To say I’m skeptical of this new Terminator film would be an understatement. [Read more…]
I always look forward to Christopher Nolan’s films; his big-budget spectacles are thought-provoking, result in thorough discussion and analysis by viewers, such as the end of “Inception” and the tightly-woven web he created in “The Prestige.” From a review perspective, his films are also difficult to discuss without spoilers, but I’m always up for a challenge, so here is the spoiler-free review of “Interstellar.”
I have a soft spot for human interest stories, especially ones as tight as this. Filmmaker Michael Tapp set out to make a short doc about the people of Times Square. Who they are, and why they find themselves there in the middle of the night. Beautifully photographed, and tightly cut. Enjoy!
It Was You Charlie is now available on iTunes.
The short film seems like something of a right of passage for many filmmakers. Film school is littered with the reels of shorts of varying pretension and it is a learning process for the filmmaker to determine how best to construct and communicate his story. That is not to belittle the short as merely a training ground or classroom exercise, for being able to boil down one’s idea into a contained capsule requires some degree of talent and artistry. However, the short and feature film are like cousins that only see each other on occasion. Expanding to a longer length is not simply an exercise in stretching, but rather an expansion of vision. In It Was You Charlie, writer-director Emmanuel Shirinian shows promise, but still hasn’t quite made the jump.
When we meet Abner (Michael D. Cohen) he is the model of depression. A small man, in all senses of the word, that trudges through life carrying a burden many times larger than himself. He revels in his solitude, working the graveyard shift as a doorman, a stranger to the world. His past is afloat with possibilities, but his own inner demons, jilted by love, and haunted by an accident, leave his present struggling for purpose. But then Abner meets Zoe (Emma Fleury), and things begin to change.
It Was You Charlie would very much like to carry the moniker of dark comedy, but it fails to adequately grasp the nature of its desired outcome. A dark comedy is not merely sadness or hatred mixed with comedy, but rather recognition of the complexity of the world and a chance to revel in it fully. Life is an endlessly messy thing in which laughter and tears often accompany one another, and humor can be derived from the most unexpected of places. A great dark comedy does not shoot for that label, but rather it simply acquires it through its own depiction of events. It tells its story the way it must be told, unafraid of the potentially taboo nature of its very existence. It Was You Charlie misunderstands this point and instead simply hops between the depressive and attempts at humor, leaving the film unbalanced and incomplete.
To the film’s credit, it never betrays any more of its story than it apparently wants to. The viewer is left in the dark, only receiving bits and pieces of Abner’s life as Shirinian sees fit. The problem with this method is that it places so much more stress on the final reveal than the plotcan actually support. By holding its cards so closely to its chest and dragging the viewer along with the unspoken promise that it will all be worth it, it is only delaying the inevitable disappointment. For this is no Las Vegas level magic act, in which the “ta-da” leaves mouths agape. It is much more akin to a child’s talent show, where the audience politely claps as the cards come tumbling from out of the magician’s sleeve. As the puzzle becomes more complex, the film itself begins to be preoccupied with identifying all of the right pieces and places character development and strength of story on the back burner.
Thankfully, when the film decides to focus on Abner it finds much more success. Michael D. Cohen communicates the character’s emotions effectively and often in a manner that is surprisingly subtle. Cohen reveals an impressive closeness to the character, as if he has lived Abner’s story to some extent and is simply going through the practiced steps of his past. He moves through life like an anxious and depressed Oompa Loompa, laid off by Wonka and desperately yearning for love. The points of the film that choose to focus exclusively on Abner are its best, and further make the extraneous scenes feel like little more than filler. His interactions with his apartment superintendent and a work colleague add nothing of substance to the story and only serve to distract from the ongoing struggle with depression and inability to properly face reality. They exist like odd flights of fancy or separate short films forced into one another like a misshapen Russian nesting doll.
Perhaps this is just an illustration of the film’s struggle for relevancy. Abner’s story, while containing a somewhat complex exploration of depression and accepting the druthers of life, is still rather shallow. As the film flits off onto one of its tangents, it is hard to not think that its writer-director just doesn’t have that much story to tell. It is as if in his attempt to reach feature length, he just began throwing out every idea he had, hoping that some of it would add to a greater whole. The scenes often exist as if independently from one another, differing in tone and grasp with reality to varying extents. It Was You Charlie has some surface level accomplishments that elevate it past the level of timewaster, but its inability to communicate a cohesive and compelling story over the course of its lean runtime leaves it grasping for actual cinematic success. The more you think about it, the more it falls apart.
Find and follow Derek on Twitter @DerekDeskins.
The Man on Her Mind is in theaters now. Check your local listings for showtimes.
Think back to the last conversation you had with a close friend. How many times did you say his name? As long as you weren’t in an argument with him, or having some deep emotional revelation, you likely said his name very little. When we talk to people we don’t often say their name. It’s why we can hold entire conversations with a new person and then promptly walk away realizing we have no idea who they are. Unfortunately, some writers forget this tiny element of real life and force their characters to continually announce each other’s names as if they both have done something terribly wrong. This is but one of the many offenses committed by The Man on Her Mind, a mess of film populated by inhuman characters.
The very premise of The Man on Her Mind requires a bit of mental surrender. See, Nellie (Amy McAllister) has an imaginary boyfriend; well, in all honesty, she has a string of imaginary boyfriends. Her sister knows about Nellie’s penchant for the imaginary and desperately tries to fix her up on dates with actual men. One such guy, Leonard (Samuel James), is particularly revolting to Nellie. But here’s the catch, Leonard looks identical to Nellie’s latest boyfriend. Oh, and Leonard talks to an imaginary version of Nellie pretty frequently. That is the entirety of the film’s major plot, and while it is admittedly silly and childish, it isn’t all that complicated. I was just able to sum it up in no more than five sentences. Despite this, the film spends a seemingly endless amount of time just trying to explain itself.
The biggest hurdle that the film is never able to launch itself over is that of its mediocre to mind-numbingly terrible writing. The characters speak to one another as if trading pedantic, contrived, and self-involved letters. They use language that even the most conceited and highfalutin individuals would feel was a bit over-the-type. General pronouns are discarded favoring the much more literary “one” or dreaded proper name. The writing is so dismally out of touch that I often hoped it was merely a poor translation. No one with a firm grasp on the English language or any kind of practice at the conversational arts would posit these ridiculous turns of phrase as something authentic. This can only be the result of a cultural divide or, God forbid, an overly self-confident high school freshman with dreams of emulating the Bard. But no, this comes from lawyer turned hopeful filmmaker Alan Hruska.
I imagine Hruska is the type of person who walks around, nose firmly in air unwilling to sully his vision with the sight of lesser peons. In my mind he of course speaks in an affected Mid-Atlantic English accent. The actualities of his characters do not matter, for they could only be so lucky to be like him. Rather than crafting individuals with unique traits that agree with their complex eccentricities, he molds them all to be Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn imitations. They live in a modern world, but act as if having been removed from a time of more refinement. These affectations and idiosyncrasies speak to the film’s disconnection from everything, be it story, character, or life. Not one individual can be shown to be a fully developed person, merely sketches that Hruska slides around as he sees fit.
Adding to the utterly insufferable script is a legion of mediocrity that continues to fail the film on nearly every count. The camerawork is pedestrian, ineffective, and occasionally lacking any semblance of real composition. One-shots utilize angles that make two actors talking to one another appear as if in completely different locations. The actors deliver dialogue with all the grace of those in a talentless community theater, lacking a modicum of subtlety or grace. The direction, which is provided in part by Hruska, is simplistic to the point of boredom, adding nothing of any substance to the film whatsoever. This is all despite a budget hefty enough to allow for multiple grandiose sets and professional equipment. It is the type of film that carries the shine of something much more accomplished, tricking you into thinking it is worth your time, when you would have been much better off indulging in a bit of fluff that at least has the good grace to know itself.
Within the film’s first ten minutes I was transported to my high school theater class. A room full of hormonal teenage amateurs, few of which were taking the class out of an actual appreciation for theater. Most put in the amount of effort necessary to sneak by largely unnoticed. However, there was always at least a couple of people that saw themselves as the next stars. Largely lacking in practice or discernible talent, they would read from scripts as if they had no idea how humans actually interacted, all the while believing themselves to be superior to the rest. The Man on Her Mind is that annoying wannabe thespian, wrongly seeing his aspirations as success. You will want to be rid of him soon after you two meet, but you are trapped, unable to escape his delusional image of cinematic prowess. As he collapses under his own ham-fisted theatrics you will worriedly look to your classmates and say the only thing that you can, “this guy can’t be serious.” We yearn for this to be a joke, but deep down you know that you cannot fake that kind of desperation.
Find more from Derek by following him on Twitter @DerekDeskins.
Frank opens in limited release August 22nd. Check your local listings for showtimes.
No, the pictures are not a joke. The Frank of the film’s title is in fact a man who spends his life wearing a large fiberglass head. In its very concept, it is as if the film is proudly waving its freak flag. Alerting all those that this is just a bit weird and certainly of the indie persuasion. [Read more…]
I love Hitchcock. Who doesn’t? From “Rope” and “Strangers on a Train,” to “Rebecca,” “Psycho,” and the “The Birds,” Alfred Hitchcock is truly one of the greatest filmmakers to have ever lived. Of course, what he was known for were is short cameos, generally in the earlier part of the picture, as spotting him became such a game that he felt it was taking away from the story.
What’s your favorite Hitchcock cameo? Let us know in the comments below!
Guardians of the Galaxy opens in theaters nationwide today, August 1. Check your local listings for showtimes.
As soon as Iron Man was getting us excited about the prospect of what comic book movies could be, our hopes were somewhat dashed with Iron Man 2. It wasn’t really until The Avengers that we saw just how great this Marvel Cinematic Universe had the potential to be. Unfortunately, the path post-Avengers has been about as up and down as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Iron Man 3 fell right between its first two installments in terms of quality, and Thor: The Dark World was just a bit worse than its mediocre first piece. [Read more…]
Lucy opens in theaters nationwide today, July 25. Check your local listings for showtimes.
There was a time when cinephiles could actually get excited for the latest Luc Besson film. No, no, not one of the many films the guy is credited for writing, or the even more he produces. I am talking about those films where Besson’s name followed that hallowed “directed by” credit. That snapshot of time in the early 90s when he crafted action with brains. [Read more…]
Everyone hates vertical video, even if you don’t know what it is, you’ve seen it before. It’s those videos shot on mobile phones with the device held vertically. But this is the first time I’ve seen something shot in that way where I’m happy to post it as our Video of the Week.
Filmmaker Dan Toth used iPhones to create this triptych (a multi-panel work consisting of 3 sections) of Sunnyside, Queens. A tribute to the New York City borough, he created this piece to show the neighborhood he called home for two years.