Spare Yourself From the Horrifyingly Awful "Maggie" Review

[SPOILER ALERT - Highlight to see spoiler]

Maggie kills herself at the end. You’re welcome. I just did you a huge favor. Please take the 95-minutes you have been saved and spend them elsewhere. Learn to ride a bike, spin a hula-hoop, or just play solitaire. Really anything to not stare dumbly at the screen at Maggie, the hobbling, inept directorial debut of Henry Hobson, previously only known for opening title design work. Yes, he designed opening titles, and was trusted by the powers that be in Hollywood with a film that had the town buzzing over the Black List script that every assistant and agent thought was a masterpiece. One can only assume, the smog was particularly thick that year in LA and perhaps laced with hallucinogens.

Aug
19
2015
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This "Honeymoon" Will Haunt You For Days Review

Director Leigh Janiak makes her feature debut with Honeymoon, an intriguing horror film that introduces us to lead characters Bea (Games of Thrones’ Rose Leslie) and Paul (Penny Dreadful’s Harry Treadaway), via their syrupy-sweet wedding video, during which they make gooey eyes at each other while talking about their disastrous first date at an Indian restaurant and how Paul proposed in a tent made of sheets in their Brooklyn apartment. For their honeymoon, Bea and Paul are heading up to Bea’s old family cabin in Canada, a remote hideaway in the woods where they can fish, swim, eat s’mores and make love to their hearts’ content. During these opening scenes, Honeymoon feels surprisingly like a romantic comedy, and an annoyingly cheesy one at that. Bea and Paul are just too adorable to be true, and their cloying just-married banter makes you long for something bad to happen to them as soon as possible--a bitter palate cleanser to wash the sugary taste out of your mouth before you fall victim to cavities. 

Aug
19
2015
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Cinemax Cuts Itself a Piece of Prestige Series Pie with "The Knick" Review

Any show that falls under the description of “period piece” has a considerably harder time getting made due to the high expense involved in reproducing a bygone era combined with the seemingly increasing likelihood that the show won’t make it past its first season and, ultimately, make its broadcast network a profit. That probably explains why shows fitting that description, like Deadwood, Rome, and now The Knick, tend to pop up more on premium networks where recouping expenses through advertising isn’t a concern: they just need to produce compelling drama and see if their audience, who’ve already paid, will bite. The Knick boasts production values that beautifully recreate early 1900s New York and boasts a cast led by Clive Owen that seizes your attention in the first 10 minutes of the pilot and keeps you entranced—unless you’re a bit squeamish at the sight of fake blood and body parts—through the season’s end.

Aug
19
2015
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Resnais's Guide To "Love" And "Life" Review

I'm not interested in The Bible, I'm interested in death.

So, you think you're an art house movie buff? Good for you, buddy, because I don't know if I can handle it. My ambitions are entertainment with literacy with a wide definition for both. Alain Resnais is surely an opaque dividing line between my sort of dilettantism and the hard core, high art snob/hippie with Last Year at Marienbad (1961) being a classic example of unwatchable inner-rectal filmmaking to your mainstream audience. The Cohen Collection has put together two of his films, from the early 1980's, written by Jean Gruault, Life is a Bed of Roses (1983) and Love Unto Death (1984) one presumes because Criterion already has the rights to Last Year at Marienbad, Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), and Night and Fog (1955). Still, given Resnais's stature in film history, he is criminally underrepresented in home video and these are odd enough to satisfy those to whom such oddity provides a sense of high culture.

Aug
03
2015
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We May Never Know What "Kumiko" Found Review

I am like a Spanish Conquistador.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2015) sounds like a cineaste's dream movie. The titular Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) finds a VHS copy of Fargo (1996) hidden in a beachside cave and takes its "True Story" prologue on face value, believing that just under a million dollars is hidden along some Minnesota highway. Beyond this little plot detail, however, one need not know very much about Fargo. In fact, if you've never seen the Coen Brothers classic, you can watch Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter without hurting too much in the way of spoilers. This is, for those who entered (as I did) with the logline "A Japanese woman takes the film Fargo to be true and uses it to search for buried treasure" in their heads, slightly annoying. I say slightly because if you're the sort of person who likes quirky, indie-spirited films (is that redundant?), you're probably the sort that will take to this piece of melancholia with aplomb. This is not a piece of fanboy fiction, but that's alright.

Aug
03
2015
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"Water Diviner" To End All WWI Films (At Least For A While) Review

For me, this place is one big grave.

With the continuous 100 year anniversaries that will span the next four years, one would expect some epic films on the many facets of The Great War, World War I, the War to End All Wars. Mostly, this has found itself on cable television with documentaries like The World Wars (2014) that controversially suggested there might be a through-line from World War I causing in some respect its sequel, World War II. Russell Crowe took this opportunity to make his directorial debut with The Water Diviner (2015), set from the perspective of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at and after the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915. If its brethren, which are almost certainly forthcoming, stay at or above the quality of The Water Diviner, then we may well learn a few things about war and the people it leaves behind. While being sufficiently entertained, of course.

Aug
03
2015
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"What We Do in the Shadows" Is Funnier Than Not Review

When did we decide that vampires were our Valentines? One quick search on the trusty Internet provides robust evidence of the genre’s eroticism, all the way back to its origins in the 18th century. Numerous essays have been written to delve into the sexuality of these creatures of the night and what it symbolizes, running the gamut from citation-heavy scholarly texts on JStor to posts throughout the pop culture blogosphere. However, the most recent modern interpretations of the vampire legend seem to belong less to the dark world of erotic horror and more to the warmly glowing realm of romance. All of the brutal violence and demonic power one has traditionally associated with Nosferatu, Dracula and their brethren has taken a backseat to poetic dialogue and literally spending eternity with one’s true love--who, of course, has perfect abs. Overall, today’s vampires are more likely to incite sighs of longing than screams of terror.

Aug
03
2015
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All "Red Roads" Lead To Momoa Review

What did ya think? It was all going to work out for you?

Strange as it is to say this, but Jason Momoa is going on my watch list. Not a great watcher of television, it would seem that Momoa has been cast as a giant brute, but in The Red Road (2014-) series on the Sundance Channel shows that he's actually a person when he isn't exclusively staring out from under his massive dark brows. Momoa plays Phillip Kopus, a Native American drug dealer that has returned to his small New Jersey town after leaving prison to start dealing drugs there. It doesn't sound too promising, but it's enough that he gets to speak in his own voice, not have a ponytail, and seem capable of nuanced ethical views. Kopus is the bad guy in a show without good guys.

Jul
19
2015
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Try Not To Fall Asleep On Your Way Through "Cedar Cove" Review

I changed my mind, I think we should put it up for adoption.

Such is the sort of dilemma that good ol' Olivia Lockhart (Andie MacDowell) is here to fix in the second season of Cedar Cove (2013-), based on the series by Debbie Macomber. Macomber writes more books in a year than I get haircuts. The Cedar Cove series got a new member about once a year from 2001 to 2011. She even wrote some of the scripts for this show. How she ever found time to knit and then write a book on the subject boggles the mind. Then again, if her books are as full of banal common sense and low drama as the Hallmark "original" series, then I'm pretty sure all you need is a life supply of adderall to put together one of these manuscripts at typing speed. Reading them must be like eating paste. Some people like paste.

Jul
19
2015
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"Tony Duran" Doesn't Need An Encore Review

Nobody gives a shit about act one.

That's not entirely true but the point is well taken. A life and a movie might well overcome poor beginnings. Ironically, lives that start with a rough act one make better movies than movies with a rough act one. That's the difference between emotions and craftsmanship. Emotions make for nuanced beauty, but there isn't much you can do with a polished turd. The Encore of Tony Duran (2011) isn't a turd, but it is a rough hewn chunk of unglamorous stone. It's an independent film that suffers from so many of that genre's faults and hardly takes advantage of its possibilities. Because The Encore of Tony Duran doesn't come from an independent spirit or story, it's a conventional TV-movie story without the budget or craft to make it slick or real.

Jul
19
2015
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