By Bob Grimm
on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 9:00 AM
Japanese anime is about the last type of vehicle where I would expect to see a body switching comedy, but here it is.
Two teenagers in Japan find themselves inhabiting each other’s lives when they are dreaming, and general nuttiness ensues. Of course, this is Japanese anime, so things get a little deeper and metaphysical than two kids simply switching lives at high school. As the film goes on, there are comets, allegorical braids, time travel…this movie is nutty in a good way.
Writer-director shoots for the stars with his spiraling, inventive movie, and he reaches them. On top of being a great story, the animation is startlingly good. Actually, it’s some of the best animation I’ve seen in years. Does the movie try to do too many things at once? Perhaps, but it’s done so well you will forgive it it’s complications.
In a week where Hollywood released a pale Japanese anime remake in Ghost in the Shell, it’s nice to see a film that takes the anime art form to new heights. Let’s all just cross our fingers and hope Hollywood doesn’t try to do a live action remake of this one. That would be a confusing mess. It’s best to leave well enough alone, and this is a remarkably beautiful movie.
By Bob Grimm
on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 9:14 AM
This live action take on the classic Disney animated musical isn’t a shot for shot remake of the original like, say, Gus Van Sant’s time-wasting Psycho effort. However, it does follow a lot of the same plot points and incorporates enough of the musical numbers to give you that sense of déja vu while watching it.
Thankfully, Emma Watson makes it worthwhile. Hermione makes for a strong Belle. Since director Bill Condon retains the music from the original animated movie, Watson is asked to sing, and it’s pretty evident that Auto-Tune is her friend. She has a Kanye West thing going. As the Beast, Dan Stevens gives a decent enough performance through motion-capture.
The original intent was to have Stevens wearing prosthetics only, but he probably looked like Mr. Snuffleupagus in dailies, so they called upon the help of beloved computers. Like King Kong last week, the CGI creation blends in nicely with his totally human, organic cast member. The cast and crew labor to make musical numbers like “Gaston” and “Be Our Guest” pop with the creative energy of the animated version, but they don’t quite reach those heights. They are nicely rendered, for sure, but not on the masterpiece level that was the ’91 film. As for the romance between Belle and the Beast, it has a nice emotional payoff.
In a way, the movie is a sweet tribute to the animated movie, rather than being a movie that stands on its own.
By Bob Grimm
on Wed, Mar 29, 2017 at 10:30 AM
This Oscar nominated film (Best Foreign Film) from Denmark is about as complicated and difficult a story to tell, but writer-director Martin Zandvliet more than succeeds.
It’s post WWII in Denmark, and a group of Nazi youth POWs is tasked with clearing a beach of thousands of mines. Their commander, a Danish Sergeant (an excellent Roland Moller) views his crew with contempt at first, treating them harshly. Over time, the fact that they are just young boys begins to wear on him, especially when some of them meet their deaths on the beach.
The cast is beyond good here, delivering a story that has echoes of All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s a difficult film in that it portrays wartime German soldiers in a sympathetic way, and the film will justifiably irritate some. In the end, it’s about the horrors of war, its aftermath, and coping with the hatred and bitterness that follows. The movie is a heart wrenching experience, especially in how Moller’s character endures an emotional rollercoaster.
Moller makes everything the Sergeant goes through seem authentic and convincing. This is a brutal film, and it should be.
By Bob Grimm
on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 1:30 PM
Writer-director Sean Byrne follows up his very good horror debut, 2012’s The Loved Ones, with this piece of heavy metal nastiness.
Jesse (an unrecognizable Ethan Embry), a starving artist, and wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) are moving into a new house with daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). Shortly before buying that house for a dirt-cheap price, they find out that the couple that lived there before died in some sort of accident.
After moving in, a super creepy guy (Pruitt Taylor Vince) and former inhabitant of the house shows up on the doorstep looking to move back in. Naturally, Jesse says no and, naturally, creepy guy doesn’t stop. Byrne sets his story to heavy metal music, with Jesse’s family being devout followers of Metallica, and Vance’s creepy guy needing to play metal at night on his guitar to drown out the voice of the devil.
If devil movies give you the heebie jeebies (like, for instance, last year’s The Witch), you will probably find plenty to like in this one. Byrne is proving to be quite capable of cinematic freak-outs, and he has able partners in Embry and Vince. Place Mr. Byrne along the names of Ti West, Robert Eggers and Ted Geoghegan when making a list of current horror directors to watch.
One of the best things about movies is that they grant us an escape from an annoying day at work, a frustrating bumper-to-bumper commute or just our daily obligations in general—at least for a couple of hours.
If an escape from any of the above sounds like what you need this week to keep some sanity, pick up these best sellers from Casa Video.
Natasha Lyonne is probably best known for her role as Nicky Nichols on Orange is the New Black, where she plays a heroin-addicted inmate known for her wild hair, mischievous smile and lady killer charms—be still, my heart.
OITNB won't have a new season out until June, but you get your lesbian cinema fix when the Loft Cinema (3233 E. Speedway Blvd) screens But I'm a Cheerleader this Sunday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m.
The film stars (you guessed it!) Natasha Lyone as a young woman named Megan whose parents ship her off to a gay-to-straight conversion camp hoping she'll be able to focus on back handsprings instead of boobs during cheerleading practice. Good luck with that.
Michelle Williams, RuPaul (out of drag) and Rufio also show up in this cinematic delight.
It's worth more than worth the $6 ticket—so, maybe you should sign up for a Loft Membership? As March nears its end, so does the Loft's annual membership drive.
Here's what you get if you sign up—during March the number of free tickets are doubled, as reflected below:
4 FREE TICKETS* ANNUALLY FOR INDIVIDUALS, STUDENTS & TEACHERS
8 FREE TICKETS* ANNUALLY FOR COUPLES & ABOVE
MONTHLY FREE SCREENINGS OF GREAT NEW FILMS
FREE ORGANIC POPCORN AT EVERY FILM
FREE LOFT CINEMA STICKER
MEMBER PRICE OF $5.75 FOR ALL REGULARLY SCHEDULED FILMS
By Bob Grimm
on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 9:00 AM
The King Kong cinematic machine gets cranking again with Kong: Skull Island, an entertaining enough new take on the big ape that delivers the gorilla action but lags a bit when he isn’t on screen smashing things.
Among Kong incarnations, this one has the most in common with the 1976 take on the classic story, basically because it’s set just a few years earlier in ’73. While there is a beautiful girl the big guy does get a small crush on (Brie Larson as a photographer), the story eschews the usual “beauty and the beast” Kong angle for more straight-up monster vs. monster action.
Unlike the past American Kong films, this one never makes it overseas to Manhattan, opting to stay on Kong’s island—thus, the title of the film. Kong himself is portrayed by motion-capture CGI, and he’s a badass. He’s also tall enough to be a formidable foe for Godzilla, a mash-up already announced for 2020. In the few scenes where he interacts with humans, Kong plays like an organic creature rather than a bunch of gigabytes. He blends well with his human counterparts.
That’s right, there hasn’t been much mention of those human counterparts yet. That’s because, with the exception of John C. Reilly as a fighter pilot stranded on the island during World War II, most of the humans are bland. Tom Hiddleston might make a decent James Bond someday, and he’s a lot of fun as Loki, but he just doesn’t play here as a rugged tracker/action hero. Reilly, on the other hand, gives the film the bursts of humor it needs. His castaway is a wild card, like Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.
Actually, the whole movie, with its post-Vietnam setup and Nixon-era themes, plays like Apocalypse Now meets King Kong. When Reilly is on screen, it plays like Apocalypse Now meets King Kong meets Talladega Nights.
By Bob Grimm
on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 10:00 AM
If this schlocky horror offering suffers from anything, it’s that it thinks it is deeper and cleverer than it actually is.
Penned by James Gunn, this silly movie pits a bunch of office staff workers against one another after a voice comes over their intercom telling them to start killing each other off, or everybody dies. The building is sealed, the “experiment” is put into motion, and the likes of Tony Goldwyn and John C. McGingley start acting like real, homicidal assholes.
Directed by Greg McLean, the film is fun on a very base level (If you like movies where lots of heads blow up, this one’s for you!). There’s a definite terror involved in not knowing whose head is going to blow up next, and the folks handling the gore factor do a pretty good job. It’s when the big reveal comes at the end, a big reveal that offers absolutely nothing in the surprise category, that the movie loses a few points.
John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane) is good as the protagonist, a guy who does his darndest to not join in on the inter-office carnage. You could look at this as deep satire, or a resonating meditation on the current state of mind control when it comes to government and employers in an increasingly paranoid society. I like to look at it as a film where brains go flying in a fairly convincing, somewhat entertaining manner.