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Wednesday
Jun102015

Moment (2014)

I Remember Every Moment

Last summer, filmmakers Neal Fischer and Kevin Kirchman conducted an experiment. What could they create in a few days with handheld cameras, a skeleton crew, and location-only lighting? And how many locations could they grab to make an age-old story of love and loss as visually compelling as possible? The result is an exquisitely shot and deeply personal short film called Moment.* 

Phil Platakis plays Ethan, a musician whose girlfriend (Amanda Perri) breaks up with him after he proposes marriage. The two had planned a romantic weekend in an upscale Indiana hotel, and we meet Ethan as he travels to keep the reservation as a party of one. Through a somber travel montage of Midwest landscapes narrated by voice messages from Ethan's ex and his best friend (Matthew Donnelly), Fischer and Kirchman capture heartbreak's grand contradiction in just a couple of minutes: by cutting between absolutely stunning omniscient footage that soars above a wind-turbine-dotted plain, to closeups of Platakis playing (and likely replaying) the hurtful words in his head,** we are reminded that the sudden absence of love can transport us from a wide world of beauty and possibility to a cloudy, insular dimension whose very nature makes it impossible for us to see that beauty.

Ethan settles into his suite, to the chagrin of an apathetic assistant (Fischer), and takes a stroll to a carnival--which turns out to be the town's only point of interest, besides the hotel in which he's staying. He meets Addison (Madalyn Mattsey), a local who makes it her mission to cheer up the sad-sack she finds staring glumly at rides. The strangers walk, talk, drive, and explore the town in ways that may remind you of a Richard Linklater film or three, but there's no denying that Moment belongs to Fischer and Kirchman. Their characters' dialogue and the actors' platonic-but-interested chemistry illuminate scenes that feel ripped from the creators' real-life experiences--instead of ripped off from other movies.

Even if the acting had been terrible and the dialogue a string of sappy clichés, the film would still hold up as a sterling example of how to imbue a small story with epic emotion through painstaking visuals. Just as the wind-turbine shot pulled us into Ethan's pity spiral, Fischer and Kirchman push their protagonist back into the game with a stunning composition in which Ethan and Addison look upon a grandiose fireworks display. They stand together with their backs to us, small and dark in the corner of the composition, as a breathtaking spectacle lights up the sky. By not putting their characters front and center, the filmmakers draw everyone's attention to a primal spectacle that (for many of us) evoke the warmth, wonder, and hope of childhood--not to mention young love's first giddy sparks.

I recommend Moment for anyone still lamenting the spiritual departure of Cameron Crowe. Fischer and Kirchman pop in and out of a recognizable reality that's marked by great music, observations both witty and wistful, and two lead performances that will absolutely make you fall in love. Mattsey makes Addison an outgoing, vulnerable cool chick without straying into Manic Pixie Girl territory; Platakis mopes like nobody's business, drawing Ethan as a guy who needs fixing but not saving. Neither is looking for a casual hook-up; they're drawn together by an attraction more cosmic than physical, and the filmmakers deftly keep them at just enough distance to make us root for them vehemently.

Moment is a sweet, unassuming little film that could teach mainstream rom-coms a thing or nineteen about how actual relationships unfold. Sure, there's a bit of clunkiness in the opening voice mail dialogue (it's cumbersome and functional, where the rest of the character interactions feel light and agenda-free), but it's clear that Fischer and Kirchman care about each of their characters (even the grumpy hotel assistant gets an arc). More importantly, they care about the people watching the movie. Where most mainstream relationship flicks are nostalgia bombs that seek to capitalize on easy emotions, Moment cuts out the nonsense by giving its characters--and us--a handful of special moments worth remembering and impossible to forget.

Note: You can enjoy Moment for free right now as part of The Online Film Festival.

*Full disclosure: Long-time readers know that Fischer and I know each other, and that I'm a fan of his work going back to Once Upon a Rom-Com: The Bill Pullman Story--a play whose lead actors also headline the co-writer/director's latest picture. Lest you assume bias on my part, let me take you back to what I was doing last summer: posting a not-so-glowing review of the horror anthology Dead Girls, to which Fischer contributed a segment. Writing critically of artists whose work I admire is one of the hardest parts of this job. Fortunately, the creative universe operates on a cyclical principle, and I'm happy once again to heap praise upon my friend.

**I couldn't figure out if these shots were achieved by crane or helicopter or what. I reached out to Fischer to help remove this mental splinter, and he revealed that Kirchman used a GoPro Drone--the effect, even on a laptop screen, is one of steady, sublime weightlessness.

Wednesday
Jun102015

The Rewrite (2014)

Coarse Credit

Anniversaries used to be a really big deal for my wife and me: our finest clothes, tourist-priced dinner downtown, and maybe even a movie. Fast-forward to swingin' adult responsibilities like sitter-free parenthood and house payments--and Date Night 2.0 is all about ice cream and Redbox. This year, we rented a film we'd never heard of, directed by a guy who'd made two films we really enjoyed, with a cast one would think warranted at least some kind of big-screen push. Ten minutes into The Rewrite, I asked aloud, "How did this get dumped on home video?"

An hour and ten minutes later, I had the answer. This isn't a bad movie, but it's not an airy rom-com, either (even if it does star Hugh Grant in one of his most reluctantly charming, aggressively blinking roles to date). This is writer/director Marc Lawrence's mid-life crisis, captured on film. The paper-thin allegory about a once-acclaimed screenwriter reduced to teaching college in upstate New York will mean little to those who "just watch movies"; for us celluloid junkies scrounging for meta-narratives in the most tenuous of cinematic connections, however, The Rewrite is a cry for help from the guy who blew up with Miss Congeniality and blew out with Did You Hear About the Morgans?.

Grant stars as Keith Michaels, whom we meet taking a series of pitch meetings with studio executives. His ideas flop, and he becomes more desperate by the minute.* His prospects all but evaporated, our hero takes a gig teaching screenwriting at Binghamton University, and is only in town a few minutes before bedding a student he meets at Wendy's. Keith believes that only the mechanics of writing can be taught, that real talent is something one either is or isn't born with. Actually teaching, in other words, simply isn't in the cards. So he amuses himself by populating his class with the most attractive co-eds from the applicant list--plus a couple of somewhat promising guys in the name of, I guess, fairness.

Of course, because this is a Hollywood-Big-Shot-in-a-Small-Town movie, Keith encounters a dozen colorful locals, each with quirks and stories that Lawrence slices and dices into subplots. These include the quirky Shakespeare-professor/neighbor (Chris Elliott); the ex-Marine dean (J.K. Simmons); the uptight Women's Studies professor (Allison Janney); and the middle-aged-single-mom-going-back-to-school (Marissa Tomei). I won't get into the students, except to say they're are alternately more dimensional than one might expect from a movie like this, and so broadly drawn as to be practically 2D animations.

The Rewrite reminded me of Larry Crowne, the Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts vehicle that also finds lost, life-weary adults back in the classroom, learning life’s big lessons. There’s something “off” about that movie, too: a mix of cozy conventions, crossed with the desire to defy those conventions through the novelty of a cast that’s light years beyond the material. Lawrence reaches a tipping point when digging into his themes (musings on fame, talent, settling versus settling down), with one meandering scene too many. Halfway in, The Rewrite begins to struggle with its identity and enrolls in the Judd Apatow School of Comedic Bloat. Music and Lyrics lost its laugh-momentum, too--but never took itself so seriously as to tiptoe from comedy into lukewarm existential drama.

Despite this troubling genre confusion, I still appreciate The Rewrite as a comfy, flat-toned diversion. Lawrence was, at one point, capable of churning out solid, high-concept comedies. But his recent films have been all over the map: still high-concept, but stuck between craving broad appeal and indulging an exploratory headiness that doesn't belong in the mainstream marketplace. Maybe one day, we'll look back on this era as Lawrence's "sketching" phase, an uneasy bridge on the way to something great. But The Rewrite's lack of focus (is this a farce, a character study, a higher-learning Northern Exposure?) guarantees that watching the disc get sucked back into a supermarket kiosk will be my last memory of it.

*If this sounds familiar, Music and Lyrics also opens with a washed-up pop star meeting with TV executives who want him to judge a reality-TV competition. That film also starred Grant, and was written and directed by Marc Lawrence.

Saturday
Jun062015

UHF (1989)

We Got It All

One of the best things you can do for yourself as a human being is to watch UHF on the big screen with a crowd of "Weird Al" Yankovic fans. For optimal results: make sure the film is a pristine, recently unearthed 35mm print from the UCLA vault; see it at Chicago's Music Box Theatre; and stick around for a Q&A by Yankovic and co-writer/director Jay Levey afterwards. This rarest of rare unicorn experiences happened to me a couple weeks ago; the experience was like Josh Baskin's trip through the Zoltar machine, crossed with a rock concert, crossed with sharing an ice cream with Jesus.

It's easy to understand why UHF got trampled at the summer box office in 1989 by the likes of Batman, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and The Abyss. Yankovic and Levey had a fraction of their competitors' budget, and their screenplay's reliance on gags and goofiness to bridge several of-the-moment TV-show and movie parodies virtually sealed the time capsule on "Weird Al's" brand of so-80s juvenilia. Time has been kind to UHF, though; not only did pop culture finally catch up with its Airplane!-meets-MAD Magazine sensibilities, the film now plays like a roadmap for the YouTube generation's ultra-connected, DIY-entertainment landscape.*

Consider our sad-sack protagonist, George Newman (Yankovic), an overgrown pop-culture kid who fantasizes about being Indiana Jones when he should be paying attention to whatever mundane job he has this week. He's so frustrated with the world's inability to appreciate his untapped creative genius that he finds himself perpetually late, perpetually in debt, and perpetually unsatisfied. His beleaguered best friend (David Bowe) and fed-up girlfriend (Victoria Jackson) struggle to keep up (and keep up a front) as George turns a side of mashed potatoes into a Close Encounters homage or perfects the barely edible Twinkie Wiener Sandwich. Just as everyone reaches the end of their rope, George's Uncle Harvey (Stanley Brock) hands him the deed to U-62, a failing local TV station at the edge of town.

With the help of a dim-witted janitor named Stanley (Michael Richards), George transforms the channel nobody watches into outrageous appointment television. Before long, shows like Wheel of Fish, Conan the Librarian, and Raul's Wild Kingdom (starring Trinidad Silva as a guy who hosts low-rent nature specials from his apartment) place U-62 at the top of the ratings heap--raising the ire of cranky network-affiliate president R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy, deftly spinning movie-villain magic out of a nothing part). Fletcher plots to bring the station down, using Uncle Harvey's not-so-secret gambling addiction as leverage.

In the post-screening Q&A, Yankovic said that he concentrated on the parody bits, while Levey (whose sole screenplay experience involved reading a Robert McKee book just prior to filming) handled the structure. It shows. UHF is a straightforward save-the-crumbling-institution-with-a-telethon/concert/bake-sale story that we've seen a hundred times before and since. What sets it apart (besides the local Tulsa talent recruited for the telethon and a raucous Rambo satire that's aged like a fine wine in the Expendables era) is the filmmakers' triumphant, can-do spirit. 

Today, the film's parody segments aren't one-joke novelties, they're the foundation for a generation of creative thinkers whose finger-tip access to filmmaking technology (and the whole of entertainment history) has foretold big-money-entertainment's demise. Sure, there are still such things as TV networks, movie studios, and cable providers--but they're all eating and acquiring each other in a mammoth orgy of desperation. Meanwhile, twenty-year-old Joe Blow is populating his own YouTube channel with original content and gaining enough fan-based momentum to earn bona fide sponsorship money. In three years' time, the letters "NBC" will stand for "Nobody Buys Cable".

And what is George Newman's idea for telethon donations that equate to U-62 stock, if not the quarter-century-old seeds of crowd-funding? By getting the community involved in supporting content they not only believe in, but also have a stake in, our scrappy heroes guarantee a bottomless well of both ideas and customers.

Of course, you can appreciate UHF on several other levels, like pre-fame appearances from Richards and Fran Drescher (and a brilliant already-famous-and-completely-against-type performance by General Hospital's Anthony Geary); or its highly quotable, politically incorrect supporting characters--like Raoul or Gedde Wattanabe's zero-tolerance martial arts instructor; or the infinitely re-watchable sight-gag tapestry that plays like a live-action Sergio Aragonés drawing; or even just as a legit deconstruction of all the bad mainstream entertainment that permeated the decade's landscape (I can still recite Newman's Geraldo-esque Town Talk teaser in my sleep).

But seeing the movie on the big screen with a diverse crowd of fans old and new solidified my appreciation for what Yankovic and Levey did here. George Newman's struggles and victories belong to any creative person who's ever sought an audience with whom to share their vision. Similar to their characters, the filmmakers had to contend with the moneyed gatekeepers of taste who, in turn, bowed to voter turnout in the form of opening-weekend dollars. That model persists today, within the bubble of folks whose livelihoods depend on its continued existence. But thanks to blogs, pop-up restaurants, Audacity, and myriad other free (or at least relatively inexpensive) innovations at our fingertips, a global audience of millions is just a bright idea and a tweet away. Who would have expected such Delphic insights from a silly movie featuring a crime-fighting, gun-crazed Gandhi?

*Robert Townsend put a similar stamp on comedy a couple years earlier, with Hollywood Shuffle. But his film had both a social conscious and a less absurdist approach to the connective tissue between pop culture send-ups.

**One could also draw parallels between Newman and Andrew McCarthy's character from Mannequin, an unemployable artist who finds inspiration (and an accidental) creating outrageous department-store window displays after hours.

Friday
May292015

Aloha (2015)

It Also Means "Goodbye"

Did I ever tell you about the panic attack I had while watching Elizabethtown? Ten years ago, my wife and I went to see what was, at the time, the new Cameron Crowe film. The brains and heart behind such classics as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything..., Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous, Crowe stood tall in our personal pantheon of generational greats—second only to John Hughes. His movies spoke to us as hopeful young searchers in a world bustling with the deliberately lost. But everything changed that afternoon, as my moral stance against leaving a movie before it finished clashed with an unrelenting psychic assault of twee, cookie-cutter drivel that simply…would...not...end.

Fast-forward a decade. Enough time had passed that I’d forgotten what it was like for a movie to incapacitate me with despair.* Maybe it was time to give my one-time hero another shot.** Sure, Aloha’s trailer made it look like another identity-starved dram-com about a Damaged Guy (Bradley Cooper) pining for The Girl That Got Away (Rachel McAdams) while also, maybe (definitely), falling for a Comely Young Thang (Emma Stone). What the canny marketers didn’t give away was the fact that only half the film is a gooey, complicated love story; the other half is a rusty-B-52 of a polemic against the military industrial complex that belongs in another film—if anywhere at all.

Granted, I don't know how one would sell this schizophrenic disaster to theatregoers who just want to enjoy a light love triangle,*** with a dash of adorable hipster hero Bill Murray thrown in. You know that touching trailer moment where Murray’s character opines about life? Remember the chills? Well, it’s a throwaway line in the movie, dumped into one of those annoying scenes in which people in a crowded club seem to have a perfect grasp of what others are saying and doing across the room.

So what’s the movie about? Damned if I know. Cooper plays a disgraced former Air Force hotshot who takes a gig helping a billionaire (Murray) get a civilian satellite into space over Hawaii. This involves bartering with distrustful natives, and contending with both an eager, wide-eyed liaison (Stone) and an ex-girlfriend (McAdams) who lives on the island with her kids and never-around pilot husband (John Krasinski). Crowe was blessed with a game, capable cast and several nuggets of good (if played out) ideas. The problem is that he’s so afraid of being conventional that he spends all his time juggling narratives instead of committing to characters that feel real.

On top of that, the Hawaiian setting is beautiful but its cultural intrusiveness (or Crowe’s perception of it) is downright ugly. In the writer/director’s version of Hawaii, one could hardly ask for a gas station bathroom key without receiving a sappy, rambling oral history of the god Lono--or even a visit from the rain deity himself while zipping up. Alexander Payne's The Descendants creaked under the weight of this bizarre patronage, too, but not nearly as much. Imagine a film, set in Chicago, in which every character talks like the SNL Superfans, eats nothing but brats and deep-dish pizza, and drops the Great Fire of 1871 into every single conversation. Aloha is like that, and it's grating.

Speaking of grating, is Hollywood just about done with Emma Stone? I’m a big fan of the actress, but she’s very quickly become a new version of (to borrow Nathan Rabin’s description of Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown) The Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Stone has mastered the art of saving grumpy, privileged, middle-aged men from existential dread in films like Magic in the Moonlight, Birdman, Crazy Stupid Love, and now Aloha. In this, her most cartoonish role to date, she’s the unflappably chipper, island-lore-obsessed foil to Cooper’s flippant moper--until precisely the film’s halfway point, when the screenplay suddenly requires a modicum of sturdiness from this otherwise wobbly table leg. Stone shares a similar fate with Krasinski here, as his character is alternately a man of few words, a man of no words, an absentee father, a loving dad, a bottled-up rage machine, and Aloha’s Zen beating heart. The film’s characters are so inconsistent that it often seems as if Sony sent editor Joe Hutshing’s work-in-progress file to theatres instead of the completed film.

This is also a big step back (or at least sideways) for Cooper. Regardless of what you thought of American Sniper’s politics, there’s no denying that the actor created a unique, nuanced character—as he’s done in films like American Hustle and even Guardians of the Galaxy. Aloha represents the kind of movie that people who don’t like Bradley Cooper could easily point to as a confirmation of their bias. None of that blame belongs on his shoulders, though. He simply has nothing to work with—as exemplified by a truly bizarre scene in which his character gives a knowing look to another character and induces an onslaught of tears. I laughed out loud at this moment, which played less like empathetic bonding than the comic-book origin of a demented psychic assassin.

I won’t even touch the space/espionage plot: Real Genius pulled that thematic switcheroo thirty years ago, and only narrowly succeeded by working in an exploding popcorn house at the end. Look it up.

Aloha has all the hallmarks of a solid Cameron Crowe film. The artist has made a terrific career of championing creative outsiders against shifty adults, and he hasn’t lost his knack for orchestrating gooey, trailer-ready sentiment. Perhaps one too many laps around the industry hamster wheel softened his stance on convention—or dulled his ability to spot the traps. Whatever the case, Crowe’s youthful, lava-hot passion has coagulated and cooled, much like my ability to even get worked up over his movies. I’ll take a panic attack any day.

*The only “real-life” event to have this affect on me since was the sudden death of my father two years later. I still feel two things in my bones: Elizabethtown and that phone call.

**I skipped We Bought a Zoo, which is holding steady at #6,483 in my “Someday, I Guess” Queue.

***Remember, this is a summer release, not fall.

Monday
May252015

The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence (2015)

Bowel-ing for Dollars

Loving The Human Centipede movies is not a crime, but finding a fellow traveller (especially in "serious" circles) is like playing "Spot the Convict". Three weeks ago, a friend and I came to that iffy crossroads in film chatter when we had to decide just how much fandom of writer/director Tom Six to divulge. There are two steps in determining the flow of this particular conversation--if it even gets off the ground:

Without making eye contact, ask the person you're speaking with if he or she loves The Human Centipede A) ironically or B) genuinely. If the answer is "A", steer the conversation immediately to Avengers: Age of Ultron.*

If "B", relax that nervous smile just a bit. There's one more hurdle to clear, but it's a minor one. Look your companion dead in the eye and ask if they respond more to the films' gross-out factor, or if they appreciate Six as a Warholian prankster--an artist whose ability transcends craftsmanship and rockets over most audience's heads on its way to the stratosphere.

(Don't worry about hyperbole: if your friend answers "B" to the second question, you'll both be giddy as geeks on grades day. If the answer is "A", however, see above but swap out Mad Max: Fury Road for Age of Ultron.)

Luckily, my friend and I were on the same wavelength. It was refreshing (and really strange) to find someone else who enjoys these films and, more importantly, can talk knowledgeably about them. I've written before about my frustration at conversations that begin and end with, "Ugh! I'd never watch those stupid movies!"

In fairness, neither of us had seen The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence at the time of this mutual confession. Had that been the case, I suspect our enthusiasm would have been greatly tempered by the worm turning on our gonzo genre-hero's filmography. This film, unlike its predecessors, is grotesque in all the wrong ways; a hate-fueled, childish assault on mankind that is as impossible to defend as it is to recommend to even fans of the series. This feels like Tom Six's indignant sign-off to a global, puritanical cabal that he genuinely believes knows who he is and cares what he does. My only surprise at the end of an hour-and-forty-five minute celluloid tantrum was that the writer/director didn't actually kill himself on camera.

On the other hand, it's entirely possible that Final Sequence is the masterful realization of Six's thesis statement, and that it is I who must now look up at the brilliant points soaring far above my head. That said, I'm okay with being left behind on this journey.

The film opens with a climactic scene from the first Human Centipede film, and then transitions to a clip from The Human Centipede 2--which was, of course, key to the sequel's big meta point. We then realize that Part 2 is being watched by the main characters in Part 3, who are played by the principal actors from the first two movies. Dieter Laser is William Boss, the hard-bitten Nazi warden at a Texas penitentiary. Laurence Harvey is his sweaty, nervous accountant, Mr. Butler. Faced with termination due to high recidivism and severe budget problems, Butler proposes that Boss turn the prison population into a 500-person human centipede.

This is, of course, the film's selling point. A horror movie about a mad scientist sewing three people together, ass-to-mouth, in his basement must naturally scale in order to succeed as a franchise. But it takes nearly an hour to even get to the planning stages of this unholy organism, and the road is fraught with a degree of racism, sexism, brutality, and plain bad filmmaking that, frankly, I found offensive; not in sensibility, but in watchability. I'd guess fifteen minutes could have been axed from this thing, had Six chosen alternate takes on Laser's dialogue--ones in which the actor didn't drag out every syllable of every word while screaming at the camera or his co-stars. Early on, I stopped seeing the Boss character as a latter-day Colonel Kurtz, and began wondering if Laser was undergoing some extended trauma flashback.

Of course, when I accuse the film of being poorly made, series novices will jump to, "Well, what did you expect from the third Human Centipede movie?" That's not what I'm talking about. Those who take Six seriously know that he's a filmmaker capable of great restraint and great depravity, both of which are dialed up or down on the whims of a beautiful intellect and capable hand. The first film was all sick premise and dark-humor execution. The second film was a reaction to critical outrage from people who'd heard the premise, skipped the film, and went straight for their keyboards.

Final Sequence is Six nuking the institutions (indeed, the organisms) that make film possible. He eschews realism and orders his actors to do the same;** he revels in graphic material designed to shock people who would never consider watching his movie; and he drags the diehards through a meandering, sun-drenched slog of pointless asides that make solitary confinement sound really attractive.

I'll give Six credit for one inspired shot. Fortunately, IFC Midnight put it in the trailer and promotional materials, so you don't actually have to watch this thing to appreciate the image's context or impact. From the vantage point of the prison-yard wall, we look out on an unconscionably ghastly scene: 500 prisoners (and one beleaguered secretary) forming a "human prison centipede". As with the the premise of Six's series, the idea is disgusting, but there's an underlying dark poetry that one must actually look at in order to understand. The chain forms a surreal tapeworm, fanned out and dried out--with a tiny team of examiners walking its length to see what they can learn from the bizarre parasite. Boss and Butler see prisoners as societal resource-suckers and as the literal excrement that the host must shed in order to survive.

Coupled with Eric Roberts' bemused turn as the Governor,*** and an endearingly offbeat performance by Clayton Rohner as the prison's ethically conflicted head doctor, the centipede money-shot provides exactly two reasons to check the film out--or to look up the highlights on YouTube, a practice I'm loathe to recommend.

But unless nearly two hours of the following can entertain you:

  • Sexual assault
  • Kidney rape
  • Comatose rape
  • Gunshot to a colostomy wound
  • Graphic castration
  • Consumption of fried clitorises (you read that right) accompanied by the line, "Thank God for Africa and thank God for female circumcision!"

...I suggest you stay far, far away from The Human Centipede 3.

The strange thing is, it didn't have to be this way. Buried deep beneath the scatology and attention-desperate ravings are several kernels of brilliant satire. Had Six played the first half of the film totally straight, delivering a measured and artful narrative that in no way tipped its hand to the oddball horrors to come, Final Sequence might have amounted to something--or at least something more. The story takes a turn halfway through that reminded me of the brain-tickling twists in the previous two films. By the same point in Part 3, I'd just about given up. Six undoubtedly has some interesting ideas about prison culture and what it says about society as a whole, but his message is lost in characters and situations that start at 11 and go to 16 as part of what feels like a tired, Bush-era critique of...something or other.

I'm glad I saw the third (and, hopefully, final) chapter so that I can overlook it in the future, with a clean conscious. Tom Six has spent a lot of time, resources, and other people's money to make folks think that he doesn't care about what they say about his art. Sadly, he not only dropped the ball on this film, he deflated it and burned down the stadium--leaving even his most ardent supporters nothing to defend, and providing gleaming, powerful ammunition to his critics. This may not mean much to him, but for we fragile few who gather in coffee shops or online to talk about art we "shouldn't" like, Six has inadvertently (or advertently) sentenced us to eat shit forever. 

*Pro or con, it doesn't matter; the debate will be infinitely briefer and more comfortable.

**When the performer trying their hardest to do something legit with the material is former porn star/former Charlie Sheen "goddess" Bree Olsen, we're dealing with foundation-level issues.

***Roberts and co-star Tommy "Tiny" Lister also appeared in The Dark Knight. The two films have nothing to do with one another aside from this fact--and, possibly, their perfect illustration of filmmaking's beautifully varied spectrum.

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