Smile The Pain Away

nicolas-cage-tye-sheridan-joe

In Joe, Nicholas Cage plays a blue collar head woodsman of a small crew of laborers in the south. A cigarette is never far away from his mouth, and a tug off a bottle of hooch is how he caps his workday. Gary is the 15 year old pseudo leader of his drifting family who approaches Joe for day labor. At 15, Gary has a lot of life ahead of him, however the circumstances of his life now are being dragged down by a mean drunk of a father who will literally do anything to stay loaded. The players in and around Joe’s life give some back story to his brooding character, he’s been “up in it” as they say, and they will vouch for Joe as “good people” without hesitation.

This 2013 drama is directed by David Gordon Greene, who had a sloppy hit with Pineapple Express. His first film, All The Real Girls was not only Zoey Deschanel’s first notable work, it also features some cinematic originality that isn’t readily available in today’s age of the remake and the comic book movie. One of the ways Greene is able to make this story stand out despite it’s overtones of the Hollywood classic, Shane, is the casting of non actors in significant roles. The voice and mannerisms of the characters allow the story to tell itself at times, and provide background and legitimacy for Cage’s Joe.

Playing the role of Gary’s father Wade, is an actual factual bum by the name of Gary Poutler.

Gary-Poulter

Wade has the slur of a longtime alcoholic, and displays both a playful and volatile spirit throughout the film.

Joe’s right hand man on the woods crew, Junior, is played by another non actor, Brian Mays. Weather Junior is teaching Gary the ways of work, holding court during a laugh filled break with this co-workers, or arguing with Gary’s father Wade, Mr. Mays is able to convey a presence to the audience as if he’s been there before.

While you may not understand every word out of their mouths, you’re certainly able to get their intentions. It is amazing that this flea market cast were able to hit their marks and come off as professional and entertaining. Having these guys as compliments to Cages’s character of Joe really makes this balanced piece of storytelling. Joe likes his work, his drink, his smokes, his dog, and his womens. It seems that these interests are a big part of what detaches Joe from liking himself, and it never seems like he’s too far away from doing something to his life that wont be able to repair.

As far as Cage’s performance goes, it is legitimately one of his best. It’s fair to question by what right does Cage have to dangle this kind of talent in front of us and then go off and play an Irish Samurai. The scene in which Cage briefly washes his face with hard alcohol before setting someone straight is quick, subtle, and tells you so much about Joe in less than a second. His back and forth with 15 year old Gary, teaching him to smile through the pain, comes off as exceptionally relatable. Joe’s struggle with those that are testing him, paint both an immediate picture of who this man is, and a much broader sense of what he’s done in the past.

Director Green’s camera work and editing really help here, as this movie doesn’t have the arty feel of All The Real Girls, nor the glossy Hollywood sheen of Pineapple Express. Although Joe has been pegged as dark and gloomy, the style of direction here is subdued and leans more towards neutral. There’s a whole lot about Joe that’s worth watching, and at no point does it talk down to the audience,  the story at hand just allowed to sort of unfold.

joe-joe-review-beautiful-flawed-with-cage-at-his-best-d95dc6e1-c2ec-46f2-9830-1bd58d7d32d5-jpeg-45553 (1)

Advertisements

The Babadook

91zWn2jJBfL._SX425_

Amelia is a struggling single mom coping with the death of her husband, and with the fact that her son’s grasp on reality and behavior towards others is becoming questionable. One quiet night Amelia reads a strange book to her son as a bedtime story, only to discover that what resides in the pages isn’t exactly the material either of them thought it would be.

This book brings on a slow developing living nightmare experience for the both of them.

The Babadook is a tight Australian horror film that leans towards psychological horror for the most part, however when it needs to step up it’s game and provide the goods that horror fans are used to seeing, that game is legit. What make this movie work so well is the fact that a certain rythym of storytelling is established early on, making for a unique overall viewing experience. With that in tow, the movie could have been plenty watchable had the story taken place in any other genre.

The Babadook features exceptional acting, and gets playful enough with the narrative that you second guess what’s happening as the story unfolds. It’s creepy and disturbing atmosphere will linger about in your consciousness well after the initial viewing.

The Beautiful Retribution of Blue Ruin

ruin 1

Dwight, while biding his time eating discarded leftovers and dwelling inside a rotting little blue car, has let himself become a dirty, hairy, wandering loner. When confronted with an update of past events that clearly haunt him in the present, Dwight intends to carry out a very bad piece of business.

Blue Ruin is a revenge film with at least half a brain and a substantial amount of artistic integrity. The dialogue is sparse, using Macom Blair’s screen presence as Dwight to do most of the heavy lifting. The intense quietness of Dwight is explained to a degree in one scene, where he remorsefully explains that he is not used to this much conversation. You’re almost able to feel the morose tragedy that Dwight has been through by way of Macom Blair exceptionable body language.

ruin 2

The fact that Dwight is far from an unstoppable assassin brings the story into a real world setting, and given the reactions of family and friends that have not seen him for a while, you will be completely intrigued as to how it all plays out.

This film is also carried by the sharp cinematography of writer/director  Jeremy Saulnier. He’s able to make that little car look like the perfect piece of garbage, he’s able to make a forest look like a brand new experience, and when the violence strikes, it sticks.

A trailer is likely to do nothing for you other than spoil the movie outright, and thus it is recommended to go into this one as blind as you can.

Director Sauliner and actor Blair have teemed up previously for 2007’s Murder Party, which just might be worth checking out. While both of their bodies of work are in the early going, they just might be a duo to keep your eye on going forward.

Copy-of-Blue-Ruin-Pontiac

Small Apartments Has Itself a Certain Charm

ovl56lz

In 2002, director Jonas Akerlund took a ride on the indie film hype train for his meth scene movie featuring an ensemble cast, Spun. While Spun was chalk full of quirky characters and generally fun to watch, the movie itself didn’t quite amount to much. The stakes were never that high for it’s plot or story, and as professional of a director Ackerlund become, mostly due to his extensive work in the music video genre, his film directing career has seem to suffer from a lack of arc.

To be honest with you here, his latest film, 2012’s Small Apartments, isn’t really something that one would refer to as good. Ackerlund has again put together an ensemble cast playing quirky characters, with an offbeat overall flow to the movie.

Franklin Franklin is a clumsy, shut in, ne-er-do-well residing, sans pants, in a small apartment among other extreme oddballs. Neighbor number one is heavy metal pothead Johnny Balls, played by Johnny Knoxville, and neighbor number two is cantankerous curmudgeon Mr. Allspice, played by James Caan. James Caan plays the type of neighbor that is very easy to hate, and, he does so in way that is way less James Caany than any of his recent performances.

A series of strange events bring these characters together and intertwine the lives of a self help guru, played by Dolph Lundgren, and an arson investigator with marital problems played by Billy Crystal.

This movie isn’t so much smart as it playful, and the directing hand of Jonas Ackerlund seems a bit more seasoned this time around. Although not without it’s storytelling gimmicks, the ones that are present don’t feel forced and genuinely help to paint a picture. The thing that stands out the most is the fact that most, if not all of the characters experience some sort of growth along the way, and that is something rarely seen even in the best of movies these days.

While initially you may not want to spend too much time with the gang from Small Apartments, as Johnny Balls could really use a bath, and Franklin Franklin is in need of passable social skills, in the end you just might consider the time used to view their journey as adequately spent.

Grand Budapest Hotel is a Quagmire of Nonsense

Fiennes GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL recounts the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The Grand Budpest Hotel is Wes Anderson’s most West Anderson film ever. Early into Budapest, there is a punch out involving the main characters of Gustave, Zero, and another antagonist, that seems to set the bar for a different level of story telling for Wes Anderson. Unfortunately, the story devolves at a record pace from there on out, and becomes a series of cute little vignettes that prance about here and prance about there. Ralph Fiennes effectively plays Gustave as pompous and as swishy  as you were lead to believe in the trailer. His character lacks the complete ability to root for, or, against his antics, and the movie as a whole will lead you to wonder just what everyone is doing here. Edward Norton looks great as a perturbed lawman, oh he really pulls off perturbed let me tell you, and,well, that’s about it. All the usual Wes Anderson players show up here, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, etc, except this time around, somehow, someway, their contributions equal up to being less than the sum of their parts. The flow of characterization is all too brief here, the cinematic moments are not really allowed to breath. Too many times the story just settles for goofball crap instead of an expansion of the overall story at hand. To really expand upon what a drag Budapest is, is to also touch upon Wes Anderson caliber as a filmmaker, his body of work, and what make those films what they are. Bottle Rocket- IMDB will tell you that Anderson’s 1996 feature debut, is about a trio of friends and their elaborate plan to pull off a simple robbery and go on the run. Except that the fun part is that tier plan is pretty much the exact opposite of elaborate, and along the way the get hung up on ideas and people that just plain inept. Bottle Rocket is relatable because the trio’s standards are low, and along the way they are able find both pleasure and angst in the small things. Rushmore – Anderson’s 1998 feature Rushmore, is about the extracurricular king of Rushmore preparatory school, Max Fisher, who is also terrible at the fundamentals of basic schoolwork. Max is able to interact with adults on a level that is nearly inappropriate, and leads to quite a few laughs when it reaches a point where the situations they all arrive in are completely unmanageable. Seeing the characters react so harshly when they are out of there element provides timeless laughs, and here Anderson is on point in every aspect of storytelling, from characterization, to dialogue, to shot selection, to costumes, to setting, and soundtrack. It’s basically the Pinkerton of his career. The Royal Tenenbaums- This 2001 feature by Anderson plays as sort of double concept album with some radio friendly hits. “Three grown prodigies, all with a unique genius of some kind, and their mother are staying at the family household. Their father, Royal had left them long ago, and comes back to make things right with his family.” Tenebaum is hysterical in how unrelatable and dysfunctional the adults have become. Wes pulls out all the stops here to craft a film that is as engaging as it is pretty. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – The 2004  feature is as out there of a concept as anyone who is a fan of Anderson could possibly hope for. “When his partner is killed by the mysterious and possibly nonexistent Jaguar Shark, Steve Zissou and his Team Zissou crew set off for an expedition to hunt down the creature. Along with his estranged wife, a beautiful journalist and a co-pilot who could possibly be Zissou’s son, the crew set off for one wild expedition.” If you loved The Royal Tenebaums, the The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is as perfect of a follow up as one could ask for. The overall scope of the movie is not to be taken too seriously, and part of the fun in watching it is seeing how seriously the characters are taking themselves. When Jeff Goldblum strolls around in a bathrobe while holding an over sized shotgun, I believe that his character, Alistair Hennesey, thinks that highly of himself. Another visually beautiful film by Anderson with a great cast and concept. While the tone can seem a bit cold at times, it works for the story being told, and it also makes the CGI and props really jump out at you. The Darjeeling Limited- In this 2007 feature, three brothers, each suffering depression after the death of their father, meet up for a train trip across India. While The Darjeeling Limited is not great, it’s also not bad. It doesn’t have that excitable punch to it that other Anderson films have. Although there is a sort of odd, soothing overall tone to it, almost as if this entire thing were conducted to replicate that feeling of peak stonage, where nothing can touch you. Can’t say that this is a recomendable one, however it is a comendable effort and not without it’s charming moments. Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009, stop motion animated. This looks like some work to sit through, let me get back to you on that one. Moonrise Kingdom. 2012. “Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, as a young boy and girl fall in love they are moved to run away together. Various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down”, turned upside down by a rag tag group of adults who are as professional as they are incompetent. The lack of situational awareness of everyone’s part drives the story and the humor. There is a decent amount of heart on display in Moonrise Kingdom. The characters, both adult and juvenile, are “so smart they’re stupid”, as the gold ol boys like to say. There are a lot of good performances, great settings, gorgeous cinematography, and, well, there is a lot of everything in Moonrise Kingdom. The film does lack a little punch in the screenplay department, and I wouldn’t necessarily argue with anyone who wants to say it’s a little too contrived. Overall though, it’s a fun and harmless one to watch, it’s not hurting anything, and if any Wes Anderson movie is going to win a bunch of awards, it ought to be this one. Now, what Budapest has going for it, is the fact that it’s very metropolitan, and the academy crowd will rub them drippings all over their gross bodies like some sort of youth elixir. It’s so sad how easily forgettable this mess is, and it’s aggravating how each scene tries so hard to remind us that this is a Wes Anderson movie. At no point did I have any faith this story took place in the real word, and what worked in previous Anderson films, is that no matter how far up their ass any one given character was, the real world would always kind of nudge here and there to create a counterbalance and help drive the story. Budapest comes off as just plain cacamamie, due to poor execution, and a poor overall concept of what the story could have been.

Wrong Cops Is Bluntly Bohemian

327667

The psychotically lovable cops from the movie Wrong are the star of Quentin Dupieux’s dopey comedic  2013 release, Wrong Cops. Where as the movie Wrong has a sort of serene and steady weirdness to it, the comedic scope of Wrong Cops ranges from dry avant-garde, to a vivid surrealness that has it’s own rhythm.

Mark Burham puts in some over time in playing the grubby, skeevy, spits while he’s talking, Officer Duke. Steven Little, who last time out played a very effective and persistent dog shit detective, is Officer Sunshine. The officers have developed a taste for low end corruptivity and harassment, and they really ought to do something or other about that fella who’s bleeding to death in the back of their patrol car. Although these actors aren’t the most experienced out there resume’ wise, they do an excellent job carrying the load here. There is sort of a fierce naivety to there performances, as if they both watched Training Day, and said ” Yeah I can do that”.

Quentin Dupieux effectively uses his bag of tricks with the linear narrative and tone of this movie, more so than in the previous installment of the characters in this movie universe, because this one is mostly playing for laughs. Veteran help is liberally employed  throughout the cast of actors, with most notably, Marilyn Manson playing the funniest sex crime victim you’ve ever likely to see.

Wrong Cops is worth the time a day more so than it’s predecessor in the sense that it’s not only a lot more intriguing to watch where these louts end up, it also just might leave you grinning from ear to ear in the end.

Wrong

11170796_800

Quentin Dupieux wrote and directed a movie we praised some time ago called Rubber, featuring a killer tire as it’s lead. This time around, his 2012 film Wrong has a cast that is human in name only, because their actions and character are clearly something out of a dream world.

Wrong is the story of Dolph Springer, his lost dog, his new found guru Master Chang,( a cringe worthy William Fichtner) and, of course, a dogshit detective. As Quentin Duplex is quite possibly the only director with ability to make a killer tire entertaining, and this time around he painted a very sublime picture of determined oddballs in impossible situations,

It would sell the humor short to lump it into any one category. Throughout the film the presentation of absurdity shifts from dry, to broad, to over the top, and there will be an occasion or two where you’ll question if the joke is on you for watching it. The main surprise of this story is the fact that anything could happen, and it’s presented in such a matter of fact way, as if we’ve all been there and done that. That is just the sort of charm you don’t stumble upon to every day.

With as much as this film has going for it idea wise, there is an overall feeling of a missing ingredient. Perhaps a more consistent tone could have been achieved, as there aren’t many laugh out loud moments, this one is more of the ‘my goodness this is some kind of weird’ variety. Wrong would never be confused with Anchorman’s style of humor, as the biggest laugh are sure to come when the movie is over and you’re attempting to tot tell your friends just what you’ve watched.

Give Wrong a try,  and at the very least, you wont find it boring.

From the Makers of Animal Kingdom

hero_Rover-2014-1

Animal Kingdom is a most excellent film that was reviewed here a while back. If you haven’t already, check out the review and make it a priority to watch that film. Director and screenplay writer David Michod latest effort, Rover, stars Guy Pearce as a loner who pursues the men who stole his only possession.  Coming soon to your local art house/ independent cinema.

Lunopolis is a found footage movie about found footage, and that’s alll you need to know

Luno

 

When one Google’s mind trip movies on Netlfix, 2009’s found footage-ish, low budget, damn near no budget, indie, sci-fi flick Lunopolis will be at the top of said lists, and when one has has a sense of imagination and a touch of adventure on their resume, one watches said movie sight unseen.

Right off the bat, this film is able to portray, with significantly limited resources to dwell on, that good old fashioned sense of classic sci-fi that we all know and love. Lunopolis starts off as three film makers found footage about a mysterious object located by way of a broadcast from their favorite unexplained phenomena radio program. Luckily the film does not settle for just being average, and as the story progresses, it finds a depth you never see coming.

While you wont recognize one actor involved, they way the intensity and complexity of the story is ramped up as it plays out goes a long way to make you forget about it’s short comings. Lunopolis is impressive while not trying to impress too hard. It may not be as subtlety mind altering as 2004’s Primer, few films are, however Lunoplis is every bit as clever as it has to be in order to tell a story effectively while still being watchable by the average person.