film review

“The Disinherited” @ AMC Empire 25

Director Jay Scheib premiered a both film and play this week—only they’re the same piece. Scheib adapted an unfinished Chekhov play, and while the theatrical performance was happening downtown at the Kitchen, Scheib was simultaneously filming and editing a film version that would be playing in theaters all over the city.

The play’s the thing… or is it a film?

I was really excited to see The Disinherited, the film version of the event. (The play version goes by the play’s original title, Platonov.) While simulcasting theatrical performances isn’t new, Platonov/The Disinherited offers a different experience: taking in one story in two distinct mediums simultaneously. It is an intriguing premise, and one I hope other artists consider and utilize in their own work.*

Mainly because The Disinherited is, unfortunately, painful to watch. The title sequence and opening credits hint at a movie, but the earnest, wide-eyed performances indicate something much more theatrical is going on. Meanwhile, the shaky-cam cinematography skews toward an amateurish home video more than an indie film. The Disinherited‘s main failing, however, is that a comprehensible story never seems to be told—and that’s necessary for any artistic narrative, regardless of medium.

Charles Isherwood attended the live performance of Platonov, and in his review says,

For newcomers to Mr. Scheib’s wacky world, the moviegoing route might be a more comfortable choice. At least then you have the option of fleeing this indulgent experiment without trampling on the sensibilities of the talented performers. Maybe you could even sneak into something more palatable: “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is currently an option at the AMC Empire 25.

Mr. Isherwood, I have to confess that I was one of those moviegoers who fled The Disinherited after twenty minutes. While I can’t confirm or deny if I snuck into something “more palatable,” I can say that “Anchorman 2” is pretty damn good.

*Speaking of awesome theatre film hybrids, Deconstructive Theatre Project does an inventive live film reimagining of the Orpheus myth called “The Orpheus Variations.” You can read our review about it here.


Evil things happen in this world. We know this but we do our best to have hope, to focus on the blessings we have because if the reality of the amount of evil happening was in the front of our consciousness, we would not be able to function. Violence against children is a subject portrayed in film over and over again, typically in action movies, where an angry grieving father grows a huge pair of saline balls (DON’T GOOGLE IMAGE IT…okay, do it), buys a gun from Walmart and hunts for justice.

While the father, of a kidnapped little girl, Keller Dover (played by Hugh Jackman) makes a very tough dad, Denis Villneuve’s Prisoners  shows the emotional costs of looking for payback. Dover is frustrated by the rules and policies the police have on questioning the kidnapper suspects like Paul Dano’s soft spoken 10 year old IQ Alex Jones. Cruelty begets cruelty.

But before we get to the nitty gritty….can we talk about the perpetuation of the stereotype that folks with big 70′s prescription glasses are creepers? Director Villneuve CLEARLY has a big case of 20/20 privilege.

Melissa Leo and Paul Dano for LENS CRAFTERS.

The overall message of this film is quite bleak. The police captain states to a tattooed and frustrated Jake Gyllenhaal “We’re just cops. Janitors.” Justice is clean-up. Not guaranteed.

This movie should have been at least 30 minutes shorter. It is laden with tense moments that are unnecessary to the story such as a long blurry car ride to the emergency room and the arduous inspection of a RV with nothing plot-changing inside. It was frustrating to sit and wait for all the “make em sit at the edge of their seat” bull shit to find out what the hell was going on. BUT….through all that….I think this film is definitely worth seeing. Hugh Jackman’s depth of emotion and how he handles the contradictions between his desire for justice and the way he goes about getting it is going to stay on my mind for awhile.

No one prays the Our Father sexier than Hugh Jackman.

Why The Heat Deserves More Credit

I’ve gotta say, my expectations for The Heat were not high. In fact, I probably would not have bothered to watch it had it not been my mom’s birthday and The Heat  the only film that was remotely to her tastes. I’m usually not a fan of crime-busting plots (I don’t think I’ve ever sat through an episode of Law & Order in its entirety) and, while re-invigorated by the 21 Jump Street reboot, the buddy-cop genres are often a recipe for predictable jokes and cringey humor. This was more or less confirmed by The Heat’s mediocre reviews, many of which explained how it didn’t live up to its Bridesmaids predecessor. Womp womp.

The previously linked Flavorwire article states in its title that The Heat is heavy on laughs, light on agenda. Ummm… yes and no.Even though Bridesmaids excelled more than The Heat on a comedic (women can be funny) and a dramatic level (all-women casts can make great films), The Heat has more of a feminist agenda than critics give it credit for. The Heat has moved past these ridiculous genre questions like “can women be funny?” and actually begun to show how women are treated by the film industry and society.

The film industry?? But I thought this was about women in the police force.

Yup, and there are some similar factors.

Take, for instance, the forced sexualization of Sandra Bullock’s character, Sarah Ashburne. Ashburne and Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) follow one of the drug dudes into a nightclub with the mission of planting a tracking device on his phone. Ashburne seems immediately out-of-place in her workplace pantsuit and demeanor. Mullins rushes Ashburne to the bathroom and starts to rip her clothes apart to make her look sexier.

At this point, we feminists in the audience might start to groan. We might think things like: Great, here we go again. Bullock needs to be sexualized in order for her to be likeable. Or: Why is Bullock getting the sexy girl treatment and McCarthy isn’t?

But in fact, this scene is a quite awesome reversal of typical female roles. McCarthy, the less attractive, overweight, more masculine character, is giving Bullock, the thinner, more conventionally pretty character, the makeover. When she’s done, Bullock asks McCarthy something along the lines of “Well, what about you? Don’t you need a makeover?” McCarthy replies, “Nah, I don’t need one.” Bullock asks why and McCarthy replies, “I can create sexuality with just the movement of my body. I don’t need the sexy clothes or the messy hair.” Bullock, “So I have to dress up for people to think I’m sexy and you can just stay how you are?” McCarthy, “I know. It isn’t fair.’

Score. A perfect jab at critics’ focus on McCarthy’s weight, including mean-spirited reviews and super feats of air-brushing. McCarthy has truly fought for her sexiness. And honestly, even though she plays a rough, wild, crude, and unfeminine character, I think McCarthy has established that she can be just as sexy as her actress counterparts, simply with her physical comedy (In fact, Mullins encounters several doting exes throughout the movie, including real-life husband Ben Falcon). I had clearly forgotten how amazing Melissa McCarthy can be– her brand of comedy can be both over-the-top and incredibly nuanced. Even as she’s throwing a gigantic watermelon at a drug dealer’s back, or slipping through car windows in order to get out of her parking space, or beating the crap out of Tony Hale, every comedic choice she makes is precise, intuitive, and effective.

Okay, fast forward a bit. Bullock successfully seduces drug man guy dude and plants the tracking device on his phone. Drug man dude whispers sexily to her, “You know, you’re the first woman over 40 who has given me a boner.”

From this point on, Bullock keeps getting targeted by her male counterparts for her age. Twice, drug man dude says, “You look older every time I see you.” Each time he says this, however, little does he know that Bullock’s got the smarts, the gun power, and the humor to combat him. He should really be paying less attention to her looks and more attention to the explosives in her backpack. McCarthy and Bullock are easily the most powerful people in any room they’re in. They’re a great duo, but they are also incredibly talented individually at their own brand of comedy/drama.

As for the plot, yes, it’s superficial. It’s simple and predictable. If you can’t spot the drug lord by the halfway point, you’ve probably been living in a television-less cave.

But like I said before, these crime plots are over-rated. A more complex plot might actually have hindered this film rather than helped it. And as far as the film’s feminist agenda goes, all you need to know is that the bad guy goes down with two shots to the crotch. I think that about says it all.







Things “The Great Gatsby” told me that didn’t require reading the book.

Book to movie adaptations never measure up to their paper-bound counterparts. And nor should they be. Comparing books to their movie forms always boils down to apples and oranges. And the latest film version of The Great Gatsby is one crazy bedazzled-ass orange.

Here’s the stuff I got from this movie that my AP English teacher could never get right:

1. Anachronisms, fuck yeah!

The Great Gatsby takes place in the Roaring Twenties™. Which means that Speakeasy dancers are twerking, flappers are wearing blue nailpolish, and party goers are doing the Charleston to Jay-Z’s greatest hits. The mishmash of then and now is equal parts titillating and nauseating to take in.

2. Sublety is for losers.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s use of prose in The Great Gatsby was all about subtext. The best person to bring this nuanced tale to life was Baz Luhrmann, of course.


It wasn’t just the cinematography that is heavy handed (more on that later). The film (also co-written by Luhrmann) utilizes a framing device, flashbacks, narration, and text that literally spells things out for you on the screen. The framing device with Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is the worst offender. Nick sporting a five o’clock shadow and a faux-rumpled suit as he speaks to his therapist about Gatsby is hokey and unnecessary.

No. Just no.

3. Jumpcuts are so in.

In my post about Liz and Dick I talked about the “cinematic whiplash” I could get from short scenes and the haphazard editing that made them. I was wholly unprepared for Baz Luhrmann… well, being Baz Luhrmnan.

Not that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with his style of cinematography. It’s unique and definitely adds a flair to the lavish parties and vibrancy of New York City. What threw me off was its inconsistency. There would be long set-up shots in the Baz Luhrmann style, followed by scenes that appeared “normal.” The back-and-forth of it took me in and out of a story I really wanted to enjoy.

4. The House of Carter ain’t no Simon and Garfunkel.

At first I thought the contemporary music in Gatsby was cool. Like, Marie Antoinette cool.

Rap music is a great parallel to the jazz music of Gatsby’s time. Jazz was the popular music of that decade, originated by African Americans and co-opted by white people.


But as Jay-Z song after Jay-Z song accompanies the party scenes—no, every scene—with little attention to storytelling, it all becomes tiresome.* Not even a nod to Mrs. Carter herself with her cover of “Back to Black” and a cover of her own “Crazy in Love” can save things.

5. Carey Mulligan is a boss.

Daisy is a challenging character to play. In the novel, she is seen through the lens of Nick’s narrative and Gatsby’s desire. As such, she can be viewed as a spoiled brat, a survivor, and everything in between.

Carey Mulligan’s performance does all of that and then some. She’d laugh and joke with a childish voice, and then immediately take command of whatever group she’s in like the lady of the house she’s become. Mulligan’s ability to portray innocence and cynicism, fragility and strength throughout the film is awesome to see.

Bonus points go to Isla Fisher (who should have been used more) as Myrtle, Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker, and Joel Edgerton as a disturbingly good-looking Tom Buchanan. With so many great actors and performances in The Great Gatsby, I’d love to see a cut of this movie that had a more streamlined edit.

*The Music Supervisor of Gatsby did a piece for The Hollywood Reporter about the song selection for the movie. While his reasoning makes sense, the translation to film is still hit-or-miss.


Click here for Part 1.

Okay, okay. So we’re already know that Les Mis has religious messages and pretty blunt moral meaning up its wazoo. In other words, there’s a lot of this going on

and this

and more of this

Yup. It’s all nice and stuff. Rising out of difficult circumstances through faith and love. Valuing the importance of justice and forgiveness. The difference between man’s law and God’s law.

But I don’t think I’m telling you anything new. In fact, I’ve always been bothered by how BORING Valjean becomes after he meets the bishop. He suddenly switches from a life of resentment and frustration to one of faith and love. Which, again, is all nice and stuff. But really, dude? All your problems just end within the first 20 minutes of the show and now you’re all holy and whatnot? Part of me wished that Valjean still held some of that resentment and anger, particularly in his post-revolutionary moment when all’s gone to hell and back. I mean, who really cares about some rich recluse  living with a pretty girl while there’s a people’s revolution happening?!

The film version, I believe, recognizes this dilemma. I argue that in the film, Valjean’s journey to becoming a whole and good person does NOT end at his encounter with the bishop. In fact, the film shows that one CANNOT be a good person without facing the social crises that surround you. Religion, faith, and love, therefore, are intrinsically tied to social justice.


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