Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2015

Posted 27 Feb 2016 — by Ezra Stead
Category Animation, Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

This is always a difficult thing to do, and this year, just like every other year, I left out plenty of movies I really like, even from the Honorable Mentions. This is a particularly interesting year in that I actually really like all the Oscar nominees that I’ve seen, which is relatively rare for me. Anyway, of the 107 new movies from 2015 I managed to see in time for this list, these are my (completely subjective) favorites.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie in the glorious pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and Heavy Metal magazine, but it never feels derivative, even of its own source material1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – it’s always a treat to have really high expectations for a movie and then to see them exceeded. George Miller’s return to the wasteland of his career-defining trilogy is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The first time I saw it, though, Fury Road appeared to only meet my expectations, a rare enough feat in its own right. It was the second viewing that made me realize that this was not only my favorite movie of the year, but also my favorite Mad Max movie, and quite possibly my favorite movie of the last two decades. Then I saw it three more times in the space of about two weeks, and I noticed something new about it every single time. The rich, detailed world-building not only rewards but demands multiple viewings, and it’s a testament to Miller’s craft that the movie doesn’t rely on a lot of expository dialogue and other hand-holding devices to make sure the audience can keep up. Max Rockatansky’s world of “fire and blood” has its own language that is every bit as evocative and original as its eye-popping visuals: War Boys, Blood Bags, Bullet Farms, etc. This is a movie in the glorious pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and Heavy Metal magazine, but it never feels derivative, even of its own source material (The Road Warrior being the original Mad Max movie it most closely resembles). What seems to be overlooked in all the talk about its incredible visual effects and stuntwork (which makes a better case than any movie I can think of for an Oscar category devoted to the people who risk their lives to make movies awesome) is the quality of the writing and performances. Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult are especially great, but there is also a surprising tenderness and depth to Tom Hardy’s performance as Max, a man of few words and great stoicism, and Melissa Jaffer managed to break my heart with just a few minutes of screen time as the Keeper of the Seeds. Critics and skeptics say this movie is just one long chase scene, which is reductive, but even if that were strictly true, complaining about that misses the point of how amazing it is that a movie this compelling could be made from a single long chase. Others might say it doesn’t belong in the Best Picture Oscar race because it’s not serious and important enough, but its themes of feminism and environmentalism are extremely relevant; they’re just not belabored to the point of didacticism. Fury Road’s vision of the destruction of the Old World, in which water was plentiful and “everyone had a show,” seems all too plausible, despite its over-the-top visual antics, and there’s a funny/scary comparison to be made between the film’s main villain, Immortan Joe, and a certain current Presidential candidate. I have no doubt this movie will ride eternal in Valhalla, shiny and chrome. It is perfect in every way.  Read More

MIDG 3rd Annual Oscars Predictions Podcast For The 88th Academy Awards

Posted 22 Feb 2016 — by Jason A. Hill
Category Film Industry News, Film Reviews, Hollywood Beat, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

Hosted by Jason A. Hill & Ezra Stead with special guests: Alan Tracy and Pete K. Wong.

The MIDG Oscars Podcast, 2016 edition.

Oscar discussion and predictions for the show Sunday night, February 28th, on ABC.

 

 

 

Duration: 1 hour and 45 minutes.

 

Intro Music: The Danish Girl

Outro Music: Mad Max: Fury Road

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The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) – What America Needs

Posted 12 Dec 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence), USA, 2015

Written and Directed by Tom Six

The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) follows the fourth wall-shattering to its (sort of) logical conclusion, which means it’s the best and the worst one of all.

As both of my readers know, I work at an indie/art-house movie theater in New York City. What you might not know, and might even find surprising, is that that is the type of venue at which the pretty much universally reviled Human Centipede movies get their theatrical exhibitions. The first one was kind of a big hit, to the point where we ordered enough promotional T-shirts that they were still on sale during the run of the third one, six years later. The novelty has worn off, though, and we only actually sold one of those T-shirts this time around.

The Human Centipede 3 did pretty healthy business, though; healthy enough to get its exhibition extended by a couple of weeks. The crowds weren’t as predictable as you might imagine, either. Sure, opening night was a collection of obvious scumbags, but over the course of a few weeks, curiosity (or masochism) brought in a lot of folks you wouldn’t immediately peg as Human Centipede crowd. I actually felt the need to make sure one group of four college girls knew what movie they were standing in line for, and when they enthusiastically replied in the affirmative, I said, “But you all seem so nice.”

I had to admit it then, and I’ll admit it again now: I’m no better. My own morbid curiosity had already compelled me to sit through the first two atrocities, and I knew then that it was only a matter of time until a combination of whiskey, loneliness, and an active Netflix account would have me buckling in for one more. The title promises this is the last one, anyway. If there is a fourth sequence one day, I’ll probably watch that one, too. I’m no better.  Read More

Johnny Dangerously – Sneaky Bastages With .88 Magnums

Posted 30 Jun 2015 — by contributor
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Mike Shaeffer 

Johnny Dangerously is riddled with sight gags.Johnny Dangerously, USA, 1984

Directed by Amy Heckerling

“I’ve been fulfilling a lot of people’s prophecies about me; I’ve become a real scumbag.” –Danny Vermin (Joe Piscopo)

In 1984, director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless) gave us the comedy Johnny Dangerously, starring a dapper Michael Keaton, fresh off the success of Mr. Mom. Keaton’s performance in last year’s Birdman, which netted the Oscar for Best Picture, was one of his best. It was a delight revisiting his gangster persona to see just how well the actor and this gangster spoof have aged.

One of the first elements that establish this film as a gangster flick is the setting—the Lower East Side of New York City during the height of Prohibition. After a brief set-up introducing Keaton as our protagonist, we flash back to city streets filled with Studebakers, alleys ruled by an Irish mobster called Jocko Dundee, played with humor and charm by the late, great Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein).  Read More

Maps To The Stars

Posted 24 Mar 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead 

Maps to the Stars, Canada / Germany / France / USA, 2014

Directed by David Cronenberg

Maps to the Stars is gleefully disreputable and never less than entertaining. However, it lacks the narrative focus and thematic bite to rank among Cronenberg's best films. Maps to the StarsIf A Dangerous Method (the end of the Viggo Mortensen trilogy as I like to call it, the first two being A History of Violence and Eastern Promises) shows David Cronenberg at his most respectable, and Cosmopolis presents the Canadian director at his most unwatchable, his latest manages to avoid both of those traps. A sleazy, trashy, dark comedy about the amoral self-absorption of Hollywood, Maps to the Stars is gleefully disreputable and never less than entertaining. However, it lacks the narrative focus and thematic bite to rank among Cronenberg’s best films.

The most coherent and interesting thread to be found amongst the rather large, interconnected ensemble concerns an aging actress (Julianne Moore) angling for the part played by her now deceased mother in a remake of one of the latter’s classic films. She hires an assistant (Mia Wasikowska) who has been disfigured by burns in a house fire she herself started. The mentor-protégé relationship gradually sours to the point of a rather shocking conclusion, and an earlier scene in which the pair sing and dance in celebration of the tragic death of another actress’s small child is easily the funniest moment in the film.  Read More

Ezra’s Six Days Of Christmas Movies

Posted 23 Dec 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

A Muppet Christmas Carol is a delightful and remarkably faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic. Yes, I know this should be “12 Days of Christmas Movies.” Listen, it’s the holidays, guys; cut me some slack. Anyway, Christmas is far from my favorite holiday, as evidenced by my much more thorough Halloween article (over four times as many movies in that one, folks!), but I wanted to take some time this year to look at some rather off-the-beaten-path movies, as well as a couple I had seen before, but felt it was time to revisit. Here they are, in the order in which I watched them. Happy birthday, Jeebus!

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL – a delightful and remarkably faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic, starring Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge (Ebenezer apparently went the way of Adolph as a first name choice), Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, and the Great Gonzo as Dickens himself. The biggest deviation from the source material is the casting of not one but two Jacob Marleys, in the form of crusty old hecklers Statler and Waldorf. Michael Caine gives a typically excellent performance, with far more emotional depth than you’d expect from a Muppet movie, and the film ends on a positive, Sesame Street-esque educational note: “If you’d like to know more, read the book.” ****  Read More

The Immortalists – Death Is A Disease Like Any Other…

Posted 04 Dec 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Immortalists, USA / UK / India

Directed by David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg

The Immortalists is one of those rare films that I honestly believe every human being should see. This new documentary from David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg tackles one of the most fascinating subjects a nonfiction film could possibly cover: it is about scientists on the hunt for a cure for aging. In other words, the subjects of this film are trying to make natural death a thing of the past. What makes the film even more special and memorable is the fact that it is just as interested in these scientists as people, giving equal time to both their extremely compelling goals and their personal biographies. In investigating the reasons for their obsessions, the film tells us a great deal about these people, as well as about ourselves.  Read More