Described as “the greatest literary hoax of our time,” the infamous unmasking of cause célèbre persona/author JT LeRoy in 2005 turned the world of pop culture media upside down. An extraordinary story that made headlines around the globe, the tale in short is: a precocious, sexually ambiguous, then-famous teenage author (LeRoy) — purporting to come from a world of drug addiction, poverty, and sexual abuse — was revealed to be the creation of another writer, a fraud upheld by an actor playing the press-shy persona in public, with her musician/boyfriend as a co-conspirator.Read More
“Hail Satan” is, first and foremost, about resistance; resistance against sectors of Christianity which have heavily deviated into their own toxic kind of militant evangelism. In fact, it’s this problematic nature of religion that kick-started the creation of The Satanic Temple. In Penny Lane’s documentary, The temple is rendered as nothing short of a troll-punking organization. It’s also an atheist-minded religion which keeps the positives that would come with religion — such as the camaraderie, organization but intersects these positives with progressive liberal values. You might ask, where does Satan fit into all of this? Oh, he’s mostly used as a direct conduit to infuriate Christian extremists, most of which actually believe The Satanic Temple abides by Lucifer’s throne. They don’t. In fact, The Satanic Temple does not worship Satan as a literal god at all. It’s all about the symbolism, baby. After all, the lord of darkness was the ultimate rebel by which the earliest biblical stories were told. These post-modernist Satanic followers mostly just want to place his statues all around red-state public spaces, including a Baphomet smack-dab in the middle of the Arkansas State Capitol. The fight to take the statue down, not to mention the idea of replacing it with a replica of the ten commandment plates, thanks to one Arkansas lawymaker, form the absurdist drama of the doc. Lane uses talking-heads footage from high-ranking TST members to forward her narrative, including the inner dilemmas such as the ethical rivalry between spokesman Lucien Greaves and Jex Blackmore, the founder of TST’s Detroit chapter who caused controversy within the organization, and ensuingly got booted out of it, after deciding to incite violence towards the temple’s enemies. Blackmore believes the separation of church and state isn’t enough, and that anarchy is needed to further promote the Staanic Temple’s goals.The rest of the movie is surprisingly infused in light and satirical manner by Lane, to further establish Satan’s rebelliously playful demeanor. If anything, Lane tries to make the case for America, in all its divisiveness, to take the moral examples presented by these lord-of-darkness-worshiping jokesters and change its mindset for the greater good. [B/B+]
It’s remarkable and perplexing that a landmark work such as director Bi Gan‘s latest film, “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” is not part of this year’s official competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The mezmerizing, mysterious film, an indisputably great one, is coming off the heels of the equally otherworldly 2014 film “Kaili Blues,” but this sophomore effort is a game-changer of the highest order.Read More
The Initial release for David Robert Mitchell's "Under the Silver Lake" was supposed to be last summer, but, after negative reviews greeted it at Cannes, A24 cut the chord and changed its release for December 7th, then that date was bumped again to, supposedly, this coming Friday. I presume Mitchell’s film is indeed coming out in 4 days hence, so it’s time to give my two cents on this polarizing film, which I happened to catch almost a year ago at Cannes.
"Under the Silver Lake" actually works decently well, up until its lazy and infuriating payoff, which feels flat and uninspired. David Robert Mitchell (“It Follows”) is a filmmaker that wants to break rules, his work here with DP Mike Gioulakis is commendable. The problem is that there just is no there there, an L.A. odyssey about Sam (Andrew Garfield), a Peeping Tom-turned-amateur-detective who tries to crack the conspiracy case of a missing person which he believes may be hidden in pop-culture artifacts. That missing person is Sarah, and who wouldn’t have a thing for this stoner chick, especially since she’s played by Riley Keough. The evidence he uncovers leads him to vanish into the L.A. underworld, where nothing is as it seems; girl gangs, tween vandalists, a dog killer, a missing millionaire among other distractions Mitchell lays out for us.
The goal here is to build up a cult following, and, make no mistake about it, there will be people that'll respond to Mitchell's film in that very way. Clocking in at 139 minutes, this shapeless L.A. noir wants to be like "The Big Lebowski" and "The Long Goodbye," but tries too hard to attain the level of those classics. Mitchell's intention with this film was for it to be a purposeful and confusing California-flavored mental haze. However, the whole notion of a story revolving around a surreal dive into L.A's hipster community is nothing new at the movies. We’ve seen it all before. [B-]
Sometimes a performance can carry a film and make it work despite an average screenplay. It takes a talented actor or actress to make this happen, but when it does, it becomes a testament to their ability to carry a film all by themselves, which is that rare thing that producers in this industry always look for.Read More
A film like “Booksmart” lives and dies by its two central performances. Beannie Feldstein (Lady Bird) and Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12), respectively, play Molly and Amy, two upcoming high school graduates that have built up their own hermit-like worldview together. It’s not like they are anything like the central character in Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade” who had to fend her miserable experience all by herself, no, Molly and Amy are two peas in a pod, they are the kind of inseperable friends that complete each other’s sentences and are content with hanging out in their rooms instead of going out and socializing with the rest of their classroom. And yet, they do have a rapport with the rest of their classmates, it’s very apparent in the classroom sequences where the cliches that may have once been apparent in John Hughes and teen movies from the ‘90s completely evaporate. There is no bully, there is no jock, there is no cool kid, the stereotypes are not there and that is incredibly refreshing to witness.Read More
Alex Ross Perry is a filmmaker that I’ve never fully warmed up to. His films tend to be both slight and pretentious. His latest film is titled “Her Smell” and it is no doubt an audience-test movie —a story about an unlikable character in the form of manic-crazy rock star Becky (played by Elizabeth Moss) who is the lead singer of a fictional all-female band named Something She. Since this film is set in the ‘90s, and these gals hail from Seattle, I presume the music they perform is grunge, although there are definitely punk remnants to it as well. This trio of gals all wear heavy mascara and eyeliner makeup and like to flick their tongues in demonic punk-rock fashion any chance they get, whether it be on-stage of off. I honestly was not down with this movie within the first 10 minutes, I just knew this wasn’t for me, but I stuck around, waiting for the film to gradually improve.
However, clocking in at 135 minutes, “Her Smell” should very much be qualified as an endurance-test for anyone except Alex Ross Perry’s most ardent of fans. The fact that you have to succumb to the camera and follow Becky’s point-of-view during the entirety of this film feels like hell because she’s nothing more than a mean-spirited individual who gets her endorphin rush not just from the drugs she injects, in what seems to be an hourly basis, but most especially from putting down anyone and everyone around her orbit; Some of her victims include her two bandmates (Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin), the opening act (Cara Delevigne, DylanGelula, Ashley Benson), her ex-husband (Dan Stevens), a record-label owner (Eric Stoltz) and her manager (Virginia Madsen). Rather than putting a stop to Becky’s mayhem, these individuals stick around, facilitating her bullying by not calling her out for a good portion of the film, that is until they are near the breaking point of their sanity. Coincidentally enough, that’s how we feel watching the movie.
Things do get better in the final few minutes, when Becky tries to find redemption and make amends for her grotesque behavior, especially when she decides to play a piano rendition of Bryan Adams’ ‘Heaven’ to her little baby girl. It’s a wonderfully humane and intimate moment in a film filled with vile degradation and mean-spiritedness. This is absolute movie hell. [D+]
I mean, did you really believe that this latest incarnation of "Hellboy" would actually be better than the two excellent Guillermo del Toro films we got back in '04 and '08? Of course not.Read More
Bahar (Golshifteh Farahani) is the leader of an all-female battalion of Iraqi and Syrian women, who escaped kidnapping at the hands of an Islamic terrorist group and are planning their revenge. Mathilde (Emmanuelle Bercot), a veteran war reporter, with an eyepatch no less, follows Bahar and her warriors in Kurdistan where they try to take back their invaded village from the terrorists.Read More
Music competition shows have been a TV mainstay in America ever since the Brits imported “American Idol” in the early-2000s, which in turn kickstarted a slew of copycats, including NBC’s incredibly popular “The Voice.” Eventually, movies based on the competitive nature of these shows (“American Dreamz” and “Pitch Perfect“) were made, creating a genre which, when successful, can be a biting satire of our culture’s obsession with fame.Read More
Make no mistake about it, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is a love letter to art, to those that dare dream and how it can also lead us to madness, but the best most joyous kind.Read More
A major disappointment at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was without a doubt “Native Son.” From first-time director Rashid Johnson, and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Suzan-Lori Park, this A24 and HBO production is based on the acclaimed Richard Wright novel of the same name.Read More
The removal of Zack Snyder in the DCEU seems to have a sparked a wide array of MCU-inspired movies. You know, films filled with meta-humor that don’t take themselves as seriously as, say, “Man of Steel” and “Batman vs Superman.” If Snyder wanted to, so badly, bring the dark layers that Christopher Nolan’s sublime, game-changing Dark Knight trilogy then he was dead-wrong in that decision. The drastically lighter tone shown in post-Snyder movies “Wonder Woman,” and “Aquaman” has none-too-surprisingly led to the hiring of James Gunn for “The Suicide Squad.” It is, after all, because of Gunn that the MCU has had this tonal shift in humor, his 2014 sci-fi romp “Guardians of the Galaxy” changed the game for the MCU and how they were going to handle their ensuing films (just look at “Thor Ragnarok,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” “Doctor Strange,” “Captain Marvel.”)Read More
‘Claire Denis’ "High Life" had an underwhelming world premiere at the Roy Thomson Hall during the Toronto Film Festival, for which I attended. Around half the audience had already left the theater by the time the film ended, you could just tell nobody was into it. And this is coming from a fest that prides itself in having the best audience in the world. Even Toronto audiences couldn't deal with the metaphorical artsy ambitions that were unfurling on the screen. And I don't mean that as a detraction of Denis' mad ambitions in "High Life," which, by all accounts, warranted a repeat viewing on my part.Read More