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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tales from the Black List: Pan (2015)

* *

Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara

When original ideas are in short supply, just turn a well-worn property into an origin story and call it "new." Pan is what I suppose you would call the "winner" of the great Peter Pan adaptation race that started about six years ago. Following in the footsteps of Snow White, who found herself in two different "re-imaginings" released in 2012, by 2011 there were no less than 5 Peter Pan projects in development, two called "Neverland" (one of which actually did get made as a miniseries prequel to Peter Pan, the other of which was a take with Peter Pan as the villain and Captain Hook as the hero), one called "Peter Pan" (a "family adventure"), one called "The.Never.Land" (described as a "Twilight-ish spin" on the relationship between Wendy and Peter), and one called "Pan" which would have seen Peter and Hook as brothers and which would have had Channing Tatum involved in some capacity. I'm not sure whether that "Pan" and this one are the same film a few re-writes apart but, at any rate, this version of the Peter Pan story, written by Jason Fuchs, made it onto 2013's Black List and presumably read much better on paper.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

21st Century Essentials: The Dark Knight (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger
Country: United States, United Kingdom

Some men just want to watch the world burn. There's no logic to it, no central ideas informing it; the chaos of it exists purely for its own sake. If the moral and philosophical questions posed by Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight seemed fitting for the first decade of this century, they have only come to seem more so as time has gone on. Although hardly the first superhero movie to actively try to "mean" something, and certainly not the last, I would be hard-pressed to name one that more completely transcended that line between popcorn entertainment and something deeper, more meaningful, and essential in some way to understanding the times in which we are living. The Dark Knight is a film that speaks to the period of history that it came out of and continues to speak to what we're living through today, a film whose influence continues to echo through its genre, and one which is just a damn entertaining watch. No discussion of the movie century so far would be complete without The Dark Knight.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review: The Little Hours (2017)

* * *

Director: Jeff Baena
Starring: Dave Franco, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza

The Little Hours is part Monty Python, part "Nunsploitation" throwback, and just as tonally all over the place as that description implies. Many scenes in The Little Hours are really very funny. A couple of scenes in The Little Hours become really weird and uncomfortable to watch for reasons that I'll get into below. The gentle, actually quite sweet ending is somewhat at odds with the bawdiness that dominates the proceedings up until that point. Nevertheless, because it's such a fun watch overall, the film is never really bogged down these sudden shifts. It helps that The Little Hours feels so fresh in comparison to most of the comedies being put out by Hollywood studios lately, doing its own off-the-wall thing and taking a few chances. It's a silly movie, but it's silly in the best of ways.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: mother! (2017)

* * *

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem

If you follow entertainment news sites, you've heard that mother! earned the rare "F" grade from CinemaScore. An F doesn't just mean that an audience disliked a movie, it means that the audience feels betrayed by the movie, like they've been sold a false bill of goods. On one hand, this turn of events is understandable because the marketing for mother! doesn't really give a clear idea of what it's going to be, but it being a major studio release one could be forgiven for assuming that it's going to be a little more... normal. On the other hand, it's a Darren Aronofsky movie. The closest he's ever come to "mainstream" is Black Swan and that's only mainstream insofar as it was a box office and Oscar success. Most of his movies are flat out designed to alienate. Granted, even knowing that going in, watching mother! can still feel like a bit of an endurance test. I don't think there's any way to actually discuss this movie without spoiling it a little (or a lot), so consider this a spoiler warning.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Review: Seven Sisters (2017)

* * 1/2

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Glenn Close

Seven Sisters, which is also called What Happened to Monday? and might as well have been called "Orphan Black, but less good," is a high-concept science fiction film that takes about an hour to get beyond its concept. The second hour is pretty solidly entertaining as a thriller (albeit one that ends rather softly), but the first can be a bit frustrating, full of unnecessary exposition (the whole film contains unnecessary exposition, but the bulk of it is concentrated in the first half) and overly enamored with the idea of having star Noomi Rapace interact with herself to the power of 7 so that some scenes feel less like they're servicing a story and more like they exist as acting and technical exercises. Sure, it's an impressive feat, but less talk and more action would go a long way.