director Bo Burnham
viewed: 07/21/2018 at Alamo Drafthouse – New Mission, SF, CA
I went to see Eighth Grade with my 14-year old daughter who had herself just completed this educational level. Bo Burnham was not a known quantity to me really before this, but part of seeing Eighth Grade at an Alamo Drafthouse, you get the added pre-film educational material to go in an educated viewer.
I have joked as a parent that I’ve been a 13-year old boy, but I’ve never been a 13-year old girl. Bo Burnham is young enough, and his fanbase is the right age, to be able to write and depict this contemporary world of young teens in a way that feels accurate to my daughter at least. Some things stay the same (skeezy boys trying to get fresh with too young girls, general middle school social awkwardness) while some things are new (vlogging, SnapChat).
Elsie Fisher is great, the center of the film, in almost every scene. The whole cast is good and Burnham works writes and directs with confidence and care, honed from his many other endeavors.
I saw a little too much of myself in the Dad (Josh Hamilton), thinking he’s amusing while really just embarrassing and awkward in the eyes of his teen. It’s one of those things of getting older, especially in teen genre movies, the point of identification has shifted for me and so the experience of these movies is different.
Really, Eighth Grade arrives as an impressive, sensitive, and funny first feature narrative movie from Burnham. My daughter enjoyed it too, though doubtfully from a different angle.
director Toshiya Fujita
More like “Wild Jumble”, am I right?
Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo was released only three months after Alleycat Rock: Female Boss, the first of what would turn out to be a five movie series pumped out in a little over a year. Wild Jumbo bounces from a few different vibes before winding up in a nihilistic kaboom.
Unlike other films of the series that I’ve seen, Meiko Kaji doesn’t have as central a role here, playing a smaller part in the narrative.
She’s part of a sort of gang, running around in some weird jeep, harassing and being harassed, running around, before eventually hooking up with a wealthy young woman who fancies one of the guys. A trip to the beach turns into a lark but also a training exercise (albeit also a quite frolicsome one) to prepare for a heist of a wealthy religious sect.
It’s all kind of weird, though entertaining enough. But the bizarrely pessimistic ending comes as so completely a dead stop to the lightness of the rest, rather than jarring, it almost makes it more interesting?
It’s a jumble. A wild one, in ways.
director Tim Wardle
viewed: 07/08/2018 at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – New Mission, SF, CA
Some true life stories are just inherently compelling. As a documentary film maker, if you luck onto such a tale, you almost can’t go wrong.
The real story that drives Three Identical Strangers is pretty freaking wild and only gets more so, the deeper it dives and wears on.
In New York State, in 1981, 19 year old Robert Shafran discovers his doppelganger in Eddy Galland. They turn out to be identical twins, separated at birth. When this hits the press, David Kellman realizes that he, too, is a doppelganger, and actually a triplet. They become the toast of New York City and are celebrated on every TV show around the country at the time. They go into business together, opening a steakhouse, Triplets, in Manhattan.
But the story of how they became separated, by a Jewish adoption agency and an important psychologist crafting a secret experiment, deepens into a mystery.
I’d read a moderately informative review, so I don’t know how much it matters if you know the twists and turns Three Identical Strangers takes, but it is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and absolutely a stunner of a tale.
Tim Wardle structures the film well, and while I don’t know that he adds a lot beyond the interviews, reenactments, and old footage, it’s still a very worthwhile documentary.
director Ari Aster
viewed: 06/16/2018 at Century 20 Daly City and XD, Daly City, CA
The hot horror movie of the moment, Hereditary, is a break-out first feature from writer-director Ari Aster. An original and intriguing concept, Hereditary is shaped like the more artsy classics of the horror genre, ranging away from the pulpier fare.
As well-crafted and inventive as it is, the film’s true power comes from its cast. Headlined certainly by Toni Collette, a lot of credit should also go to Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro, who play her son and daughter, respectively. It’s familial terror, tinged with personal tragedy, mysterious histories, grief, loss, and something ultimately evil.
Definitely, the less you know going in, the better. Because the unknown is a dark place for the film. And significantly a component of its success.
All that said, its ambitions possibly outstretch its means. Some plot elements are blurted out in dialogue/monologue, successfully enough, but this drew my attention to plot holes or other flaws.
That said, I definitely think it’s a successful horror film and a promising start for Ari Aster.
director David Leitch
viewed: 05/27/2018 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA
Deadpool 2 is the lesser Deadpool of the Deadpool movies. I’d commented about its predecessor that I didn’t think that the movie was as clever as it thought itself. That’s even more true here in the sequel.
Ryan Reynolds and just about everybody from the first film is back, along with Josh Brolin as Cable, Zazie Beetz as Domino, and surprisingly Julian Dennison (from Hunt for the Wilderpeople) as Russell/Firefist. Oh yeah, and all those guys in X-Force.
Knowing jokes about lazy writing don’t make lazy writing okay. They pack in the gags, cultural references, and R-rated raunchiness into a story that also tries to have a heart. That having a heart thing is the mushy muddle that undercuts a lot of the film’s potential irreverence making it much more like the things it attempts to lampoon.
director Matt Spicer
Ingrid Goes West is a black comedy that doubles as a psychological horror.
Aubrey Plaza is brilliant as Ingrid, a young woman with obsessions and compulsions, a natural born stalker who gets released after a period in a psych ward. With the money left her from her mother’s estate, she “goes West” toward her newest obsession, Instagram star Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen).
The film skewers California culture, social media existence, millennial hipsters, and is painfully spot-on.
Plaza’s Ingrid is unraveling and when Taylor’s smarmy bro Nicky (Billy Magnussen) shows up, disaster is not far off.
The film’s ending is interpretive: happy or terrifying? I’m going with the latter. Uncomfortable, funny, and bleak.
director Wes Anderson
viewed: 04/07/2018 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA
Even as a fairly inveterate Wes Anderson film aficionado, it’s pretty easy to see the problematics of Isle of Dogs and its version of Japan and the Japanese. Even while trying to be overtly respectful (the film is meant in part as an homage to Akira Kurosawa), you can still wind up with something that is culturally tone deaf and resultingly offensive. The fall-out from responses to Kubo might have been a signal if caught early enough in production.
In part, I think Anderson’s approach here works. The whole film is taken as translations. The dogs barking is translated into English. The Japanese is paraphrased in translation, whenever actually translated.
The film is totally gorgeous. And if you’re apt to like Wes Anderson films, it’s certainly that with snappy dialogue, amusing characters, deadpan humor. Though Anderson himself is not an animator, this stop-motion design and animation team is so perfect for his aesthetics, which I’ve compared before to cinematic dioramas or shadowboxes.
What’s most interesting to me about this movie is that its Wes Anderson doing speculative fiction. The story is set 20 years in the future and the world is totally garbage and destroyed (or at least Garbage Island is, where we spend most of the film). It starts from a pessimistic point, in which “man’s best friend” and a metaphor perhaps for what is good in humanity is removed from human society due to a variety of diseases. To further the dystopia being shoved down society’s throat, the replacement dogs are robots, capable of viciousness only.
Ultimately, the film resolves itself too easily. The villainous Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) has a change of heart for no apparent good reason. The stakes in a Wes Anderson film are typically not so high, and viewers can usually guess that things will work out in the end more or less.
I enjoyed the film, as did my teenage daughter. But I tend to like Wes Anderson constructions. It really is beautifully rendered.
director David DeCoteau
“Cheese puffs wafting across a pool deck. Two families enjoying each other’s gifts. Yes, things are working out much much better.”
I made my teenage daughter sit through this one with me. I’m sure that is a violation of the Geneva Convention.
I think Eric Roberts had a stroke during readings.
Former child actor Johnny Whitaker and former Playboy cover model Kristine DeBell head up this wonder of awfulness.
Strangely, the cat doesn’t talk all that much. Though A Talking Cat!?! is most entertaining when he is. Or getting magically resurrected.
director Michael Lehmann
This viewing of Heathers was for my teenage daughter. This was to give some context of Winona Ryder for my little millennial, who was primarily familiar with her from Netflix’s Stranger Things. We’d watched Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorshands, but that was some time back. It seemed that watching Heathers would explain a lot more about Winona Ryder than anything I could come up with.
Of course, my daughter told me that though she had never “seen” Heathers, that she was very familiar with it. After watching the 1988 movie, I was treated to a variety of Heathers the Musical animatic YouTube videos.
Apparently the levels of meta-Heathers at which we’ve arrived is a little mind-boggling to those of us who didn’t come of age in this current century. There is a re-boot coming. There is also apparently a TV show coming?
Before you roll your eyes too hard at this inescapable modernity crisis, keep in mind that we all still have Heathers, the original and Winona Ryder, too. And that was always a wonderful thing in the first place, here 30 years out.
I also noted to my daughter that I once attended a lecture by Timothy Leary, who was Winona’s godfather, with half the goal to see if I could get her phone number.
I was also friends with the band The Wynona Riders. I wish I still had that t-shirt.
My daughter liked the movie a lot. Still really digs the animatic videos too.
director Wes Anderson
I think you either like Wes Anderson movies or you don’t. No judgment either way. I fall into the former boat, and interestingly The Royal Tenenbaums was one of the first movies I logged on my movie site in 2002, when I started tracking all the movies I watch.
Thousands of movies later, I come back to it, to watch it with my teenage children, the first who was born the year it came out, the second who was yet to be a sparkle in her father’s eye, so to speak.
For all that, I think I feel much the same as I did sixteen years ago when I first saw this. I’ve come to have seen all of Anderson’s movies since and have much more of a spectrum upon which to measure it.
That said: Gene Hackman. All day. Every day. Especially in scenes with Pagoda
(Kumar Pallana, RIP). Other Anderson alums like Angelica Huston and Bill Murray, always appreciated as well.
The kids both liked it.