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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Master Rush

I seem to be treading water at work right now, I didn't feel like I was getting that badly backed up during the weeks I was away from the office but now that I'm back it's like the needle on the in-box doesn't want to move.

But at least I'm getting caught up on movies very efficiently.  There's nothing much better for that than having an 8:10 showing of one movie you want to see (Premium Rush) which runs for 1:31 with the same theatre providing a 9:45 of another move you want to see (Master) which meant there was around one coming attraction of down time between the two!

Premium Rush was a lot of fun.  It opened quietly in August and hasn't done much box office, but it won't surprise me if it has a good moment on video.  It deserves to.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a bike messenger delivering an envelope that a lot of people want, so his life is going to get complicated.  Ours gets put on hold for 90 minutes, half of which is probably spent riding along with with the bikes on the streets of  New York, weaving in and out of traffic.  There are little scenes like in Sherlock Holmes where the messenger maps out his routes, seeing which path through an intersection has him thrown thru a taxi cab window and which he can skate by an opening door unscathed.  I was surprised at how many fx and visual effects credits there were at the end of the movie, because it's so smoothly done you'd think it was all filmed right there on Broadway.  The movie is utterly preposterous, but because it doesn't take itself seriously it didn't bother me so much.  So you pick up a package on 116th St. and take it downtown by first going up to 130th St.  So there's supposed to be suspense in whether you can get a package downtown in 90 minutes that shouldn't require anything close to that on a bike.  So even though your bike can probably go through traffic, a guy in a car will catch up to you.  Tony Scott's remake of Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 a few years ago, all the implausibility and the remaking of the NY map to fit the movie's convenience drove me crazy in part because the movie depends on the hijacking situation seeming real, here none of it was supposed to be real so I gave lots of license to it.  It was an enjoyable 90 minutes.

The Master?  Oh my.  Paul Thomas Anderson has directed some classic movies, I'd see Magnolia again in the blink of an eye and thought There Will Be Blood was a masterpiece, which I happily enjoyed seeing twice.  This latest film is a dull dreary bore, ignore all the highfalutin praise you'll be hearing about it because the fact is, let me repeat, that it's a dull dreary bore. The alleged topic of the movie could/should be interesting, supposedly the lead is a surrogate for L. Ron Hubbard and the movie a gloss on the introduction of Scientology to the world.  But you know, I'd think L. Ron Hubbard would be an interesting person to make a movie about, and there's nothing interesting about Philip Seymour Hoffman's stand-in.  He seems to lead the most boring existence spending his time giving classes to stuck up rich people, and if he steals some of their money in the process we don't find out much about that.  Joaquin Phoenix's character isn't any better.  I recently saw a play in New York where one of the characters had to act with one side of his face not quite working, and it was distracting but ultimately you learned to live with it and take the character for what he was instead of for the tic, but Joaquin Phoenix is nothing other than his occasional ability to really scrunch his face in the strangest way.  It's a 2:16 minute movie that not only does little to develop its lead characters but leaves all the side characters behind as well.  I have no idea what purpose was served by the character played by Jessie Plemons, or who the Amy Adams character is, or...  I mean, pick a character in the movie, I don't think you'd know what they're about if you didn't have the press kit in hand to explain.  Maybe that's why so many critics like it, because they had the press kit.  I toyed with walking out, I decided Paul Thomas Anderson had given enough great film to my life that he surely deserved another hour of my time to finish telling his story, and in retrospect I wish I'd followed my instincts and bailed on this.  The score is interesting.  There's the occasional nice composition, I didn't see a 70mm print and one or two of the shots I thought "gee that might be nice to see on a 70mm print," then I'd ask why you shoot in 70mm but don't actually shoot in wide screen to take fullest advantage of the wider film format.  The two lead actors are so different in their approach that there's the occasional brief scene which uses that contrast to good effect, a jail sequence when Philip Seymour Hoffman watches quietly while Joaquin Phoenix rages in the next cell breaking his toilet with sheer force of will.  I'll be awfully curious to see if the box office holds up as actual viewers are exposed to the film, instead of the cineastes at Telluride or in the buzz factory of the Toronto Film Festival.  I was a bit surprised to see how well Tree of Life did a year ago, but that had more star power in Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, and if you read the reviews you at least saw a movie that was kind of like what the reviews told you it would be.  This, it's oh so highly praised, and there's nothing there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had a feeling The Master was going to be a bust, despite the terrific commercials.
Oh, well.