People have been bitching how I've practically liked nothing this summer. Well, continue bitching. It's not my fault that we have to endure such miserable quality produce. If you want the good stuff you'll have to go to your local art house and watch Terrence Malick's masterful The Tree Of Life or Woody Allen's playful Midnight In Paris -more on that one next week-
Crazy Stupid Love (PG-13) ★★
Here's a movie that tries to be too much. You can't fault ambition this summer, it's a plus. Directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra try to get to the bottom of love in a much different way than their underrated effort I Love You Philip Morris from last year. They overreach but get prime performances from Ryan Gosling and my current Hollywood love thorn Emma Stone. Steve Carrell and Juliann Moore also star in otherwise underdeveloped roles. The movie grabbed me in its first half only to pile on the cliches in its second. This to me is the worst feeling possible to have in a movie -one with promise that ultimately fails. Back to Stone. She's a natural Hollywood beauty with acting chops to boot. As Easy A showed us last year, she has mass potential and even if a movie such as this one doesn't fully show it, you know it's bound to happen with the right script.
The Trip (R) ★★★
A film export from the U.K starring the great Steve Coogan and British comedian Rob Brydon. Coogan is asked by The Observer to tour the country's finest restaurants, he sees it as the perfect romantic getaway for he and his beautiful American girlfriend. However, she backs out on him, he has no one to accompany him but his best friend Brydon. A competitiveness starts to build up between the two as they try to one up each in conversations involving impressions. all in the while trying to grasp each others company throughout the trip. It's a simple formula and it works. There aren't any special effects or overcooked plot lines. Just two actors, great food and a real sense of wonder at some of England's best locations. Definitely not for everybody's tastes but here's a real zesty, underrated treat.
It's not that Horrible Bosses isn't worth the R rated hype it's been getting the past few weeks, it's more the fact that it's a skecthed out R rated comedy that features hit and miss jokes. The plot, involving three guy that each plot to kill their own dead beat bosses, is so over the top that at some point during the movie I was telling myself "Is this actually happening?" - not a bad thing to say in a summer movie season filled with dread. However, incoherence is at work here. What saves Horribles Bosses is its performances. They are enjoyable because they feel so natural in an unnatural setting. Jamie Foxx is a highlight as Motherfucker Jones -that's right Motherfucker Jones- a hired assassin that helps our boys get through their tough ordeal. Props must also be given to Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as our beloved, main dim wits. Sudeikis' over the top, stretchingly funny performance doesn't feel as inspired as Zach Galafanakis' turns in the Hangover movies but does bring some much needed looniness. Watch out for the scene in which he accidentally sniffs cocaine. How about our main villains? The bosses. They also keep the movie alive, even when it falters flat. Kevin Spacey is at his snarky best, Colin Farrell -check out that hilarious combover- hits a comedic peak and Jennifer Aniston gives one her sexier, better performances. Well then, after all this positiveness why do I not recommend Horrible Bosses? Its script -by Jonathan Goldstein- is a lost case, a story that doesn't know where to go and ends up going nowhere ditto the bland filmmaking from director Seth Gordon. It's a film that could have worked but instead does the job in a half assed kind of way.
Megan Fox, where art thou?
It takes a lot of bad to make a movie practically unwatchable. Michael Bay has had a knack over the years to make the unwatchable jump out on screen. His lack of cinematic subtleness is completely overdone and - combined with his knack for never having a a single shot lasting more than a few seconds - almost mind numbing. But don't worry little kiddies, Transformers 3 is primed and ready to fit the needs of horny teenagers all around the world and give hard-ons to macho juiced car crazy dumb asses with an IQ lower than 70. There's no concrete plot here, just bitches, robots and cars. Sounds like fun? it sure isn't. Combine that with the absence of Megan Fox, the only reason that made me give that damn single star digit rating to the first two films and you got a recipe for prime Michael Bay disaster. My question is what exactly is the limit to bashing such a money hungry enterprise? Should I have even reviewed such a film or just let it go and spared the filmmakers my two cents. I mean seriously, what were the chances I'd even like this film? Then again this is a free democracy we live in and we are allowed to give our two cents about any damn thing we experience. I'm reminded of a time when Rolling Stone movie critic Peter Travers bashed Bay's very own Con Air in a review so scathing it got Bay himself to write a letter of complaint to the Rolling Stone editors. Bay wanted Travers fired and said there was a clear bias in his review. They stood by Travers and his right to say what he wanted to say. Bay lost his war to shut down an opinion (and thank the heavens for that). Bay's movie has a kind of deliberate brainwash aspect to it that can easily infuriate the most adevnturous of movie goers. Add to the fact that its a mind numbing 157 minutes and is -of course- in 3D. Then again why wouldn't it be? This being a cash cow enterprise that wants to suck every possible penny out of its customers, the 3D is just an excuse to get the extra 3 bucks from its customers. This is the kind of movie that is not art at all, it's business as usual.
Why suck it out and even write a concrete description of the plot when it all feels just so useless. Bay is probably in bed with some hoes, burning 100 dollar bills as we speak and I'm here in my laptop writing about a movie that most likely represents the end of civilization as we know it. It's a discouraging image but one that most truthfully represents the Hollywood state of mind. Movie companies are paying bloggers and writers to like this shit. They're brainwashing the mainstream to buy into a formula that has long been dead and that surely belongs in the anal of cinema. However I do believe Bay is hating the negative critical reaction that has been thrust upon him following the release of his beloved Transformers 3. One can definitely see that with his bout against Peter Travers. A Cash cow doesn't just want money but also wants to be loved. Forget about it. He might be a Box Office darling but Bay is a critics nightmare - he's a director that has made a name for himself by treating his slam bam action in such a pornographic matter that it makes his sleazy, sexist depiction of women look tame in comparison. He loves to get close ups of female asses, bright glossed lips and perky tits. He's a male perv that is talking to the subconscious of all pubescent American teenagers. They dig this stuff. It's like soft core porn to them. Me? I'd rather watch paint dry or go to a seven hour workshop on customer service than get stuck in this movie hell hole ever again.
It isn't for me to actually call a movie a "masterpiece" or "great" but Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life is just that - a mosaic of a film that tests an audiences limitations but more importantly the cinematic medium's limitations. No matter what faults you may have with Malick's movie, you cannot deny the sheer chutzpah and originality that went into its creation. There has never really been anything quite like it and I highly doubt there ever will be. Malick tries to transcend the boundaries of life itself by trying to find a kind of meaning that can possibly bind us with a higher power. His search is for transcendence, in the little moments that make and shape us. Death, morning, rebirth, transcendence are just a fraction of the themes being tackled here, suffice to say I don't think the Transformers 3 crowd will very warm up to the film's non linear narrative and constant use of abstract shapes and colors representing a kind of big bang.
This is a welcome return for Malick, who's last picture -The New World- I hadn't so much warmed up to as much as was just puzzled by its mystical nature. The Tree Of Life I got. I understood what Malick was aiming for, what his obsessions were and what he was trying to get at. The spiritual nature of the film is undeniable. Here's a film so ambitious that it sets out to find the meaning of life in its images and contrasting colors. It sets out to bring a kind of ecstasy to its audience, a maddening one in fact, that can resort to turning off the most austere, ignorant of audiences and puzzling the more adventurous ones. This is basically Malick refusing to please us with any easy answers and deciding to please his own subconscious in creating something that turns him on and that makes him curious about life itself. He is not only tormenting us but tormenting himself in saying there is no easy answer to be found in all this.
Malick tries to find his answers though the simplicities and cracks of life. He evokes memories of his own childhood into the life of an American family going through life's trials. Brad Pitt is Mr. O'brien, an overbearing, aggressive father to three children and husband to a quiet, fearful wife. She is played indelibly well by Jessica Chastain in a performance so incredible it will be talked about for ages upon ages in every film school imaginable, ditto the film of course. She is quiet because she has no power in the house, she is controlled and so are her children. The rare time we see her smile is when her husband is out of town and she celebrates with such giddy, exuberance, running with kids around the house. The scene is memorable because it shows darkness leaving and light entering. Every scene Pitt is in brings fear and trouble to the settings. He is a controlling, failed man that has lost touch of who he is. It's an incredible performance that might win him an Oscar nomination just like Chastain.
The Tree Of Life is a groundbreaker because it brings out a dimension to life we never thought existed. We get to see things we couldn't possibly imagine with Malick's poetic eye. Frustration might at times linger and it is nowhere near a perfect film (Why Sean Penn? What's with the ending?) but I'm reminded of a great quote by late film critic Pauline Kael who once said "great movies are rarely perfect movies" - that's how I feel about Malick's visionary mind fuck. It is such an inspiring work of art that you can't help but break out a smile at its originality. There hasn't been a more thoroughly breathtaking cinematic vision on screen in -it seems like- forever. People might hate it, people might curse it but they cannot deny its importance to the way we view the way we live and the way our world is shaped. Through the infinites of our deepest subconscious Malick asks us to take his hand and jump along with him, hipsters and tipsters might dig the hell out of his ideas but so could you. Go along with him.
★★★ ½ (PG-13)
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