Not the Good Time you might expect

IF ONLY the filmmakers had been half as creative as the poster artist

Good Time is right up my alley — just the kind of movie I can  really get into.  If only it were any good.  Though it did hold my interest throughout, I don’t think that’s enough on its own to recommend a movie.  In many ways, Good Time seems like a film school senior project that should have been left in film school.

The entire film is rather pointless.  I kept waiting for it to reach some sort of greater level, but it didn’t.  And the flaws!  SPOILER ALERT!!  SPOILERS FOLLOW – SKIP to the next paragraph to avoid.  It’s called a dye pack for a reason.  It doesn’t just rinse off with water.  And handcuffs aren’t so easily foiled.

The many hackneyed sequences, e.g. the search at Adventureland, contribute to the sense of one gaffe after another over-running Good Time.  There was a good idea here, but it was half an idea.  That is, half as much as necessary for a whole movie.  I’m seeing a lot of this with A24 — let’s hope it improves.  5/10

Comparison Notes: recommended: Buffalo ’66; not recommended: Fruitvale Station, Room

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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)

Hungry Like The Wolfpack

The Wolfpack - poster

There’s no denying the bombshell nature of The Wolfpack, but my problem is documentary or not, there’s got to be a good plot, that progression and arc of story I keep hammering away at.  But there’s a fascination level with this picture.  It’s the type of movie — like Beasts of the Southern Wild — that while not a truly great film on an absolute scale, still transports us to a whole new world we’ve never seen before, and thereby stands as a movie not to be forgotten any time soon.

So I give a solid recommendation despite having to answer “where are we going with this?” with “not very far.”  And these guys do have good taste in movies.  7/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Room

Friday Fun Flick: The Fifth Element

Fifth Element Poster

The Fifth Element was a breathtaking film to see in theaters when it was released.  It is a visual masterpiece and an exceptionally realized world by French Director Luc Besson, and terrific good fun.  Adding to the quirky and unique look of the film are 954 costumes produced by Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Oh, and then there’s Milla Jovovich.  This has been shown on TV a number of times, but do yourself a favor and view uninterrupted utilizing the best means available.  9/10

Monday Mania: American Psycho

American Psycho Poster

My first exposure to Christian Bale was in the visionary masterpiece American Psycho (2000).  To give you a flavor for this film, I point to the Times review by Stephen Holden:

From the opening credits, in which drops of blood are confused with red berry sauce drizzled on an exquisitely arranged plate of nouvelle cuisine, the movie establishes its insidious balance of humor and aestheticized gore. That sly confusion between the beautiful and the gruesome extends to the language of the screenplay….

As Patrick embarks on his series of grisly murders, each of which only whets his appetite for further carnage, the movie portrays his acts of violence as increasingly frustrated attempts to be noticed. But either Patrick’s armor of designer labels and hard-bodied readiness is impenetrable or else no one wants to look below his surface to the murderous inner child. Ultimately, his escalating blood lust gives new meaning to the term ”narcissistic rage.”

This movie includes a case in point of the rarely-used cinematic device of what not to show: after having sex with two call girls in his home, he opens a drawer filled with implements — nasty little tools — and tells them, “We’re not through yet.”  Sheer wickedness.  The scene then cuts to the women hurriedly leaving his apartment, damaged in some unspecific way and very upset.  What exactly did he do with those implements?  That’s the brilliance of the scene: use your imagination.

American Psycho strongly divided both critics and audiences, so a warning: you might really hate it.  If that’s the case you may not have much use for my blog, because as I’ve mentioned before, I like movies that stand up and out.  Blandness is not welcome here.

I think even those who don’t like this movie can agree that Christian Bale’s tour de force is something to behold.  American Psycho is a joyfully murderous romp, a perfectly twisted complement to Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.  10/10

Cinematic Greats: After Hours

Everybody knows about Goodfellas and Raging Bull.  But there is a relatively little-known Scorcese picture that is every bit equal to his famous masterpieces: After Hours.  Scorcese made this film in 1985 so that he could deliver a relatively cheap and easy production (IMDb gives an estimated budget of $4.5 million) in the wake of his first failed attempt at The Last Temptation of Christ.

Boy did he deliver.  This is a fabulously entertaining, darkly comic story about a word processor’s (Griffin Dunne) night-time odyssey through the streets of SoHo in Manhattan.  Roger Ebert at the time gave this film his highest rating, 4 out of 4 stars:

“After Hours” is a brilliant film, one of the year’s best. It is also a most curious film. It comes after Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” a film I thought was fascinating but unsuccessful, and continues Scorsese’s attempt to combine comedy and satire with unrelenting pressure and a sense of all-pervading paranoia. This time he succeeds. The result is a film that is so original, so particular, that we are uncertain from moment to moment exactly how to respond to it. The style of the film creates, in us, the same feeling that the events in the film create in the hero.

Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette in After Hours

Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette in After Hours

I concur, but will add that although After Hours is indeed starkly original, it is not at all so quirky as to be difficult to follow.  Quite the opposite: the story here is laid out in consummate, directly linear fashion.  The result is a movie that is engrossing from first frame to last, without a single dull moment.  An extra bonus will be had for Scorsese fans out there, as After Hours is full of cinematic flair — those great camera movements in particular — which are characteristically Marty.

Griffin Dunne’s central character is surrounded by a movie-lover’s delight of oddball supporting characters played by Rosanna Arquette, Teri Garr, Linda Fiorentino, Cheech & Chong, Catherine O’Hara, Bronson Pinchot and others, and by Scorsese himself in a cameo role. As I said, fabulously entertaining — a masterpiece.  10/10

And a warning: avoid the trailer, which is readily available.  It steals a number of surprises from the movie, and yet does not flatter it.