Labor Day – Ridiculously Predictable

Labor Day is weird. Among all Jason Reitman‘s work, this movie is the oddest.

While gathering Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin together on screen, their performances couldn’t offset the terrible plot and some scenes that left me quite perplex. It was weird watching it and weird experiencing some very particular emotions.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 10.01.55If the film was predictable, either in its development or in its end, some events caused profound intern confusions.
But let’s go through the story; Kate Winslet plays Adele a divorced mother, raising her 13-year-old son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith) on her own. Since her husband left her for his secretary, Adele stopped going out anymore, except on very rare occasions. That day, she goes to the supermarket with her son, and lucky form them Frank (Josh Brolin) appears in front of Henry, bleeding. He quickly sort of blackmails the family into taking him with them to their house.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 10.07.25Frank escaped prison, while in the hospital recovering from an appendicitis he jumped through the window.

Not surprising at all, Adele will fall in love with him, and Henry finds a new paternalistic figure, who doesn’t wait a long before teaching him baseball. But Frank is also a handyman, fixing every thing he can around the house. A perfect man, wrongly convicted (Labor Day’ screenplay isn’t the most original one.)
The icing on the cake? He cooks. That element, will provide the most senseless and bizarre scenes, one of them which I bet will become cult.

After tying Adele to a chair with lot of sensuality and for some logical purpose, he goes and cooks chili con carne. He decides then to feed the woman himself with a spoon.
But this scene wasn’t the oddest. When later, a neighbor brings to Adele and Henry his regular bucket of almost rotten peaches, Frank decides that, to make profits from those, a pie would be the perfect solution. Its preparation included mixing the peaches with other ingredients, therefore our three characters blended their hands with the peaches, in a same bowl, and that gave a very laughable scene.
Made me also wonder about all that food fetishism, either in the cooking, or the elements chosen, such as the fruit.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 10.28.30I also asked myself if Reitman was aware of those ridiculous aspects while directing his movie, or adapting the novel of Joyce Maynard into a screenplay. While Kate Winslet perfectly embodied her character, with which I strongly empathized to some extent, and Josh Brolin who just fit into his comfort zone, I didn’t understand that story, and some of its aspects.

Predictable and grotesque it left me in great perplexity. Especially when the cinematography of Eric Steelberg was of an extreme beauty, refined, and some shots were breathtaking and could have been very interesting if the story material was sufficient enough and supported it.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 10.00.04 Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 10.01.42 Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 10.20.03Jason Reitman really missed that one, a shame.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill – A Failed Sequel

I fucking adore Robert Rodriguez, and his work. One of my favorite movie is Planet Terror for christ sake! You can now imagine my disappointment when watching Sin City: A Dame to Kill, which appeared to be as bad as Sin City was good.

Both Rodriguez and Frank Miller pushed too far the cinematography for this sequel, and except some nice shots worthy of a real B movie, with orgasmic intensity, SCDK is too damn ugly.  And this is on behalf of wanting to emphasize too much on the style that conquered the fans’ hearts in 2005. This resulted in a big failure.
They would have done better to do an animated comic of Sin City 2.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.01.02The mix of genres; film noir, drama, crime and B movie style, is still very well handled and captivating, along with the strongly stereotyped narration and dialogues, told by gravelly, hoarsely voices. All this put you in a very particular mood of filthy narrow streets and suburban nights, however, they were pushed too far, to the extent where grotesque takes over and makes you mirthlessly laugh.

Also, some scenes combining few objects or characters in color while the rest is in black and white, caused terribly ugly shots, like:

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.04.34or:

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.10.47The neo-noir constructed with poker, hookers, light/shadow game, shootouts, even though efficient was sometimes excessively applied; almost with a tone of hyperbolism.

Those elements competed with some unique, priceless scenes, and framings, such as:

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.51.57 Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.59.59 Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.04.17 Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.17.53And sometimes, sublime experimental ones:

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.29.45 Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.33.20Set in the dystopian streets of Sin City, where violence, filth, and sex are valued or at least preponderant, we follow four stories, somehow related, where characters converge at some point.

We are introduced to new characters. 
Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – the other son of Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) wants to prove to his evil father that he can beat him, is better than him, and he’ll use poker to get through Roark. Or, Eva (Eva Green) the femme fatale of this film noir, who charmed Dwight (Josh Brolin) and every man she encounters into getting what she wants. She is magnified by Rodriguez, the actress embodied with talent her vilain character, and is the only good performance of the movie.

Sin City, lost anyway some of its core essence, with A Dame to Kill and in a nutshell, few elements are climaxing, the rest is pretty much ridiculous and the equivalent in value of S.A.S. novels.

Joe – Tales of the South

Joe is a movie I waited to watch for Nicolas Cage‘s performance, keeping it under my hand, like a bottle of wine you would keep in your cave leaving it to get older for a better taste.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 9.00.35I am a big fan of Nicolas Cage and I believe he is one of the best actors of all time, even though he made some pretty shitty choices the last decade, just like John Travolta. But anyway, I am not going to come back to this.
Directed by David Gordon Green, starring along with Cage, is Tye Sheridan, craving himself into this tradition of extreme naturalistic movies; power and presence of nature and great symbolism of wilderness, such as The Tree of Life or Mud.

Based on the novel of Larry Brown, Joe is depicting the issues overwhelming southern people of the 90’s, from unemployment, alcoholism, prostitution, to rough violence, and disappearance of morality and values.
The set of actors isn’t that impressive, but Cage (Joe), Sheridan (Gary) and Gary Poulter (the famous homeless – I’ll come back to this later – playing Wade the supposed father of Gary), are exuding a raw bestiality that is mesmerizing. The aggressiveness of each of those characters is different, and here resides the uniqueness of their performances.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 7.50.23Very briefly, the story is about Gary, fifteen, looking for a job to help his family (mother and sister more than father), and lucky for him, he meets Joe (Nicolas Cage) who offers him work in the woods. And of course, this isn’t pleasing Wade.
But really, the film is tackling several issues gravitating around the story of Gary’s and Joe’s relationship. The boy finding a paternal figure, someone he can really take as a role model, someone he sees as fair, and their struggle in the pitiless environment they live in.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 8.21.30 Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 8.50.48Director David Gordon Green (D.G.G.), gathered perfectly all the elements needed to put us, spectators, right into the movie, and delicately into the atmosphere of the novel. D.G.G. took lots of risks, and yet it turned out to be a little more than a good feature.
Now lets go back to Gary Poulter. When I say that the filmmaker took some risks, I’m referring principally to his casting. Poulter was a real alcoholic on top of being homeless. Directing a drunk elder non-professional actor with a movie starring Nicolas Cage… This could have been the worst thing ever. However, Poulter’s performance in Joe, is, and this is my personal belief, breathtaking because of him playing his became-natural state. Playing drunk, playing a homeless, playing someone who lost every bits of values, and who lost them because of society, because of unemployment, because of misery. His semi-acting was something so poignant, so disturbing; it caught me between anger and empathy. I despised him, and yet I found him beautiful. He is in despair, and he is exhaling a pure tender, that is nevertheless ephemeral. In a nutshell, Poulter flabbergasted me with his presence and self.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 7.43.41Not to forget Tye Sheridan who is astonishingly expressive and charismatic, he gave a stunning performance and his duo with Cage is working well, and it allowed our has-been actor to be. To come back and be.
(Yet, I would have added a little more fantasy and craziness to his character.)

To wrap up, David Gordon Green’s bold movie, extracted the essence of Brown’s novel and made it come alive, made it shine, with a great trio of main actors, animals of the South.