Cleaning Out the DVR Yet Again #37: The Sound and the Fury (dir by James Franco)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Thursday, December 8th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

the_sound_and_the_fury_2014_film

James Franco’s 2015 adaptation of William Faulkner’s classic novel, The Sound and The Fury, aired on Starz on November 2nd.

You know what?  Haters are going to hate but James Franco does more in an hour than most people do in a month.  Not only is James one of the most consistently interesting actors working today but he’s also a writer, a painter, a teacher, an activist, and a film director.

Indeed, it’s his work as a director that might be the most overlooked part of James’s prolific career.  Since making his directorial debut in 2006, with The Ape, James Franco has directed over 30 movies, television episodes, and short films.  As a director, James Franco has shown a talent for strong visuals and a willingness to take on difficult material.

For instance, can you imagine any other director who would have the guts to try to make a film out of The Sound and The Fury, the classic novel that may be the most unfilmable literary work this side of Finnegan’s Wake?

Told through the perspective of four related but very different characters, The Sound and The Fury details the fall of both the once mighty Compson family and the old South that the Compsons represent.  Benjy Compson is developmentally disabled and sees the world in a disjointed, nonlinear style.  Quinton Compson is fragile and sensitive and, while his section of the book starts in a fairly straight-forward enough manner, it quickly becomes nearly incoherent as Quinton’s mental state starts to deteriorate.  Jason Compson is cruel and evil but, because of his ruthless and self-centered personality, his section is the most straight-forward and the easiest to follow.  And finally, there’s Dilsey, the Compson family servant who is the only person to understand why the Compsons are in decline.  Faulkner utilized stream-of-consciousness throughout the entire novel, to such an extent that readers and critics are still debating just what exactly is happening and what Faulkner is actually saying.

In short, it takes courage to adapt a novel like The Sound and The Fury.  It takes even more courage when you’re an actor-turned-director who has his share of jealous haters.

Now, I should admit that James Franco was not the first director to attempt to make a film out of The Sound and The Fury.  In 1959, Martin Ritt made a version of the film, which reportedly did away with the nonlinear structure and centered the film around the straight-forward Jason.  (I haven’t seen the 1959 version.)  James Franco, on the other hand, not only adapts The Sound and The Fury but also adapts Faulkner’s style.

James Franco replicates the novel’s nonlinear structure and even takes on the role of Benjy himself.  It makes for a film that is occasionally frustrating and difficult to follow but which is also undeniably fascinating.  Filled with haunting images, James Franco’s The Sound and The Fury is a visual feast, one that perfectly captures the atmosphere of a decaying society.  The South, in this film, is trapped between the possibly imagined glories of the past and the harsh reality of the future.  There’s a dream-like intensity to the film.  It sticks with you.

As well, James Franco does an excellent job casting his film.  Tim Blake Nelson brings an enigmatic combination of grandeur and threat to the role of Mr. Compson and Jacob Loeb is haunting as the fragile Quentin.  Scott Haze dominates the film as the cruel Jason.  Though you never sympathize with Jason, you can understand how he became the man that he is.  Jason may not be a good man but, unlike the rest of the Compsons, you never doubt that he’s going to survive in one way or another.

James Franco took a big chance directing The Sound and The Fury and he succeeded.

 

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Independence Day: Resurgence (dir by Roland Emmerich)


Independence-Day-2-poster

Oh, who cares?

Sorry, I know that’s like an ultra unprofessional way to open a review but Independence Day: Resurgence is one of the least inspiring films that I’ve ever seen.  Jeff and I saw it the day that it opened and, at the time, I was planning on reviewing it the next day.  But when I sat down to actually write about the movie … well, I discovered that I could hardly care less.  This is one of those films that I could have easily waited until December to review.  However, seeing as today is Independence Day, this seemed to be the right time to say something about it.

Memorable movies inspire.  Good movies inspire love.  Bad movies inspire hate.  A movie like Independence Day: Resurgence inspires apathy.

Actually, what’s really frustrating about Independence Day: Resurgence is that it starts out with such promise.  The first few scenes suggest that maybe the film is trying to be something more than just another “let’s blow shit up while stars get quippy” action film.  Independence Day: Resurgence imagines an alternative history for post-alien invasion Earth and it’s actually pretty clever.  Earthlings have taken advantage of the alien technology but society has also become heavily militaristic.  The main characters of the first film are all revered as heroes but, when we first meet former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman, with a wise old man beard), he’s having nightmares about the invasion.

And seriously, for the first 30 minutes or so, I really thought that Independence Day: Resurgence might turn out to be surprisingly clever, that maybe it would satirize the excesses of the original while subtly critiquing everything that’s fucked up about our real world.

Well, that was a mistake on my part.  There is no satire.  There is no critique.  Instead, it’s just another alien invasion film and it’s all terribly predictable.  It may be a sequel to the first Independence Day but it feels more like a rip-off of Battle: Los Angeles.  Considering what the film could have been, it’s impossible not to be disappointed by how familiar and uninspired it all is.

What I failed to take into account is that this film was directed by Roland Emmerich.  Emmerich is a director who is best distinguished by his total lack of self-awareness.  After all, this is the director who, in Anonymous, seriously suggested that William Shakespeare personally murdered Christopher Marlowe.  Watching Independence Day: Resurgence and listening to the generic dialogue and witnessing the generic mayhem, I started to get the sinking feeling that the film was a joke and that  Emmerich was the only person on the planet who was not in on it.  He doesn’t realize how predictable his movies are or that his characters are cardboard cut-outs or that the film’s inspiring moments are so overdone that they instead become groan-inducing.  One of the stars of the first film sacrifices himself in Resurgence and you know who it’s going to be from the minute he shows up onscreen.  Emmerich is not a good enough director to make his sacrifice touching.  The fact that the film ends with the promise of a sequel is not surprising and yet, it still somehow manages to be annoyingly presumptive.  The film’s ending seems to be taunting us.  “Of course, you’re going to want to sit through this shit for a third time…what other choice do you have?”

In the film’s defense, the cast is big and it includes a lot of good actors.  Unfortunately, the characters are so undeveloped that you again find yourself regretting what a waste it all is.  Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch are both likable but Bill Pullman seems to be incredibly bored with the whole thing.  Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher, and Maika Monroe are all stuck playing typical Emmerich ciphers.

I should mention that, despite how negative this review may sound, I did not hate Independence Day: Resurgence, at least not in the way that I’ve hated other films, like Anonymous or the remake of Straw Dogs.  My problem with Resurgence isn’t that I hated it or even that I disliked it.  It’s that I didn’t feel much about it, one way or the other.  It’s one of those film that is best described as “just kinda being there.”  Apathy is the worst thing that a film can inspire.

Perhaps the best thing about Independence Day: Resurgence is that Roland Emmerich has protected the holiday from being co-opted by Garry Marshall.

Here’s the Trailer for Robotec…I mean Independence Day: Resurgence


Independence Day Resurgence

For decades fans of Robotech (Macross everywhere else in the world) have been hoping for a live-action film adaptation of this very iconic anime series from Japan. Many Westerners had their first introduction to anime after watching the localized version of the original Japanese series Macross. There have been some traction to get the live-action film up and running but rarely past pre-production stage.

With special effects advancing to the point that we can almost recreate dead people back to life via digital trickery, entire worlds astronomers could only dream of and fantastical lands and creatures it’s high time we got a live-action Robotech film. We fans deserve such a gift.

For now, let’s settle for Independence Day: Resurgence which seems to lift certain elements from the anime series spoken of above to make up the plot of the sequel to 1996’s blockbuster hit, Independence Day.

Independence Day: Resurgence is set for a June 24, 2016 release date.

Shattered Politics #92: White House Down (dir by Roland Emmerich)


White_House_Down_poster_with_billing_block

To say that the 2012 film White House Down is stupid is probably unnecessary.  After all, the film was directed by Roland Emmerich and Emmerich specializes in making stupid films.

And, in many ways, White House Down is prototypical Emmerich film, a long and self-important collection of mayhem and heavy-handed pontification.  In the case of this film, liberal President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is pushing for a treaty that will magically bring about world police.  Naturally, a bunch of evil right-wingers (including characters played, somewhat inevitably, by James Woods and Richard Jenkins) don’t want world peace so they hire a bunch of mercenaries who attack the White House.  It’s all a part of a plot to force Sawyer to launch a nuclear attack on Iran because … well, why not?  Fortunately, aspiring secret service agent (and kick-ass combat veteran) John Cale (Channing Tatum) is there to work with the President and save the country.

And, since Emmerich is from the bigger is always better school of filmmaking, many familiar landmarks are blown up and it takes the film well over two hours to tell its simplistic story.  To be honest, if your action movie can’t get the job done in under two hours, then you’re going to have problems.  Once a viewer has spent two hours watching one movie, it’s inevitable that he or she will start to question the film’s logic.  If the film’s clever enough, all lapses and inconsistencies can be forgiving.  If the film is White House Down, it’s a lot less easy to be forgiving.

Of course, from a political point of view, Emmerich tries to have it both ways.  For anti-government types like me, it’s always fun to watch Washington D.C. blow up.  For those on the right, White House Down presents a situation that can only be solved by heroes with guns.  And, of course, Democrats can view White House Down as wish fulfillment, an alternative timeline where Barack Obama actually is as sincere and effective as they wish him to be.

In fact, if anything saves White House Down, it’s the chemistry between Foxx and Tatum.  Wisely, neither one of them appears to be taking the film that seriously and both of them seem to be having a lot of fun blowing things up.  Channing Tatum, in particular, deserves some sort of award.  How many bad films have been made tolerable by Tatum’s willingness to laugh at himself?  I’ve lost count but White House Down definitely benefits from his presence.  He and Foxx make Emmerich’s style of filmmaking as tolerable as it will ever be.

Here Are The Gotham Nominations!


Under the Skin

Under the Skin

Here are the nominations for the Gotham Independent Film Awards!  It’s debatable just how reliable the Gothams are as an Oscar precursor.  For one thing, the majority of the big studio productions are not eligible for the Gothams.  However, when you’re an indie film trying to win mainstream awards, any recognition is good recognition.

As far as the nominees go, Birdman and Boyhood are already Oscar front runners.  However, the Gotham nominations will perhaps remind some people that The Grand Budapest Hotel is eligible for Oscar consideration as well.

Here are the Gotham nominations!

Best Feature

  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, director; Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Boyhood – Richard Linklater, director; Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, producers (IFC Films)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, director; Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Love Is Strange – Ira Sachs, director; Lucas Joaquin, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Ira Sachs, Jayne Baron Sherman, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer, director; Nick Wechsler, James Wilson, producers (A24 Films)

Best Documentary

  • Actress – Robert Greene, director; Douglas Tirola, Susan Bedusa, Robert Greene, producers (The Cinema Guild)
  • CITIZENFOUR – Laura Poitras, director; Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky, producers (RADiUS, Participant Media, and HBO Documentary Films)
  • Life Itself – Steve James, director; Zak Piper, Steve James, Garrett Basch, producers (Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films)
  • Manakamana – Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez, directors; Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel, producers (The Cinema Guild)
  • Point and Shoot – Marshall Curry, director; Marshall Curry, Elizabeth Martin, Matthew Van Dyke, producers (The Orchard and American Documentary / POV)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

  • Ana Lily Amirpour for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Kino Lorber)
  • James Ward Byrkit for Coherence (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
  • Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
  • Eliza Hittman for It Felt Like Love (Variance Films)
  • Justin Simien for Dear White People (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Best Actor*

  • Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
  • Ethan Hawke in Boyhood (IFC Films)
  • Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year (A24 Films)
  • Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Miles Teller in Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)

* The 2014 Best Actor nominating panel also voted to award a special Gotham Jury Award jointly to Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum for their ensemble performance in Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics).

Best Actress

  • Patricia Arquette in Boyhood (IFC Films)
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Beyond the Lights (Relativity Media)
  • Julianne Moore in Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin (A24 Films)
  • Mia Wasikowska in Tracks (The Weinstein Company)

Breakthrough Actor

  • Riz Ahmed in Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
  • Macon Blair in Blue Ruin (RADiUS)
  • Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood (IFC Films)
  • Joey King in Wish I Was Here (Focus Features)
  • Jenny Slate in Obvious Child (A24 Films)
  • Tessa Thompson in Dear White People (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
Boyhood

Boyhood

Trailer: Oz the Great and Powerful (Super Bowl Exclusive)


OzTheGreatandPowerful

Oz the Great and Powerful is the first film by Sam Raimi since he was removed as director of the Spider-Man franchise. While he tried to go back to his horror roots with the underappreciated Drag Me to Hell he’s back to doing big-budget event films.

The film looks to tell the story of the Great Wizard of Oz prior to Dorothy’s arrival in the original film. James Franco takes on the title role with Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz all taking on the roles of the three witches of Oz. The film’s plot looks to be a sort of hero’s journey as Oscar Diggs must discover his true self once he lands in the otherworldly realm of Oz.

Could this film be a return to fantasy form for Sam Raimi or will it be a film thats visually stunning but spiritually empty like Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland?

Only time will tell and while Raimi always delivers a visual treat and an entertaining film they sometimes don’t resonate with the general audience.

Oz the Great and Powerful is set for a March 8, 2013 release date.

Battle: Los Angeles (Trailer 3)


There’s not much else I can say about this upcoming alien invasion film coming out on 3-11-2011. I shall be there on Day One to see it in all it’s big-screen glory. This third trailer show’s a bit more of the alien race doing the invading and the unit of U.S. Marines set to repel and fight them off. I will say that final scene in the trailer with what looked like a massive construct made out of the rubble of Los Angeles just whetted my appetite to see this film even more. Talk about a moneyshot.

Below are the two other official trailer released for Battle: Los Angeles.

Battle: Los Angeles (International Teaser Trailer)

Battle: Los Angeles (Official Trailer)

 

Battle: Los Angeles (International Teaser Trailer)


Funny how certain films in the US get a change in how they’re titled for the overseas market.

A couple weeks ago the first trailer for Jonathan Liebesman’s alien invasion film, Battle: Los Angeles, was posted and it certainly looked a tad better than this year’s big alien invasion flick, Skyline. They share not just the type of film it wants to be but the location as well. Both are set in Los Angeles and both seem to be CGI-heavy affairs. Where the Brother Strause’s film was so bad that it was good this film from Liebesman looks to marry alien invasion with Black Hawk Down for a much more down in the ground action.

This new teaser trailer is the international version and it shows a bit more of the action we’ll be seeing in this film. There is one little change which I find more than just a tad bit amusing. When the teaser finally ends we don’t see the title as Battle: Los Angeles, but instead we get the more international sounding World Invasion: Los Angeles. I guess the studio thinks the film will do better overseas by making it sound like the invasion is global instead of local the way the original title has it.

Fret not fellow Americans! The voiceover does say, after listing cities both in the US and around the globe, that we cannot lose Los Angeles thus….USA! USA! USA!