Sunday, July 2, 2017

ARRIVAL(directed by Denis Villeneuve) is dead on arrival.

I'm all for intelligent science-fiction films, but this isn't one of them. Like THE MARTIAN, this is one of those faux-intelligent movies for 'adult-minded' people. Some may compare it to GRAVITY, but Cuaron's movie worked wonderfully because it was big on action, emotion, & effects and let 'ideas' drift into space. There was too much happening in Cuaron's movie to 'think' about anything.
In contrast, ARRIVAL is supposed to make us think and ponder. What about? Some giant stony half-eggs arrive from who-knows-where and invite humans to change notes. It turns out these alien being are giant squids(not unlike the squid monster in the Gamera movie DESTROY ALL PLANETS but kinder), and their message to humanity is a series of childish circles that they keep drawing over and over. But it's not just a squid story. It's a squid love story. There are two squids but one is sick, and squids can feel tragedy too, so they want to help humanity by promoting globalism. You see, China and Russia are belligerent and 'xenophobic' against the alien visitors, but goody-goody American 'liberal' scientists are so understanding and figure out some New Age flaky code as to why the squids are really doing what they doing. So, next time you think of the Jewish Octopus devouring the world, it is just spreading love. So, Germany should take in all those invaders 'refugees' and the entire world should tune into CNN and other Jewish-controlled globalist news.

Though sold as 'intelligent' sci-fi, the movie's more noteworthy for its emotional chords. In UFO stories, we tend to think in collective terms of 'humans' and the Other. Where ARRIVAL deviates from its predecessors(with the possible exception of CONTACT) is in suggesting at the 'personal' among the alien beings --- not 'personal' in what a space alien may mean to us humans(as in E.T.) but to one another in a ways that are both mysterious and familiar.
The woman comes to relate her own personal loss with the tragedy of the squid whose partner is ill. Until then, she only considered the squids as the collective 'them'. But upon closer contact, she realizes each squid creature has its own 'personal' issues(possibly unbeknownst to other squid creatures).
To her human peers, she is just a professional, a representative of America or the human race. And initially, she regarded the alien creatures like the humanity did: The Strange Other. But through special contact with one, she becomes, at least in one respect, closer to it than to her own kind because of the commonality of experience: tragic loss of dear one. Commonality of experience differs from commonality of race, ethnicity, or nationality. Only those who underwent the ordeal can really understand and belong. This is a lonely community as tragic experiences are always dispersed and unexpected, universally occurring but only to particular 'chosen' individuals.
And, it is this commonality of experience that prevents war-making by Chinese and Russians because a certain General Shang, it turns out, also lost a dear one and was especially touched by the message(a fusion of future and present) he received from the heroine. So, the film seems to be saying that, if we go beyond the collective identity and ponder the personal -- the Kodak moments of our lives, like in TREE OF LIFE -- , we will all a deeper connection with the universe marked by tragic beauty. On the other hand, what happened with Annakin Skywalker because he got so personally involved with Amidala? He went over to the Dark Side just to save his loved one.

We are doomed no matter what.

Rating: 2/5

JEEPERS CREEPERS 2(directed by child-molester Victor Salva) is horror trash but has style to burn

Victor Salva followed up JEEPERS CREEPERS with this sequel that is even more audacious, astonishing, and hair-raising in style and suspense. Salva's wicked creature is many times creepier than most horror villains(and funnier in a gross way, as Salva seems to be a student of George Romero and Sam Raimi of EVIL DEAD fame).
Unfortunately, the movie feels a need to preach us a sermon about race(like Romero at his worst, as if to morally justify and overcome the tawdriness of the b-movie material), so we get the predictable scenario of how white kids and black kids must cooperate to survive the swooping attacks by the Alien-Monster-and-Freddy-the-Kruger-with-Wings. For anyone who knows about race, this is too comical. Surely, it's hard to conjure up horror worse than the horribleness of ghastly Negroes. The white kids and the monster should have united to whup the Negroes.

Rating: 3/5

I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG(directed by Mervyn Leroy) is still powerful.

This 1932 movie packs quite a punch as drama and social message. Its classic status owes to the dynamism of the performances, pacing, and details that was usually encountered in gangster movies and crime thrillers. A man wronged by the world can be just as riveting as a man who wrongs the world.

Rating: 5/5

STELLA DAVIS(directed by King Vidor) shows how motherhood can redeem even a no-good worthless tramp.

Barbara Stanwyck delivers a sterling performance as a woman of spunk and ambition. And ridiculousness. Born poor and raise vulgar, her idea of success and respectability is marrying up, partying, and weraing too much jewelry, real or fake. Estranged from her well-heeled husband who can't satisfy her appetites, she ends up raising her daughter alone. The girl, taking after her father, is a kinder and gentler creature. And Stella, with her maternal instincts kicking in, must make sacrifices for her beloved daughter. It's melodrama but wonderfully done.

Rating 4/5

Silence(directed by Martin Scorsese) is a Masterpiece

This is a thoughtful film on many levels, a tale told without hammering home any single point of view. While Scorsese's heart is clearly with the Catholic priests and the persecuted faithful, he allows the story to unfurl at its own manner and pace, disclosing the tragic follies as well as the noble themes of the doomed mission. The final part probes into the paradox of Christianity, how one is nearest to God in failure than in success.

Rating: 5/5

STAYING VERTICAL(directed by Alain Guiraudie) Is Worse than Horizontal Collaboration

One of the ugliest films ever, surely one of the most demented since Pier Paolo Pasolini's TEOREMA in which some godlike visitor blesses the alienated characters by 'teo-reaming' them up the ass.
This degenerate film by Guiraudie has some hipster as a bisexual nomad, a post-modernist who stumbles into the role of accidental prophet and messiah. Though a creature of the city, he drives around the countryside where things are nearly as primitive as in the ancient world of Hebrews. But if the ancients came up with strict sexual morality to keep things in order, the new revelation, according to Guiraudie's vision, is that everyone should just drop their pants and stick their thingies into anything that moves and wants it up the pooter or the poop-chute. After all, unlike the old days, there's plenty of food and social safety nets that make traditional morality moot, at least to these decadents and degenerates. Not exactly boring but only because it has stuff like the 'hero' sticking his dong up a flabby old man breathing his last. How the world has gone from shotgun marriage to shotgun 'fuc* me in the ass'.

Rating: 2/5.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

KNIGHT OF CUPS(directed by Terrence Malick) Isn't My Cup of Tea.

I have some advice for Terrence Malick. Lose the actors(who stand around clueless), voice-over narration(that sounds constipated), and script(if that's what it is). Lose the classical music, overly solemn and structured for Malick's informal joyrides. Just do travelogue and show us pretty pictures. KNIGHT OF CUPS works on that level. Major characters, such as they exist, are little more than bored tour-guides for Malick's attention-deficit-disorder musings. Everyone else is either eye-candy, exotica, or distraction, though always posturing for epiphany.
Stylistically, this latest monstrosity is an improvement over horrors such as THE NEW WORLD and TREE OF LIFE. The camera-work is nimbler, finer-tuned to shifts of action and attention. TREE OF LIFE, the most expensive home movie(or youtube video)ever made, couldn't reconcile the monumental with the momentary, no more than Einstein could unify stars with sub-atoms.

Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

POINT BREAK(directed by Ericson Core and written by Kurt Wimmer) Is Retarded

This could have been a captivating adventure about the extremes of masculinity and megalomania. The themes are all there. Daring mortality for delusions of immortality. And there are spectacular moments on the waves and along the cliffs. But shallow characterization deflates the tragic dimension, the only thing that can sustain and justify a movie like this. Some of the action scenes are beyond ludicrous; they 'jump the shark', making the feats seem more fanciful than mad. And the damn tattoos. Maybe getting more than one tattoo should be a capital crime. Enough already.

Rating: 1/5


It lacks the finesse of a top production feature like SOCIAL NETWORK. A cheapie TV production. The acting is uneven, and the plot isn't always convincing. But the low-budget amateurism has charm and captures the nervy and nerdy spirit of ne'er-do-well garage geeks chasing after their dreams by fits and starts of talent, vision, cunning, and luck. It works on the level of romp. While Fincher's movie and Danny Boyle's STEVE JOBS are technically more impressive, they are overloaded with seriousness and relevance, whereas PIRATES OF SILICON VALLEY grooves to the vibes of geek egotism. If John Hughes had made a movie about high-tech world, it might have been something like this.

Rating: 2/5

BOILER ROOM(directed by Ben Younger) Is a Memorable Movie

BOILER ROOM features some Jews acting like Italians acting like Negroes. It has wall-to-wall Rap music, which drove me crazy, but it suits the tacky material. It features familiar elements of drama, like father-son conflict, but well-done formula is next best thing to art.

Smart successful Jews make it to Harvard and Yale and go directly to Wall Street. The smart-but-not-smart-enough and driven-but-not-disciplined enough Jews must find other routes to fortune and success. These Jews must go 'Soprano' and 'goomba' route, traipsing the thin line between legality and illegality. BOILER ROOM effectively shows the underbelly of this kind of enterprise. The illegitimate crassly masquerading the legitimate. But given recent revelations about Wall Street, maybe BOILER ROOM is just a grubbier expose of what goes on in the legitimate world too.

Rating: 3/5

WALL STREET(directed by Oliver Stone) Still Entertains and Delivers

What is one to make of Oliver Stone? Usually, Hollywood stars make asses of themselves as wanna-be artists. They work well within formula but lose themselves outside it. Stone is the opposite. He is best in artistic mode and falls flat with formula.
Stone's villains are usually the most interesting. Stone cannot endorse their positions yet is too much of an artist to simply caricature them as monsters. Also, the egotistical side of Stone makes him, at least subconsciously, identify with power-hungry men. So, the character of Gordon Gekko shines in WALL STREET. He's a crook, a shark, but also a creature of powerful instincts, insights, and talents. There is magnificence in his greed, a real passion for life than mere greed for money.

One could argue that Gekko is too sensational, especially with handsome Michael Douglas in the role. Good or bad, he is the star like Hannibal Lecter is in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. He is above conventional morality, beyond good and evil.

Stone succeeds with Gekko because he is artist enough to see Gekko from all angles, ranging from disgust to admiration. Where Stone falters(in this movie and in others) is in featuring the Good Guys, the representatives of Labor. Stone goes formula and gives us trite speechifying about the Common Man. It's like Stone is on auto-pilot doing assembly line screenwriting. It is by rote than wrote.

Rating: 3/5

A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY(directed by Edward Yang) Is Maybe Summit of Taiwanese Cinema

Slow-going at times but a carefully observant socio-cultural diagnosis of the unsure direction of youth in conflict with family, peers, and authority. Like a doctor's stethoscope, Yang's creative senses attunes us to the heartbeat of history so often drowned out by distractions and hyperbole. 

Rating: 5/5

THE MISSOURI BREAKS(directed by Arthur Penn) Wind.

Chigurh of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN may be scarier, but Brando's role as Grand Inquisitor is more perverse. Not sure that's a good thing but what a singular performance: eccentric, indulgent, spoiled, funny, vicious. This movie sort of has 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. As an Anti-Western, the 'good' or 'gooder' guys are petty outlaws while the 'bad' or 'badder' guys are ruling figures of the pioneer community. Kind of Sam Fuller Western on dope. Confused, not very convincing, and ugly at times but one of a kind story that guts the Western and pulls out the entrails along the frontier trails.

Rating: 3/5 

LA CHIENNE(directed by Jean Renoir) Is a True Classic

Jean Renoir's LA CHIENNE blends the mundane with murder without betraying the spirit of either. A remarkable film, one of the first talkies, along with Fritz Lang's M, to illustrate that cinema can stand tall and equal with the established and esteemed arts. It justifiably made Renoir's name as a top contender and a talent to watch. An artist who veers into extremities of experience without losing sight of what makes us human as creatures of routine and rare moments of grace.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, August 1, 2016

COMING HOME(directed by Zhang Yimou from Novel by Geling Yan)

Moviegoers should be familiar with films about the physical and emotional torment caused by the terrible upheavals of the Mao Era. Think of FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE, BLUE KITE, TO LIVE, and SUNFLOWER. Less examined, at least to my knowledge, is the aspect of psychological trauma, the effects of which can be radical beyond the political, social, and personal. The loss of sanity itself. On the intimate scale, it is more terrifying to lose sanity in a sane world than to retain sanity in an insane one. Mao era was an insane period, but many people still managed to preserve a modicum of sanity. Even amidst the ideological fervor, most people at least retained the basic sense of time and reality. They could be driven to do terrible things, but at least they knew what they did and why. In a world gone insane, even Red Guards, rabid and murderous as they were, knew what day of the month it was.
Despite their political madness, they still had psychological sanity.

It is what is lost in COMING HOME where Gong Li's character, due to emotional duress and/or physical trauma, loses her ability to retain new memory and to recognize her husband. Viewers will find shades of MEMENTO and MULHOLLAND DR., though the similarity is somewhat jarring because it co-mingles with the humanism that the Fifth Generation Chinese Filmmakers became famous for. Generally, we associate humanism with ordinary people faced with worldly problems. COMING HOME begins in that context but lurches into something closer to psychological drama. This shift isn't entirely convincing and is even a bit gimmicky. But even if COMING HOME isn't art, it has heart in the right place. We learn that there are many meanings to the idea of 'coming home'. There is the physical journey of the husband from prison. But there is also the journey of the soul and spirit of the woman who still awaits her husband whom she no longer recognizes. She awaits his return home while he awaits her return to sanity. For her, there is the never-fading hope of his return, and for him, there's the realization that she will never return to him. But in their mutual patience and acceptance, they are reunited on a deeper level.

As horrible as the Mao years were, sanity allowed the survivors to pick up the broken pieces of their lives and start on a mending process. But for those who lost their sanity, there was no going home. This film is a fine tribute to those lives.

Rating: 3/5

REGRESSION(directed by Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar) Is Too Stylish for Its Own Good

Alejandro Amenabar is a master manipulator of mood that, in his finer moments, takes us to the heart of the matter. In this, he is comparable to M. Night Shyamalan. But what worked in the enclosed unreality of THE OTHERS doesn't work here: Small Town American milieu. The characters are unconvincing, as if solemnly reverse-engineered from Hollywood cliches into realism. Instead of realism derived from reality with which the artist is familiar, we get the mere designer realism fabricated by the way of coarsening dime-a-dozen cliches about rural America and religious culture. It's like affluent people buying 'grungy' or 'worn' clothes from the fashion industry. REGRESSION suffers the same fate as PRISONERS directed by the French-Canadian Denis Villeneuve. Their vision of American Gothic is based on movies, TV, and urban legends. Likewise, no amount of hamfisted realism in THE DEER HUNTER can shrug off Cimino's ludicrous Tolstoy-Visconti treatment of material that called for intimate detail than epic scale.
If THE OTHERS worked in mode of morbid chic, REGRESSION aims at social commentary that seems off-base in a film so waxed over with style.

That said, REGRESSION is a timely movie in the age of Jackie Coakley & Haven Monahan, Emma Sulkowicz the Mattress Girl, the KKK sightings at Oberlin college, the sheer lunacy of Camps 'Rape Culture' hysteria, Black Lives Matter outrage, Putin as New Hitler, and ridiculous fear of Sharia Law taking over America. And let's not forget Americans think 25% of the population is homosexual or transsexual.
The boy in THE SIXTH SENSE says 'ghosts see what they want to see'. Well, it can happen to real individuals too. Indeed, to entire communities and even nations. Though the hysteria in REGRESSION is checked before it gets totally out of hand, we do live in a society where the media, academia, and government are in the business, even mission, to bury reality with the Narrative. And these Narratives are so pervasive and relentless that entire colleges are under the impression that white males(instead of black males) pose the main sexual threats and that most blacks are being killed by 'racist' white police officers. Among Conservatives who fear being labeled 'racist', 'antisemitic', or 'homophobic', there is the easy scapegoating of Muslims as the source of all ills.

REGRESSION is less of a film than THE EXORCIST but smarter on the theme of evil. In Blatty and Friedkin's movie, evil is obvious. He, she, or it pukes all over and looks wicked and gross. In REGRESSION, evil permeates through hearts and minds without notice. Even people who think they are pursuing justice or doing penance are caught up in the evil web that, instead of having a single source, emanates from the vanity and egotism of everyone. Evil arises from distrust but also from trust. From lack of faith but also from faith that turns everything into a matter of black and white. In other words, there is no identifiable Evil. Rather, evil is the sum of all the pieces of broken lives aspiring for escapist dreams that turn into nightmare.

It's too bad that Amenabar got excessively caught up in style(impressive as it is, especially in the hypnosis scenes that almost bear comparison with Kubrick and Kobayashi), because REGRESSION is a most relevant movie in a world where the Narrative has so many people hallucinating a faux-reality of goblins and spooks as imagined and sensationalized by the globalist media.

Rating: 2/5.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

THE END OF THE TOUR(directed by James Ponsoldt) offers a glimpse into world of journalism, literary culture, and celebrity

An engaging film built on contradictions. A 'serious' writer works for Rolling Stone magazine specializing Pop Music. He is assigned to interview a 'reclusive' writer of a 1000 pg novel with hulking physique and dorky personality. David Foster Wallace is a one-man cat-and-mouse game. A passive-aggressive internal drama queen(beauty-in-the-beast) who both seeks out and hides from celebrity. His mind is too immersive for shallow pop culture, his tastes too callow for artistic depth.

Done without sentimentalism and sensationalism. It is also about clever Jew and messed-up Aryan and might make an interesting double-feature to A DANGEROUS METHOD. Solid film.

Rating: 3/5

KRAMPUS(directed by dorky Michael Dougherty) Mixes Horror with Holiday

Seems inspired by the fairy-horror school of Tim-Burton-Terry-Gilliam.
Mostly fast-forwarded through this lousy movie. Given the degeneration of Christmas into Black-Friday-Walmart-Riots, maybe Krampus the monster better represents the spirit of our age than classic Santy does. But what might have been a cute 20 minute short film slogs on for feature length, and there simply isn't enough material or talent to hold our interest.

Rating: 1/5.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

PRINCESS BRIDE(directed by Rob Reiner) Is Goofy Fun

This is reportedly Ted Cruz's favorite movie, of which he can quote every line. It isn't difficult to understand why. If ever a movie was made for dufuses, this is it. But it's fun and entertaining just the same, and it has at least two or three very inspired scenes: The first duel, the battle of wits, and the rescue at the end when the romantic hero summons a weird combination of intuition, skill, and stamina to rise above his semi-paralyzed stupor to unravel the evil prince's plot and save the damsel in distress. Not a pretty movie except for the romantic leads. One wonders which character Cruz identifies with most. The dashing hero? Or the cunning and conniving villains? Or one of many freaks? Probably all of them.

Rating: 3/5

BRIDGE OF SPIES(by Steven Spielberg) is combination of John Le Carre and Norman Rockwell

What is it about the Spielberg touch? Even when you know he's making schmaltz, it is often irresistible as it is here. This movie is a bridge between genre cliches and grim realities. It ventures just beyond the comfort zone to feel the chill of the Cold War but steps back inside to avoid frostbite. It's that ingenious balance of glow and gloom that makes Spielberg's 'serious films' appealing to middlebrow sensibilities. There's something that passes for ambiguity, but it's ambiguity 101, an introductory course accessible to all with a modicum of effort.
Spielberg's mastery is such that everything he does now looks effortless. You won't learn much about real history, but BRIDGE is still more intelligent than most movies out there. And certainly more entertaining.

Rating: 4/5