Eye Of The Beholder: Beauty Bares Its Teeth In ‘The Neon Demon’

the-neon-demon-elle-fanning-jesse-mirror-bloodI’ve seen a lot of movies. A lot of them contain some pretty shocking stuff. I don’t necessarily like gore or explicitly disturbing subject matter, but my cinematic journeys often lead me toward such material anyway. I’m more adventurous than the average moviegoer. Sometimes, I think I’ve seen it all.

After a while, one act of abhorrent violence is just like all the rest. It’s rare to encounter a scene in a movie that feels that new, that novel, truly unprecedented. The final scene of Enemy was, perhaps, the last piece of cinema to truly make me sit up in my seat and say, “What the fuck?”

Until now.

Whoever you are, whatever you’ve watched… there’s something in The Neon Demon I can pretty much guarantee you haven’t seen.

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Mouth A Little Weak: Chet Baker’s ‘Blue’ Valentine

ethan-hawk-chet-baker-born-to-be-blueThe biopic is a well-worn genre, especially when it comes to musicians. Marion Cotillard, Sissy Spacek, Jamie Foxx, and Reese Witherspoon have won Oscars playing notable musical artists, and plenty more have been nominated. The genre itself was mercilessly lampooned in Walk Hard.

These days, musician biopics still get made, but on a smaller scale than they used to, and lately they tend to fly further under the radar than they used to. (Notable exception: last year’s Straight Outta Compton, which was a massive hit.) There are three such films in theaters right now, telling the stories of musicians Chet Baker, Miles Davis, and Hank Williams, but most moviegoing audiences have not heard of these.

Is the musician biopic losing steam as a genre? Have we just seen too many of these?

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Wrecking Bawl: The Car Crash Grief Porn Of ‘Louder Than Bombs’ & ‘Demolition’

Demolition-judah-lewis-jake-gyllenhaal-gay-teen-devin-druid-jesse-eisenberg There are roughly 3,000 automobile deaths in America each year, and it feels like we see at least twice that many in the movies. Car accidents are the go-to tragedy for Hollywood, even moreso than cancer. It used to be that a character’s subtle cough around the midpoint of a film would indicate their burial by movie’s end; that’s still true, but at this point, the car crash supercedes it. The probability of dying in a car crash in California are roughly 1 in 12,000, but if you’re driving a car in a movie, the odds are more like 1 in 2 — especially if you’re cheerfully singing along to the radio. Banal conversation, too, will almost always summon the oncoming headlights. And if a cherished parent or beloved spouse operates a motor vehicle in the first scene of a movie, you can pretty much guarantee they’re about to get side-swiped.

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Doris And The Dudes: Showalter And Linklater Hatch Horny Spring Comedies

doris-wants-someWe’re living in a wacky movie world these days. The third highest grossing film of this year so far is also one of the biggest disappointments — Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice plummeted in its second and third weekends, so even though the film will gross over $300 million, it’s a domestic disappointment. (Its production budget is $250 million, and who knows how much Warner Bros. spent on marketing that monstrosity.)

Batman V Superman‘s worldwide receipts will likely brand it as a hit of sorts, but whatever. Alongside that superhero misfire is the year’s biggest hit, Deadpool, and two animated family films, Zootopia and Kung Fu Panda 3. Ride Along 2 rounds out the top five highest grossing films this year. I haven’t seen a single one of these movies.

Yes, it’s only April. But what do the studios have in store for us for the rest of 2016? You guessed it: more superheroes, more talking animals, and more lame-o c0medies, mostly. That’s why it’s extra-refreshing when an itty-bitty hit like Hello, My Name Is Doris shuffles along.

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No, Seriously, Take Shelter: Jeff Nichols Cooks Up A ‘Midnight Special’

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL(I knew next to nothing about Midnight Special going in, and if you’re curious at all and haven’t yet seen the trailer, I recommend you follow suit. I’ll give a general overview and then a fair warning when I discuss things it may be best not to know about until you see it, though the trailer gives plenty of the same plot points away.)

Midnight Special is the latest film from Jeff Nichols, who previously brought us Take Shelter and Mud. Take Shelter was one of my Top 10 films of 2011, and Midnight Special shares a lot in common with that movie — most obviously, its star, Michael Shannon.

Take Shelter told a tale of a coming apocalypse on a shoestring budget with only a handful of set pieces, with Shannon’s character warning his friends and neighbors that they’d better do as the title suggested if they want to survive Judgment Day. But that film left us to wonder whether or not this was a figment of the lead character’s paranoid imagination. There’s no such ambiguity here, unless we assume that Michael Shannon and everyone else in the film are really off their rockers. Moments in Midnight Special definitely  require some shelter-taking.

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