Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 21: Life of the Party

Occasionally a tweet will pop up on my timeline that features a mixture of disbelief and amazement at the passage of time relative to pop culture products.  For example, the number of years separating the releases of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY and STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE is equal to the number of years between the original STAR WARS film and Charlie Chaplin's MODERN TIMESJURASSIC PARK is now as old as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was in 1993.

The brain-exploding reaction is the realization that comes when comparing something from your youth or young adulthood that doesn't seem particularly old with something that did seem old at that time.  The same effect can be achieved by seeing college students wearing vintage t-shirts of rock bands that were popular when you were their age.  The process is probably more accelerated in music, which can "date" faster.  We're as far removed from Radiohead's OK COMPUTER now as we were from Led Zeppelin's PRESENCE in 1997, which seemed old to me a decade prior. 

It didn't occur to me while watching LIFE OF THE PARTY or talking about it on episode 21 of FILMBOUND that Melissa McCarthy's frumpy character, styled as an early 1990s film mom stereotype than a contemporary woman, is supposed to be roughly the same age that I am.  Becoming aware of that is enough to feel like time is coming totally unglued.  The math adds up, but it feels like a significant miscalculation exists in there somewhere.

Maybe it's just as well that I didn't grasp this fact until afterwards.  It wouldn't really have any bearing on my assessment of this sluggish, disjointed comedy, even if I did nitpick it for seeming mostly out of touch with what college life is like today.  Plus, the last thing I need right now is an additional item in the existential crisis column.

In the recommendations segment I endorse the futuristic action-thriller UPGRADE, which provides a little food for thought about the convergence of human biology and technology but primarily delivers the simple pleasures of a genre film.

Upcoming episodes:

-June 20: DEADPOOL 2 and a discussion about film clichés we like and dislike
-June 27: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY and our recommendations segment
-July 4: FIRST REFORMED and a discussion about the role of the film critic
-July 11: HEREDITARY and our recommendations segment

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 20: Tully

Episode 20 of FILMBOUND features TULLY, which finds director Jason Reitman back to form after two fairly bad and misguided efforts in LABOR DAY and MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN.  As it is summer movie season, Paul Markoff and I also kick around some ideas for sequels, cinematic universes, and crossovers we'd be interested in seeing.

For the most part our conversation is an exercise in wishful thinking, but there might be an idea or two that a studio runs with eventually.  If my ideas seem limited to a particular type of film, chalk it up to my jet lag as I scrounged for ideas.  (In editing this show and the three preceding it, I've been pleasantly surprised that I don't sound fatigued because I certainly felt that way during the recording.)

It seems a little anachronistic to talk about summer movie season because the event films launched during that roughly three-month period are now dispersed throughout the calendar.  You don't have to wait until Memorial Day weekend for expensive, FX-focused entertainment.  Still, I think there's a tendency to perceive films released in late May, June, July, and early August to represent Hollywood's latest, greatest mass appeal movies, even if inevitably some fail to live up to studio or viewer expectations.  (In reality, the timeline has shifted up to late March.)

For whatever reason, the 2018 summer movie season looks lackluster.  Removing the actual quality of these films from the equation, I'm having difficulty finding big movies to be excited about.  That indifference applies to those I've already watched as well as those I've yet to see.  This season has already delivered AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, DEADPOOL 2, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, and OCEAN'S 8.  Through July the presumed biggest films of their weekends will be INCREDIBLES 2, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, THE FIRST PURGE, HOTEL TRANSLYVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION, MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN, THE EQUALIZER 2, and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT.  All of these are part of film franchises or new entries in series.  Out of all of those titles, I'm looking forward to the latest MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE the most, but with it being the sixth film in the series, it's not like I can't contain my anticipation for it.

Summer tends to lean on established properties, so this isn't out of the ordinary; however, last summer produced BABY DRIVER, DUNKIRK, ATOMIC BLONDE, 47 METERS DOWN, THE BIG SICK, GIRLS TRIP, and LOGAN LUCKY.  Whether I liked them or not, at least these were a break from franchise installments.  Granted, only one of these summer 2017 films likely had and fulfilled blockbuster ambitions, but unless I'm overlooking them, I don't necessarily see the non-franchise films in summer 2018 similar with the similar potential to surprise on a moderate scale.

Upcoming episodes:

-June 13: LIFE OF THE PARTY and our recommendations segment
-June 20: DEADPOOL 2 and a discussion about film clichés we like and dislike
-June 27: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY and our recommendations segment

Friday, June 01, 2018

May 2018 Film Log

Being free of the viewing demands for a biweekly TV show, I don't have to see--or feel compelled to see--as many of the new mainstream films that make it into the nation's multiplexes.  Perhaps it was always this way, but so many of the wide releases this year look more disposable than ever and don't pique my interest.  I don't think that such an impression is necessarily a byproduct of being able to be more selective.  As the number of each week's new releases grows and the turnover of these titles increases, it stands to reason that there's a lower bar to clear to get screens.

During the most intense periods of producing NOW PLAYING, it wasn't unusual for me to look at multiplex listings and find little to nothing I hadn't already watched except for what just opened.  Now the listings are peppered with films I haven't seen, yet I can struggle to identify something that seems even mildly worth the time.  Sight unseen, films such as BAD SAMARITAN, OVERBOARD, SHOW DOGS, and TRAFFIK aren't exactly compelling choices even if I'm looking to go to the movies just for the sake of it.  (That's how BREAKING IN ended up on this month's log.  It was something to do while all of the windows were being replaced in my apartment.)  It's as though movie theaters are being infiltrated by the types of offerings that would have once been direct-to-video.  It's also probably never been easier to get an independent film in theaters, at least for the blink of an eye.  (Getting a full run is another matter.)

While I would not argue that it should be harder for filmmakers to find screens for their works, the number of screens to fill and the ease of content delivery with digital distribution and exhibition has exploded the number of choices and diluted the perceived quality checks when access to consumers was tighter.  I'm not sure that I have a point other than to say I saw a fair number of mediocre and worse films this month while bypassing a bunch of others.

-La belle noiseuse (Jacques Rivette, 1991): A- -- Blu-ray

-Breaking In (James McTeigue, 2018): D+

-The Color of Pomegranates (Sayat Nova) (Sergei Parajanov, 1969): B -- Blu-ray

-Deadpool 2 (David Leitch, 2018): C

-Disobedience (Sebastián Lelio, 2017): C-

-Double Lover (L'amant double) (François Ozon, 2017): B-

-The Endless (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, 2017): C+

-Ghost Stories (Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, 2017): B-

-The Guardians (Les gardiennes) (Xavier Beauvois, 2017): B

-I Feel Pretty (Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, 2018): C

-Life of the Party (Ben Falcone, 2018): C-

-Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964): -- repeat viewing

-Oh Lucy! (Atsuko Hirayanagi, 2017): C-

-Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (Wim Wenders, 2018): C+

-Psychokinesis (Yeom-lyeok) (Yeon Sang-Ho, 2018): B- -- HD stream

-RBG (Julie Cohen and Betsy West, 2018): B-

-Solo: A Star Wars Story (Ron Howard, 2018): B-

-Terminal (Vaughn Stein, 2018): D

-Tully (Jason Reitman, 2018): B+

The top films new to me (current releases):


The top films new to me (repertory):

-La belle noiseuse
-The Color of Pomegranates (Sayat Nova)

Viewing locations & formats:

-Theatrical viewings: 16 (DCP: 16)
-Home viewings: 3

May Totals:

-# of screenings: 19
-# of unique films seen: 19
-# of feature films new to me: 18

Year-to-date Totals:

-Theatrical viewings: 106 (DCP: 99, 35mm: 5, 70mm: 2) (includes one live performance & one live accompaniment)
-Home viewings: 11 (HD streams: 5, Blu-ray: 3, HD recordings: 2,  DVD: 1)
-Live performances: 1
-Live accompaniment: 1

-# of screenings: 117
-Unique # of films seen: 112 features, 2 shorts compilation programs, and 4 shorts
-Unique # of feature films new to me: 101