Nathaniel Rogers Hub




Holiday Movie: "Tammy"

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Tammy goes gangsta in her funniest scene 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 


One of the best developments of movie advertising this past decade is the use of single scenes as teasers. Remember when The Devil Wears Prada just used the opening sequence, fashion magazine peons freaking out about the arrival of Miranda Priestley. It was a perfect hook: Do you want to see more? Yes Ma’am!

TAMMY employed a similar tactic at first giving you a peek at the actual movie instead of a greatest hits montage. The first tease was a single scene of Melissa McCarthy clumsily robbing a fast-food restaurant in a dumb paper bag mask: too large to clear the counter, too blind to lock a storage room door, too sweet to be threatening. “You want some pies? You want pies?” It’s a very funny sequence promising a slapstick filled comedy about a bumbling amateur criminal. Melissa McCarthy is currently on top of Hollywood’s food chain after three consecutive smash hits (Bridesmaids, Identity Thief and The Heat) the first and last of which are top-notch comedies, continually funny, bracingly rude and totally rewatchable.

Unfortunately, the robbery proves to be Tammy’s single best bit and, oops, we’ve already seen the whole thing. MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

Tammy-fired

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Weekend Movie: Clint Eastwood's 'Jersey Boys'

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Erich Bergen, John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, and Michael Lomenda star in "Jersey Boys" 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 


‘I’m looking for sky blue and you’re giving me brown,’ a fey producer sighs when the Four Seasons are in the recording booth. They’re just going through the motions rather than livening up their material. He could just have easily been dissing JERSEY BOYS itself, Clint Eastwood’s needlessly dull adaptation of the Broadway smash. In truth the band’s performance in this scene isn’t appreciably worse than their performances elsewhere in the movie. If you can’t readily spot differences in inspiration and creative fire from one performance to the next, maybe there’s none to be found?

“Brown” isn’t quite the color of it, though. Clint Eastwood’s aesthetic favors underlit rooms, heavy blacks and washed out color. You’d think that aesthetic would change for a splashy musical but you’d be wrong. I mean, why shouldn’t a musical about a famous band with a gift for hooky pop gems look as depressing / dead-end as a drama about desperate boxers or a war film about an island massacre?

MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

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Must See Movie: An Interview With the Director of 'Test'

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An amazing dance sequence from "Test" 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 


ChrisMasonJohnsonTEST may sound like a generic title but the fine new gay indie by that name is anything but. Chris Mason Johnson’s Test follows Frankie (Scott Marlowe) a young gay dancer in San Francisco in 1985. He's the troupe's new understudy. He’s learning a dance he might never get to perform. The threat of AIDS looms large — a female dancer worries about the sweat from her gay partner and reminders are everywhere (papers, graffiti, whispered dialogue). It’s not just the dance; Frankie’s beginning a life he might never get to live. 

He and his dancer friends are varying degrees of worried about AIDS and the topic of a new test for it keeps peppering the conversations. Will Frankie take it?

As it turns out you can make a 1985-set AIDS movie that doesn’t follow the typical beats. The dance environment gives Test a surprising visual appeal but, as the director (pictured left) reminds when we settle into our interview, it’s also not fully an AIDS movie in the way we think of them.

“Every other AIDS movie has been about death and dying, understandably. I think it’s safe to say that [Test] is about the fear of getting sick, it’s not about being sick. It’s just as much about dance as anything else.”

Queer cinema has seen better days so it’s a thrill to see an indie this fresh again that speaks so personally to the LGBT audience. Test is in the top 25 iTunes indie charts and the early success is well deserved.

Sex scenes, masculinity debates, and dancing AFTER THE JUMP

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Weekend Movies: The Fault in Our Stars (and a little Maleficent)

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Ubiquitous Shailene Woodley. This time with cancer. 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

MV5BMjA4NzkxNzc5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzQ3OTMxMTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Shailene Woodley is everywhere. Which... well, I hope you like looking at her face. Not content to be the face of the post-Hunger Games YA dystopia fever (Divergent), she's also continuing that other everygirl thread in her career. She reads more like a girl next door, someone you know, than a STAR!; pretty but not intimidatingly gorgeous, relatable not charismatically mysterious.  She's specalized in earnest portrayals of ordinary teens getting their first taste of the tough stuff in life: death and desertion (The Descendants), disease and disappointment (The Spectacular Now). Hazel Grace Lancaster, her character in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, doubles down and has to deal with all of it. 

Hazel is a 16 year old with thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs. She needs an oxygen tank to breathe, which she drags behind her like a depressing carry-on she wishes she could check. Though she's outlived the initial prognosis she's acutely aware that she'll never grow old. Inbetween flashes of well earned self-pity and sarcasm, she worries about her parents and how they'll survive her death.

She attends a cancer support group for teenagers, at her mother's prodding (Laura Dern, reliably excellent). Mrs Lancaster hopes it will lift Hazel's depression and help her make friends.

Enter the Dreamboat Boyfriend...AFTER THE JUMP

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Weekend Movies (on TV): 'The Normal Heart'

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Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer find love in a hopeless place in "The Normal Heart"

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

It's time for that other most-famous AIDS play to have its moment in the television sun. Larry Kramer's "THE NORMAL HEART," arrived Off Broadway in 1985, a half decade or so before Tony Kushner's long since canonized "Angels in America," but it's taken a longer and more circuitous route to mainstream fame. It's HBO to the rescue again with a television adaptation, which, as with the fate of Angels, came on the heels of a long gestating but never-meant-to-be movie version. (Barbra Streisand tried for years to mount a film version of The Normal Heart giving herself the plum role of Emma Brookner a.k.a. 'Doctor Death')

Though it rarely does Kramer's 'Heart' any favors to compare it to the later masterwork, it's hard not to. They're linked in time structure, setting, historical record, and now in HBO incarnations. Think of The Normal Heart as Angels in America's angrier cruder earth-bound cousin. It doesn't bother with symbolism, poetry or spirituality - whether that's through lack of ability, desire, or bilious rejection of the escapist side of the fantastical who can say? Instead, it finds its power in fragile bodies and righteous rage in the face of mundane defeats and every day humiliations.

Which is why it's a little surprising at first to begin with the elemental: the open air, the sun and a glide over the water (supertitle: "1981") as we head to Fire Island.

More, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Weekend Movies: 'Godzilla', God Among Monsters

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Scientists. They're always discovering things that need to stay buried! 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

If Hollywood's goal is to infantilize all audiences into impressionable insatiable snot-nosed consumers of movie-product (remember how easy it was for a commercial to make you all "gimme!" as a kid) they’re doing a great job this year. Though movie studios churn out plenty of all-quadrant dross every year that's aimed at pleasing children of all advanced ages and genders, it rarely goes this well. The year began in the shadow of Disney's unexpectedly unstoppable Frozen and the critical and commercial smashes keep coming. The Lego Movie and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are the two biggest hits of the year (thus far) and not undeservedly. They're like joyful corporate filmmaking - cash grabs, sure, but no robbery is involved since they give you your money’s worth. And here comes the third home run: Gareth Edwards' Godzilla (2014).

[Insert prehistoric monstrous rawr here]

Can my review just be wild-eyed hyperactive childish pointing? "LOOK!!!"

No? Fine. A few slightly more coherent thoughts featuring hot soldiers, worried women, and monster smash-ups AFTER THE JUMP...

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