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I love entertainment...

Sex: Female
Language: English
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Interested In: Men and Women

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      • 5/5 (2 votes)
      • Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim
        5/5 (2 votes)
        Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim

        Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. Let me say that again because it’s little a hard to believe. Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. The first time I saw the promo of this film, I said to myself it’s going to be...

      • 5/5 (1 votes)
      • Interstellar
        5/5 (1 votes)

        Nolan’s "Interstellar," about astronauts traveling to the other end of the galaxy to find a new home to
        replace humanity’s despoiled home-world, is frantically busy and earsplittingly
        loud. It uses booming music to jack...

      • San Andreas
        5/5 (1 votes)
        San Andreas

        In a match between a supremely catastrophic California
        earthquake and the former wrestling star turned movie action hero Dwayne
        Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock, aptly enough here I guess, although he’s not thusly
        credited), who are you going to bet...

        • Entertainer
          Entertainer published a blog post Gully


          Uncertain what story it's telling, Nabil Elderkin’s “Gully” is only held together by the sheer talent of its young cast. Kelvin Harrison Jr. (“Luce”), Charlie Plummer (“Lean on Pete”) and Jacob Latimore (“Sleight”) are three of the most interesting performers of their generation. Add in a supporting cast that includes the great Jonathan Majors (“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”), along with veterans like Terrence Howard, John Corbett, and Amber Heard, and “Gully” feels like it should at least be interesting. It barely is. Around 50 minutes in, I realized I was waiting for the movie to really get started and realizing that it probably wasn’t going to do so. It’s a film filled with half-hearted ideas and thin characters, all in the service of a story that wallows in its trauma in a manner that gives it little purpose. In a sense, it’s about cycles of violence that lead to inevitable tragedy, but it has too little thrust to make that feel interesting or original other than the hope that you can’t wait to see these talented young people make something better.

          Jesse (Harrison) narrates “Gully” with overwritten voiceover that constantly pulls from any attempts at realism. (Why Jesse is narrating a story he only knows parts of is a question likely never asked by writer Marcus J. Guillory, but it’s only one sign of a script that doesn’t quite hold together.) Jesse tells his story of trauma and abuse, along with how it intersects with those of his two friends Calvin (Latimore) and Nicky (Plummer). All three young men come from broken, violent pasts, and recent revelations push them into a wave of violence, almost as if Guillory and Elderkin are making a modern variation on “A Clockwork Orange,” asking what happens when young men who have been raised in brutal worlds end up unleashing that pent-up brutality on everyone around them.

          At first, “Gully” almost seems to be pointing a finger at video game culture. As the guys head out on their rampage, Elderkin pops up video game images out of something like “Grand Theft Auto V,” indicating on screen how many pills the guys just jacked and how they have now reached a new “rank.” Like so many elements in “Gully,” this concept is underdeveloped thematically and then barely utilized. “Gully” becomes a story of randomly connected acts of violence. The guys follow a couple after a road rage incident and terrorize them in their home. They rob tourists. They enact vengeance on someone who has been abusing Jesse. None of it adds up to much. None of it has any weight. Is that the point? These lives of violence continue to breed violence? Too much of “Gully” is either unfocused or overwritten. It’s a film that’s either underlining its themes—especially through a “wise homeless man” played by Howard—or unable to figure out what it’s trying to say at all. 

          Sadly, “Gully” is also visually slight, which is especially disappointing given Elderkin’s music video background. He’s been one of the most impressive artists in the form over the last decade or so, helming “Grenade” by Bruno Mars, “Pyramids” by Frank Ocean, “All of Me” by John Legend, “Two Weeks” by FKA Twigs, “DNA” by Kendrick Lamar, and many, many more, including clips by SZA, Travis Scott (who helped produce and appears briefly in “Gully”), Vince Staples, and The Weeknd. Usually working with these artists more than once, his videos have the kind of vision that melds art forms, translating and shaping music into a different craft. None of that confidence comes through in “Gully,” which one can only assume was chopped up in post-production as it lacks the fluidity and craft of Elderkin’s work. Perhaps it’s evidence that what works in short form doesn’t always in long, but the track record of great music video directors who made the leap to features is extensive and I still hope Elderkin can make that leap.

          It’s just not going to happen with “Gully.” Still, one feels like this could be an interesting minor footnote in a major career or two, given its cast of future stars. Majors, Harrison, Plummer, and Latimore could potentially become household names, and I can't wait to see what they do next. Everything that’s remotely interesting about “Gully” comes from how hard these young actors work to add richness and depth to a project that constantly has no idea what to do with their talent. 

          Now playing in select theaters and available on digital and on demand on June 8.

          By: Brian Tallerico
          Posted: June 4, 2021, 1:00 pm

          • Entertainer
            Entertainer published a blog post Under the Stadium Lights


            "Under the Stadium Lights" is sincere and well-meaning, but its tribute to a Texas 2009 high school football championship team is so certain of its story that it fails to reach for an audience outside of its world. 

            The film is based on a book called Brother's Keeper, written by Al Pickett and Chad Mitchell, who was a cop, pastor, and team chaplain. "Under the Stadium Lights" depicts what Mitchell did to inspire and support the team, in particular three outstanding players who had troubled home lives. The script gets some credit for skipping the usual underdog movie scenes with very little time spent on training montages or locker room pep talks. Unfortunately, what it replaces those scenes with never connects with anyone not automatically invested in the story.

            Mitchell (Milo Gibson) tells the team that everything depends on the Holy Trinity. By that he does not mean the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit but the three Fs: faith, family, and football. He tells them that they are their brother's keeper and gets them to chant and hashtag the abbreviation #brokeep. Mitchell later explains that he was once complaining about the news on television when he realized he was called to do more than complain; he needed to do something about it. 

            Being each other's keeper primarily consists of sessions where the players "talk about stuff you can't talk about at home." They quietly listen to each other's most painful stories and express compassion and solidarity. But as much as they talk about unity and being "something bigger than ourselves," we do not see the brotherhood translate into any specific actions on the field or off. 

            And that F for family is a tricky one, as the players at the center of the story deal with a father on drugs, a mother in prison, and a brother in a gang. What does it mean to put family at the center if your family is in trouble? How much can football give these teenagers? Mitchell himself faces family problems when his commitment to the police force, the team, and to an adult gang member who wants to leave that life behind cause his wife to ask if they can ever have a moment together without someone calling him. His young daughter asks, "If Dad's protecting the city, who is protecting us?"

            A single shot in the film version of "Friday Night Lights," with a perfectly maintained football field next to a shabby high school, told us everything about the vital importance of high school football in towns like Abilene. "Under the Stadium Lights" takes this for granted and expects us to, as well. It is very much preaching to the choir. The film never questions the idea that a public high school football team would have a chaplain and all would kneel in prayer together before a game. It also never questions why all of the troubled players are Black or Latino while all of the people who guide and help them are white. 

            The movie's dialogue is clunky and the acting is uneven, which keeps the tone more preachy than dramatic. In a small role as the proprietor of the local barbecue joint, Laurence Fishburne gives a performance so vibrant and endearing that he just reminds us of the limitations of the other actors.

            The cinematography and editing are the film's other strengths, and the scenes of the football games have a sharp, kinetic energy. But they would be more powerful if more based in the storyline, or if they showed how the chaplain's guidance connected to specific strategies. 

            There are many great movies about high school football teams, many based on true stories. They set a high bar with thoughtful, compelling explorations of issues like the pressures put on young men and the challenges of excellence and teamwork. "Under the Stadium Lights" tries hard to join those films, but never crosses the goal line.

            Now playing in select theaters, and available on demand and on digital platforms.

            By: Nell Minow
            Posted: June 4, 2021, 1:00 pm

            • Entertainer
              Entertainer published a blog post The Real Thing


              Handsome young people are doomed to pursue the wrong kind of love in “The Real Thing,” a 232-minute Japanese drama about an idealistic, but self-destructive young man who deliberately obsesses over all the wrong relationships. At least, that’s how salaryman Tsuji (Win Morisaki) and his actions are presented throughout writer/director Koji Fukada (“Harmonium,” “A Girl Missing”) and co-writer Shintaro Mitani’s stifling adaptation of Mochiru Hoshisato’s manga.

              Tsuji’s love for the mysterious and disastrously messy Ukiyo (Kaho Tsuchimura) is a problem to be reckoned with since it even affects his other romances with brash co-worker Minako (Akari Fukunaga) and the relatively unadventurous Ms. Hosokawa (Kei Ishibashi).

              Tsuji is sometimes warned—and also sometimes wonders aloud—about what will happen if he continues to pursue Ukiyo, a timid, emotionally unstable woman who is often in debt, homeless, and suicidal. So it’s no wonder that Tsuji’s story is the worst kind of moral tale: Fukada and Mitani treat their stillborn protagonists like victims of their own cyclical self-abuse, and then suggest that this supposedly representative behavior is a product of a certain time, age, and environment. Yeah, right.

              For starters, Ukiyo’s character is never really questioned. She’s more of a human-shaped bad luck charm than she is a person, a caricature of misery incarnate. “Her frail charm forces men to help her” warns the unpleasant, but I guess oracular gangster Wakita (Yukiya Kitamura), to whom Ukiyo owes a fair bit of money. And: “With her, you'll be in serious s**t,” insists unfortunate cuckold Tadashi (Shohei Uno), Ukiyo’s long-suffering husband. More often than not, Ukiyo confirms these low opinions of her.

              And that “serious s**t” that Tadashi hints at is Tsuji’s Hell on Earth, a miserable series of aimless crises that he barrels through because he wants to do the right thing, but also has a hearty masochistic streak and zero impulse control. Tsuji dutifully cleans up after Ukiyo and yearns for a relationship with her that she’s either not ready or capable of. Because again, her character is what it is, and so is his. Everything is grey and/or shot with natural light in this movie, and everyone talks like this: “Once you do [make love to her], you'll go to hell." Save yourselves; unlike the filmmakers, I know you can.

              Maybe it’s because I’ve not read Hoshisato’s source comic, but based on “The Real Thing,” I’m having a hard time appreciating such a pretentious wallow. And it is pretentious: Ukiyo’s often reduced to her inability to break away from her bad habits, just like Tsuji. Which I guess means that they’re mutually hopeless. Except there’s nothing mutual about it, because Tsuji uses Hosokawa, too—"Even now, you can't say it. You won't tell me you love me."—and Minako, to whom he says: “Since the beginning, I've never had feelings for you." 

              Tsuji and his lovers cling to each other despite themselves, because works sucks—"Say what's on the script. Do what you're told. You're not more than a mascot. No need to think."—and because financial insecurity rules everything around Tsuji, even the way he and many others talk about love: "There's a price to pay for lukewarm love." So characters go through the motions of bad decisions, abandoning and supporting each other on a whim. They accuse each other of being obviously cruel and manipulative, and you know what, they’ve got a point. Not a good point, but still.

              Grey buildings, grey clothes, grey love, just one thing after another. Is living this poorly Tsuji’s way of rebelling against the economy, women, et cetera? Obviously, since Tsuji’s sometimes shown to be the same kind of stubborn at work and at home. He goes out of his way to test and report on his company’s products—fireworks and children’s toys—and spearheads a group project to pick up the slack for an unproductive colleague.

              There’s unfortunately not much room to analyze Tsuji’s character in this sort of scenario since his actions are generally treated like circumstantial evidence with which we must judge him. Is he acting out of self-interest, or can he genuinely not help himself? Is he in love with Ukiyo, or just the idea (and then the ritual) of saving her? Is any of this meaningful, or is Tsuji right to pout that “destiny is bulls**t”?

              I have my answer: there are a lot of fragmentary ideas in “The Real Thing,” but they’re not cohesive or worthwhile as they’re loosely formed into one grey 232-minute lump. Tsuji’s generational malaise is often conflated with his boundless narcissism, so it’s not surprising that all of his romantic conquests are two-dimensional mirrors for his non-existent self. He is as empty as Ukiyo fears she is, and that’s kind of sad. “The Real Thing” is very much what it’s about, and that’s unfortunate.

              Now playing in virtual cinemas and available on VOD and digital platforms.

              By: Simon Abrams
              Posted: June 4, 2021, 1:00 pm

              • Entertainer
                Entertainer published a blog post Undine


                History, mythology, romance, and even architectural theory intertwine in the latest from the German master Christian Petzold, director of “Phoenix” and “Transit,” among others. The writer/director gets the stars of his last film together for a tale that plays off the myth of Undine, a water nymph who becomes human because of the love of a mortal man but will be forced to return to the water if he is unfaithful. Petzold keeps his mystery afloat (sorry) thanks to his impeccable craft even if this is a tale that sometimes feels like it needed a more magical and less direct approach. After all, it’s a whimsy-enhanced rewrite away from a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film and the searing chemistry of the two leads may lead one to wonder what might have resulted under the direction of a less restrained filmmaker. However, there’s still a lot to like here, particularly in the lead performances and a reminder of how Petzold can use such simple techniques and fluid filmmaking (sorry again) to cast a spell.

                A man named Johannes (Jacob Matschenz) and a woman named Undine (Paula Beer) sit at a café. He’s met someone else. After wiping a tear from her face, she tells him that he has no choice—he can’t leave her. If he refuses, she’ll have to kill him. This threat is taken surprisingly well—the first sign that things may not be exactly what they seem. She goes off to give a presentation on Urban Development in Berlin, particularly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is approaching its 30th anniversary, and tells Johannes that he will be there when she returns. He’s not.

                As Undine begins to panic, her eyes fall on an aquarium in the coffee shop just as a young man named Christoph (Franz Rogowski) comes into the room. He saw her presentation and wants to spend time with her. As her eyes focus on the figure of an underwater diver in the aquarium, Christoph’s awkwardness knocks him into the shelf and the glass breaks, sending shards, water, and fish all over the two of them. You won’t see a stranger meet-cute all year. And yet Beer and Rogowski’s chemistry is instantly palpable. As they lie on the floor, they look into each other’s eyes and you believe they are instantly connected. It’s a reminder of how increasingly rare on-screen chemistry is in modern film as these two have something you just don’t see that often anymore.

                Of course, they begin a romance. Did I mention that Christoph is an underwater diver? Petzold films some fascinating underwater sequences, starting with Christoph’s encounter with a legendary catfish named Gunther. And then Christoph takes Undine to work with him one day and things get even weirder. “Undine” is a difficult film to recap in that it’s purposefully light on plot, choosing to play with themes and mood more than dialogue. A surprising portion of the movie consists of Undine’s presentations about history and architecture as Petzold tries (and sometimes misses) commentary on how we can change things, replace one building with another, but there are aspects of the human condition that remain the same. The legend of Undine dates back hundreds of years, not unlike some of the buildings still standing in Berlin. We can alter the architecture. We can tear down the wall. But the history and the mythology remain, just under the placid surface of the water. And we can replace one boyfriend with another, but it’s not always that easy.

                Knowing that his film could be a little cold, Petzold puts much of the emotional thrust in the eyes and bodies of his stars. He relies heavily on the way Rogowski holds Beer or the way she looks back into his eyes, and the film becomes powerful purely through their connection. When there’s talk of being able to feel a heart literally skipping a beat, it’s believable because of how much Rogowski and Beer bring for their director. Petzold also limits his camera movement, and relies only on Bach for his score. 

                How Undine’s love life connects to the changing façade of Berlin is largely left for the viewer to consider. While Petzold’s vagueness is admirable, and often one of his strengths, it wouldn’t have hurt “Undine” to connect a few more of its dots within the supernatural aspects or underline a few more of its themes with more emotional thrust. It can feel purposefully vague to a frustrating extent, as if Petzold wants us to concentrate on whatever we can see through the murky water. I enjoyed the swim even if I’m not quite sure the film conveys what’s going on under its surface.

                Now playing in select theaters and available on digital and VOD platforms.

                By: Brian Tallerico
                Posted: June 4, 2021, 1:00 pm

                • Entertainer
                  Entertainer published a blog post City of Ali


                  Fans of the late Muhammad Ali will love director Graham Shelby’s “City of Ali,” a documentary about how the city of Louisville, Kentucky came out to honor its favorite son after his passing. It’s full of pure, unadulterated love for “The Greatest,” so much so that the viewer can’t help but get enveloped in its adoration. But your mileage will vary based on your feelings for its subject. In the interest of full disclosure, my stance on the famous boxer and humanitarian is one of undying admiration and affection. In fact, I wrote his tribute on this site. So, like many of the onscreen interviewees, I found myself tearing up several times, even when I knew the film was taking quick jabs at my tear ducts. It was a small price to pay to hear friends, family, and a wide variety of people from all walks of life speak about my childhood hero.

                  “What kind of place made him the Greatest?” is the question posed as images of Louisville appear in the opening scenes. We see the house at 3302 Grand Avenue where young Cassius Clay, Jr. grew up, followed by his gravesite covered with flowers from visitors. His daughter, Rasheda Ali, tells the story of a recurring dream her father had. In it, all the locals have come out to see him run down Broadway for his daily training ritual. They root for him so fervently that he eventually takes flight from the power of their cheers. This same story is repeated at the end of the film. The dream itself seems egotistical until one realizes its symbolism—this is the wish of a local boy who “wants to do good.” The world isn’t on the sidewalks of Broadway, it’s just Louisville’s born and bred. Anyone who loves where they’re from can identify with Ali’s vision.

                  “City of Ali” is broken into several chapters, or “rounds,” each introduced with a drawing by LeRoy Neiman. The first round makes a good introduction to Ali’s life, even though it documents the day he died. There’s a montage of news broadcasts from around the world on June 3, 2016, showing how widespread the fighter’s fame was. Through the news reports, there’s mention of the Parkinson’s Disease that afflicted Ali for 30 years, his tenure as a three-time heavyweight champion and his conscientious objection to the Vietnam War, a decision that would cost him several years of his career. Each of these details gets fleshed out in subsequent “rounds,” providing necessary information for the uninitiated.

                  The news clips are followed by commentary from several of Ali’s children, each of whom describes his last day in the Phoenix hospital where he’d been admitted. Sportswriters and pundits also speak of June 3rd, with former talk show host Dick Cavett saying “it’s like Mount Rushmore fell down” and LA Times sportswriter Bill Plaschke recalling how devastated he felt. In this segment, several of the people who will guide us through the film are introduced, from childhood neighbor Lawrence Montgomery to Louisville’s mayor Greg Fischer and Natasha Mundkur, a student who speaks at Ali’s funeral. By starting with his death, the film gives a macro view of how global Ali’s influence was.

                  But the bulk of “City of Ali” is devoted to how Louisville set about planning the memorial. “We always knew that he belonged to the world,” says Fischer, “but he only had one hometown.” Ali had a fraught relationship with the town that, through redlining, forced his family to live in the Parkland neighborhood of West Louisville. Coming back from his gold medal win in the 1960 Olympics, he faced the disrespect and racism of the still-segregated South. The myth of Ali angrily throwing his medal into the Ohio River is dispelled, but as a historian notes, the sentiment made the legend worth printing.

                  The past and the present merge numerous times here. Planning for Ali’s homegoing service and celebration occurred during the most tumultuous time of the 2016 Presidential campaign. Anti-immigrant, racist, and anti-Muslim rhetoric was rampant, and the film highlights the numerous similarities between the time of Ali’s ascension to fame and the current era. Though he may have been famous enough to fight Superman in a comic book and have his own cartoon TV series, Muhammad Ali was still a Black man and a Muslim, two characteristics that courted trouble in America. There’s talk of how best to protect the city and its denizens during the big event, and whether there will be any threats of violence pertaining to the honoring of an outspoken, often controversial figure.

                  I like movies about process, so the planning sections fascinated me, particularly the story of the woman responsible for the thousands of rose petals spread out on the road at the end of Ali’s funeral procession. Even more, I was moved watching the fruits of everyone’s labor come together in the enormous tribute. “City of Ali” acknowledges that the biggest moment of the processional occurs when Ali is driven one last time through his old neighborhood, where the streets are lined with residents beaming with pride over one of their own. Coming from a neighborhood like this, I could easily imagine what those people were feeling.

                  Because the admiration for Ali spread across multiple religions, countries, and races, “City of Ali” tries to inject a message of uplift and hope that everyone can come together as powerfully as they did while honoring a hero. I wasn’t buying that, so the film lost its magical hold on me. I certainly was not in the mood for any kind of kumbaya messaging, no matter how admirable its intentions. Thankfully, my own weary worldview was given voice by one of the interviewees, who said he felt little faith in things changing during his lifetime.

                  Despite my cynical complaint, I found much to enjoy here. One thing that will stick with me forever about the man whose heart was as big as his mouth is a story told by a friend about a boxing match he and Ali attended overseas. They sat in the front row, and when the American boxer won, Ali gave his congratulations. Then he asked to see the guy who lost. “I didn’t give the loser a second thought,” said the storyteller. But he tagged along anyway. They found the dejected young man sitting on a stool in an empty locker room. When Ali entered, the kid lit up like Times Square. The two playfully sparred, and Ali gave him a pep talk. The other guy may have won the fight, but the loser got an audience with The Greatest.

                  Stories like this go a long way to humanize a legend, bringing him down to Earth for us mere mortals. He may have been bigger than life, but deep down, Muhammad Ali remained the guy who simply wanted to do his hometown proud. “City of Ali” shows Louisville’s acknowledgement that he did.

                  Now playing in virtual cinemas.

                  By: Odie Henderson
                  Posted: June 4, 2021, 1:01 pm

                  • Entertainer


                    Truth be told, the characters in the films of German director Christian Petzold rarely tell the full truth about themselves. Their identities shift depending on their intentions, which are often motivated by the love of another and the circumstances that prevent them from being together. “Undine,” his latest exploration of hazardous romance, expands his reach into Greek mythology, where the title entity is said to be a water nymph that needs to marry a human man to get an eternal soul. The men’s lives, however, hinge on the duration of the affection. 

                    Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski, two of Europe’s most prominent actors, return to Petzold’s artistic grasp after starring in his acclaimed and uniquely historical narrative “Transit.” In the filmmaker’s interpretation of the ancient tale, Undine (Beer) works as a freelance guide at a Berlin museum dedicated to the architectural history and urban planning of the city. Following a breakup, she serendipitously meets Christoph (Rogowski), an underwater welder. A torrid romance manifests until the mystical mechanics of the curse that reigns over Undine’s existence interferes. 

                    No stranger to crafting heartbreaks at the intersection of past and present, Petzold grounds his take of the tragic tale in the relatable stakes of commitment, betrayal, and forgiveness. Speaking from the German capital, the cheerful filmmaker talked to about some of the recurrent tropes that affect his jilted characters.  

                    History is very pertinent to all of your films it seems, whether they are period pieces like “Phoenix” or “Barbara,” or contemporary like “Undine.” What’s the reasoning behind Germany’s past being so present in your work? 

                    For me cinema always has to be contemporary. I don’t really like period pictures, I must say. My work on “Phoenix” was such hard physical work having old stagecoaches or old ruins. I didn't like going to Poland to find streets that would look like they had been bombed during the Second World War, and see that there are poor people in the houses, and we have to pay them so that they don't look out of the window during our shooting. I don't like that situation. In period pictures you build up a world and you're not part of it. The studio life is not my life. 

                    For me history is always in the contemporary world. When I'm leaving my apartment here and I go through my Berlin street, there are memory stones in the ground with the names of the Jewish people who had lived in the houses and who were killed by the Nazis in the concentration camps. There are stones in front of the houses. So history is always inside our contemporary world. And I've tried to make movies, also period movies like “Transit,” for example, that exist in past history and in our times at the same time. Cities are also a little bit like this. They are contemporary and they are history, at the same time. When I make a historical period picture, I try to make it as a contemporary picture.


                    In this case, Undine, the character, is very well versed in the architectural history of the capital. She shares her knowledge of how the town has changed with visitors at the Berlin City Museum. Knowing that she is a mythical figure explains why she is so familiar with the information, but why did you select this specific gallery and the city planning models to be her domain?  

                    I love this place in Berlin. A director friend of mine, Christoph Hochhäusler, showed it to me many years ago. It's like going into a church. There's no one inside. You don't have to pay entrance. There's this big model and you can go there and see the history of Berlin and the future of Berlin because the brown houses in the model are the houses they want to build the next 10 years. 

                    Think of Alain Delon in “Two Men in Town,” who is just coming out of prison, he goes into a church or a billiard hall to contemplate, to find himself. For me, this place, with these Berlin models is such a place where I can come contemplate. I love it. Also my children, sometimes they go there when they have problems and they want to have a quiet hour. They sit there. It's a place where you feel the history, you can see the future, but in this moment you are in our present time. I love this place. Therefore, I chose it. 

                    Later I have a thought that Undine, the character, has been on earth for more than two or three centuries. She knows everything, but nothing has changed. Everything's the same. Every man betrays her. She has to go and then come back to our world. There is no development and she's searching. She has a desire for development, to come out of the curse. And I think we also have a desire for development when we are looking at the history of Berlin. We don't want these retro houses and these retro castles. We want development. That’s why it was a good idea to choose this place.

                    Up to this point, when you have dealt with history in your films the treatment of the past is more factual, even when playing with time. With “Undine” you are diving fully into mythology, even if the story remains grounded. 

                    Cinema has more to do with oral history, with songs, ballads, and tales and not so much with the literature. Therefore, I look at German songs and the German tales and the German myths and curses, and also the bad German history to find the stories. I'm reading more of The Brothers Grimm and their tales for cinema more than I am reading a book about scriptwriting. 

                    Since you find great inspiration in folklore, were you already an expert in the story of Undine or was there substantial research in order to bringing into the modern era?  

                    I never do big research. I read the myth of Undine when I was around 22 or 23. I had it wrong in my mind back then. But when I started to write the script, I didn’t read it again. I just wanted to write a script about the things I remembered. It's a little bit like songs you’ve heard but you can't remember all the lyrics so you change them to your own a little bit. It's not wrong to create your own memory.

                    The underwater sequences, especially towards the end of the film, are the instances that feel the most detached from reality, like we are truly in another realm. Is that how you interpret them? 

                    I’ve had a wish for a long time to shoot underwater sequences. I saw Brian Eno, the musician, had worked on an installation were there were TV sets with their screens pointing to the roof and under the glass of the TV sets there was water flowing. For me, water and TV and movies relate with each other. So when the camera goes underwater we have no dialogue. We are going back to the origins of our life, fish. And the movement of our bodies is so graceful. I had a very old desire to go underwater. But I also can’t dive and I have a big fear to going underwater. So I stayed outside the whole time, and watched the underwater sequences on the monitor. But for me being underwater is a fantastic world. It's like the space outside our planet or as if we returning to our origin.

                    Looking at those underwater sequences, and in general the symbolic nature of water in “Undine,” I was reminded of one of your previous films, “Yella,” where water is also a crucial part of the female protagonist’s journey. Both of these films, as well as most of your works, have been shot by Hans Fromm. Was it an interesting change of pace for him to shoot underwater? 

                    For Hans, the DP, I think it was a good time being underwater, because now he had a friend, the other cameraman who was going with his camera underwater. Two guys, male technicians, they were happy, like two men barbecuing on a grill. They were talking about cameras and lenses. I was totally outside of that conversation. They never talked to me. So, for him it was good. But thinking about the water in “Yella,” there was this river Elbe, a really big German river. On one side there was East Germany and on the other side there was West Germany. Back then it was a border between communism and capitalism. Yella tried to go over this river to reach capitalism because she's coming out of communism. But she drowned in this border river and as she dies she can see a life she never had. She sees the life she wanted to have. This was the idea of the water there. The water is a border, but she didn't have the chance to come out of this water to the desired land, to the capitalistic neoliberal world. 


                    Another aspect of your movies that I find fascinating is you always play with your characters’ identities, including Undine in this one. Most of the women in your stories are hiding who they really are or pretending to be something they're not. 

                    My friend Harun Farocki and I worked many years together. We wrote 15 scripts together and we talked so much about cinema. We always thought that a wrong identity is a fantastic element in cinema. The bad thing about a wrong identity is that if you want to change your identity—you go out for cigarettes and never come back. You leave your family, kids, or woman and go into a new life—actually what you do is rebuild the life you left again. You can't actually get out of your skin. You are still you. But the desire to get out of your skin, this is cinema, not what happens in the end, but just the desire to change your identity, to have another life. This is the thing I like to see very much.

                    Both Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski starred in your previous feature, “Transit”; was the transition into these new, rather different parts, challenging for them or for you considering that film and “Undine” were done relatively close to one another? 

                    It was not so difficult because I changed it a little bit. In “Transit,” Franz is masculine. He's male. Marie, played by Paula, she is really a young girl. She's really feminine. In “Undine” it's the other way around. For me, Undine had more of male presence. She's the protagonist. She is similar to a male hero. And Franz, he is the innocent woman this time. He doesn’t have any bad thoughts in his mind. He's just the lover. The idea was to turn it around, and I think they both liked this new dynamic. 

                    Seems like you were very clear in term of the energy each of them projects in each project. Did you ever consider casting other actors, for one or both parts, in the event that they were interested or available? 

                    I wanted them from the beginning because I created the script for “Undine” after my experience with them in “Transit.” I talked to them on the 25th day of shooting and said I had a fantastic script, “Undine,” that I'd written for them. But it was a lie. I hadn’t got anything written yet, but I was so impressed by them. It's not so often that I like the actors so much. I liked both of them very much so I wanted to continue to work with them as a couple. So I had to lie about having a script and then I had to write the script in six weeks so that they could believe me.


                    The majority of your films are centered on a relationship between a man and a woman that's very complex and affected by outside factors. Is that core premise something that you deliberately begin each screenplay with, meaning that you try to adapt whatever you are interested in into that format, or do the stories you want to tell naturally take that shape? 

                    It's got something to do with an old plan that Harun and I had. We wanted to tell the story of our lives through a love story, because a love story in the '20s in Berlin is not the same love story nowadays in Berlin or a love story in Paris is not the same that one in Rome or in New York. Within a love story you can get a sense of the times, you can see the social structures, you can feel the desire for deliverance. You can feel everything because what is happening between a man and a woman, or man and another man, or woman and another woman is a laboratory. Love is a laboratory and it's also something very innocent at the same time. 

                    In your early movie watching days, were you always attracted to the potential of love stories? 

                    When I was younger and I saw movies set in a submarine, for example, there were no women, just 18 men in the submarine. I was a little bit disappointed from the beginning that there was not going to be a love story. It’s just about men being honest. But after some time I realized that the good submarine movies are movies in which the submarine itself is the woman or the love interest. Then it gets interesting.

                    I’m not sure if this is a conscious motif in your films or just something that my eye catches whenever I watch them, but it often seems that the women on screen are always looking over their shoulder, or over their lover’s shoulder when embracing them. It’s a shot that I tend to associate with your stories.  

                    It’s because the women who are the protagonists, the main characters in my movies, these women can never be sure about what is happening around them. They want to kiss, they want to love, they want to live, but they’ve always had to mistrust the world. When they're kissing, they have to look over their shoulder to see if there's someone with a gun. Their whole life is surviving and they can't trust anybody. I like those paranoid characters, male or female. They have to look over the shoulder because the enemies are always coming for them. 

                    Now playing in select theaters and available on digital and VOD platforms.

                    By: Carlos Aguilar
                    Posted: June 4, 2021, 1:10 pm

                    • Entertainer


                      There is a point in Michael Chaves’ frustrating and only sparsely scary “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” when you realize something: if you abandon your desire to watch a terrifying haunted house movie in the vein of James Wan’s “The Conjuring” and settle for the investigative thriller that you have in front of you instead, you might have a decent time. Don’t worry, there's no way for you to miss that utterly pronounced scene, especially if you've watched a David Fincher movie or two. There is a creaky basement. A creepy old man leads the way to it. He might be the Zodiac killer (okay, not exactly, but something along those lines), and yet, someone who barely knows him follows him down all the same, just to gather some evidence around a series of murders.

                      Had that point never arrived, I could have more easily dismissed the third “The Conjuring” installment—a straight sequel chapter after a number of spin-offs like “Annabelle” and “The Nun” with varying degrees of smarts, skill and scares—as a horror movie that can’t be bothered to live up to its breathtaking origins. Again, this outing manages to operate as a mediocre police thriller to some degree; but one with too many suspects and incidents-within-harrowing incidents. A mysterious serial murder case emerges amid the film’s confusing tone and someone obsessed enough with its puzzling details has to voluntarily go down the rabbit hole in order to crack it.

                      But who the hell actually wants the new “The Conjuring” to be downgraded to a mere whodunit anyway, when its original predecessor is still one of the most brilliant and frightening horror movies of the 21st century? If you’re not that person, this film’s array of hollow jump-scares and uninteresting secrets that culminate in short-lived thrills is unlikely to impress you, despite some successful effects and elegant camerawork by cinematographer Michael Burgess. Still, “The Curse of La Llorona” filmmaker Chaves gives it a shot, directing Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as they once again portray paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren wrapped up in a based-on-a-true-story case. The prologue here takes place in 1981, when the exorcism of the adolescent David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard) leaves Arne Johnson, a good-spirited young man in a loving relationship with David’s sister Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook), haunted by the grip of an evil force. When Arne commits a horrific murder in the aftermath of the events that use one too many recognizable visual nods to “The Exorcist” (including a laughably obvious shot of a priest standing by a soft street lamp with a suitcase in hand), the Warrens slowly uncover similar crimes that took place in the area. So they embark on a quest to prove to Arne’s apprehensive lawyer that Arne was actually possessed while committing the crime. (His real-life case apparently marks the first time in the US where demonic possession was used as defense in a court case.)

                      Screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick throws in plenty of “The Conjuring” universe references into his script, including an inspired joke with Ed suggesting to introduce Arne’s skeptical lawyer to the cursed doll Annabelle to clear a few of her questions up. But ultimately, the story struggles in the hands of a strange on-and-off rhythm that almost feels episodic as the Warrens team up with the local police, knock on doors, venture out into the forest, crawl around basements, and collaborate with customary religious figures to follow the devil’s tracks. The basic idea gets overstuffed and overstretched, ultimately losing its clutch on the audience, especially when the plot ventures out to another similar murder case between two girlfriends and distances itself from the main event for long and dull stretches of time. So much that when Ed and Lorraine come to understand the witchcraft-y nature of their case, you might run out of reasons to care for their mission, or worse, forget what they were out there chasing to begin with. Things don’t improve much even after Eugenie Bondurant’s chillingly witchy Occultist shows up.

                      There is no denying that Wilson and Farmiga have come to portray two of the most iconic figures of contemporary horror. That familiarity, down to the Warrens’ customary sculpted hairdos and old-fashioned, thoughtfully costume-designed clothes, is both comforting and transfixing—we somehow came to want to spend time with this duo and perhaps even to feel safe in their presence. But our goodwill and sense of nostalgia for the Warrens goes only so far in this third film. One almost wishes Chaves and Johnson-McGoldrick had not tried to reinvent the wheel, and instead just stuck with the franchise’s sophisticated simplicity and tried-and-true paranormal formula. Without a focal haunted house, this one just doesn’t feel like a film that belongs in “The Conjuring” universe.

                      In theaters and on HBO Max on June 4th, 2021. 

                      By: Tomris Laffly
                      Posted: June 4, 2021, 1:03 pm

                      • Entertainer
                        Entertainer published a blog post All Light, Everywhere


                        A history of filmmaking, surveillance, and subjective and objective framings of both, "All Light, Everywhere" is a nonfiction feature that plays like a season of brainy nonfiction TV compacted into two hours' running time. Conceived by Baltimore-based filmmaker Theo Anthony, whose other location-specific, idea-driven projects include the excellent "Rat Film," it tries to touch on every significant cultural, technological, and philosophical aspect of surveillance, including how easy it is for tech that is theoretically objective, detached, logical, and so forth, to be manipulated, abused, and withheld; and how people's biases and cultural conditioning affect how they interpret the data they're looking at, whether it's satellite images of inner-city neighborhoods or body camera footage of a police confrontation with a citizen.

                        And this is but one small corner of a warehouse of information, so vast and cluttered that "All Light, Everywhere" often seems to have trouble picking one line of inquiry or argument and sustaining it before having a related thought, then following that for a while before jumping to something else. Anthony's cross-cut structure hops among parallel storylines and historical anecdotes, each putting a different frame around the film thematic interests. 

                        The name of police murder victim Freddie Gray is invoked early, and his fate lingers in the backs of our minds as the movie unfolds. Anthony and his collaborators contrast the the gee-whiz excitement of executives, salesmen, and spokesmen (they're all white and male) in the surveillance industry against the skepticism of progressive watchdogs; philosophers and ethicists both past and present; and Black Baltimore residents who are not content to be mere "subjects" in whatever plan these modern industries are implementing for profit. 

                        The monotonous narration—by a woman who tells us that her voice represents the blind spot at the back of the eye where the image is interpreted by the brain—is the biggest conceptual swing in a project filled with them. It proves counterproductive, though, not merely because the voice-over has a sleep-aid effect, but because there's nothing after that point that makes us feel as if we're hearing something other than, well, just plain old third-person "expert" narration, like what you'd encounter  on a random BBC or PBS documentary made decades ago. But it does provide much-needed context that (ironically or not) pictures and sounds alone cannot provide. And at its best, it provides a regular stream of cheeky aphorisms, like what you might hear (or see written onscreen) in a Jean-Luc Godard essay movie like "Goodbye to Language," or a work inspired by Godard ("the act of observation obscures the observation" and so on).

                        The film is more effective when it's sticking with one line of thought, whether focusing on present-day issues or history that puts modern problems in perspective. There's good stuff here about the relationship between motion picture cameras and the development of automatic weapons (which were created around the same time, with early Zoetrope-type devices modeled on the Gatling gun) and the interchangeability of photographic and military language (both camerapeople and soldiers get targets in their sights and shoot them). Along the way, there are sidebars about the invention of motion picture technology, which arose from studying the movement of Venus around the sun; the intersection of prison panopticon strategies and Europe's subjugation of nonwhite colonies; the relationship between Darwinism, eugenics, and white supremacy; and larger questions about subjectivity and objectivity in relation to the struggle to decide what is authentic and true and what is manufactured and false. 

                        The idea that images and image-recording technology can become extensions of state subjugation and white supremacist ideals is the most urgent and powerful line of inquiry in the movie, never more so than when Black Baltimoreans are having a community meeting with a representative of a company that wants to put additional cameras in their neighborhood, allegedly to deter crime. This riveting scene (broken into pieces, alas, and used for more crosscutting effects, to its detriment) implicates the film itself, which was made predominantly by white artists. The Black folks in the room call the filmmakers out for not having any people of color on the crew (one of them says that he personally knows several who could've participated) and ding one of the meeting sponsors, a Black clergyman, for not being crystal-clear with them about how footage would be used in Anthony’s documentary. The face of the most eloquent angry person in the room, a Haitian immigrant, is blurred, presumably because Anthony wanted him in the movie but didn't want to get sued—a choice that deserves its own short film.

                        The movie keeps returning to the intersection of race and police work—particularly when focusing on Scottsdale, Arizona-based Axon Technology, formerly Taser, which manufactures stun guns, body cameras, and other gadgets. A spokesperson for Axon keeps inadvertently serving up metaphors and ironies on a silver platter, and the film feasts on them. At one point he gives the crew a tour of a plant where body cameras and weapons are manufactured, brags that the open floor plan is a testament to the company’s  belief in "transparency" and "candor," then directs his visitors' attention to a "black box" area on the second floor where researchers can block their picture window view of the shop floor, to prevent anyone from seeing what they're making. Later, the filmmakers go inside the "black box" area and have the Axon spokesman show how the windows can be blotted out at the touch of a button. He does it over and over, beaming at how cool it is.

                        Obviously there's no single correct answer to be found in any of these detours, a couple of which nearly become narrative cul-de-sacs until the film recovers and jumps back to the present. It's to the credit of Anthony, who wrote and edited as well as directed, and his cinematographer Corey Hughes, that you come away thinking about parts of the film that felt like cut-able digressions and undergraduate musings when you were watching them. As a freestanding work, "All Light, Everywhere" has got more problems than can be described here. But as a gift-bag of prompts for discussion, it's hard to beat. 

                        Dan Deacon's brilliant ambient synth score provides another layer of irony. Evoking naive, retro, high-tech wonder, in the manner of Vangelis' score for the original "Blade Runner," it creates a sinister undertow without resorting to obvious tactics. It's as if the smiling men in ties who are constantly trying to sell the filmmakers and us on the marvels of their wares has been put in charge of the soundtrack, and tried to use it to drown out misgivings by putting us in the headspace of a kid who thinks it's awesomely cool. There are times when the score intensifies the too-muchness of the film, and not in a helpful way; when Anthony is taking a long moment to show us objects rolling through assembly lines or people in an observation room participating in an eye movement study where a water glass and a fern inexplicably levitate, and Deacon is going to town on the synthesizers, it's as if we've traveled back in time to experience the opening of EPCOT Center at Disney World circa 1979, in the company of students who got baked on the monorail platform on the way in.

                        Still, there's something to be said for an aesthetic that owns the dynamics of a wandering mind in the way that this film does. And if one takeaway resonates more strongly than the others, it's that the definition of objective truth depends on where you're standing, what you're looking at, and what you decided to notice in the first place. Which, of course, means that somebody else could watch this film and come away feeling as if they've seen a classic that manages to put a multi-faceted subject in its viewfinder and examine it from every angle.

                        By: Matt Zoller Seitz
                        Posted: June 4, 2021, 11:55 pm


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