Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Trailer for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Will there ever be a Downton Abbey movie? Who knows but in this long titled movie we get a reunion of sorts with five main characters being played by Downton Abbey alumni.

Based on a best selling novel, the story here is about a young, struggling writer in 1946 who decides to write about the residents of Guernsey and their experiences while under German occupation during most of WWII. I think it all looks fantastic. You've got the historical drama of the war, an obvious dash of romance and an over arching theme of how the love of literature tends to bring people together. The actual potato peel pie however seems to be an issue of contention.

Starring Lilly James, Jessica Brown Findlay (we will never forget you Sybil), Matthew Goode and so many other examples of great British acting, Guernsey (I think the studio has decided to shorten the title) premiers in the UK on April 19th with a wider release date to be announced.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Unsane Trailer

Sometimes I wish I could just watch movie trailers instead of full length movies. You get all the good meaty parts without all of the disappointing baggage that sometimes comes along with the finished product. Look at this tailer for Unsane and tell me I'm wrong. Not sure how the end result will be but what a fantastic sense of claustrophobic paranoia has been packed into a 2:48 video.

Unsane tells the story of a young woman who live in fear of a stalker and through a series of inexplicable circumstances finds herself committed to an institution where she faces her greatest fear - not knowing what is real and what is delusion. Working in it's favor, Unsane has the distinction of being the first movie filmed completely with an iPhone in 4K. Guess it's good for more than cute cat videos.

Less gimmicky but just is important, it stars Claire Foy who has kept my eyes glued to the screen for two amazing seasons as Queen Elizabeth in Netflix's The Crown. I think she is a star on the rise. She has to be doing something right because her next big role is Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in Spider's Web. If you don't know and I don't see how you couldn't, that role has been fearlessly played by Noomi Rapace in three films and Ronney Mara in a perfectly decent but slightly paler Hollywood version of the character.

Unsane directed by the wildly unpredictable Steven Soderbergh premiers the 23rd of March.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

God's Own Country - Much More Than a British Brokeback Mountain

God's Own Country, a British film that premiered at Sundance in 2017, suffered from a marketing problem right out of the gate. It was instantly dubbed a "British Brokeback Mountain" and as far as LGBT films from last year, Call Me by Your Name was taking up most of the space in the room. I am here to do my part and remedy some of that. God's Own Country is a distinct movie that deserves a lot more attention.

Early in God's Own Country, you may feel like the director (Francis Lee) is trying to turn you off or at least showing you that he is not one for compromise. There's a rough impersonal gay sex scene, hungover vomiting and a farmer elbow deep in a birthing cow. All of this eventually coalesces into the story of Johnny (Josh O'Connor), a young sheep rancher in Yorkshire who is more than just a bit rough around the edges. He's destructive and not very likable with a blunt bitterness towards the word he feels is leaving him behind. The family farm is falling apart after his father had a debilitating stroke and it's left mostly to him and his Nana (grandmother) to handle it all. I could understand wanting to be uninvited to this mud stained pity party. However you will be glad if you stick around.

Enter Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), a worker from Romania that the father has hired to help out during "lambing" season. Gheorghe is brooding and quiet but in a way that instantly annoys Johnny who tends toward the immature. When the two have to spend a couple of nights together tending to some sheep and experiencing the miracle of birth (you'll know every interesting and gross fact about sheep giving birth after watching this movie) they clash at first and then Gheorghe makes the simmering hostility physical and put's Johnny in his place. That scene sparks everything that happens after. The relationship quickly becomes sexual and then in a slow burn, turns intimate.

I can instantly zero in on what I loved about this movie. Coming out stories and the accompanying angst are valuable and have their place. God's Own Country is not one of those. It's implied that Johnny's former friends from school and his Nana at least know he is gay. His dad probably knows too but that's not dinner conversation in rural Yorkshire. Instead of "that" story, God's Own Country gets to tell a genuine, down to earth (literally, again there is so much mud) love story. Johnny has probably never been in love before and has absolutely no idea how to act when he is trying to attract rather than repel. Gheorghe has to, in some cases, physically walk Johnny through it all. The titillating sex scenes give way to quiet moments such as the two in the bath together sharing a cigarette. Add in the gorgeous scenes of the rolling grasslands of northern England and a gritty story has transformed as much as Johnny himself. I give this an A and offer the advice that unless you are British, turn on the subtitles. They think they are speaking English but who knows? Don't get mad. I'm an anglophile and my British friends know the teasing is the gentlest sort.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Trailer for Hereditary - A Movie that Drove Sundance Crazy This Year

The scariest movie of 2018
A new generation's The Exorcist
Pure emotional terrorism

These are some of the things being said about Hereditary, a movie that premiered at Sundance earlier this month. I think that might be laying it on a bit thick but check it out. It's a masterfully crafted trailer for a horror movie and reminds me that even though her career has highs and lows, Toni Collette is an amazing actress. Plus dollhouses are creepy and that little girl made me wish I wasn't home alone right now.

Hereditary starring Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, and Milly Shapiro opens on June 8th.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Mute - A Netflix Original

Looking through new trailers and realized I had two Paul Rudd options. The big Marvel production of Ant Man and the Wasp or Mute, a much more mysterious offering from Netflix. I'm always more drawn to the unknown; so I decided to write about Mute.

This trailer is heavy on atmosphere but not so much on plot. The official synopsis is that in the near future a man who cannot speak dives deep into the seedy underbelly of Berlin to find his missing girlfriend. I like it. Visually it's obviously giving a nod to movies like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell (hopefully without being redundant). While reading about this movie, I did find one big plus. Mute is directed by Duncan Jones who also did Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011). I thoroughly love both movies and don't turn down an opportunity to watch them again. Even more exciting, Duncan has said that Mute is set in the same universe as Moon and Source Code. The words "shared universe" make my heart beat a bit faster.

With an impressive cast of Alexander Skarsgard, Justin Theroux, Sam Rockwell, Paul Rudd and Paul Rudd's mustache, fingers are crossed that this will be a high point on the roller coaster ride that is Netflix originals. Mute will premier on Netflix February 23rd.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Please Stand By

Consider this less a review and more of a recommendation. If the words "Spock visits Deep Space Nine" mean something to you then Please Stand By may be the nerdy, warm, fuzziness you need. Starring Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette and a Klingon speaking Patton Oswalt, Please Stand By tells the story of a young autistic woman who runs away from her structured life (with adorable dog in tow) to hand deliver her original Star Trek story to a writing competition. As I predicted it really is a sweet, funny, road trip movie that will even be enjoyed by the pop culture challenged who mix up Star Trek and Star Wars. Available to rent or buy this week.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Saturday Church

I recently wrote about the movie Freak Show with it's flamboyant main character who described himself as a "gender obliviator" (I fully realize that sounds like a Harry Potter spell). This week I found Saturday Church which might have similar themes but it is far more grounded in unforgiving reality

Saturday Church can accurately be described as work of magical realism. Part musical and part coming of age story. Ulysses (Luka Kain) is a deeply quiet and introverted gay teen who has just lost his father. His new reality is that mom is working extra shifts at night to make up the income and she has invited Aunt Rose (Regina Taylor) to watch him and his younger brother. Aunt Rose is an old school, strict and sometimes sour woman who keeps one suspicious eye on Ulysses at all times. You see, Ulysses seems ok with his semi secret of being gay but lives in fear that people will find out he is fascinated with dressing in women's clothing. He's been caught doing it at least once and promised his parents he would never do it again but he's a teenager; so of course he's lying. Feeling less and less welcome in his own home, he begins sneaking out at night and is introduced to Saturday Church, a program for at risk LGBT youth. Hanging out with them only stokes his desires and opens him up to a world he knows to be his own. There's an inevitable confrontation with Aunt Rose and Ulysses runs away and finds himself on the streets.

With a running time of only 82 minutes, Saturday Church at times feels less like a fully fleshed out movie and more like "a very special episode" of your favorite teen drama. Character development is scarified so that the story can be rushed to a satisfying ending. Also the musical numbers are mixed and don't always gel. At first they add some whimsy to what is very heavy material. I don't know exactly how to describe it but later musical numbers seem tepid. One especially dour song for example is set in what must the most tidy homeless shelter in all of NYC. With all of that said, Luka Kain is amazing as Ulysses. He manages to convey a whole world of emotions with a scant amount of dialogue. The friends he meets at Saturday Church keep everything from going too dark by supplying a lot of humor and some real attitude. Perhaps the saving grace is small bit at the end where we see Ulysses as he has always wanted to be - a confident and fierce person that Aunt Rose wouldn't stand a chance against. Stick around for the credits too. You get a fun look at some of the real participants in the "Ball Culture" that was made famous in the documentary Paris is Burning (1990). If that reference is unfamiliar then I'll go more mainstream and just say "Madonna's Vogue". Saturday Church may falter at times but my final grade is a B-.