Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Taken (2008) *

Even though it is well-made, it's also preposterous and obviously a revenge fantasy which provides an emotional justification for incredible violence and torture. Despicable.

The Power of Two - The Atlantic

"As long as John and Paul were both alive, the possibility remained that they might remarry. According to Linda McCartney, during the 1970s Paul was 'desperate to work with John again.' John retreated from music in the second half of the decade, but in 1980 he and Yoko released Double Fantasy. He was murdered on December 8, 1980. Had he lived, who knows what might have happened? Jack Douglas, who produced Double Fantasy, said that John was actively planning to team up with Paul the following year."

The article is mainly a straw man diatribe ("the myth of the lone genius" is a thing?) and it is also guilty of the same facile compartmentalization of people the author accuses others of doing. Still it's tempting to consider what might have been in 1981...

via @TomIfNotThen

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lucy (2014) **

The in-your-face allegories (cheetahs stalking prey/innocent girl delivering a package) and faux-science expositions ad nauseum (completely unnecessary Morgan Freeman) waste the terrific presence of Scarlett Johansson. You can't expect close-ups to do ALL the work of engaging the audience. It's colorful and moves quickly (90 minutes thank you!) but the ideas are trite and the technique does not work.

Castle Keep (1969) **

Ambitiously eccentric WWII flick slips over into pretentiousness too often. Beautifully shot though.

Non-Stop (2014) ***

Pretty effective mash-up of airport disaster flicks and whodunits strains credulity to the max yet still delivers the thrills.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) *

One of those very dimly shot films necessitated by an overabundance of CGI effects. The first hour feels like 2 but then it picks up a bit but not enough to save it. Very silly and nonsensical with a waste of some good actors.

Simply Do it: Talking with Woody Allen About Directorial Style | Interviews | Roger Ebert

"When I see cool films, no matter how beautiful they are, there's something off-putting about them. I have all my characters—or 99% of the characters—dress in autumnal clothes, beiges, and browns, and yellows, and greens. And I have [production designer and long-time collaborator] Snato Loquasto make the sets look as warm as possible. And I like the lighting to be very warm, and I color-correct things so that they're very red.

"Sometimes, the cameraman will be shocked. Sven Nykvist said 'My God, their faces will all look like tomatoes!'

"And I said 'Well, let's try it.' He got to like it.

"And when Darius was color-correcting 'Midnight In Paris,' we went all out and made it red, red, red in color-correction. It makes it like a Matisse. Matisse said that he wanted his paintings to be a nice easy chair that you sit down in, and enjoy. I feel the same way: I want you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the warm color, like take a bath in warm color. It's like how I play the clarinet with a big, fat warm tone as opposed to a cool sound that's more liquid, or fluid. I prefer a thicker, richer, warmer sound. The same with color; I feel it has a subliminal effect on the viewer in a positive way."

Under the Skin (2013) ***

Tells its tale cinematically with original, arresting visuals and a terrific Scarlett Johansson performance.

In the House (2012) **

Well made intellectual exercise never gets beyond just that.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Five Easy Pieces (1970) ***

Offbeat and quirky character study of an extremely self-centered and misanthropic individual. Ok, he's an asshole basically. Very well shot and written with several iconic scenes. Always interesting, sometimes cringe inducing, sometimes silly. The kind of American film that doesn't get made much any more.

Perfect Sense (2011) **

It appears to be a failed attempt at a rom-com/dystopia hybrid. Not sure what it's supposed to mean but the two leads are appealing and it moves well.

The Lego Movie (2014) **

Could have been a very good movie but the creators just couldn't resist shoving every last shred of magic and wonder down our throats in a ruinous denouement that makes Spielberg look like Alain Resnais. Some nice voice work, clever animation.

Ethan Hawke's Heartwarming Tribute To A "Boyhood" With Music

"There’s this thing that happens when you listen to too much of the solo stuff separately — too much Lennon: suddenly there’s a little too much self-involvement in the room; too much Paul and it can become sentimental — let’s face it, borderline goofy; too much George: I mean, we all have our spiritual side but it’s only interesting for about six minutes, ya know? Ringo: He’s funny, irreverent, and cool, but he can’t sing — he had a bunch of hits in the ’70s (even more than Lennon) but you aren’t gonna go home and crank up a Ringo Starr album start to finish, you’re just not gonna do that."

Yet another reason to dislike Ethan Hawke. I can't imagine having such an insufferably pretentious father. Now excuse me while I go and "crank up" Time Takes Time.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) ***

This chronicle of a young woman's first coup de foudre experience from start to finish is one of the few 3 hour movies to not feel overlong, thanks to good editing and a sensational performance by Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Months before their first words, babies’ brains rehearse speech mechanics | UW Today

“'Most babies babble by 7 months, but don’t utter their first words until after their first birthdays,' said lead author Patricia Kuhl, who is the co-director of the UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. 'Finding activation in motor areas of the brain when infants are simply listening is significant, because it means the baby brain is engaged in trying to talk back right from the start and suggests that 7-month-olds’ brains are already trying to figure out how to make the right movements that will produce words.'”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Life Itself (2014) **

Fairly straightforward documentary about the life of Roger Ebert but mainly about the final days and as such it is tough to take at times. Not exactly entertaining but informative and at times poignant.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Harper (1966) **

Paul Newman and a star supporting cast can't save this overlong, shoddily produced attempt at a hard-boiled detective noir. Some interesting glimpses of mid-60's Los Angeles and an unusual ending.

Almonds Are Sucking the Life Out of California - The Wire

"But even as the almond business booms, California ecology is heading toward a bust. In San Joaquin Valley, the ground has been sinking by an average of 11 inches per year, thanks to over-pumping of aquifers."

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Case for the End of The Modern Zoo -- NYMag

"It is hard to avoid the conclusion that in some way the animals understand that the world around them is an artificial one, that these phobias and psychotic episodes represent reactions to that artifice, or subversions of it. Which means that the central illusion of the zoo is no longer holding. The animals know."

The Pope and the Pederasts by Garry Wills | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

"3. Patriarchy. The Vatican is not only the West’s oldest monarchy, but its most entrenched patriarchy. For long its official teaching was Thomas Aquinas’s assertion (taken from Aristotle) that “the female is a defective male.” Though the Vatican has tried in recent years to back off from that position, as late as 1976 Paul VI’s Curia said that there can be no women priests because women do not look like Jesus: they lack “this ‘natural resemblance’ which must exist between Christ and his minister.” Pope John Paul II said in 1994 that if Jesus had wanted to ordain women, he would have begun with the best of them, his mother. He ignores the fact that Jesus in the Gospels ordained no priests, male or female. The investigation of American nuns for daring to have opinions of their own shows how far Vatican officials are from understanding women. (How could they understand them?)"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bud Cort: 'Harold and Maude was a blessing and a curse' | Film | The Guardian

"Bud Cort has just come back from Ringo Starr's birthday breakfast. He has known Ringo for a while he says. 'He's a dear friend and he's my dog's godfather.'"

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Rapid Price Increases for Some Generic Drugs Catch Users by Surprise - NYTimes.com

"Insurers can sometimes react to high drug prices by bargaining with manufacturers for better rates. But, Dr. Kesselheim said, those negotiations tend to focus on very expensive new products, like infused drugs to treat arthritis and some cancer treatments, where a good discount could save tens of millions a year.

"With cheaper drugs, insurers use simpler tools to discourage use and prod doctors to think about other options: They require physicians to fill out forms — like the one that landed on Dr. Lindenberg’s desk — and move the drug to a category that requires larger patient co-pays.

"If markets function, the current high price of digoxin might induce some more drug companies to begin selling it, which should in turn bring prices back down. But a few years of higher bills could be a strain for older patients, most of them on Medicare, who must contribute to prescription drug costs."

Yet another example, as if we needed another, as to why ESSENTIAL things like food, water, basic medicines, basic energies really shouldn't be left completely to "the market".

Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day (1996) *

10 year olds might be ok with it, but this is a very bad movie.

Is there such a thing as the self?

"What LSD is no good for is 'mind control,' as the CIA, to its disappointment, discovered during the Cold War when it set up a string of brothels in San Francisco where prostitutes would slip their johns a tab of acid so agents could observe its effects through two-way mirrors."

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Turning Point (1977) **

Classy soap opera involving the ballet world and long simmering rivalries/regrets. Way too many ballet excerpts pad the running time and make the film seem longer than it is.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Three Days of the Condor (1975) ***

Good leads highlight this 70's exercise in paranoia. Nowadays the implication that power + secrecy leads to bad things is taken for granted but in 1975 this was still, at least for the majority of Americans, a "shocker". Very strange and almost comical "love scene" really dates the picture.

Gambit (2012) **

Like a previous attempt at remaking an Ealing-esque film, this one's also a failure but the cast makes it watchable and even intermittently entertaining.