Friday, May 28, 2021

a quiet place part II

It's been admirable to see Director / Writer / Actor John Krasinski earnestly hustle promoting his new film, A Quiet Place Part II, including trying to get audiences to see it in a theater in the wake of the ongoing COVID crisis. It's only fitting to see this kind of scrappy promotion for sequel to a studio horror film that grew rather organically in early 2018 and remained surprisingly relevant throughout the year, nabbing an Oscar nomination for Sound Editing and Emily Blunt a SAG Award win for Supporting Actress.

Krasinski's film opens impressively with a crisp, summery Spielbergian intro: a baseball game and alien monsters suddenly descending upon small town Americana. There's a kinetic, bravura action sequence (much of it glimpsed in its effective trailer). Here we are re-introduced to the family we spent time with in the predecessor, with Blunt and Krasinski as Evelyn and Lee Abbott and their two children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe). The family are the few visible survivors in the invasion of the toothy, skittery-fast, leggy, sound-sensitive monsters' wrath. The movie follows the events before and after the first film with a new baby in tow to take care of, cradled in a box with intermittent bursts of oxygen. In perhaps a nod to another apocalyptic cinematic tale, Danny Boyle's 28 Years Later, Cillian Murphy figures as another survivalist, an acquaintance of the Abbotts, who may harbor an agenda of his own.  

The technicals, especially the special effects, sound design, and photography (by Polly Morgan), are strong in this worthy sequel. A centerpiece set: a weedy abandoned factory with a steely underground soundproof furnace, is well-wrought. The cast too, is very good, with Simmonds once again the standout. I was impressed with the structure of Krasinski's storytelling--there's a well-directed twinning of two separate yarns that works quite effectively in the final act. And yet, I felt somewhat distant to this one. Is it because watching the first one--sitting in long moments of silence in a mainstream theater--was such a fresh, thrilling surprise? Despite my lack of connection with the movie and my lesser engagement with it than the original, I still recognize it as sturdy popcorn escapism and of skilled technical craft. **1/2

-Jeffery Berg

Saturday, May 22, 2021

sun goes down

Lil Nas X is on a roll with another great record / video. Here is "SUN GOES DOWN," video directed by Lil Nas X & Psycho Films

Thursday, May 20, 2021

jackson pollock's house

Beautifully-evoked, 16mm music video for Silver Movie's (a solo project of singer-songwriter Matt Ray) "Jackson Pollock's House" directed by Laura Lynn Petrick.

Ray notes, “[Director] Laura [Lynn Petrick] and I shared a mutual appreciation for films like Grey Gardens and Permanent Vacation. She thought Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert would be a cool reference and I loved it so I also told her to check out Victor Erice’s Spirit of the Beehive. She kind of mixed all of these references together and came up with a great concept.”

via Foxes Magazine

via Silver Movie's Instagram

Friday, May 14, 2021

those who wish me dead

Overlooking the generic, clunky title, Taylor Sheridan's Those Who Wish Me Dead, scripted by Sheridan, Charles Leavitt, and Michael Koryta (based upon his novel), is crackling, middlebrow Hollywood entertainment. It's perhaps wishful thinking, but in a time where the industry is at a crossroads, I do hope that this kind of mid-budget snappy thriller is churned out by the Hollywood machine more often than turgid, unengaging money-grab retreads like the recent Mortal Kombat. But given the tepid audience and box office results so far, more studio films of this type are looking unlikely unless they are slated for Netflix. As with his previous movies, Sheridan intertwines the twisty adult crime thriller with punchy action / adventure within elements of the American West. This combination makes a more cinematically impactful one in his masterful Hell or High Water or even the uneven, but occasionally fascinating Wind River; Those Who Wish Me Dead, while slick and entertaining, is more tacky and lightweight, and maybe nice for the director / writer not to have to deal with something particularly profound.

The plottish plot mixes the lives of Montana wilderness firefighters (including Angelina Jolie as a particularly self-destructive smokejumper haunted by a traumatic incident) with a D.A.'s assistant Owen (Jake Weber) and his young son, Connor (Finn Little, in an impressive turn) on the run from Florida from a murderous pair of assassins Jack (Aidan Gillen at some sinister heights) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult playing well against type). Owen knows too much about things (none of which I can really recall being materialized or become too clear in the picture) and must be killed by Jack and Patrick under orders from ruthless, budget-cutting boss Arthur (Tyler Perry in a bit of a throwaway part). There's also Owen's brother-in-law Montana wilderness sheriff Ethan (Jon Bernthal) and his kick-ass pregnant wife Allison (Medina Senghore turning a potentially nothing part into something really exciting). 

It's kind of exhausting trying to encapsulate this tangle of a tale and there's some talky set-ups; I can see why Koryta's work probably makes a good page-turner. The first half of the movie is a bit wobbly in its zig-zag character sketching. But once things get going and the worlds of these characters collide, it's often thrilling and fun (watch Jolie fall from a cabin in the sky on stilts and wince as she pours peroxide on her wounds and get struck by lightning and run towards a forest fire!) all with a bombastic score by Brian Tyler booming about. Visually, the CGI effects (lightning bolts and forest fires ablaze) have a shiny, campy appeal, but can also be sort of beautiful at the same time, like the imagery of falling ash. 

It's interesting to see a true movie star in this action movie role playing a somewhat textured character (not a superhero or stock fantasy role) of considerable strength and physical ability. This doesn't feel too common anymore. Her scenes with Little are sometimes the strongest in the movie, with scrappy, emotional appeal. So with that, the overall sturdy ensemble, plus the zippy action the film packs in, Sherdian's movie is one of the more refreshing ones to come along at this juncture for mainstream movies, despite being somewhat silly and extraordinarily overwrought. **1/2

-Jeffery Berg  

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

billie's milkshake

Casual Connection strikes gold mashing up "Milkshake" with the beats of "Billie Jean."

art by howard fonda

Art by Howard Fonda.

From Fonda's "Thoughts on Painting"I embrace painting’s traditions and limitations, finding comfort in them. / Painting is a vehicle of contradiction adept at conveying the hubris of, and understanding of, existence. / Painting is poetic and transcendent.

via Howard Fonda

Shop Howard Fonda

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Saturday, May 1, 2021

love you good

I just recently discovered Rochelle Jordan's cool record Play With the Changes. Loving the drum-n-bass vibe on "Love You Good," the album's breezy opener, in particular.

Rochelle Jordan's music video for single "Already" below.