Hey ITMOD readers, long time no see. Glad Matt's been keeping this place tidy & organized, but I've just come off a long streak of work and even though I managed to watch a crap ton of movies & tv I really haven't had the time to shove it into the void of the internet. Saw 6 2013 new releases, but with the exception of Room 237, each theatrical outing proved to be a disappointment. It's April now. Side Effects is still my favorite film of the year. This cannot continue. I need quality filmmaking stat.
The film that's really grabbed my noggin these past couple of weeks was Holy Motors. I'm still trying to process all the crazy contained in that surreal headtrip, but what is certain is that Denis Lavant is a beautiful monster. Just look at that mug up top in the header. That's a dude who's lived a life. A strange, wild, absurd life but one I want to see played out in a franchise of Holy Motor limo rides. And while we're at it, why don't we pair his gorgeous mug with Nicole Kidman's red eyed rage face from Park Chan Wook's Stoker. That film may not have been what I was looking for, but the climactic closeup of Nicole Kidman's contempt for her offspring sent chills down my spine. Make it your wallpaper and you'll become entranced by her Lovecraftian nothingness. But before we get to Stoker, we must suffer through banality...
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone: Steve Carell, he's funny right? I've enjoyed him in movies. Brick in Anchorman, love that guy. Crazy Stupid Love, there's a dad you root for. The 40 Year Old Virgin, that's me...or was me until I tricked a lady into coming back to my toy filled apartment. But Burt Wonderstone...he's an unfunny ass. I certainly enjoy the world he inhabits. I've been fascinated with stage magic since I saw my first Penn & Teller show. And the debate between old school vs new school (Chris Angel, give me a break) is ripe for comedic exploration. But this film is chuckles at best, yawns at worst. Steve Buscemi is in Adam Sandler mode here. I love you Steve, you're doing your finest work on Boardwalk Empire right now, but this stuff is way beneath you - come on, you're beyond funny face yucks. Jim Carrey is violently disgusting as the Brain Rapist street magician, and if you've been missing the days of Fire Marshall Bill than you'll probably enjoy his assault. Olivia Wilde, do better movies! Alan Arkin is the only guy who gets away with it. The man's a working actor. You win some, you loose some, you certainly move on to the next paycheck.
Blacksad - A Silent Hell: Private dick John Blacksad and Weekly the reporter travel to the Mardi Gras hell of New Orleans to investigate the disappearance of Blues musician, Sebastian "Little Finger" Fletcher. Another solid Blacksad mystery. Guarnido's art is lighter & brighter down south, but as the dope fiend conspiracy spreads into medical malpractice manslaughter, the shades get sour and the gin joint panels go pitch black. All Blacksad tales feel more style over substance, but they can survive on the beauty of mood. How much you love these stories probably depends on how much you love noir, and how open you are to furry interpretation. I will say that A Silent Hell is too brief to contain its Dark Horse Hardcover and the sketchbook back half is not profound enough to warrant the 20 dollar price tag.
Stoker: Park Chan Wook makes beautifully upsetting movies. I still hold Oldboy as cinema's greatest revenge film. And Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is pure sadness on screen. Thankfully, for his first English language feature, the director brought his steadfast cinematographer Chung Chung-Hoon with him across the pond and they've crafted another pretty picture. Unfortunately, a pretty picture does not make a good movie. Stoker is utterly forgettable in terms of plot. After her father dies in a mysterious car crash, Mia Wasikowska must suffer the flirtations between her emotionally empty mother and her sexual predator uncle. Not to mention her own violent tendencies bubbling to the surface. I think what I wanted was Oldboy USA. Instead what I got was Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer. Is that the film's fault? No. But Stoker is as emotionally empty as its players. Nicole Kidman might give an epic speech of Greek Tragedy child hate, and Matthew Goode might have the perfectly quiet eyes of the devil, but what does it all amount to? A girl with a gun. Blood splattered flowers. A pretty picture.
My Amityville Horror: Ghosts. I'm not a believer. I don't want to get into it too much, but I've certainly never experienced anything in my life to hint at the existence of Caspers. Every time I see a spook story "Based On Actual Events" I role my eyes and try to enjoy the fiction. In this documentary, Daniel Lutz attempts to explain the phenomena that's haunted his life ever since the release of the "classic" ghost story The Amityville Horror. He talks about the ghosts, the flies, and the blood he witnessed when he was 10 years old. He talks about his mother, his stepfather George Lutz, and the fame they sought after they became minor 70s celebrities. It reeks of bullshit. But it's sad bullshit. How much does he believe? How much reality was implanted by the film and its endless sequels? How much of it is his own grab for acceptance? The film certainly doesn't leave me with a belief in the supernatural. Daniel Lutz was defined by an event that occurred when he was ten. That's a depressing thought, a sad curse for sure.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds "Push The Sky Away" @ The Strathmore: A few years ago during the Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! tour, The Wife & I were lucky enough to see The Bad Seeds at the 930 Club. We got right up to the stage, and Nick Cave screamed his songs above us - the shepherd leading his flock. It was an epic dork experience. The finest concert I've ever been a part of. Now they're back. But The Strathmore is not the 930 Club. It's a concert hall. Big, spacious...BIG. And The Wife & I had seats way up in the balcony. Looking down on The Bad Seeds as they quietly pushed the sky away was like watching a concert on MTV (you know, when MTV actually televised concerts). It was a good time. But it certainly wasn't epic. Their latest album is a soft spoken poem. Cave whispers his words. It's hypnotic in its own way, but it's not the punch to the gut I often look for in The Bad Seeds. For the first half of their performance they stuck to the new album. The best tune from that part of the show was "Jubilee Street" The Bad Seeds couldn't help but ramp up the song, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear them transform the ballad into a rock opera - beating and bashing a crescendo. The second half of the show were the classics. Red Right Hand. Deanna. Stagger Lee. Even way up high, it was easy to thump to those beasties. A good night out, but not a religious experience.
Lawless: After the high of the Nick Cave concert, I needed more of his lyrical grit. I could have snapped up the nightmare landscapes of The Proposition or The Road, but chose Lawless cuz I've also been craving Tom Hardy's mumble mash dialog. I want to love this movie. I love the period. I love the look. I love the cast. Even Shia. But it's lacking in the narrative. And it never gets as brutal as I desire. I want the whole film to be Tom Hardy & Jason Clarke covered in mobster blood. You get a brief glimpse, but it never descends into proper moonshine hell. John Hillcoat & Nick Cave made a masterpiece in The Proposition. They may never equal that beast again. I'm okay with that. But hopefully they'll scrape the surface of the sun again.
Justified - Season 4 "Decoy": Raylan Givens, Deputy Bob, & Rachel attempt to flee Drew Thompson from Harlan County. Theo Tonin's goons patrol the skies in their helicopter, and Boyd Crowder unleashes sniper Colt upon a decoy of Marshall SUVs. This is the most intense chase we've seen from this show yet. And even though we get some machine gun fire and a molotov cocktail, the greatest action of the show occurs without a bullet being fired. Timothy Olyphant shows off his badass side once more with a grin, and some harsh words directed at the Detroit Mafia. Seriously, just when you think this man can't get any cooler he pulls another trick out of his bag.
Rust and Bone: This film is curious. Marion Cotillard is a whale trainer who drinks too much when she goes clubbing. Mathias Schoenaerts is a street fighter bouncer with a bratty kid and an unstoppable sex drive. After a horrible killer whale accident severs the legs of Cotillard the two find friendship (if not love) in the sex act. Not to mention some serious dough in the art of bum fighting. What the hell? I don't get it. Both characters feel like manipulations to poke my heartstrings, but Rust and Bone fails to capture my emotions. Cotillard & Schoenaerts are sooooo not good for each other and as the film marched towards its climax I did not care if they found comfort in each other or not. Then the ice breaks. More sadness. Shoulder shrug. French, man.
Holy Motors: "I Have A Plan To Go Mad." I man wakes up in his apartment, he opens a secret door in the wall, and steps into a cinema. Denis Lavant enters his Tardis-like limousine, he travels the passageways of Paris. When he exits the limo he's someone else. A female beggar. A flower gnashing maniac with a hard-on...I mean, an appreciation for cemeteries and fashion models. With the help of his chauffeur and vanity mirror he takes on various appointments; wild trips into cinematic genre where he might encounter Kylie Minogue one moment and battle off track suit gangsters the next. What does it all mean? I have no idea right now. But I already have a strong desire to rewatch the film. The interlude in which Lavant leads an Accordion Gang down a corridor while rocking the Doctor L cover of RL Burnside's Let My Baby Ride is hypnotizing. A youtube classic at the very least.
Prometheus: A trip to Toys R Us yielded a Michael Fassbender David toy into my collection. Why do I bother to collect action figures for a film I find so frustratingly mediocre? Cuz I have hope in my heart, and that maybe my next viewing of Prometheus will reveal a genuine masterpiece. There is so much to love about this film. Fassbender. David. This should have been his story, and in turn the story of man's continuing evolution. Instead Noomi Rapace bungles about the spaceship hiding from her tentacled fetus, swinging an axe at whatever Frankenstein storms out of the shadows. Lame. And Guy Pearce, stay outta this picture! You and your makeup have no place here. Ridley Scott certainly knows how to film sci-fi, and I really don't need to dump on screenwriter Damon Lindelof any further. The man has taken his lumps. And I'm sure he's not the sole credit to this film failure.
Olympus Has Fallen: How much do you love the sight of the American Flag being burned, torn, tossed, and riddled with bullets? How much do you love seeing skulls popped with gun fire? How much do you love seeing emotionally crippled secret serviceman jab knives into the brains of evil grinning Koreans? If your answer ranges from a lot to a fuck ton than you will absolutely adore Olympus Has Fallen. Gerard Butler is the only man strong enough to survive an onslaught of tourist butchering North Koreans, and he manages to blast his way into the fallen White House where platoons of GIs and Navy Seals could not. This is a ridiculous film. To call it jingoistic doesn't even scratch the surface. Melissa Leo, face-punched, screaming, crying, and hailing the pledge of allegiance as she's dragged off to her execution is fascinating in its humorlessness - this is bonkers, absurdist entertainment. And if you're hipster enough than you'll find joy to be had in the Mars Attacks! toppling of the Washington Monument and Gerard Butler's "This Is Sparta" terrorist bashing.
Deadwood - Season 2: It might be hard to believe, but season two is even better than the first. As the stage carrying Mrs. Bullock and her son William arrives to Deadwood, Sheriff Bullock & Al Swearengen bash on each other in the thoroughfare after a casual exchange of insults. The brawl leaves Bullock with a couple lumps, but pretty much puts Swearengen out of commission for the first round of episodes. Al's absence allows for an agent of George Hearst to sink his talons into the business of camp. New villains appear, and Bullock is too busy not putting the screws to The Widow Garrett to notice the evil descending. Garrett Dillahunt returns, but not as the killer of Wild Bill, but a new character far more sinister, the geologist Francis Wolcott. He steals nearly every scene he's in, and I love how uncomfortable Powers Boothe is in his presence - if you make Powers Boothe squirm than you are a genuine devil. Season 2 puts each Deadwood player through the meat grinder. This is not the kind of show where people get knocked down and dust themselves off. They get knocked down, wallow in the mud, and dig themselves straight to hell.
Law Abiding Citizen: This film comes oh so very close to being the great contemporary update of Michael Winner's Death Wish. A home invasion takes the life of Gerard Butler's wife and daughter. He survives the attack, but his eye witness testimony is deemed circumstantial and Jaime Foxx's huckster D.A. pleads the killers into a short jail term. Butler begins plotting. Law Abiding Citizen is not concerned with simple revenge. In fact, Butler dispatches the scumbags who took his family pretty early in the proceedings. Mr. Butler's anger is larger than an execution. He sets his sights on the justice system. Judges. Lawyers. Mayors. These are the real criminals. And the film does an excellent job putting them on the bad guy side of the screenplay. As the heads of fat cat judges pop and sleazy defense attorneys smother, Gerard Butler's Death Wishing finds great satisfaction with the audience. The problem is Jamie Foxx. Apparently he's the real good guy. Not the way I see it. The screenplay should let Butler slaughter his way to victory - screw Foxx's sense of "good." I want Butler to break authority. I want him to be Charles Bronson on top. Law Abiding Citizen pretends to have a morality. And that's where it fails. This just isn't the type of story where good beats evil. Still, the first 2/3rds of this flick are so close to 70s pessimism that it's worth a watch or two.
Gamer: Now here's a film that revels in its amorality. Set in one of those "Not Too Distant Futures," Gamer introduces a world in which players live the bodies of Slayers, controlling their movements on a kill crazy field of combat. Gerard Butler is Kable, a Slayer with just three kills to freedom. But, of course, there's no way master blaster Michael C Hall will allow such a victory. Directors Neveldine & Taylor treat extras like chum, and they make violent exploitation pictures rarely seen in this day and age. Having just days before whimpered at the CG blood spatter of Olympus Has Fallen, it's a treat to see a flick like Gamer gush with splashes of stringy Karo syrup. Real squib work equals flinchy revulsion. But it's not all blood & guts. Gamer actually has some biting truth or commentary to it. If this technology was made available to us, I am 100% positive we'd have large chunks of the population signing up for the Sim City wannabe, Society. In relishing the grotesque, Gamer succeeds in properly mocking our whackjob internet culture. A culture I'm firmly and terrifyingly a part.
Spring Breakers: Here's another flick I'm still processing. Is there something more to this than sexploitation? Is there something more to it than just seeing Selena Gomez & Vanessa Hudgins in bikinis? My first reaction is, no. No matter how much Terrance Malick dialog overlaying occurs or how much James Franco K-Feds the scenery, Spring Breakers is little more than a navel gazer. What's the deal with Spring Break sexuality? I have no idea. It's a cesspool of free will. Add machine guns and wannabe gangstas and you've got dumb people killing dumb people. Girl empowerment? Don't think so. Just an excuse for these actresses to shed their goodie goodie personas. But they leave the real dirty work for Rachel Korine and the nameless jigglers on the fringes. The perverts who show up for the Disney princesses will be sorely disappointed.
Justified - Season 4 "Peace of Mind": Drew Thompson might be safely in custody (well, that's what we're left to believe), but poor Ellie May is still floating out there in the Holler. She quickly becomes the season's final grab, with Boyd & Ava desperate to plant her in the ground and Raylan's crew doing their Law & Order routine. But this episode's highlight really belongs to Tim & Colt. Ron Edlard's junkie goon has struggled all season to find his place in Boyd's gang. Does he find redemption here? Or doom at the end of Tim's barrel? Either way it's a proper button for his role in the season. Now all we have to worry about is Nicky Augustine, the long arm of Theo Tonin. He's got to die.
Batman Incorporated #9: John Layman, Peter Tomasi, and Scott Snyder might have all had the first cracks at depicting Batman post-Damian's slaughter but the only voice that matters on the subject is Grant Morrison. No matter what anyone tells you, those guys are working in a different reality. Damian Wayne didn't die in The New 52 - he got gutted in the Morrison arc, & that's where the emotion of his absence is really going to be felt. Issue 9 jumps back and forth in time. In once scene Bruce, Tim, Dick, & Alfred are burying the boy's body in the backyard. In the other Bats is going toe-to-toe with the Damian clone, jabbing fingers into eyes, stomping swords bare footed. Both transactions are brutal and painful. Morrison's epic run is winding down. As stated before, it's had its peaks and valleys, but for the most part this saga has been stellar. Batman might have already died and come back in his tenure, but nothing has hit the solar plexus quite like Damian's execution. And Batman is going to destroy Talia Al Ghul. Bitch got to die. And then he's gonna salt the Earth with the hot toasty ashes of the Damian Clone. F that thing. But first he has to tell Bat-Cow that young Damian is dead. And, damn, that's one sad moo.
G.I. Joe - Rise of Cobra: This movie sucks. Marlon Wayans. Cobra Commander Rex. The mindwarped Baroness. The Mech Suit hippity hop. Snake Eyes has lips. I hope Stephen Sommers has been properly banned from Hollywood. You know, tarred, feathered, stoned, drawn & quartered. Each body part shipped off to the far corners of the Earth. Buried and consumed by graboids. I'm not saying that the GI Joe cartoon or its toy line deserves great amounts of our respect, but there was potential for a really silly & fun action film here. A wide array of weirdo characters battling it out with green and red lasers. I can take stupid. Hell, I love stupid. But I've got no place for lame. And GI Joe - Rise of Cobra is lame.
G.I. Joe - Retaliation: "Does Brenda get a vote?" This is going to sound weird, but I was hoping that director Jon Chu would bring some of that Step Up 3D flow to the action of Retaliation. There are some moments (Flint's parkour charge, the cliff top ninja assault) but for the most part GI Joe Part 2 is depressing in its banality. Yes, The Rock was unable to save this franchise cuz it's certainly not Fast Five. Sure, the toys get more play here. Cobra Commander looks like Cobra Commander. The Rock gets a badass tonka truck to tread. And Jonathan Pryce was obviously having loads of fun on set - he hasn't hammed this hard since his Tomorrow Never Die days. But Bruce Willis only pops up for his one day of filming. The Rock never gets a beatdown brawl to battle despite a quick tussle with Ray Stevenson's Firefly (seriously!?!? Titus Pullo vs. The Tooth Fairy oh hell yeah!!!), and Snake Eyes saga goes way awkward with the inclusion of The Rza's latexed Blind Master. Retaliation is a little fun, but I was hoping for some gonzo entertainment.
Homicide: Life on the Street - Season 1 & 2: I've been craving to revisit The Wire but before I re-explore that depressing ass world I thought I'd give this ahead-of-its-time drama another spin. Easily the best procedural to come out of the 90s, Homicide excels cuz it doesn't wrap each story at episode conclusion. One of the early proponents of season long arcs, the Adena Watson murder never quite has a solid resolution and what little it does have takes nearly 9 episodes to reach. Meanwhile the players involved are left tortured and psychologically beaten. I absolutely adore how cruel or ambivalent the show can be. It's pure character work. You don't watch to see who winds up behind bars. You watch because you want the bickering of Munch & Bollander, or to witness the pride behind Pembleton's excellence. I cranked through these two short seasons in a matter of days. I'm already well into season 3. Just great television.
LOST - Season 1: Looking back it's easy to pick at the flaws of LOST. Rewatching Season 1 with The Wife (our nighttime tv successor to DS9) it's stunning to ponder all the balls dropped from the narrative. Walt's psychic "specialness." Claire's baby. And nearly all the various flashback stories. Who cares about the countless reexaminations of Jin & Sun's marital problems. At the same time, all that flashback mumbo jumbo is a lot of fun. This is where our love for these characters begins (or disdain, cuz Michael was a punk from the very first episode). The rewatch also reveals John Locke to be possibly the saddest creation in television history. What a chump. Easily my favorite character throughout the series, but damn, he's proven to be the fool. Yet, LOST is Dharma. I need to get into the hatch. I need my Desmond. I need the sci-fi crazy. Cuz that's the best thing about the original watch of the series. You knew something kooky was going on (polar bears, roaring woods, French women), but you had no idea how batshit sci-fi it would all become.
Room 237: Absolutely fascinating. And bonkers. Director Rodney Ascher details nearly a dozen weirdo theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's psycho saga. One individual claims The Shining to be Kubrick's confession for having filmed the moon landing. Another guy is adamant that The Shining is a violent condemnation of America's genocide of the Native American people. And another chap sees Minotaurs along the outskirts. Whatever. Room 237 doesn't promote such madness. But it is a celebration of cinema, or more to the point, our passion for cinema. I love the frenzy The Shining has sparked in the film conversation. I love how one man can see rocket ships in the number 42 and another can see mass murder in a can of Calumet coffee. This is craziness. But hypnotizing. And you'll immediately want to watch the flick (in HD!) upon completion.