Archive for the ‘Joe Giambrone’ Category


Alien D-Day Meets Groundhog Day

I’m going to recommend this as a decent sci-fi action spectacular. The story is interesting enough to carry it through to the end, and they spared no expense to bring the world to life.

I zapped off a couple of points for repetitiveness and going over the top, but still if you like sci-fi this film is worth it.

Now the question of militarism comes up, the “glory” of battle, the idea of cowardice to demonize pacifists. This is a controversial point, and the film fulfills its militant premise. War is the only way to save mankind with an alien foe of such genocidal ferocity. To fight back is justified, and this requires outside-the-box thinking.

While the military itself is largely incompetent, rigidly inflexible and the antagonist for much of the film, the lone wolf military men and women, the risk takers, the supermen are presented as the salvation of humanity. This sprouts from very dangerous historical underpinnings, but I think the film is sufficiently contemplative to present these ideas and to explore them.




There is heroic sacrifice, and this may be done to death at the multiplexes, but it’s seldom done well anymore. So you know the kind of movie you’re going to get. It’s going to be big. It’s going to have a twist or three, and heroism and combat are central.

With the time-displacement idea, resetting the day, it gets a bit video-gamey. I’m sure this was intended to appeal to hardcore video gamers who go on journeys much like Tom and company with the constantly-resetting, experiments, dying and reincarnation, as the typical game embodies. That’s where it got a bit repetitive. But the jump cuts pushed it along so that we didn’t dwell after the initial setups.

Other than Groundhog Day, we may be seeing the so-called inspiration of that Source Code film. I was not a fan there, and Edge of Tomorrow pulls it off better. The story logic is slightly improved, if such a trick can ever fly. It takes some generosity of spirit on the viewer’s part.


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Capt. America v. the New World Order: The good, the bad and the ugly sides of Captain America, The Winter Soldier.

It’s big. It’s dumb. Its explosions are one louder. It feels a bit like The Avengers, which is not such a bad thing. The thing about Cap is that he’s an overgrown, science-enhanced Boy Scout. He always wants to do the right thing, no matter the cost. He’s got an innocence that’s sort of dischordant considering all the violence.

The Good

The Winter Soldier film is an allegory about the shadow government, the US deep state, the bowels of intelligence where Nazis were imported after WW2 to go to work supposedly in the service of America and its values. What’s good about this is that it’s true. It happened. Operation Paperclip gets a mention, although not much detail makes it into the final cut of these things.

In the Marvel World we have S.H.I.E.L.D. rather than the intelligence establishment, those alphabet soup agencies. It’s all a bit more super than that.

But the traitors are in our midst. They’re entrenched in power, inside the deep state. They are ruthless Nazis wearing our uniforms, flying our drones, inciting wars in our name. This is the main metaphor that provides Captain America with a foundation to its story. Our real values are not the values of those people, including those real people who appear on our very real televisions. The metaphor works, even if the film heads off the rails into silliness.


The Winter Soldier character himself, the assassin, is an interesting twist. He’s shooting Russian-made weapons, but he’s no Russian. He’s one of our own, actually Captain America’s boyhood pal, remade, reforged into the evil version of American power projection. He’s the covert assassin beyond the law, unstoppable and responsible for a slew of international crimes. This ties into the theme of the deep state, the Nazi state within the intelligence community that many people would recognize as a reality.

The Bad

Well, physics is of no concern here. Fall off a skyscraper. Whatever. At that point, it doesn’t matter what happens anymore. Nothing is going to alter the trajectory the screenwriters and producers have preordained, because physics is out the window. It sucks the tension and suspense right out of the thing.

The ending, reconciling with Winter Soldier, also fell flat. Cap just gives up, and it’s a blah anti-climax that felt cheap.


He had a chance to go further with Black Widow as well, but nothing materialized. We had a kiss, a tactical kiss, and nothing more. It was broken wide open to explore Black Widow and Cap more, but the need to blow some more shit up pressured the thing.

The Ugly

Cap, the boy scout, and yet he’s a party to torturing a suspect. He lets Black Widow do it — gutting my view of her. And yet, it’s played for a laugh. Torture is a laughing matter in a movie about a spandex clad guy in red white and blue. Does anyone on the project have any sense? He’s supposed to be the good guy, but more than the good guy, the ultimate expression of lost American values. The torture question is no joke. It’s a felony war crime. Are these people taking their cues from principle, law and American history or from whatever sludge is selling on the other networks?



The actual plot was a bit of an ugly pretzel, too. Not sure everything added up.

In the end, it’s worth about 3.5 stars for the positive messages concerning deep state covert abominations. We don’t tolerate Nazis and policies of murder. I just wish it would have been a bit more grown up about it.






Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon doing what they do best, this is a fun heist film. The funniest I can remember since Disorganized Crime. Terence Stamp shows up. So you know it’s going to be interesting. And it is, with a decent script and distinctive characters who are not the best and brightest.

Looking over the Redbox selections and feeling massively underwhelmed, this was the only pick I could bother with. It has the heist movie homages, but the crew are so inept and at each others’ throats that the chemistry works.

Not an important, seminal work of artistic intent. It is worth watching though.





Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels were also pretty fun heist films.


The Big Hit. Way of the Gun.

Any more?  You people listening?



Quirk Overload

If you’re familiar with Wes Anderson then you know what to expect. Every Wes Andersonism in the book makes its way into a little rundown hotel in the alps. It’s good fun too, if you’re missing the usual crew, who show up in various cameos.



Anderson must have some fun playing with rapid fire camera moves and stop-motion animation. He’s got a distinctive style that harkens back to a simpler, bygone age, but with his own cute additions.


Budapest is not a great film. Moonrise Kingdom was more endearing. The Royal Tenenbaums was funnier, if less consistently so. Still, you could do a lot worse.



Ralph Fiennes is hilarious, as is his much put-upon sidekick, Tony Revolori. Fiennes is a bisexual gigolo of a concierge, living the dream, until a web of murder and inheritance sends him careening into the unknown.

It’s not your usual kettle of fish, and that’s a good thing.






Art House Disaster

What a royt mess this one is. For an hour it seems like nothing is going to change. The story lacked an arc for an eternity.

You figure naked Scarlett, freaky aliens – what could go wrong?

Plenty, it turns out. The shots are so long and laborious, full of themselves with art house sensibility, that the story drags into tedium.  It never achieved liftoff. This is yet another one with potential, but couldn’t deliver the goods. The character took too long to deviate.

Some of the serious moments are unintentionally funny too.  Shame.




A mixed bag of mutants.

Much feels familiar in this next installment, the fifth or so generally and the second with this semi-relaunched cast.

However, the secret weapon in Days fo Future Past is Mystique, the sexy blue mutating Jennifer Lawrence character. The story hangs on Mystique and her actions, set up with an incident from the distant past, 1973, and then hinging on a time travel plot to alter history. Time travel can be interesting or cheezy, and this one is both. Laughs are played, anachronisms, one-liners. It’s Wolverine who gets the call, as he’s the only mutant with the wear and tear to survive the brain mangling.

It’s lighthearted, but it’s also very, very talky. The first half borders on obligatory yawns with the amount of exposition coming out of the mouths of the mutants. We’ve got old Xavier and young Xavier, Magneto and the young one. And everyone constantly needs to be brought up to speed.

As they say, “show don’t tell;” it doesn’t seem to have hurt this production with $700M in box office so far to show. There’s a do as I say, not as I do, sensibility in Hollywood, which is filled with know-nothing smarmy know-it-alls.



Back on track – the second half picks up. Actually the break-in to the Pentagon is a good adrenalin boost, with a unique scene involving a speedy mutant who’s a lot of fun to watch.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t say much more, except for this. The film maintains a strong moral compass on the side of peace and non-violence. For that I was grateful (and surprised), and impressed. Much is made over the act of killing, killing one man. To kill one is to initiate a war. Killing and war are so closely related, and the mindset of a murderer is the mindset of a soldier. That was unexpected, and it had me by the end of the film hanging on the plot.

I’d rate the previous film First Class a tad higher than Days of Future Past. This owes to the scattered plot and diffused focus. The battle with giant robot drones was a letdown too, more sound and fury signifying not much.

On second thought, there is a theme involving power and weapons. The weapons have grown beyond the ability to control them. This makes sense in the 1973 world, but is less clear in the current one. The supposed modern timeline was a bit too reliant on special effects extravaganzas, and these distract. The blitzkrieg of CGI reduces the whole thing to video game sensibility, and the same barrage we see in every modern Hollywood FX movie.  The director here is a bit smarter than most, but relying on the same old big light show at the end was disappointing.





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Once a year Americans tend to wrap themselves in the flag, in a drunken stupor to shout about their nationalistic bias. This disingenuous ritual seeks to compensate for the other 364 days of unmitigated ignorance and apathy.

I’ve been less than joyous these past 4ths, since 9/11 of 2001 anyway. Lies became normalized, Big Lies, the kind that Hitler regularly gushed. War is not peace. Violations of the Constitution are not justice. Unaccountable power is not democracy. Pull your collective heads out of your collective asses.

The 4th makes much of the Declaration of Independence. If anyone bothered to read about the “long train of abuses and usurpations” they’d find unavoidable parallels in Washington DC today. But that’s too obvious a point for me to make today.

Read this. Know it. Understand it. Fight for it:


Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

the rest.



Those few words are the only thing standing between you, your family, and a hellfire missile, a militarized drone, a SWAT raid and murder spree, torture and execution.

Oh – and guess what?

They’ve already been ignored and US citizens have been murdered by hellfire missiles and SWAT police raids on their homes. The right to peaceably assemble was erased when Obama’s FBI coordinated the nationwide assault on the Occupy movement. Journalists like James Risen are locked up in prison for publishing the truth. The 4th Amendment is secretly skirted by NSA total surveillance of digital communications. Numerous officially-sanctioned torture crimes go unpunished to this day.

Tyranny is not very far away. And fat, stupid imbeciles will be no match for an organized assault on their liberty. Wake the fuck up. Why would you need to be told to wake the fuck up? Did they not teach you any history at all? Did you think it wasn’t real? Do you not understand oppression and war at all?

My readers are probably much better informed than the average shlub, I know. Sorry. Go poke a shlub this Independence Day. Poke em in their beer gut.




This very French take on young love comes in at over three hours in length. The director was intransigent in his perfectionism and this is how he demanded the film be. At the end of the running we leaned that it was supposed to be divided into two chapters, but I don’t recall any actual chapter break / intermission on the DVD.

It’s probably best to break it after the first 90 minutes or so. The scenes are well acted and often very good, natural, but so many of them wouldn’t have made the cut in Hollywood. American audiences may not be so patient.

The film, of course, has extended raw sex scenes between the two girls. They may have ran a bit too long, but then so did the rest of the movie, and so proportionally they make sense.





It’s a very recognizable coming of age story with a likeable French girl Adele, a kindergarten teacher, who doesn’t really fit into the eccentric art world of Emma, the blue-haired seductress. They make a go of it, hiding their relationship as needed, but human weakness and temptation throw their ship toward the rocks.

The style is claustrophobic, nearly every shot a close-up of Adele. It’s always right up against her cheek, and we see every side of her imaginable. The production ran way long, snatching up footage for months after the initial production schedule had expired. This was a very good idea, something Kubrick would do. Time is the crucial ingredient that allowed film to progress beyond the mundane, beyond the script and the production schedules that seek to limit the possibities.

Neither actress would ever work with director Kechiche again. The film, though, won the Palme d’Or and launched their careers in a way they could never have hoped for. We don’t see such raw, powerful performances very often. So credit is due.





Divergent (2014)

Posted: July 1, 2014 in Joe Giambrone
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Finally got to this, eager to see what they’re feeding the youth these days. It’s no Hunger Games, despite obvious attempts to imitate. The girl, Tris’ family ties were so weak and tacked-on that whatever emotion the film attempted to elicit just never materialized. Then it fell into a paint by numbers rote, and I really felt like I’d seen it before in other guises.

Divergent has a few good ideas going for it. However, it felt confined, stifling and too long with most of the action taking place at this dilapidated training camp type operation. It didn’t mix up the scenery enough, nor the storyline, and it became predictable and too familiar.

When the ending rolled around it made glaring moral miscues that seem to be a plague of this rancid place and age – heroes who torture people. If you need to be told that heroes don’t torture people, there isn’t much point talking at all. It grates on my bones that American writers are so oblivious to what they’re selling. Or perhaps they’re closet sadists? They torture small animals in their spare hours? What the fuck is wrong with this culture?

In a seemingly anti-fascist narrative, the affinity for fascist methodologies and attitudes really does leave one wondering.




Another great concept that disappointed, like Spring Breakers

This one caught my attention due to its unique legal questions: shooting a guerrilla film inside Disney World. The film’s lawyer argued successfully that it was a parody, and it may be, but this may not have been the original inspiration – or intent.

What it seemed like for the entire first half was a tepid family vacation. The fantasy didn’t ramp up fast enough, and what fantastical elements there were didn’t seem central or convincing. It was like they didn’t believe in the fantastic enough to run with it, and so it was confined to the realm of family melodrama.

But then the second half came, and I almost flipped and reassessed my review. Things got out of hand, but perhaps lacking any internal logic. I’m afraid this script could have used a second opinion before they shot it. That’s a shame, because you only get one chance to skewer the big rat, and this one didn’t so much. The company was never really the antagonist; it merely provided the backdrop. Some shots made it appear like Disney was the root of the problem, but I didn’t find the theme well enough connected to the plot.

Much of the film involves the main guy lusting after a pair of young French girls. That really has nothing to do with Disney – now does it?

The two kids, however, really shine. Gotta give them props for filming a guerrilla movie all over a sprawling amusement park. I just wish there was more Cronenberg and Gilliam and less vacation photography.



Enemy (2013)

Posted: June 25, 2014 in Joe Giambrone
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I’ve not read the original material, The Double, from José Saramago. Perhaps it’s far more engrossing and makes more sense than this almost embarassing adaptation.

I was such a fan of Saramago’s Blindness (2008) which I count as one of the all time great apocolyptic films. Here, though, the story takes far too long for anything whatsoever to develop. Once it does, it’s so inconsistent and in the realm of negative sense that I’m diappointed I didn’t reach for something disposable like Walk of Shame instead.

If it’s fantasy, it’s not enough of a fantasy. If it’s real, it’s not real enough. There’s just a disonnect, a blown circuit breaker somewhere in this film, and I’m going to have to strongly recommend avoiding it. It’s also in such a puke yellow colorized space that your rods and cones may be temporarily damaged.


No trailer.




Instant Cult Status

A first-time director, no money, no air conditioning and a captivating story that I’d been hoping would show up–I don’t actually look forward to much from the movie business these days.


Sadistic elite depravity and the corruption of money keep two down on their luck guys enthralled by the prospect of easy riches. Not so easy it turns out.  The puppetmasters sink their hooks into the two, and it becomes increasingly harder for them to wriggle out from their machinations.

A socio-political undercurrent grounds this black grindhouse comedy. With very little in resources, the crew managed to score a diabolical win and thrill them at last year’s festivals. Cheap Thrills showed up at the big red neighborhood boxes, and it’s sure to cut a little deeper than the competition. So bon appetit.

4.5 / 5