: Fury Road



It may seem an odd declaration to make about a franchise reboot, itself the third sequel in a series dormant since 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome. But Miller proves that any project can attain greatness with the right spirit of reckless ambition. The prevailing mentality is that an established brand is an excuse to play it safe, to scrub a rehash of the original story down to a neutered PG-13 so as not to risk alienating a single ticket buyer on Earth. George Miller goes full tilt in the opposite direction, embracing the franchise’ twisted id. Fury Road finds the zenith of the previous films’ balls-to-the-wall insanity and uses that as its starting point. And if that happens to be too weird for a large swath of potential ticket buyers so be it. Miller is content to thrill those willing to hang on for the ride. Fury Road will surely be the only blockbuster this summer to feature a wasteland goon casually twirling an umbilical cord, and god bless it in all its fucked-up, grease-smeared glory

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Aloha



Every scene of Aloha plays as if Crowe began by asking, “How would human beings behave in this situation?” and then made sure no trace of that behavior found its way onto the screen. Characters stand around spouting backstory and speaking the subtext aloud in lines like “I salute your elaborate system of denial, sir.” and “You sold your soul so many times nobody’s buying anymore.” These disparate parts are glued together with an endless series of slow push-ins on meaningful looks that don’t mean anything because we can’t project internal life on these shapeless characters. Aloha gathers a kind of anti-momentum as it rolls along. Ungainly scenes collide with each other at odd angles and pile up to little effect.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Review: Tomorrowland


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 becomes 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...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Quotes to Live By: A Serious Man

QUOTES TO LIVE BY aren't the famous lines one would find on the list of the AFI's Top 100 Movie Quotes, but they are the lines I find myself using most often in daily life. 


"Accept the mystery."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Review: Maggie



Arnold’s performance is one of the main reasons to see Maggie, and it doesn’t need to operate on that meta-level to work. There is nary a trace of the one-time blockbuster God on the screen this time out. There are no quips. No poses. No winks to the camera. As Wade, Schwarzenegger’s star charisma remains in tact, only this time it is tempered by a new vulnerability. Set well into an unfolding zombie apocalypse, all Wade wants is to rescue his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) from the zombie virus with which she is infected, but we watch those Mr. Universe shoulders droop under the weight of sadness as Maggie’s veins gradually turn black and congeal. This disease is one enemy Arnold can’t destroy….

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: Welcome To Me



The set up lends itself to broad comedy with segments on Alice's show including titles like “I Can Still Smell You” and a healthy living segment that climaxes in Alice silently eating meatloaf for five minute of uninterrupted airtime, but the most interesting thing about Piven’s direction and Eliot Laurence’s script is how it resists the urge to go for the big, broad laughs which Wiig could surely kill. Welcome to Me doesn’t skip lightly over the reality of Alice’s mental illness and the laughs catch in our throat. Should we be laughing at any of this? It is inherently funny, for example, in a theater of the absurd kind of way, to watch Alice inflate minor incidents from her past to operatic proportions, like in the segment, “Who Tampered With My Makeup Bag” which involves performers reenacting an incident from Alice’s teens when she believed a girl messed with stuff but no one believed her. Yet the funnier it gets the more it teeters on the edge of darkness. For Alice the incident really was that traumatic, and she gets so lost in the scene the she interrupts to shout “liar” at one of the actors

Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: Ex Machina


Science fiction stories have wondered for ages if people will accept technology that simulates human behavior, but honestly, it probably won’t be much of a struggle. The robots will win in a walk. The urge to empathize is hard wired into the human psyche. I can remember when I was young, watching other kids develop deep emotional bonds to plastic eggs with crude blinking pixel displays just because they were called digital pets. What chance does the species have when a robot arrives with supermodel looks and a subtle range of emotion, one that can take you by the hand, gaze deeply into your eyes and say, “I love you” like it means it? Game over, man...

Nathan, the mysterious tech mogul at the center of Alex Garland’s engrossing Ex Machina, is certainly confident that Ava, his latest AI creation, will be tough for people to resist, particularly straight men.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Review: Furious 7


The risk is that a movie like Furious 7 turns one into a caricature of a film critic, a Frasier Crane type watching the movie through a pair of opera glasses, scoffing and harrumphing at the schlock on the screen. The kind of killjoy who cranks out the cane-shaking screed about how 'in MY DAY car movie had GRAVITAS, not the weightless, video game CRAP that these damn KIDS shell out for! Something, something, Steve McQueen.'

So I am relieved that seventh entry in the franchise did not force me into that unappealing position. Unlike the recent Kingsman, which spoiled the fun of its action with a rancid attitude, I can endorse Furious 7 if only for the tone of goofy positivity maintained by director James Wan. These films are, as they never tire of repeating, all about family. Family and loyalty and introducing every third scene with a shot of a babe’s bikini-clad ass. Getting worked up over the lack of realism on display is like chastising a toddler smashing his Tonka trucks together because, actually, that’s not how to use a cement mixer properly.




Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Run All Night


Director Collet-Serra insists on amping things up to a level of video game slickness, darting the camera around New York City in digitally assisted swoops and peppering in flashy show-off shots, like when we follow a gun as it is scooped off the ground, cocked, and fired, all in one fluid motion. It is meant to crank up the coolness factor but it only succeeds in killing any gritty integrity the first act was able to muster. A film can’t expect to sustain a Mystic River vibe if it morphs into John Wick every few minutes

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Chappie


Blomkamp is notorious for applying his symbolism with a heavy hand, but I don’t think this a disqualifying flaw. If a director can make us care, then the use of broad allegory can work in the way classic episodes of The Twilight Zone used to work, where 'we get it Rod Serling, the aliens represent more than aliens.' No, the deeper problem is that Blomkamp’s internal taste barometer appears to be busted. So much of Chappie is just plain off-putting, and not in compelling or interesting ways. Chappie the Robot is like a walking, talking version of Jodie Foster’s accent in Elysium – a choice so inexplicable that it's a surprise that at no point did the film’s crew stage a creative intervention

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service


Vaughn does his best to disguise the thinness of the material by cranking up the violence to goofy extremes, but Kingsman is torpedoed by a noxious, puerile attitude which cackles over every slow-motion severed artery and hacked limb like it is the apex of cleverness. Even the characters we are supposed to like are little more than wind-up violence machines with questionable values. One of the tests to become a Kingsman is to shoot an adorable puppy point-blank in the face to prove you are sufficiently cold. The film tries to weasel out of it by claiming they wouldn’t really hurt a dog, but it’s too late. Most of the film’s heroes are people who pointed a gun at a puppy’s face and pulled the trigger. Yay?