Ep. 134 – Hustlers, Freaks, a MondoCon recap and a Fantastic Fest preview

September 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

Fresh off a weekend at MondoCon, Cody and Jerrod are back with new prints and reviews of “Hustlers” and “Freaks.”

Also, Cody tells us what to expect from Fantastic Fest 2019.

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Ep. 118 – The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, High Flying Bird

February 13, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the highly-anticipated sequel “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part” and Steven Soderbergh’s Netflix film “High Flying Bird.”

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Ep. 104 – Brigsby Bear, Logan Lucky, Wind River, Step, and the moviegoing bombshell that is MoviePass

August 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Brigsby Bear” while Cody rides solo on reviews of “Logan Lucky,” “Wind River,” and “Step.” The fellows also discuss the bombshell offer made by MoviePass–a movie a day for only $10 a month.

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Magic Mike

June 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McCoughnahay
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”)
Written by: Reid Carolin (debut)

Channing Tatum is a beefcake. I’ve met him face to face and can tell you, for a fact, that he is an unnervingly handsome man. Of course Hollywood realized it years ago, sticking him in thankless lunkhead roles wherein his only direction seemed to be “keep being handsome.”

On the surface, this trend seems to continue with “Magic Mike.” Tatum plays Mike, a 30-year-old male stripper living a hard-partying vampire’s life in Tampa, Florida. Mike is the star attraction at Xquisite, an all-male revue club owned by half-crazy semi-retired stripper Dallas (Matthew McCoughnahay), where he spends his nights earning g-strings full of singles by grinding on housewives and brides-to-be. On occasion, though, Mike strives to have a day job, and while working construction he meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year-old college dropout who quits the gig after the foreman catches him trying to make off with an extra Pepsi. Mike takes him under his wing, and a night that begins with Adam suffering through dinner with his sister Brooke (Cody Horn) and her d-bag boyfriend ends with him awkwardly stripping for co-eds at the club under the newly-minted stage name “The Kid.”

Once again, Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”) makes directing look breezy and effortless, letting conversational scenes unfold at a distance in one improvisational take while cheeseball dance routines are shot and choreographed to highlight every ab, pec, and glute writhing on the smoke-filled stage. The film evokes “Boogie Nights” without the pathos, reveling in a theatrical form of sexual entertainment (dig those Vegas-worthy props and costume changes) someone like your mom might happily partake in while portraying the performers as a close-knit, make-shift family. Led by an hilariously self-parodying McCoughnahay (who plays the bongos nearly-naked and constantly drawls “alright, alright, alright!”), the men known as the “cock-rocking kings of Tampa” end up being less tragic than expected…at least at first. A late-movie shift toward the dark underbelly of drug use feels inevitable yet wrong somehow, especially after the raunchy fun and camaraderie on display in the first two acts.

Perhaps that’s how it really happens, though, as Reid Carolin’s screenplay is based on Channing Tatum’s real-life experience as a male stripper. Building off his winning performance in “21 Jump Street,” Tatum owns “Magic Mike” from beginning to end. His stellar moves drive the excitement of the dance sequences, and his natural charisma opposite Pettyfer and an always-scowling Horn powers the plot past its few narrative leaps of faith. This beefcake has real chops.

As a man, its tempting to dismiss “Magic Mike” as nothing but a male stripper movie–and the screening I saw being filled with dressed-up women whooping it up certainly reinforced that this is the public sentiment toward the film–but that’s not fair to one of the most interesting Hollywood turnaround stories in Channing Tatum and one of the most prolific, creative directors working today in Soderbergh.

You aren’t going to want to stuff a dollar in its g-string, but throwing it ten dollars at the box office wouldn’t be a mistake.

Cliff Martinez – Contagion & Drive

September 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

There’s nothing conventional about what film composer Cliff Martínez has been doing in his music studio for the last 22 years. His work doesn’t feature full orchestras like many traditional scores. His background as a rock musician sets him apart from others who took a more classical approach to the craft.

Martínez started his professional music career as a drummer in a number of bands in the 70s and 80s including a stint with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His first scoring assignment came in 1989 when director Steven Soderbergh tapped him for the drama “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” Since then, Martínez has scored over 20 films, including the Academy Award-winning film “Traffic” starring Benicio del Toro and the sci-fi love story “Solaris” starring George Clooney.

This year was Martínez’s busiest as a composer with the release of three films – “The Lincoln Lawyer” in March and both “Contagion” and “Drive” this month. During an interview with me, Martinez, 57, talked about his consistent work with Soderbergh and how the definition of a modern composer has evolved to include rockers like him.

How familiar do you have to be with the actual script of a movie your working on? Is your work based on what’s on the page or does your inspiration come more from conversations you have with the director?

For me, the work begins with a rough cut of the film. I can’t do much with the script. I’ve tried to write music to a script prior to seeing the film, but I’ve found it turns out to be a waste of time. After seeing the film, I like to have a creative discussion with the director. They want to hear where my instincts are taking me. Most directors I’ve worked with don’t really jump in with both feet until I’ve put some music on the table. That’s when the real creative dialogue begins.

You’ve scored a handful of films for director Steven Soderbergh. What is it about your relationship with him that works so well?

“Contagion” was film number 10 I’ve done with him. I have a pretty good feel of his likes and dislikes. He has a pretty good instinct about which of his films he calls me in to score. I get to kind of be myself for the most part. He always seems to bring out the best in me. I always wonder how he does it because on the last few films we haven’t communicated that much with one another except through telepathy and short text messages. One thing Steven does that is different is that he usually sends me the script long before the shooting begins even though I’m not writing anything for the script and we’re not discussing it that much. I have a lot of time to think thing over and let some of my ideas incubate. He’s one of the most hands-off directors I’ve ever worked with. Whenever I work with him, I always seem to create a score that is uniquely Soderberghian.

As a composer, is creating a specific style to your sound something you see as a positive thing or would you rather have the reputation of never knowing what you’re going to deliver?

I guess I’d like to have my cake and eat it, too. I want to be known for having a recognizable style. I believe having your own personal identity is what makes you competitive. On the other hand, I would like to be versatile and be challenged to go in new directions. I don’t want to be typecast as the “ambient guy” or someone who only does electronic scores. I think most of the work that comes my way is because people feel they know me musically.

Everyone knows composers like John Williams and Howard Shore. Can you name me some other composers that are doing great work, but aren’t household names yet? I’m asking you this because I think you fall under that category at this point in your career.

I think the guys who are known for their comedy scoring, they often get overlooked because their work is seen as lighter. I think writing for comedy, in my opinion, is very difficult and very specialized. That’s why the guys that are good at it are asked to do it over and over again. Let’s see, Rolfe Kent (“Sideways“), Mark Mothersbaugh (“The Royal Tenenbaums“) – those are just a couple of names that come to mind of guys that probably don’t get as much attention as they deserve.

Talk about your ideas going into a film like “Contagion” and how you feel your score represented the outbreak story. Personally, I felt you gave the film a sense of urgency and added to the panic and fear of these characters.

Well, my direction from Steven came primarily in the form of three temp scores. In a very early version of the film he used the music from “The French Connection” and “Marathon Man.” So, I kind of had this 70s flavor in there from the very beginning. Then it changed direction and it went to [the band] Tangerine Dream. That’s where the retro synthesizer sounds and ideas came from. Towards the end he threw all that out and used some really energetic and contemporary film music. I think he was very preoccupied with the pace and the rhythm of the film. So, that was probably my biggest function – to keep things moving along and moving quickly. Another mission was to magnify the fear factor. He always talked about it as a horror film. I just tried to conjure up obsessive anxiety with the music. That was probably my most significant contribution. I think the film really worked best when it was scaring you. I just tried to heighten that feel by keeping it off balance and not going in an expected direction. Then at times I really tried to underscore the more tragic and personal moments. Toward the third act, I wanted to create a more hopeful tone as they begin to get a handle on the virus.

It’s interesting some of the temp music started as retro music because that’s what the final product in “Drive”  feels like. Did you revisit any cult films to get a feel for that score or are you the type of composer that would rather start from scratch?

Sometimes if I really don’t have a sense of direction, I’ll watch other films that are similar. I kept thinking I should watch “Andromeda Strain” and “Outbreak” for “Contagion,” but I never got around to it. It was partly because I kind of had my own internal sense of direction about it. But sometimes I will do that. I didn’t do it for “Drive.” I don’t really think it was the director’s intention to really revisit the 80s. There are a handful of contemporary songs that actually sound like 80s synth pop. I think he just chose those songs because they sounded cool. I rolled with that because I wanted there to be a connection with the score and the songs. Beyond that, the film felt very modern to me. I don’t think anyone would listen to the scores of either film and think they were 70s or 80s-type scores. But both do have interesting personalities.

How do you think the landscape of film scores is changing with more composers coming from the same musical background as yourself? We have Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead, who did the score for “There Will Be Blood,” and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who won an Oscar last year for “The Social Network”  score.

When the art of film scoring was born, everybody in it came from the European, classical tradition. But nowadays, especially since the record industry is taking a dive, rockers like myself and Trent Reznor are migrating in great numbers to film scoring. That’s kind of normal now. Half of the guys that are doing it now come from a rock ’n’ rock background or have played in bands. For me, I think it contributes and enriches the art form just as immigration enrichesAmerica. The more the merrier!

Some of the sounds you use in your scores don’t feel like they were made by instruments. I can only describe some of them as dreamlike and surreal. I’m wondering outside of your studio, what kind of sounds do you like listening to?

I live in Topanga Canyon, which is like a faux-rustic enclave in Los Angeles. I love the sounds of all the critters outside – the frogs, owls, crickets, and birds. Some of the birds around here are pretty accomplished musicians. You can learn a lot from them.

Is there anything specific you’ve learned about yourself as a composer from your first film “Sex, Lies and Videotape” in 1989 to where you are today?

I’ve learned quite a bit since I first started. I guess what I’ve learned is that there are no boundaries when it comes to imagination. It’s limitless. The more I come to understand music, the more I feel like a numbskull because there is always more to learn. The more I do it, the more I’m humbled. I’m just always trying to get better at it. I pick up a few tricks along the way.

Contagion

September 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law
Directed by:  Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”)
Written by:  Scott Z. Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum”)

Once a year or so, a national news program will trot out one of those gross-out ratings-grabber stories about just how dirty and germ-filled your workplace is. The reporter will take cotton swabs and run them across objects officemates unconsciously touch like doorknobs, copy machines and keyboards. Back at the laboratory, the Petri dishes invariably explode into a horror show of nasty germs that make you shudder at the thought of opening a door and eating a sandwich without dousing your hands in gallons of sanitizer. Who wants to catch Scarlet fever from simply grabbing the handle on the break room fridge?

In “Contagion,” the new film from Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”), the ickiness of passing germs around willy-nilly by touch turns deadly when a new virus emerges causing international pandemonium. Before anyone knows what’s going on, the virus has already gone global by way of carriers like the coughing man on the bus who grabs every pole and handrail before he comes to his stop, the sick kid leaving a snot smear on the door as he leaves school, and “patient zero” playing poker at the casino and passing infected chips around the table.

Here, “patient zero” is Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), an American businesswoman who brings the virus to the U.S. from Hong Kong. Returning home to her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) and her young son, Beth kicks off a chain reaction of infection in her hometown of Minneapolis (as well as Chicago, by way of a quickie extra-marital fling on the way home). The outbreak attracts the attention of the Centers for Disease Control, led by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) as well as that of inflammatory blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law). Cheever dispatches Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to track down everyone exposed to the virus in the states while Krumwiede pokes and prods and generally cries “government/pharmaceutical conspiracy!” at every turn.  The globe-trotting narrative works well in the character-heavy plot, which includes a World Health Organization doctor (Marion Cotillard) sent to trace the origin of the virus and scientists (Jennifer Ehle, Elliot Gould, Demetri Martin) charged with developing a vaccine. Mitch and his desire to protect his daughter as society crumbles around them stays at the center of the chilling story.

Soderbergh’s deft direction of a sprawling cast peppered with Oscar winners and nominees feels breezy and effortless, even when the story spirals into the darkness and questions what an event like this would bring to the real world. The only element that rings false is Law’s provocative celebrity blogger character, which is a clear attempt to modernize the old “intrepid reporter” archetype the rise of internet journalism has rendered obsolete. Fortunately, the rest of the film is rooted firmly enough in reality to make you thoroughly wash your hands afterward, and maybe turn your head in mild panic when someone coughs in a crowded room.

The Informant!

September 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula and Joel McHale
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s Eleven”)
Written by: Scott Z. Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum”)

There’s only so much a dark comedy can get away with when it’s trying to be satirical. If a filmmaker is not careful, it can go over the edge and become just too goofy to be believable. Think about directors Joel and Ethan Coen. They got it right with “Burn After Reading,” but stumbled into something foolish with “The Ladykillers.” If the make-up of a film in this genre is off by a few degrees, things can get quite messy.

While “The Informant!” is advertising itself as a “true” story, director Steven Soderbergh seems to find a hard time in drawing a line between the completely ridiculous and the genuine moments of dry comedy and drama in what becomes his version of a cinematic three-ring circus.

The star under Soderbergh’s big top is actor Matt Damon, who has worked with the director in the “Ocean’s” trilogy and in the second part of his Che Guevara biopic of last year. In “The Informant!,” which is adapted from the 2000 book of the same name (sans exclamation point) by former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, Damon plays Mark Whitacre, an agra-business executive who becomes a whistleblower for the FBI when his company is caught up in a price-fixing scheme.

Playing out more like a character study of someone Eichenwald described in his book as a manic-depressive, it’s an interesting choice in tone that Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) decide to take. All the ingredients are there for something more straight-laced, but Soderbergh and Burns chose Mark’s eccentric personality and turn him into someone about as cartoonish as Inspector Gadget or Maxwell Smart.

Throughout the film, we hear Mark’s random inner monologue drive his behavior as he continually lies to FBI agents (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale play the main ones here) and changes his story about the criminal practices of his Fortune 500 company. Nicolas Cage’s character used the same type of narration in Gore Verbinski’s underappreciated 2005 film “The Weather Man,” but in “The Informant!” Damon’s dialect feels more unconscious and disconnected from reality.

Maybe that’s the point of it all, but the tone works against the film especially when the story isn’t as off-the-wall as Soderbergh would like you to believe. Sure, this specific white collar crime back in the 90s, was strange, but there are also parts of the story that read like a financial report. What’s so humorous about price-fixing anyway? Without a character like Mark, who is amped up by a confident performance by Damon, “The Informant!” is just another tale of corporate greed. What’s next, a Bernie Madoff musical?