Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Sofia Coppola

The Beguiled (2017)

Racism wasn’t the only thing fought in the Civil War, it seems.

Out somewhere in the deep South, during the Civil War, lies a school for girls where, for the most part, the word of the gospel is spoken about. Managed by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman), the girls all stick together, depending on each other to not just get by in a rough time like this, but remember that at the end of this dreadful war, there will be a life to continue on living. But being tucked away from the rest of the world and society, even during a time like this, can be awfully dangerous. And it all comes to head when an injured soldier by the name of John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is found by the girls and eventually, taken in. He has an injured leg and rather than going right back out there into the battlefield, the ladies all decide to help him out, feeding him, bathing him, clothing him, and yes, allowing him to eventually heal up to near-perfection, so that he can be back on fighting the good fight. But McBurney’s got a little something more on his mind and considering that there’s about five or six women, all alone, in a house with him, he decides to take total advantage of the situation at hand.

Someone better pass her the damn salt, already!

So yeah, I bet you see what I did there. If not, I took the same plot-synposis I put for the review of the original Beguiled, here, and just took out some of the old names, and put in the new ones. Does it make a lick of a difference? Nope, not really, and that’s sort of the point.

In a sense, the Beguiled is kind of an unnecessary remake; it’s not as if the original needed much of a re-working, or update, nor was it like the world was clamoring to hear this story of sexual-politics play-out all over again, but this time, with different people involved. It’s odd, actually, because these kinds of remakes are the ones that folks like myself rag and tag on Hollywood for constantly making; the kind of remakes where it doesn’t seem like anyone should care about why it exists, or better yet, what it means for the rest of the world of film. But yeah, at the same time, I sort of don’t care because the Beguiled, as a remake and sort of update, it works.

Granted, it’s still unnecessary and only a slight bit better than the original, so take it all with a grain of salt.

But that said, writer/director Sofia Coppola does a solid job of down-playing everything this time around. Whereas with the original, everything was literally spelled-out to us in an narration, Coppola takes the smart move in allowing for the actors to tell us what to think, feel, and understand. Coppola hasn’t always made the best movies around, but she sure as hell knows how to handle actors and when it comes to getting a dirty, deep, and rather scary story off the ground, she’s effective; she keeps things just subtle enough to the point of where we don’t really know what’s next to expect, even if, yeah, we already saw the original.

So Irish. So charming. So dangerous.

And even all that aside, the Beguiled is still a solid, little thriller. It’s not the kind of movie that will win awards or break box-office records (then again, would it even want to?), but it provides a nice bit of steamy, sweaty, and gritty entertainment for 90 or so minutes, with some of the best actors in the biz, and Coppola showing a sure hand, once again, at directing. Also, it’s just nice to see Coppola trying something new and not trying to discuss the sadness and disparity in the lives of celebrities – a theme that, yeah, we already knew and understood over a decade ago with Lost in Translation.

But yeah, everyone here is good.

It’s hard to compare the performances of the original, to those of this remake, because like the movies themselves, they’re still pretty different in their small, subtle ways. For instance, Nicole Kidman’s Martha Farnsworth, while still commandeering and stern like Geraldine Page’s from the original, also has a darker side to her that’s only somewhat hinted at in the first. Same goes with Farrell’s McBurney who, despite not quite reaching the same heights Eastwood did in the original, still shows that there’s possibly a meaner, uglier side to this man and all of his charms. It’s actually an interesting performance that, quite frankly, I wish was given more of an opportunity to flesh itself out more and more. At the same time, though, less time for Farrell, meant more time for actual women on the screen like Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, and Addison Riecke, so yeah, it’s a little hard to complain.

I guess I should just be pretty thankful we have a movie, for once, with a big-budget, where women take over the solid majority of the cast. Let’s hope it’s a sign of more things to come, that honestly, should have already been coming already, dammit!

Ugh. Hollywood.

Consensus: Darker, meaner and way more subtle, this remake of the Beguiled improves slightly on the original, but also offers a great cast and solid return-to-form for Sofia Coppola.

7.5 / 10

Everyone’s waiting, John. So hurry your ass up.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

It’s like they say, “Your best movies, are the ones that come close to killing you.” Even though, yeah, they don’t.

After making not just the Godfather Part I, but Part II in the span of a nearly two years, Francis Ford Coppola could basically do whatever the hell it is that he wanted, with as much money, with whomever, and wherever. That’s when he decides to take up adapting Heart of Darkness, the novella that had been a long passion-project of Coppola’s, but needed some extra push to get off the ground. Eventually, he got it, but in this case, it wasn’t what he, or anyone else was expecting. Needless to say, without saying too much, one lead actor gets a heart-attack, another gets recast about halfway through, one is filmed in a drunken-stooper, one lies about his age to get in the movie. But then, if you go past the usual actor stuff, you’ve also got the fact that the budget is running up the bill way more than it was supposed to, the Vietnam locals are getting pissed, the weather was absolutely awful and practically unlivable, and oh yeah, Coppola himself literally lost his mind.

Was it “method”?

The biggest joke about Hearts of Darkness would be that the resulting film of all this mayhem and madness, Apocalypse Now, turned out to be a bunch of crap that people put way too much of an effort into, for no other reason because they had to, or they thought what was right. But that’s what’s funny, because the movie turned out, dare I say it, almost perfect. All of the years spent filming, editing, and putting money into it, guess what?

At the end of the day, everyone went home happy.

But Hearts of Darkness isn’t a movie about what the final product ended up becoming, nor is it really about what everyone else thought about the movie, it’s mostly about the behind-the-scenes of everything that happened on, as well as off the set, and yeah, it’s just about as candid and as eye-opening as you can get with a documentary about so many big names and faces in Hollywood. With the assistance from Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper, believe it or not, Eleanor Coppola, Francis’ wife, is actually the perfect one to bring this table of absolute craziness to the big screen; she was, after all, there for it all, and her insight, while sometimes silly, focuses on things that probably mattered the most. While Francis was off worrying about how much fire was burning the trees down, Eleanor was worried that her husband was going to have a stroke and possibly die from all of the tension and turmoil in his life.

It’s not like she wants us to feel bad for her husband, but at the same time, she also wants to see it from more of a film-nerd’s perspective, where the control-freak director is always right for themselves, the movie, and everyone else around them. But still, just watching what happens behind-the-scenes here, and the things that we only hear small instances of, are truly insane, but draw you in even closer to the mind of Coppola, how he worked, and why he slaved away for so long to get this picture of his made and up on the big screen, for all the world to see and hopefully feast their eyes on.

It was the 70’s and it was hot, so maybe he wasn’t totally crazy.

And really, it all comes back to Coppola, someone who has become a pretty infamous figure in movie-making, only because it appears like his career has taken a huge turn downwards after he was put into debt for this project, as well as the many others to follow. For one, it’s interesting to see Coppola talk about this project, but also not think of him as a total ass; sure, he loves himself and his work, but can you blame him? The man has literally just made two of the greatest movies of all-time and was onto making another, so maybe he’s allowed to kiss his own ass, eh?

If so, it still brings up the question: How much is too much?

Eleanor and the movie as a whole, brings this point up many times and makes us think, whether we’re on his side for going so far as he did, to make sure that this movie was complete and actually worked to his vision, or, if he was just way too artistically-driven in the first place? See, it would be a problem if the movie didn’t turn out to be such a classic, but it somehow did and it makes us not just think, but wonder: Where has that same artistic integrity gone? And hell, when is it coming back?

Consensus: Eye-opening and thrilling to watch, especially if you’re a film-nerd, Hearts of Darkness will surely show you everything you need to see, hear, and understand about all of the craziness that went into making sure the final product turned into what it is seen as today.

8.5 / 10

Pictured: Cast and crew getting the hell out of Coppola’s rage.

Photos Courtesy of: Jonathan Rosenbaum

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Death to Jar-Jar.

In order to tell the story in its fullest form, sometimes, you have to go to the very beginning. In this case, we start with two Jedi knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), who are sent in to break up some sort of intergalactic trade embargo that’s going on and interrupting all sorts of people. However, while they’re on the case, they also manage to uncover a secret, scary plot by a bunch of aliens who’s sole plan is to take over the planet Naboo by sheer force and power. While all of this is going on, the two Jedi’s also discover the presence of two Sith warriors, who were thought to be long extinct by this point, but are still a force to be reckoned with. And of course, the Jedi’s end up crossing paths with small, young slave boy who has something about him that just makes them want to work with him to be the next great Jedi. The kid’s name? Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) and he is destined to be “The Chosen One”. Even though certain folks like Yoda, aren’t too sure of the kid and make it their top priority to test him every chance they get.

2-on-3 has never been so cool.

2-on-3 has never been so cool.

It’s become almost second nature to despise the Phantom Menace. When I was around six or seven and saw this movie, I’ll never forget the feeling; there was just a certain rush of joy and excitement that I couldn’t get out of my system. I was hooked from the very beginning and all I wanted to do was see it again. Then, once that happened, I got the awesome PS1 video-game, caught up on the other Star Wars flicks, and considered myself a fan for so very long. But now, after all of these years of constantly pushing it away and not wanting to admit it, I can easily say that, well, yes, the Phantom Menace is not a very good movie.

Does that mean it’s an awfully terribly crappy one that deserves every cop in existence to burned and steam-piled?

No, of course not. In fact, there’s very few movies that actually deserve that; while my mind automatically jumps to Adam Sandler’s flicks, even then, I still find something here and there to take away. With the Phantom Menace, you get the sense that because the movie had so much hype surrounding what it was supposed to be, that when it ended-up actually becoming something of a let-down, it wasn’t just a disappointment – it was a sign of the end of the world. That the movie and George Lucas was given as much money and time as he needed to make this movie and do whatever he wanted to with it, already puts everything into perspective: Like, is this really what he wanted to do?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a nice couple bits within the Phantom Menace that are still fun and exciting, even if they feel thrown in a jumbled-up mess. The pod-racing scene, of course, is neat to watch, even after all of these years; the Jedi-battle duel at the end is by far one of the very best of the franchise; and Liam Neeson, playing the almighty dad-like figure as he’s best known for, does seem like a genuinely nice and warm figure to have around. Do all of these factors add up to a good movie? No, they do not. However, by the same token, they at least help the movie out in ways that, quite frankly, people don’t give them enough credit for.

Once again, I am in no way saying that the Phantom Menace is a misunderstood masterpiece that people just wanted to hate because they could – what I’m saying is that, well, it’s pretty lame and misguided, but not terrible.

Most of this has to do with the fact that George Lucas, who returned to directing and writing after 22 years for this, doesn’t seem like he’s always clear of what he wants to do with this story, whom to put the main focus on, or set things up for the next two movies. It’s obvious that, from the very start, Lucas set-out to make a Star Wars movie that his kids could enjoy and because of that, we’re tragically forced to sit through and watch as Jar-Jar Binks and Anakin take over the film, and hardly bring out any emotions whatsoever. Everything’s already been said about Jar-Jar, his faux-Jamaican accent, and the fact that the movie itself couldn’t get enough of his slapstick, so without trying to beat a dead horse, I’ll just say that, yes, when I was six or seven, Jar-Jar was awesome – now, he’s just super annoying and makes you feel like you’re watching a different movie.

Someone misses Leon.

Someone misses Leon.

But really, I still can’t wrap my head around the casting of Jake Lloyd in the iconic role of Anakin Skywalker. For one, as much as it pains me to say this, Jake Lloyd can’t act; though the movie seems like it wasn’t helping him out much either, there’s still the impression that the kid doesn’t know how to read his lines without seeming like he’s confused and in need of some help. This isn’t me ragging on him and being a cruel, miserable a-hole, because it’s not just his fault, but why he was pushed so far to the front of the line for this role, is totally beyond me. There’s also the idea of why he’s so young to begin with, but hey, that’s another post for another day.

And what the real shame about Lucas putting all of his focus on the likes of Jar-Jar and Anakin, is that it takes away from the overall impact of the story. Because this is the first movie of the supposed trilogy, after all, it makes sense to start things off slow, easy-going, and relatively peaceful, but really, a lot of this film just seems meandering. It’s as if Lucas wasn’t ready to scare his audience just yet, so in a way to wind them all up, he just gave each and everyone a film that’s perfectly serviceable for the whole family. Of course it worked for me when I was younger, but now, it just feels like a waste of what a great opportunity this movie could have been.

Thankfully, it gets better from here on out.

Sort of.

Consensus: George Lucas clearly had some rust when making the Phantom Menace, which will always and forever be known as the unwanted and unloved “Annie and Jar-Jar Show”, despite it not being the end-all, be-all disaster people love to hop on the band-wagon and go on about.

4.5 / 10

"Get out of this business while you still can, kid. Trust me."

“Get out of this business while you still can, kid. Trust me.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

A Very Murray Christmas (2015)

Murray1Hangin’ out with Bill Murray is the only Christmas gift a person needs.

Due to solely to the fact that his agent permits it, Bill Murray is forced to hold a Christmas show that’s supposed to broadcast live for the whole world to see. While none of this should be a problem for such a seasoned-pro like Murray, he’s incredibly uneasy about it because, well, nobody’s going to actually be there to participate. There’s a huge snowstorm going on in New York City that has closed all roads or forms of transportation, leaving Murray to handle the show all by himself. Then, as the night progresses, Murray soon realizes that maybe there’s more to Christmas than just being a miserable, annoying and sad Grinch; sometimes, it’s about making those around you feel better and happier about the time of the season. That’s why, despite being stuck inside of the Carlyle Hotel, Murray makes the best out of it, hanging around, drinking, singing, and meeting all sorts of people that he would have never expected to meet, had this been any other normal night. But because this is Christmas, anything is possible.

Phoenix + Paul Shaffer? Why not!

Phoenix and Paul Shaffer? Why not!

At under just an hour, A Very Murray Christmas is the kind of variety show that I love to see, yet, so rarely get. While most movies starring Bill Murray have been touted as being “more time to hang-out with Bill Murray”, A Very Murray Christmas is exactly that; we’re literally thrown into this one night of his life, forced to hang around him, and watch as he interacts with everyone he encounters during this one, fateful night. For those who despise Murray, obviously, this will not be their cup-of-tea. However, for those on the exact opposite side of the fence, it’s exactly the party you want.

It’s also the kind you don’t want to ever end, which is why the 56-minute run-time, feels almost too short.

Granted, Netflix and director Sofia Coppola have all been touting A Very Murray Christmas as nothing more than just a Christmas special and leaving it at that, but still, more time spent with Bill Murray being, well, Bill Murray, is time well-spent. So, why not spend as much of it as we can?

That’s why, despite it being odd that I’m reviewing something seen as “a special”, and not exactly “a movie”, I can sit right here and type away, saying that A Very Murray Christmas is not just a great Christmas special, but a great time altogether. It’s as if Coppola herself remembered how much of a great time it was to work with Murray on Lost in Translation, that to not just get a chance to hang with him again, but also allow for other people to see what she loves about him, she conned Netflix into giving her as much freedom and money as they possibly could to help her make this special and do whatever the hell she wanted to do with it.

Wanna throw Phoenix in there as musicians-disguised-as-chefs? Sure, why not! Hell, how about Dexter Poindexter as a bartender who sings and dances? Or, better yet, why not just have Jenny Lewis be here as a waitress who can do everything that Bill Murray can do? And heck, while we’re at it, why not just have a sort-of dream-sequence featuring George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, and tons of half-naked women who can’t wait to maul Bill Murray?

For the most part, as you can probably tell by now, A Very Murray Christmas was made to just have fun, throw stuff at the wall, and see just what sticks. And mostly, everything that Coppola throws at the wall, sticks; there’s a bit early-on concerning Michael Cera as a manager who wants Bill Murray that seems to come out of nowhere (even given the rest of the special), and is only around to poke jokes at the Monuments Men (which is, yeah, fine), and doesn’t really matter. All we want to see is where this special will go next, who is going to sing what song, and just what the hell Bill Murray is going to be up to.

I'll join in!

Rich people having fun makes me sad.

And well, because this is his special, first and foremost, it makes total sense that Bill Murray’s the best part of it all.

While I’m not sure how much of this special was scripted, it sure as hell just seems like Murray, being Murray, decided to throw it out the window and just do whatever he oh so pleased. There’s something absolutely joyous in watching this because, well, he brings out the best in those around him; the previously mentioned Phoenix have a nice duet with Murray that amounts to Murray just egging everyone on and teasing them. Phoenix is loving, Murray’s loving it, Coppola’s obviously loving it, and hell, for that matter, we’re loving it, too!

Everybody else who shows up in A Very Murray Christmas all seem like they signed-up just to have fun and hang around with a dear old pal of theirs, which makes the special feel all the more pleasant. Everyone who shows up either gets a chance or two to make their presences known, and add a little flavor to the whole special. Most of it’s funny and hardly ever disappoints, even if, occasionally, it does just feel like a bunch of attractive, insanely talented people getting together and doing whatever they want.

But you know what? It’s the holidays and I will never have a problem with that!

Just next time, please, invite me. I promise I’m a fun guy.

Consensus: A Very Murray Christmas may be short with hardly even hitting an hour, but is still filled with all sorts of joy, humor and unpredictable excitement that it’s more than worth the time you take out of your day to check it out. And if you don’t want to do it for me, then fine – just do it for Bill. He’ll be happy.

9 / 10

Seriously. Don't ask. Just watch and enjoy the holiday season.

Seriously. Don’t ask. Just watch and enjoy the holiday season.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Bling Ring (2013)

If you can’t steal other people’s belongings, then how the hell do you expect to make it in Hollywood?!?!?

High school friends Rebecca and Marc (Katie Chang and Israel Broussard) find themselves bonding over their love for fame and fashion on the first day of class, which also leads them on to their next love: stealing. At first, it’s just small amounts of jewelry and money here and there, but after awhile, once the groups gets bigger, with two more added to the mix (Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga), and the fortune and star-appeal begins to get to their heads, they decide that they can’t stop while they’re on top and might as well go for it all while they still can. So, this leads them onto a slew of break-ins into some of the most famous stars’ mansions (Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson, Audrina Patridge, Megan Fox and Lindsay Lohan, among others). But since they’re young, stupid, and as vain as you can get, they eventually find things to get a bit too hot, almost too hot for them to control at a certain point.

Believe it or not, we live in a world where shit like this happens, gets placed on, and is considered “news”. However, it is real and does provide some compelling story-telling, so why not do it one better and make it a full-length feature-flick? Hell, to top it off, why don’t we throw in writer/director Sofia Coppola, a chick who seems to know quite a thing or two about fame, letting it all go to your head, and how it makes you feel like you’re everybody else, but also empty inside at the same time? Yep, sounds like the right ingredients to me, doesn’t it?

Have your popcorn handy, boys.

Have your popcorn handy for this one, boys.

Well, yes and no. More on the “no”, and less on the “yes”, but let’s stick with the positives and keep people happy, shall we?

We shall!

Anyway, Coppola being the inspired and stylistic director that she truly is, always has this movie popping. There’s always a wonderful color-scheme going on, some form of camera-trickery happening to take you off-guard, and shots that literally speak for themselves, without any needed dialogue whatsoever. All of those three trademarks we sometimes love and hate Coppola for, are all here to be seen and enjoyed, even if it doesn’t add much to the story in the long-run; save for one shot where Coppola keeps her distance from one robbery in a glass-mansion, where all of the action you see is through the windows themselves. Shots like that rarely show up in this flick, but when they do, they are very original and exciting to see but I think this flick needed more of that.

Okay, I promised that I would start off light and happy but screw it! This flick sort of pisses me off because of what it had the ability to do! See, Coppola has a pretty interesting story here on her hands, and what makes it even better is that it’s all real. Now, of course we don’t know how much of what actually happened is pure speculation or the truth, and nothing but it so help you God, but for the most part, either/or: it’s a pretty interesting subject that shines a light on what it means to be “famous” or what it takes to be considered a “celebrity”, especially in the day and age we live in where almost everyone is channeling somebody else more famous, in hopes that they’ll be noticed just like them. That’s the 21st Century for ya, folks, and as much as it may suck, it’s the reality of the situation.

But see? What I already discussed right then and there is what makes this movie/story so interesting to begin with, so when Coppola didn’t seem to do much else with it other than give us the same damn sequence of these a-hole kids going around, stealing shit from people’s houses, going to the clubs, taking pictures, showing off their gifts, and posting everything they took on Facebook, it seems like a bit of a missed-opportunity, albeit a repetitive one that gets old quick as soon as the third robbery occurs. I get the point that Coppola is trying to get across about these characters and what it is that they pulled off: their lives are so dull and monotonous, that the actions they commit are just about the same way. Nothing new happens, and yet, you aren’t totally satisfied and need more. That’s what a lot of people say about our generation and if these ass-bags are the clearest-examples of it, then damn, I’m sad to be apart of it. I’m apart of it, and that’s something I can’t undo, but I sure as hell do feel bad about it.

Back to what I was saying about Coppola though; the gal obviously seems to know what she’s talking about and trying to get across, but it isn’t as interesting or as compelling to watch as you might expect coming from a chick that seems like she knows so much about achieving fame, but not knowing what to do with it’s boring life-style. After awhile, it seems to become the same scene, over-and-over again, without any more insight to what’s happening, it’s cultural-effect on the mass medias, or the characters themselves. Actually, if there was anything about this movie that got me a bit fired-up, it was that the characters just aren’t the type of people you want to spend time with in any movie, let alone a movie like this; and that’s not because they’re detestable as it is, they just aren’t in the least bit interesting.

Each and every character in this movie is probably the most shallow you can get, and whether or not the real-life people were actually like this makes me wonder just if they changed and if so, how much? Then again, those are smart thoughts that are too smart for a movie that doesn’t seem to care about them, and only cares about showing what these characters do, whenever they aren’t bored with their daily-lives of going to class and sitting down on the beach. They’re boring and dull people that only care about the riches in life, rather than the pleasures that can be seen by the most simplest things in life, but we never get a chance to go any deeper because Coppola obviously puts her hand up and shows that she doesn’t want to judge them. Fine, don’t do that, but at least give me something, hell, anything else to really make me want to pay attention to these characters with. They all seemed to be wanting the same things, had no uniqueness to them that made them humane in the least bit, and never popped-off the screen, into my lap, and ready to have a wild time with. Instead, they just robbed, talked stupid shite, and acted like they were hot shit, while we all watched and wondered, “Why?”

They're all coming to my house, except for that dude on the left. Yeah, what the hell's he doing with them!!??

They’re all coming to my house, except for that dude on the left. Yeah, what the hell’s he doing with them!!??

The answer to that, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. No, literally, it blew away and probably never coming back. Smooth move, Sofia!

I even feel bad for the cast because even though they’re given characters to work with that could be fun and exciting to watch, they’re just dull and uninteresting and fall under the weight of Sofia’s insistence on not shedding a light on who they were. Works for a tiny bit, but once it starts to affect the performances, then enough is about enough! Katie Chang is good as the ringleader of the group who starts it all off with her kleptomaniacan ways and shows that there’s so much fun, joy, and feeling of empowerment when you’re going into these celebrities houses, and stealing their shit. Chang is nice and detestable in her own way, and is probably the most subtle of all, which does go a long, long way for this cast. Israel Broussard is a nice equalizer for her as Marc, the closeted-gay friend of hers that loves all the things that she does, including herself. His character seemed like he could have been the most interesting of all, but Broussard isn’t that much of a talented actor to pull it off and eventually, you just see him get dropped off in a pool of obvious cliches and happenings that you can see coming a mile away. Even Emma Watson’s character falls prey to this, only because she’s so remarkably dumb, it’s a wonder how she even got away with it all in the end. I’m talking about the character Watson plays, not Watson herself, although the chick is already known for stealing her fair share of shit from celebrities.

Consensus: Coppola’s style and unique-ways of telling a story her way, or the highway is what makes The Bling Ring a bit of an entertaining watch, but the lack of development with characters, reasoning, or cultural-significance makes it feel like an opportunity missed by a long ways.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Don't worry honey, you look good. Trust me.

Don’t worry honey, you look good. Trust me.

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Just eat cakes! Who cares if she said it or not!

If you were the one who fell asleep during “the French portion” of World History Class, don’t worry; this movie has you covered. Kirsten Dunst plays the Archduchess of Austria and soon-to-be Queen of France from her beginning days where her and her husband, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) struggle to bang and get pregnant, to the latter where she had a whole country demanding her head. Funny how time changes, isn’t it?

Even though I know the song about her, and I know the (untrue) statement she apparently made, I still know a lot about Marie Antoinette; who she was, what she did, and all of the other background shizz about her. No, it’s not that I’m some weird dude who enjoys looking up historical figures, it’s mainly because the class I’m taking now for college, just got done covering her, France at the time, and the aftermath. So, yeah, basically: I know my shit.

Apparently, by the looks of it, Sofia Coppola doesn’t. There were plenty of times in this flick where I wanted to slap her, or slap something by all of the historical inaccuracies here, solely for the fact that it probably would have helped the film. I get that Coppola couldn’t be any less concerned with the nitty-bitty details of M-A’s life, but when you have a movie that’s focusing on making her a sympathetic/real person; you need to have all of those details in there and not simply make random shit up. I don’t mind when a movie does that just for shits and gigs, but it didn’t feel right here. It felt like Coppola tried to do whatever she could to keep this movie fun, entertaining, and interesting, but even taking liberties with the story didn’t seem to help either. Something else was going on here that I still need to put my finger on.

Ehh, I've seen bigger and more lush!

Ehh, I’ve seen bigger and more lush!

Coppola has that certain style to her directing and writing that works wonders, and other times; totally misses the mark. Here’s one of the latter-instances. Coppola is a gifted-filmmaker in the way that she is able to tell a story and an emotion, not just through having the characters say something, but by giving us a visual or a single-shot that convey whatever it is that she wants to convey. She’s one of the very-rare filmmakers that can do that now, and actually get away with it without being labeled as “pretentious”, “snobby”, or “an artsy-farsty mofo”. However, it doesn’t aid in her in anyway here, and makes the story seem duller instead.

For instance, there are plenty of scenes where it seems as if Coppola didn’t really seem to worry too much about the story, and decided to focus on what made the movie look pretty. It works, that’s for sure, but it does seem like over-kill and a bit of a waste, considering that this is a 2 hour film, that’s primarily dedicated to shots of Dunst playing in the grass and looking happy. Once again, doesn’t matter if you want to pull off a good shot once or twice, but when it starts to take over the rest of the movie and get rid of the substance, then it gets dull. Very, very dull.

But I can’t talk too much crap on Coppola and her visuals, because she does a hell of a great job with them. Not only is this movie beautiful from head-to-toe, but it’s also very impressive by all that it was able to capture on film. Apparently Coppola was actually able to film in and out of the actual Versailles, which is an opportunity that Coppola does not take for granted, considering she makes us feel as if we really are with all of these high-class, royal S.O.B’s, and watching them as they party, drink, smoke, have sex, fondle, and play games as if they were at a P. Diddy party.

Oh, and they are all doing it to the sweet tunes of whatever the hell Coppola had on her iPod at the time of filming. In the beginning of the flick, we get a bits and pieces of actual, alternative-rock songs playing somewhere in the background, but for the most part; Coppola keeps it cool with the anachronisms. Then, out of nowhere, Coppola seems to have had enough with 18th Century ways, and decides to unleash what she’s got ringing in her ears, and it’s all thanks to that Bow Wow Wow song that you’ve heard a million times (and done better by this guy, by the way). After this track comes seemingly out of nowhere, then Coppola goes ball to the walls with any punk rock/alt. rock song in the history of man that she can find, and it works more than it doesn’t, because it actually glues you into the party-atmosphere that these snobs seem to be reveling in. Goes to show you that Tarantino and Luhrmann aren’t alone when it comes to using songs randomly, but perfectly to fit a tone.

The fact that Coppola was able to make this story more centered towards M-A, what she went through, how she got through it, and all of the problems she had to overcome, worked in most areas, but didn’t in others. The areas that it did work in were all thanks to Kirsten Dunst as M-A because she gives not only a great performance that shows her being young, nimble, wild, and free to do whatever she wants and (sort of) get away with it, but it’s also a very subtle one in the way that she’s able to convey so many feelings this lady must have been going through in real-life. The fact that M-A was so young when she got married, was forced to get pregnant, and basically thrown on the throne as queen is something that makes you think about how she got over all of it, but also makes you feel for her a bit, the same way you would want someone to feel for you, had you been thrown into the same situation. This part of the character is where Dunst works best in and once the movie decides to drop the champagne, the cakes, and the sex-games, then that’s when Dunst decides to take herself a bit seriously and you see a young girl who has seemingly come into her own. However, as we all know: it was too little, too late for her.

"Not tonight, honey. Maybe next year."

“Not tonight, honey. Maybe next year.”

In a role that seemed more like an in-joke, rather than anything worth even taking seriously, Jason Schwartzman does fine with what he has to do as Louis XVI, but the movie isn’t all that bothered with him or his character. The whole first-half of the movie is practically dedicated to him just being a pansy, not being able to make love to his wife, and knocking her up. Once that’s all said and done with, then the guy is shown as a pansy who can’t keep his wife satisfied and basically allows for her to stay at these parties where she (presumably) bangs other dudes. Don’t know how much of that is actually true, but from what I’m able to gather: Louis XVI was a bit of a wimp.

The rest of the cast is fine and seem like they had a great time going on the set for a little play-date they liked to call dress-up. Rip Torn plays the philandering king to perfection because he’s grimy as you could imagine; Asia Argento loves scumming it up as the whore that the king is philandering with; Judy Davis does her usual, weird-face thingy that we all know her for; and Steve Coogan is here as well, but not really doing anything funny. When you have “The Coogs” in a movie, I don’t care what it is: you have to make him do or say something in the least-bit funny. Without any of that, what’s the point of even having him around in the first-place? Just for show? Baloney!

Consensus: Coppola’s style and vision slows the feel and pace of Marie Antoinette down, especially when it doesn’t need to, but at least it’s still left to be seen with it’s beautiful look, desired-attention to the finer-details (talking about the set-pieces, not the actual story), and fine performance from Dunst in the lead role, that showed that she was maturing more and more by the roles she began to take.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"One day, you're going to grow up to be a royal, pain-in-the-ass, just like your mother was."

“One day, you’re going to grow up to be a royal, pain-in-the-ass, who wasted all of her country’s money on lavish parties to satisfy your boredom.”

Lost In Translation (2003)

Japan has never looked so boring.

The film revolves around an aging actor named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and a recent college graduate named Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) who develop a unique closeness after a chance meeting in a grand Tokyo hotel.

I remember the first time that I ever watched it, and I didn’t get it. Maybe I was too young (8th grade) or maybe I was just way too sleepy, either way, I didn’t love it as much as so many other people have said over the years. About 4 years later though, I loved it! Funny what time can do for certain people, especially a movie geek like me.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola definitely brings a lot to the table here and deserved the Oscar she got that year. Coppola adds so much attention to detail in just about every scene where it’ll either be one of these characters just staring off into space, but the song in the background or lighting fit the mood perfectly. She focuses on all of this detail and probably the best decision for this film that she made was actually putting it in Japan, considering it seems like the craziest place ever. Yeah, Coppola pokes a lot of jokes at just how goofy and crazy Japanese culture can be, as well as a lot of the surroundings, but she also shows this country as a haven for people to be free with themselves and paint it as this beautiful place to be, even underneath all of the sadness of these American people. Never been to Japan, and I don’t know when or if I ever will, but if I do go, I’ll definitely use this flick as my travel guide for all of the sights to see.

However, it’s Sofia’s attention to the writing that really took over me with this flick. So much of the film here consists of these characters holding back, not saying anything, and just letting a lot of the silence take over each and every single one of their scenes, which may be too subtle for some people but it’s also the best quality of her script. There are plenty of moments that are just dedicated to these characters not saying anything at all, but whenever they do speak, they give off some real and raw emotional dialogue that just feels natural, as if you almost couldn’t have written a lot of this stuff. It also shows a lot about these characters and a lot of human truths as it talks a lot about our needs and desires in our lives, and the feeling of needing to be connected with other people out there in the world. It’s a theme that many other flicks tend to shy away from, but this is one that Sofia hits head-on, even if she doesn’t have her characters practically spell it out for you. Check can’t act for shit, but she sure as hell can write and direct, and that’s all that matters to me.

Everything here is pretty great and works very, very well except for the fact that sometimes this pace does have the occasional lull here and there. Actually, the film picks up a lot of steam somewhere in the middle part of it and then it just starts to slow down and it sucks all of the life out of itself. However, it’s not that big of a complaint considering it happens maybe once or twice here, and the rest of it just somehow took my mind away from it.

The real reason this film works as well as it does is mainly because of Bill Murray, who probably gives his best performance ever as Bob Harris. Murray is a guy we all know who can be funny and outrageous, but he’s also an actor that can do a lot by just being subtle and not even speaking at all, just staring into space. Of course he’s hilarious here and it’s just a whole bunch of fun to watch as Bill Murray goes around this film, making just about every single person here laugh and not even make it seem like he’s even remotely trying. Actually, that’s whats so amazing about this performance here is that he doesn’t even feel like he’s saying lines, everything is just coming off so naturally and it fits so damn well with Coppola’s script. Sometimes I think they didn’t even tell Murray that there was a film crew following him at all times during the filming and they just show a whole bunch of footage of him walking around and interacting with all of these random people as if he wasn’t even in a soon-to-be Oscar nominee.

It sucks that he didn’t win for this flick either because even though Bob Harris is a very complicated, and messed up dude, he has a good heart and much of that credit has to go to Murray and the emotional depth he is able to fall towards. There are definitely plenty of scenes where you see Murray as the sad dude but he doesn’t over-play it and make it seem like he’s trying, because once again, he’s playing it naturally and that’s what I love so much about Murray in just about every flick he does, especially here. Hopefully he’ll get his Oscar some day because I know he’s getting closer and closer dammit!

As great as Murray is though, he doesn’t run away with this film and never return. In fact, Scarlett Johansson is also pretty damn good as his new friend, another sad character named Charlotte. Johansson was so young during the filming of this flick (17 I think) and she’s pretty much asked to play a more mature character and gives off an amazing performance that may not be as effortless as Murray, but still has enough to it that makes you realize she has the chops to pull off a leading role. Her character is sad and bored, but is also a very sweet, nice, and lovely lady that I can definitely see hanging around Bill Murray in real life. May have never actually happened but by the way these two were hanging out and getting along here, I could definitely something was going on.

Consensus: Lost in Translation is a very subtle film, but is also one that will touch you and make you laugh with its natural performances from Johansson and Murray, pitch-perfect direction from Coppola that makes me want to venture out to Japan, and a screenplay that talks about many things, yet focuses on a friendship between two people that could never have happened anywhere else, had they both had not been bored out of their minds in Japan. Yet, how much fun they did actually have together.

9/10=Full Price!!

PS: It’s my birthday today, so I hope you like this post extra more now!

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

*Spoiler Alert*: not all of them are quite the virgins that the title makes you think. Teeehee

This is the story about a group of teenage boys who delve into the mysteries of womanhood through their discovery of a personal diary belonging to the beautiful Lisbon sisters. The five girls, Cecilia (Hanna R Hall), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), Bonnie (Chelsea Swain), Mary (AJ Cook) and Therese (Leslie Hayman), are aged 13 to 17 respectively. Through the diary the boys start to learn about the girl’s lives, coming to hold the girl’s collective memories and experiences as their own.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola is just one of those directors that has her own type of style, and it’s either you love it or you absolutely loathe it. Somehow I found myself in the middle but this flick definitely makes me think more of her in a good way.

This premise isn’t a very happy and light one, but Coppola gives it this stylish and compelling treatment that is sure to win anybody over right away even as grim as the material may be. Copp0la perfectly matches the look and feel of the 70’s with all of the tacky designs, poofed up hair, and rockin’ soundtrack, but there’s just something that Coppola brings here that makes it worth noting more than just a fine looking period piece. Some shots in this flick are beautiful to look at, with Coppola bringing plenty of real-looking hand-held camera footage that gives it this realistic look, but there are also some shots that are not just beautiful but also devastating. There’s a lot of color in this flick but also a lot of darkness and even though the story may take place in a sunny part of Detroit, I couldn’t still help but be placed inside this dark, sheltered, and cooped up world that these girls also had to live in as well.

Coppola also shines when it comes to creating a compelling story that shows 70’s suburbia for what it was for some families, and the effects it would have on the children. The film’s subject material is very disturbing (I mean suicide is never a fun subject to talk about) but it’s not like Coppola depends on that to have us feel something for these characters. We sense that there will be dread coming on its way soon but we can’t help but get lost in these girls’ stories and just how they are constantly being strangled by their parents control, just so they can be safe from the cruel and outside world. I liked how we see an outside view telling us about this story because it doesn’t give us every single little detail about these girls’ lives, but just the right amount to where we are actually able to connect parts of the puzzle together and understand what really made these girls tick after all.

Where the film really shined for me was how it accurately showed the way two opposite sexed teenagers react with one another. Being a young adult like myself, my awkward teenage years are pretty much behind me but I can remember those days when it was so hard for me to actually talk to girls because all that I could keep on thinking about was how big their boobs are. Yes, if you were a teenage boy, you always thought like this no matter what girl you were talking to and this film shows that incredibly well here. I loved when this film focused on these girls and their reactions to other people, especially boys, and it also made many moments that through me off guard by how darkly funny they were. It’s about suicide, but it’s also quite funny. Good job Sofia!

Where this film really lost me was about the last act when the film really starts to stumble and I think lose some steam. The main story-line that has to do with the high-school hunk and Lux, was probably the highlight of the movie for me, so when that seems to go bye bye, the film also seemed to say the same thing to creativity as well. Instead of actually making a compelling ending, Sofia depends more on making everything look cool that seems more like her attempt to get past the fact that she can’t come up with an ending that will truly hit us where it hurts. The motives of these girls also come up a little too late for us to ever really believe in it in the first place, and when they show this random-ass party where all of these rich people are partying with gas-masks seems exploitative and unneeded. I think if they ended the film a little earlier it would have had a better effect overall, but it was just a shame that the last act seemed to just drag.

What really got me into the authenticity of this flick was the fact that almost everybody that’s cast here, were all pretty damn close to the ages of the characters they were playing. This is a huge cast, that features some familiar faces we have seen before but there is only a couple that really stand-out for me. Kirsten Dunst is amazing here as Lux, the sexy and bad girl of the family and just about every scene she has feels real and how a teenage girl would act, if she was given a chance to just break-out. Josh Hartnett is also great in the role as the high-school hunk, Trip, and he was such a delight every time he popped up on-screen that I honestly wish they had more of him but then again, the amount that he did actually have felt right. James Woods and Kathleen Turner are also great in these roles as the mommy and daddy and even though their characters may not be as fully fleshed-out as I would have liked to have seen, they still were very restrained which is a huge surprise from both of them.

Consensus: The Virgin Suicides may start to disappoint once it comes to its final act, but Sofia Coppola’s debut still features a stylish direction that adds so much more to this compelling story than just your usual teenager story, as well as the great ensemble cast that feels real and authentic as if you are watching real people on-screen.


Somewhere (2010)

People staring into space doesn’t do anything. Unless it’s Bill Murray.

‘Somewhere’ follows Johnny Marco, a newly famous actor, as he recuperates from a minor injury at the Chateau Marmont, a well-known Hollywood retreat. Despite money, fame and professional success, Marco is trapped in an existential crisis and feels little emotion during his daily life. When his ex-wife suffers an unexplained breakdown and goes away, she leaves Cleo, their 11-year-old daughter, with him.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola knows an awful lot about having a very famous daddy and barely being able to see him, which is sort of the reason why this is an even bigger disappointment then I imagined.

Coppola does here what she’s done in practically all of her films but instead it feels like a cheap rip-off this time. She tries to, once again, shed a light on the whole art of “celebrity” and give us a glimpse into the life of a celebrity that I can’t really say that I felt connected to this let alone feeling like I was going to have much interest anyway. For this flick I wanted something new and instead I kind of felt a little bit cheated considering that Coppola does know what she’s doing behind the camera, it’s just the fact that she doesn’t know how to do a film where she isn’t focusing on a very rich and famous person being put through a whole bunch of depression.

Once again too, Coppola feels the need to give us these long, boring shots of barely anything happening such as Dorff just sitting in his room smoking and drinking beer, then another goes to him watching two twins pole-dancing to the Foo Fighters, and then to watching his daughter do some really cool ice skating routine. All of these shots come and go but stay for a very long time without any real emotion to what the story actually is.

There were times though where I felt like Coppola did a pretty good job with what she was trying to convey, especially when it came to this father-daughter relationship. These two obviously don’t have any real connection with each other but when they are both forced to be together, you realize that they both have fun together and treat each other nicely, which is what Dorff’s character needs considering all of the crazy shit that happens to him when his daughter isn’t around. There were a couple of scenes where I think Coppola hit the right note with trying to convey an emotion with this story but too many times did it sort of get lost in moments of random silence, and scenes where it just went on and on for no apparent reason.

Coppola also knows how to make a beautiful film here as well. Even though she is essentially poking a bit of fun at the whole “celebrity” high-life in LA, she still knows how to make this film look very vivid with colors that just pop-out and a surprising amount of cool cinematography. The hipster band Phoenix also provided the score for this film but they are barely ever even in it, which kind of disappointed me considering I think they would have made some cool background music for a lot of the scenes.

Stephen Dorff got his big “come-back” with this flick playing Johnny Marco because the guy has always had talent, he’s just never been in the right film to show it off. Dorff’s character is not a very likable guy. He takes advantage of everything he has practically been given, parties to the point of where he breaks his own arm, and has very little to offer his daughter when she comes around but somehow I liked this guy. I just had a feeling that he was a good guy and wanted to just make his daughter happy with him, even though he is not very skilled at doing so. Dorff is great with this performance because even though he barely says anything, you can see the sadness on his face the whole film and he just has this look to him that makes you want to empathize with him, even though you know he does all of this dumb shit.

Elle Fanning is even more impressive as the daughter Cleo because she plays up that “too wise for her age” role very well here to where everything she says seems very natural, rather than just being too cutesy or annoying. Her and Dorff have very good chemistry together and you can tell that through it, that these two love each other but don’t know how to inter-act and it’s really sad to watch but at the same time nice to watch, because they find ways to connect through some funky things such as Guitar Hero, playing ping-pong, or eating some delicious gelatos. It was also pretty awesome to seem some nice little cameos from the likes of Chris Pontius, Benicio Del Toro, and Michelle Monaghan.

Consensus: Somewhere has two great performances from Dorff and Fanning and features a nice little father-daughter story at the heart, but Sofia Coppola doesn’t do much here that she hasn’t done in all of her other flicks and packs way too many shots and scenes that don’t add anything to the real story.