The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

The Dead Don’t Die. Directed by: Jim Jarmusch. Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny. Runtime: 1h 44 min. Released: June 14, 2019.

My reviews usually contain spoilers so you’ve been warned about that. However, here, I don’t really talk about a lot of the major plot points because nothing really happens. 

This is the first Jim Jarmusch film that I’ve seen and man, I should not have started with this one.

In Centreville, seemingly the only crime reports are Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) causing trouble. But more trouble comes for the town, especially for Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) when the dead start raising from their graves.

Usually there’s no reason given for why the dead come back to life, and that probably would have worked better for this. Jarmusch uses it as a commentary on the environment, as there’s polar fracking that’s affecting the daylight and everyone comments on it and keeps commenting on it.

It’s a strange set-up, but what’s stranger is that the reason for the dead coming back to life is the polar fracking and because it’s throwing the Earth off its axis. This becomes such a big thing that we get about five or six hints about this before someone literally says the zombies are here because of the polar fracking.

That doesn’t make much sense to me, and just explaining it as they’re zombies, it’s what they do, come back to life is a more believable explanation. One unique thing it brings to zombies is that, since they’re coming back to life because the Earth axis being affected, when they’re killed, blood doesn’t come out. Dirt flows out.

That’s a bit of the on-the-nose commentary you can expect here, but in dialogue it’s usually brought up by Hermit Bob (“the ant colonies are all jacked up like it’s the end of the world.”) By the end of the film, Jarmusch also shoehorns commentary on capitalism as well, the usual staple of George A. Romero’s zombie films.

In this, it’s not subtle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as pretentious as Hermit Bob watching the carnage of the zombie horde from the woods and monologuing about the zombies just being hungry for more stuff and basically recapping the film (“remnants of the materialist people, zombies all along.”)

Dead Don't Die article

Adam Driver in “The Dead Don’t Die.” (IMDb)

I don’t know enough about Jarmusch to know if this is always his level of subtlety, but it’s bizarre. His dry sense of humour is unique but I’m not a fan of it. I like dry humour just fine, but it should be funny. For the most part, the film isn’t funny for me. There are a couple of visual things I liked, like when Ronnie pulls up in a smart car. But there aren’t many laughs at all. The humour is more-so just annoying because it repeats so many jokes.

There’s a recurring thing when the film’s original song “The Dead Don’t Die” by Sturgill Simpson plays. It’s a great song and I thought the film was named after it, because it sounds like an old song, but it’s an original song. Everyone always comments “oh, I love this song.” It’s funny the first time it’s used but when the bit is used about six times, it gets old. Same with when Ronnie says “This isn’t going to end well.” He literally says it seven times by the end of it. It’s played for a pay-off joke near the end which might be amusing to people who like the film.

But it didn’t pay off for me because by that point, I was so bored by the film I didn’t care about anything happening on-screen. It’s just one of the most boring films I’ve ever seen. Nothing really happens. The comedy never worked for me and it’s the least scary zombie film I’ve seen. It’s an honest shame, too, because the cast is filled with a lot of funny people.

Adam Driver and Bill Murray play off each other well enough for what the dialogue allows them to do. Tilda Swinton’s a highlight as a samurai-wielding coroner who is just weird and gets weirder as the film progresses. Chloë Sevigny is totally fine for the first half but the character is just dull. Near the end, she’s whining so much and complaining at everything that happens that I honestly couldn’t wait for her to get eaten by the zombies. Am I a bad person? Probably, but if you’ve seen this, you’ll know what I mean.

Donald Glover and Caleb Landry Jones are fine as their characters who hole up in a hardware store when the zombies descend. The criminally underused include Steve Buscemi and especially Selena Gomez. Her arc isn’t even concluded well. There’s also an arc with three kids at a detention centre that you won’t give two shits about. That’s what “The Dead Don’t Die” is for me, a boring film that I didn’t give two shits about.

Score: 38/100

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Hail, Caesar! (2016) review

Released: February 5, 2016. Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen. Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson. Runtime: 1hr, 46 min.

I love the work of Joel and Ethan Coen because of their sense of humour and great tales. The pair of directors follow up Inside Llewyn Davis with a period piece set in the 1950s, Hail, Caesar!

The film follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a fixer at Hollywood production lot Capitol Pictures. He navigates through arising issues, like a production needing a new star actor.

He also has to navigate through the rare kidnapping of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the star of the production company’s biggest movie of the year, Hail, Caesar!

It’s a cool commentary on the capitalism of Hollywood in the 1950s. There’s lots of communism in the film, and a group of communist writers, especially David Krumholtz, are quite amusing. It’s a good companion piece to their 1991 film Barton Fink, also set in 1950s Hollywood.

Caesar is mainly notable for its hilarious moments. From clever banter between Ralph Fiennes’ character Laurence Laurentz and Alden Ehrenreich’s wild west actor Hobie Doyle to a fun discussion between religious figures of how to properly portray Christ in the film; these stand as memorable scenes.

Hail, Caesar! Baird Whitlock

George Clooney as Bair Whitlock in Hail, Caesar! (Source)

There’s also an entertaining musical number featuring Channing Tatum. He steals multiple scenes in the entertaining romp. It might be surprising to hear a Coen film described as a romp as they’re known for darker humour.

The Coen brothers resist and don’t go nearly as dark as they could have, which is atypical but likely necessary since it is just a harmless comedy musical with a bit of mystery (but nonsensical mystery).

But it seems to be their first feel-good feature, in the traditional sense. Simply because with what may seem like a caper doesn’t amount to much.

I saw the film on Feb. 7 and I’m still trying to decipher what the heck the point of the film is. That’s why I think it’s a good companion piece for Barton Fink, because I didn’t think that one made a hell of a lot of sense, either.

It feels like the point of the film was to keep you entertained throughout so you wouldn’t notice that the actual story-line is as fragile as one of Hobie Doyle’s spaghetti lassos. But the laughs are the only thing saving the film from a near-disaster.

Hail, Caesar! Scar Jo

Scarlett Johansson in Hail, Caesar! (Source)

Josh Brolin gives a fun performance as Eddie Mannix, where he goes from sneaking cigarettes and confessing at Church to him getting a job offer so he doesn’t have to make long hours or solve problems for the Hollywood types.

He navigates through getting director Laurence Laurentz (Fiennes) a new star for his drama (in the form of Hobie Doyle, who can only act on a horse) to helping save the reputation of a starlet, DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson).

It’s an episodic story-line, but the laughs offered throughout make it well-worth it. Caesar is also stunningly shot by Roger Deakins, using a 35mm film to shoot the period piece. Some scenes are more breathtaking than others, notably the aforementioned Tatum dance scene.

But my favourite, in terms of cinematography, was the scene with Scarlett Johansson as a mermaid in an aquatic dance number, surely emulating a scene from 1952’s Million Dollar Mermaid.

The said scene is shot with a live orchestra – though, it doesn’t have nearly the same mesmerizing effect as when it was matched with Jamie N Commons’ Rumble and Sway in the film’s trailers. The score by Carter Burwell is good.

Hail, Caesar! Channy

Channing Tatum in his big musical number in Hail, Caesar! (Source)

Tilda Swinton appears in an amusing dual role as identical twin gossip columnists trying to get the scoop on the daily on-goings of the studio. They want to run a column on an on-set story about Baird Whitlock on the set of On Wings as Eagles (amusingly, the title’s utterance cues an eagle’s shrill).

Clooney is funny as Whitlock and the ensemble cast is great. Alden Ehrenreich is also a lot of fun as the B-movie Western actor Doyle. Michael Gambon (Harry Potter) offers soothing narration, and Frances McDormand and Jonah Hill are good in their one-scene appearances.

Despite the fact that Hail, Caesar! has sporadic greatness, it is a blemish in the Coen canon because of how average it can be. By the end of the rather anti-climactic film, I couldn’t help but ask: “That was it?”

3.5 out of 5

Re-released Review: Michael Clayton (2007)

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Michael Clayton

Release Date: October 12, 2007

Director: Tony Gilroy

Stars: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson

Runtime: 119 min

Tagline: The truth can be adjusted.

 The truth is, this was one disappointing film for me, showcased by great talents.

Michael Clayton is a “fixer” for a big law firm in New York, and he has to face the biggest job of his career when a case involving a big chemical company called U/North comes to the surface.

Or something like that, I found myself having a difficult time following because I was frankly not intrigued by the whole thing. The plot seems interesting enough, but I was really disappointed by the film, I was expecting a lot more because of its critical acclaim and generally good audience reception.

I thought the pacing was poor and I found myself getting confused, and I couldn’t get into the story, I felt the general execution of the film was poor.

Clayton is probably one of my least favourite characters Clooney has portrayed because I didn’t feel fascinated by him generally, and I couldn’t connect with him on a high level or really any level for that matter; sure he has his morals straight, but I simply did not care for the guy.

The only part that I found myself being entertained by was Wilkinson’s narrative at the beginning and the last fifteen or twenty minutes of the film; all because it was pretty exciting, I was following what was going on and the film was going to be over soon. And more good notes, it does deliver some thrilling moments (not many as I thought it would, I guess you can’t expect multiple from a law-based thriller), the plot is seemingly intriguing but I had a hard time following, and it really is quite original, so I respect it for that.

George Clooney, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson (and Michael O’Keefe and Sydney Pollack) and the main three actors were really the only aspect that motivated me to pursue the film to the end credits.

Clooney delivers a good performance, as does Wilkinson and Swinton does deliver a solid performance as well but her Oscar was so undeserved.

Oh look, she’s talking to herself in the mirror; she’s projecting her voice well; she’s so baffled and she can fall to her knees dramatically, she should get an Oscar for that!  Amy Ryan in ‘Gone Baby Gone’ deserved it so much more than her. I like Swinton as an actress (well the only other films I’ve seen her in are some of the ‘Narnia’ films and ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin,’) and good for her for winning it, but I just preferred Ryan’s performance.

For a thriller, it’s really slow and frankly boring. For a Best Picture Oscar nominee, it only rarely ever sparked my interest or gave me any sort of pleasure.

I honestly could only recommend this to Clooney fans, or if you really want to check it out, I was finding myself a little sleepy throughout, it’s probably my least favourite Clooney flick I’ve seen. I only wish I could have enjoyed it more.

If you want a good law film that’s about taking down a large chemical company, just watch Erin Brockovich, I found myself enjoying that a lot more than this one, and it had more charisma, even if I’m suggesting more of a drama with comedic elements than a thriller.

                                               50/100

                   

Celebrity Birthdays: October 29 – November 11

Ben Foster, October 29

Happy 30th birthday to Ben Foster. He often plays eerie roles, like in Hostage or in 30 Days of Night. Foster is a great screen presence and he’s best known for his roles in 3:10 to YumaPandorumThe Messenger, and The Mechanic.

Ben Foster as the haunting Mars Krupcheck in 2005’s Hostage.

My favourite films with Foster in a leading or supporting role: Hostage (2005) — Alpha Dog (2006) — 30 Days of Night (2007).

 

John Candy, October 31

The late John Candy would have been 62 on Halloween. He is a household name because of his charisma, and cheery and exciting screen presence. He is best known for his part on the TV’s SCTV, Spaceballs and Uncle Buck.

Favourite John Candy films: Uncle Buck (1989) — Home Alone (1990). Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to see more!

Sam Rockwell, November 5

Happy 44th birthday to the great Sam Rockwell! Rockwell is best known for his roles in MoonThe Green MileIron Man 2 and Frost/Nixon. You can see him in theatres in the film Seven Psychopaths.

Sam Rockwell as Wild Bill in The Green Mile.

My favourite Sam Rockwell films: The Green Mile (1999) — Seven Psychopaths (2012) — Galaxy Quest (1999) — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005).

 

Emma Stone, November 6

Happy 24th birthday to Emma Stone! Sarcastic, and she’s both awkward and sexy at the same time. What’s not to love about her? She is best known for her roles in The HelpEasy AThe Amazing Spider-Man, and Zombieland.

My favourite Emma Stone flicks: The Help (2011) — Superbad (2007) — Zombieland (2009) — Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011) —  Easy A (2010) — The House Bunny (2008).

Leonardo DiCaprio, November 11

Happy 38th birthday to Leonardo DiCaprio. He has a large filmography that started with a humble beginning, and became greater things. He is best known for his roles in InceptionTitanicThe Departed and Shutter Island.

My favourite Leonardo DiCaprio flicks: Blood Diamond (2006) — Catch Me If You Can (2002) — Titanic (1997) — Inception (2010) — Shutter Island (2010) — What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) — Romeo + Juliet (1996).

Other Birthdays: Oct. 29, Winona Ryder (41); Richard Dreyfuss (65). Oct. 30, Kevin Pollack (55). Oct. 31, Peter Jackson (51). Nov. 5, Tilda Swinton (52); Robert Patrick (54). Nov. 6, Ethan Hawke (42); Sally Field (66); Rebecca Romijn (40). Nov. 10, Josh Peck (26). Nov. 11, Stanley Tucci (52); Demi Moore (50).

Film reviews of films featuring Tilda Swinton: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005); We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011).

Film reviews of films featuring Robert PatrickTrouble with the Curve (2012).

Film reviews of films featuring Ethan HawkeSinister (2012).

Film reviews of films featuring Josh PeckMean Creek (2003); ATM (2012).

Film reviews of films featuring Stanley TucciThe Hunger Games (2012)

Who’s your favourite actor on this list?

 

 

 

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin – A disturbing and unique experience.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Release Date: September 4, 2011 (First U.S. Festival Release Date)

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller

Runtime: 112 min

[I’ve written about this over at http://themovieguideblog.wordpress.com/, but I wanted to post it on here, too!]

This film is wonderfully adapted from a fairly overlooked novel of the same name, by Lionel Shriver.

Eva (Tilda Swinton) once had a nice job and a good life, until Kevin (Rock Duer, toddler; Jasper Newell, 6-8 Years; Ezra Miller, Teenager) came along. Eva has seemed to resent Kevin ever since he was born. She has struggled to love her child because of the strange and constantly vicious things he does. And her husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly), is completely oblivious to Kevin’s actions, stating that he’s only a typical boy doing what young boys do. The recent “incident” though, won’t help her situation, and ultimately haunt both her and the community.

The general plot is really good, not extremely memorable, but really good; the real memorable aspect of this film is the way that it is told. The timeline is both past and present, but it’s done very well so you won’t get lost often.

The only flaw the film possesses, and the reason I can’t give it a perfect score, is the beginning. It’s not that the beginning is completely bad; it’s just that I hardly knew what the hell was going on. It’s only like that for the first ten minutes, though; and then I started to adjust and understand what was going on.

 W.N.T.T.A.K. offers a stylish low-key disturbing experience. The psychology of it is pretty fascinating, too. The whole nature (genetics) vs. nurture (environment one grows up in & one’s experiences) psychology theory works well into here; because Eva was into that whole drug crowd when she was pregnant with Kevin; and he grew up in an environment where he felt unloved by his mother and his father was oblivious to his actions, and he used the “Hey, buddy” approach.

The storytelling was interesting, and disturbing too, because some scenes hinted at what he [Kevin] did but you couldn’t tell for sure, and he was in a juvenile detention facility so you could definitely tell it was bad. Some of it was shocking, too, and it was definitely effective. Eva also stayed in the town because she felt she was somehow responsible for Kevin’s actions, even with all of the hatred shown against her after the incident; yet, she still faced it. Henceforth, suggesting she’s a strong-willed character; despite her constant fright in the community. She is also beautifully performed by Tilda Swinton, in the finest performance I have seen her in, and she’s another actress who has been overlooked for an Oscar nomination (boy, it was a good year for performances).

I liked how the film was ambiguous of who the antagonist was. Some people may feel that it was more the mother’s fault, and she just wasn’t trying hard to enough to love or appreciate Kevin; and some would have felt that the antagonist was Kevin because he was just so increasingly vicious. I felt Kevin was more the antagonist here, but Eva did offer antagonistic traits, too.

John C. Reilly played Franklin really well, because his voice makes him seem like the nice guy. The character may have been generally oblivious to the surroundings, and he was used well in this flick.

Don’t be mistaken by the cover art, it may look like it passes itself off as a horror flick, but it isn’t. It has thrilling elements though, but it is mostly a dramatic and disturbing flick. The film is definitely often Omen-esque; but it is effective, and I felt Kevin was even creepier than little Damien from those Omen flicks.

I also very much recommend you check out the Behind-the-Scenes of KEVIN special feature (if it’s available to you). It adds further insight onto the film and the character and mind of Kevin. I thought it was really interesting.

The film stars Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Rock Duer, Jasper Newell, Ashley Gerasimovich (as Eva and Franklin’s daughter, Celia) and Siobhan Fallon.

 W.N.T.T.A.K. is a low-key disturbing experience; that offers a great and memorable story. The direction offered by Ramsay is great, and has made me interested to check out her other projects. It definitely is my favourite lower budget film of 2011, and is my favourite disturbing and deeply thematic 2011 film (that I can think of). It’s really quite thought-provoking, and offers a unique experience that really should be checked out.

90/100

– Daniel Prinn

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Release Date: December 9, 2005

Director: Andrew Adamson

Stars: Tilda Swinton, Georgie Henley, William Moseley

Runtime: 143 min

Tagline: The beloved masterpiece comes to life December 9.

It’s a pretty great fantasy children’s and family film.

I wasn’t aware that this was actually based upon a literary masterpiece until I saw the film, but I never read the book so I’m not sure how great of an adaptation this is, but I’d think it would be because this is a pretty sweet flick that children will enjoy and some older people.

The Pevensie children are relocated out into the England country to stay at a professor’s mansion to protect them from the dangers of World War II. They are very unaware of the adventure they are about to encounter. When young Lucy finds a wardrobe, she enters it (and later all of the siblings) and finds a magical kingdom called Narnia. Narnia has been plunged into winter for years, as the citizens feel threatened by the White Witch (played by Tilda Swinton) They learn of their destiny with the help of Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) a lion who is the rightful ruler of Narnia. They must restore peace to the kingdom of Narnia, and eventually enter a war between Aslan’s army and the White Witch’s army.

Some of it’s moderately boring, and it’s a little lengthy for a film that isn’t completely incredible, but still is good. It’s really a great fantasy film for children, though. I liked it for the most part, as it had some pretty good action sequences, the occasional fantastic moment, and the big war was pretty great (not Braveheart or 300 great, but as good as war scenes can be in a PG film).

It isn’t in the same great franchise ranks as Harry Potter, but it’s enjoyable for a watch (or two, but not necessarily ‘desert island’ movie status) and can be generally memorable. This is really the only film in the Narnia franchise I cared for on a moderately high level. Liam Neeson lending his majestic Irish voice to the character of Aslan was the film’s real masterwork.

The film stars Tilda Swinton, Georgie Henley, William Moseley, Liam Neeson (voice of Aslan), James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Skandar Keynes and Anna Popplewell.

I just think there could have been more action, and just a little less lengthy. I loved it much more on initial viewing, but it still is enjoyable after seeing at my age (of seventeen) after all of these years.

Many adults may enjoy it too, and if you have a kid with a running imagination, it might make a wholesome flick for a family movie night that surpasses two hours. And, this film might be a good tool for babysitters, it should keep the attention of the kids for a near two-and-a-half hour experience.

75/100