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Filth: James McAvoy and the Truthful Title

July 23, 2014

Filth movie poster

There hasn’t been a more self-explanatory title since Snakes on a Plane. Filth is a nasty little film that is based on a wonderfully nasty Irvine Welsh book. It features drug use, nudity, murder, rape, infidelity, abuse, profanity, phone sex and more drug use. It is depravity buoyed by a demented yet likable performance by James McAvoy. He owns the screen and you can tell he enjoyed every moment of it.

Filth James McAvoy

I don’t know how I could recommend Filth to non-cinephiles but I will fully praise McAvoy’s performance to everyone.  McAvoy navigates the world with a mixture of angst, anger and feigned bluster. Mentally, he has gone off the rails and as the film progresses you begin to feel bad for the guy as his story becomes rather tragic.  McAvoy juggles the mental collapse well and remains sympathetic even as he is doing terrible things. This isn’t a stylized bad guy who is evil to be cool. He is a sad man who needs help and will never get it. I’m happy that McAvoy nailed this role after trying something different with Welcome to the Punch and Trance.

The film revolves around McAvoy’s character doing every bad deed in the book whilst angling for a promotion to become Detective Inspector. He has a beautiful family (whom you only see in dreams or hallucinations), suffers from bipolar disorder and is haunted by flashbacks of a young child. Something has gone mentally haywire and he becomes a drug addled Shakespearean villain. He manipulates, lies and coerces in order to get what he wants but his tenuous grip on reality seems to be going down the tube with each line of cocaine he snorts.

Filth Mcavoy

The supporting cast is wonderful. Eddie Marsan, Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Shirley Henderson, Joanne Froggatt and Imogen Poots all play various foils and marks who inhabit the drug hazed world. They journey with McAvoy down a rabbit hole of insanity that makes Edinburgh, Scotland seem like a layer of hell. In one of the my favorite scenes Imogen Poots uncovers McAvoy’s true character and you are able to look back at the rest of the film with new eyes. It is a solid moment that shows how versatile the two actors are. It also helps you understand why he does what he does.

Filth Imogen Poots

Filth is a daring and old school film. There is a darkness to it and there is nothing likable about the main character.  It is tragedy mixed with dark humor that is made palatable by James McAvoy’s performance. This film isn’t for everyone and becomes very bleak. However, if you appreciate Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) and brave performances check out Filth. 

Under the Skin: A Haunting and Sensory Blasting Experience

July 21, 2014

Under the Skin movie poster

Under the Skin is a mesmerizing film that captures Scotland’s dreary beauty while blasting us with the most sensory film of the year. I love that there is zero backstory or expository hand holding. It is a remarkably simple movie that still leaves many questions unanswered. It is a pure and unadulterated experience that could be vivisected or simply appreciated. My advice is to turn off the lights, turn up the volume and allow yourself to fully appreciate a spellbinding experience.

Under the Skin tells the story of Scarlett Johansson’s unnamed character driving around Scotland on the prowl for men/victims. She takes them back to uninhabited homes where they are doomed via black goop quicksand.  The scenes are slightly improvised and all lead to hyper stylized endings. As her journey progresses she seems to become more self-aware and curious. This doesn’t bode well for her because she is out of the protection of her motorcycle riding assistant/boss/owner.

The journey her character takes is a wonder of cinematic prowess and natural beauty.

under the skin beach

Little is said yet you understand what is going on. The director Jonathan Glazer had this to say about the film:

When you’re choosing to tell a story from an alien point of view, you’re really creating a rod for your own back, because you’re trying to make something feel truly alien. The experience needs to be inscrutable, unfathomable. Something you don’t recognise, that you feel but you don’t see. We didn’t want to make a film where that’s explained away somehow. It had to be outside our understanding.

Under the Skin is a truly alien film that is too easy to make complicated. Much like Tree of Life, Springbreakers and Upstream Color (Enemy is really confusing though) people add symbolism and theory where it isn’t needed. Under the Skin is a tragic journey of somebody experiencing earth for the first time.

Under the skin Adam Pearson

The film has become notorious for the Johansson nudity. However, it feels organic to the film and is part of the character’s self-awareness. As the film unfolds you understand why she is becoming more aware of her body. Her performance is a wonder to behold as she seems genuinely curious of her prey and the world around her. She must have trusted the director because in lesser hands this could have become an exploitative piece called Naked in Scotland.

Glazer made a wise decision to shoot the film in Scotland. When I visited Scotland it seemed like I could close my eyes, put my camera behind my back and still take a beautiful photo. The rainy and misty country provides perfect vistas to explore.

under the skin scarlett

Under the Skin does a great job of creating an alien world. The trust between Scarlett and the Glazer is evident and the movie works as a sensory blasting experience. It most certainly isn’t for the mainstream because of the vague subject material and lack of information. However, if you appreciate great looking films that take daring journeys Under the Skin is for you. Also, it makes you really want to ride a motorcycle through the windy Scottish coastal roads.

Under the skin motorcycle

The Purge: Anarchy: When a Bad Movie Happens to a Good Idea

July 19, 2014

Purge Anarchy movie poster

The Purge 2 takes a good idea and wrecks the development of it with lazy screenwriting. The shallow script and paint by numbers class warfare make it nothing more than a cool poster and missed opportunities. It is not smart enough to be good satire and not dumb enough to be a grindhouse film. The iconic imagery of violent purgers are wrecked as the movie is explained away via expository dialogue and a group of people who have no problem speaking loudly whilst being hunted my murderers.

purge 2

The original Purge didn’t annoy me. It was rich on rich violence that kept it simple. Ethan Hawke made money on the Purge and he had to battle the rich entitled murderers who grew up in that world. It was simple low-budget cinema that established an interesting world. I liked the idea of the sequels expanded scope. However, the limited budget kept the set pieces from being able to deliver the shock and awe. The expanded scope hurt the film because it wanted to be all things. Also, world building is pointless when the characters are two-dimensional plot devices who inhabit a black and white political world. It will obviously get another sequel so why not expand the scope little by little? For instance, how did these guys become hunters? Why do they ride around on dirt bikes in a city full of snipers? Wouldn’t the cool masks hinder their ability to hunt?

The Purge Anarchy

The film is loaded with ideas and imagery yet never knows what it wants to be. It starts off well enough by introducing us to Frank Grillo’s vigilante. I could have watched him light up little punks for 90 minutes and been fine with it. However, he ends up saving four people and has to protect them for the rest of the film. The four people do him no favors by lying, yelling and always falling down at the worst moments.  The cast is solid and they’ve all done better work in better films. However, they are nothing more than scared people annoying Frank Grillo. They are also responsible for getting his badass Mad Max car blown up.

Purge Anarchy car

The plot of the movie centers around a night where all crime is legal. Rich people have mercenaries collect innocent bystanders so they can kill them in the comfort of their own homes. Gangs transform vehicles into death machines in order to murder anybody. The government/regime randomly kills people to lower the crime and unemployment rates. It is wholesale slaughter than constantly gets interrupted by whiny people who talk to much.

I would love to see what John Carpenter could have done with The Purge. They Live is a wonderful example of consumerism and government. He could have added intelligence to a great idea. The Purge: Anarchy is too clean and glossy. There is no personality and that is a shame. Films like Escape from New York, Mad Max, The Warriors and They Live had bumps and bruises that made them iconic. Purge 2 feels like a remake of all of these films. It reminded me of the current crop of remakes that are all good-looking actors and no grime. I did like this guy though. Total jerk but you understand how he could have become a baby mask wearing maniac.

The Purge Anarchy masked man

I did enjoy moments of the film and there are some very cool shots. There is a scene in the film where the heroes drive past a girl covered in blood. Is it a trap? What did she go through? Why couldn’t we have watched that movie? Her nightmare seems much more primal than the plight of the main characters.

the purge anarchy girl covered in blood

The Purge: Anarchy was ambitious to a fault. The expanded scope didn’t have the budget or vision required and it suffered because of that. Hopefully, the next film goes back to its roots and consolidates the carnage. We shall see next year when the inevitable Purge: Armageddon is released

 

 

The Raid 2: Gareth Evans and His Action Opus

July 18, 2014

The Raid 2 Movie Poster

The Raid 2 numbs you with awesomeness and proves that Gareth Evans is a director to watch. His ambition is seemingly endless and in Indonesia he has the resources to do what he wants. The Raid 2 is a sprawling crime epic that relishes in blood and leaves you exhausted. It is 148 minutes of stylized action that never lets up. Ancillary characters get their own showpieces, cars are crashed and the stunt crew must have been happy when the movie wrapped.

What I love most about the The Raid films are the characters. Among all the carnage they stand out and become memorably likable/despicable. Their personalities shine through and they give you something to cheer for.

The Raid 2 characters

Many films feature massive action scenes that don’t matter because you don’t care about or like the characters (I’m looking at you Die Hard 5). When you like or despise the characters the action is more important because you know who they are and what is at stake (Saving Private Ryan did this perfectly). Sure, Raid 2 is too long and some of the fighting lacks urgency but Evans has earned the right to do what he wants with characters he has created. My favorite of the bunch is Eka. He is just a badass dude who knows the drill and has worked his way up via blue-collar face punching.

The Raid 2

The Raid 2 tells the story of Iko Uwais going undercover to pull out the roots of the violent organizations splitting up the city. What he doesn’t know is that it will be a three-year long process that has him battling gangs, cops and a woman with a hammer. The plot gets intricate as the son of a crime boss teams up with a nefarious yet slightly hipsterish gangster. This causes a problem with the Japanese and the plot becomes slightly muddled but never out of reach. Basically, things happen so people can beat the snot out of each other.

Iko Uwais once again proves to be a choreography genius and the set pieces he and Evans create hurt to watch. Over the years the two have developed an understanding that has created great bone crunching mayhem. For instance, the opening scene features Iko in a small bathroom stall that is about to be infiltrated by annoyed prisoners. The fight is a marvel of close quartered brutality that uses the small location perfectly for one on one fighting. You actually feel bad for the prisoners who get singled out and crunched.

The Raid 2 prison fight

Evans showcases Uwais while Uwais brings the cinematic pain. You can tell they are friends too.

1797711_ca_raid_gareth_evans_JLC

The Raid was a small-scale action film that hit really big. The Raid 2 is action on a grand scale that was done much cheaper than any other Hollywood blockbuster. It is non-Hollywood filmmaking that should be appreciated (Much like the beautiful Snowpiercer). Evans is wonderful to have around and with each film (his segment in V/H/S 2 was amazing) he is getting better and better. I just hope he never loses the side of him that created the economy and urgency of The Raid. 

The Raid 2 is a sprawling action saga that hits hard and often. Watch it. Love it. Hope that you never find yourself in a muddy prison riot.

The Raid 2 Prison Riot mud

If you get a chance check out Gareth Evans five favorite fights.

 

The Mid-Year Random Awards: Best Arm Grab, Siege Face, Nap and More!

July 16, 2014

snowpiercer

I’ve really enjoyed the cinematic efforts of 2014 so far. The original stories have blended well with the remakes, sequels, reboots and prequels to make it all interesting. There have been wonderful surprises (Edge of Tomorrow), neat characters (Chef) and underappreciated gems (Snowpiercer) to keep us bloggers on our toes.  Without further ado here are some random awards for your enjoyment.

Wow, you are awesome and will totally be underappreciated award

If you haven’t watched Snowpiercer do it now (finish the post first though! Then, Maybe tweet it out or share on Facebook).

Snowpiercer shoe

Best Nap

Godzilla saves the day. Takes a nap. Then, groggily swims away. Godzilla is the blue-collar hero the world needs

Godzilla

Best Use of Spiders

Enemy – I don’t know what they mean or why they are there. All I know is that they are used wonderfully.

Enemy

Nicest film of the year in which you can actually call Mark Ruffalo “scruffalo” Award

Thank you Mark Ruffalo and John Carney for allowing me to use the word “scrufallo.” Begin Again is the nicest film of summer and gives Mos Def another fantastic role. That dude is underrated.

Begin Again band

Finally somebody uses John Leguizamo right Award

Thank you Jon Favreau for writing John Leguizamo a fantastic character. Dude can act. He got to prove it in Chef.

Chef John Leguizamo

Best siege face

Alan Partridge, you are my hero.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Best Retweet

I still think it is pretty awesome that Tom Cruise Retweeted my Edge of Tomorrow review.

Tom Cruise retweet

Nic Cage can still act award

David Gordon Green and Nic Cage. We need Joe sequels, prequels and remakes.

Nic Cage Joe

Best WWE produced movie about an evil mirror that was actually good and kinda brain teasing

Oculus is clever and well thought out. It is the rare horror that makes you think while it scares you.

Oculus

Best Arm Grab Award

This arm grab in Winter Soldier says “Listen, We gotta save the world and I can get away with this arm grab because you are a badass superhero. This is in no way like those creepy arm grabs that Roger Moore did in the Bond series.”

cap america

Second Best Arm Grab Award

This one says “Listen, I know the other arm grab is better but I’m trying my best.”

arm grab

Welcome to the Wes Anderson World Award

The Grand Budapest Hotel was fantastic and now Wes Anderson has more wonderful actors/actresses to add to his arsenal. I Can’t wait to watch Saoirse Ronan, Jude Law and Ralph Fiennes play quirky characters for years to come.

Ralph

Probably the safest vehicle in the world award

I don’t know who made Sam Jackson’s car in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. All I know is that it is the safest vehicle known to man and Asgardians. 40 highly trained killers couldn’t figure it out. I’m surprised Nick Fury didn’t just wait out the siege by playing angry birds on the big screen located in the back seat.

sam jackson

Is it too late to cast Will Arnett as Batman Award?

Everything would be awesome if Will Arnett battled Superman in the new movie. Maybe Nolan wouldn’t take himself so seriously.

Batman lego

Guiltiest pleasure award

I, Frankenstein you are dumb. Gloriously dumb and sorta fun. Your plot about Frankenstein battling demons while gargoyles fly around is stuff of bad movie legend.

frankenstein

 

Most “holy sh*t” moments award

How to Train Your Dragon 2 brings the awe. What an amazing film. I’m pretty certain IMAX 3D was invented for Toothless the dragon.

 

Dragon soaring

Best usage of a field in England award

Ben Wheatley is amazing. A Field in England is glorious. The field is probably the best ever.

field in england

Shailene Woodley makes everything better award

Woodley manages to make a movie about distinct factions who inhabit a world based on human virtues watchable. She also knocks out Kate Winslet in the weirdest scene of 2014. I never thought I’d see the classy Winslet get floored by a right hook. The thud noise didn’t help the situation.

Shailene

Best Ancillary Character

Eka in The Raid 2. Dude is a blue-collar face puncher who somehow navigates his way through the insane crime cesspool in The Raid world.

The Raid 2

Best Couple who should be in every film

Regina Hall and Kevin Hart are wonderful in About Last Night. They are hilarious and their chemistry is through the roof. They need their own movie.

Regina Hall

Second best couple who nobody knows about award

The Odd Thomas film is a breezy little thing that went straight to video. However, I really liked the central relationship between Odd and Stormy. I dug their cheeky dialogue and lived in relationship.

odd-thomas-movie-photo-2

Best texting whilst on an airplane award

Liam Neeson and his fingers do some amazing texting whilst saving the day in Non-Stop. The next film features him paying off the roaming charges.

Liam Neeson

These two need to join forces award

Eva Green and Emily Blunt need to a do a film where their characters in 300 and Edge of Tomorrow kick butt on another planet via time traveling phone booth.

Eva Green

Edge of Tomorrow Emily Blunt

I almost shed man tears while watching this film about two teenagers who act like teenagers going through terminal illness in a classy way award

I applaud you Fault in our Stars for your wonderful music, performances and ability to ALMOST make me cry.

Fault in our stars

Where did you come from and why were you so good?

I just can’t quit you Cheap Thrills. You are odd, violent and really well done. Kudos!

Cheap Thrills Ethan Embry

You are called Need for Speed and you delivered a need for speed..award

need for speed cars

I like movies that know what they are and deliver what was promised. Need for Speed was a fun time at the cinema.

 

What have been your favorite so far?

 

 

Begin Again: A Refreshing Blast of Nice

July 15, 2014

Begin Again movie poster

 

Begin Again will put a smile on your face and keep it there until well after the movie has ended. However, the biggest problem that Begin Again is facing is that it is John Carney’s follow-up to Once. The expectations were so high that Begin Again would inevitably pale in comparison. The similarities are there but the comparisons are unfair because Carney’s latest film is a completely different beast.  Once is one of my favorite films that features Oscar-winning music, unexpected depth and a mature relationship at its core. Begin Again is a breezy experience that puts a smile on your face via likable characters, engaging relationships and nice music.

Begin Again band

Begin Again tells the story of Mark Ruffalo’s shaggy producer meeting a broken-hearted Kiera Knightley. He is incredibly drunk after a terrible day and she is performing her music in front of an indifferent crowd. He sees something the bar patrons do not and he convinces her to record a demo in the streets of NYC. They gather a rag-tag group of musicians and proceed to make wonderful music.

I loved the unabashed musical romanticism and the central relationship between Ruffalo and Knightley. It is a platonic friendship that doesn’t need to be anything else. The two play well off of each other and the improvisational nature of the film created a natural vibe that the two flourish in. Mark Ruffalo has perfected the fast talking huckster who is still talented. His musical wooing of Knightley is a marvel of drunk speak and free beer. Knightley holds her own musically and does a good job improvising and singing alongside the great supporting cast made up of Adam Levine, James Corden, Ceelo Greene, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Hailee Steinfeld and Catherine Keener.

Begin Again will put a smile on your face and provide a breezy time in the cinema. I appreciated the mature decisions made by the main characters and John Carney’s ability to avoid the obvious. In a summer of sequels, remakes, prequels and reboots it is nice to have an original film that features original music. Movies are meant to entertain and Begin Again does that perfectly. It doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel or light the music industry on fire. It simply wants to tell a nice story featuring nice people navigating life.

Enjoy Begin Again. Appreciate the Music. Watch Once. Be happy. Make a playlist. Listen to more music. Watch Once again.

 

 

 

Enemy: Multiplicity, Chaos and Spiders

July 13, 2014

Enemy movie poster spider

Chaos is order undeciphered

Enemy is a headscratcher in all the right ways and leaves you stuck in your chair while you absorb the previous 90 minutes. The slow-burning film reminded me of Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color and Primer in their resolve to not pander to the audience. The answers are there (maybe) and you are left to piece the films together. They require multiple viewings and it is a pleasure to have them around. The Enemy experience reminded me of my 2002 viewing of Donnie Darko. When the movie ended I sat dazed in my room thirsting for knowledge while cursing my dial-up modem (The first thing I read was Ebert’s review).

Enemy is an adaptation of Jose Saramagos’s The Double and tells the story of a professor who realizes he has a double/twin/doppelganger. The two meet and it all gets weird. The film is loaded with dreams, clues, nightmares, sex and a refusal to pander. The ending punches you in the gut and leaves you feeling like you enjoyed the film but didn’t fully understand it.

Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal worked together on the underappreciated Prisoners and have developed a nice director/actor shorthand. There is a trust that has allowed Gyllenhaal to thrive while his director is able to trust the performance. The two roles he plays in Enemy couldn’t be more different. One of the characters dislikes confrontation while the other feels compelled to it. One drives a motorcycle and wears leather jackets while the other drives a Volvo and wears corduroy. They have the same chest scar, beard and hair yet their tactics vary wildly. They both have beautiful women in their lives whom they mistreat in different ways.

Enemy Jake Gyllenhaal

Gyllenhaal’s quiet brooding and ability to be confident while brimming with insecurity is perfect for his Enemy roles. You can’t read his characters and never know what is going on beneath the watchful eyes. The stark contrast in character allows you to look back and analyze why he stalks, cowers or cheats. Is there really two people? Is it one man with two lives? Are they in a Twilight Zone of Body Snatchers?

Enemy is not an easy film and won’t be widely appreciated because of that. However, people who enjoy carefully crafted films that raise questions will applaud. I can’t say that I’ve put the pieces together but my wife and I have had a fun time talking about it.

Enemy is a confounding tale that doesn’t stick to its source material (Spiders?) or give easy answers. However, at 90 minutes it is easy to be confused all over again. Enjoy!

Enemy

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