Dollhouse in Decline: Grand Budapest Hotel

Posted in Review with tags , on March 22, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt

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At this point, most viewers who are familiar with Wes Anderson films know where they stand. Either they find them enchanting or precious. After Moonrise Kingdom, I had been leaning towards the latter, but Grand Budapest Hotel won me over. There’s an appealing grandness  of scale that’s been lacking from some of his recent work. It’s as if his dollhouse has expanded to include a whole chunk of history and (fictionalized) geography.

The film follows the adventures of Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) a world-class concierge and his trusty “Lobby Boy” Zero (Tony Revololi) through a series of adventures involving dead elderly lovers, disputed wills, a priceless painting and an alpine chase scene. Continue reading

Downton Abbey 4: TEA COZIER

Posted in TV (Prime-time) with tags , , , on January 6, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt

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Last night was the U.S. premiere of the fourth season of Downton Abbey.  I watched it in a group, and there was a lot of faux-gasping (mostly on my part) and explaining (for the one guy who had only seen one episode). “Who’s that?” “The sister.” Who’s that?” “The other sister, the ugly one.” “Wait, who’s that?” “The butler, the evil one.”

The whole affair was enjoyable, even if I took offense at shameless smushing together two one-hour episodes and calling it a two-hour premiere.  The stiff and formal characters were rigid, the paterfamilias was patriarchal and condescending (“Leave Lady Mary alone, she’s too grief stricken to bathe/breath/think/eat/poop!”) and Maggie Smith dispatched with her requisite zingers. Continue reading

Killer with a Code

Posted in Catch-up on January 2, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt

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I finally got around to watching Parker, the new Jason Stratham-as-Parker iteration of Donald Westlake’s most amoral criminal survivalist. Having read all of the 24 Parker books, I qualify as a fan-boy, so I’ll do my best not to bore you with a laundry list of ways it’s not EXACTLY LIKE THE BOOK. The movie has a nice, punchy, old-school action movie vibe. Cars crash, people shoot other people, heisters double cross each other, all without the aid of shape-shifting robots or CGI dinosaurs. Continue reading

Cons, Comb-Overs and Necklines: American Hustle

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt
Christian Bale in full method-mode.

Christian Bale in full method-mode.

American Hustle is a movie about con men and con ladies.  It features a hair-based “we’re all con men” analogy . The opening scene shows a paunchy Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) constructing an elaborate comb-over and toupee concoction that requires multiple steps, precision timing, hairsprays and glues. Then there’s hard-charging FBI agent Richie DiMasio (Bradley Cooper), who perms his hair with rollers to create that perfect seventies white boy fro. The visual analogy end there, though Amy Adams’ character has a spiffy fake English accent and Jennifer Lawrence has a lot of feelings.

Irving and Sydney Prosser (Adams) are just two con people in love, selling marks fake high interest loans and frolicking around the back of Irving’s dry cleaning business. DiMasio busts up the party, and soon has them reeling in progressively bigger fish, like the mayor of Camden (Jeremy Renner) and a Florida mob boss (Robert De Niro). The pull this off with the help of a Mexican FBI agent impersonating an Arab Sheik.

Costumes are great, incredible disco dance sequence with Cooper and Adams, and everyone involved seemed to be having a lot of fun. The whole affair has a lot of hearts, and unexpected laughs. I was riding high on deep dish pizza, but the crowd I saw it with loved it, I was as entertained as I’ve been at the movies this year, and I expect this’ll clean up come Oscar time.

Captive Audience: 2 Flights, 4 Movies

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on December 30, 2013 by Timothy Parfitt

This past year, my dad got transferred to Vienna, Austria. We haven’t seen a ton of him since then, so for Christmas, we all flew over there for some quality time. Those are some long-ass flights, so I crammed in some flicks to pass the time.

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Elysium

My dad racks up ridiculous frequent flier miles, so he had me upgraded to business class. I wore a jacket and a tie, hoping to blend in. Elysium is a thinking dude’s sci-fi action movie, with a healthy does of Occupy Wall Street anger thrown in for good measure. In the year 2154, the 1% live on a space station rotating around earth, with at-home cancer-eradicating tanning beds at their disposal. Matt Damon lives with the dirty masses, breathing squalid air and making ends meet by building the very robots that are used to police and oppress them.

Damon gets zapped with toxic radiation at work, and has to get up to Elysium to get himself into one of those tanning beds within 5 days or he dies. There’s a love interest with a leukemia-ridden kid, and Jodie Foster plays a frosty Elysium politician with a Rolodex full of nasty South African bounty hunters. The whole thing is entertaining enough, even if the interesting parts fall away as the action ramps up in the 3rd act. I did have an unnerving feeling though, drinking champagne and eating off white table clothes in a segregated cabin of the airplane: I’m on Elysium. Continue reading

Burn Bridges and a Lost Cat

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on December 27, 2013 by Timothy Parfitt

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There’s something I really like about seeing America movies in foreign lands. First off, it feels incredibly indulgent: I could be off experiencing 17th century masterpieces of fine art, but instead I’m in a dark room watching the new Coen brothers’ movie. Then there’s the communal experience, the act of watching with a completely different audience. You don’t know how they will react. Will they laugh at moments you deem entirely inappropriate? Will they recoil in disgust from something my fellow Americans consume happily?

I watched Inside Llewyn Davis, a musical about a struggling folk singer in the winter of 1961, in a English-language theater in Vienna. The audience wasn’t particularly weird, they laughed at funny parts and were appreciatively quiet. Watching cult or indie movies in Europe, I always get the sense they like certain American cultural niches more than we do.

Llewyn is very good at what he does, but not very nice to those around him. A solo act after his partner threw himself off a bridge Continue reading

Scandenavians Do Noir Better: Headhunters

Posted in Catch-up with tags , , on December 10, 2013 by Timothy Parfitt

 

 

There’s a scene halfway through Headhunters (2011) involving a priceless painting, and outhouse and a toilet paper roll. I didn’t see it coming. In fact, Headhunters is a heck of a lot of fun because the writing is surprising and the twists feel earned. Continue reading

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