"Machete Kills"

The key to the original “Machete” – for me, at least – was that it was the first instance in a long while of a Robert Rodriguez movie actually being about something beyond the surface-level faux-grindhouse jokefest. I have no idea what Rodriguez politics are and thus no idea how strongly he “really” feels about the U.S. immigration debate; but whether authentic or just part of the winking 70s-exploitation pastiche it was the ferocity with which “Machete” engaged the subject that made it stand out: The wildly-applauding, predominantly Latino audiences at my screening(s) certainly didn’t think it was a joke.

So I wonder if “Machete Kills,” which Rodriguez may or may not have put together partially by having the castmembers of “Sin City 2” put on different costumes for pickups during their greenscreen shoots, is going to keep that going or let Part 1 be “the political one” and just focus on the spectacle of improbable action-lead Danny Trejo hacking up a succession of stunt-cast cameos and Latin-cinema mainstays.

The first full trailer for the film (it’s a Yahoo, sorry) doesn’t let much out in the way of story beyond what we already know: Machete is called in for a mission by the U.S. President (Charlie Sheen, here using his real name “Carlos Estevez” for the first time in a film) involving a supervillain played by Mel Gibson; whose scheme may or may not involve a “Moonraker”-style outer space component. Rodriguez has “joked” in the past that the third film “Machete Kills Again” will be a Space Opera, possibly incorporating leftovers from his scuttled John Carter project.

http://movies.yahoo.com/video/machete-kills-trailer-1-154241764.html?format=embed&player_autoplay=false

"Planes"

Here’s all you need to know about Disney’s “Cars” spinoff, “Planes.” Pixar – which had no problem signing it’s name to both of the wholly-disposable “Cars” movies, is letting Disney take sole credit for this one.Dane Cook stars as a cropduster who dreams of competing in an airplane race against an elite gathering of broad ethnic stereotypes.

Ma vie en rose

Huh. Well, this will be interesting.

The Hub, which is still looking for an original kids’ series that people will watch other than “Friendship is Magic,” thinks it’s found a winner in an Australian animated series called “Shezow.” I hadn’t heard of it until the (week old) trailer for it’s U.S. premier started making the rounds, but the premise is interesting: The (magical) mantle of a female superhero with decidedly female-gendered accoutremants (sparkly miniskirted costume, Barbie-esque pink car, etc) is accidentally passed to a teenaged boy.
Okay, so it’s kind of a single-joke premise parody wise re: male superhero uniforms are considered “unisex” but heroines’ are not, but I’ve seen a lot more made from a lot less. I don’t recall ever hearing if anybody freaked out about this in it’s native Australia, but as you’ll expect the usual gang of idiots is already apoplectic about what they see as another assault on children by The Gay Agenda. 
Even without their “help,” of course, if the series catches at all that it’ll be roped into the debate(s) surrounding LGBTQ children is inevitable; though it’s hard for me to get a read on what those communities will/do actually think of this: The premise appears mostly played for laughs, i.e. Shezow is alternately thrilled with his powers but annoyed/embarassed at the form(s) they take (I haven’t tracked down an episode, but I’m assuming that, by the law of teen heroes’ powers usually being learning-opportunities, the hero has some sort of overcoming-his-own-assumptions-about-girls’-abilities character-arc going on?), and I’m not 100% clear as to whether the transformation (his “By the power of GraySkull!” is “You go girl!”) makes him biologically female or just puts the costume/hair/makeup on; but my sense is that any kid-targeted series that – even humorously – says “dressing outside gender-roles is cool/acceptable” has to be a step in the right direction, yes?
Well, we’ll see. “Shezow” makes it’s U.S. debut Saturday, June 1st.

Controversial "Blue" Scores Big At Cannes

And we now have our customary first big Awards Season Frontrunner (for awhile anyway) as the voting concludes at the Cannes Film Festival. The jury – this year headed by none other than Steven Spielberg – awarded the Palm d’Or (top prize) to “Blue Is The Warmest Color” (aka “La vie de Adele Parts 1 &2”); a French romantic drama that was already one of the most buzzed-about and controversial entries in this year’s festival.

Based on a French graphic novel (apparently unavailable in the U.S.), the story follows a young woman’s (Adele Exarchopoulos) awakening to an intense attraction to another woman in her teens and into early adulthood over the course of a lengthy relationship with said woman (Lea Seydoux,) whose blue-dyed hair is the source of the title. The film runs an impressive 3 hours, the majority of which is simply conversational scenes between the two women and a small supporting cast.


However, the element that had the festival talking early were sex scenes described as “frank” – which is arthouse-movie speak for “actual fucking” – one of which allegedly goes for a full ten unbroken minutes (Cannes audiences are being reported to have applauded the – literal – climax of said scene as though a monument had just exploded in a Roland Emmerich movie.) There are already questions as to whether or not the film will require major editing to be viewable in certain countries, and a skeptical backlash painting the film as being over-praised by lesbian-fetishizing male critics and jurors (the director is a man, Tunisian-born Abdellatif Kechiche.) Meanwhile, it’s victory will almost certainly become a talking point in it’s native France; which just legalized gay marriage in the face of major opposition from conservative and religious organizations: The nutcase who shot himself in Notre Dame Cathedral last week did so in protest of legalization.

In any case, the film is now slated for an October release in France followed by a year-end rollout in the United States in anticipation of Oscar nominations.

The Hard Stuff

Below, the trailer for this year’s movie the “endurance cinephile” in your life (the guy who prides himself on having “made it through” notoriously heavy/violent/controversial works) will be going on about this year: “The Act of Killing.” The good news? It indeed looks/sounds kind of amazing.

The premise? In Indonesia, the government that operated the country’s notorious Death Squad killings of communists and suspected communists that are said to have numbered at least 1,000,000 is still effectively running the show, and while the vestiges of a modernizing nation are all present the perpetrators of this genocide have gone largely unpunished – rather, many live as lionized national celebrities. In “Act,” filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer documents the life of a (mostly) unrepentant death squad leader named Anwar Congo, now a grandfather, who claims to have personally killed 1,000 men himself.
The hook? Oppenheimer asks (and provides the resources) for Congo and his surviving co-killers to make a movie about their death-squad exploits. Not a documentary or a historical-recreation, mind you, but a narrative version of the events from their point of view. As it turns out, Congo’s particular outfit were gangsters specializing in movie-piracy before they were conscripted to help with the slaughter… and they’re big movie buffs. So not only does their version feature death squad killings (with them directing the amateur actors playing the victims and killers) recreated by the guys who did them with low-budget special-effects makeup and gore, it also ends up featuring “arty” setpieces, elaborate costumes, fantasy-sequences and (apparently) a musical number.

Yes. A documentary about mass-murderers directing, staging and acting-in a lavish, “visionary” movie about their own mass-murders. Holy. Shit.