VOD Log: We’re the Millers

The terrific TBS promo for We’re the Millers had a lot to do with my desire to see the film.  This promo does not exist anywhere on the internet, that I can find, other than the fragment pasted below — and that’s a shame.  TBS should be proud of its promos.  I do have a small problem with it — there is no girl playing a saxophone on the beach in the movie.  There’s not even a beach.  The musical backdrop, indeed, has no relation to the film at all — which technically amounts to perjury.  However, I certainly can’t ding a movie based on a television network’s independent ad campaign for it.

We’re the Millers falls in the sub-50% zone on Rotten Tomatoes.  One critic wrote that “The filmmakers lack the courage of their convictions.”  Maybe so — but I know that going in.  Put another way, I judge a movie on what it is, not on what it isn’t.  I’m not expecting high art or tense edginess.  I’m expecting Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in a fairly mindless comedy.

And it works on that level.  There’s something likable about these characters, and this story — raunchy and banal as it often is.  It comes nowhere close to comparable films Vacation or Due Date, but for what it is, it succeeds — barely.  6/10

Availability: iTunes

Return to Twin Peaks

I’m pretty much loving the new Twin Peaks on Showtime.  There are some bits here and there that seem awkwardly implemented or haphazardly introduced, but overall I’ve been very pleasantly surprised.  My fear was that David Lynch, having been out of the filmmaking game for so long, would have lost his mojo.  More specifically, that the series would have been little more than a re-tread of the original.  No fear: his mojo is solidly in place, and bright, novel storytelling abounds.

The New York Times has written a lot on the return of Twin Peaks, including a good amount of favorable criticism.  On episode (“Part”) 3:

Mostly though, this hour is pure, magnificent abstraction, right down to the unexplained few minutes of Dr. Jacoby’s spray-painting a rack of shovels. The rest of the series could be nothing but Kyle MacLachlan shouting “Hell-ooo-ooo!” at slot machines and this episode alone will have justified the entire “Twin Peaks” revival.

Thankfully, the other 3 hours have been equally worthwhile, which portends well for the remainder of the series: an auspicious beginning to be sure.

I’m really looking forward to this…

Film Brief: Norman

My initial reaction to Richard Gere’s personal odyssey Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer was a mild thumbs-down due to a number of story weaknesses.  I wasn’t buying the premise.  But following Gere’s Norman around did get under my skin, just enough for a 6/10.

SPOILER ALERT!!  Spoiler follows!  To elaborate, the premise that Norman is, as we find out definitively late in the film, homeless, I just didn’t buy.  A much better movie would have shown, assuming this was some sort of recently-incurred station in life, how it happened.  But even if it had, how would he be homeless at the outset and still years later?  Homeless, yet buying a $1,200 pair of shoes.  I think not.

Comparison Notes: Dark Water (attorney)

Sleightly Nerve-Racking

I love independent, fun little dramas that give you a sense of not knowing where they are heading.  Sleight does that, and well.  There are some scientific and medical non-possibilities which weaken the final third of this brief film, but I love the whole street performer-with-multiple irons in the fire-angle.  7/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended): Nightcrawler, Dope, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Gran Torino, Drive, Tangerine

* * *

UPDATE: I caught some the beginning parts of Nerve on TV, and was reminded of what a fun and fresh film it is, at least through the first half.  So an upgrade: 7/10.  Just don’t expect it to hold up all the way to the end.

A Colossal Mistake?

Colossal starts slowly, and I felt completely neutral through the first half.   In other words, it lacked zest.  Some audience members were laughing at what I guess were attempts at light humor which for me fell flat.  In this chunky manner it rolls along, until it turns in unexpected, even daring directions.  The film doesn’t gel into the compact punch it might, but it ends nicely.  6/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Fido, John Dies at the End

 

T2 Trainspotting: Why or Why Not?

There was a profound opportunity to tell the story how heroin addicts who barely survived their respective early struggles were faring 20 years later.  That’s the story I believe Danny Boyle was trying to tell.  In my book, he failed miserably — that rocket sailed sky-high over his head.  T2 Trainspotting should by all rights have been a deep and powerful film that stood firmly on its own.  Instead, he made a picture utterly pointless without the original.

* * *

I’ve always paired Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction as the two great, seminal, earth-shattering films of the nineties.  The movies that were so utterly transformative.  Quentin Tarantino never tried to remake or produce a sequel to Pulp Fiction, and I hope he stays true in this regard.  Danny Boyle, a vastly inferior filmmaker, didn’t have the same self-restraint.

So it sounds like I’m bashing the heck out of Boyle’s follow-up.  But I liked it just enough for a thumbs-up.  Why?  I love the original so much, and T2, for all its many shortcomings, works well as a vibrant homage to the groundbreaking original.  Kind of like when a rich kid goes off to run the business his father built from the ground up, and is able to at least keep it afloat a few more years.  Put another way, dumb down “massively entertaining” and see what you get: something not nearly as entertaining, but still not a bad trifle.

Marginally recommended, with a heavy dose of all the standard caveats, plus add: an adoration of Trainspotting, and that you see it on a big screen with big sound.  Both trailers included below not by accident.  6/10

Personal Shopper in a Double-Medium

Kristen Stewart as a personal shopper, yes.  A lackadaisical, blasé medium, no.

I’m not saying Stewart is a bad actress, but in no way shape or form did I buy her as any sort of psychic.  And I suppose I am saying it: she was just playing herself in Personal Shopper, down to her unmasked and incongruous tattoos.  It wasn’t pretty.  Kristen Stewart, I am certain, has zero psychic abilities, and her thinly veiled character didn’t either.

 

 

 

It’s nothing against Stewart, not personally or anything.  I liked her in last year’s Café Society and Certain Women.  She’s good when she’s playing herself.

Beyond all that, Personal Shopper was hurt by an incompetent filmmaking approach.  Not only did I not believe Kristen Stewart, I didn’t buy the vomited ectoplasm.  I mean really, if you’re trying to blend reality with the spiritual world take a cue from David Lynch.  Or at the very least Alejandro Iñárritu.  4/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended): the Patricia Arquette series Medium was a vastly superior portrayal, and a convincing one, of the everyday working psychic.  Everyday, yet not blasé about it.  In movies we have: Sleeping Beauty, Drive, Safety Not Guaranteed, Antichrist, Twin Peaks FWWM, Wild at Heart, Vertigo, Belle de Jour