SONG TO SONG (2017)

Written & Directed By: Terrence Malick 
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki
Editor: Hank Corwin, Keith Frase & Rehman Nizarali 

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Val Kilmer, Berniece Marlohe 

Two intersecting love triangles. Obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas.


The film offers cameos from bands and musicians. Like Robert Altman’s THE PLAYER only less about the life and business just what kind of culture it takes place in 

The film is filled more with moments of the day-to-day. That is broken into fragments and left for us to witness and examine. As really the film takes place and shows us the lives of those attending a music festival. 

As it becomes a travelogue of the surroundings with a love of narration, that is supposed to help explain but becomes more oddly poetic. Meaning that what we see while visually stunning is a surface. While we learn what is underneath from the narration. Which offers up an explanation of sorts. 

The films of Writer/Director Terrence Malick usually revolve around the individual and their relationships with the world. Romantic and intimate ones are at the heart of the films. 

This could have easily been a modern NASHVILLE type ensemble, but the music festival is a backdrop for the intentions of music. With emotions and thoughts expressed through the melody with words. just like an album has a bunch of songs. Some are in the same Mold and some are distinct. Others offer a different slice of life and a continuation of themes,  but still a different moment and rules.

Going in you don’t know what to expect. But when it comes to director Terrence Malik’s later films. You kind of do, wide-angle lenses, narration, beautiful cinematography, poetic license almost abstract to the non-existent story. Left for you to meditate on, believing that this new film will be the one they have wanted from him and waited for. That will be his next BADLANDS or DAYS OF HEAVEN 

He tries to stick with the story more and each time while considered good. Not the classic fans hoped for. Though that seems better and is taken more seriously later,  then When they come out originally slow them to be seen more as pieces of art. Then just movies. Even if more and more end up as passable yet disappointing to a certain degree rather than good or even memorable 

The camera never really stops. We see private moments more glossy and pretty people doing normal things. Only with more shine and attention on these moments. Offering Communication through images. Never let lies during full conversations do it.

Though you might know what to expect. Though he offers you shards and then Leaves you to interpret and figure out what just happened. Sometimes with Narrations that sound like excerpts from books 

Usually, Actors clamor to work with Mr. Malik and his films usually are star-studded. Only then did he cut out half of them from the film. As they are not needed in what he wants to present. Which he finds during the editing process. 

So his films always seem like a cut he came to that was releasable after cutting down in the editing room from what might be the first draft filmed. If there was even a script. That it ends up feeling like A book with missing chapters and characters whose fate we never learn.

It ends up feeling more Like a music video with a score but missing the main song as there is a score but no singing necessarily. 

As characters who are almost like newborns come in and take out the narrative partially after an initial connection. Twisting things around a bit. 

Then the actors are filmed like fashion shoots. Like a footnote or introduction to a side story that affects the overall narrative.

Usually one can get excited when he sets his films in the present. Not so much historical epics,  but his strongest films are those usually based on books and true stories that have actual plots. Allowing them each a few chapters they tend to overlap through each other. To be the one In control of their own POV and their marriage and romantic missteps with guest stars.

The film seems to want to be ambitious but leaves itself hard to grade as it comes across more as an art installation rather than a film. 

TO THE WONDER was his last most consistent film.  As it seems the most focused 

This ends up as A long movie that feels longer than it is and monotonous 

It seems like Michael Fassbender’s character is a music manager who is in love with Rooney mara’s character, who works for him and is mildly in the know but once she falls in love with Ryan gosling’s character. At first, she still cheats with Fassbender. Then once she stops, Fassbender meets and marries shortly afterward a waitress he picks up quickly. Where it is all love at first then they start to sleep around. Until she has a romantic liaison and he gets her into drugs and groupies 

Then His wife dies and Mara’s character is with gosling. But he seems to still have feelings for his ex and they break up. Once he finds out Rooney had an affair. She signs with Fassbender and then has a same-sex relationship. Gosling moves home to be around family and falls for Cate Blanchett who no one seems to think is good for him. So it continuously plays with this melodrama. 

This is one of these Films where you find yourself constantly checking the time where it’s headed and shocked it’s not over yet. 

A film that might be smarter than the audience. It is also a film that wants the audience To Interpret it all rather than explain. which can equal big filmmaking wishes handled by a true artist or someone who knows what they are doing.

He sets himself apart as Brave. Most filmmakers choose to have the audience interpret relationships or endings or characters. 

Whereas by the end explaining the plot/story is simple as there is so little of it. It whereas it is started out with visuals montages narration poetry, but barely any music which the title suggests there should be more of some 

It all feels Pretentious where One might wonder if the director had a script as it feels like there is none and they are making it up as they go along at the location and trying to fit it all In

In the end, the film doesn’t offer as much music as expected 

Grade: C

SPARTAN (2004)

Written & Directed By: David Mamet
Cinematography By: Juan Ruiz Anchia
Editor: Barbara Tulliver

Cast: Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, Kristen Bell, Tia Texada, Stephen Culp, Clark Gregg, Ed O’Neill, Aaron Stanford, Geoff Pierson, William H. Macy, Said Taghmaoui, Zosia Mamet

Maverick Ranger Scott, known for ruthless, unorthodox methods but good results, is called in to help the secret service after Washington big whig’s brat daughter is abducted while studying at Harvard. Scott quickly realizes the protection detail’s prime suspect, her boyfriend Michael Blake, is innocent and dumped her for being a drug-addicted slut. Next, he traces her to a bordello, only to realize the captors didn’t realize who she is but simply recruited her for the Middle Eastern white slavery market, and are likely to dispose of her rather than confront her father. But instead of the support expected in such a high-profile case, Scott gets orders to work in secret before the press catches on, and even finds his quest sabotaged.


This is a tight and taut film. Like a clock with airtight precision. It is also a strange film that has a rhythm and beat all its own.

It’s a top-notch thriller with a good story that plays small and close to the chest rather than a grand conspiracy blockbuster, but when you think you have it figured out. A twist you honestly didn’t see comes, then another one, then another one.

Truthfully I wouldn’t expect any less from playwright-writer-director David Mamet. Though I must say that while this is good. it is one of his lesser works. Which considering the excellent standing of his previous films isn’t bad.

His films specialize in sleight of hand movies. These days though he seems to take stories where you know and subvert them so you care more about the characters, their rapid-fire dialogue, and line delivery which have hidden meanings. Characters’ faces rarely betray emotion but do say so much with simple gestures and tone.

This film is noteworthy for a few reasons. It’s one of the closest Mamet will ever get to mainstream entertainment blockbuster type. Which is the direction. he has a top-notch low-key cast. Val Kilmer is the lead for one of the few times that a film he appears in makes it to the big screen. He really doesn’t get enough credit for how good an actor he is.

The film moves at a slow pace which adds to the slow burn of scenes, it is ultimately rewarding and gives the film more nuance. As it fleshes out characters. Which in other films would be strictly one-note. Mamet shows the procedures and what motivates their actions and reactions. So that you don’t get too far ahead of the lead, but doesn’t not leave you behind him in some scenes.

This film has action but is low on it. A fight scene for instance is started, but the camera stays on the face of Val Kilmer. while he watches it instead of on the actual action. So you can use your imagination to fill in the blanks while hearing it. Then you see the aftermath of the fight.

David Mamet performed rewrites during production using nothing more than a typewriter on a cardboard box between takes.

Except for a single day on a soundstage, the film was shot exclusively at practical locations.

Producer Art Linson and David Mamet were having lunch when Linson informed Mamet that he could not get anything more than a no-frills budget for the movie. Val Kilmer was literally at the next table. Linson knew Kilmer and asked him to come over, and they talked about the production. Kilmer was so impressed with the story and Mamet’s vision that he agreed to the role of giving a significant discount to facilitate Franchise Pictures giving a green-light to the production.

The film might be an acquired taste as I went to this film with one of my constant film companions my female cousin who was bored and really didn’t like the film. While I was quite captivated throughout

I don’t want to spoil too much, that would spoil the experience of seeing it with open eyes. Which I believe is where much of the film’s enjoyment lies.

One of the problems, with the film, is that one character does who is very close to the lead. When it happens he shows no emotions, but later when a character dies who the lead barely knows he tears up like a baby, delayed reaction as the person was hardly innocent. It feels out of place.

David Mamet incorporated a number of real-life experiences from various U.S. special forces members for the production, including Eric L. Haney who had served in highly classified operations during his 20-year military career. Haney’s experience included front-line combat units as a combat infantryman, as an Army Ranger, and as a founding operator within the elite Delta Force under Colonel Charlie Beckwith.

These experiences helped Haney effectively serve as a technical advisor, weapons expert, and actor’s mentor to Val Kilmer, ensuring that Kilmer reflected an accurate depiction of a special forces operative in every capacity. Haney retired as a highly decorated Sergeant Major, and his documented experience also includes security surveys, metro SWAT team arms training, oil company guard force management, executive protection, and the recovery of American children kidnapped and taken overseas.

The film never comes completely alive for all the thrills stays sedate and calm. While the size of production staying small and intimate brings a certain reality to the conspiracy it also feels like a letdown as the size of the story seems more on The scale of epic Or at least bigger proportions.

This is Mamet keeping his style for a major release that offers him a bigger palate. It actually reminds me of the minimalist style of Steven Soderbergh. I am surprised they never collaborated on a project.

 Grade: B

JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT (2020)

Written, Edited  & Directed By: Kevin Smith
Cinematography: Yaron Levy 

Cast: Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Fred Armisen, Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Chris Jericho, Shannon Elizabeth, Rosario Dawson, Harley Quinn Smith, Joey Lauren Adams, Diedrich Bader, Craig Robinson, Justin Long, Donell Rawlings, Aparna Brielle, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Johnny Bananas, Joe Manganiallo, Karruche Tran, Melissa Benoit, Jason Biggs, Adam Brody, Val Kilmer, Kate Micucci, James Van Der Beek, Redman, Joe Reitman, Alice Wan, Brian O’Halloran, Tommy Chong, Keith Coogan, Molly Shannon, Dan Folger, Ralph Garman, Chris Hemsworth, Frankie Shaw, Treshelle Edmond 

Jay and Silent Bob inadvertently sign away their names and rights to the new Bluntman and Chronic movie. Now they head to Hollywood to stop the film from being made. Along the way Jay discovers that he is a father.


The film is a road-trip comedy. Where the story is there to explain and get the audience to the journey. Yet the reasons are more ridiculous.

It’s also a movie where half the fun of it is sporting the cameos and so-called guest stars

This is a film that is hard for me to review. Because as much of a fan as I am of Kevin Smith and his movies. At this point, he truly doesn’t care about impressing anyone outside of his fan base really or necessarily making more conventional films. At this point, he has a large following film-wise of usually the same age group most of his films are aimed at. Through podcasts, comic books as well as directing television shows. So that when he makes films it is for a niche audience of loyal fans and followers. So that it shows he is thankful and appreciated their loyalty. This is why for me it usually feels like a Joy to watch any new film he has ou

As usual, one has interest though more and more it seems like a chore. 

As with many different aging comedians like Adam Sandler and to a degree Eddie Murphy. He is willing to try new things once in a while but also seems like he is going after a young audience or the same audience he has always had only the next generation of them. By making his movies more for teens and kids. As they get juvenile and raunchy humor with big words but also as they get older they will find themselves loyal and beholden to him

As they grew up with his films. Planned or not. It also helps that he comes off always like a decent regular guy. Who just happened to get his dream job.

He also has always seemed to have a self-deprecating sense of humor and as he gets older he sharpens and aims for himself more and more. 

So that if you are a fan of his films and humor. You should enjoy this film. If not it might be a little harder for you to enjoy. As the fun of this movie is having previous knowledge of the characters and situations. Catching up with a lot of them over the years.

The film feels like a gift to his audience. As it brings back his most popular characters again for their own movie. A kind of sequel to JAY & SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK. Only as it seems to be directed to serve a younger teen audience. As well as hand it off to the next generation of characters and but like his previous film this feels like a present to pass on to his daughter. Who stars in this film And is a fine presence and likable. As she has appeared in many of his films previously and starred in YOGA HOSERS. Which thankfully this film is much better then. 

The film and its humor is still profane. Yet it still satirizes the characters as well as some of the actors participating in personal triumphs and give a reunion of sorts for various view askew character to appear throughout. As it shows just an exuberance of joy and goodwill which is how he also seems to snag some big names in self-deprecating cameos. 

The film ends up being crude yet fun it stays entertaining even if it feels a bit long and excessive. Also, he seems sometimes to be too hard on himself when being self-deprecating. 

The film stays purely comedic throughout in a more silly slapstick way and offers the young female characters not only a point of view but a chance to shine. Where the film isn’t all about sex nor focused on them more as sexual objects. He actually makes the characters and more part of the action. Which shows some growth for him. Not that he was a huge misogynist before or anything but wrote what he knew and characters more like himself. 

Your knowledge of his previous films will affect your enjoyment of this one. If you are a fan this will be a slam dunk, but if you are a critic of his previous work this will not be the one to convince you otherwise. 

Grade: C

BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS (2009)

badlieu

 

Director: Werner Herzog
Written By: William M. Finkelstein
Cinematography By: Peter Zeitlinger
Editor: Joe Bini

Cast: Nicholas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Irma P. Hall, Brad Douriff, Xzibit, Shawn Hatosy, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Shannon, Fairuza Balk, Denzel Whitaker, Shea Wingham, Nick Gomez

After Katrina, police sergeant Terence McDonagh rescues a prisoner, hurts his back in the process and earns a promotion to lieutenant plus an addiction to cocaine and painkillers. Six months later, a family is murdered over drugs; Terence runs the investigation. His drug-using prostitute girlfriend, his alcoholic father’s dog, run-ins with two old women and a well-connected john, gambling losses, a nervous young witness, and thefts of police property put Terence’s job and then his life in danger. He starts seeing things. He wants a big score to get out from under mounting debts, so he joins forces with drug dealers. The murders remain unsolved. A bad lieutenant gets worse.

Continue reading “BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS (2009)”