Tag Archives: Jennifer Jason Leigh

Good Time

It’s times like this when I must truly sit and reflect on what a movie review really is. It’s an opinion. Truly, it is only an opinion. Some people’s opinions are informed by education or experience, and other people are just very good at being opinionated. Personally, I haven’t been to film school. I’m curious and fascinated by movies, which has motivated me to look into the behind-the-scenes stuff that contributes to what makes a movie great as opposed to good. But I’m also just a nerd when it comes to story-telling in general. Before I reviewed movies, I reviewed books (for Random House). And I write. Obviously. Constantly. I have an instinctive idea of what makes a story good and compelling and worthy. But when it comes to judging whether that story’s been told effectively on the screen, well, it’s all subjective.

We started Assholes Watching Movies as a group of friends who frequently went to movies together and left the movie arguing about it. It was a passion of ours to dissect a movie and find out which pieces were working and which weren’t, and which ones stuck with us, or became part of our culture. Over the months and years it has dwindled to just Sean and I, still duking it out, still good-naturedly disagreeing with each about which movie is worth our time, and yours. Since the world doesn’t necessarily need yet another review of the movie Keanu, we try to inject our reviews with a little piece of ourselves – in this case, a diatribe against cat ownership and a shameless excuse to post pictures of our far superior dogs. Actually that’s true of at least 10% of the reviews on this site.

The great thing about being part of a blogging community is that we get to read the words of others, and do so on an extremely regular basis. So while I hadn’t yet seen Good Time, I already knew it was a good time. Reviewers that I know and respect had told me so. Was I prepared to love it? Heck yes. Did I? Oh, no, no I did not.

But I don’t want to discourage anyone from checking it out, because I think little movies like this deserve to be seen, to be given a chance. And I love films that take risks, even if for me, this one didn’t pan out. It’s about a stupid criminal named Constantine (Robert Pattinson) who botches a bank robbery and lets his brother get caught by the cops. In a period of just 24 hours, he’s in a real frenzy to set his brother free. Of course his plans derail and he’s increasingly desperate and he takes us on a pretty crazy tour of society’s gritty underbelly, which is well-shot and occasionally looks breath-takingly cool. See, even as I write this, it sounds like I loved it. Except the truth is I never engaged and was really kind of bored. Sean and I started this more than a week ago and I had to ask him to pause it because I just wasn’t happy spending my time with it. I came back to it only reluctantly, and only because I can never let things go.

So yeah, this movie is not for me, but maybe it is for you. And if you’d like to hear more, here are some of the excellent, persuasive reviews I’ve read and enjoyed on the film. Feel free to add yours in the comments!

Liam says “A chilling performance from Robert Pattinson, coupled with edgy crime-drama, and we’ve got ourselves a damn good film.”

The Film Blog writes “This is genre cinema that puts a beating heart at the centre of its twisty, metropolitan plot, before repeatedly ripping it out to jaw-dropping effect. Fantastic.”

Anna says “Good Time is a delight.”

Jade writes “Promising less than its namesake, Good Time presents an unflinching portrait of crime, propelled by misguided familial love.”

Keith calls it “a thrill ride from beginning to end.”

Joel notes a “gripping atmosphere created by the well-crafted gritty thriller script.”

812 Film Reviews calls it “white arrogance on overdrive” and this may be the review you should read above all because while I hadn’t formulated the thought myself, it resonated real hard.

 

 

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Annihilation

Kane’s been missing for a year when he suddenly turns up at the home he shares with his wife, Lena, hemorrhaging blood. He’s been deployed on a top-secret mission that Lena can’t fully understand even as she’s recruited to join the next one. Of the dozens of men deployed, Kane is the only one to return, and he’s just waiting to die of organ failure.

Three years ago, something mysterious happened to a nearby lighthouse, which has been enveloped in a “shimmer”, a danger zone inside which terrible things are happening and from which no one returns. The zone is growing daily, and their own city will be overtaken if they don’t figure it out soon. So Lena (Natalie Portman) joins the next mission, the first one to be all-female, an expert biologist but also just a wife wondering why her husband would sign up for a suicide mission. She joins a group of women (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny) highly trained but with nothing to lose as they enter what is likely to be their last mission.

63a7237ca43826d1507503b739fc4d55Inside, every living thing has been transformed. Mutations have made some things astonishingly beautiful, and other things the stuff of nightmares (imagine an alligator-shark hybrid). And now those things are also taking on human DNA.

Director Alex Garland took on human uniqueness in Ex Machina and further explores the subject here. When they are reflected back on us in other living things, which of our traits make us truly special, truly human? It’s a scary question. Garland continues to excel in the creepy, quiet moments between the splashier, gorier stuff. His style throws us off-kilter even as the visuals delight. The audience is continuously confronted with questions to chew on while scary monsters breathe down our goose-pimpled necks. Alex Garland is clearly a talented sci-fi film maker, and even if you leave the theatre confused, you won’t be able to let it go.

For fans of the novel, by Jeff VanderMeer, don’t go in too attached. Garland chose not to re-read the book before embarking upon the script, so the movie turns out more a distant cousin of the book rather than a faithful adaptation. In fact, the details I remembered most from the book were absent; clearly Garland and I latched on to different themes. But the essence remains, the terror remains, the curiosity remains. Annihilation doesn’t exist just to scare you, it wants to challenge you. This is a bold film that doesn’t fit inside any comfortable Hollywood mold. The studio is crapping its pants because it think the movie’s too “cerebral” for us folk. But you know what? Embracing the unknown can be freeing. And exploring these concepts with women as our protagonists, free from macho bullshit, allow us to also experience these things for their beauty and their terror at the same time. Portman’s character is remote, unreachable. Rather, Thompson and Rodriguez provide the most emotional heft as their characters contemplate the most gorgeous and familiar of mysteries.

I left this movie shaken.

The Hateful Eight!!!!!!!!

Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has a date with a hangman’s noose and bounty hunter hateful eight 3John Ruth, “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell), isn’t letting anyone stand in the way of his ten thousand dollar reward. Just to be safe, he’s got her chained to his wrist at all times and, to show her who’s boss, decks her any time she gives him any sass. Making their way through a blizzard, their stagecoach happens on a stranger stranded on the road: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). “Got room for one more?” asks Marquis.

So begins The Hateful Eight, the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino. As the storm intensifies, Marquis and The Hangman are forced to wait it out in a tiny lodge with six other strangers. (It’s unclear to me which of these 9 Tarantino is excluding from being “Hateful”). I won’t attempt to describe the story that Tarantino weaves any further. No one in Hollywood tells a story quite like Quentin and for me to try to summarize the chain of events that follows in Minnie’s Haberdashery just wouldn’t be right. It’s best just to watch and let it unfold.

If you’ve been following the drama surrounding the 8th film from Quentin Tarantino, you may know that Daisy, Marquis, and The Hangman almost didn’t get to meet in snowy Wyoming. After a draft of the Hateful Eight script leaked online in early 2014, Tarantino felt so wounded that he vowed not to continue with the project. He got over it quick though. His enthusiasm was renewed three months later after a live read with the cast in Los Angeles.

His enthusiasm is contagious. I was almost giddy with excitement through the opening chapters of The Hateful Eight. It’s hard to tell quite where any Tarantino film is heading and the early scenes- with such wit, tension, and restraint- were full of promise. With each new character that he introduced, the more exciting and suspenseful the movie gets. Set in a confined space filled with people who can’t fully trust each other, The Hateful Eight is a welcome reminder of what it was like to see Resevoir Dogs for the first time. The first half is so deliberately paced that it’s tempting to think of it as the director’s most grown up film yet, tricking me into a false sense of security that left me completely unprepared for the second half.

Once the blood finally begins to spill, The Hateful Eight shows its true colours. By the end of its three-hour running time, Tarantino’s eighth film has revealed itself as his darkest, blood-thirstiest, meanest, nastiest and most pessimistic since Resevoir Dogs, a drastic shift from the tone of Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. I still count The Hateful Eight among the best of both Quentin’s filmography and of 2015. But the enthusiasm that I felt for the first half of the film was mostly gone by the time I left the theater. I left feeling a little disheartened and even a little guilty for the briliant bit of sadism that I participated in by watching it.

Have you seen The Hateful Eight yet? Does it rank among Tarantino’s harshest or am I just getting soft?

TIFF 2015 – Anomalisa

Going into Anomalisa, I had already seen (and greatly enjoyed) some of the strange things Charlie Kaufman creates. But even with that little bit of preparation, as I left the theatre after seeing Anomalisa, it occured to me that I may have just had the strangest experience of my movie life. And I mean that as the highest possible compliment. Duke Johnson’s animation work is unbelievable and fits perfectly with the story being told here to make a seamless whole. I have never seen animation look like this, or used to tell such a weird yet believable story. I don’t want to go into the plot at all because I think going in cold will be the best way to experience this movie. I am sure you can find details elsewhere if you want them, and i am sure the movie will be amazing either way. Just find a way to experience Anomalisa, but please don’t be like the people directly behind us at yesterday’s screening – leave your 11 year old son at home.

The writing here is remarkable. I am realizing that more and more as everyday things remind me of a part of the movie and make me laugh again at the movie’s jokes. They come quick and often here in what is not at all a happy story. The jokes feel integral to the movie without taking away from the very real and very sad journey that Anomalisa will take you on. That is a very difficult balance to strike and Anomalisa nails it.

The writing would make this a must-see on its own even if the animation was awful. But here is the remarkable thing about Anomalisa: its animation would make this a must-see even if the writing sucked. Anomalisa is absolutely breathtaking to watch.  I have never seen anything like this. The two directors deliver a mind-blowing visual experience. The characters and sets are unbelievably beautiful and have such a striking visual style. Anomalisa makes absolutely perfect use of animation – almost real but not quite, which for me only added to the movie’s charm and mystery.  The visuals tell us this is not necessarily our world, which keeps us wondering what is possible and what the rules are in the world we’re seeing.  Anomalisa’s art is amazing and expands what I thought was possible for animation. I have no idea how this masterpiece came to be. Anomalisa totally blew me away.

Of all the great movies we saw at TIFF over the last ten days, I think Anomalisa is going to be the one that sticks with me the longest.  It is unique. It is spectacular. It is brilliant. Anomalisa is a movie for the ages. Just not all ages – leave the kids at home.

Anomalisa gets a rating of 190% (because 90% just isn’t enough).