September was a big month for DVDs. I have five more reviews in my DVD folder, so here’s an extra post for September.
There are two movies about the end of the world. One a comedy and one not. There are two movies about a group of young anarchists breaking the rules. Ones a comedy and one is not. And the last film from an animation mastermind. And here’s a first; They are all pretty good. (some better than others)
Hope you enjoy them too.
To the reviews…
World War Z (Paramount Pictures)
Directed by Marc Forster
I loved World War Z. It is an amazing audiobook and a great story. The movie mirrors the feel of the book in many ways. I first thought, when I heard that they were making it into a movie, that it would be a difficult book to adapt… and I was right. The book and the movie are two very different entities. On its own, the movie is enjoyable. It is suspenseful and scary and intense and Brad Pitt does a fine job as always. The zombies are fast zombies… and they are slow zombies. These are zombies that are slow until they are fast. They are frightening. Some of the scariest zombies I have seen in a while.
But honestly, read the book. The book is a thousand times better. And they are not even similar so seeing the movie doesn’t spoil the book at all. (or better yet listen to the audiobook it is by far the best audiobook I have ever heard).
World War Z is a decent adaptation and an enjoyable pandemic horror film. It tries to mirror the international flavor of the book by having Brad put in some serious air miles and it has a really cool and original climax that almost seems anti-climactic to those of us who grew up on the ultraviolent Zombie films of the past.
Rent it (Good film. Better book. Even better audiobook)
The Bling Ring (A24)
Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola
Based on “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” by Nancy Jo Sales
Starring Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, Georgia Rock, Emma Watson & Leslie Mann
The Bling Ring is yet another masterpiece by Sofia Coppola. My girl is an artist. This movie made me uneasy and queasy with how sleazy these kids were. The main characters are all vapid and privileged children of the internet age. It is so easy to hate them. But it is just as easy to feel sorry for them when you see their role models and in the case of one of the hollywood home invaders, her guardian.
I wanted to hate this movie because the characters are so hateful but I loved it. There are no “adults” in this film. Everyone, from the thieves to the victims to the lawyers to the parents to the media to the artists that create the music on the soundtrack, EVERYONE is superficial and self-centered and ignorant (oh so very ignorant) and emotionless plastic people. The movie is so good.
I love Sofia’s work mostly because she makes me feel like a fly on the wall. Like we’re looking in on someone’s fucked up life. The Bling Ring angered me… a lot. It frustrated me. Everything in the film is like designer nails on a limited edition blackboard. I see the movie as a scathing indictment of this generation; A generation of glorified and romanticized ignorance, of designer sociopaths raised on apathy and reality tv, chronicled by hashtags & selfies.
Say what you want about the possibility that this film perpetuates the problem, because I can see that argument and its merits, but I see it as a horror film. And not the comedy that it is. Though it is hysterical most of the time.
And Emma Watson is insanely good as the moral center of the film. A moral center with absolutely zero compassion or… morality. I like that she’s doing smaller films now, indie films and artsy films. And this is one of those movies that marks a generation. Rebel Without A Cause, Easy Rider, Revenge of The Nerds, Natural Born Killers… It’s awful and it’s awesome and it’s a true story. And I loved it.
Rent it (Emma Watson, Emma Watson, Emma Watson, Emma Watson)
Next up (more Emma actually)
This Is the End (Columbia Pictures)
Written & Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Based on Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse by Jason Stone
Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera & Emma Watson
This Is the End makes fun of the self-centered celebrity and assures us that they are all going to hell. It is a very funny movie. It is a lot more religious than I thought it would be. But it is just as funny as I thought.
It has great cameo appearances from a bunch of my favorite people, all of them making fun of themselves in much the same way James van der Beek played himself in Don’t Trust The B in Apt 23 (I miss that show) or Matt Damon in House of Lies (on Showtime).
In the end, This Is the End is a movie about redemption and friendship but mostly it’s a movie about drinking & partying & doing drugs during the apocalypse. I liked it. I liked it a lot. It was very funny.
And sure, This Is the End can be crass at times but those times are few and there’s enough heart to make up for it. Not an amazing film but a fun film nonetheless.
Rent it (It’s fun, It’s funny… It’s biblical?)
Next we say goodbye to an old friend
Directed by Gorō Miyazaki
Written by Hayao Miyazaki & Keiko Niwa Based on Kokuriko-zaka kara by Chizuru Takahashi & Tetsurō Sayama
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Junichi Okada, Keiko Takeshita, Yuriko Ishida, Jun Fubuki, Takashi Naito, Shunsuke Kazama, Nao Omori & Teruyuki Kagawa
From Up on Poppy Hill is yet another masterpiece by Hayao Miyazaki’s. His films are so rich and detailed. I love his work. He makes 1960’s Japan look like Norman Rockwell meets Steampunk meets the comfort of a warm quilt on a stormy night. The themes are all grown up emotions and relations told through the experiences of youth. And they are… just… gorgeous.
Poppy Hill is no different. His latest and I hear his last film is the beautiful story of a school clubhouse slated for demolition and a girl who takes care of her family while her mother is away. It is the story of family and of love and of honoring the past. It is a wonderfully touching movie.
Don’t leave us Miyazaki. There is still so much we can learn from you. I was going to do an animated features series on this blog but after Hayao Miyazaki there is no one else. There is no one else at his level or even close to it. The only reason I don’t include him with my list of favorite directors is because animated features are a completely different skill set. But if I did, he would be in my top five easily.
I sometimes wonder if one day we will remake his stories with live action. If someone would come along with the sensitivity and the talent to bring his stories to full life. I have compared him in the past to early Terry Gilliam (before he got all dark) and to Jeunet & Caro. But you would have to take these visual artists and add the storytelling ability of Kurasawa, and the photography of Kubrick & the rich attention to detail of Ridley Scott to truly get it right.
If this is his last film, then it is a beautiful tribute to his work, to his era, to his memory, to complete his collection and his lessons in life, in love & honor.
Thank you, sir. There is no other director about which I can say I am a better person at the end of his films than I was at the beginning.
Buy It (along with everything else he has done)
The East (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Written by Zal Batmanglij & Brit Marling
Starring Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page & Patricia Clarkson
The East… um The East? The East. The East! I just don’t know. I know I’m supposed to have an opinion about the DVDs I review (them’s the blogging rules… tell us you hated it and absolutely loved it or else we will be bored) but The East is so many things, so many wonderful things and so many awful misfires at the same time that I don’t know if I can say I enjoyed it.
I don’t know. I just don’t know. Which is precisely what the film delivers. It brought me big ugly question marks because it tries so hard not to take sides (yet still does at times [mostly because it is impossible not to take sides] and I completely understand). The East is a film about a group of so-called Eco-terrorists or anarchists. But to me they are more like Eco-artists. A group that works in the medium of forced irony. They do to the corporate criminals what those criminals do to society and to the environment.
There should be obvious good guys and bad guys. Yet, as with all the films of this type, the filmmakers work hard to paint a balance. They make the groups motivations less about justice and more about revenge and very personal. I both hate and love this thematically. It is a great idea poorly executed. Great writing poorly directed. Great acting poorly filmed. A courageous undertaking that wimps out on us.
And again, the cast is superb and the writing is excellent. Brit Marling is slowly becoming one of my favorite people on the planet. She has (much like in the fantastic movie Another Earth) taken both a writing role and a starring role. And the movie benefits from her talents.
The film poses philosophical questions to the characters as well as the audience and while there are no easy answers and there are no uncomplicated emotions, In the end there are no good guys and I don’t know how I feel about that. So once again a film by the wonderful Brit Marling and friends has left me with my mouth agape and nothing to say…
Except that the ending and the direction kind of sucked (I’m sorry). Alexander Skarsgård is too fucking gorgeous for this world (I’m not sorry). And I can’t wait to see what Brit does next. So I’m just going to stick with, I don’t know. If that’s okay with you guys.
Rent it (It’s extremely good and really bad at the same time)
So to recap…
World War Z is pretty good. It’s just nothing like the book and that made me uncomfortable.
The Bling Ring is insanely good. It’s just the characters are so maddeningly annoying it made me uncomfortable
This Is the End is very good. It’s just a little more religious than I expected and that made me uncomfortable
The East is really good. It’s just that it’s also really bad and I don’t know if I liked it and that makes me uncomfortable
From Up on Poppy Hill is extremely good. It’s just that Hayao Miyazaki says he’s retiring and that just makes me sad.
Okay now, guys. go out and watch some movies and by that I mean stay in and watch some movies. Make the movies come to you.
Until next time,