Weekend Preview: “Much Ado” About Brad, “Bling,” Brit, and “Monsters”

much ado still

Last weekend was pretty special, with “Before Midnight,” “This is the End,” and “Man of Steel” all opening, but guess what? This Friday is just as solid.

The biggies, of course, are “Monsters University” and “World War Z,” and we can expect these to land 1-and-2 (unless “Man of Steel” trumps Brad Pitt — more on that below) at the box office. How high will each go? That’s the question. It has been a shockingly quiet summer so far for straight family fare, so Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” sequel is dropping at the right time. It does seem that there has been less and less buzz with each new Pixar release since “Toy Story 3” in 2010 — “Cars 2” and “Brave” both did well enough, to be sure, but neither captured the zeitgeist as strongly as some other Pixar releases. I expect “Monsters” to make more dough than either “Cars 2” or “Brave,” and to play well into July.

Ahh yes, “World War Z,” that embattled, bloated, ending-challenged franchise-to-be. I’m not sure all that talk has hurt the film much, but then again, I never felt it necessarily had franchise written all over it. Reviews have been mixed so far, but the trailer look good, Brad Pitt is promoting the hell out of it, and it is rather unique in the summer lineup. I have not read Max Brooks’s book, but the changes Marc Forster and company made seem to make it a less interesting product. But there is nothing else quite like it this season, and you have to respect its ambition. I could see “Monsters” doing anywhere from $70 to $90 million, with “Z” ringing up $40 to $50 mill.

Where will “Man of Steel” fit into this equation? Zack Snyder’s reimagining of Superman opened so large — wayyy more than I predicted — that it could certainly beat “World War Z” to the number two spot. This second weekend will really determine if the film has “Dark Knight” legs, or “Amazing Spider-Man” legs. I expect the former.

Indie alert: This weekend sees the Buffalo release of three fascinating, unique films. I’ve seen two of them, and loved one.

First is the long-awaited release of a film I’ve prattled on about too often (for obvious reasons), Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” I am anxious to see if the film will play as well to me now as it did on a Sunday morning at TIFF; I believe it will. It is exciting to see the smart, funny film make it to Buffalo. It’s showing at the Dipson Eastern Hills.

Brit Marling is near the top on my list of favorite young actresses, but her latest, “The East,” was a stunning disappointment, surprisingly. Its plot, about a former FBI agent going undercover with an eco-anarchist group, held great promise, but the execution is all wrong. It feels childish, horribly unsubtle, and worst of all, just plain phony. It will play, to some, and there are certainly successful elements, not the least of which is Marling’s performance. She, and director Zal Batmanglij, who last collaborated on one of my favorite films of 2012, “The Sound of My Voice” — will be back.

Lastly comes Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” a glossy, stylized take on the real-life robbers who shocked Beverly Hills. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m a Coppola fan, and her aesthetic seems an ideal fit with this material. Even if the film as a whole seems iffy, it stars the increasingly wonderful Emma Watson and a WTF-supporting cast: Gavin Rossdale, Paris Hilton as herself.

A couple other quick screening notes: The Screening Room is showing Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; it is followed at 9:20 on Saturday with the noir classic “D.O.A.”

And in the outdoor series world, Bacchus screens the iconic “Big Lebowski” on Wednesday (June 26); the UB North Campus shows “Oz the Great and Powerful” on Friday and “Monsters, Inc.” on Tuesday (June 25), both at 9:15; and the UB South Campus offers “Despicable Me” at 9:15 on Wednesday (June 26.)

All in all, a unique weekend. But sadly, there are some grim weeks of blockbuster releases ahead …

 

Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Wednesday Round-Up: Defending “Marie Antoinette,” Debating “Man of Steel,” and Keeping Up With Patrick Bateman

Marie Antoinette

The middle of the week means it is time for my usual round-up of some of the articles I’ve been digging this week, including a handy list of “movies to see” at the mid-point of 2013. I’ve seen my share, but I have plenty of catching up to do …

First: I’m not sure what it is about Sofia Coppola’s films that seems to garner such strong reactions. I’ve met few folks who are in the middle about her work — it’s a love/hate thing, it seems. Her latest, “The Bling Ring,” starring Emma Watson, appears to open Friday in Buffalo (there is some confusion, but it is listed on Fandango), and it seems to be as glossy and surface-oriented as the rest of her films. But I have actually liked that about them. “Marie Antoinette” seems to be the most love-it-or-hate-it of the Coppola filmography, and on the occasion of “Bling”‘s release, New York Magazine’s Vulture website is mounting a spirited defense.

As author Amanda Dobbins puts it:

To be fair, not everyone hated Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” New York’s David Edelstein called it “one of the most immediate, personal costume dramas ever made”; 55 percent of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes sided with him, to varying degrees. But seven years later, “Marie Antoinette,” loosely based on the best-selling Antonia Fraser biography, is probably Coppola’s least-loved film. It’s the one that got booed at Cannes (though of course it did, Cannes is in France); it is the one that didn’t live up to “Lost in Translation.” And if you are anti-Sofia, then it is probably the most obvious example of her worst tendencies: style over substance, minimal plot, overprivileged young women who refuse to speak in full sentences or really at all.

But I think I’m with Ms. Dobbins here: “I happen to love ‘Marie Antoinette’; it’s probably my second favorite of Coppola’s films, right behind ‘Lost in Translation.’ And while I understand some of the criticisms (specifically the part about no one using words, ever), most of its so-called weaknesses — even that famous pair of Chuck Taylors — are the reasons I enjoy it. For all its historical trappings, ‘Marie Antoinette’ is just a painfully hip period film about how annoying and fun and terrifying it is to be a teenage girl. It is a high-school movie transplanted to Versailles.”

And the rest:

  • Speaking of Sofia Coppola, Movie City News has posted her debut short from 1998, “Lick the Star.”
  • Bret Easton Ellis himself said “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” “star” Scott Disick would be an ideal Patrick Bateman in an “American Psycho” remake, but it took Kanye West to make it so.
  • I finally saw “Man of Steel” last night, and I’ll share some thoughts soon. (Let’s say I enjoyed it, with reservations.) The Playlist offers a solid breakdown of the best and worst of Zack Snyder’s Superman epic, and there are lots of good points here.
  • Roger Ebert’s birthday was yesterday, and his website offered up a nice list of films for which his review “made the difference,” including “Hoop Dreams” and “Dark Skies.”
  • Pitchfork’s new movie website, The Dissolve, has not launched yet, but its Tumblr site has, and the great Scott Tobias has posted the aforementioned “movies to see” so far in 2013 list, along with DVD and Blu-ray release dates for some.
  • Now the Rob Ford scandal is impacting the Toronto International Film Festival.
  • Will Brad Pitt’s “World War Z” flop? This writer seems to think so, and offers some convincing reasons why.
  • Yet another trailer for Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives,” starring Ryan Gosling.
  • Interestingly, after a mixed — well, mostly negative — response at Cannes, the filmmanaged to beat “Stories We Tell” and “The Act of Killing” for top honors at the Sydney Film Festival.
  • Lastly, Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is finally set to open in Buffalo this weekend. Here is a nice Guardian interview about that film, “The Avengers,” his career, and more.

 

Photo Credit: Sofia Coppola
**ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.

The Good, The Bad, and The Weird: “Oz the Great and Powerful” Lacks Greatness, Power

ozgreatpowerful02

Okay, this is going to be a short one. Sam Raimi’s “Wizard of Oz” prequel/reimagining/what-have-you is not awful, per se. It is simply … Empty. I watched the film a little less than a week ago, and I barely recall a single detail. It is nothing cinema.

The Good:

  • I will give Raimi credit for casting. The sheer concept of James Franco as the Wizard is utterly, bizarrely absurd. Yes, he is miscast, but it is fun watching him play the part, as if this is yet another meta-move from the man whose recent efforts include “Spring Breakers,” a “Cruising” pastiche, and god knows what else. I did not buy him here for a second, but he was still a joy to behold.
  • More casting: I adore Mila Kunis, and quite like Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz. So kudos …
  • Oh, the black and white opening was lovely.

The Bad:

  • Pretty much everything else. Not a moment felt original or gripping. It’s an inoffensive but horribly wasteful creation.

The Weird:

  • Zach Braff? Odd choice.
  • Seriously … James Franco? I mean, REALLY?

It all adds up to a two-star effort, and that’s being generous. I’d expect better from Sam Raimi, but we are talking about the director of “Spider-Man 3,” so … Why should I?

 

Photo: Michelle Williams stars as Glinda in Walt Disney Pictures’ “Oz: The Great and Powerful” (2013)

Coming Attraction: Aaa-hooooo! Werewolves of Wall Street, Scorsese-Style

wolf18f-4-web

Seemingly during the middle of last night, the trailer for Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” dropped, and it’s a good one.

This re-teaming of the filmmaker and his late-period De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, is the story of the rise and fall of a brash Wall Street stockbroker during the 1990s. Some thoughts on the “Wolf” trailer, which might features more cutting than any other released this year:

  • This thing MOVES, and feels a bit like the coke-fever segment of “Goodfellas” stretched to feature length. I’ve enjoyed every Scorsese movie post-“Goodfellas” to some degree, but “Wolf” feels more adrenalized than anything he’s done in ages.
  • It seems to revisit the dark comic tone of Scorsese’s “King of Comedy” and “After Hours.” As Jeffrey Wells puts it, “The cutting on this ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ trailer is brilliant. Accurately or otherwise, it persuades you that this … apparently is not a dramatic scolding exercise as much as a kind of dark existential comedy about living the life of madness when you can…go for it now, take the bust later.”
  • I attempted to read Jordan Belfort’s book, but found did not find it particularly gripping; I gave up, but vowed to try again before the movie is released. It seems to me that the film captures the book’s tone well, but also softens the snide a bit via the casting of the perennially likable DiCaprio. (It would not work with, say, Jeremy Piven in the lead. He can be a jerk, but he has to be a jerk with a dash of caddish likability.)
  • This looks like a return to “light Leo,” and not a moment too soon. (Yes, you could argue that “Django” featured an occasionally comic Leo, but it was comic Leo playing a slave owner …) Consider the films DiCaprio has starred in since his last real comedic role, in 2002’s “Catch Me If You Can”: “Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator,” “The Departed,” “Blood Diamond,” “Body of Lies,” “Revolutionary Road,” Shutter Island,” “Inception,” “J. Edgar,” “Django Unchained,” and “The Great Gatsby.” Pretty grim lot. (It is hard not to first think of Jay Gatsby when watching the trailer race along; Badass Digest Tweeted “How Gatsby got his dough.”)
  • Some interesting physical notes here: This is a slightly heavier Jonah Hill than we saw I “21 Jump Street,” and Matthew McConaughey appears to have begun his dramatic weight loss for “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” (According to the web, the sprawling cast includes Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau, Cristin Milioti, Rob Reiner, and, of course, Joanna Lumley and Spike Jonze.)
  • The soundtrack, Kanye Wests’s new song “Black Skinhead,” could NOT be more perfect.
  • Finally, I know Scorsese used Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” to memorable effect in “The Color of Money,” but I’m pulling for its usage here. Lyrically (“I’d like to meet his tailor,” “His hair was perfect”), the song is just right. I’m sure Zevon would approve.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” draws blood on November 15.

 

Photo from New York Daily News/Paramount Pictures

Movies to Avoid This Father’s Day (And One to Watch)

jack danny

It’s unlikely I’m the first to write this, and about this films, but who cares? As Tweeted earlier today, here is my first annual “must avoid” list:

  • “The Shining”: Pretty obvious. Hotel caretaker becomes homicidal maniac, attempts to kill wife and son, upsets Tony. (See also: “The SHINN-ing.”)
  • “Antichrist”: Dad and mom have slo-mo black-and-white intercourse, tot takes a tumble. First five minutes, mainly. This one also works for Mother’s Day.
  • “Frailty”: Dad might be the devil.
  • “The Celebration”: Dad … I’d rather not get into it.
  • “Father’s Day”: Mawkish sentimentalism from a mugging Robin Williams; Sugar Ray cameo.
  • “Julien Donkey-Boy”: Don’t ask.
  • “The Great Santini”: Dad treats the fam like grunts; see also, the Fitzes in “American Beauty.”
  • “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”: You can’t blame EVERYTHING on Bob.
  • “Daddy Day Care/Camp”: The horror.
  • “Peeping Tom”: Dad films every moment of junior’s life, and this was pre-iPhone. Think of the equipment.
  • “Raising Cane”: See, “Peeping Tom.”
  • “Damage”: Dad really, REALLY likes his son’s new girlfriend.
  • “Big Daddy”: The worst thing in the world, ever.

This is tip of the iceberg, people. Speaking of ice, I want to mention one of the great movie dads (seriously) of the last year. At the start of Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone,” I, like everyone else, despised Matthias Schoenaerts’s Ali. But something extraordinary happens in this truly great film: We believable real character development, and watch as Ali grows into a real father. It all culminates in a rather manipulative but cathartic sequence involving Ali, his little boy Sam, and some ice. It choked me up as a viewer, and a father, and made me want to go home and give my son a big hug. That being said, I don’t think we’ll be watching “Rust” for, well, a few years, at least.

(Here is my four-star Buffalo News review of the Marion Cotillard-starrer.)

 

Photo from Film Comment’s 1980 defense of The Shining.

Rent This: “White Elephant” is a Predictable But Worthy Study of Buenos Aires Slum Life

w elephant

Sometimes a film that can only be called so-so at best is still worth watching, and such is the case with Pablo Trapero’s “White Elephant,” a well-made film about priests in Buenos Aires that never quite connects. I reviewed this 2012 Toronto International Film Festival entry last September for The Playlist, but I had forgotten about it until noticing it is now available on Netflix, Amazon Instant, etc. Here is my review:

Pablo Trapero’s “White Elephant” is a smartly acted, beautifully scored, often bracingly directed film of good intentions and big ambition. Yet it can only be called a modest success, and, in light of how strong some of its individual elements are, even a slight disappointment. Word from Cannes, where the film premiered last May, was that writer/director Trapero’s study of two Catholic priests working in the slums of Buenos Aires never quite connects, and was probably the least successful of the Latin American films on display at the film festival. (It was no “No,” apparently.) That buzz was accurate, but that doesn’t make “White Elephant” without value. It just means Trapero stopped at second following a base hit that should have led to an easy triple.

Trapero’s previous film, 2010’s acclaimed crime drama “Carancho,” starred the actor who is the greatest asset in “White Elephant”: Ricardo Darin. Best known stateside as the sad-eyed star of the Oscar-winning “The Secret in Their Eyes” and the twisty con-tale “Nine Queens,” Darin plays Father Julian, a devoted man of the cloth working to fight the drugs and crime that run rampant in the Buenos Aires streets so many call home. He is referred to at one point as “the slum priest”—a better title than “White Elephant,” perhaps?—and it is his job to bring new priest Nicolas (played by Dardenne Brothers’ favorite Jeremie Renier) up to speed. (The “white elephant,” incidentally, is an abandoned, never-completed hospital now filled with squatters.)

Nicolas is at an emotional and spiritual low following a massacre in the village in which he worked. He is haunted by his inaction (“I don’t deserve God’s love,” he tells Darin, weeping); a wounded man seeking a path to redemption. In the slums, and with Julian, he finds a chance. For this is a place that is ignored by the world at large—“This isn’t even on the maps,” Julian tells Nicolas, looking out over the sprawling mess of buildings. Trapero’s long, unbroken shot of Renier’s introduction to the “white elephant” complex is a stunner, an immersive bit of filmmaking that is both stimulating and eye-opening. He makes us feel as if this is the entire universe, and that no other future lies beyond. “If you leave, the slum will go out and find you,” says one youngster, ominously.

Julian and Nicolas are joined in their efforts “to fight violence with love” by a caring social worker, Luciana (played wonderfully by Martina Gusman, who co-starred with Darin in Trapero’s “Carancho”). Throughout, while we’re involved with the characters and their individual journeys, the overall story and motivations are often fuzzy and hard to follow; when a romance develops between Nicolas and Luciana, it seems not just sudden, but utterly unsupported. And its lack of consequence is not just odd—it’s downright unrealistic.

As Nicolas and Luciana fall deeper for each other, drugs and violence take center stage, and Trapero’s script veers into the obvious. The film never seems to reach a strong conclusion, ending with a death that is nowhere near as emotional as it should be. Trapero’s script is simply too vague and predictable, and his direction, while spot-on at several points, lacks the visceral kick to the shins of similarly themed films like “City of God” or “Pixote.” Perhaps wisely, he never attempts the “documentary” feel that those two films achieved. But that invariably makes for a less memorable work.

The acting is top-notch across the board, with Darin and Rennier doing some of their finest work, and Gusman a clear star in the making. The film’s other most notable triumph is its music from composer-pianist Michael Nyman. While Nyman’s work here lacks the inimitable majesty of his soundtrack to Jane Campion’s “The Piano,” the music brings a suitable air of grace to the harsh setting of “Elephant.” Its somber yet soaring sound is a surprising but welcome accompaniment to the action, especially upon Julian’s arrival to a grieving Nicolas. It is undoubtedly one of the most memorable scores I’ve heard in months, yet it is used too infrequently, and, it must be said, often feels too epic for what’s onscreen. The emotion of the moment is occasionally dwarfed by the emotion of the soundtrack.

Upon final analysis, it is difficult to tell whether we are meant to feel emboldened by the small, baby-step achievements we see onscreen, or saddened over the big-picture disappointments. (“It’s easy to be a martyr,” Julian tells Nicolas. “To be a hero, too. The hardest thing is working day after day knowing your work is meaningless.”) I hate to come down too hard on “White Elephant,” since it gets so much right. While it never fully transcends the feeling of I’ve-seen-this-tale-before, it is certainly a worthy, mostly realistic journey. It marks Trapero yet again as a filmmaker to watch, and Darin, especially, as a performer who gets better each time he’s on screen. It never breaks the shackles of predictability, but even with its missteps, “White Elephant” deserves an international audience. [B-]

48 Hours of Short Films in the Queen City

48hrlogo

One of the reasons I wanted to start a film site for my own writing was to occasionally spotlight some local projects, screenings, etc., that I think are worthy of some attention. (Buffalo Spree continues to be a great source for calendar events like this, of course, and so is the Buffalo News Gusto section, which I have the pleasure of occasionally contributing to.) See: Hallwalls’ recent Jazz Noir series (returning in the fall), Squeaky Wheel’s annual Outdoor Animation Film Festival (July 27 and August 21), and, a very cool project happening from June 21 to 23, the Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project.

I must admit I was unfamiliar with the 48 Hour Film Project concept until I saw some Facebook posts; for its Buffalo incarnation, “filmmakers from all over the Buffalo area will compete to see who can make the best short film in only 48 hours. The winning film will go up against films from around the world.”

This is a perfect event for college kids and others with a passion for film- and video-making, and I would expect some great work will come out of it.

You can find all of the details here, but note some key dates, all taken from the website:

 

Open Audition Casting:

Saturday, June 15

Noon–4 p.m.

Pierce-ArrowFilmArtsCenter, 1635 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo

 

Kickoff

Friday, June 21

6–7 p.m.

Pierce-ArrowFilmArtsCenter

 

Dropoff

Sunday, June 23

5:30–8:30 p.m.  

Pierce-ArrowFilmArtsCenter

 

Premiere Screenings

Wednesday, June 26–Thursday, June 27

7 p.m.

Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre, 639 Main Street, Buffalo

Tickets for the screening will be $10 and can be purchased at the Market Arcade.

 

Wrap Party

Wednesday, June 26

Directly following the screening

Cabaret Restaurant, 490 Pearl Street, Buffalo

 

Best of Screening

Wednesday, July 17

7 p.m.

Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St, Buffalo

Tickets will be $10, and available to purchase online directly through Helium’s website or at the door.

Weekend Preview: This is the (Week)end for Superman, Seth Rogen, and Jesse and Celine

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As Jeff Simon put it in his Buffalo News review of “This is the End,” with that film, “Man of Steel,” and “Before Midnight” opening locally, “this is, far and away, the movie opening weekend of the year on my scorecard.” Indeed it is, one of the most wildly diverse release weekends in a long, long time.

The number one spot at the box office will most certainly be claimed by Zack Snyder’s Chris Nolan-assisted Superman reboot, “Man of Steel,” but the question is, how big will it open? Some estimates have it pegged at a $100-million weekend, but I’m not so sure. Reviews have been wildly mixed, and I’m still not quite sure I’ve seen a “wow” trailer, so I think $90 mill is a more likely figure. Nothing to laugh at, and in a relatively week summer, it could play well for several weeks. It’s easy now to forget that Nolan’s “Batman Begins” took in “only” $205 mill in North America, but that was in 2005, and for a budget at least $100 million less than “Steel”’s. Warner Bros. is likely hoping for $300-plus, enough to justify a costly “Justice League” follow-up. We shall see. I’ll have my own thoughts on the film here soon.

“The is the End” is something very different, a well-reviewed apocalypse comedy in which some of the Apatow generation’s biggest names — Seth Rogen (who co-directed with writing partner Evan Goldberg), James Franco, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill — play themselves. I’m especially intrigued to see the lovely Emma Watson as “Emma Watson.” The buzz on this is that it is extraordinarily wild; it could represent one of the few imaginative big studio releases of the summer.

While I’m intrigued by “Man of Steel” and “This is the End,” the movie I am anticipating more than any other is Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight,” which opens tomorrow at Dipson’s Amherst and Eastern Hills theaters. This is the third film in the “Jesse and Celine” series; the first, 1995’s “Before Sunrise” and 2004’s “Before Sunset,” are pretty close to modern classics. The idea of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprising their roles, and seeing where things are for this couple, which finally seemed to come together at the very end of “Sunset,” is intoxicating. It is one of the best reviewed films so far this year, and a possible Best Picture nominee, so this is certainly a must-see. More to come on this one, soon. (“Frances Ha” is still showing at Amherst and Eastern Hills, too.)

Note that the documentary “Hey Bartender” is screening Saturday night at the Amherst Dipson; I wrote about the film here.

Francis Ford Coppola’s most recent film, “Twixt,” finally arrived on VOD a few days ago, and ironically, his debut feature, the enjoyably daft “Dementia 13,” is showing on Friday and Saturday night at 9:15 p.m. at the Screening Room. (“Sorry, Wrong Number” screens at 7:30 p.m.)

Here’s something I’ll outline more in the weeks to come: Buffalo.com recently posted the schedule for the University at Buffalo’s outdoor summer film series, and it has some real gems, including “The Place Beyond the Pines.” The proceedings open with a movie that makes me very nervous, since I’ve felt from the get-go that it could be a disaster, Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful.” (I actually have it from Netflix right now. It’s staring at me, angrily.) It shows at 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18, and Friday, June 21, at the North Campus, and at 9:15 on Wednesday, June 19, at the South Campus.

Meanwhile, I’m a week late in mentioning Bacchus’s Summer Film Series, which is held in its quaint courtyard. The Buffalo-appropriate “Natural” kicked things off yesterday, June 12, but the series continues with “The Truman Show” next week, the 19th, and, even better, “The Big Lebowski” on June 26.

Superman, Seth Rogen, Julie and Celine, cocktails, Coppola, Oz, and a God-like Ed Harris? An eclectic week for movies, to be sure.

 

Photo credit: Left to Right: Ethan Hawke as Jesse and Julie Delpy as Celine. Photo by Despina Spyrou, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Wednesday Round-Up: Zod, Pixar, Critic-Bashing, and Brigitte Nielsen (of course)

zod

If you’re searching for film-related articles this week there’s a very good chance you’re reading about “Man of Steel,” which opens in theaters this Friday. And that’s where we kick off this week’s round-up:

  • The great Playlist ranks the Superman films from worst to best, and it’s hard to disagree with their list. I’ve pondered watching “Superman Returns” again one of these days, since I recall not hating it, in fact, rather liking. But I feel as if I cannot remember a single scene, and that means … something. (It could just mean I’m losing brain cells as I age.) It will be interesting to see where we’ll all rank “Man of Steel” on this list, and whether or not it will breathe new life into Krypton’s favorite son.
  • Incidentally, I am most intrigued by “Man of Steel”’s villain, Zod, played by the great Michael Shannon. I am dying to see his take on the iconic character; when I interviewed him for The Playlist back in 2011, he discussed his take on the Zod, and his respect for actor Terrence Stamp: “I found his performance so powerful that I would be overwhelmed by it if I tried to incorporate it into what I’m doing. There’s no reason to try and replicate it, because it’s perfect the way it is. I’m just trying to go down a different road with it; the script’s a little bit different than the original script. It’s going to have a different look and feel to it, visually. I’m looking forward to really settling into it, and playing with it.”
  • I could probably make these Wednesday round-ups include only Indiewire articles; every week, I’m impressed by the sheer number of interesting articles posted on the network of sites. Here is one from a favorite of mine, Eric Kohn, on Pixar’s upcoming “Monsters University.” I’ve spent a lot of time on Pixar lately, since my son’s favorite movie (today, at least) is “Toy Story 2.” I have not seen “Brave,” yet, but it certainly does seem as if Pixar is in a bit of a rut.
  • And one more from Indiewire, a pretty fascinating look at “critic bashing.”
  • If you follow movie news sites closely, you know Nikki Finke, and this is the latest news on … Well, I’m not sure what’s going on.
  • Life magazine features vintage photos of American drive-ins.
  • Will a film featuring an, um, wildly diverse cast that includes the late David Carradine, Brigitte Nielsen, Kerry Washington, Jeff Fahey, Steve Guttenberg, and Michael Madsen, and narrated by Peter O’Toole ever get released? And should we care?
  • I’ve been meaning to put together an “Upstream Color” feature for weeks, and I will, soon. Here is one of many insightful looks at the film, from the L.A. Review of Books.
  • Lastly, one of my favorite writers on film, and one who lives and works in Buffalo, Girish Shambu, takes on the concept of “vulgar auteurism.” Great comments here, too.

As always, these links are more can be found on my Twitter page, Twitter.com/FilmSwoon.
Michael Shannon photo from Warner Bros.’ “Man of Steel,” found on tgdaily.com.

The Cocktail Revolution Doc “Hey Bartender” Comes to Buffalo

hey b

It seems like just about every week there is a screening of some kind in Buffalo that deserves special attention. This Saturday comes one some of my Buffalo Spree friends may find particularly interesting: the documentary “Hey Bartender.”

This look at the cocktail revolution has drawn mixed reviews since debuting at SXSW; the Hollywood Reporter says it “isn’t the cocktail doc enthusiasts are waiting for,” while the AV Club was a bit more positive, describing it as “an enthusiastic showcase for the many men and women responsible for the burgeoning cocktail revolution going on in metropolises around the world.”

Here’s a brief description from the film’s Facebook page:

“‘Hey Bartender’ tells the story of how the renaissance of the bartender comes to be in the era of the craft cocktail. The documentary focuses on two bartenders trying to achieve their dreams through the world of bartending. After being injured a Marine turns his goals to becoming a rock star bartender at the best cocktail bar in the world. A former bank executive who bought the corner bar in his hometown struggles to keep it afloat in a community that no longer values a place where everyone knows your name. Featuring the most famous bartenders in the world along with unprecedented access to the most exclusive bars in New York City and commentary from Graydon Carter, Danny Meyer and Amy Sacco.”

The New York Daily News ran a nice feature about the film; here’s an excerpt:

“The documentary is an ode to the cocktail culture that has swept the Big Apple in the past decade, but as much as the film details the surging trend of hipster, bow-tied barkeeps, it reminds viewers that these alcohol aficionados are actually returning the city’s drinking scene to its homespun roots. ‘Hey Bartender’ follows the rise of now iconic watering holes like Milk and Honey, PDT and Flatiron Lounge, and how their artisanal recipes became part of our national drinking culture for the first time since Prohibition. ‘The story had not made it out of its own community,’ says director Douglas Tirola. ‘A manual laborer will shower after work. A Wall Street banker will shower before work. Bartenders are one of the few professions that shower both before and after work. That’s what makes them special.’”

The film is showing this Saturday, June 15, at 8 p.m. at the Amherst Dipson Theater.

And if you never got around to Buffalo Spree’s February cocktails issue, catch up on the stories here.

 

Poster courtesy of 4th Row Films