Monday, January 28, 2013

End Of Watch

Yo, ok, so, CORRECTION. This movie is NOT about two cops who tackle a Mexican cartel that moves into Cali. This flick is all about two fucking bros, just being fucking bros, when ALL OF A SUDDEN, shit gets real. This cartel dude DOES make a phone call, sure yeah. But local gangsters answer the call. And the two bros really had very little idea what the fuck was going on for the majority of the picture here.

Unless you speak fluent Bro, you won’t know what’s good either. Shit, Fuck, and Bro are combined in various ways to construct a good portion of the script. I'm down for, no doubt. Cause, like, you’re watching Jake Gilly and you forget the dude is mad famous. The film is going for the fake reality TV style. Which, ya know, upside is most things feel pretty legit. People getting beat half to death will ma ya cringe cause it feels like you’re really seeing it! But flipside downside is that SUPER serious moments just flop dead. Paradoxical!? Nah, but the problem is twofold. 1) the Bro dialogue fails hard at conveying anything beyond Bro Talk. 2) The film does so well carving out a casual space, it becomes entrenched there. Anything approaching a serious tone is suspect and strange.

So, like, the end result has zero staying power. I mean, sure, the film is entertaining! But you don’t learn or experience much new (how Cartels kill rivals is one, though). But that’s a success! The film was going for “reality TV show” and nailed it! Contributed nothing of value to anyone!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lawless Review Discussion

Lawless is the type of movie that you won’t know was shallow until the end. It’s murky, entertaining, and provocative throughout. I kept getting the feeling the film was going somewhere important. It just needed to build a few more pieces. Progress a few more relationships. When the end hits, I was left thinking “is that all?”.*

The moonshine business and wild west feel of prohibition are invitations for men to form their own rules about everything. The arbiter of all is Violence. Men’s reputations are made on it. It safeguards their land and livelihood. Men get women with displays of their master of it. Even a character as adverse to all expression of the form, like Jack (Shia LeBeouf), is compelled instinctually to, at least, fake it till he finally commits.

Beyond the rewards from its use, Violence is left as a scale. Success is directly correlated to “how far” a man takes Violence. That limit appears set at birth. The primal draw of its power is intuitively understood and not questioned. But that’s like saying “Hey Guy! Remember how you’re human. And we’re human!”. A reflection of what I already know isn’t interesting.

The narrative sings the first few notes of such a well-known song, the rest of the story will flash through your head in an instant. The struggle of one man coming to grips with Violence seems silly in this context. Nearly every single other male in the entire film is better apt and more comfortable with Violence. The scale comes in again to insinuate that maturity level also directly correlates to Violence. Consequences of any particular violent act has nothing to do with morals or honor and all to do with the ripple effect. “Who will this piss off? Can I kill the man who comes after me if I kill this guy?”.

Maggie (Jessica Chastain) alone is able to break this fixation on Violence (tell-tale, she wears red). Whether because of exhaustion (somewhere between coping with and ignoring Violence), fear , or a stronger will than to be defined by it is unclear.

* - Punctuation bends to my will

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Firstly, the time travel. On the first pass through, everything makes sense. Should you need some help sorting any issues, Bruce Willis has a scene, in a diner, where he lays everything out for you: (I’m paraphrasing) shut the fuck up about the time travel shit. It’s crazy. Deal with it.

Is it possible to do clean time travel? Have it all make sense? Be clear? Or is that the “thing” with time travel, even if you could that’s not the point?

If the movie is about anything else besides, time travel becomes a distraction. Morality and questions of possibilities are drowned out by a debate on the feasibility or physics. What’s Joe’s motivation? Who cares, why didn’t he X instead of Y to circumvent this whole problem!? If nothing else it invites audiences to poke holes in everything, rather than roll with movie logic. Nobody is thinking about what’s currently going on, they’re still obsessing over what the character should have done ten minutes ago.

Besides vexing chronal paradoxes, Looper is beautiful setup with zero follow through. The current standard of dystopian future is employed. Trash everywhere, rich are partying to the end of the world while the poor slowly become mutants. Which is fine since it’s either this or white plastic and glow lights. Joe(our Hero, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a thing for “retro” cloths and cars. If there is a sure way to mark the protagonist in a future setting… His narration delineates him an observant, charming man, though his actions are (as he admits) selfish and simple. His friends are the type that, no matter what, are constantly losing their shit about something. The only antagonist Joe needs to worry about degrades every concept and theme in the film. He’s a dumb hick working for a fairly classy mafia that can’t do anything right. You don’t hate him so much as you will hate that he wastes screen time. And wish that somebody, somewhere, sometime, had shot the fidgety asshole for being a fidgety asshole.

What’s beautiful about Looper is the ease it speaks to the audience without resorting to high-minded monologues. The ideas you take away from here are going to, necessarily, depend on you, and what connections you’re making, but there’s ample grist to get you churning. Take my favorite moment, when Abe (the mafia boss from the future) is talking to Joe (the not future) about Joe’s plans. Actually, lemme stop myself for a quick sec to say that Jeff Daniels (Abe) is perfection. There are moments in a movie where you wiggle your butt a little bit, really get comfy in that chair, and begin the process of loving the film. Jeff Daniels instigates that. So he’s talking to Joe about Joe’s future. Not reciting What Cometh like he’s a fancy oracle but just talking like two regular guys would. They’re going back and forth, with Abe saying how it makes sense for Joe to go to Shanghai. Joe is having none of it and is adamant he’s going to France. A few rounds of this and Abe sighs, frustrated, glaring at Joe, who is sitting with an “I know I’m right” look about him. It dawned on me then, in this silence, that Joe is arguing with a man from the future. Joe (the everyman) will not accept any notion of destiny. How beautifully stubborn and short-sighted! I love the feeling of seeing humanity’s defects as the most noble virtues.

Then Joe from the future (Bruce Willis) comes in to herald an end of everything fun and thoughtful in the film. The Future needs to be personified by one boy and there needs to be a shootout (everyone here is a hitman, plus humanity is violent) to decide the fate of all mankind. Yeah, on a farm in Kansas. Of all places… Because Kansas is the place of deep morals! That’s where Superman learned ‘em! Instead of a handful of balls of intellectual thought being juggled, we have one or two. Despite the pondering of how a man becomes the man he will become, as the film had us ponder, our heroes become singular opposing forces. Again, cue audience second-guessing of these being the optimal routes to victory. Will you see the conclusion coming? Probably. It makes sense. It satisfies character development. It’s not pleasing in the slightest. I mean, shit! Bruce Willis AND Joseph Gordon-Levitt are in this movie! Go for broke! Or at least stick to genre conventions! Dystopian futures don’t get Happy Endings, where “happy” is the type from an Absolute Morality viewpoint. I don’t care if Joe’s a drug-addicted, hitman, he’s good people. As far as people being selfish, short-sighted, and relying on violence as the tool of change and progress.

Here’s a better ending: Both Joe’s kill the weird kid because dumping all hopes on how one person grows up is dumb. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Les Miserables

Les Miserables has let its marketing be the prologue for the film. The only introduction made within the film is to the time period and country. Which doesn’t go as far as it might otherwise as most songs are strictly rooted in a character’s personal dilemma. In fact, the setting isn’t much seen or understood. The sets furnish the viewer with the basics but a deeper relationship is left off. The focus is unmistakably upon the cast (not characters). This list of top talent who have come to demonstrate the art of song. Even the plays pedigree contrive to create an atmosphere of exhibition. The only question to consider about the work is just the quality of it. Was this voice good or bad? Was it pleasing or not? There is little meaning to consider attached. Les Miserables’s ambition is to inspire sympathy between itself and the stage rather than advancing any theme or narrative.

The songs that do transcend the films shallow objective quickly carve out an actual place and, as though by illusion, the same flat characters are given depth. Unfortunately, these scenes are scattered over too great an area to be able to support the rest of the film’s selfish indulgences into a coherent work. They are spark with nothing to catch onto.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Raid: Redemption

The Raid didn’t realize it was a dumb movie. Nor did it feel inclined to present a single entertaining fight. I know why I’m here. So after an hour in on this hour and forty minute film and I have seen three fights, I’m pissed. Please don’t fake tension when your own trailer shows Homeboy slamming people into walls nonstop.

The action is overly choreographed. To the point that the lead will run to his mark, hands raised in anticipation of an assailant that hasn’t entered the scene yet. Every punch is pulled. It feels like a weird game of hand-slap. You don’t need any strength or force! Just lightly touch the man’s arm who is attempting to punch you and he’ll stop. Every few seconds someone needs to break the monotony of hand-slap so throws happen. How nice that any man here is capable of flipping another over his head using just his fingers. Don’t bend your knees or anything you assholes. One action sequence feels like any other. Just elbows and knees flying. No simultaneous attacking! A hallway full of guys steps forward, one at a time, pitches their hideously telegraphed, in-no-way-even-if-it-hit-could-it-do-any-real-damage, strike, then SuperCop slaps them ten times real quick and they fall down. Even the climatic 2v1 fight at the end adheres to the above mentioned rules of combat.

Credit to the production crew for creating every set out of balsa wood