Movie Diary 5/31/2012

Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012). One question: if the crew of the “Prometheus” has access to a 20th-century movie such as Lawrence of Arabia (Michael Fassbender’s robot watches it), do they also have access to Ridley Scott’s Alien? And if so, why would they – well, you get the idea. (full review 6/8)

At What a Feeling!, recall a movie you surely never saw the first time around: Caleb Deschanel’s Crusoe.

Movie Diary 5/30/2012

Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011). If a film is going to be an exercise in style, let it be something like this. Movies are about choosing what to put in and what to leave out, and NWR shows an awfully good sense of what that means in this one.

The Fourth State (Dennis Gansel, 2012). Moritz Bleibtreu goes to Russia and gets a lesson about how journalists are treated, in a blunt-but-effective German thriller. (Showing at SIFF)

The Samaritan (David Weaver, 2012). Samuel L. Jackson ditches the superhero togs and lends his still-formidable presence to a moody little character study, which also functions as a crime picture. (full review 6/1)

At What a Feeling!, a vintage review of Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer’s Candy Mountain.

Movie Diary 5/29/2012

The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973). The director is really firing on all cylinders, and while meaning to demolish the conventions of the private-eye picture, he inadvertently makes something kind of amazing in its place.

Snow White and the Huntsman (Rupert Sanders, 2012). What a peculiar mix of intrigue and tedium, and not necessarily in the spots you’d expect. Plus, Ray Winstone as a little person. (full review 6/1)

Lola Versus (Daryl Wein, 2012). Greta Gerwig handles this mild and enjoyable comedy with the same self-possession she showed in Damsels in Distress; she’s in almost every scene, yet the movie needs more of her. (showing in SIFF)

Tonight You’re Mine (David Mackenzie, 2012). Will this director ever make a movie I like? (full review 6/1)

The Revisionaries (Scott Thurman, 2012). The Texas Board of Education reviews ways it can sneak a brazen right-wing creationist agenda into textbooks. There will be ignorance. (showing at SIFF)

The Revolutionary (Lucy Ostrander, Don Sellers, Irv Drasnin, 2012); The Long Ride Home (Tom Wright, 2012). A pair of films from the NW Connections category at SIFF, for which I am on the jury.

At What a Feeling!, take in the 1980s with a vintage review of Barbet Schroeder’s (and obviously Charles Bukowski’s) Barfly.

Goon in Black (Weekly Links)

Smith and Jones and greenscreen: MiB3

Links to reviews I wrote this week for the Herald, and etc.

Men in Black 3. (dead link; review below)

By Robert Horton

The first two “Men in Black” movies (1997 and 2002, respectively) teemed with wacky ideas and throwaway sight gags, as though the premise (secret government agents charged with monitoring outer-space visitors) allowed for a special sort of sci-fi creativity to flourish.

Maybe the ten-year layoff was too long for everybody—well, everybody but an energetic Will Smith, as we’ll see—but “Men in Black 3” is streamlined and uncluttered by comparison. The jokes are more sedate, the pacing is languid, and the alien creatures are few and far between.

Oh sure, you can give points for the round-headed extraterrestrial whose noggin pops off and gets used as a bowling ball. I’ll grant you that one. But this sequel is full of promising ideas that don’t pay off. For instance, it sounds funny for Agent J (Smith) to travel back in time to 1969 to stop an alien from killing Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) at a tender age.

And it sounds even funnier that J would team up with the younger version of Agent K, and that this character would be played by Tommy Lee Jones’ “No Country for Old Men” co-star, Josh Brolin. Arrange for the climax to take place upon the launch pad of the first manned mission to the Moon, and you’ve got the ingredients. Alas, most of the ideas stay on the launch pad, waiting to be filled in by zany special effects or a crazed moment for an actor.

Despite a burst of shrill alien-speak, Emma Thompson can’t do anything with her underwritten role as a Woman in Black, and Michael Stuhlbarg (“A Serious Man”) is stranded in a humor-free E.T. part. Only Jemaine Clement, the “Flight of the Conchords” comic, is sufficiently in the spirit of the first two movies, even if you really can’t see him under all the make-up. Tommy Lee Jones is offscreen for most of the picture, and Brolin doesn’t carry much comedy snap. So it’s up to Will Smith, who works hard and finds a few good deadpan reactions mixed in with the fast-talking bursts of disbelief.

As his prominence on the poster indicates, it’s Smith’s show, and he again displays why he is a movie star, especially in his ability to build a quick rapport with the audience. But given how much lead time they had (Smith hasn’t had a movie out since 2008), you’d think the jokes would be better and the craziness more fleshed-out.

Barry Sonnenfeld returns to the director’s chair, although even his antic style seems subdued this time (he does find a few amusing uses for 3-D). Or maybe it’s just the digital blankness of the picture: it has a clean, bleached sheen that makes everything look like actors standing in front of green screens, the world digitally created behind them. In other words, “Men in Black 3” looks suspiciously like the work of aliens. It’s too late, Agents J and K: the visitors have taken over.

Headhunters. “The gonzo energy of a born thriller-maker.”

Post Mortem. “The odd feeling that information is being left out of the top and bottom of your vision, as though you were looking through lateral slats in a window.”

Goon. “An awesome ’70s mustache.”

Some picks for the upcoming week at the Seattle International Film Festival.

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about the transformation of the wrong people into initialized brands (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed = KSM, for instance), plus a few SIFF tips. It’s archived here; our conversation begins at the 20:40 point.

At What a Feeling!, we conclude a week of one-word titles from the 1980s featuring strong female stars; the last one of the bunch is Robert Benton’s Nadine.

Rotten, the critically-acclaimed graphic novel, will be a presence at this weekend’s Crypticon in Seattle; watch Rotten‘s Mark Rahner clamber out of a coffin to promote the event here.

Movie Diary 5/24/2012

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Robert Guediguian, 2011). This veteran filmmaker, a spiritual cousin to Ken Loach and John Sayles, comes through with another tale of Marseilles folk who maintain a stubborn core of human decency, despite the tough breaks that come to them at a certain age. (Showing at SIFF)

Lost Years (Kenda Gee, Tom Radford, 2011). A documentary on the subject of Chinese immigration to Canada (and other places) and the unresolved unfairness of that process. (Showing at SIFF)

At What a Feeling!, an Eighties review of Martin Ritt’s Nuts, a curious vehicle for Barbra Streisand that failed as Oscar bait.

Movie Diary 5/23/2012

For Greater Glory (Dean Wright, 2012). I am curious about where this movie (about the uprising that followed the Mexican government’s crackdown on Catholicism in the 1920s) comes from, what the point is, who funded it. But not that  curious. (full review 6/1)

At What a Feeling!, we continue a week of reviews in that rarest of subsets, Eighties movies with one-word titles featuring powerhouse actresses. Today: Paul Cox’s Cactus, with Isabelle Huppert.

Movie Diary 5/22/2012

Men in Black 3 (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012). Long layover for this crew, during which time a few key personnel seem to have lost interest. Credit to Will Smith, though, for working so hard. (full review 5/25)

Post Mortem (Pablo Larraín, 2010). The director of the fascinating Tony Manero (and current Cannes buzz-movie No) creates creeped-out, minimalist portrait of Chile during the Pinochet era – in this case, with a voyeuristic morgue employee who seems oblivious to what’s going on in his country, until he can’t be any more. (full review 5/25)

At What a Feeling!, I will spend the week finding reviews of 1980s films that feature strong actresses in titles of one word only. Can I actually find five? The second in the bunch is Costa-Gavras’s Betrayed.

Movie Diary 5/21/2012

Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955). Pow and va-voom.

Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, 1953). Nearly as much pow, equal va-voom.

Goodbye (Mohammad Rasoulof, 2011). Another imprisoned Iranian filmmaker, with a work we hope is not final. The movie’s social argument is impeccable, and, although perhaps it seems less urgent under the circumstances, so is its aesthetic argument. (showing in SIFF)

Welcome to Doe Bay (Nesib Shamah, Dan Thornton, 2012); and Eden (Megan Griffiths, 2012). I’m on the SIFF jury for the “NW Connections” award, so you’re not getting any hints out of me.

Paul Williams: Still Alive (Stephen Kessler, 2011). How can you be a certain age and not wonder what happened to the man who wrote “The Rainbow Connection” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”? Still, having seen the movie, I think I still wonder. (showing in SIFF)

Keyhole (Guy Maddin, 2011). Maddin’s most recent batch of pictures has been getting loopier, and here the man from Winnipeg really goes daft. This one has a gangster movie barging in on a haunted house – or so I think. Slightly surprised how in-the-spirit-of-things Jason Patric’s performance is. (showing in SIFF)

Trial on the Road (Alexei Guerman, 1971). Blunt and powerful Soviet film from the future director of Khrustalyov, My Car!, which this does not much resemble. A tense WWII incident involving turncoats taken prisoner. (showing – well, already showed – in SIFF)

Check the ArtZone podcast on SIFF 2012, featuring a square-table of Andrew Wright, Shannon Gee, Andy Spletzer, and me: listen here.

What a Feeling! rolls out a 1985 review of Roger Donaldson’s Marie, a dull vehicle for Sissy Spacek.

Battleship Expectingsome (Weekly Links)

Kitsch and Rihanna, plus the actor Taylor Kitsch: Battleship

Links to reviews I wrote for the Herald this week, and etc.

Battleship. “Will leave you exhausted and possibly partly deaf.”

What to Expect When You’re Expecting. “It rarely stirs to life.”

Mansome. “The competitive world of international bearding, a world of which, I’m ashamed to say, I was completely unaware.”

A bit of preview for the Seattle International Film Festival, with an emphasis on the Everett leg of the fest.

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about SIFF, with a few recommendations. It’s archived here, and the movie bit kicks in at the 17:30 mark.

At What a Feeling!, we’ve had a week of 1980s “Saturday Night Live” spin-offs. Rounding out the list: two directed by Michael Ritchie, Fletch and The Golden Child.

Movie Diary 5/16/2012

Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012); Rebellion (Mathieu Kassovitz, 2011); Year of Grace (Ventura Pons, 2011). All of the above from the upcoming Seattle International Film Festival. The Pons film is a bouncy coming-of-age comedy about a teenager landing in the big city of Barcelona; Kassovitz directs a compelling look at a 1988 incident involving insurgents in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia; and Anderson makes a Wes Anderson picture, which I have to say is much preferred to all those other people making Wes Anderson pictures (he uses fewer Sixties-pop musical cues in this one, as though to acknowledge how that reflex has been overdone by his imitators).

At What a Feeling!, the Eighties unwind through an “SNL” lens, with a review of John Landis’s Spies Like Us.

And come ’round the Roy Street Cafe Thursday night at 7, as I sit in for a “History Cafe” event sponsored by the Museum of History and Industry. There are details here, but the evening will feature both a little preview of the museum’s upcoming “Celluloid Seattle” exhibit and a collection of winning films from this year’s “History Is___” competition.