REVIEW: Knight of Cups

22 03 2016

Knight of CupsWith “Knight of Cups,” wunderkind Terrence Malick frees himself even further from a plot-based cinema than he had in art-house darling “The Tree of Life” and head-scratcher “To the Wonder.” In many ways, it is refreshing to see him further embrace the kind of elliptical, free-floating style that he seems to dabble in more and more with each film. At last, he has devised something from his footage that feels fully and truly avant-garde, where the motif is the basic building block of understanding rather than events in the story.

If “The Tree of Life” was Malick’s version of the Gospel, then “Knight of Cups” is his most vividly realized visual Psalm. Everyone consistently seems to acknowledge or call upon the divine, a presence they can sense but onto whom they never fully latch. This anguished yearning even changes Malick’s most recognizable visual device – the close-up of the hand running through some sort of greenery. In “Knight of Cups,” characters stretch out their hands yet reach for air as if to make it palpable to no avail. Rather than connect with God through the earth, as plenty an ethereal Malick character has done, these empty Hollywood types grasp at straws.

Beyond some of the blatant religious symbolism, it’s hard to tell where purposeful planning ends and happy accidents captured by the lithe camera of Emmanuel Lubezki begin. A shot of three men arguing on a roof that is interrupted by both a plane and a helicopter flying overhead – which the camera tilts up to capture – cannot be pre-visualized, right? As beautiful as his floating mobile shots can be, they often capture levels of acting on par with a commercial for a local car dealership. (This is especially prevalent in the film’s big house party scene, which improbably features Thomas Lennon, Joe Lo Truglio and Nick Kroll among the more high-minded likes of Antonio Banderas and Jason Clarke.)

There are plenty of mixed Biblical metaphors, too. Malick seems to dance around between Cain & Abel, Sodom & Gomorrah and more along with plenty of other admonishments of licentious behavior. The false angel presiding over the simulacra known as Las Vegas pretty much says it all. But ultimately, the “what” feels less important than the “how,” the form and experience more relevant than the content or comprehension.

Why on earth Christian Bale’s movie mogul lothario needs six different women to reach a point of self-actualization and reckoning with his family tragedy seems beside the point. So long as one can place themselves in the right frame of mind, the abstract delve into his world proves quite immersive, immediate and impactful. B+3stars





REVIEW: Miral

31 08 2013

I honestly refuse to believe “Miral” was directed by Julian Schnabel.  What part of this mess of a movie that becomes nearly unwatchable could have been helmed by the visionary directory who gave us the soaring, transcendent “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly?”  Someone please tell me who made this borderline unwatchable mess.

Gone is the style of that Academy Award-nominated beauty.  And I guess the heart, the narrative, and any sense of engagement went along with it.  The story of Miral, played by the gorgeous (and might I add talented) Freida Pinto, is one that lands without impact.  When I reread the Wikipedia summary of the film (because it was so bad that I can’t even remember what this movie was about), it could have sent a powerful message about love, education, empowerment, peace, or any number of important themes.  Instead, it just sloppily plods through events as Miral observes the devastation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The drama is terrible and was only minutely compelling when Vanessa Redgrave cameoed at the beginning.  If “Miral” is some kind of a political statement, it’s muddled and unclear.  I have no earthly idea what I was supposed to think or feel other than pure boredom.

I mean, this movie is not just forgettable the moment after you watch it.  “Miral” is forgettable as you watch it.  From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, Schnabel sure knows how to take his fans on a wild roller-coaster ride through his auteur’s journey.  C-1halfstars





REVIEW: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

8 08 2011

Summer always brings some nice surprises, and better to get it in August than not at all!  If you had told me at the beginning of the summer that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” would be second to only “Harry Potter” in terms of quality blockbusters, I would have scoffed and laughed.  But now, I couldn’t be happier to say that a beautiful marriage of intelligence and entertainment has occurred in Rupert Wyatt’s film, and combined with the groundbreaking motion-capture that wows and dazzles, the whole experience knocks you unexpectedly off your feet.

This “Apes” starts from the beginning, wisely stepping away from Tim Burton’s remake and distancing itself from the original series so as to make a name for itself, and provides the summer’s first (and perhaps only) satisfying origins story.  It shows us Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco), desperate for a cure for Alzheimer’s that might cure his ailing father (John Lithgow).  After a tragic accident shuts down his funding and research, Rodman throws ethics out the window and takes home the infant Caesar (performed by Andy Serkis), an ape who had been passed the experimental drug through his mother.

Caesar becomes quite the specimen of evolution and progress, learning at a frighteningly quick pace and never showing signs of slowing.  With all signs pointing towards a medicinal triumph over nature, Rodman administers the drug to his father and a cure looks locked down.  Yet with Caesar’s growing mental capabilities come what humans have long feared – an added emotional capacity that could lead our greatest creation to turn on us.

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REVIEW: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

11 06 2011

With Woody Allen and his latest film, “Midnight in Paris,” very much the toast of the town, I figured now would be as good a time as ever to burst his balloon because the input of one 18-year-old blogger can really induce a neurotic panic attack in the famed director. I’m sorry to say that Woody doesn’t always make them like that; in fact, they usually turn out much more like “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger,” a redundant statement of the director’s worldview that lacks the pop and charisma of his earlier work.

Allen’s annual entry into his cinematic canon, circa 2010, features a vintage cynicism and defeatism that stifles the possibility of any charm his impressive ensemble could endow the movie.  It shapes its grim worldview around this little Shakespearean nugget of wisdom: “[Life] … is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  That really puts you in a jaunty, comedic mood, doesn’t it?

The movie takes shape around a group of interconnected Londoners dealing with issues of love and faith in transitory phases of life, all of which begins with the divorce of Alfie and Helena, played respectively by Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones.  She can’t get over it and begins seeing a fortune teller in distress while he quickly hits the scene and gets engaged to a prostitute, portrayed beautifully by the very funny Lucy Punch.  This puts an added strain on the marriage of their art-dealing daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and her failed author of a husband Roy (Josh Brolin), tempting them to begin affairs with exotic people they see on a regular basis.  For her, it’s her boss Greg (Antonio Banderas).  For him, it’s the new Indian beauty (Freida Pinto of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame) that moved in across the street … who just happens to be engaged.

But remember, it all signifies nothing, right?  There is no point!  It’s all just a meaningless charade and a stupid exercise of emotions before we inevitably meet our mortal doom?  If you answered yes to both of those questions, perhaps you are better off saving the 90 minutes of your life that would be spent watching “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger” and using them to find the beauty in life.  Because it does exist, just not in this movie.  C /