erik lundegaard

Movie Reviews posts

Friday June 05, 2015

Quote: 'The Young, Bikini-Clad or Topless Women of Entourage: Who Are They?'

“The young, bikini-clad or topless women partying aboard the yacht where the movie's first scene occurs—who are they? What do they do for a living? What are their aspirations? Who invited them to the party? And why did they go? Is that what it takes for a young woman to succeed in Hollywood? To attend parties run by men with money and power in the hope of appealing to one of them enough to get cast in a role or hired for a job? The men at the center of the movie have repellent attitudes, but there's nothing to suggest that they're violent or coercive. What do they say or do to induce young women to have sex with them?—or, rather, what's in it for the women? What motivates them to have one-night or one-morning or one-afternoon stands with the likes of E.? Why does Emily Ratajkowski (the character) want to be with Vince? For the business? For perceived advantage? To satisfy her own desires? It's the subject of the film—and the movie's director, Doug Ellin (who's also the creator of the TV series on which it's based), doesn't get anywhere near it. ... 

”How do the kinds of people seen in 'Entourage' manage to make movies that, by and large, make money—i.e., how do they make movies that large numbers of 'civilians' pay to see? It's a mystery, but it's a mystery that gets to the very essence of life at large and the demonic forces that lurk within most people's hearts. ... In a sense, to damn the fictional world of 'Entourage' is to damn the real world, and to review a popular movie is to review its viewers.

-- Richard Brody, “The Silent Women of 'Entourage,'” on the New Yorker site. For once I agree with almost everything Brody writes. “Entourage” currently has an RT score of 30% all/24% top critics

the silent women of Entourage

Demonic forces? Just a girl trying to get ahead? Both?

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Posted at 11:29 AM on Jun 05, 2015 in category Movie Reviews
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Tuesday June 02, 2015

A.O. Scott Doesn't Hug It Out with 'Entourage'

“There really isn't much more to say. By the time it reached the end of its HBO run in 2011, 'Entourage' had grown staler than last night's Axe body spray. The passing of a few more years has not improved the aroma. Watching the movie is like finding an ancient issue of a second-tier lad mag — not even Maxim, but Loaded or Nuts — in a friend's guest bathroom. You wonder how it got there. You wonder how you got there.”

-- A.O. Scott in his review of the “Entourage” movie. On Twitter he wrote: “No. Not gonna hug it out.” Here's my similar thoughts on the last episode of “Entourage” back in 2011. This thing is so over. 

Entourage

Ick.

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Posted at 02:11 PM on Jun 02, 2015 in category Movie Reviews
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Thursday May 28, 2015

Well, At Least One Person Agrees with Me about 'Meh Max'

From longtime reader Daniel, whose criticism of “Mad Max” gets closer to the problem than my review did:

Thank you for the critical review of Mad Max! I saw it Thursday, and I already knew of its acclaim which might have primed me for a letdown; but if I had to pick one word to describe this movie, that word would be “dull.”

I agree with your praise of the movie, and would add that the visuals of it are impressive and both Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy have terrific charisma and are mesmerizing to watch even when they are looking out a window. That said, I don’t think I found it dull just because I don’t like chase movies. I think it’s dull because we are given no reason to care about any of the characters.

Honestly, do you feel as though you have a sense of a full human being with any of them? Our eponymous character is closest, but how would you describe him? He’s tough and taciturn and plagued by nightmarish images of his past. That’s the best I can do. That’s the starting point for a character not its end point. By the way, the loved ones he didn’t save – did he make a choice of some kind to save himself rather than them? Or, were their deaths inevitable given the dire situations in which they found themselves? It’s ambiguous, but nothing is done with that ambiguity.

Mad Max: Fury RoadFuriosa? She is tough and taciturn. She wants redemption. But, wait, redemption usually means righting a past wrong. Is that what it means for her? Did she do something particularly wrong for which she feels guilty? Or, does she just want to do away with the maniacal patriarchy? It’s ambiguous, but nothing is done with that ambiguity either. What was her goal anyway? If she managed to bring the breeders to the green place, why wouldn’t that just lead to numerous raiding parties from Immortan Joe to that green place probably destroying it if it had not been destroyed already. Is Immortan Joe unaware of the (formerly) green place a day’s ride away? That seems unlikely, doesn’t it? I’m confused.

What about Nicholas Hoult’s character? He is maniacally loyal to Immortan Joe and full of competitive machismo – until he isn’t because … um … he’s convinced that Immortan Joe would never forgive me for letting his favorite die. Why does he think that exactly? He’s an underling. Why wouldn’t he immediately think that Joe would want revenge and would reward him for killing those who killed his favorite? Isn’t Immortan Joe the angry vengeful sort?

As for that favorite, what can we say about her? She’s attractive. She starts acting heroically before she dies. But we aren’t given a sense that any of the others think of her as special outside of the fact that she is described as Joe’s favorite, a description that isn’t prefigured in any way. And once she’s dead, she won’t be mentioned again.

Zoe Kravitz’s character? She’s feistier than the others. Actually, she’s legitimately feisty. That’s a character trait, so good for her.

The brunette? She despairs at one point. But that despair isn’t prefigured in any way and once the one minute scene is over, it won’t be mentioned again either. And despairing at one point is not a character trait. All of these moments that aren’t pre-figured in any way and have no broader connection to the “story” are what I like to call “Bad Writing 101.”

The red-head? She is affectionate around Nicholas Hoult’s character and seems attracted to him. That isn’t a character trait. She seems vaguely more motherly than the others, but three of the others (the favorite, the brunette and the blond) are such non-entities that being a bit more motherly than they are isn’t saying much.

The blond? She mentions that she’s pregnant. It’s a comment that isn’t prefigured and will not be brought up again at any point. Obviously, being pregnant isn’t a character trait, but what else can you say about her?

As for the bad guys, Immortan Joe and his brothers are so grotesque as to be cartoonish. In fact, it has to be said that Ultron is less cartoonish than they are. He has actual goals. Their goals – wait, what are their goals? Does he just want his models, I mean, breeders back? Does he just want to demonstrate that no one can escape his authority? I guess that makes sense, but his society doesn’t seem susceptible to those kinds of worries – although it’s shown to be fragile at the end of the movie – which wasn’t prefigured in any way, sigh. I think he is just supposed to be angry and maniacal and patriarchal, and he’s giving chase with an army because: angry, maniacal, patriarchal. These aren’t actually goals in any real sense of the word. Outside of Nicholas Hoult, the big guy and the guy with the flaming guitar, the chalky underlings are less distinguishable than Despicable Me’s minions. They die randomly, and it doesn’t seem to matter to anyone at all. I realize that it isn’t supposed to matter, but with no real characters at all, it would help if the “villains” were interesting – well interesting other than visually.

I also have to say, I like that so little was done with CGI, but the stunts gave scenes visual heft but not emotional heft. Emotional heft is what matters, it is what gives a chase scene (or a chase movie) tension and drama. This movie is loud and frenetic, but it isn’t dramatic – which is why I found it so dull. Sometimes I will say about a movie that it’s very good but has some noticeable flaws. This movie is the inverse; it’s terrible, but it has some noticeable good points.

I did not intend to write this much. I think I’ve felt more exasperated by this movie than most because I do not understand the critical acclaim for it. Fairly often, if a movie is broadly critically acclaimed, and I did not enjoy it, I seriously wonder what I might have missed as you seem to have done by asking about your “major malfunction.” I haven’t felt that way with this movie. This movie strikes me as objectively awful, and, yes, I believe there is such a thing. Your criticism of it gave me something to which I could respond, and I hope you don’t mind my sending what I’ve written your way. Thank you for continuing to think and write. I appreciate it.

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Posted at 05:48 AM on May 28, 2015 in category Movie Reviews
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Thursday May 14, 2015

'Mad Max' is 'One of the Finest Action Films Ever Made'

From Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere:

I've more or less said it already: George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros., 5.15) is one of the finest action films ever made — phenomenal, triple-A, pulse-pounding, perfectly performed by a live-wire cast topped by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, occasionally hilarious and superbly cut, timed, captured and choreographed...a grand slam if there ever was one for this type of thing. And what would that be? Call it an apocalyptic chase thriller with heart and humanity (underneath the rubber and fire and flying bodies it's about wounded characters rediscovering their compassion and trust). And it's extra special, I feel, because of the respect and allegiance it shows for women as leaders, fighters, nurturers, survivors. Without taking anything away from Hardy, who brings the legendary Max Rockatansky to life just as winningly as young Mel Gibson did 30-plus years ago, Fury Road is very much a woman's action film, and all the richer for that.

Despite being a big Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron fan, I wasn't too excited for this. I'm not a fan of either Aussie exploitation flicks or postapocalyptic yadda yaddas. But Wells' enthusiasm has me intrigued. 

Certainly looks pretty

In his post, Wells also gets some good digs in at “Furious 7.”

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Posted at 08:56 AM on May 14, 2015 in category Movie Reviews
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Wednesday September 03, 2014

A Personal Journey Through Martin Scorsese's Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert

It was fun comparing and contrasting Siskel and Ebert's top 10 love for Woody Allen recently, so I thought I'd try it with other directors. 

One of the most startling revelations in the documentary “Life Itself,” about the life and times and films of Roger Ebert, comes from Martin Scorsese. He admits he was depressed in the 1980s, but we all knew that. He also admits he was suicidal, and what helped bring him back from the edge was an award he won at the Toronto Film Festival, instigated by Siskel and Ebert. He basically says they helped save his life. Pretty cool. Then they panned “The Color of Money,” which is even cooler.

That said, how much top 10 love did Marty get from S&E? 

A lot. Here's a list of all of Marty's movies from 1973 to 1999, when Gene died.

Scorsese's Movies Siskel  Ebert
Mean Streets (1973) #5 #8
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)   #3
Taxi Driver (1976) #7 #2
New York, New York (1977)    
The Last Waltz (1978)    
Raging Bull (1980) #1 #2
The King of Comedy (1982)    
After Hours (1985)   #2
The Color of Money (1986)    
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) #1  
Goodfellas (1990) #1 #1
Cape Fear (1991)    
The Age of Innocence (1993) #7 #2
Casino (1995)   #5
Kundun (1997)    

He got more love from Roger (8-6) but ... a higher degree of it from Gene? In an 11-year period, 1980 to 1990, Scorsese directed Siskel's #1 movie of the year three times. He also directed one of Siskel's top 10 movies of the 1970s (“Mean Streets”) and his top movie of the 1980s (“Raging Bull”). “Goodfellas” probably wouldn't have been Gene's top film of the 1990s, not with “Fargo” and “Hoop Dreams” around, but it would've made the cut. Third or fourth, I'd guess.

Interesting that Roger has “Alice” in there at #3 for 1974, then “Age of Innocence” at #2 in 1993. These are the more womencentric Scorsese flicks, which tend to get dismissed. Certainly not rewatched. Maybe I should rewatch them.

I also like their big, mid-1980s Scorsese battle. Roger chose “After Hours” as his #2 movie of 1985 while it didn't make Gene's list; Gene chose “Last Temptation” as his #1 movie of 1988 while it didn't make Roger's list. I think the former has the bigger cult following, but “Last Temptation” got lost amid all the fundamentalist handwringing. Another movie worth revisiting. 

Which of Marty's movies would have made my top 10 list? I don't know. All I know is the greatest double feature I've ever seen happened at the Neptune Theater in 1992, when I saw—both for the first time—“Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” Doesn't get much better than that.

Raging Bull

They didn't agree in 1980, when it was Gene's #1 and Roger's #2 movie of the year, but by 1990 they both agreed “Raging Bull” was the #1 movie of the decade.

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Posted at 12:21 PM on Sep 03, 2014 in category Movie Reviews
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