This was just about a good enough movie to watch on a plane – which I did. I knew Chloë Grace got conned into being friends with lonely crackpot Isabelle Huppert, but not that Isabelle kidnaps and brainwashes her in the second half, murders private eye Stephen Rea sent by Chloë’s dad, then is defeated by Maika Monroe, who searches the subways until she finds a purse lure with Greta’s home address. When investigating, they’re told that Greta acts this way (the obsessive calling, not the kidnapping/murder) with everyone, and that she’s not even French (ha). Somehow only the third Neil Jordan movie I’ve seen – Mona Lisa was alright (so was this), and I’ve been meaning to watch The Company of Wolves.
Creepy opening song by Baby Jane… not creepy in the standard SHOCKtober sense, just that it’s a packed 1917 theater full of women in old-timey hats who inexplicably love a maudlin tune competently sung by a cute kid (semi-competently dubbed, anyway).
In 1935, Jane’s sister Blanche is a movie star and the studio is pissed that her contract says they also have to produce films starring her drunk, untalented little sister Jane (untalented-Bette is represented by Ex-Lady clips, fair enough). Fun’s over when Blanche’s legs get crushed by a car in her own driveway. Thirty years later, the two ex-stars live together, griping back and forth.
Blanche (Joan Crawford, whose film career had dried up since Johnny Guitar) loves her pet parakeet, so of course it’s the first victim – just more evidence that The Shallows was special for letting its birdie survive. Crawford is quietly desperate as her sister isolates her and goes increasingly, dangerously crazy over the next couple days (“You aren’t ever gonna sell this house, and you aren’t ever gonna leave it”). Bette Davis, who it appears had been working more steadily, seems kinda one-note wide-eyed eccentric-horrid, so it’s delightful when she “acts,” impersonating her sister’s voice over the phone.
Just as the situation and dialogue are getting tiresome, the movie introduces sweet Victor Buono, hilarious as a pianist who answers Jane’s newspaper ad to accompany her Baby Jane comeback act. The plot only keeps functioning because Blanche doesn’t yell when he’s over, but she becomes more desperate later after Jane kicks the hell out of her for using the phone, the movie getting better as it gets crazier. Bette scares off Victor, crushes the housekeeper’s skull with a hammer, and takes her dying sister to the beach.
Played Cannes with The Leopard and Harakiri. Nominated for all the Most Acting awards at the oscars, but luck be damned, a Helen Keller movie came out the same year, so it only won for costume design. The same director/star/novelist/screenwriter combo followed up with Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
The wikis say this is a Grand Guignol horror movie, but this is less well-defined than last night’s Giallo genre (black-gloved assassin kills people with knives – admittedly kind of a crap genre). Apparently it involves naturalism, and its followers claim that all horror movies are Grand-Guignol-influenced because they involve people doing some things that real people really do. The Guignol wikis also reference John Zorn and say the GG’s lead actress was “raped at least 3000 times,” so maybe let’s not linger on this.
Asger is a bad cop – we don’t know this yet, but can assume from context – forced, along with his supervisor, to a desk job working emergency phones until a little matter gets cleared up. He catches a kidnapping case (which nobody else on the overnight shift seems as excited about) and does a bunch of things wrong (some also illegal) trying in earnest to help the woman caller who has been abducted by her ex husband, leaving their two kids home alone.
The whole movie is confined to a call center, the second half in a private room after Asger decides he doesn’t want coworkers listening in, so it’s a one-man show with little visual flair. Asger eventually discovers she’s being taken to a psych hospital because she just stabbed one of their children to death, but she escapes and is gonna jump off a bridge, and it’s his fault, so he monologues about his own crime, essentially confessing to murder in front of a bunch of cops. Mostly I bought the kidnapping twists, but I’m not sure about this ending.
Won the audience award at Sundance last year in the world drama competition along with Pity, Rust, and a bunch I still haven’t heard anything about. This is Möller’s feature debut, after a short which was also about a woman in a psych hospital. The movie is Danish, but Asger is Swede Jakob Cedergren. The day after watching, I learned about the Jodie Foster remake starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
Fun-enough comedy that will mostly be remembered for Rachel McAdams’ best line delivery of 2018 (“oh no, he died”). Sibling rivalry deal, with Jason Bateman, who grew up extremely competitive because of his older brother Kyle Chandler. Kyle visits and sets up a live-action murder-mystery game as a pretense to gift Jason a sweet-ass car, but Kyle actually gets kidnapped by baddies because all his apparent success is due to his double-dealings with dangerous criminals, so Jason and wife Rachel split up from their fellow gamenighters to solve the real kidnapping which they think is fake until people start getting killed.
Calum Marsh’s review is what go me into the theater:
The screenplay, which has set-ups and punchlines and set-pieces and actual jokes, made me realize how bored I am with the Apatovian improvisatory riffing that’s dominated mainstream comedy since about 2005, and how much I’ve yearned for gags that seem written rather than stumbled upon once the camera’s rolling indiscriminately. It also looks terrific: unlike the slapdash script-delivery-service style that makes everything from Baywatch to The Disaster Artist feel like the same careless feature-length slab of cable television, Game Night is clearly the product of thought and skill, directed by people who remember (as some of us still do) that film is a visual medium.
A somewhat-sci-fi movie that sets up an interesting premise – a genetic engineering mishap has created a thousand babies that will never age – then perversely dances around it, devoting most of its time to two morons who kidnap one of the babies, and their boss Kieran Culkin, a metaphorical infinity-baby. Starts in the middle, sociopath Kieran meeting an older woman (Martha Kelly of a Zach Galifianakis show about a clown college) on a first date and quickly rejecting her, then backs up to him dumping a girl with help from his “mom” Megan Mullally. For the bulk of the movie he’ll date Alison (Trieste Dunn of Cold Weather), who laughs a ton, and is too sweet for Megan to help Kieran break up with, so he manages on his own.
Meanwhile, the morons are drunken unhealthy asshole Larry (Kevin Corrigan) and gentle bowl-cut Malcolm (Martin Starr of Silicon Valley and NTSF) who goes blind when sprayed in the face with cleaning products by Larry. They nearly kill the baby, taking it to Stephen Root for disposal, but it turns out alright. And everyone is working for Nick Offerman, whose Infinity Baby business model is unclear.
As with Byington’s Somebody Up There Likes Me, it likes to jump forward in time. Kieran ends up with his dream girl, someone young who’s into drugs and partying. Larry is in bad shape, and Blind Malcolm turns out to be a good father to the stolen baby, who is growing older (I’ve forgotten the explanation for that). Writer Onur Tukel made Catfight last year. Music by Aesop Rock!
I assumed this movie about a kidnapped bunker boy trying to remake the TV show his fake-dad created to educate/protect him would be more fun and absurd, but it was flat and quiet, like Lars and the Real Bear, mostly people chatting in medium shots. Any episode of fellow bunker comedy Kimmy Schmidt has more laughs… even the mostly underwhelming serial-remake comedy Be Kind Rewind was funnier. At least this one has a sweet scene with Kate Lyn Sheil in a diner.
James is Kyle Mooney from SNL. A sad Matt Walsh plays James’s real dad, Mark Hamill his bunker dad, Greg Kinnear the cop who ends up working with him on the show. Even a Lonely Island comedy draws the same scattered retirees to the Ross. We stood outside after, watching the hundreds of kids streaming past from an It screening at the multiplex.
Plot-summary-wise, this movie could have been a total disaster, but the director and cast perfectly nail the tone, a comically heightened satire built on increasingly horrific acts. It’s a sequel to one of those after-dark-to-die-for flicks, Offspring, but this must not be too important since most of the reviews don’t mention it.
A nice family scene:
Parents Chris and Belle have two teens (daddy’s boy, goth girl) and young Darlin’. While out hunting, Chris discovers a feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh, who looked very different in Let Us Prey), captures her and chains her into his shed, telling the family that they need to civilize her. “We can not have people running around the woods thinking they’re animals.” This is already an alarming development, as Chris (Sean Bridgers, villain of Room, typecast as a dude who locks women in sheds) goes from kinda-smarmy to kinda-evil, but he’s gradually revealed to be much more evil than suspected. After he incapacitates his wife (Angela Bettis, May herself) and feeds one of daughter Peggy’s teachers to the dogs, Peggy releases The Woman to wreak vengeful havoc.
Mom stands up to Dad for the last time:
The family expresses concern a few times for the “dogs,” one of which is late-revealed to be another hostage woman, mutilated and kept like an animal. Fantastic, table-turning ending as The Woman wanders back towards the woods with the dog-woman and the youngest daughter, and Peggy, with all the men and grown-ups dead, opting to follow along.
I also dug the rock & roll soundtrack. The last Lucky McKee work I saw was his Masters of Horror episode Sick Girl, also starring Bettis. Back then I wrote “fun flick, not bad at all,” which was mighty high praise for the MoH series. Since then I’d forgotten that Sick Girl was about lesbian entomologists – an influence on The Duke of Burgundy?
Slower and weirder than it seemed from the trailer, which sets up a madcap comedy.
Katy was disappointed.
Mid-1950’s Hollywood: Josh Brolin is a hard-working studio employee who keeps the stars in line and keeps the press (Tilda Swinton) away from the more damaging stories. Period epic star George Clooney is kidnapped by commies, is curious and agreeable, doesn’t seem to realize he’s being held hostage until rescued by cowboy actor Alden Ehrenreich. Those two and Brolin are great, but they’ve got nothing on Channing Tatum as a dancing sailor who’s secretly the commie group’s leader. Ralph Fiennes plays a frustrated director, and we get quite small roles for McDormand, Johansson and Jonah Hill, and reeeeally small roles for Alex Karpovsky and Dolph Lundgren.
On the flipside is a cell of communist screenwriters who abduct mega star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) to bleed the studios, only to let slip that their ideals of upending the means of production stem from bitterness over not getting the back-end points they think they deserve. In perhaps the only subtle joke in the entire film, the warped prosperity politics that Hollywood communists bring to the cause is tacitly positioned as a precursor to Scientology, another faddish, extreme cause that the Hollywood faithful would frame in terms of making more bank.
The movie makes light of the dialectic as explained to Baird by Marcuse, but it also, in its tricky way, continually invites/compels the viewer to use it. Eddie Mannix is a good man who is very good at his job — but his job seems to be manufacturing schlock. People enjoy schlock, but schlock is arguably an agent of The People’s oppression, so… anyway, one needn’t go on. Suffice it to say that in the cosmology of the delightful Hail Caesar!, regardless of the conclusions to which dialectical thinking may lead, acceptance is the key, and Hollywood, while “problematic,” is more a force for good than the military-industrial complex can ever hope to be. And, finally, doing the right thing is an instinct shared by both company men and singing cowboys, for whatever that’s worth.
F. Cardamenis says the movie “reveals a striking ambivalence about [Hollywood], finding magic in its products but malice in its motives.”
D. Ehrlich’s article in Slate was my favorite, even if I did a sorry job condensing its points below:
[Hail Caesar and The Grand Budapest Hotel] shift through several different aspect ratios and feature Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, and — wait for it! — Fisher Stevens. Both films bake their darker underpinnings beneath a frivolous screwball glaze. More crucially, both films probe the ultimate value of storytelling, and leverage their findings into lucid summations of their creators’ entire career and creative worldview. Hail, Caesar! takes one of the diverse back catalogs in American cinema and forces its various components into a reluctant conversation that changes them all, like strangers who are forced into small talk at a cocktail party only to realize that they have the whole world in common.
[the sailor musical sequence] convincingly argues the value of filmmaking to a universe of indelible characters who are struggling to understand it for themselves. It’s a truth they could see if only they had faith. And that, ultimately, is what Hail, Caesar! argues with greater clarity — if not always greater force — than any of the Coens’ previous films. There is no meaning but that which we convince ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you adhere to communism, religion, or movies: The only way you can believe in yourself is if you believe in something bigger. Who wouldn’t want to be a lobby boy at the Grand Budapest hotel, sir? It’s an institution.
“Ma” was kidnapped years ago, now has a young son Jack, and they live together in Room, which is actually a shack behind their kidnapper’s house. After setting up their relationship, the movie breaks them out of Room for the second half to see how Jack can adapt and how the parental relationship will fare and whether the media attention will turn Ma suicidal. Turns out Ma’s dad William Macy can’t handle the truth, but her mom Joan Allen and stepdad Tom McCamus are more understanding. Katy and I liked it a lot.
The director of Frank likes his titles short. Writer Emma Donoghue adapted her own novel. Kidnapper/rapist Sean Bridgers (that’s not a label he’ll want showing up in a google search) was in Deadwood and Rectify, started his career in the Nebraska-set Children of the Corn 2. Young Jacob Tremblay has two Naomi Watts movies filming. Brie Larson already got awards for Short Term 12, and unrecognizably played rival singer Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.