Look! It's a trailer for the sequel to the Spider-Man reboot series! I found the first one to be underwhelming and inept, but a lot of people seemed to like it—or at least it made a ton of money. So, quick! Back to the spider-trough!
One positive thing I do have to say about this trailer is that they finally got the costume exactly right. Spider-Man looks just like Spider-Man in the comics, which is great.
Naturally, I decided to interview him with a few hard-hitting questions about TV and movie discoveries while on tour. Here’s what he had to tell me:
What are some memorable movies that you've ended up watching on tour? Which ones do you find yourself repeatedly re-watching? It changes from tour to tour. Sand, for example only watches No Retreat, No Surrender. With Cursive, there was a tour where Step Brothers was really resonating with the group of us young men. I think my favorite is on one Icy Demons tour, we got totally immersed in Some Kind of Monster, but not in a healthy way at all. Our tour manager started referring to us by the names of who he thought each of us was acting like, and guess who I got? The fucking producer! I thought I'd be an obvious choice for Kirk, in the role of master steedsman/shredder. Or at least the drummer.
Watch the trailer for Homefront, and you won't quite be able to tell if it's parody or not. You've got Jason Statham starring, of course, as a tough guy with a history; in this case, he's a cop who used to wear a really bad wig and go undercover with biker gangs. Statham is seen in several golden-framed scenes interacting with his precocious young daughter (Izabela Vidovic), where she says something about how much she misses her mommy, who died about a year ago. Statham misses her, too. Their decent new life in a small Louisiana town is endangered when they cross paths with a smarmy meth cook named Gator who's played by—here's where the parody part really kicks in—James Franco. Is this one of Franco's famous art-school projects, a shrugging pastiche made up of the most cliché plot elements imaginable? And what if I told you the screenplay was written by Sylvester Stallone? What would you say then?
But Homefront is surprisingly watchable...
After the jump, I'm going to be speaking freely about the new Hunger Games movie. If you want to read a spoiler-free review of Catching Fire, Anna Minard wrote one for you last week. Once you read below the trailer, you're going to be venturing into spoiler-filled territory.
Here be spoilers...
Kasi Lemmons' adaptation of Black Nativity:
Written by the poet Langston Hughes and first performed in 1961, Black Nativity is a retelling of the classic Christmas story featuring gospel music and an all-black cast. It's also a Seattle institution, with the talent-packed local production—directed by Jacqueline Moscou, choreographed by Donald Byrd, with musical direction by the Total Experience Gospel Choir's Pastor Patrinell Wright—playing to packed houses (first at the Intiman, then at the Moore) every year from 1998 to 2012.
At the center of Black Nativity is the simple and familiar story of a mother, a father, and their son. These characters aren't so much real-life humans as figures in a mythic play about parents and children, love and fear, judgment and forgiveness. In the Seattle stage production, the story was brought to life with serious theatrics, provided by a 30-member choir, nearly a dozen dancers, and a live band. In the Hollywood film adaptation, things are powered by original Raphael Saadiq compositions—performed in classic musical style, with characters bursting out in song during regular life—and interstitial rapping by Nas. But the primary draw of the film is its A-list talent (Saadiq and Nas included). Nothing can enliven a big, broad, familiar story like great actors, ones who see clichés as challenges, and who can fill the spindliest outline of a character with vibrant life....
Read the whole review here.
Also opening today: the Stallone-scripted, Statham-starring Homefront, the Safdie brothers portrait of a would-be basketball star Lenny Cooke, and Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty, which Charles Mudede calls "one delight after another."
Full film listings here.
This week’s short is “The End,” a film by Cameron McHarg, a Seattle native who currently lives and makes movies in LA. The subject of the “The End,” which has an impressive closing scene, is none other than the end of the world. Its insight is this: The death or extinction of an individual, from the perspective of the individual, is nothing but the end of the world. Everyone dies when you die. The whole world falls into darkness, when you fall into darkness. The world has ended billions of times before and will end billions of times more.
Philomena is the new film from Stephen Frears, the director who brought us the great Prick Up Your Ears and The Grifters, and many other beloved films. As Stranger reviewer Alison Hallett writes about Frears' latest work:
Philomena is a quirky movie about an adorable old Irish lady—played by none other than Dame Judi Dench—and its release is timed to coincide with prime holiday family-movie-viewing season. You're right to be skeptical. All signs point to schlock. But Philomena is excellent, thanks to the brilliant odd-couple pairing of Judi Dench and Steve Coogan—and to a script that balances heart, humor, and a fierce sense of moral outrage.
The sap-friendly trailer (featured below) nevertheless made me laugh out loud twice. Judi Dench is so good at her job.
Also opening today: The Armstrong Lie, Alex Gibney's rewardingly hair-splitting documentary about the fall of Lance Armstrong (trailer here), and Frozen, the new animated Disney musical described by reviewer Denis C. Theriault as "the first [Disney film] in a long time that I can remember making me grin, laugh, and tear up, all while stunning my eyes with some of the most magical computer animation I've ever seen." (Trailer here.)
Full movie times here.
What it's about:
Artist Anders Ramsell animated Blade Runner by painting 12,597 different water color paintings and stringing them together into beautifully fluid sequences. It's incredible, you feel like you're watching Blade Runner, you get to hear Harrison Ford and follow the story but you're seeing it like never before—in moving art.
I have to thank my man Drew Christie for the tip.
Linda Holmes at NPR's pop-culture blog, Monkey See, has a really interesting take on gender roles in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. (No real spoilers, but lots of character analysis if you're some kind of ultimate spoiler-free freak.)
Consider the evidence: Peeta's family runs a bakery. He can literally bake a cherry pie, as the old song says.
He is physically tough, but markedly less so than she is. He's got a good firm spine, but he lacks her disconnected approach to killing. Over and over, she finds herself screaming "PEETA!", not calling for help but going to help, and then running, because he's gone and done some damn fool thing like gotten himself electrocuted.
Her larger mission—her war against the Capitol—often drifts out of focus behind her smaller, more immediate mission: saving Peeta. She lets others know that if it's down to the two of them, he should be saved because of his goodness. She is unsurprised when she's told she doesn't deserve him.
He encourages her to talk about her feelings. He encourages her to share herself with others. He promises her, falsely but selflessly, that her indifference doesn't hurt him and she owes him nothing. If she ever wants to come to her senses, come down from those fences, he'll be there.
He's better than she is, but softer. He's less knowing than she is. He's less cynical than she is. He's just as tough and as brave as he can possibly be with the skill set he has, and she's responsible for mopping up when that's not enough. To fail to protect him is to betray her, because that may well be the only job she gives you.
Read the rest! Somehow, I hadn't really latched on to this aspect of the gender dynamics in these books and films. It's a really, really interesting point—and, Holmes says, while we all know people who subvert gender dynamics in our lives, guys like Peeta rarely get to be on screen.
Thanks, Slog Tipper Kitri!
File under: The internet is changing things. It's increasingly difficult to separate creators from their work, as we have access to more information than ever about the lives and beliefs of people whose work we consume. Rumors of dickish behaviors spread via social media in a way they never did via gossip magazines, and consumers accustomed to voting with their dollars might be tempted to apply the same logic toward entertainment. (Hate homophobia? Don't see Ender's Game.)
It raises the question: If you disagree with an artist, should you boycott their work? (Does it matter that if Zelda Fitzgerald had had a Tumblr, we undoubtedly would have thought differently of F. Scott?)
Personally, the notion of living in a world where I only consume art and entertainment created by people with whom I ideologically agree is some Soviet Russia shit. Plenty of people disagree with me; I'm sorry that those people will miss seeing the excellent new French film Blue Is the Warmest Color, which has been plagued by controversy since its release.
Frankly, I'm surprised that the trailer for Lars Von Trier's new movie is on YouTube, because it's wildly NSFW. Be warned before you press play: It gets dirty.
Blue is a French film about a lesbian relationship that's directed by a man, Abdellatif Kechiche, and stars two straight women. Its lead actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, claim their working conditions during filming were "horrible," particularly during the film's already-infamous sex scene. At Cannes, the Palme d'Or was given to both the director and the two leads, an acknowledgement of how intense and fully realized the performances are. Since then, the two women have publicly stated they will never work with Kechiche again. And then there's the sex: The creator of the graphic novel on which the film was based says the film gets lesbian sex all wrong, and there's already a hilarious reaction video in which lesbians comment on the perceived authenticity of the sex scenes, which feature more scissoring and butt-slapping than one might expect from two young women having their first sexual encounter.
But here's the thing: Blue is an excellent movie. It's three hours long, and it feels half that; it's a fantastically realistic and well-drawn love story between two women that ranks among the best I've ever seen.
Yes, yes, YES. Regarding all the sex-scene hubbub: The most interesting and upsetting thing I've read about their filming came from star Léa Seydoux, who told an interviewer that unlike traditional love scenes, where things are choreographed and "sex" equals actors hitting their marks, director Kechiche had the women "improvise." Of all the things I've read about Kechiche's directorial work, this is the most chilling. Denied the distance and control of a choreographed scene, with no official marks to hit, the actors were left to feel their way through the scenes on their own and to forge their own minute-to-minute connections. This is also called "having sex," which Kechiche reportedly required the women to do for days on end while he filmed. Then came the male-gazey shooting and editing of the scenes, and here we are.
What's important to know is that, whatever you think of Blue's sex scenes, they are a small part of a movie that is filled with brilliance. At the center of it all: Adèle Exarchopoulos, a young actor who opens herself up to Kechiche's camera heroically. After spending three hours watching her eat (trigger warning: open-mouth chewing) and sleep and walk around and fuck and sob, often at point-blank range, I walked out loving her and feeling protective of her and knowing I'd miss her once I left the theater. It's a really good movie. Go see it.
This week’s short is “Future Movement,” a film directed by Kyle Seago (a local filmmaker) and produced by the folks at STG. The work, which stars the noted local dancer and 2013 Genius nominee for performance Amy O'Neal, celebrates “15 years of dance and performance education” provided for area youth by STG. The music in “Future Movement” is dreamy and soothing, and the images seem to float from moment to moment like a color-bright cloud on a sunny autumn day.
If you're trying to decide whether you should see Alexander Payne's new movie Nebraska, you should read David Schmader's review, which is exactly right. I have a few ideas about the movie that I wanted to work out here, but if you only read one review of Nebraska, absolutely make it Schmader's. But if you want to read two reviews of Nebraska, we should talk.
It seems as though Payne's films are all obsessed, in one way or another, with the void, with nothingness. I forget which review I read of About Schmidt that made a big production of pointing out that Jack Nicholson's Schmidt finds his dead wife next to a vacuum, but that observation opened up a whole world for me. In fact, most of Payne's movies have to do with the void. (Most of those voids, troublingly, are embodied by women. The absence of a woman filling the space where a woman once was drives the plot of The Descendants, Sideways, and About Schmidt. Election was about Tracy Flick's moral void. Citizen Ruth took place in the gaping chasm between pro-life and pro-choice.)
Nebraska, with its beautiful, bleak black and white cinematography, is set entirely in the vacuum that Payne has been flirting with for his whole career. With its wide shots of grassless, rockless flat landscapes stretching to bland horizons, you get the sense that if Nebraska was shot in color, there wouldn't be much of a difference. The land itself doesn't care about anyone. It was there before the movie started. It watched all the characters in the movie grow up. It'll be there after they die. It never noticed they were there.
It's interesting that Payne had to jump, head-first, into the emptiness that his characters have been so afraid to address in order to make a movie that fully respects the humanity of its characters. Payne always seems to have a certain distance from his characters; he reserves the right to laugh at them even as he feels for them. (Think of George Clooney's ridiculous trot from one house to another in The Descendants, with Payne following every agonizing step. It feels like a humiliation to not cut away from Clooney as he flip-flops awkwardly down the street. And Paul Giamatti barely left Sideways with a shred of dignity intact.) But Nebraska is a movie that falls in love with its characters, even as it slowly uncovers all the contradictions and cruelties that makes them who they are. In the middle of all that nothingness, Payne realizes that their dignity, their humanity, is all they have. Some characters come out of Nebraska looking better than others—man, I wish Payne had rounded out June Squibb's wife and mother a bit more, made her a little less shrill, because she's certainly not helping his iffy record with female characters—but every one of them has a heart. Sometimes, the beating of those hearts is the only sound you can hear, in the vacuum of Nebraska.
I'm a Jason Statham fan, and this just makes me like him more:
Jason Statham hopes to stoke a growing fire under the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to finally recognize stunt actors with their own Oscar category.
“All of the stunt men — these are the unsung heroes,” Statham said in an interview with Vanity Fair. “Nobody is giving them any credibility. They’re risking their necks. And then you’ve got poncy actors pretending like they’re doing [the stunts].”
According to this blog post from 2011, the average stunt actor salary is $70,000. Sure, the big names make more—if the back of your head happens to resemble the back of Tom Cruise's head, you'll probably be making a lot more—but this is highly specialized work that deserves to be recognized. Every year, the producers of the Oscars find time in their interminable broadcast ceremonies for special tributes. They could surely axe one bloated production number to make room to acknowledge the real hardest-working people in showbiz.
The newest Muppet movie comes out in spring 2014. Here's the trailer:
I think the trailer maybe gave away too much, but I'm still dying to see it. How about you?
Gizmodo's Mario Aguilar rounds up the offerings, from humongous gumball machines to "wet floor" signs and beyond....
This week's short film is the video for Hey Marseilles’ lovely tune “Heart Beats.” My reason for featuring the music video? Not only is its director of photography one of the most important figures in Seattle’s film industry, Benjamin Kasulke (the 2013 winner of the Genius Award for film), but also it’s the first significant cinematic use of the expanding light rail system, Link. We have seen the ferry system and I-5 in many, many films and videos, but never before this new mode of moving around our emerald-colored town.
What do a temple of modernist cuisine in Chicago, a 150-year-old country restaurant in Iowa, and a brand-new Mexican place struggling to survive in Tucson have in common? The answer—beyond the obvious common denominator, food—varies from nearly nil to more than you'd expect, depending on the angle of observation taken in the documentary Spinning Plates. And if the comparisons and contrasts sometimes feel forced as the film alternates among the three, it hardly matters: Spinning Plates is full of twists and turns, life and death, families and fires. Food may be the foundation, but these are profiles in determination, disaster, and devotion. You can't write stuff like this...
Torrentfreak notes that the Motion Picture Association of America issued a new guidebook encouraging movie theater owners to get obsessive over pirates:
In the revised guide the MPAA has stripped the billions of dollars in claimed losses that were included previously, but stresses that illegal camcording remains a significant problem. The movie industry group therefore advises theater owners to strictly prohibit the use of equipment that can record audio, video, or even take photographs.
“The MPAA recommends that theaters adopt a Zero Tolerance policy that prohibits the video or audio recording and the taking of photographs of any portion of a movie,” MPAA states.
The best practices now also clarify that when a suspect individual is spotted, theater employees should take immediate action. Even when in doubt, the local police should be notified as soon as possible.
Consumerist has more, including a link to a PDF of the guidelines. There are a couple of problems with this initiative. First, it's interesting that the MPAA is pushing so hard against the filming of movies. Now that movies are delivered digitally—something that studios pushed for, often against the will of movie theater owners—there are plenty of other ways to pirate a movie. And second, considering how hard movie studios make it for theater owners to make a profit, it seems idiotic of them to trust theater owners with this supposedly important responsibility.
Darren Aronofsky directs the Biblical story with a cast including Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson:
What do you think?
The raw elements of this cinema: The rope, the hopping about, the swings, the misses, the blows, the explosive spittle, the plunge of the glove, the blasts of sweat, the crunching of bones, the ring of the bell, the corner, the stool, the words of encouragement, the dizziness, the dimming consciousness, the rowdy audience, the swollen eye...
Martin Scorsese's RAGING BULL released on this day in 1980. pic.twitter.com/g8VyOURhOQ
— Peter Avellino (@PeterAPeel) November 14, 2013
I'll admit that most of the names attached to this film—Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, first-time director (and former production designer) Robert Stromberg—don't excite me much. But I do love Juno Temple right now; she elevated both Magic Magic and The Brass Teapot with her performances. And the fact that the movie was co-written by animation legend Paul Dini also makes me a little more interested in it. Here's the trailer:
What do you think?
...a new study indicates these films have only become more and more violent since the PG-13 rating was first introduced in the ’80s — to the extent that PG-13 films actually have more gun violence these days than R-rated movies do.
This is because PG-13 is generally accepted as the four-quadrant rating, the one rating that's not too babyish or too gory. But because a lot of industry money relies on the fact that blockbuster movies get PG-13 ratings, it's essentially become meaningless. PG-13 isn't so much a single digit on a spectrum as a seal of assurance from a sex-obsessed organization that there's no sexy content in the movie. Because kids should see as much gunplay as possible—as long as there's no blood, or consequences to the gun battles, mind you—but heaven forbid a too-passionate makeout session fouls their pwecious eyes.
Running at SIFF Cinema Uptown from November 9–11, the "Men Behaving Badly" mini-fest involves a quartet of beloved '70s films, each presented on a freshly restored digital print and "featuring troubled men dealing with tumultuous circumstances as best they can," says SIFF. It's a nice wide net, capable of snagging virtually every movie ever made, from Birth of a Nation to The Dark Knight Rises, and SIFF has narrowed it down to a good, strong, aesthetically harmonious four.
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Bob Rafaelson directs Jack Nicholson to one of his best performances in this spare, gritty, and wry drama about a prodigal son of privilege chasing vague romance as an oil worker before being called home for a reckoning with his dying father. What you'll remember most: the great supporting performance by the late Karen Black, who creates a weird '70s sexpot like no other.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
A poetic black-and-white portrait of 1950s Texas idleness set to a Hank Williams soundtrack, Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show remains a miracle of American filmmaking. Not only does it improve upon its source material (Larry McMurtry's acclaimed novel), the film draws career-best performances from every member of its vast cast. While the men (Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Ben Johnson) behave badly, the women act brilliantly; it's hard to think of another film so dense with rich female performances. Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Cybill Shepard, and the late, great Eileen Brennan all do work that will take your breath away. If you've never seen The Last Picture Show, you must.