Monthly Archives: December 2014
I watch a lot of movies. I mean, a lot. In fact, this entire blog is a monument to the fact that I spend a good chunk of my free time watching movies. But even so, I can’t see everything I want to. Sometimes I just didn’t make it to the theater for one reason or another, like with Gone Girl or A Walk Among The Tombstones (I’m sorry Lawrence Block, I love you, I really really do, but life got away from me). I’ll see them sooner or later, and hopefully, it will be sooner. But there are other films that I just didn’t get an opportunity to see, and that’s what this post is about. Some of these were in extremely limited release, some of these played only at film festivals, and some weren’t released in the US at all. Here are five I’d eventually like to see.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
I’m not sure how to describe this one to you. If Jim Jarmusch directed a feminist spaghetti western noir adaptation of an Anne Rice vampire novel, that might come close. However you describe it, Ana Lily Amirpour’s ridiculously stylish debut film, “the first Iranian vampire Western,” looks like it would be well worth the price of admission.
Set in a shadowy Iranian town called Bad City, which seems to be populated exclusively by the worst kind human flotsam than can wash up in a wretched hive of scum and villainy, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night tells the story of a lonely nameless vampire (Sheila Vand) who skateboards around the city while she stalks its most despicable inhabitants. One night while on the prowl, she encounters Arash (Arash Marandi), a handsome young man whose dreams of escaping Bad City and quaint notions of romance and honor have made him something of a laughingstock among his friends. An unlikely romance blossoms between the two, but is love even possible in a city as dark and depraved as Bad City?
I have a friend who really likes Michael Fassbender, and I kind of picture her anguished expression if I ever told her that he made an entire film and never showed his face in it once. But she probably wouldn’t be too devastated, since she actually appreciates his acting, too, and from all accounts Frank is one of Fassbender’s most epic performances to date.
Actually, it would probably take no less than an actor of Fassbender’s calibre to pull off a character who lives in a paper mache head. Frank, the leader of an experimental art band called the Soronprfbs, invites aspiring songwriter Don (Domhnall Gleeson) to join the group, but Don soon begins to realize that he will never be able to measure up to Frank’s own inherent genius and talent. Unless, that is, he can experience the same types of hardships and tragedies that everyone assumes the mysterious Frank must have had before forming the band. The film plays out as part satire and part buddy comedy, and throws cold water on the argument that any particular artist’s genius is a product of mental illness. It’s been praised by critics as being endearingly quirky and thought-provoking, as if Michael Fassbender in a paper mache head wasn’t enough of a hook, and the cast, which also includes Scoot McNairy and Maggie Gyllenhaal, is fantastic.
This darkly comedic anthology film features six stories of violent revenge. To know me is to know how much I love stories of violent revenge. Wild Tales is right up my revenge-fueled alley.
The first story, “Pasternak,” follows a group of passengers on an airplane slowly discovering that they all know and have wronged a man named Pasternak. And then the realization sinks in that they’ve already all fallen into Pasternak’s cunning plan for revenge. “Las Ratas” (The Rats) opens with a loan shark who stops at a small roadside diner only to be confronted by the waitress, whose family he ruined. The cook concocts a plan for revenge on her behalf that goes horribly wrong. “El más fuerte” (The Strongest) features two men driving along a highway who become embroiled in the world’s most brutal case of road rage. “Bombita” (Little Bomb) shows not only how a simple parking violation can ruin a man’s life, but why you should never piss off a demolitions expert. In “La Propuesta” (The Proposal) a kid suffering from affluenza accidentally runs down a pregnant woman with his dad’s car, then runs away from the scene of the accident without helping her. His father devises a plan to pay their gardener to take the blame, but it might wind up costing more than anybody could have imagined. And finally, in “Hasta que la muerte nos separe” (Until Death Do Us Part) a young bride discovers her husband’s infidelities at their wedding reception and, while looking for comfort from one of the kitchen staff, commits a little adultery of her own. What follows is one of the wildest wedding receptions in history, but in the end, they may be a pretty well-matched couple after all.
My wife is much more into the horror movie scene than I am, but I can appreciate a good one when it comes along, and It Follows seems to qualify. Granted, there’s no shortage of movies warning us about the very bad things that can happen once teenagers start up with the rumpy-pumpy, but this one has been really racking up rave reviews from the handful of film festivals that have featured it.
19-year-old Jay has a delightful date with a young fellow only to find that their sexual encounter has left her infected with a shapeshifting demonic entity that will stalk her relentlessly and will eventually kill her unless she stays far out of its reach. The only way to rid herself of the presence is to sleep with someone else in order to pass it on. I hate it when I get the demon clap.
Described at Cannes as a mash-up of Jacques Tourneur-style atmosphere and John Carpenter-style coming-of-age angst, I’ve been trying to avoid hearing too much about it before I see it. But what I’ve heard makes this movie sound like one that I will thoroughly enjoy.
Song of the Sea
The Secret of Kells was such a beautifully written and animated film that I hoped more would follow from Tomm Moore. Song of the Sea, featuring the voices of Brendan Gleeson and Fionnula Flanagan, looks every bit as wonderful and magical. It’s not just an adaptation of the Irish/Scottish legend of the selkies, mythological creatures who live as seals in the sea but shed their skins to live as human on land once they’ve found love – until the siren call of the sea lures them back.
The film starts after the legend has ended, and concerns two siblings, frustrated Ben and mute Saoirse, who live in a lighthouse with their father. Their mother abandoned them years ago, leaving their father distraught, but the pair discover that the stories she told them are true, and that Saoirse is, like her mother, a selkie. Together, they embark on a journey through the magical creatures and places that are part of their heritage, hoping to find out where in these disparate worlds they belong. It looks endearingly sincere and every bit as dazzlingly animated as Kells, and it’s one on the list that I’m most looking forward to.
Here’s a few others that I’m looking forward to catching at some point in the near future:
Director: Vincent Bal
Writers: Vincent Bal, Lewis Trondheim
Starring: Veerle van Overloop, Frank Focketijn, Gene Bervoets
The comic twists and reversals come fast and furious in this Holiday tale of greed, betrayal, and murder. And murder. And murder. And murder.
Vera-Ellen, down the chimney.
James Bond is back! And so, it would seem, is the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. Check out this awesome poster for the movie, featuring a new, stylized throwback to the classic SPECTRE logo designed as the shatter from a bullet hole.
SPECTRE. Just… SPECTRE. LOVE it. ‘Nuff said.
Last year, EON Productions managed to finally settle the long-running Thunderball rights dispute over SPECTRE with Kevin McClory – or I guess I should say with the estate of Kevin McClory, since the man himself died in 2006 at the age of 80, never having truly realized his dream of establishing a competing Bond film franchise. The closest he ever came was with black-sheep Bond flick Never Say Never Again, which is to say not very close at all, despite featuring brilliant bad-guy casting such as Max Von Sydow as SPECTRE chief Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Klaus Maria Brandauer as psychotic second-in-command Largo, and Barbara Carrerra as the murderous Fatima Blush—and despite managing, in something of a coup, to entice Sean Connery back to the lead character (the film’s title, in fact, was suggested by Connery’s wife Micheline, is in reference to his famous answer to the question of whether he’d ever again portray Bond on the screen: “Never again.”).
So we haven’t seen SPECTRE or Blofeld on the screen since 1983, even though that’s who everybody wanted to see, because Blofeld apparently escaped at the climax of Diamonds Are Forever. Which meant that Bond’s search for revenge for the death of Tracy Bond was never resolved, even though Diamonds Are Forever actually began with Bond on a ruthless world-wide manhunt for Blofeld, specifically intending to kill him. Still, even though EON was barred from the use of SPECTRE and the associated characters, they certainly had Roger Moore face off with enough stand-ins meant to evoke them:
To be fair, EON did attempt to give us justice for Tracy with the ignominious death of the unnamed ‘wheelchair villain’ from For Your Eyes Only. But Tracy deserved better than such a short and almost comical sequence, and frankly so did we.
So then. Daniel Craig is back as Bond, and SPECTRE is back, and we can assume that Blofeld is also back, and even though not much information was given at today’s press conference, the cast was introduced. And among that cast: Christoph Waltz. Gee, I wonder who that guy could be playing in the movie, hmmmmm? You’re not fooling anybody with that ‘Oberhauser’ business, guys. I know a fake placeholder name when I see one. Also in the film: Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann; she was in Inglourious Basterds with Waltz, and also got her spy movie groove on with Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. I saw her most recently in this year’s lush French Beauty and the Beast. The eternally-beautiful Monica Bellucci also stars as Lucia Sciarra, and I pray that she’s been cast as a psycho SPECTRE agent. Her name certainly does being to mind classic Bond bad girls like Thunderball’s Fiona Volpe. And big man Dave Bautista has also signed on as Mr. Hinx, hopefully as a hulking SPECTRE killer in the tradition of Red Grant. Groovy. Classic Bond all the way. Returning to the franchise are the cast established in Skyfall: Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q, and Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner.
But who is Andrew Scott playing? His character is listed as Denbigh, but that doesn’t sound any more legit than Oberhauser, and they definitely had him grouped on the villainous side of the stage. Could he possibly be… Emilio Largo, SPECTRE’s Number 2? And if so, could this indicate that SPECTRE is a remake of Thunderball? The mind boggles.
They also unveiled Bond’s new Aston Martin, the DB10, which frankly looks like every other Aston Martin from the last 10 years, which is to say, not nearly enough like the classic DB5.
Casino Royale was amazing. And although I thought Quantum of Solace was something of a misstep, Skyfall was superb, so I’m very happy to see Sam Mendes returning to direct. It definitely set the proper mood for a return to the glory days of the Connery films, updated for modern sensibilities. What will this mean for the future? Will we begin to see a slate of remakes of the classic Bond films? I’m not opposed to the idea.
“…I love to sail forbidden seas.”
This spectacular short film speaks to what I think is at the very core of humanity. I think that it’s a beautiful impulse, that striving for what lies beyond, that thirst for knowledge, that drive to accomplish. Discovery, invention, exploration – we as a species are at our best when we break away from our primitive tribal impulses and push for things that seem impossible or ridiculous, when we dream big enough to turn science fiction into science fact.