September 2013 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

In Appreciation – The Disney Afternoon

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Ryan - Disney AfternoonRyan COMMENTARY w/o RatingWhile I watched many shows during my childhood, many of them have not stood up to the passing of time. As much as I loved it is a youngster, I don’t think anyone is going to call the '80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon a classic in 50 years. The same goes with GI Joe, Mask, C.O.P.S (although those toys are still cool) and so many more. The one block of cartoons that have stood relatively well against the years have been the shows that were on The Disney Afternoon. The Disney Afternoon was a syndicated 2 hour block of cartoons that took known Disney characters and gave them a new genre to play in. While the Afternoon went on through most of the 90’s, I am only going to talk about the heyday of the earlier years.


V/H/S/2 (2013)

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Look at all the pretty staticAndrew DISLIKE BannerThe first V/H/S anthology film was a miserable experience.  Themes about the way women are used in horror are hinted at just enough to fool a wide enough audience into thinking there was something more going on in the films.  Even at its high points, V/H/S was nothing more than a dull doll gussied up in blood that dragged each scenario on to its obvious conclusion.  There were no surprises, and the slight change in stock between each film did not do enough to counteract the boring visual style that comes with found-footage horror films.

There's already a sequel with only director Adam Wingard returning from the first series.  It's not too surprising to see a horror sequel churned out so quickly after the success of its predecessor, but V/H/S/2 suffers immensely in comparison due to its proximity to the first.  The slightest visual inventions of the first series are instead turned into the same kind of grainy handheld footage for the shorts.  As a result, the anthology feels even more featureless than the previous, which isn't aided by the fact that each story still follows the same basic invasion structure for each short.

As you might have guessed, V/H/S' standard bearer of "found footage meets x" stays intact.  The framing story consists of two private investigators who look into the disappearance of a college student and find a familiar stack of VHS tapes and televisions tuned to static.  As each of the shorts is viewed the nearby laptop shows video of the missing kid talking about how they need to be played to achieve the desired effect.  There are four shorts in addition to the framing narrative.


Redemption (2013)

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A game of knifey spoonyAndrew LIKE BannerJason Statham is nothing if not a consistent man.  Aside from The Bank Job, he's never done anything more than what is required of him.  Even his brief cameo at the end of Fast & Furious Six was just a brief reminder that, "Hey casting directors, Jason Statham can show up, walk sternly, and talk gravely for a few minutes if that's all you need."  In a world where so few things are secure, I understand why people love his films, because he has become the ultimate comfort food.

Redemption is the absurd, and logical, conclusion of this consistency.  In fact, it so embraces the threadbare nature of the plots that he so often finds himself in, that the original title of Hummingbird is far more appropriate.  It flits from scene to scene with little purpose other than to make sure that the next phase of Statham's fighting stance is greeted by someone that deserves to be beaten up.  Then the film goes one step further by denying his devoted audience the epic thrash-down the film leads up to so it can putter off with some paranoid delusions about drones and surveillance.

This film exists in that weird grey area between lunatic genius and painful misfire.  The dialogue is either howlingly terrible or knowingly campy.  Statham's performance is either over-the-top melodrama locked into a battle suit, or the same ol' same ol' with a twist of pain to add a different aftertaste.  Redemption is either the best movie that Statham has ever done which requires knowledge of both his career and action film history in general, or the most surreal accident in a plethora of steady performances.


In Appreciation – Thomas McCarthy

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Thomas McCarthyAndrewCommentaryBannerShortIn my review of The Butler a few weeks ago, I praised Lee Daniels as one director who is making the best American films today.  He is but one of many, but when I'm talking about American in the sense of Daniels' films, I'm thinking about America the myth.  His films deal with the story of America and their underside.  But before I was watching Daniels' films there is another director who has made three perfect films about American people, Thomas McCarthy.

I was thinking about McCarthy earlier this week because I'm excited at the prospect of him coaxing another dramatic performance out of Adam Sandler.  To date, McCarthy has directed only three movies - The Station Agent, The Visitor, and Win Win.  In addition to being a huge fan of dramatic Sandler. McCarthy is able to coax career-high performances out of people who are already excellent.  Peter Dinklage came into view thanks to his quiet and wounded performance in The Station Agent long before he was grinning and slapping children around on Game of Thrones.  Even Paul Giamatti, a man who can go as big or small as required, gave a beautifully complicated performance in Win Win.


Andrei Tarkovsky: The Mirror (1975)

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"Я буду снять напряжение сейчас, и вы будете говорить четко и без усилий."

Andrei Tarkovsky takes us on a trip through his memories in the semi-autobiographical The Mirror.

Floating away Kyle Commentary BannerThe Mirror exists better in my memory than it did while I was watching it. Here's the most experimental (by far) of Tarkovsky's efforts that we've seen, and for me that resulted in a viewing experience that, if made into a graph, would look like a heart rate monitor rather than a steadily climbing line like the other films. That's not a problem, but it makes it difficult to talk about so soon after seeing it.

There are incredible moments here, such as the one where a woman walks backward through her burning/collapsing house (I think that's what was happening), but there are also moments that jump into narrative in a more straightforward way, and the struggle to place those in the context of the movie was distracting for me. When Tarkovsky/the “narrator” is simply remembering and free-associating, the movie is immediately brilliant — much like the previous films, we experience these scenes on an almost instinctual level.

The movie I couldn't get out of my head while watching The Mirror was Lynch's Inland Empire. The way I've most commonly found myself describing that film is that Inland Empire is to most other movies (even Lynch's) as a poetry book is to a novel — rather than scenes/chapters building directly on one another to reach a coherent narrative end point, we have a collection of units that, taken together, create a distinct impression, a less-definable but no less affecting whole. The Mirror is more ambitious in a way than Inland Empire, in that it requires you to jump back and forth between the two.

When we do the End of Tarkovsky podcast, I'll have a better sense for how I feel about this movie. I need to watch it again so I can feel a little more sure of what I'm in for. It'll also be another opportunity to see the man work in black and white, which will be more than welcome.