Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Sincere in its intentions, the film never manages more than polemic
Menna Chalaby and Bassem Samra star in 'After The Battle,' one of the films in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival
CANNES -Well-intentioned, unfortunately, is not enough for a film to work. If it were, then most films would be great and that's simply not the case.
Yousry Nasrallah's new film, "After The Battle," has huge ambition, and on that level, I can certainly empathize with the film's goals. Set during the Arab Spring of last year, the film tells the story of Reem (Menna Chalaby), an Egyptian woman who works in television commercials, who is incredibly passionate about the possibility of a new democracy in Egypt. She's tired of dealing with the way women are treated in Egyptian society, and she believes that the revolution has a chance to change things. Her beliefs are challenged when she meets Mahmoud (Bassem Samra), a horseman who was part of the "Battle of the Camels," where armed camel and horse riders swept into Tahrir square to attack anyone who was staging anti-Mubarak demonstrations. Very quickly, the protestors turned the horsemen away, attacking and injuring many of them, including Mahmoud, whose image ends up on YouTube, a symbol of the way the country is rejecting old values.
A warm, heartfelt look at first love and community, 'Moonrise' is Anderson at his best
Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward play Sam and Suzy, the young lovers whose plan to run away together sets off a metaphorical storm in a small island community in 'Moonrise Kingdom,' the new film from Wes Anderson.
Credit: Focus Features
CANNES - By now, if you are at all familiar with the work of Wes Anderson, you have no doubt come to some opinion about his general aesthetic choices. He has a very particular sensibility in his work, and it has evolved over time, although his harshest critics might claim it has ossified. I like his voice, his approach to character, and his compositional sense, and in general, I find Anderson's films to be enjoyable because I know what I'm getting when I sit down to one. All that changes is the story he's telling, and in the case of "Moonrise Kingdom," I think he's at his very best, energized by the subject matter and blessed with a cast that came ready to play.
"Moonrise" takes place in the days before a historic storm that sweeps through a small island community in 1965, as Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), two 12-year-olds, run away together, sure that they have no place in their respective families and desperate for a connection that means something. Their decision ends up sending shockwaves through the community around them, including Suzy's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), Sam's scoutmaster (Edward Norton), and the sheriff of the island (Bruce Willis). Like much of Anderson's work, the film is often very funny, but there is a deep longing that underlines everything we see, and in the end, I was moved by what he's saying here, and by the work of his entire cast.
Befuddling in concept, frustrating in execution, this is why people hate summer movies
Nope. Don't know what it's doing or why, and frankly, I reached a point where I just didn't care.
Credit: Universal Pictures
"Battleship" is, in a word, ridiculous.
Even sitting down to write about the film, I feel ridiculous. It's a movie in name only, a simulation of a movie, and it is by far the strangest thing that Peter Berg has ever put his name on. I do not see the director of "The Rundown" or "Friday Night Lights" in this film at all. That's not to say it is without any personal touches, but they feel more like him distracting himself from the absurdity of the material than a real connection to what he's making, and the result is a wannabe-blockbuster that should be studied in film schools as a perfect example of what happens when commerce becomes more important than concept.
Written by a computer program that Universal cleverly named "Erich and Jon Hoeber," I'm still not even sure what the actual premise of the movie is. I can tell you what happens in it, but plot is not premise. I cannot imagine the meetings in which grown, rational people sat around planning this film, because nothing about it makes sense. You would think someone involved in signing $250 million worth of checks would have at some point spoken up and said, "Is it okay that none of this is even remotely coherent?" Evidently, it's fine, because the film almost seems to delight in the specific form of nonsense that it offers up, and there's not a hint of shame to the enterprise. It is blissfully, cheerfully stupid, and it doesn't remotely care about reality.
It's hard to believe, but we're actually back on the air
Debbie Reynolds is just one of the memorable movie mothers we discuss on this special Mother's Day edition of 'The Motion/Captured Podcast'
Credit: Paramount Pictures
It has been a while.
I could offer up excuses, but the truth is that things just plain got away from Scott Swan and me, and there's no other way to put it. Our best intentions were repeatedly frustrated by real-life obstacles, and we let them build up week after week.
The only reason we finally sat down to do this again is because you have all been so vocal about wanting a new podcast, and I take your feedback seriously.
This week, we decided to talk about Mother's day and the long tradition of mothers in movies. We also brought back Movie God, the game that broke me in our final episode of Season Two, and we welcomed Patrick Morgan, known to AICN readers as Henchman Mongo, to help us kick off this year's version of the game.
FEARnet critic Scott Weinberg returns for round two
I could try to come up with a witty justification for why I chose this image to represent season two of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer,' but who would I fool?
Credit: Mutant Enemy/20th Century Fox Home Video
I hate starting any article with an apology, but here we go.
In the first episode of our "Buffy Project" podcast, we were plagued by my oncoming illness and some ugly technical issues. It sounded about as bad as it could.
This time, I managed to figure out how to route my Skype through my Garage Band on my laptop and record Scott Weinberg directly so we sounded closer in terms of quality. Everything worked like clockwork, and the whole time I recorded, I watched to make sure levels looked good.
So I have no idea how, when we finished, only half of the podcast recorded.
I would imagine that Scott is probably going to stake me the next time he sees me, and I don't blame him. We talked for about 50 minutes this time about season two, one of the best seasons of the show, and certainly one of the most important in terms of the overall growth of the series. It was loose and fun and exactly what I hoped it would be when we first discussed doing these podcasts.
For fans, is this a welcome addition or a needless redundancy?
Beck, voiced by Elijah Wood, appears to be the lead character in Disney XD's new 'TRON: Uprising,' an animated spinoff from the live-action franchise
Credit: Disney XD
Sorry if you don't live in the US, because this one's region-gated, I believe.
I'm not a big fan of the "TRON" mythology. I tried. I like the original film for what it represents, an adventurous move on the part of Disney, and I like the ambition of the sequel. I like the effort. I like the attempt. I just don't think either film is very good, ultimately. They look cool. They seem to offer up a pretty amazing potential. But so far, dramatically, I'm not feeling it. I don't connect to the goofy earnest nature of the original, and I really don't understand the second one's choices.
Having said that, I think that fandom is all about opening yourself up to something, and the only way to really fully enjoy something is to embrace the story being told or the world. Because I can't really get my head around the reality "TRON" tries to create, I can't go where they want to go story-wise. There are plenty of you out there who do like it and buy into it and dig what they've set up that I'm curious if you enjoy new versions or expansions of that.
With no real-life victims, this is a different kind of comedy for Cohen
Aladeen does this so often it's practically a tic at this point.
Credit: Paramount Pictures
Sacha Baron Cohen has spent the last few weeks in constant salesman mode, appearing on talk shows and in public as Admiral General Aladeen, the main character in his new film "The Dictator," and while this is standard operating procedure for Cohen when he's got a film coming out, it may be a miscalculation this time. I think "The Dictator" is funny, frequently very funny, but it's a very different film than "Borat" or "Bruno," and this whole living-in-character thing may be sending the wrong message to audiences.
As I observed in my early report on the film from CinemaCon in Las Vegas, it's important to note that this is a scripted comedy where everyone in the film is in on the joke. This is a far more standard comedy than Cohen's earlier films, and it's an important jump for Cohen to make as a performer. I'm on the record as a fan of both "Borat" and "Bruno," and I think they're remarkable as examples of performance art. Those movies have victims, though, and that's something you just have to accept if you're going to watch them. Cohen created these characters that he would then drop into reality to see what happened when people bounced off of them, and much of the point was to draw people out, to expose their feelings about foreigners or gays or to explore racial tensions. They are impressive and even dangerous at times, and they felt necessary when they were made.
The lines between theatrical and home release get blurry this week
Tara Lynne Barr is one of the stars of the jet-black comedy 'God Bless America,' which is kicking off its limited theatrical run this weekend.
Credit: Darko Entertainment/Magnet Releasing
You've got a lot of options for what to watch and how, and we want to help you plan your weekend with a new column where we'll highlight three things you can see in theaters, three things you'll find streaming, and three titles new to home video. Appropriately enough, we call this The Weekend Watch.
"The Avengers" continues to suck all of the oxygen out of the room this weekend, even with "Dark Shadows" entering the marketplace. I'm curious to see if they can get a $100 million second weekend out of the film, which would be a 50% drop, and I'm curious to see if the Depp/Burton pairing is enough to overcome decidedly negative reviews and an ad campaign that never really kicked into high gear.
With films that big and high profile, though, you know they're out there. I doubt anyone's going to startled to hear that "Dark Shadows" is opening, and I'd be amazed if there's anyone on the planet who isn't aware of "The Avengers" by now. So instead, let's point out some alternatives that are out there this weekend that might not be getting the same level of attention, but that are absolutely worth your time as well.
See how we made Moretz laugh so hard she almost couldn't continue
Bella Heathcoate and Chloe Moretz share a laugh at the 'Dark Shadows' press day
Any time I want to feel really old, all I need to do is spend some time with Chloe Grace Moretz.
Watching her prowl through "Dark Shadows" playing a character who is just on the verge of adulthood, it struck me how far she's come in what seems like just a few short years since I first met her. The first time we spoke, she had on a purple wig and was doing backflips out of a window as she was shot repeatedly in the chest for about 20 takes in a row. It was on the set of "Kick-Ass," and as I spent the next few days watching her work with Nicholas Cage, I was struck by how incredibly focused and self-aware she was, and how important her on-set support system of her mother and her brother were to keeping her protected. After all, "Kick-Ass" was fairly rowdy material, and even actors older than her might balk at some of what she was asked to do in the film.
Not Chloe, though. She has this ability to throw herself into the work she's doing completely, and a truly adult understanding of the things she's being asked to do. When I saw her the next time, it was for the Comic-Con panel on "Let Me In," and it was interesting to see her spend time with Kodi Smit-McPhee, her co-star in the film. He struck me as much younger than her, emotionally, and when they were together, she suddenly seemed much more like a kid. In those moments she was away from him and talking, that adult sensibility would drop back into place, and that contradiction seems to sum up what it is that makes Chloe so interesting on film.
A freewheeling conversation with a captivating new talent
You do not want Jimmy Pistol all up in your grill. Trust me on this.
Credit: Screen Media Films
Here's what I wrote when I saw the film "American Animal" at SXSW about a year ago:
Take "American Animal," for example, a film by Matt D'Elia. I am shocked that the film is not the culmination of a long-running stage production that someone decided to adapt for film, because that's what it feels like. It is a relatively intimate affair, with only four actors and one main set, and it has that sort of ebb and flow rhythm that is common to stage productions. Jimmy (D'Elia) and James (Brendan Fletcher) live together, and their primary activity seems to be avoiding any and all productive actions. They invite over a couple of girls, Blonde Angela (Mircea Monroe) and Not Blonde Angela (Angela Sarafyan), and at first, it's like we're watching this weird hybrid of a drugged-up party and a performance art piece. But there are secrets simmering just below the surface for both of the guys, and over the course of a very, very long evening, we get a glimpse at the harsh realities that they're both hiding from.
D'Elia is an intense screen presence, and serving triple-duty as writer, director, and lead actor is one of those things that can easily overwhelm a young filmmaker. Not a problem here. Jimmy is always on, larger than life, slipping from one persona to another, and it's all an act designed to hide a fear of impending mortality, and there is a point to the outrageous behavior. There is a sadness beneath the mania, and D'Elia never crosses the line into making the character impossible to like. He just skates on that line really carefully. Fletcher makes a perfect fencing partner for D'Elia, as does the strikingly lovely Sarafyan, who seems unimpressed by Jimmy's aggressive eccentricity. What I love is how the film doesn't excuse Jimmy's actions, but it does explain them, and we're allowed to have our own reactions, good or bad. D'Elia goes through a radical physical transformation in the film, and it's just one expression of how committed the entire thing feels. This is what I want from indie filmmakers… personal visions that are uncompromising, films where you can feel the passion, movies that had to be made. "American Animal" deserves to be seen, but more than that, it deserves to launch D'Elia as a filmmaker of note, and I'm curious to see where he goes from here.
A year has passed since I wrote that, and the film is about to finally get a release to theaters. You'll get a chance to see it. And I'm curious to see what people make of it. To help give the film some attention as it attempts to compete in a marketplace where "The Avengers" is apparently grossing $100 million every six hours or some such madness, I thought it would be nice to have D'Elia out to the house to talk about the film he made, the films he draws inspiration from, and the films he hopes to make in the future.