Monday, March 23, 2015

Criterion Thoughts—3 Women (1977) ***½

PG, 124 min.
Director/Writer: Robert Altman
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Shelley Duvall, Janice Rule, Robert Fortier, Ruth Nelson, John Cromwell, Sierra Pechuer, Craig Richard Nelson

Robert Altman’s “3 Women” has been referred to as his tribute to the films of Ingmar Bergman. It appropriates Bergman’s style of connecting two characters in the intimate webs of each other in the same way as films like “Persona”. Altman’s take is distinctly American, with its California desert location and its testosterone-driven male supporting characters. This meshing of geographical styles results in a David Lynchian feel to the material, along the lines of “Mulholland Dr.” It embraces trace horror elements that can also be found in both Bergman and Lynch’s works. It is one of the more unique films from this director/auteur that is a step away from his normal fare and yet somehow still distinctly Altman-esque.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Television Thoughts ‘15—Agent Carter (2015) ***

TV-PG, 8 43-min. episodes
Creators: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Directors: Stephen Cragg, Louis D’Esposito, Peter Leto, Christopher Misiano, Vincent Misiano, Joe Russo, Stephen Williams, Scott Winant

Writers: Stan Lee (characters), Jack Kirby (characters), Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Eric Pearson, Lindsey Allen, Andi Bushell, Tara Butters, Chris Dingess, Brant Englestein, Michele Fazekas, Jose Molina

Starring: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj, Shea Whigham, Lyndsy Fonseca, Bridget Regan, Ralph Brown, Meagan Fay

Guest starring: Dominic Cooper, Kyle Bornheimer, Lesley Boone, Alexander Carroll, James Frain, James Landry Hébert, Devin Ratray, James Urbaniak, Kevin Cotteleer, Patrick Robert Smith, Neal McDonough, Leonard Roberts, GlennTaranto, Jack Conley, Rick Peters, John Prosky, Pawel Szajda, Ray Wise, Ashley Hinshaw, Toby Jones, John Glover, Andre Royo, Richard Short

So I read an interview with Richard Dreyfuss the other day in which he questioned the interviewer’s use of the term “the new golden age of television”, referring to the current renaissance happening on television today. (Read the Indiewire article here.) Dreyfuss claimed that the only Golden Age of television was in the early 50s when it was the new form of entertainment in everyone’s household. While I agree that perhaps a new term other than “Golden Age” might be in order to describe an era 70 years down the line, I’m not so sure Dreyfuss quite understands what the interviewer was talking about, because he went on to describe the current television market of consisting only of police procedurals, courtroom dramas and family sitcoms. I suddenly realized that Dreyfuss’ television provider only carries CBS, ion and Nick at Nite.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chappie / **½ (R)

Chappie: Sharlto Copley
Deon Wilson: Dev Patel
Ninja: Ninja
Yolandi: Yo-Landi Visser
Yankie America: Jose Pablo Cantillo
Vincent Moore: Hugh Jackman
Michelle Bradley: Sigourney Weaver
Hippo: Brandon Auret

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Neill Blomkamp. Written by Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell. Running time: 120 min. Rated R (for violence, language and brief nudity).

I’ve always been of the belief that expectation is an enemy of art. It closes off the mind to possibilities the artist may have envisioned that the viewer may not if they’re anticipating something else. As such, I’ve become pretty good at turning off the grand expectations movie studios are so insistent on instilling in their audiences through trailers and the buzz movie media outlets provide before a movie’s release. It’s not that I don’t pay attention to these things, because I am a fan first and a critic second; but once I’m there in the dark awaiting the start of a movie I let it all go and simply take in the movie.

That being said, I’d like to talk about the expectations behind the new science fiction movie “Chappie” a little before I delve into my expectationless opinion of it. This is the third movie by South African sci-fi wunderkind Neill Blomkamp. His debut film “District 9” was a summer sleeper hit and a rare science fiction Best Picture Oscar nominee. His follow-up “Elysium” was not as special—although I felt it was enjoyable—and recently Blomkamp has revealed some disappointments he had with that project.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Criterion Thoughts—2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967) ***

NR, 87 min.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Writers: Jean-Luc Godard, Catherine Vimenet (based on the articles “La Prostitution dans les grands ensembles”)
Starring: Marina Vlady, Roger Montsoret, Anny Duperey, Joseph Gehrard, Raoul Lévy, Jean Narboni

I’ll admit it. Even being the cineaste I am, there are some gaping holes in my cinematic experience. Jean-Luc Godard is one of them. I’m not completely unknowledgeable. I’ve seen “Breathless” and his strange and somewhat annoying version of science fiction “Alphaville”. I fear I reveal myself by declaring “Alphaville” annoying, but at times it is surely trying to be. So this will be a rather inexperienced look at a man who is seen as one of the masters of cinema.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Penny Thoughts ‘15—Dazed & Confused (1993) ****

R, 102 min.
Director/Writer: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jason London, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovovich, Shawn Andrews, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Sasha Jenson, Marissa Ribisi, Deena Martin, Michelle Bruke, Cole Hauser, Christine Harnos, Wiley Wiggins, Mark Vandermuelen, Esteban Powell, Jeremy Fox, Ben Affleck, Jason O. Smith, Christin Hinojosa, Parker Posey, Matthew McConaughey, Catherine Morris, Nicky Katt, Parker Brooks, Rick Moser, Terry Mross, Richard Dillard, Fred Lerner, David Blackwell

I recently decided to start a vinyl record collection. It all came about from an article (that has since been lost in the vastness of the web) about collecting music. I was an avid music collector throughout high school and college. I collected cassettes and then reluctantly moved on to CDs as they were beginning to change the music soundscape. I remember the debates about analog and digital recording and mastering. Who remembers when CDs would sport a letter code of three letters consisting of ‘A’ and ‘D’ to distinguish which part of the production process was done analog or digitally? ADD, or DDD or different variations of such.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Criterion Thoughts—21 Days (1940) ***

NR, 72 min.
Director: Basil Dean
Writers: Basil Dean, Graham Greene, John Galsworthy (short story “First and the Last”)
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Leslie Banks, Vivian Leigh, Francis L. Sullivan, David Thorne, Hay Petrie

What does it mean that I can’t even figure out which collection the first film in my Criterion Thoughts series comes from? Criterion Thoughts will feature films from the premiere DVD and BluRay series of films released under the Criterion Collection banner. This first film comes from their films featured on Hulu Plus and certainly seems to fit well into the Criterion Collection. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which collection you need to buy to get it. I’m guessing it was featured in one of their Eclipse Series.

“21 Days” was released in the U.S. as “21 Days Together” after sitting on the shelf for 2 years until star Vivian Leigh’s popularity exploded due to her success as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind”. It also features one of the earliest collaborations between the husband and wife acting team of Laurence Olivier and Leigh. In fact, this British film is filled with elite pedigree of the early British film scene. The film also stars the fine character actor Leslie Banks as the third lead. It was Basil Dean’s final directorial effort after 15 films beginning with 1929’s “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”. Dean would continue to produce films for another decade. Dean co-wrote the screenplay with Graham Greene, perhaps the greatest British crime writer of all time.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

When I was about six-years-old our family adopted a new dog named Blue. Blue’s previous owner seemed a strange man. He claimed blue was the dog’s favorite color and that “Star Trek” was his favorite show. I don’t believe I’d ever heard of a dog having a favorite television show before. In fact, dogs hardly seem to even notice the TV in my experience. But hey! We were open-minded people. On his first night with us, Blue was a nervous wreck, so at 7 p.m., when syndicated shows began in our area, we turned the TV to “Star Trek” to see if the dog responded. The dog didn’t even notice the television was on, but “Star Trek” somehow became one of the shows that ended up playing in our house on a regular basis. And no, that dog never sat down and watched with us.

We were never what would be described as Trekkies, or Trekkers, as it were. We just kind of watched it if we happened to stumble upon it while flipping through the channels. I remember when it switched from early evening syndication to late afternoon. The release of the first movie was kind of a big deal for my brother and I. We were disappointed with its slow pace like so many others—although later in life, I would come to appreciate what Robert Wise was striving to achieve.