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I’ll See You in My Dreams

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****

You ever going to light that thing?

Carol (Blythe Danner) and Lloyd (Martin Starr) enjoying some afternoon wine in "I'll See You in My Dreams," © 2015 Bleecker Street Media.

Carol (Blythe Danner) and Lloyd (Martin Starr) enjoying some afternoon wine in “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” © 2015 Bleecker Street Media.

It was nice to see Blythe Danner—Dina from Meet the Parents—in a starring role. Hollywood tends to discriminate very strongly against women who are not young and old people who are not men. I thought she was great as a senior citizen not looking for love who stumbles upon a couple of men she finds she cares about. They are Sam Elliott—narrator of The Big Lebowski and Ford spokesman—and Martin Starr—the real depressing guy from “Party Down”. She has a great collection of friends, like Rhea Pearlman, who provide laughs and help us hear what Danner is thinking. I also adore Malin Akerman—Silk Spectre II from Watchmen—so her appearance as Danner’s daughter was delightful.

This movie touched me by showing how fleeting life can be and how quickly we make connections and how slowly we lose them. Danner also shows off that she is a great singer. Best actress nomination to her with a best supporting actor nod to Martin Starr for playing a Martin Starr type, even if that’s not really a stretch.

Never Say Never Again

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IF I were to have live tweeted this movie, here are some of the things I would have tweeted:

M to Bond, “Eliminate all free radicals.” Ha! Ha! Get it? I hope you do, because this movie is nothing but lazy puns!

Edward Fox—General Horrocks in A Bridge Too Far—does have a good demeanor for playing M.

FoxM

Did you know that this is a remake of Thunderball?

Did you know that the theme song to this is infinitely worse than Tom Jones’ Thunderball?

Tom Jones’ Thunderball would make a good name for a band.

Where is the Bond music? The fight scenes work less well without that, or some equally good theme.

Disconnecting the weights from a universal bench press decreases the weight, no the reverse. Oops.

Having the beefy henchman throw the janitor right when the janitor wakes up again is pretty funny.

Why is the beefy henchman dressed like an Australian karate chauffeur?

What just got thrown into the eyes of the Australian karate chauffeur?? And why did it kill him?

James Bond’s urine. From a sample. WHAT DOES HE CONSUME THAT MAKES IT HYDROCHLORIC (instead of uric) ACID!?

Also, the henchman crushed a bunch of glass into his own back post-urine splash.

The plan is to make this US airman betray his country by altering his eye into matching the President’s. Can’t believe it’s working!

In Thunderball they steal the plane, but in this they fire the nuclear missiles…even if they were “dummies” why would we practice this!?

Ha, the missiles went from 10 km away, to 4 km, to 5 km, to 3 km. Silly math!

Max Von Sydow is awesome as Blofeld. I could listen to him define S.P.E.C.T.R.E. all day.

The 00 section has been reinstated! Huzzah! I worried that the movie would become mostly Bond filing papers.

This dancing scene with Kim Basinger is pretty creepy. Why is her audio ADR-ed? I wonder if Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer–The Russia House) got ADR-ed too?

Wow, Goldeneye ripped off the whole “bureaucrats and computers” running MI-6 complaints from this movie. Tsk tsk.

Young Rowan Atkinson! He is pre-Mr. Bean!

I like how Fatima Blush’s boat looks like the disco volante!

The Disco Volante being Largo’s big ship, duh.

Is that a bomb she put on Bond’s scuba tank? Of course not! That would never work! It’s  shark homing device!

This shark is a good actor.

No! He trapped the shark! Its’ jut a movie, it’s just a movie, it’s just a movie.

Wow, James Bond reeled in by a woman wearing only overalls! Classic 1980s side boob.

And now Fatima has taken my advice and decided to use a bomb. #Learning

The original Black Felix Leiter! His name is Bernie Casey and he played Cal Hudson on Star Trek: DS9. I knew I recognized him from Star Trek.

Domino (Basinger) has the opposite reaction most people would have to learning that their masseuse was in fact some random stranger not employed by the facility.

The more she thought about it, the more aroused she seemed to get.

Does she have a random stranger touching her without her knowing it fetish?

Is that a fetish?

The video game! There is so much in the movie that I associate with the Bond movies that I did not realize!

“It’s called Domination.” Creeeeeper.

You get shocked when you’re losing. Makes me not want to play this game.

Okay, so why would Fatima be so pleased about killing someone other than James Bond?

Her mission was to kill James Bond.

The female French agent? Totally not James Bond.

Her plan to capture him has worked great though! #SpokeToSoon

Her outfit. Is. Amazing.

Fatima0710-never2

I wish I could find one with a good view of those pants.

“I’m doing this for two reasons…one I’m trying to provoke an answer…and two, because I always wanted to.”

Wow this just turned offensive in northern Africa. #Slavers

This clearly influenced The Living Daylights wih the AKs and horses and Muslims.

Missed an opportunity for a Wilhelm Scream there!

Jumping off that castle into the water on a horse was Fast 5 level insane.

Why would Domino (Basinger) care about Bond after knowing him for like two days? He’s just not that likable.

I can’t even…

It makes more sense if you realize they were fired from a submarine...

It makes more sense if you realize they were fired from a submarine…

James Bond with a Mac 10, aka an uzi? To quote James Bond in Goldfinger, “shocking.”

How do the henchmen get these jobs? I like how one of them really appreciates the beauty of his surroundings.

As much as I like seeing Kim Basinger in a tiger bathing suit, I do not want to have to see Sean Connery in thin white trunks.

“I always have a martini at five.” — Alcoholic or OCD?

*** or somehow ½ star less than Thunderball. I gave Thunderball 3 & ½ stars!? And Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-?!?

And that concludes the first and only time I will do this. I will never fake live tweet a movie again.

“Never?”

“Never.”

<Cue theme song “Never say never again”>

Spy

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****½

Nothing kills me. I’m immune to 179 different types of poison. I know because I ingested them all at once when I was deep undercover in an underground poison-ingesting crime ring.

Rick Ford (Jason Statham) and Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarther) trying not to yell at each other in Spy.

Rick Ford (Jason Statham) and Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarther) trying not to yell at each other in Spy.

Sometimes a movie looks too good to be true. To whit…

  1. Paul Feig, the writer/director who is Melissa McCarthy’s muse, directing Melissa McCarthy.
  2. McCarthy playing a dumped upon woman who is fighting to break out of her shell even if it means cracking hilarious jokes every 45 seconds.
  3. The two male super spies played by Jason F’n Statham (as the badass) and Jude Law (as the James Bond).
  4. A James Bond movie.

Oh, how many times have I been disappointed by similar formulas? The Man Who Would Be King had John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) directing a buddy epic with Sean Connery (James Bond) and Michael Caine (Get Carter) in 1975! Cheesy and disappointing. The Ninth Gate came from a novel I have re-read (Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Club Dumas), was directed by Roman Polanski (Chinatown), and starred Johnny Depp (Cap’n Jack Sparrow) and Frank Langella (Nixon in Frost/Nixon)! I, along with most of the crowd, openly boo-laughed at the end credits.¹ Slither came from James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and starred Captain Malcolm “Castle” Reynolds himself, Nathan Fillion, and even had Michael Rooker (Mallrats) with Elizabeth Banks (Miri from Zack and Miri). I barely could make myself finish that one.

So when it came time to enjoy this surefire hit, I had no small sense of dread. But this movie was awesome and so was everyone in it! Now I love Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class) and the guy who played Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz) too. As someone who has seen every James Bond movie, the satire is spot on: the gadgetry, the villains with henchmen, the condescending earpiece to boss around the field agent all mission long, the unnecessarily high stakes, and the sexism. Unlike most Bond movies, this tackles sexism head on. Certainly McCarthy’s Susan Cooper makes a few too many jokes at her own expense, particularly about her looks, but grading on the curve of mainstream cinema this is definitely a progressive movie. The hyper-masculine Rick Ford (Statham, voice of the above poison quotation) manages to maintain his parody-level machismo to such a degree that it becomes believable (or at least sustainably suspended disbelievable). And Ford’s in her face objections provide a nice foil, without actually portraying the antagonist. He had the subtlety of Agent Carter’s 1940s co-workers, but by being so self-assured and offensive, he seemed less forced. Contrasted with this blunt instrument is Jude Law, who, aside from accidentally killing a bad guy by sneezing, seems the picture of cool obliviousness. Instead of telling Cooper that she will assuredly fail, he highlights how good of a team they make, just with her staying at CIA headquarters and him in the field doing the actual field work. By managing to delineate our society’s obnoxious sexism it allows two women to antagonize each other for the central plot, which was a nice change. Speaking of female character, there is a pleasant surprise when the deputy director (Alison Janney) watches a video of Cooper from her academy days when she was like a ninja. Cooper is neither an idiot savant, nor instantaneously bad-ass, but seemingly an agent who has held herself back. Thankfully we now live in a society where David Wain can make Melissa McCarthy movies and have a budget that still has room for Jason Statham and Jude Law.

 

¹ Would this be blaughed? Looed? Labooed?

Tangerine

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****

Have you seen Chester? – said about 40 times.

Ah yes, a transgender prostitute (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez as Sin Dee) dragging her kidnappee/female prostitute (Mickey O'Hagan as Dinah) by the hair through the streets of L.A., © Duplass Bros. Prods. 2015.

Ah yes, a transgender prostitute (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez as Sin Dee) dragging her kidnappee/female prostitute (Mickey O’Hagan as Dinah) by the hair through the streets of L.A., © Duplass Bros. Prods. 2015.

What can I say that has not already been said about this smaller, subtler Crash? The lives of a few Los Angelinos intertwine as a transgender woman, named Sin Dee, gets out of jail to the news, from her best friend Alexandra, that her boyfriend has been cheating on her! Along the way we meet an Armenian(?) cabbie named Razmik who very humorously freaks out when he goes to perform oral sex on a woman and spazzes when she does not have a penis. Of course he is married to a woman and it is Christmas eve and he has a thing for Alexandra, who is singing at a club and only he shows up, and Sin Dee kidnaps the white female prostitute whom Chester, the boyfriend/pimp has been trucking with while our star was in the clink.

The lives of these somewhat hopeless people were tolerable only when they themselves could tolerate them. Whenever things got too bleak I stopped caring for the film. In reality, I am sure that transgender people in L.A. have had worse days and worse lives, but this was hard to swallow. There is no happy ending waiting behind the next bus, but instead the best they can hope for is companionship from people who can relate, even if they have already been betrayed by them.

Rodriguez, Ransome and Taylor in Tangerine.

Rodriguez, Ransome and Taylor in Tangerine.

The music seemed really modern and well chosen. If I had not heard that this was shot on an iPhone I would never have thought, “there is no way this was shot on an iPhone.” But as it was shot on an iPhone and I did hear that it was, I did have that thought 3-4 times during the movie. Lastly, the cast crushed it. My favorite was James Ransome as Chester, but that might be my “The Wire” bias showing. The above image encapsulates so much of the story. Sin Dee calmly looking sexy, Alexandra angry because Sin Dee has been out of control all day—see above kidnapping—and is being fake about it now in front of Chester, and Chester, the man surrounded by women, trying to keep them all in check and lining up to sleep with/for him. This is a fresh approach to the well tread path of a woman trying to win her man back only to realize that she deserves better. Does she learn that? Does she deserve better? Is there a better pronoun than “she” for transgendered people who self-identify as women? This sometimes frustrating crazy ride will answer all of those questions through one exciting day in L.A.

Dope

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****

I’m from a poor, crime-filled neighborhood, raised by a single mother, don’t know my dad, blah, blah. It’s cliche.

Kiersey Clemmons, Shameik Moore, and Tony Revolori, from Dope © Open Road Films 2015.

Kiersey Clemmons, Shameik Moore, and Tony Revolori, from Dope © Open Road Films 2015.

This movie, similar to Hustle and Flow before it, tries hard to be original by taking a familiar story and populating it with unfamiliar low income (mostly) Black Americans. On the whole what results is like a less good Scott Pilgrim vs The World. I mention that particular young anti-hero comedy because Scott is in a band and so are Malcolm, Jib and Diggy. While the music may not be as good as in Scott Pilgrim, their song is pretty catchy, which Pharrell wrote. Knowing that, and recognizing the narrator’s voice as Forest Whitaker’s, it is surprising to learn that Rick Famuyiwa wrote and directed this—instead of someone more famous. Fortunately the story moves along well. There were more than a few good laughs along the way. I felt the tension that Malcolm, Jig and Diggy had, as they were assigned to distribute a few pounds of molly. Since it is a comedy takes place in LA I want to compare it to Friday, favorably, but my audience appears almost wholly unfamiliar with Ice Cube’s seminal (acting) work. On the other hand, I even watched Next Friday³ in theaters and wish I could get that money back to give to the cast & crew of this superior movie, so maybe I am the outlier.

On a more meta level, it occurs to me that this movie’s device of having a teen (Shameik Moore’s Malcolm), who is applying to Harvard, run into trouble necessitating a showcase of his varied talents, including those stereotypical and traditional, but with the touch of something edgy and new, works for Famuyiwa also. Famuyiwa has a few writing and directing credits from 1999 to 2010, but not that many, and none again until this year’s Dope. This should show that he is up to the task of almost any hollywood movie out there, which puts him ahead of most of the people actually making those movies.

³ I originally typed Friday After Next, the third Friday movie, but upon reflection realized that I have not seen that unfortunate follow up.

The Wolfpack

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****

I am pissed off because the rest of my damn review has disappeared. What remains is below. Bereft of pictures, quotations, links…oy. I will update and re-review this unique documentary some other time. But since I fear losing my work again…I am hitting publish now.

It felt cool to see this documentary before Entertainment Weekly put it on their must list and gave it a positive review. That touches on the dual edged sword of reviewing non-mainstream movies. When I review Avengers: Age of Ultron, I can get my review up before the opening weekend ends and can (hopefully) impact the decision making of people like you. Whereas when I review The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, I feel like I have accomplished something, even though very few readers have chosen to watch it, or even may have not even clicked on the link to read the review.

 

Liza, the Fox-Fairy

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*****

Liza nursed the widow of the Japanese ambassador for twelve years. Her only friend was Tony Tani, the ghost of a Japanese singer, whom only Liza could see.

This is The Best Hungarian Comedy I have ever seen. I expect that this will be the best Hungarian comedy, or movie, that I will ever see. The plot of this whimsical tale of a mousy personal attendant to the widow of the Japanese ambassador to Hungary. This attendant meets a ghost who falls in love with her. Long story short, the smitten, but jealous, ghost curses Liza–Mónika Balsai–to the tragic life of a “fox fairy”. According to the movie, in Japanese mythology a fox spirit, or “kitsune”, seduces men and kill them; thus to fall in love with a fox fairy is almost a death sentence. Perhaps the ghost chooses this curse because he speaks Japanese and looks like this:

David Sakurai as Tony Tani.

David Sakurai as Tony Tani.

The ghost, appearing in the form of fictional 1950s Japanese crooner Tony Tani, is an amazing character. He has an amazing look. This is like a better version of a Wes Anderson movie, and I loved Grand Budapest. I literally ranked it #1 last year. Tony Tani combines the best visual aspects of Max Fischer, Steve Zissou and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Yet under the surface there lies more malice than any Anderson character has exhibited that I can recall. Maybe Adrien Brody’s Dmitri in The Grand Budapest Hotel had an equal amount, but that was clear from the get go. The takeaway is to tune in for Tony Tani! And to stay for the quaint, romantic Liza and to see if she can find a nice man to enjoy a “Mekk Burger” with, who will fall in love with her…and not die.

Mónika Balsai's Liza enjoys a non-copyright infringing Mekk Burger with  Zoltán Schmied's Henrik.

Mónika Balsai’s Liza and Zoltán Schmied’s Henrik talking in a non-copyright infringing Mekk Burger, in Liza, the Fox-Fairy.

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