Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Not-Busters: The A-Team (2010)

Director: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel
Domestic Gross: $77,222,099

With the exception of Cowboys and Aliens, this week's "not-buster" earned significantly more than all the previous entries (more, even, than a few of the entries put together) in this series. $77 million is no small amount of money when considered on its own, but when considered in the context of a film with a reported $110 million budget, it starts to look woefully inadequate. But even if "profit" wasn't an issue, The A-Team would still qualify as a failure for its lack of cultural impact. The A-Team was very clearly designed to be the opening salvo in a franchise, yet plans for a sequel were scrapped sometime in 2011. Do you know how unsuccessful a film like this has to be to not get a sequel? Hollywood loves sequels so much that it sometimes seems to forget that there's any other kind of movie. But there will be no The A-Team 2 and, to be perfectly honest, I'd actually forgotten that The A-Team movie was even a thing until I went looking for summer box office bombs and was reminded that this was something that happened. Now that I've seen it, I believe I shall promptly forget.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday's Top 5... Movies Based in Greek Mythology

#5: Electra (1962)

The first installment of Michael Cacoyannis' "Greek tragedy" trilogy (the other two parts, 1971's Trojan Women and 1977's Iphigenia, are also well worth seeing) is a spare, striking, and powerful film and stars the great Irene Papas in the title role.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: Wadjda (2013)

* * * *

Director: Haifaa al-Mansour
Starring: Waad Mohammed

What the title character of Wadjda wants seems very simple. She wants a bicycle so that she and her friend can race. But as a girl in Saudi Arabia, reminded constantly that she should cover her face or go indoors so that she's not seen and that she should keep her voice down so that she's not heard, she might as well wish for a pet unicorn. Then again, there's a first time for everything - just ask director Haiffa al-Mansour who, in bringing Wadjda to the screen, became the first Saudi woman to direct a feature length film, the first person to shoot an entire feature in Saudi Arabia, and the maker of the first film ever submitted by Saudi Arabia for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars. But even if Wadjda didn't have the distinction of being part of so many firsts, it would still be a film notable for the strength of its storytelling and the craft of its execution.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: Obvious Child (2014)

* * *

Director: Gillian Robespierre
Starring: Jenny Slate

If nothing else, Obvious Child is probably the most subversive romantic comedy of the year, a film which takes one of the least respected and most formulaic of cinematic genres and uses it as a Trojan Horse for a frank discussion about abortion and its surrounding issues. During a summer when discussion of women's issues seem particularly heated thanks, in part, to the US Supreme Court's decision that a corporate entity's "feelings" matter more than a woman's health, the honest and straight forward way that Obvious Child approaches and explores its subject feels particularly vital. This isn't to say that the film is perfect - for a comedy with a protagonist who is literally a comedian, the film isn't nearly as funny as you might expect - but when it hits, it hits, and it contains an exchange which I think perfectly sums up the problem with respect to public discourse of women's issues when one of the female characters angrily laments the fact that panels of old men are legislating women's bodies and her male friend responds, "Everything you're saying is valid, but you are scaring my dick off."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: Snowpiercer (2014)

* * * 1/2

Director: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, John Hurt

Having now seen it, I can't really imagine how Harvey Weinstein could think that there's 20 minutes to cut from Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer. It runs at a robust 126 minutes but this is a taunt, white-knuckle science fiction thriller from beginning to end. Though it came at the price of sacrificing a large-scale theatrical release for an extremely limited theatrical run with simultaneous VOD release (which in hindsight I think will start to look like The Weinstein Company cutting off its nose to spite its face, as in what seems like an unusually quiet summer movie season this could have been at least a modest hit), Boon was able to successfully fight to keep his film intact - and thank God for that. This is a terrific film of incredible ambition and skilled execution. If you're lucky enough to have an opportunity to see it in a theater, seize the chance, but seek it out wherever you can find it.