Joel's Reviews

→ in

Phantom Thread
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

I made sure to pay very close attention to this romantic drama starring Daniel Day Lewis and a very beautiful Vickie Krieps. I had no distractions and I was ready for greatness based upon my reappraisal and pleasure with Anderson's last two challenging films (There Will Be Blood and The Master).

However, I can't say that I was super impressed with Phantom Thread, and unlike The Master or There Will Be Blood, I was at home when I watched it, and didn't feel as if I had to watch it again and again to pick up on something I "missed". I saw the film, I digested it fully, and was still left kind of hollow and bewildered.

The first hour or so is absolutely dull, and I don't mean that as an insult as much as a straight up fact. It's slow, un-involving, and quite frankly, a bit pretentious. Ok, so, no big surprise. Let's not forget who we're dealing with here, it's Mr. P.T.Anderson, after all.

My main issue was the narrative, although interestingly written to a certain degree (hard headed wife lightly poisons work-a-holic artist husband to get him vulnerable so she can feel more wanted), the pay off was kind of cobbled together and didn't hit that grand note of irony for me that was clearly trying to do so to a general audience used to this kind of work; elegant, subdued, paced, and engaging. My problem was that I wasn't engaged. Aside from a few F words that seemed to be the only element to break up the strictly light PG grayness of the complete running time, I felt this movie had very little humor, which was a surprise. It's a bit of a mad love story, sure - but I expected so much more from a film maker like Paul Thomas Anderson.

The things that seemed perfectly fine were the sets, costuming, lighting, and music score. All of these were beautiful and strange, but nothing too extraordinary. Johnny Greenwood's score was impressive, if not a bit on the classical and routine side. I don't know. There seemed to be potential, but it just didn't cross all of the T's.

The narrative, or lack of - that was another big issue. The whole sub plot with the doctor. We are never even sure if the wife had an affair with him, and by the end of the film it seemed like either that portion of the story was cut out, or just never really finished being written. It only served as a red herring distraction for what is essentially no climax aside from a rather silly character arc from the dress maker, as he finally gives in to the poisonous treatment and jokingly falls back in love with his nutty wife, even going so far as to tell her to close the door behind her when he's about to vomit, all the while donning a wide grin on his face.

Not sure I thought that was especially good writing, but it was different, I'll give it that. Having said "I'll give it that" - well, "that" still isn't enough because this movie almost seems to aim for black comedy but somehow just drops the ball and comes off serious. OK, so it's a serious drama, right? Wrong. WRONG!! It doesn't even honor a gothic fiendishness, and that is sorely missing from a film that only hints at what it could have been.

If invisible nuance and more of the same long stretch is what defines a good film for you-then I can strongly recommend Phantom Thread. But if you want an OK Computer to a Kid A progression,'re not going to get it. Anderson seems to have gone a bit backwards with his high reaching pattern. He's made an elegant film for "Adults", but it doesn't have any teeth. I suppose us as the general audience should be happy we got something extravagant in the way of sets and clothing.

Points sustained for gorgeous rendering of locations and some decent enough moments, but hardly a great film.

when harry met sally
- 1989 dir rob reiner

Nora Ephron, Reiner and Crystal, along with Meg Ryan, all chipped in on the script with bits and pieces to make this snappy dialog picture fire on all of its cylinders, but it's the basic layout, structure and heart of the movie that should go to Ephron who had a stroke of genius with how this film plays out. The emotional component is that of a nurtured relationship that seems destined to evolve into an explosion of mad love. But it's this very premise, as well executed as it is - that ultimately undermines the picture. It's because it takes too long to get to the obvious. Even with the understanding that the filmmakers wanted to really build it up - by the time it finally gets there and we can say "ah, they're pefect for each other!", the audience has already been waiting 90 mins or more. It's serviced from the start so there are no real surprises here.

The good part is that the journey is worth its weight in gold. It's a funny, light and entertaining film - something Reiner knows how to slap together. He's a damn good director, and as showboaty and stereotypical as he gets with his characterizations and actor wrangling, he really does have his heart in the right place. That seems to be a trademark with him. He means well, and more often than not - he scores on multiple levels, which is kind of rare because I don't see his contemporaries like Ron Howard even being able to sustain that in their body of work. Reiner is less homogenized as a comedy director, and his familiar venture in romantic comedy drama hits notes that don't envelope themselves in a thick and cerebral domain. Instead his notes make the ride stress-free (at the expense of some believability). I mean come on already, we get it. They're going to hook up. Some of Meg Ryan's acting is very obvious and community theater, but there are also moments where she blows me away. She's very good, and she has that face that made me pay attention when she is kissed. It's her virtuosity that balances between cartoonish and obvious, to deep and vulnerable that makes the sauce not taste like syrup. She may lean towards the sugar bowl a little too often playing her nose up in the air when she tries to act upset, but when she lets the camera give her a moment to play her own beat she's really hot stuff.

Crystal can't carry a picture with much depth. He's a comedian, and mostly just that. But in this film he works because he plays along so well with the script. It really was made for him so it's a shoo in for all intents and purposes. It's not that he's unbelievable as a romantic lead, it's just that he isn't required to go to any dark places, and that's just fine considering this isn't that kind of movie, anyway. So this doesn't really qualify as a negative criticism as much as it's a statement about how to make a good recipe compared to how to make a bad one. If Henry Rollins kissed Meg Ryan I'd have to shut it off.

It's a good movie.

R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman
There is no greater actor at this time
I thought he was the best while he was with us. You see Before the Devil Knows Your Dead?
Yeah i think i have a review on here...good flick

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) dir: Dan Gilroy

A winking horror film that deals with the art world, gallery owners, artists and commerce - all very unsuccessfully.

What could have been a creative and limitless piece of film making is instead a diluted and highly embarrassing satire that quite frankly doesn't even deserve that word to be attached to it - satire. A satirical film is at worst slightly clever and at best game changing. Velvet Buzzsaw is such an awful movie that I was in utter shock at how the ratings were so high for this.

Jake Gyllenhaal does what he can with the camp factor. His delivery is good as usual, but then again we're forced to witness a completely unrelated fascination with his creatine and anabolic steroidal work out regimen in some grotesque fashion where it appears he's joining the neckless fraternity in the legion of jocks. Ok, then we have Jon Malkovich who just seems to pop in to lend some art cred I guess? What? Why?

Renee Russo does nothing but grate on the nerves as she tries to be a 65 year old bad ass sexpot as a former member of a rock group calling themselves Velvet Buzzsaw. OK, so..wait WHAT?! Why is this movie called Velvet Buzzsaw again? The name has absolutely nothing to do with what's happening in the story aside from a brief mention of her band (which by the way is an obvious and uninspired rip off of Velvet Underground or even more likely Velvet Goldmine and adding Buzzsaw instead) and some cheap kill gag involving a tattoo. Oy, this is such a garbage movie.

Nothing is funny. Nothing is interesting. No technique is explored. Every piece of an attempt at having fangs in the script is just more recycled stereotype about what the art world is on a commercial level. Yeah, we've seen it before. It's all been done better in movies that only briefly touched on that part of the planet.

I think the only part I laughed at was when some entitled little art skeez was freaking out, tapping away at her phone trying to close out of an art image that wouldn't go away. Yikes! Did I mention that this movie is a piece of shlt yet?

"Hey, I have an idea! Let's take a movie about the art world and politics, and cross pollinate it with an old slasher movie, except we'll write the jokes flat and obvious and leave any true scares or ingenuity completely out!"

Hey, ya sold me! I'm the sucker who watched it. Brought to you by the always reliable folks over at Netflix! Yayy!!

The Highwaymen (2019)
dir: Johnny Lee Hancock

Costner and Harrelson get cast alongside each other as two Texas rangers on the trail of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde crime spree. The film tells the story from the viewpoint of the law and makes many attempts to sway the public embrace of B&C as modern day Robin Hoods, instead painting a picture of sociopath criminals with no regard for human life. It is successful at this illustration.

The tone of the film is very dark. The cinematography is crisp and deliberate, sometimes beautiful. Costner seems to have grown into a good character as in the past I've found his acting to be soulless and wooden. There is a certain depth with him here, as if his entire career was building up to this moment with his acting choices. Possibly Costner was just ahead of his time?

Harrelson pretty much plays it like he always does. Southern drawl, cheery disposition, able to let the expository work flow from his assured tempo. Maybe a bit too Hollywood for some tastes, but effective.

As a buddy film little struck me as very good, but moments throughout didn't keep the box unchecked as a success, however minor the chemistry. As a drama some moments stand out. Quiet moments. A rim lit Costner on the porch in 2 different locations, brooding at night, just outside of an open window. Looks like director Hancock saw a good thing and decided to use it twice.

The plot was a bit confusing, as the subtext was buried in garbled dialog that would require a rewind to catch it all. On a streaming service this isn't the most desirable way to take everything in, as losing your spot in the movie is all too common for a netflix type of scenario. I didn't bother rewinding so perhaps a deeper film with more perspective was there, but I didn't see it for better or worse.

This is a good film. It's a damn good film. There's a passion about it, like a fever dream between the master shots and the music score, letting small moments play that I really responded to. ie - the car pulls over to show the two rangers switching seats, taking turns on who would be driving, just as the sun is going down. A camera floats over the greenest grass at night while the rangers enter a dark and abandoned house, looking for clues.

My complaints are that some of the script elements are too on the nose, like when Costner's character confides in Clyde's gas station attendant father played by William Sadler. It seemed a bit too melodramatic and heart sleeve too quick, too convenient, and knew it, so it tried covering its tracks by openly addressing it "why are you telling me this?" (referring to Costner's break from icy secrecy into divulgence of his haunted past).

It's a minor classic, The Highwaymen. I have noticed that nowadays with all of the films coming home to roost on the internet, that something has been lost, something in the way of confidence, the way to tell a story, the old master way of putting something on the screen, avoiding the prominence of attractive shortcuts and sound bytes that may cheapen the film. This film falls victim at times to the new copy paste way of selling its product, modernized goal posts that break the authenticity of the era depicted - the music score, as good as it is - can be heard as something of a deterrent, as well as some of the attitudes and acting chops - they ring a little too true to the online culture of meta awareness that history has clearly shown wasn't really in the vernacular back then, how could it be? But this is forgivable because after all, it's a movie and it certainly isn't the first time that modern sheen has been injected into a period piece to wake it up for demanding audiences who need sugar with their tea. It's clear to see that inside The Highwaymen there is a really, really good film, and that gets my respect.

Mandy by Panos Cosmatos

Well, I did re-watch this to give it a fair shake, and all I have to add now is that this film would have been a lot better if it'd been balanced more tonally. Nic Cage's joke moments land weird. Like, we're in an unrelenting nightmare world and he cracks a one-liner about a torn t-shirt. This didn't seem like that kind of movie, even though I guess technically it is.

I did appreciate most of the visuals and incredible music score. This is book ended by a decent love story, even though brief. My thoughts are that Mandy saw the evil in her lover on first sight and somehow did call out for the carnage and heartache that was to follow. If you really look at the clues it's plain to see that Mandy was gravitating towards evil the entire time but stumbled on some amateur hour cult that made her jaded and soon after burned at the stake. Cage's character found his calling. He loved and then became darkness to avenge his love, but it all played out like a perfect fate warts and all.

I did like the movie but thought some of the script elements were a little too mismatched to make it that perfect movie it probably could have been with a more carefully measured presentation by way of editing/writing. For example the expository scene with Bill Duke seemed a miscast of Duke's talents. The writing seemed too broad and on the nose at the same time. It could have been written more cryptically and Duke's delivery seemed too deflated. Also, because this seemed a pinnacle moment of story, Cage's "don't be negative" remark seemed out of character for a guy who just saw his girlfriend burned alive.

I prefer the theatrical cut to the extended DC. I feel the off world colony didn't really need to be seen as the aftermath still puts across the despair in spades considering a little girl is living in an AC duct.
Yeah I think imagining what happened to them – and Newt – is far worse.

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama

1988, not quite the 90's but definitely a few steps away from the concentrated era of the mid eighties. Direct to video releases become more and more common, and sleazy exploitation films adopt a newer, more polished sheen.

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama is an almost perfect example of capturing that campy, cozy and one stop shop video going experience. It had a limited theatrical run (if at all), and was released to the market amidst several other low budget affair, but unlike its contemporaries, say, Chopping Mall, the fun in this movie plays better. The locations are more decadent, the skin is more decadent, the camera work and lighting are many cuts above average, and the acting is almost twice as nerve grating.

This is one stupid little movie which is why it's almost sheer perfection for anyone looking for a mindless and fun film with atmosphere to spare.

The basic story is that three college boy doofuses find themselves in company of three attractive sorority girls at an after hours bowling alley/shopping mall on an initiation dare to steal a league trophy.

Somewhere along the way a genie is unleashed from the trophy and wishes are to be granted. From there things turn weird and silly, but not without a heaping dose of light show and comedy that always lands with a loud thud.

And while most of the humor that's intentional fails to leave a lasting impression, it's the quickly sketched lines that make a mark. Abbot and Costello routines sometimes find their way in as well as foul analogies muttered by a night janitor. Linnea Quigley shows her guns and everyone else just simply gets naked for long stretches of time.

There's nothing like a movie you've never seen before that is able to take you back like a time capsule and deliver the mood and fun of an 80's video fringe night in such a way where the first time feels like the 5th time, and there's not many movies that are so bad and average that can pull all of this off while still being moderately tame save some nudity and a decapitation.

This gets a high mark for me because it hit the right spot at exactly the right time. I won't pretend it'll do the same for anyone else, though.

[center][b][size="7"] Costner seems to have grown into a good character as in the past I've found his acting to be soulless and wooden]
I just said this to a friend after watching Tin Cup the other day.. for some reason I found myself thinking Patrick Swayze would have been better in the role.
I wanna be sedated

Dolemite is my Name (2019)

Eddie is back in hard R rated territory finally after decades of pg-13 maximum. I guess he was being a good dad and not making filth flarn, flarn filth in those years.

Though I didn't laugh but a half handful of times (and the chuckles were minor), this was a well made movie on a technical level. I suppose because this was a "crafted" film, and not a knee slapper - it most likely is the reason why Eddie isn't nearly as funny as he can be. The thing about Murphy, especially in later years of his career, is that it isn't what he says that makes him funny as hell, it's the look in his eyes and the sound of his voice when he fever pitches his manic delivery. We catch a glimpse or two of this in Dolemite, but not much more because the story is hard at work here, which is commendable.

I'm not sure I'd see this film again because, though decent and heartfelt, it does drag a bit with the mechanics of allowing Rudy's story to unfold, and the comic potential suffers for it, but, I am glad that this film has all the esteem behind it because that means Murphy has finally broken his bad track record, and will hopefully be back to make us bust up again really soon.

Decoder (1984)

German art film from early 80's offers tons of seemingly unrelated micro imagery, gel blends by lighting, and graphic violence.

The story doesn't make a lot of sense, and the telling of the tale is pretty funny from a technical standpoint, but if you're looking to reinvigorate your creative well, Decoder is a film maker's late night treat.


No, thanks.

Decoder (1984)
The DVD was essential to me thanks to the personnel involved and the industrial-avant style (both in the music and images), but I agree, it's just not very entertaining or as thought-provoking as it wants to be.