2010 Archives - Page 2 of 31 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
10Oct/120

Milwaukee Film Festival – Tchoupitoulas and Klown

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Tchoupitoulas (2/5)

Tchoupitoulas takes the form of a documentary following three young brothers through the New Orleans nightlife, though it plays more like a collection of extra footage from a documentary, and many of the scenes lack a feeling of authenticity. The one thing the filmmakers have done incredibly well is evoke a distinct and haunting tone with some beautiful shots of empty and abandoned areas that contrast the vibrancy of the rest of those they encounter. The one scene truly worth seeing features the boys coming across what appears to be an abandoned cruise ship at an empty dock and exploring the inside of it with equal measures excitement and fear.

This is all too little spread too thin, however, with the rest of the movie regarding everything they see and everyone they meet with a detached monotony mistaken for dreamlike cinema vérité—here are scenes that should showcase some of the most interesting people and unique locales that one could hope to find, and yet much of the time it's like the filmmakers accidentally left the camera on after their initial interactions, and what we're seeing is the bored aftermath. Conversations with those encountered and/or more time spent with the three young men who act as our de facto guides through the city would have made for a genuinely interesting experience, but somehow they've managed to make New Orleans seem boring.http://www.cinefamily.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/klown1.jpg

Klown (4/5)

Klown is a ruthless, uncomfortable, vulgar, and sometimes mean-spirited comedy based on the Danish TV series of the same name. It's also hilarious. The movie concerns three characters: Frank Hvam and and his friend Casper Christensen (both played by actors of the same names—if I were an actor in this movie, in these roles, I would not be using my real name), and Frank's 12-year-old nephew Bo. Frank is, simply put, an idiot. He is so clueless as to his own actions and their repercussions that it's a credit to the acting that we kind of believe this is a character that could exist. Casper is like a combination of Thomas Hayden Church's character in Sideways and Bradley Cooper's general demeanor in The Hangover, and his reckless bravado propels the two into a number of situations the likes of which cannot be described here. The two find themselves on a debaucherous canoe trip—the endpoint of which can only tastefully be described as a very diverse international bordello run by the elderly leader of their book club—saddled with Bo, who Frank has essentially kidnapped in order to prove to his pregnant girlfriend that he has “father potential.” And if you think the premise sounds tasteless, just watch the movie.

If Klown were even one degree less committed to its utter irresponsibility, if there were any attempts at all made to mitigate or soften the offensive nature of the events, it would fall apart. It works so well in part because it makes so few cliched attempts to change or redeem the characters, who are essentially faced with one sitcom situation after another. An American version of the film would see Frank finally “getting it” in the third act and making valiant efforts to become a father figure to Bo—what's so funny about Klown is that Frank thinks he “gets it” all along. When he realizes at the end that some of his actions have hurt the young boy, his solution to make up for it is such an irresponsible version of the “character turns things around with a grand, understanding gesture” cliché that it's clear the filmmakers are consciously subverting the format. It's certainly not for everyone—some of the jokes are a bit too mean or malicious for their own good, and I don't know that I even want to see it again—but the actors sell it all in a way that's downright impressive, and for the most part very funny.

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5Oct/120

Milwaukee Film Festival – Goodbye and Beyond the Black Rainbow

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With the half-way point of Kurosawa's career reached last week, Kyle and I have decided to take a break.  For the next week Kyle will be sharing his thoughts from the Milwaukee Film Festival.  We'll return with our Kurosawa coverage on 10/19.  For now, here's Kyle!

So the Milwaukee Film Festival is going on right now and I'm trying to see as many movies as I can. The selection of films is surprisingly large and varied, so I've tried to pick something from each program, and wound up with quite a few from The Onion/A.V. Club Milwaukee's roster, appropriately titled “Cinema Hooligante.” They also have a special ad produced each year by a local advertising agency to recognize all of the festival sponsors that plays before each movie, and this year's includes what looks to be a Jerry Garcia wizard driving around the city in a VW minibus with a projector on the top. That's a little part of the festival everyone should experience, so you're welcome. The ratings out of 5 accompanying each movie are what I gave them on the Audience Award ballot.

5Apr/120

Space Dogs (2010)

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We finally come to the animated film which, at least at passing glance, looks so bad that it's caused my fellow critics and commentators alike to question my sanity.  Yes, it did look like a horrible direct-to-DVD monstrosity with sub-Playstation modeling quality and the intent of providing an experience at the dead bottom of the uncanny valley.  Now, some time after the credits drew to a close, I reflect on just how accurate these initial reactions were, and how unfair.

Instead of being a studio production churning out a faceless product, Space Dogs is actually a poorly dubbed edit of a Russian film titled Belka & Strelka - Star Dogs.  This doesn't make the film any less of a bland experience, at least after a hallucinatory first act, but helps frame the context of watching Space Dogs.  At the very least, this gives Space Dogs a twinge of American racism that I wasn't expecting.

Don't be misled, this is not a good film, but I can't in good conscious say I disliked it because of how at-odds the animation and dubbing were.  There are no visual indicators indicating the kind of racial stereotypes that come out in the vocal performances and what words made it onto the audio track bear little resemblance to the reality of the film.

I have to use reality very loosely as any film which wraps up stardust, a circus, gangster dogs, and a seesaw into the same five minutes is already out of sync with itself (unless you're watching a forgotten Jodorowsky film).

4Apr/120

Redemption Road (2010)

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There are fewer talents working in film today that confuse me as much as Mario Van Peebles.  Son of the legendary Melvin (he of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and Classified X), Mario has skirted around the controversial subject matter his father confronted and instead positioned himself as an earnest, but bland, filmmaker.  It's not entirely fair to compare the works of someone who starred in Solo (not Salo, please don't make that mistake) to someone who learned French to defy a racist film system, but I have to wonder where Mario is coming from and Melvin is the only reasonable starting point.

I'm more worried now than before because Mario at least had something interesting to work with in All Things Fall Apart.  That's not a film which set the critical and cultural scales on fire, but at least displayed a humbling side of a lucky superstar who had the level of self-reflection to know how lucky he is.  Redemption Road, by a nearly embarrassing contrast, centers around a self-important Blues playing drifter who is the victim in his and everyone else's life, but also the redeemer.

Morgan Simpson, who is the producer, screenwriter, and star of the film, has nothing important to say about his own life, let alone those unfortunate enough to get caught in his wake.  In a film which allows Luke Perry to don a tanktop and do an unfortunately timed impersonation of Justified's Boyd Crowder, we get to see a sad man perform the most standardized and defanged blues possible.  There is no sin committed here by others which has not been already gone through Morgan's list of actions, which only further underlines the pathetic attempts to elicit our sympathies for him.

20Jan/120

David Fincher: The Social Network (2010)

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Am I on again? Good.

Thank you Amanda for taking the reigns on Benjamin Button, a film I keep forgetting I’ve seen until I’m forced to remember the part where Benjamin’s lover is towel bathing him. I’m just glad we were spared the scene of her breast feeding the now-young Benjamin.

But let’s move on to a film that we have covered very thoroughly in this pod cast and touched on briefly by myself in this review blurb. The Social Network may not be the best film in David Fincher’s canon, but it’s a strong second-place contender. I’ll maintain that Zodiac is Fincher at his finest but TSN is streamlined to the core, moving at the kind of brisk pace that he would put to good effect in his remake of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I’m most interested in, socially, what this movie is accomplishing. The more I think about the subtext of Fight Club the more it seems to be responding to the rising wave of spindly, less testosterone-driven action heroes which started to litter the landscape (a trend I, as well as others, blame Nicolas Cage for starting).  TSN is, itself, a similar response to the way technology has allowed the fringe outsiders to change an entire social structure with the brush of a few keystrokes.