Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Mary Queen of Scots, Colette, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, The Favourite, Goosebumps 2, A Simple Favor, The Extinction, The Package, Life Itself, Along Came The Devil, Little Italy, Unfriended: Dark Web, Wonder Park, Castle Rock


It’s time for the weekly trailer round-up!  We’ve got fourteen today so let’s get down to business:

First off, we have the trailer for one of the most anticipated films of the year: Mary, Queen of Scots.  This movie brings together two of last year’s nominees for best actress, with Saoirse Ronan playing the title character and Margot Robbie playing Queen Elizabeth I.  It is set to be released in December for Oscar consideration.

Also getting early Oscar buzz is Keira Knightley for her performance in Colette.  Colette premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year and will be released on September 21st.

Another film that generated buzz at Sundance was The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a teenage girl forced into gay conversation therapy.  The Miseducation of Cameron Post will be released into theaters on August 3rd.

Following the arthouse success of The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos returns with The Favourite.  Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone play cousins who compete to be the favorite of Queen Anne.  The Favourite will be released on November 23rd.

The books and the monsters are back but Jack Black is nowhere to be seen in the trailer for Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.  This film will be released on October 12th.

When Blake Lively disappears, her new best friend, Anna Kendrick, teams up with Lively’s husband to find her.  Directed by Paul Feig of Ghostbusters and Bridesmaids fame, A Simple Favor will be released on September 14th.

Everyone’s favorite sidekick, Michael Pena, finally gets the leading role in The Extinction, a sci-fi thriller that will be premiering on Netflix on July 27th.

Also coming to Netflix is The Package, a teen comedy from the creators of Workaholics.  The Package will be delivered on August 10th.

The second film to be directed by This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, Life Itself will be released on September 21st.

According to this trailer, Along Came The Devil is “an exorcism film for a new generation.”  This film will be released on August 10th.

Have you ever wondered what happened to Danny Aiello?  He’s in Little Italy, with Emma Roberts and Hayden Christensen.  Little Italy will be released in August.

The internet is still the most dangerous place on Earth in the second trailer for Unfriended: Dark Web.  See for yourself on July 20th.

After a long and troubled production that saw original director Dylan Brown fired for “inappropriate conduct,” the animated film Wonder Park will finally be released on March 15th, 2019.

Finally, here is the long-awaited official trailer for Castle Rock, the new Hulu series from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King.  Castle Rock premieres on July 25th.

 

Film Review: Factory Girl (dir by George Hickenlooper)


Oh God.  Factory Girl.

Released in 2006, Factory Girl was a biopic about Edie Sedgwick, the tragic model/actress/artist who was briefly both Andy Warhol’s muse and one of the most famous women in America.  Before I talk too much about this film, I should probably admit that I’m probably the worst possible person to review a movie about Edie Sedgwick.

Why?

Allow me to repost something that I wrote when I reviewed Edie’s final film, Ciao Manhattan:

“In the late 60s, Edie Sedgwick was a model who was briefly the beautiful face of the underground.  Vogue called her a “youthquaker.”  She made films with Andy Warhol, she dated the rich and the famous and for a brief time, she was one of the most famous women in America.  But a childhood full of tragedy and abuse had left Edie fragile and unprepared to deal with the pressures of being famous.  She was fed drugs by those who claimed to care about her, she had numerous mental breakdowns, and, when she was at her most vulnerable, she was pushed away and rejected by the same people who had loved her when she was on top of the world.  Edie died because, when she asked for help, nobody was willing to listen.

 

Edie Sedgwick (1943 — 1971)

I guess I should explain something.  I don’t believe in reincarnation but if I did, I would swear that I was Edie Sedwick in a past life.  Of all the great icons of the past, she, Clara Bow, andVictoria Woodhull are the ones to whom I feel the closest connection. (Edie is the reason why, for the longest time, I assumed I would die when I was 28.  But now I’m 29, so lucky me.)”

(Incidentally, I wrote that two years ago and I’m still alive so, once again, lucky me.)

Anyway, my point is that I’m always going to be a hundred times more critical of a film about Edie Sedgwick as I would be about any other film.  If you’re already guessing that I didn’t particularly care for Factory Girl, you’re right.  However, there are some people whose opinions I respect and some of them love this film.

Anyway, Factory Girl is a biopic that’s structured so conventionally that it even opens with Edie (played by Sienna Miller) narrating her story to an unseen interviewer.  I can count on one hand the number of successful biopics that have featured someone telling the story of their life to an unseen interviewer.  It’s a conventional and kind of boring technique.  Anyway, the film follows all of the expected beats.  Edie arrives in New York.  Edie is spotted by Andy (Guy Pearce).  Edie makes films with Warhol.  Her famous dance in Vinyl is recreated.  Edie becomes Andy’s platonic girlfriend but then, she meets and falls in love with Bob Dylan…

Oh, sorry.  He’s not actually Bob Dylan.  According to the credits, his name is Folksinger.  He says Bob Dylan type stuff.  He rides around on a motorcycle.  He carries a harmonica.  Oh, and he’s played by Hayden Christensen.

See, the first half of Factory Girl is actually not bad.  Sienna Miller gives a pretty good performance as Edie, even if she never comes close to capturing Edie’s unforced charisma.  Despite being several years too old, Guy Pearce is also credible as Andy Warhol.  The film itself is full of crazy 60s clichés but, even so, that’s not always a terrible thing.  Some of those 60s clichés are a lot of fun, if they’re presented with a little imagination.

But then Hayden Christensen shows up as Bob Dylan and the film loses whatever credibility it may have had.  Hayden, who gave his best performance when he played a soulless and largely empty-headed sociopath in Shattered Glass, is totally miscast as a musician who once said that if people really understood what his songs were about, he would have been thrown in jail.  The film attempts to portray Dylan and Warhol as two men fighting for Edie’s soul but Christensen is so outacted by Guy Pearce that it’s never really much of a competition.  Even though the film makes a good case that Edie’s relationship with Andy was ultimately self-destructive, Guy Pearce is still preferable to Hayden Christensen trying to imitate Dylan’s distinctive mumble.

Anyway, Factory Girl doesn’t really work.  Beyond the odd casting of Hayden Christensen, Factory Girl is too conventionally structured.  In its portrayal of the Factory and life in 1960s New York, the film never seems to establish a life beyond all of the familiar clichés.  (Before anyone accuses me of contradicting myself, remember that I said that the old 60s clichés are fun if they’re presented with a little imagination.  That’s a big if.)  At no point, while watching the film, did I feel as if I had been transported back to the past.  If you want to learn about Edie Sedgwick, your best option is to try to track down her Warhol films.

Edie!

Sci-Fi Film Review: Return of the Jedi (dir by Richard Marquand)


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As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve devoted this month to science fiction here at the Shattered Lens.  Gary Loggins reviewed THX-1138.  Valerie took a look at everything from The Star Wars Holiday Special to Turkish Star Wars to Return of the Ewok.  Ryan the Trashfilm Guru reviewed such Italian classics as Cosmos: War of Planets and War of the Robots.  Patrick Smith reviewed a terrifying Christmas movie about Santa. Myself, I’ve taken a look at such films as Contamination and 2019: After the Fall of New York.  

We’ve reviewed a lot of science fiction and we’ve got a lot more left to go.  (Keep an eye out for my reviews of Starcrash and The Humanoid over the upcoming few days.)  However, from the beginning, this month has always been centered around Star Wars.  You may have heard that there’s a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it’s opening this week.  Apparently, a few people are excited about it.  Since we love reviewing little known art films here at the Shattered Lens, we decided why not review all of the previous Star Wars films during the week leading up to the release of The Force Awakens?  Jeff (a.k.a. the blogger known as Jedadiah Leland) started us off by reviewing The Phantom Menace.  Then Alexandre Rothier took a look at Attack of the Clones, followed by Jeff’s look at Revenge of the Sith.  Leonard Wilson was the next to step up to the plate, reviewing both A New Hope and The Empire Strike Back.

And now, it’s my turn to add my thoughts to this project.  It’s time to review the 1983 film, Return of the Jedi.  And I have to admit that, when I first thought about what I wanted to say in this review, I was totally intimidated.  Unlike my fellow writers here at the Shattered Lens, I’m hardly an expert when it comes to Star Wars.  Don’t get me wrong — I know the basics.  I know that Darth Vader is Luke’s father.  I know that Han Solo flies the Millennium Falcon and that Princess Leia is in love with him.  I know there’s an evil Empire and I know that there are rebels.  I’m not a virgin when it comes to Star Wars but, at the same time, I’m definitely not as experienced (with Star Wars) as most of my friends and fellow movie bloggers.

"Dang, Lisa, get over it!"

“Dang, Lisa, get over it!”

So, late this afternoon, when I sat down to watch Return of the Jedi, it was with more than a little trepidation.  My obvious panic and welling tears convinced Jeff to watch the movie with me and I was happy for that.  He loves Star Wars so I knew he could explain to me what was going on.

Finally, we watched Return of the Jedi and I discovered that I was panicking over nothing.  Return of the Jedi may be the third part of trilogy and I may not be an expert on the films that came before it.  But, even with all that in mind, Return of the Jedi is not a difficult film to figure out.  As opposed to the finales of Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and The Hunger Games, Return of the Jedi keeps things simple.  A good guy has been kidnapped by a bad guy.  The other good guys come to the rescue and then go to another planet so that they can fight an even bigger bad guy.  It’s not complicated.

As I watched Return of the Jedi and realized that I was having absolutely no problem following the film’s plot, I also realized that the Star Wars films are such a huge part of our culture that, regardless of how many of them we’ve actually sat through, everyone has absorbed them by osmosis.  Bits and pieces of it are everywhere, showing up in everything from TV sitcoms to political commentary.  (Remember how everyone used to compare Dick Cheney to Darth Vader?)  The Star Wars franchise is almost biblical in that respect.  At the same time, the fact that everyone knows about these movies makes them a little difficult to review.  You don’t so much watch a Star Wars film as you join in a universal experience.  As a reviewer, you definitely find yourself wondering what you can add to a conversation that everyone else has already had.

As a stand alone movie, Return of the Jedi is actually three separate films mixed together.  The first film deals with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) showing up at Jabba the Hutt’s palace and rescuing Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and two robots from being tossed into a creature called the Sarlacc, which is basically a giant vagina out in the middle of the desert.  The second film deals with the rebels teaming up with a bunch of teddy bears and fighting the Empire on a jungle planet.  And the third film features Luke and Darth Vader (body of David Prowse, voice of James Earl Jones, face of either Sebastian Shaw and Hayden Christensen, depending on which version of the film you’re watching) dealing with their family issues while the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) cackles in the background.  Some parts of the film work better than others.  The end result is entertaining but definitely uneven.

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Jedi‘s heart belongs to that third film, the one dealing with Luke and Darth Vader.  I’ve read some pretty negative online comments about Mark Hamill’s performance in New Hope and Empire Strikes Back but, in Return of the Jedi, he brings an almost haunted intensity to the role of Luke.  In theory, it’s easy to be snarky about all the talk about the “Dark Side of the Force,” but, when you look in Hamill’s eyes, you totally understand what everyone’s going on about.  You see the fire and the anger but, even more importantly, you see the struggle between good and evil.  There’s a very poignant sadness to the scenes where he and his father prepare to meet the Emperor.

And speaking of the Emperor, he is pure nightmare fuel!  AGCK!

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As for the other two films to found within Return of the Jedi, the jungles of Endor didn’t do much for me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I thought the action scenes were handled well and, unlike apparently everyone else in the world, I was not annoyed by the inclusion of the Ewoks, the killer teddy bears who helped to the Rebels to take down the Empire.  I thought the Ewoks were cute and I actually got pretty upset when one of them was killed in battle.  If I had been alive when Return of the Jedi had been released, I probably would have wanted a stuffed Ewok and, I imagine, that was the main reason they were included in the film.  (I also imagine that’s the main reason why a lot of people can’t stand them.)

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So, no, the Ewoks did not bother me.  What did bother me was that under-construction Death Star floating out in the middle of space.  It bothered me because I really couldn’t imagine any reason why — after the first Death Star was apparently such a colossal failure — the Empire would insist on trying to do the exact same thing all over again.  This, along with the fact that they were rather easily defeated by a bunch of teddy bears, leads me to wonder whether the effectiveness of the Empire was just a little overrated.  I mean, the Emperor was scary but otherwise, everyone involved with the Empire was pretty incompetent.

Far more impressive, as far as villains go, was Jabba the Hut.  In fact, Jabba and his decadent entourage were so memorable and colorful and evil and icky that they pretty much overshadowed almost everything else in the film.  I mean, Jabba even had a blue elephant playing music for him!  And I know that I’m supposed to be critical of the film for putting Leia in that gold bikini but you know what?  Leia may have been forced to wear a gold bikini but she never gave up her dignity or her defiance.  And when it came time to take out Jabba, Leia used the tools of her oppression to do so, strangling him with his own chains.  In that one scene, Leia proved herself to be a true rebel.

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There’s a lot that’s good about Return of the Jedi but, as I said earlier, it’s definitely an uneven film.  Richard Marquand’s direction is perhaps the epitome of workmanlike.  It’s efficient and it’s dependable and there’s absolutely nothing surprising or particularly challenging about it.

It’s interesting to note that, before Richard Marquand was selected as director, the job was offered to both David Lynch and David Cronenberg, two directors who are all about surprising and challenging the audience.  What would David Lynch’s Return of the Jedi been like?  Well, here’s one possibility:

As for David Cronenberg’s Return of the Jedi, it might have looked something like this:

For better or worse, the world got Richard Marquand’s Return of the Jedi, which I imagine was pretty close to what George Lucas wanted the film to be.

As I sit here finishing up this review and wondering just why exactly I was so intimidated earlier (seriously, this turned out to be one the easiest reviews that I’ve ever written), I estimate that 75% of the people that I know are currently sitting in a theater and watching The Force Awakens.  Keep an eye out for Arleigh’s review in the next few days!

And in closing, here’s that blue elephant that I mentioned earlier.  Dance!

Maxrebo

Sci-Fi Review: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005, directed by George Lucas)


Star_Wars_Episode_III_Revenge_of_the_Sith_posterThe year 2005 was a dark time to be a fan of Star Wars.

The first two parts of the highly anticipated prequel trilogy had been released and had left fans feeling as if millions of voices had cried out in terror and suddenly been silenced.  No sooner had fans started to recover from the trauma of The Phantom Menace then Attack of the Clones was unleashed and they were stunned to learn that a movie could be even more pointless than The Phantom Menace.

The summer of 2005 promised the release of Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith.  Fans were excited because they knew that Anakin Skywalker would finally be transformed into Darth Vader but they also knew that he would still be played by Hayden Christensen.  Many of us who went to see the movie on its opening weekend did so with low expectations and mixed feelings.

“WAR!” the opening title crawl of Revenge of the Sith declared, as if it was trying to reassure those of us in the audience that it would not be another boring Star Wars prequel.  There was nothing in the crawl about taxation or trade routes.  Instead, it was all about how the Galactic Republic was at war with separatists and how Chancellor Palpatine was being held prisoner by General Grievous.  After an exciting battle on Grievous’s flagship, Anakin not only rescued Palpatine but also decapitated Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku, despite the fact that Dooku had surrendered and was unarmed.  That’s when those of us watching knew that Revenge of the Sith was not going to be like the other two prequels.  Revenge of the Sith was going to be darker and edgier and not just for kids.  A headless Count Dooku action figure would not be sold at your local toy store.

Looking back, it is easy to forget how relieved many of us were that Revenge of the Sith was not terrible.  After the bitter disappointment of the first two prequels, we were happy that Jar Jar Binks only appeared during one shot towards the end of the film and he did not speak.  We were happy that Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman both finally got to give performances that justified casting actors of their caliber as Obi-Wan and Amidala.  We were happy that, since Anakin and Amidala were secretly married between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, we did not have to sit through any more scenes of them falling in love.  Many of us had found Hayden Christensen’s performance to be petulant in Attack of the Clones and, intentionally or not, Revenge of the Sith seemed to validate our suspicions by having both Yoda and Mace Windu say the same thing about Anakin.  After the embarrassment of Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, this was a prequel that we felt we could get behind.

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And we were really happy with the climatic battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin.  After Anakin had gone over to the dark side, he and Obi-Wan dueled on a volcanic planet.  “You were supposed to be the chosen one!” Obi-Wan shouted after chopping off Anakin’s legs.  After being left to die by Obi-Wan, Anakin was rescued by Emperor Palpatine.  It was only after being encased in that famous black armor that Palpatine told the new Darth Vader that Amidala had died.  Darth Vader’s “Nooooooooo!” would go down in history.

At the end of the film, Jimmy Smits was seen giving an infant Luke to Owen and Beru Lars and Darth Vader and the Emperor were seen standing on the bridge of an imperial ship and looking out at the skeleton of the Death Star.  For the first time since the prequels were first released, some of us applauded at the end of a Star Wars film.

When, ten years later, I rewatched Revenge of the Sith for the first time in a long while, my immediate impression was that it was nowhere close to being as good as I remembered.  Without a doubt, it was still the best of the prequels but how much was that really saying?  Of all the prequels, it came the closest to capturing the sense of awe and excitement that made the original trilogy (even Return of the Jedi) so entertaining but, at the same time, it still had many of the same flaws that afflicted Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.  Hayden Christensen was as stiff and inexpressive as ever, as was George Lucas’s dialogue.  (When Obi-Wan tells Anakin that Palpatine is evil, Anakin actually replies, “From my point of view, the Jedis are evil!”  He shouts this in the middle of a light saber duel.)  Even the movie’s most shocking moment, when Anakin murdered a group of children, was no longer effective because everyone in the movie insisted on calling the children “younglings.”

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Throughout the entire prequel ordeal, George Lucas would insist that it was necessary to see all three of the prequels to really understand the story he was trying to tell and how it fit in with the original trilogy.  However, of all the prequels, Revenge of the Sith is the only one that feels as if it adds anything to what we had already learned from watching the original trilogy.  Nor is there anything to be gained from having seen the first two prequels before watching Revenge of the Sith for the first time.  The main accomplishment of Revenge of the Sith was to prove that The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were entirely unnecessary.  (Revenge of the Sith actually works better if you have never seen Phantom Menace because there is no way that the Anakin played by Jake Lloyd could have grown up to be the Anakin played by Hayden Christensen.)

Why, when we originally watched Revenge of the Sith, did so many of us think that it was so much better than it actually was?

In the year 2005, we were just happy to have a Star Wars film that did not totally suck.

Jar

Sci-Fi Review – Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (dir. by George Lucas)


Attack of the Clones is, at least in my opinion, the worst Star Wars film ever made. Hands down. That is not to say it’s not mildly entertaining, but it demands a great deal of good will from its viewer to keep him from sneering at the movie constantly, especially if said viewer is a fan.

Christ, where do I even begin.

It’s important to note that Episode II is a transition movie. If that’s not clear enough, what I mean is that it’s a movie that exists to connect both the childish, yet potentially endearing Episode I, and the much darker and edgier Episode III. Episode II is somewhere inbetween these two moods, trying to make the transition smoother, disastrously so. It’s catastrophic in many levels, but mostly because of Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker. We’ll get there soon.

Episode II starts as a movie about politics. Now, I like fictional world politics as much as the next person. I honestly do. Especially in a space opera setting. But in Star Wars the politics are dull and barely explained. Padmé Amidala’s two terms as democratically elected Queen of Naboo (wait, what?) are now over, and she continues her career as a politician by becoming a senator. The story begins by trying to make it interesting that people are trying to kill Amidala, on what appears to be politically motivated crimes. We don’t get much context, except that she opposes some other senators. Palpatine, being the super trustworthy guy everyone always knew he was, assigns the Jedi Order to protect her, and finds that Obi-Wan is a suitable bodyguard for Padmé, considering their friendship way back in Episode I. Of course, Obi-Wan must take his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, with him. And hilarity ensues.

Now, you’re probably familiar with whom Anakin is to become, and you probably know whose father he is, so this movie must establish one very important thing; an origin to the affection between future Lord Vader and an unwitting woman, so that we can learn whose womb was it that those guys from the original trilogy came from. Therefore, in addition to being about lackluster politics, this is a movie about love.

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DAMN SON.

Now, I have to agree with Padmé. You can preach all you want about how you have a massive crush on Hayden Christensen’s mini braid, but that piercing sex offender gaze made me uncomfortable. Throughout the first act, Anakin goes from flirting with the poor woman to actively doing stuff very similar to sexual harassment. I mean, seriously, look at this lecherous, leering asshole.

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Darth Vader has always been regarded as one of the greatest villains of cinema, but I never figured that he was also one of the sleaziest. 

I wish this was the only problem with Anakin. Maybe it’s not Mr. Christensen’s acting, but the poor writing (though I suspect that, considering his absence in major movies this decade, his acting was definitely a factor). Young Skywalker is a very gifted Jedi, being immaculately conceived by midi-chlorians and all (I can’t stop laughing), and he is painfully aware of his skills, which he shows through an overpowering arrogance. Now, arrogance when done right can be charming, and perhaps that was the intention; to make Darth Vader a badass even as a teenager, a daredevil, someone who just barely succeeds, but does it with style. Anakin, however, comes across as impudent, annoying, and exceedingly stupid. It seems Anakin can’t go two scenes without doing something that would displease the Jedi council, and entirely aware of it too. ‘Cause that’s just how he rolls. James Dean from a galaxy far far away.

Second act comes. Anakin grows more and more adolescent and fascist. More politics happen. Then there are some cool action scenes that seem to save the film. Obi-Wan is written as barely having a personality, aside from comments that try to make it evident that he is growing older and grumpier, even though he can’t be much more than 30. Regardless, he is arguably the saving grace in the main cast, at the very least as far as really cool fights go. He pilots fighter ships, he fights with a lightsaber; the man sees some action. It’s almost depressing to see an actor of Ewan McGregor’s caliber being reduced to action hero and grumpy mentor to an angsty teenager.

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Their dynamic is oddly reminiscent of Gran Torino

Jar Jar also appears. Fan favourite Jar Jar. I feel this is worth mentioning because in an extremely important scene he proposes (as stand-in senator for Amidala) to convey supreme power to Chancellor Palpatine. Yes, that Chancellor Palpatine, and I have to wonder why they couldn’t task this burden to an unnamed senator. Don’t people hate the poor gungan enough? It’s as if George Lucas is just fucking with his public to see how far they can go, at this point.

And then, in the third act, we are introduced to the big bad: Count Dooku, played by the late Sir Christopher Lee. You’d think that bringing this legend of acting might infer that this character is the highlight of the cast. Might have been. Dooku is a character full of potential. He’s obviously evil, but with just the right amount of idealism to seem more shades of grey than the cruel, pure black villains the series are accostumed to. But apparently all he does is some exposition, then pave the way for the epic arena fight scene that kind of defines this movie as a Star Wars film (perhaps one of the only things that defines this as a Star Wars film), some more exposition, a lightsaber duel (a really cool one, wrapping up the whole two things that make this a Star Wars film), and then he’s gone, apparently having started a war. The movie is over, without fully explaining why things escalated, and who exactly Count Dooku represents that the Republic is at war with.

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WAR AGAINST WHOM???

I’m serious when I say this can be an entertaining movie. The fight scenes can be fun and you can laugh at what ridiculous situations the actors are subjected to. But it’s mostly incredibly dull. It’s a film that throws you into an extended torrent of politics you need to understand beforehand to appreciate, and that lead to Clone Wars, a pretty cool spin-off that most people never got to see and that might as well have been properly included as crucial to the continuity since it’s much better than this. As a standalone film, the story is a confusing, rushed mess even at two hours long. As a Star Wars film, Attack of the Clones makes it obvious that the series is not infallible. Horribly, gapingly, obviously not infallible.

Back to School #59: The Virgin Suicides (dir by Sofia Coppola)


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For the past three and a half weeks, I’ve been taking a chronological look at some of the best, worst, most memorable, and most forgettable teen and high school films ever made.  We started with two films from 1946, I Accuse My Parents and Delinquent Daughters.  Therefore, it seems somewhat appropriate that we close out both the 90s and the 20th Century by taking a look at a film about both delinquent daughters and accusatory parents.  That film is Sofia Coppola’s 1999 directorial debut, The Virgin Suicides.

Much like Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola seems to divide viewers and, in many ways, for the exact same reasons.  You either get her films about upper class ennui or you don’t.  Everyone seems to love Lost in Translation but viewers and critics seem to be far more polarized when it comes to rest of her films.  It seems the people either love them or hate them.  Well, you can count me among those who love her films.  (Yes, even Somewhere.)  To me, Sofia Coppola is one of the most consistently interesting filmmakers working today and the dismissive reaction that many (mostly male) critics have towards her films has little do with her talent and much more to do with her gender and her last name.

So there.

In The Virgin Suicides, Coppola tells the story of the five Lisbon sisters.  They live in an upper middle class suburbs in the 1970s.  Their parents — math teacher Ronald (James Woods) and his wife (Kathleen Turner) — are devoutly Catholic and very protective.  The Lisbon sisters are rarely allowed to leave the house and, as a result, the neighborhood boys are obsessed with them.  (Though the film centers on four unnamed boys, there’s only one narrator, voiced by Giovanni Ribisi,  who continually refers to himself as being “we,” as if all four boys are telling the story in the same voice.)  When the youngest Lisbon daughter commits suicide, Ronald and his wife become even more protective.

At the start of the school year, the oldest daughter, Lux (Kirsten Dunst), meets and starts to secretly date the wonderfully named Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett).  Lux is even allowed to attend the homecoming dance with Trip but, after she breaks curfew, Mrs. Lisbon reacts by pulling Lux and her sisters out of school and basically making them prisoners in their own home.

(In one of the film’s best moments, we flash forward to see present day Trip talking about his date with Lux. Needless to say, Trip did not age well.)

With the Lisbon sisters even more isolated, the neighborhood boys become even more obsessed with them.  One day, the boys get a note from the girls, asking for their help in escaping.  The boys go to meet the girls, leading the film to its haunting conclusion…

Full of themes of sin, sexuality, repression guilt, redemption, and martyrdom, The Virgin Suicides is one of those films that you don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate but it probably helps.  James Woods, Josh Hartnett, and Kirsten Dunst all give good performances while Sofia Coppola fills the movie with dream-like and sensual images, all designed to challenge the viewer’s perception of whether or not we’re watching reality or just the idealized memories of someone still struggling to comprehend a mystery from the past.

The Virgin Suicides is the perfect movie to end with the 90s on.

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44 Days of Paranoia #41: Shattered Glass (dir by Billy Ray)


For our latest entry in the 44 Days of Paranoia, we take a look at one of the best films of the first decade of the 21st Century, 2003’s Shattered Glass.

Shattered Glass tells the true story of Stephen Glass (played, in a surprisingly brilliant way, by Hayden Christensen), a smart and charming journalist who, through a combination of showmanship and carefully calculated moments of vulnerability, has established himself as one of the top reporters at one of the top political magazines in America, The New Republic.  As the film begins, we find Glass at his old high school, giving advice to a classroom of adoring student journalists.  As the self-assured Glass talks about his career, we see scenes of him investigating, pitching, and writing his stores at the New Republic.  It’s here that we see the other side of Glass — not only is he a good writer but he’s a good salesman.  While the rest of his coworkers struggle to pitch dry-sounding stories about Congress, Glass puts on a show as he vividly describes articles about everything from offering his services as a boxing expert to witnessing drug-fueled hijinks at a Young Republican meeting.

However, as the film progresses, we see yet another side to Stephen Glass.  Not only is he a talented writer and an enthusiastic showman but he’s also a pathological liar.  When the head of the Young Republicans challenges Stephen’s article, New Republican editor Mike Kelly (Hank Azaria) investigates and, despite being initially suspicious, is eventually won over by Stephen’s apparent earnestness.

Later, after Kelly has left the magazine and been replaced by new editor Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), Stephen turns in an article entitled “Hacker Heaven.”  In the article, Stephen writes about witnessing a 12 year-old computer hacker being given a million dollar contract from a company known as Jukt Micronics.  The only problem is that a reporter at Forbes (Steve Zahn) checks the facts in Stephen’s articles and can find no evidence of a company called Jukt Micronics ever existing.

As Lane starts to look into Stephen’s reporting, it starts to become obvious to him that Stephen not only made up the events of “Hacker Heaven” but that he may have falsified several other stories as well.  Already struggling to fill the shoes of the popular Kelly, Lane now finds himself having to investigate one of his most popular reporters.

Shattered Glass is one of those fascinating and unusually intelligent films that I always make a point of watching whenever it shows up on cable.  Not only does it tell a genuinely interesting story but it also features excellent performances from Sarsgaard, Azaria, Chloe Sevigny, and especially Melanie Lynesky.

Even more importantly, it features a revelatory lead performance from Hayden Christensen.  Fairly or not, Christensen is always going to be associated with Star Wars.  In Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Christensen didn’t seem like he was a very good actor but then again, did anyone comes out of those films looking better than before they went in?  As bad as Christensen may have been in those two films, he’s absolutely brilliant in Shattered Glass.  He plays Stephen Glass with a puppy dog eagerness to please that is deceptively charming and likable.  It’s only as the film progresses that the audience realizes that there’s nothing behind that affable facade.  Instead, it becomes apparent that he’s a sociopath who lies to hide the fact that his existence is ultimately an empty one.  It’s an amazing performance and one that will make you think twice before blindly accepting the analysis of any of the journalistic “experts” who are regularly trotted out on any of the news shows.

Shattered Glass is also a film that should be seen just so viewers can appreciate the brilliant way that Peter Sarsgaard delivers the line, “This doesn’t seem like a real business card to me.”

Shattered Glass needs to be seen.

Other Entries In The 44 Days of Paranoia 

  1. Clonus
  2. Executive Action
  3. Winter Kills
  4. Interview With The Assassin
  5. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
  6. JFK
  7. Beyond The Doors
  8. Three Days of the Condor
  9. They Saved Hitler’s Brain
  10. The Intruder
  11. Police, Adjective
  12. Burn After Reading
  13. Quiz Show
  14. Flying Blind
  15. God Told Me To
  16. Wag the Dog
  17. Cheaters
  18. Scream and Scream Again
  19. Capricorn One
  20. Seven Days In May
  21. Broken City
  22. Suddenly
  23. Pickup on South Street
  24. The Informer
  25. Chinatown
  26. Compliance
  27. The Lives of Others
  28. The Departed
  29. A Face In The Crowd
  30. Nixon
  31. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  32. The Purge
  33. The Stepford Wives
  34. Saboteur
  35. A Dark Truth
  36. The Fugitive
  37. The Day of Jackal
  38. Z
  39. The Fury
  40. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)