Opening in Chicago, Weekend of 07/06

Standard

The Amazing Spider-Man (trailer)
Director: Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer)
Personal Interest Factor: 6
This seems like perhaps the most desperate studio move ever, and yet all indications are that they’ve managed to make a not-terrible film out of it anyway. Who woulda thunk.
Metacritic: 66

Beasts of the Southern Wild (trailer)
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Personal Interest Factor: 8
Big Sundance hit, and one of the most intriguing trailers in awhile. Definitely looking forward to it.
Metacritic: 83

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (trailer)
Directors: Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Baghead, Cyrus, Jeff, Who Lives at Home)
Personal Interest Factor: 4
The Duplass brothers sneak in another movie, about two brothers and their made-up contest for superiority. After watching their last two releases, I’m just not sure I can do this one.
Metacritic: 60

Savages (trailer)
Director: Oliver Stone (Alexander, World Trade Center, W., Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps)
Personal Interest Factor: 7
As I’ve said recently, I used to be a huge fan of Oliver Stone, although that’s faded somewhat over the years. I still think that he’s an extremely capable, sometimes even thrilling director; the first half of the Wall Street sequel was pretty great. Hell, even Alexander had some interesting ideas hidden behind one of the worst casting decisions ever. But something about this one looks wrong to me. Maybe Universal doesn’t know how to market it, or something. But the idea of Stone doing a crass drug-gang thrill-ride seems, oh, 30 years outdated, especially now that the violence has gotten so extreme and widespread.
Metacritic: 62

Turn Me On, Dammit! (trailer)
Director: Jannicke Systad Jacobsen
Personal Interest Factor: 6
Norwegian film about a horny 15-year-old girl. Decent reviews, but it’s tough to get a read on it from the trailer, which unhelpfully cuts out any actual dialogue in favor of a bunch of random edits.
Metacritic: 70

Also this week:
Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story (trailer) – doc about the aftermath of an Israeli hostage rescue in 1976
Hipsters – Russian film set during the 1950s underground nightclub scene
Katy Perry: Part of Me (trailer) – concert doc

16 responses »

  1. But the idea of Stone doing a crass drug-gang thrill-ride seems, oh, 30 years outdated, especially now that the violence has gotten so extreme and widespread.

    Ah. See where you’re coming from. Glad your ‘want to see’ is at 7, though.

    And if I may: Who the F*#K do the Duplass brothers keep getting money from?! You know what I think? I think Sundance has become so meta, that it’s funding the movies that it shows that everyone calls ‘Sundance’ movies. Otherwise…i want to rip my eyes out with a dull spoon.

  2. Never been much of a Stone fan. He’s a director who likes to call attention to himself, with his changes in film stock and color schemes. The films you liked so much in the 90s: JFK, Natural Born Killers, and Nixon, were the worst of those offenders, although each had their upsides. When he just told a story, like Platoon, he was very good, and that remains his best film.

  3. The films you liked so much in the 90s: JFK, Natural Born Killers, and Nixon, were the worst of those offenders…

    Funny, that was something I liked (and still do) about all three. And criticizing him for “calling attention to himself” with JFK and Natural Born Killers, especially, is like criticizing Marilyn Monroe for being a blonde.

    Did you ever see Talk Radio? It’s a flawed film in some ways, but very underrated in his body of work, to the extent that even I frequently forget to mention it.

  4. I LOVED Talk Radio when it came out.
    Must have watched it 30 times…at least.
    And I had completely forgotten about it.

  5. Funny, that was something I liked (and still do) about all three. And criticizing him for “calling attention to himself” with JFK and Natural Born Killers, especially, is like criticizing Marilyn Monroe for being a blonde.

    I don’t get that. Marilyn Monroe being blonde was inoffensive (and attractive). Stone using every trick in the book was (is) watching a guy who thinks he invented the movies, but without any insight. Oliver Stone, at least after Platoon, forgot the meaning of the word restraint.

  6. I don’t get that. Marilyn Monroe being blonde was inoffensive (and attractive). Stone using every trick in the book was (is) watching a guy who thinks he invented the movies, but without any insight.

    My point was that JFK and Natural Born Killers were meant to call attention to themselves – it was their entire reason for being, they were brash, confrontational works. For better or worse, they demanded a response from the viewer in a way that most movies don’t.

    I never got the feeling that Stone thought “he invented the movies” – I’m not even sure what that means. He did have a unique style that he used for those films, and he wasn’t subtle about it. But then again, subtlety is not automatically a virtue and lack of it is not necessarily a demerit.

  7. I just mean that Stone is a pretentious, self-indulgent filmmaker. JFK was a good film, Natural Born Killers was not. Nixon was so-so. I do think that subtlety requires a lot more talent that what Stone has been doing for the last twenty years.

  8. I’d have to say I fall closer to Brian with this one.
    Brian says the films demanded a response from the viewer in a way most movies don’t. I agree he almost went completely off the reservation with ‘Killers’…but wasn’t that the point? Wasn’t the point of that movie, though supremely heavy-handed, to make a critique of pop culture? No matter what you think of it, the scenes with Rodney Dangerfield doing what he did in a ‘sitcom style’ are so disturbing to watch, you can’t *not* think about the style and how it affected you after seeing it…no? I remember almost nothing about that movie. But I remember that…and those horrifying POV grainy black and white shots. Maybe one goal of that movie for him was to get you *not* to like it?
    And how was he supposed to shoot JFK? There was a documentary on editing. And they were talking about the scene where Oswald gets away. Stone told the editor that he wasn’t making the footage ‘manic’ enough. The editor didn’t get it. So the editor, in a fit of frustration, just mashed the keys randomly for edits and then showed Stone the footage. Stone said ‘that’s it’. The editor said ‘what?’ (I believe this was Joe Hutshing they were interviewing) and Stone said: “Everyone believes they know this story. They’re going to be comfortable watching what they think they know. Keep them uncomfortable”.
    I dunno…I see that in a lot of his work from JFK to even Any Given Sunday. He takes familiar things like Nixon and football and tries to make them uncomfortable.

  9. Wait, I want to say Stone took things you BELIEVE are familiar and tried to make them uncomfortable. Maybe to say, again, even if really heavy-handed, that you better not get so comfortable with what you ‘think’ you know.

  10. Haven’t seen as much of Stone’s work as I should’ve although what I have seen I’ve had widely diverse reactions to.

    Thought ‘Talk Radio’ was terrific although that seemed to be driven by Bogosian more than Stone. On the other hand, I found ‘Natural Born Killers’ so repellent that I didn’t even make it to the end. It’s been a while since I’ve seen either film though.

    Thought the original Wall Street was overrated, too obvious and heavy-handed in its message, especially when Douglas’s character speechifies towards the end. Agree with Brian about the sequel, thought it was generally very good but really threw the potential away in the last 30 minutes.

  11. Savages is actually pretty good. Detractors of voice-over narration will have another data point, since the movie is rather pointlessly narrated by Lively’s character. But the story is very strong – Stone and his writers have a good feel for the characters and their circumstances, and the story is relentlessly logical in the way it plays out. A big narrative twist at the end is extremely daring, bu again, the logic of it is pretty clear, so it didn’t feel like a cheat to me.

    As for the actors, neither Lively nor Taylor Kitsch make much of an impression, but I was really surprised by Aaron Johnson. He was so dull in Kick-Ass, but he’s excellent here, playing a somewhat skittish dealer. There are so many character traits piled on top of him that his role could have turned out to be downright laughable – he’s a business-minded, charity-driven Buddhist pot dealer who’s also a botany expert – but he actually makes the character work.

    Meanwhile, Salma Hayek and Benecio del Toro both have a lot of fun playing up the Mexican cartel villians, but among the supporting roles, Travolta of all people is the one who stands out the most. He’s a crooked DEA agent, and he has probably the best scenes in the movie as he begs for his life in various scenarios. His guy is a really cynical creation, and even though he’s somewhat positioned as comic relief, in some ways he grounds the movie in the real world, because it’s not hard to imagine that guys like him more than anything keep the current drug war situation going. He’s a little like Nic Cage’s character in Lord of War – not really on either side, but in a position to keep both sides fighting each other.

    Anyway, consider me pleasantly surprised. Not a perfect movie, but a high point in Stone’s recently inconsistent output.

  12. I pretty much agree with your take on Savages, Brian.The narration is completely superfluous, and probably comes from the novel. The switcheroo at the end threw me, but only because I was starting to leave the theater mentally, and realized I had another ten minutes. Travolta is terrific–he should be remembered around Oscar time as Supporting Actor contender.

    Stone’s hyperbolic direction suits the material here–sometimes I get aggravated at this seemingly random changes of film stock, but I think they were warranted in this case. I also loved the use of music (and the ring-tone on the cartel’s phone and laptops, a very funny touch).

    I give the film a B.

  13. What’s the quick word on Beasts of the Southern Wild, Brian? It’s playing in Montclair, about a forty-minute drive from me. Is it worth it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s