SoCal readers of Hollywood Elsewhere are hereby urged to snag a ticket to the 6.17 Los Angeles Film Festival screening of Ondi Timoner‘s Brand: A Second Coming. “I can’t overstate how jolting and invigorating this doc plays, especially during the second viewing and particularly when it hits the 40-minute mark, which is when the story of Russell Brand’s social-political awakening kicks in,” I wrote on 3.14. “It’s a brilliant, go-for-it thing that not only portrays and engages with a brilliant artist-provocateur but matches his temperament and picks up the flag. Superb photography by Timoner (especially loved the occasional punctuation of grainy 8mm) and HE’s own Svetlana Cvetko. The doc constantly pops, riffs and punches over its nearly two-hour running time. Magnificent graphics and editing, and a perfect ending.”
Word around the campfire is that Thomas McCarthy‘s Spotlight, a drama about the uncovering of Catholic Church sex abuses by the Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight” team in 2001 and ’02, has turned out well. Earlier today Open Road announced a November 6th opening date with expansions to follow — an obvious indication that they expect award-season action. I’ve heard that Open Road honcho Tom Ortenberg has been telling pallies that Spotlight has the goods and then some. I was actually hoping it might screen at the Cannes Film Festival but that wasn’t to be. (I know for a fact that it test-screened in Pasadena’s Old Town on 4.29.15.) I wouldn’t be surprised if Spotlight turns up at the Venice or Telluride or Toronto Film Festivals, or maybe all three. Directed and co-written by McCarthy (with Josh Singer), pic costars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Liev Schrieber, Brian D’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup.
Pretty much all the difficulty in Jurassic World boils down to Indominus Rex getting loose and going on a killing spree — tourists, other dinosaurs, anything that moves. Around the halfway mark a deranged corporate guy (Vincent D’Onofrio) brings in a team of heavily armed SWAT commandos — guys with all kinds of automatic weapons, heavy artillery, helicopters, etc. D’Onofrio says he wants to use Chris Pratt‘s smart raptors to fight Middle-Eastern terrorists, but he doesn’t have any strategic plans for the Rex. The only shot is to kill the fucker, and yet somehow D’Onofrio’s guys are unable to, even from a chopper above. And what about the regular Jurassic World guys? Are you telling me they aren’t armed just in case? Indominus Rex is big and scary and ferocious, but he’s made of flesh, blood and bone. He could definitely be killed with a few shots to the head or the heart. And yet pretty much the whole film hangs on the inability of anyone to manage this. Ludicrous.
Michael Ritchie‘s Prime Cut (’72) is a moderately interesting, high-grade exploitation film. Women treated as cattle, meat for sale, property. More than a bit offensive by the cultural standards of ’72, grotesque by today’s standards. But this restaurant scene is nice. Apart, that is, from the absurd notion that Sissy Spacek, a young Midwestern prostitute who’s been adopted by Chicago gangster Lee Marvin, would wear a transparent dress without a bra to an upscale restaurant. But the quietness of this scene is nice. There’s a gentle, kindly vibe between the paternal Marvin and the socially uncertain Spacek. And it offers very little dialogue, and the dialogue you do hear is peripheral. Scenes with scant or no dialogue are relatively rare these days. Apart from The Artist, what 21st Century films have used silence in a scene that lasts…oh, 45 seconds or longer?
If you were charmed by the ludicrous, by-the-numbers plotting and the self-lampooning CG flamboyance in San Andreas, you’ll be similarly wowed by the shamelessly rote plotting and wildly illogical action in Jurassic World (Universal, 6.12). Is it going to matter to anyone how phony this movie is? Of course not. People hit the cineplex these days with the same attitude of a family of sheep visiting Magic Mountain…”baaah, wanna go on this ride or that one?” The idea of blending witty banter, character flavoring and various internal seasonings with the expected action, thrills and CG dazzle is completely out the window these days…gone. You don’t care, the corporate zombie production executives over at Universal don’t care and Michael Moses doesn’t care save for his expertise as an ace-level marketing guy…count the cash and fuck it all.
I didn’t hate Jurassic World, but I didn’t believe a single in-story aspect of it. I sat there half-numb and half-amazed at the outrageous chutzpah, and half amused by the self-mocking satirical side. Go ahead, pay to see it, spill the popcorn on the floor, sprawl in your seats…whatever.
Jurassic World is so relentlessly robotic and regimented and untethered to anything except salivating franchise greed…so determined to blow the audience’s socks or flip-flops or Crocs off by delivering the ultimate super-dino CG bullshit ride, the ne plus ultra of grand slam dino-whoring…whoa, I’ve lost my train of thought here, as Sam Elliott said in the opening moments of The Big Lebowski.
I was working on a notion about Jurassic World injecting a kind of cinematic thorazine into my system and…naah, that wasn’t it. Fine, I can’t remember what I was working up to. I know I was shaking my head over and over during Monday night’s screening and going “this is so fucking silly, so stupid….I don’t believe anything in this movie except for Chris Pratt‘s professional determination not to wink or make fun of himself like he did in Guardians of the Galaxy. You can see the wheels turning in Pratt’s brain as he goes through the motions of delivering the standard masculine-stud-hero routine, and you can almost hear him saying ‘these guys aren’t as hip as James Gunn was…the safest way to play it is to just grim it down and hit the marks and forget the jokes.'”