FilmWeek: ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ ‘Raw,’ ‘Personal Shopper’ and more

by FilmWeek

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Brie Larson attends the European premiere of “Kong: Skull Island” at the Cineworld Empire Leicester Square on February 28, 2017 in London, United Kingdom.IAN GAVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Claudia Puig and Tim Cogshell review this weekend’s new movie releases including: the fantastical legend of “Kong: Skull Island” starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson; Julia Ducournau’s cannibalistic-thriller “Raw;” “Personal Shopper” starring Kristen Stewart in the underground fashion world of Paris; and more.

LISTEN HERE:   FilmWeek: ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ ‘Raw,’ ‘Personal Shopper’ and more, plus the making of ‘High Noon’ during the Hollywood blacklist years

This Week’s Reviews

  • “Kong: Skull Island” – Wide Release
  • “Personal Shopper” – ArcLight Hollywood and The Landmark
  • “Raw” – Nuart Theatre
  • “The Sense of an Ending” – ArcLight Hollywood and The Landmark
  • “Burning Sands” – iPic Theaters Westwood (also on Netflix)
  • “Brimstone” – Laemmle’s Music Hall
  • “The Other Half” – Laemmle’s Monica Film Center
  • “The Ottoman Lieutenant” – AMC Burbank Town Center, ArcLight Sherman Oaks, Laemmle’s Playhouse, and other select theatres
  • “My Scientology Movie” – ArcLight Hollywood

Guests:

Claudia Puig, film critic for KPCC and president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association; she tweets @ClaudiaPuig

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; he tweets @CinemaInMind

FilmWeek’s 2017 Oscar preview from The Theatre at Ace Hotel

by FilmWeek

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KPCC’s FilmWeek critics and host Larry Mantle plus an audience of 1,000 gathered at the historic Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles for FilmWeek’s 2017 Oscar preview.LOUIS FELIX/KPCC

 

KPCC’s FilmWeek critics and host Larry Mantle plus an audience of 1,000 gathered at the historic Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles to discuss and debate the contenders for this year’s major Oscar categories. There were vigorous deliberations over “Moonlight” and “La La Land” in the Best Picture categories and almost no agreement on the Best Documentary Feature.

Who are you favoring for this year’s Academy Awards?

KPCC's FilmWeek critics and host Larry Mantle plus an audience of 1,000 gathered at the historic Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles for FilmWeek's 2017 Oscar preview.
KPCC’s FilmWeek critics and host Larry Mantle plus an audience of 1,000 gathered at the historic Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles for FilmWeek’s 2017 Oscar preview.LOUIS FELIX/KPCC

Critics:

Justin Chang, film critic for KPCC and the Los Angeles Times

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide

Christy Lemire, KPCC film critic and host of YouTube’s “What the Flick?”

Lael Loewenstein, KPCC film critic

Wade Major, KPCC film critic and host for IGN’s DigiGods.com

Amy Nicholson, KPCC film critic and chief film critic for MTV News

Peter Rainer, film critic for KPCC and the Christian Science Monitor

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and “Animation Magazine

 

 

 

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

FilmWeek: ‘Deepwater Horizon,’ ‘Masterminds,’ the new Tim Burton, and more, plus a closer look at ‘Command and Control’

by FilmWeek

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Andy Klein and Tim Cogshell review this week’s new movie releases including: the dramatic portrayal of the 2010 man-made disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, “Deepwater Horizon,” plus the new Tim Burton fantasy, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children;” an action funny starring the biggest names in comedy these days including Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Zach Galifianakis; and more.

TGI-FilmWeek!

Tim’s Hits

Andy’s Hits

Mixed Reviews

This Week’s Misses

Guests:

Tim Cogshell, Film Critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; Tim tweets from @CinemaInMind

Andy Klein, Film Critic for KPCC

Review Don’t Breathe

By: 

Don't Breathe movie Dylan Minnette blind man Stephen Lang unlike Audrey HepburnStephen Lang and Dylan Minnette Don’t Breathe image: Screen Gems / Sony Pictures.

Horror filmmaker Fede Alvarez avoids the fate of the sophomore curse with his second feature film,Don’t Breathe, which establishes the director of the 2013 remake of the iconic Evil Dead as the real deal when it comes to genre films that keep audiences on the edge of their dampened theater seats.

At only 88 minutes, Don’t Breathe, co-written by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, is not only meticulously paced, but also remarkably clever in how it handles its characters and their motivations, and its audience and their expectations – titillating, but never quite letting either have exactly what they want.

But while laid out as a horror thriller, Don’t Breathe is really a love story. It’s about the things we do for love. It’s also about the choice between the wrong thing, a worse thing, and an evil thing.

A blighted and mostly abandoned contemporary Detroit Rock City is our setting. The wrong side of the city’s eight-mile divide. This is a great location because not only do the filmmakers get the tax credit that comes with shooting in such blighted neighborhoods these days, but they also get an authentic blighted neighborhood.

Our heroes are young thieves. They break into the homes of the well heeled using inside information provided by Alex (Dylan Minnette), who is mostly doing these crimes for love of Rocky (Jane Levy), even though she’s Money’s (Daniel Zovatto) girlfriend, and is more or less oblivious to Alex’s affections.

The chump with a crush is a classic and always effective setup.

This time the home they intend to invade is not a fancy mansion where the owners are away, but rather the single inhabited house in blocks of un-patrolled blight.

It’s the home of a blind Iraq War veteran whose only daughter was killed in as senseless drunk driving incident. And it’s said that the old blind veteran has nearly a million dollars in insurance money somewhere in that house.

Alex is weary of both the mark and the circumstances, while Money is a pig and a thief who will go in whether Alex helps or not. Besides, Money will take Rocky with him.

Rocky, for her part, is highly motivated to get the stash of cash for reasons that involve her mother, who is a pig; her mother’s boyfriend, who is also a pig; and a baby sister whom she needs to take away from the pigs.

.

The blind vet whose home these thieves invade is played by veteran actor Stephen Lang, likely best known for his role as the rampaging Colonel Miles Quaritch in James Cameron‘s Avatar, hellbent on killing all things alien and blue in that movie and its three upcoming sequels.

The guy Lang plays in Don’t Breathe is kinda like Col. Quaritch – only blind and much angrier and hellbent on killing the bastards who have broken into his house.

Needless to say, things don’t go as planned. This is the hook of the movie: things don’t go as planned for anybody. Not for the three thieves, not for the angry blind vet, and definitely not for the audience watching it all – from the edge of their slightly dampened theater seat.

For co-writer and director Fede Alvarez, however, it all goes very well.

Don’t Breathe (2016). Dir.: Fede Alvarez. Scr.: Fede Alvarez. Rodo Sayagues.
Cast: Stephen Lang. Dylan Minnette. Daniel Zovatto. Jane Levy. Emma Bercovici. Franciska Töröcsik. Christian Zagia. Katia Bokor. Sergej Onopko. Olivia Gillies. Dayna Clark. Jimmie Chiappelli. Michael Haase.

FilmWeek: ‘Pete’s Dragon,’ ‘Sausage Party’ and more…

 

by FilmWeek

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Stephen Frears, Nina Arianda, Simon Helberg, Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Tracey Seaward and Nicholas Martin attend the “Florence Foster Jenkins” New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 9, 2016 in New York City.  MICHAEL LOCCISANO / GETTY IMAGES

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Lael Loewenstein, Tim Cogshell, and Charles Solomon review this week’s new movie releases including Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” that blends animation with live-action; another summer raunchy comedy, but animated, called “Sausage Party;” Meryl Streep as a laughable opera singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” and more.

TGI-FilmWeek!

Guests:

Tim Cogshell, Film Critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; Tim tweets from @CinemaInMind

Charles Solomon, Film Critic for KPCC and Animation Scoop and Animation Magazine

Lael Loewenstein, Film Critic for KPCC

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

DIY Film Fest: 5 movies with major, minor, or moot continuity errors…

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp

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Film critic Tim Cogshell talks Oscars buzz at AirTalk’s FilmWeek at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on February 18, 2015.BILL YOUNGBLOOD/KPCC

Tim Cogshell is film critic for KPCC’s Off-Ramp and Filmweek, and for Alt Film Guide. He blogs at CinemaInMind.

Continuity errors in cinema are legend.  There are a some classic doozies, like the croissant Julia Roberts is chomping in “Pretty Woman” that becomes a pancake.

The errors come in a number of categories, from crew and equipment earnestly working to get the shot they are in, to props magically appearing and disappearing between cuts, to material or narrative anachronisms.

Sometimes they matter, sometimes they don’t — who cares if Rick’s trench coat is wet when he boards the train in Paris?! — and sometimes they make the movie.  Here’s a quick DIY Film Festival of films you might want to see for their dubious continuity – and you can judge for yourself if they break or make the movie.

1. Deep Purple burns Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous”

Deep Purple’s “Burn” figures prominently in the background of a scene from writer-director Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous,” set in 1973.

A precocious teen, Crowe was a writer for “Rolling Stone” in 1975. He spent time on the road with The Eagles, the band on which he based the fake iconic rock band, Stillwater, in “Almost Famous.” And he wrote the definitive cover story on The Eagles. But he got a lot of the music wrong in the movie. That Deep Purple album was released 1974. There are a few of those in “Almost Famous” – along with some T-shirts for tours that wouldn’t happen for another decade.  To fans of classic rock these errors ruin the movie, but most people don’t even notice them.

2. No Justice No Peace for Peebles’ “Posse”

Director Mario Van Peebles 1993 film “Posse” is set in 1898, but a crowd shouting “No justice, no peace” is straight out of 1992, along with the late great Nipsey Russell asking, “Can’t we all just get along?!”

These anachronisms were controversial at the time.  Some critics and audiences – out for a rooting-tooting cowboy movie – called it blunt political commentary that the broke suspension of disbelief … As if casting Big Daddy Kane and Tone Loc didn’t already do that.

3. A slice of American Pie in “Born on the 4th of July”

Don McLean’s “American Pie” is forever associated with Oliver Stone’s “Born of the 4th of July.” The song is played and heard by characters in the film several times … in scenes set 1969.  The problem? The album was released in 1971. Still – would any other song do? The of loss of an American ideal represented in Don McLean’s ode to Buddy Holly is a perfect metaphor for the American ideal lost by Ron Kovic. This movie and that song go together, continuity be damned.

4. YouTube in “The Hurt Locker?”

At one point in “The Hurt Locker,” specialist Owen Eldridge, played by Brian Geraghty, says “…. they’re going to put me on YouTube.” Nope. “Hurt Locker” is set in 2004 and YouTube did not launch until 2005, which the producers of this film, which came out in 2008, should have thought about in 2007. Or maybe not, because it won a bunch of Academy Awards in 2009.

5. Hair AND Wardrobe:  “TNT Jackson” and the magic panties

But my favorite continuity mistake of all time is in an early 70s Blaxploitation classic called “TNT Jackson.” It stars stars Jeannie Bell as a young black karate expert out to avenge her brother’s death on the mean streets of Hong Kong.

There are a number of badly staged karate fight sequences in the movie, and Jeanne kicks much fake karate ass in all of them. But this was an exploitation film after all, so one of those fight scenes takes place when the exciting TNT Jackson is wearing nothing but a pair of panties and a wicked afro. During this perfectly fabulous scene, TNT kills the lights to even her odds against her multiple attackers.

TNT JACKSON (1974)

When the lights come back on, the intrepid Ms. Jackson is wearing different panties. They were brown. Now they’re white. The lights go out and come back on again. And the panties change again. You can’t help but notice … because she’s only wearing the panties and the wicked afro. This is a perfectly crazy continuity mistake. And I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

In Review – White Like Me (2013 – Documentary)

Link

On the heels of our two major party political conventions – I’ve been considering a film or two to suggest to the politically minded. Something to set the mood or inform the electorate, in a broad way, about the issues of the day.

To that end – the disparity in the diversity of the two major conventions was the thing that was most stark (all other content notwithstanding) to me.  Since the election – and before – of the first African American, sometimes known as Black – President of the United States, this disparity has been, ironically perhaps, most stark.

It is also ironic, that as the nation has nominated the first woman to be President of the United States in a major party – that race, not gender – is still the driving prevalent issue of our nation, even beyond domestic and foreign terrorism.

To that end, I was reminded of director Scott Morris‘ 2013 documentary White Like Me, featuring race-educator and author Tim Wise. The film explores race and racism in the U.S. through the lens of whiteness and white privilege. Or, in other words, most of the people at one of those conventions as opposed to some of the people at the other convention.

The things that Wise speaks to in White Me, explains those distinctions lucidly.

As it happens, the book Black Like Me (from which this film takes its cues), by journalist John Howard Griffin, was published in 1961 – the year I was born. The corresponding film was released in 1964 – a year of landmark civil rights legislation. Fifty plus years later our two primary party political conventions suggest that while changes abound – much as stayed the same.  Little “d” democrats were often southern and racist in 1961, while republicans were still rich and privileged and – well – republican. And race is still a central issue in the republic. Whether we want to think so – or not.

You only had to look at those two conventions. You could even turn the sound down. Which, occasionally, I did.

Scott Morris’ film is clear, concise and full of fact and example and history. As is Wise’s presentation, in whatever format. The movie is neither placid nor inflammatory (unless you’re already a little inflamed). It’s also not – not angry – yet not angry.

It even manages to be funny every now and again.

Like all contemporary documentaries it’s advocacy. Such is the nature of docs these days. That’s said – it’s accurate and well done advocacy that is most relevant to the politics and the zeitgeist of the very political – race conscious day.

 

FilmWeek: ‘Money Monster,’ ‘The Lobster,’ and more

Listen here: FilmWeek: ‘Money Monster,’ ‘The Lobster,’ and more, plus a film festival circuit

 

 

 

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog). Twenty years of his reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

On Fan Films: EXILE – EP 1 (A STAR WARS FAN FILM)

Review: Exile – Ep 1 (A Star Wars Fan Film)

By: Tim Cogshell

 

Fans films, frankly, are not something that I generally review, or for that matter, often think about. I’m savvy to fan fiction in all its forms; literary, graphic novels, there are even people who do fan films using nothing but Legos – which is fascinating – but it’s the use of the Legos that’s the point of those projects, rather than the films themselves – generally. Then there are fan films that are purely about the source material – the thing the fan is – most deeply – a fan of.  Such that they create an element of that beloved film themselves, complete with all the accoutrements of the source material.

On the heels of the reboot of the Star Wars series (again), a plethora of fan films have blossomed and I’ve got one here that I found particularly interesting for a few reasons. It’s good, for one, and for two and three, its features some very capable black actors – who are not British. Which – is kind of a thing.

In anycase, for Exile – EP 1, the on-going Star Wars saga is the source of the fandom, and the universe in which these capable filmmakers have set their unique SW narrative. Set after the Clone Wars, with references to classic figures (including Obi-Wan), Exile is the 15 minute and 50 second story of an Empire plot to turn young Jedi’s to the to the dark side of the Force.  An “Inquisitor” called Quinlan Vos (Sal Perales), has been dispatched to engage those Jedi particularly sensitive to the dark side, and bring them over.  One such Jedi Padawan is Makal Lori (Noel Braham).  Makal attempts to marshal forces and repel the Empire’s plan, but when he faces the Inquisitor (alongside his Master, Boemana Tora), his heart may betray his deepest desires, which may be darker than even he knows.

Exile – EP 1 opens with a bracing action sequence. Imperial soldiers and someone who looks like Boba Fett track Makal thru a dark forest. Laser blasts zip all round as the Jedi deflects and evades before landing deft light-saber strokes on his pursuers. Then the scene gets even darker.  Maybe a little too dark for the PG-13 viewers the Star Wars films are usually directed at, but that’s a matter of taste and parental guidance, especially since anybody can just click on the link above – and watch the whole movie anyway.

Which I recommend.

Exile – EP 1 is very well done. I won’t pretend to be an expert on Star Wars iconography, but I know movies and everything in this one is awash in production value. The style and scale of the Star Wars universe space ships zipping across the sky, the costumes and props and performances – all detailed and well done. The dialogue is a little on-the-nose for my tasted, but so was George Lucas’ in the original film so this may be a true fan’s deliberate choice.  To my mind  Lawrence Kasdan wrote the only really good Star Wars movie dialogue, including the Empire Strikes Back and much of the recent reboot.

Exile – EP 1 is an action driven, darkly hued take on one battle in the Star Wars universe of films.  It’s a fan film with heart and filmmaking chops – and I must admit – I’m impressed by both.

__________________

Directed by Pokey Spears and Noel Braham. Written by Noel Braham.  Starring Noel Braham, Georginna Savoye, Sal Perales, Pokey Spears.

Produced by Mario Contini, Georginna Savoye. Director of Photography Mario Contini. Edited by Ryan Stevens Harris. Visual Effects Supervisor Bryan Gonzales. Sound Design Michael Kao. Costume Design by Elizabeth Rage. Music by Ryan Leach.

Review: Captain America: Civil War

By: Tim Cogshell

civil war 2

Image courtesy of the Disney Company – 2016

April 21, ’16, 9:53 a.m. – I was sitting down to watch an early screening of Captain America: Civil War on the Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California. I received a text inquiring if I’d heard the news. As a number of noted critics and studio types filed in – all immersed in their devices, we confirmed the news for each other – Prince was dead.

One noted critic, whose name I will not mention because she may not want you to know she cusses like a sailor, posed the question aloud, “How the fuck are we supposed to pay attention to this now!?” It was a goddamn good question. I said in response, voice cracking, “No shit, I’m all fucked up!” As it happens, I cuss like a sailor, too. They started the movie.

Over the next two hours and twenty-seven minutes, the film’s full runtime through the end credits, Captain America: Civil War made me forget that Prince had died. It’s that entertaining – that good a piece of summer distraction, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be. And let’s not forget that it’s a film fresh on the heels of the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice fiasco; oddly, one whose narrative is virtually the same as that of the Marvel film.

Both Civil War and Dawn of Justice are about opposing camps of superheroes facing off – for one reason or another – in a battle to the death until a greater threat reveals itself. Batman v Superman was directed – which is to say “stylized” – by Zack Snyder; it’s exactly that, a Zack Snyder film. Which is to say, bloated, bombastic, self-consciously serious, philosophically juvenile, and downright silly.

Captain America: Civil War is directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier and who will helm the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War – Part I and Avengers: Infinity War – Part II. The key difference between Batman v Superman and Civil War is that the brothers Russo are not stylizers, but rather storytelling filmmakers whose work is varied in both format and tone.

From cult films like Welcome to Collinwood (2002), You, Me and Dupree (2006), and even culty-er TV shows like Arrested Development and Community, the Russos are journeyman filmmakers with no personal agenda in their efforts other than to make a really entertaining movie. That makes sense – and it’s good.

That’s what they have done with Captain America: Civil War. It’s good enough to make me forget that Prince had died – even if only for 2 hours and 27 minutes.

Submission to authority? Tony Stark vs. Steve Rogers

Civil War opens with an action sequence. A combination of Avengers that includes the Capt. (Chris Evans), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), among others, but notably not the Hulk, who is not in this movie. The mission goes badly, thus increasing pressure on the Avengers to come under some sort of authority. On the heels of events in New York, Washington, D.C., and the fictional land of Sokovia, nations have come to wonder if these superheroes are worth all the mayhem their protection provides.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is shaken by an encounter with the mother of a young man who was killed during one of his heroics in a scene similar to one in Batman v Superman – but done better here. Long story short, Tony wants to submit to an authority that the league of nations has endorsed. Captain America does not. Avengers align.

Meanwhile, a darker plan unfolds, none of which will be revealed here.

Fanboys hate spoilers, but I wonder if the irony in the framing of Civil War will go unnoticed by the superhero movie fans who will make this movie a worldwide box office hit. I wonder if they will get that billionaire Tony Stark, an Ayn Rand archetype of a self-made man, would not be inclined to have his individual authority usurped; while Captain America, a soldier, by default a member of and subject to the authority of government, would never refuse what is effectively a direct order from his superiors, the elected officials of the American government. Which is the point of being a Captain – a dutiful soldier.

I wonder.

In any case, Civil War, though technically a Captain America sequel, is really a Marvel Universe sequel that uses this clash of heroes to introduce new characters, including Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa (a.k.a. the Black Panther), king of the fictional land Wakanda; and to reintroduce Spider-Man (Tom Holland), along with a new take on Aunt May, who is played by the age appropriate and incredibly hot Marisa Tomei. Yep, Aunt May is hot.

In addition to a few other characters, who round out the fight on both sides. Yet in the end it all comes down to a showdown between Tony and Steve, and let’s face it, they never liked each other anyway.

The fact that Captain America: Civil War is this good is surprising. There have been several of these films of late and their relative entertainment value has been hit-and-miss for all but the most staunch Comic-Con-type fans. Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool were good, the previously mentioned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a couple of those Iron Man films I could have done without.

I don’t need any more Thor films, either. Not to mention any number of Marvel and DC TV series, from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil to Gotham, The Flash, and Supergirl – each vying for their own galaxy in the Marvel and DC universes.

So, chances are that for me to consider Captain America: Civil War a good movie – good enough to make me forget Prince had just died – it must be pretty good indeed.

Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016).
Dir.: Joe and Anthony Russo.
Scr.: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. From the comic book by Mark Millar, and characters created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Cast: Chris Evans. Robert Downey Jr. Tom Holland. Scarlett Johansson. Sebastian Stan. Jeremy Renner. Daniel Brühl. Chadwick Boseman. Paul Rudd. Marisa Tomei. Anthony Mackie.Elizabeth Olsen. Don Cheadle. Paul Bettany. Emily VanCamp. Frank Grillo. William Hurt. Martin Freeman. John Slattery. Hope Davis. Alfre Woodard.