Monthly Archives: August 2015

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Movie Trailer – Victor Frankenstein

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Paul McGuigan

Starring: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Jessica Brown Findlay

Release: November 25th, 2015

Did these guys get paid a TON of money to do this movie or were they blackmailed?  Because it looks awful.  It looks like a carbon copy of Sherlock Holmes, which I know audiences ate up but totally turned a great story into a Hollywood ripoff.  I love McAvoy, like Radcliffe, but don’t see this odd action flick becoming anything more than just another money-maker.


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DVD Review – Nana

Category : DVD Review

Director: Dan Wolman

Starring: Katya Berger, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Yehuda Efroni

Year: 1983

Would you like to see Moulin Rouge but with sex?  Well, I’m sure someone’s made a pornographic version, but this isn’t it.  However, Nana is Moulin Rouge with nudity, and that’s something.  Dan Wolman, director of the notorious Maid in Sweden, brings us another campy & irreverent “erotic” drama in which a young woman enters the world of sex only to find herself in over her head.  It may not be the just-for-couples movie that it tries so hard to be, but it at least succeeds in becoming a soft-core, late-night romp, one that might have been risque in 1983, even if it seems a little ridiculous in 2015.  Having been born in the same year as this film was produced, it’s hard to imagine what it might have been like at the time, but perhaps it was at least enjoyed by some pubescents.

The Movie

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Nana, oh Nana (which is hard for me to type knowing that I actually have a nana), wherefore art thou Nana?  This lovely young girl newly arrived to Paris is about to take the city by storm and take the heart of every man within a carriage ride.  She begins by starring in erotic moving pictures, shows that arouse the men who frequent a local bordello.  Soon she has become a “loose woman” of the establishment herself, catering to the needs of the wealthy businessmen & politicians who are only too willing to part with their money in exchange for some alone time with Nana, the girl everyone desires.  But with her new-found popularity comes some pretty tricky predicaments, some pleasurable, some uncomfortable, but all negotiable, at least for a clever girl like Nana.

She begins by taking up with a rich banker named Steiner, a man who adores her and will give her anything she desires, including a house of her own in which to keep her.  But when Steiner becomes boring, there are other men handy to occupy her time and fund her lifestyle.  Why, next door is a Count named Muffat, who can’t seem to stop thinking about the lovely Nana and will even go into debt to buy her what she wants.  His own son Hector is no less interested in the beautiful girl, even endangering his engagement to please her every whim.  And let’s not forget Satin, a seductive woman who wants to show Nana the joys of the fairer sex.  Everyone wants something from Nana, and she wants the world from them.

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Based loosely on the works of Emile Zola, Nana is a dramatic example of late-1800s Paris and the lavish lifestyle that was available; to men, assuming you could pay, and to women, assuming you were willing to sell your body.  There is a lot being said in a very short span and set against a backdrop of depravity.  Rich men throwing away what comes so easy to them in order to get something that decidedly does not.  Beautiful women ready to show everything, to be unceremoniously used, in order to make a living.  And the lucky, exceptional few who play their cards right and begin to control those who started off controlling them.  It’s a picture, though not a very pretty one, of a very specific era; a time when homosexuality was a wicked secret, when bordellos were all the rage, when dark-skinned men were treated as beasts, and when money was traded for happiness.

That’s about as serious as Nana can be taken, and really, those themes are there if you’re looking for them, but on the surface this film is about one thing: boobs.  Well, boobs, some thrusting, some head-bobbing, fox hunters chasing nude women through the woods, Nana taking baths, Nana wearing diaphanous robes, Nana generally being very available to whomever might knock on her door.  The film has a strong Tinto Brass feel, if you’ve ever come across that master of Italian erotica.  My only experience is with Black Angel, which is a bit more explicit than Nana, but has more of a love story.  Both have at least a little historical context, which makes them watchable despite the over-sexed scenes and ridiculous characters.  But Nana is not quite erotic, not quite mainstream, becoming a film in limbo, a movie that paints a picture of an era but doesn’t exactly know how hard to give it to us.  It’s not sexy, though it’s filled with sex, making it a gratuitous period piece perhaps, but not a great film.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 16:9 (letterbox), the film feels every one of its 32 years ago.  The video quality is very poor, though what can you expect from an offbeat erotic dramody filmed in 1983?  The sets are at least lavish, the nude women frequent, the parties wild, the shows showy, and the action quick.  But don’t expect a clear picture or high clarity from this old bird.

Audio – The audio of the DVD was produced in Mono, with no language, subtitle, or sound options of any kind.  The film actually feels dubbed, though I don’t believe that to be the case.  The sound is just a little off from the movements of the mouth, giving it a French-to-English feel that isn’t actually true.  Otherwise, the music is actually quite good, or at least well placed, giving themes to certain scenes in a vaguely operatic manner.

Extras – There are no extras or special features on this disc.  Actually, there is no menu at all.

Final Thoughts

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Rent It.  It’s hard to hate Nana; the film tries so hard to win you over that you find yourself hoping it will succeed.  It doesn’t, not really, but it get’s an A for effort.  It’s a film in between styles and ratings, a farce/period piece that’s sexy/absurd.  Perhaps it deserves credit for becoming a genre of its own, but Nana never quite commits one way or the other.  Is it going to make a point, turn us on, go tongue-in-cheek, entertain?  In the end, it became an attempt at many things, but not a success at much.  The video is so dated it hurts, the audio fine, and there are no extras or menu options on the DVD.  If what you’re looking for is campy sex, Nana doesn’t quite deliver as in-your-face as others.  If what you’re looking for is an adult version of a classic tale, it also doesn’t quite meet that definition.  So what is it exactly?  I guess that’s hard to say, and I doubt watching it will really clarify very much.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Trailer – The Keeping Room

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Daniel Barber

Starring: Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru

Release: September 25th, 2015

Things this movie can do to succeed: keep the affected accents to a minimum, don’t let Steinfeld say much of anything, really play up the fact that Sam Worthington is a villain.  The plot looks simple & cool, I like the idea, but there are so many things that could go wrong here that they had better follow my rules and a million more if they’re to have any hope of pulling this off.


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Movie Trailer – Burnt

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: John Wells

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Alicia Vikander

Release: October 23rd, 2015

I, like the rest of America, watch Top Chef and other cooking shows, so I know exactly what it takes to be a great cook.  Oh, and what tastes good, how to make it, what kind of personality you need, all that stuff.  And although I’m, of course, joking, I’m worried that’s the kind of person who made this movie.  With this be reality like Chef was, or Hollywood like I fear it will be?  And Bradley Cooper has been bombing lately (Serena, Aloha), so that’s a problem too.  Also, Sienna Miller sucks and Alicia Vikander isn’t the actress that Ex Machina showed her to be.  I don’t know, I’m very worried about this one.


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Movie Review – Digging for Fire

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joe Swanberg

Starring: Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sam Rockwell

Year: 2015

Joe Swanberg is, at the very least, an original director.  His films are unique, and there’s a reason why; they’re made up on the spot.  His method of organic cinema forces his films to be one-of-kind, a style that has won me over.  Drinking Buddies & Happy Christmas; these films are spectacular, filled with honest comedy & feeling that comes too infrequently from Hollywood.  In any given scene, Swanberg has created a goal for his actors; kiss her at the end, have a fight, talk about Steve, etc.  But how they get there is up to the cast, their lines are their own, and they have the freedom to create any atmosphere they want.  That’s a recipe for success in my book, and every Swanberg film I’ve seen so far has been resounding.  At least until now.  Digging for Fire is the weakest Swanberg improv film I’ve seen so far, and for surprisingly obvious reasons.

Tim & Lee are a married couple with a kid, a typical young family who are having a typical problem.  Both are finding their new lives both lovely & difficult, enjoying parenthood immensely but also missing the freedom of their old social lives.  You could call it a crossroads, where perhaps a decision is soon to be made.  House sitting for a client in a rich neighborhood, Tim & Lee see it as a mini vacation to get things back on track.  But when Lee visits her parents for the weekend, the result might be anything but.  She hits the town to grasp at that fleeting youthful feeling once more, while Tim is at home reliving the good old days with his wild friends.  Come Monday, their choices will force them down one of two paths, and either their happy family will survive or it won’t.

The story is a classic one, predictable you might say.  A young couple transitioning, filled with doubts, tempted to stray, needing to make a final decision.  You see the plot’s conclusion a mile away, giving the film a sense of seen-that.  Which is totally contradictory to the organic feeling that the improv is supposed to produce.  Swanberg’s others felt off-the-cuff and as if they could go in any direction, while this one felt wrapped in a box that it would never break free from.  Also, his other films relied on conversation, constant unpredictable dialogue that fueled the action, while this one played with mood far too often, leaving things unsaid in a bad way.  Perhaps that bothered me more because I don’t like Rosemarie DeWitt, and I felt that the movie became more Touchy Feely than Happy Christmas, the former being a film that almost put me to sleep.  Digging for Fire was almost as sleepy, with a simple plot that wasn’t allowed to grow in a way the others did.  And the last thing that bothered me were the cameos.  Swanberg is getting more popular, he added a lot of name actors to this film, but not a single one made an impact.  Orlando Bloom, Sam Elliot, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Judith Light, Ron Livingston, Malanie Lynskey, Chris Messina, Jenny Slate; too many with too little point.  All these little problems amounted to a film that didn’t work for me.  I still enjoyed the style enough to enjoy the movie, but it was a lackluster attempt at the cool Swanberg groove I enjoy.  I hope his next project is a return to the more compact storylines & casts that have worked for him before.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Big Stone Gap

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Adriana Trigiani

Starring: Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg

Jenna Elfman, Jane Krakowski, Anthony LaPaglia

Release: October 9th, 2015

I have a friend from Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and this film was shot on location there amid the beauty of the place, which at least makes it just a little special.  And although normally I don’t get into these sappy, romantic, Hallmark movies, I think this one will actually have enough heart to become passable.  I can’t say I’m looking for it to blow my mind or make me cry, but it just might win me over by the end, and that would be something.


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Movie Trailer – Ride Along 2

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Tim Story

Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Olivia Munn

Release: January 15th, 2015

Kevin Hart just isn’t that funny.  I get that he’s trying to be the next Eddie Murphy or Chris Tucker, and I can admit that he’s made me chuckle, but overall he’s just not a comedian that I can get behind.  And these buddy cop movies have been done to death, so much so that even jokes/criticism about them are getting really old.  And Ice Cube’s a rapper, not an actor, as much as he wants to be one.  No thanks.


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Movie Review – Two Days, One Night

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Starring: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salee

Year: 2014

Marion Cotillard was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in this film; a well-deserved honor.  In America, we first became aware of her talent & beauty in La Vie en Rose in 2007, a docudrama about Edith Piaf, for which she actually won the Oscar for Best Actress and wowed audiences with her skill.  Hollywood roles would follow in bunches over the coming years: Public Enemies, Nine, Inception, Midnight in Paris, Contagion, The Dark Knight Rises, Blood Ties, The Immigrant, and soon she’ll be starring as Lady Macbeth alongside Michael Fassbender in Macbeth.  But amid these roles, we’ve rarely had the chance to see her use her native French or lead a French film, so immersed in American cinema has she become so very quickly.  So it was refreshing and much appreciated to be able to see her in Two Days, One Night, a simple & yet powerful Belgian film that’s a reminder of life before super-stardom.

Sandra, a married mother of two, is about to return to work after an illness forced her to take a leave.  She & her husband combine their meager salaries to provide a nice life for their children, both working hard and fearing a return to public housing.  But as Sandra prepares to return, a vote is taken in her absence by her 16 coworkers, who decide as a group that the company will let her go while the rest receive substantial bonuses.  It’s just business, as the saying goes, but for Sandra it means more than just a wage, it means a bit of her sanity as well.  Fearing a return to the problems of the past, she & her husband set out over the course of a weekend to convince her coworkers to chance their minds & their votes on Monday, to keep Sandra, to give up a large sum of money, to do the right thing, to help a friend, forcing them to reveal their true colors in the process.

It’s a deceptively simple plot, a story that takes place quickly, and a repetition of events that might sound a little boring on the surface.  Sandra goes to each of her coworkers’ homes, tells them her story, tries to get them to change their minds.  And although the same basic speech is given every time, the emotion behind the action is an ever-changing mix, as Sandra is not completely well.  We learn more & more about her absence from work, about her marriage, and about why her job is so important to her.  So the film becomes a character study, not only of the main characters, but also of each person she visits, each reacting in a unique & fascinating way.  The simple story allows the moral to speak out and the study to be completed, while also allowing Marion Cotillard to carry the movie with her amazing talent.  She’s just an incredible actress, conveys so much with every expression, and was able to captivate me in a foreign film with a basic subject, adding layer after layer of depth until I was hooked.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Trumbo

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jay Roach

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, John Goodman

Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C.K., Alan Tudyk, Stephen Root

Release: November 6th, 2015

I don’t trust this cast.  I know people like Cranston because of Breaking Bad, I get that people love Mirren because she’s classy, and yes John Goodman is a legend.  But you know, none of them is an elite talent and no one in the rest of the cast is that great either.  It’s a collage of b-list celebrities taking on old Hollywood.  That doesn’t sound fun, and actually, I saw something like it in The Last of Robin Hood and didn’t enjoy it.


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Movie Trailer – Love

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Gaspar Noe

Starring: Karl Glusman, Aomi Muyock, Klara Kristin

Release: November 6th, 2015

This is an explicit trailer for an explicit film, so be warned before watching.  It’s a look at love as viewed through sex, not the other way around, so you understand what the subject matter will be.  Also, it’s in 3D?  That’s odd for a drama, but this movie will be odd all the way around.  I enjoyed Nymphomaniac very much, and before you say “of course you did” know that it’s a very solid film, apart from also being sexually explicit.  But this one looks more like 9 Songs than Nympho or Blue Is the Warmest Color, taking it to that other level that tends to make people very uncomfortable.  We’ll see what art & feeling is behind the sex, if any; that will determine the legitimacy of this film.