Thursday, June 7, 2018

Social Animals (2018)

Jack and I really wanted to love this story of a slacker trying to get her life together but, alas, found it wildly uneven. With a female director/writer, great cast, and fantastic artsy location shots in Austin TX, its mood swings from funny and dirty to pathos are nonetheless hard to take.

Noël Wells (she played Aziz Ansari's love interest in the first season of Master of None, among other credits) does good work as the heroine Zoe, as does Josh Radnor (last blogged for Liberal Arts, in which his character also hooks up with a younger woman) as Paul. The scenes with Zoe and her best friend Claire, played by Carly Chaikin (I saw her in a few episodes of Suburgatory and laugh when I think about her character name, Excruciating, in the hilarious In a World...) are also very good.

Here's my analysis of what went wrong. The fact that Zoe's love interest Paul is married is supposed to be funny. But his wife is absolutely miserable. We were not amused. Aya Cash, who plays Paul's wife Jane, stars in the FX series You're the Worst (49 episodes there plus small parts in some other things we've seen) and Jack and I are big fans. In You're the Worst, Cash's character is bipolar, and when she gets depressed, the scripts move gracefully back into comedy. In this script, Jane is completely devoid of humor, and it's miserable to watch her.

This is Theresa Bennett's directorial and solo screenwriting debut after co-writing two other features. The movie looks terrific and has many good moments but I'm convinced she needs seasoning. Oh, now I'm reading that the crew was primarily women, which makes me feel even worse that I didn't love it. Does that make me sexist? Probably.

Comedian Fortune Feimster (six episodes of Life in Pieces and much more) apparently does a fair amount of improvising, including laughing a lot at her own jokes (she's in the bonus after the credits). Imdb has inexplicably given Samira Wiley (51 episodes of Orange Is the New Black, Cash's character's psychiatrist in five of You're the Worst, and the past and upcoming season of The Handmaid's Tale) top billing despite only a few scenes, I've submitted a correction, trying to get Wells, Radnor, and Cash to the top and Wiley moved down.

I can't find any music from the soundtrack online, but composer Greg Bernall (his feature debut) does have a website with some tunes. If you look for this movie online, be sure you don't pick the documentary or the band of the same name.

Rotten Tomatoes' audiences, averaging 86%, are a lot more enthusiastic than its critics at 43. This is available now for rent or sale (hmm) on iTunes and Amazon, though we saw it in a theatre. I'd like to hear from others who see it so we can discuss. Just please don't post any spoilers on this page. Instead, write me at babetteflix at gmail.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017)

We kind of liked this crazy sci-fi romantic comedy about a 1977 London high schooler obsessed with punk music who falls in love with an alien. Alex Sharp (Tony award winner for originating The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) plays the boy, named Enn (short for Henry), as smart and shy. He and two friends crash a party teeming with performance artists, worth the price of admission alone. Elle Fanning is well cast as the wide-eyed innocent alien called Zan, and Nicole Kidman is fun as punk performer Queen Boadiciea (Bo-da-CEE-a) (both women were last blogged for The Beguiled).

Director/co-writer John Cameron Mitchell (most recently helmed Rabbit Hole and wrote Shortbus (2006) after Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)) and co-writer Philippa Goslett (two other co-writing gigs) didn't so much adapt the 2007 award-winning short story by Neil Gaiman as jump off from it. You can read the whole story here.

The youtube playlist has sixteen songs, the spotify album has nineteen, and the imdb soundtrack list has 30, only a few of which are by the credited composers Nico Muhly (last scored Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and Jamie Stewart, whose band Xiu Xiu is credited. The sound of this movie is full of fury and it's well done, as is the look.

However, Rotten Tomatoes' critics' average of 47% is only slightly better than its audiences at 44. As of today you can rent or buy it on iTunes and Amazon. I recommend waiting for free streaming on netflix or whatever, just in case. And, right on the screen at the end, you can read the promise: No aliens were harmed in the making of this film.

Those suffering from MPMS, or Motion-Picture-Motion-Sickness, should take precautions, due to crazy camera moves. See the complete list here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Jack and I, with no objection to slapstick plus gore, enjoyed this bloody, profane, hilarious sequel in which our anti-hero turns out to be not as bad a guy as he thinks, all the while breaking the fourth wall and playing sappy songs.

All returning from the original (and last blogged for) Deadpool are Ryan Reynolds as the title character, Morena Baccarin as wife Vanessa, T.J. Miller as Weasel the bartender, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, and more. New this time are Zazie Beetz (ten episodes of Atlanta as the baby mama Van) as Domino, Josh Brolin (most recently as villain Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War) as villain Cable, teenaged Julian Dennison (new to me) as Firefist, and Rob Delaney (I have seen all three seasons of the comedy Catastrophe, in which he stars as well as writes, and am thrilled it's been renewed on Amazon) in a small funny part as Peter, among others. Apparently Reynolds picked Delaney after watching Catastrophe.

The first Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick worked on the script with Reynolds but, although this sequel was announced three days before the release of the first one in 2016, that director was eventually replaced by stuntman David Leitch, who has co-directed one feature and directed one more before this.

There are lots of songs (listed here), many sappy, to supplement the score by Tyler Bates (last composed for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and you can stream a half hour of the soundtrack from this link.

With a Rotten Tomatoes critics' average of 83%'s and audiences at 86% (likely self-selected, i.e. apt to like it if they picked it), we urge you to self-select as well. Gauge your tolerance for murderous mayhem and go if you don't mind it.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Guardians (Les gardiennes - 2017)

I'm glad I saw this long and slow but pretty story of a matriarch who hires a young woman to help her and her grown daughter work their farm in France during World War I. I'm also glad I was alone because I didn't have anyone to complain to me that I picked it.

Nathalie Baye (she has just over 100 credits and her name rings a bell but the only ones that I can recall are the two Truffaut filmes Day for Night (1973) and The Man Who Loved Women (1977) as well as Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (2002)) plays the 60-something Hortense who is tense for many good reasons. One thing I never figured out, though, is whether the disabled man her age at the farm (wheat, cows, hogs) is her husband or not. Baye's real-life daughter Laura Smet (about two dozen credits, none that I've seen) plays Hortense's daughter Solange, and Iris Bry, in her debut, is the farm hand Francine with the strong back, sweet disposition, and voice of an angel.

Director/co-writer Xavier Beauvois (last blogged for Of Gods and Men) adapted the 1924 novel by Ernest Pérochon with co-writers Marie-Julie Maille (many editing credits, including this one, and one other co-writing gig) and Frédérique Moreau (new to me). It seems to me that when your editor has had a hand in the script, overly long sequences, in this case swelling the run time to 2:15, are predictable. There's plenty of plot, revealed after a while--you just have to wait--not least of which are the agony of war and the advent of farm machines.

One sad bit of trivia is that on December 5, 2017, this movie was released, and on that same day Johnny Hallyday died. He was a French actor/pop star ("the French Elvis"), ex-husband of Baye, and father of Smet. A happier bit of trivia is that the adorable blonde child who appears late in the movie has the last name of Beauvois. I'm guessing she's the director's granddaughter.

The beautiful cinematography is by Caroline Champetier (she shot Of Gods and Men and then Holy Motors though I didn't mention the latter).

Jazz pianist and composer Michel Legrand (Oscar winner for scoring The Summer of '42 (1971) and Yentl (1983) as well as the song Windmills of Your Mind from The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), nominated for others, and scored hundreds more, including The Go-Between (1971), Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Ode to Billy Joe (1976), Best Friends (1982), and Ready to Wear (1994), just to mention some I've seen) gives us lovely themes which I cannot find online for you. This track may or may not be from the movie but it is nice. Here's another movie theme by Legrand and a medley of some of his best known work.

92% of Rotten Tomatoes' critics have certified this "fresh," while only 50% of its audiences have done so, certifying it "rotten." I would have liked it better without the long, long actionless shots, but still didn't hate it. On my netflix page, I have the option to save it, so someone is planning to release it someday on DVD.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Book Club (2018)

With formidable star power it should be outstanding, but, sadly, this story of four older women whose lives are changed by reading 50 Shades of Grey is just okay. It wastes the talents of Diane Keaton (last blogged for Darling Companion), Jane Fonda (after Youth, I loved her 55 episodes of Grace and Frankie (2015-now and renewed for 2019!)), Candice Bergen (most recently in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)), and Mary Steenburgen (after I profiled her in The Proposal and mentioned her in Last Vegas, I saw her in six episodes of Orange Is the New Black (2015-17), six of Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000, 2007, 2009, 2017), and am slogging through to finish 57 of The Last Man on Earth (2015-18)).

Perhaps we can blame director/co-writer Bill Holderman, who makes his directing debut and has co-written one other movie which we didn't see, and his co-writer Erin Simms, also a debut. I tried to read 50 Shades of Grey when it got so popular but was put off by the bad writing and the whole bondage thing, which this feminist finds icky. And I was put off by the mediocre writing of this movie, even though the stars are good fun.

The women are joined by Andy Garcia (most recently in City Island), Craig T. Nelson (last blogged for The Company Men), Don Johnson (best known for 111 episodes of Miami Vice (1984-90), he was also good in The Hot Spot (1990), and Tin Cup (1996), to name a few), Alicia Silverstone (I gave her short shrift when writing about The Art of Getting By, so she's best known for Clueless (1996) and I liked her in Blast from the Past (1999)), Richard Dreyfuss (some of his best work includes American Graffiti (1973), The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974), Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), The Goodbye Girl (1977), Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), Stand by Me (1986), Nuts (1987), What About Bob? (1991), Mr. Holland's Opus (1995), W. (2008) as Dick Cheney, and four episodes each of Weeds (2010) and Parenthood (2011)), Ed Begley Jr. (since Whatever Works he's done many things, including five episodes each of Family Tree in 2013 and Better Call Saul in 2016), Wallace Shawn (last blogged for Admission), and many more.

Peter Nashel's (scored I, Tonya) music isn't available online and I don't remember it from seeing this movie last week.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics and audiences, averaging 58 and 63%, respectively, are as tepid as we are. Streaming and DVD are estimated for August 2018. If you want to see this, it's probably best to watch it at home.

The Other Woman (2014)

This came out in April 2014, and I know we saw it then and think we liked the silly story of three women who've been cheated on by the same man teaming up to get revenge. Cameron Diaz (last blogged for My Sister's Keeper), Leslie Mann (wrote about her minutes ago in Blockers), and Kate Upton (a former model, she's had a few small acting parts here and there) are the women and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (new to me, he has plenty of credits including Game of Thrones) is the cheater. Directed by Nick Cassavetes (covered in My Sister's Keeper), it was written by Melissa Stack in her feature screenwriting debut. I write about it now because I need to have my movies counted accurately!

Blockers (2018)

Jack and I laughed a lot at this silly slapstick about parents trying to prevent a prom-night virginity-losing pact made by their three high-school-age daughters. It's not as bad as we predicted, and Leslie Mann is hilarious, as always (she was last blogged for How To Be Single). The other main parents are Ike Barinholtz (most recently in Snatched), and John Cena (a WWE--World Wrestling Entertainment--star, he was in Trainwreck and Sisters, to name two that I've seen). The girls are Kathryn Newton (last blogged for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Gideon Adlon (new to me, she is Pamela Adlon's daughter), and Geraldine Viswanathan (also new to me), and the latter has many good lines. June Diane Raphael (plays single daughter Brianna in 55 episodes of Grace and Frankie, and much more) and Hannibal Buress (covered in Spider-Man: Homecoming) are among the supporting players with funny scenes.

We noted that, with only one exception (it's been a week and a half since we saw it), the characters are not mean-spirited and that makes a nice change in this day and age.

Kay Cannon (made her writing debut with Pitch Perfect) makes her directing debut here, working from a script by brothers and writing partners Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe

I don't remember the music by Mateo Messina (I've heard his work on Juno (2007), 23 episodes of Fairly Legal (2011-12), 13 of Growing Up Fisher (2014), 52 of Superstore (2015-18), and 44 of Casual (2015-18)). Of course, as in any teen-centered movie, there are lots of pop songs, some of which are streaming from spotify.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics, averaging 83%, and not its audiences at 51, drove us to this movie when a scheduling snafu caused us to pick something in a big hurry. No need to rush out to see it. It'll be released streaming on June 19 and on DVD July 3, 2018.