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Writer-director Terrence Malick has shit the bed with his third consecutive film: His latest cinematic effort, Song to Song, is a joke.

I am a card-carrying, Malick-worshiping super fan who is in pain watching one of my directing heroes lose his way. After the triumph that was The Tree of Life, Malick shot To the Wonder and Knight of Cups out his film-making butt—and I hoped that would be the worst of it. Alas, Song to Song, which is supposed to be about people having love affairs amidst the Austin music scene, is Malick’s worst … by far.

For starters, I just have no idea what the fuck is supposed to be going on in this thing. Rooney Mara plays some kind of groupie who hooks up with a record producer played by Michael Fassbender. Then she starts dating wannabe musician Ryan Gosling. Then Gosling dumps her. Then Natalie Portman drowns. Then Mara becomes the guitar-player in Val Kilmer’s band, strumming away and looking like an idiot. Then Kilmer cuts his hair off onstage with a big knife. Then Mara starts dating Gosling again. The fucking end.

There’s no script; this film simply features a bunch of aimless, good-looking actors and actress walking around with nothing to do. If you can’t tell, I’m pissed about how much this sucked! And for a film about the Austin music scene … it doesn’t really have any music!

Still … I will be the first in line for the next Malick effort. He’s a master filmmaker who has already made his mark. He can screw up 100 times now, but he’s still made some of the greatest, most-beautiful films ever made. Song to Song is far from being one of them.

Song to Song is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

If you hated Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, you will hate To the Wonder, and if you loved Tree … well, you might be OK watching this.

Ben Affleck stars (sort of) as an American who falls in love while in Paris, and brings the woman (Olga Kurylenko) and her daughter home to Texas. Malick reduces Affleck to sulking, for the most part; it’s a role that never allows him to cut loose. Pitt had a similar assignment in The Tree of Life, but he did a much better job. Affleck looks a little confused, as does Rachel McAdams as an old flame. She’s required to look forlorn, sad and beautiful. She does little else.

The reason to see the film, besides its excellent visuals, is Kurylenko, who shines in the central role. I admire this film in that it tells a complete story in a very different way—but I don’t love it in the way that I’ve loved past Malick films. It’s a mild disappointment.

To the Wonder opens Friday, April 26, at the Cinemas Palme d’Or, 72480 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430.

Published in Reviews

In Badlands, you get one of the greatest American feature-directorial debuts in history. That’s a grandiose statement, for sure, but we are talking about Terrence Malick here, and the man is a magician behind the camera.

Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of heat for liking all of Malick’s movies. I picked The Tree of Life as the year’s best film a couple of years ago, inspiring many to watch it—and in turn inspiring a lot of hate mail. Malick’s movies are as unorthodox as they come, and are basically poetry in motion. If you hate poetry, and you hate a movie that takes its time, then be careful popping his movies into your player.

I would call this movie one of his more commercial offerings. Martin Sheen stars as Kit, a character based on real-life serial-killer Charles Starkweather. Starkweather and his young girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, went on a killing spree in the late ’50s. Sissy Spacek plays Holly, who is essentially a representation of Fugate.

The film came out in ’73, and immediately established Malick as one-of-a-kind. There’s nothing sensationalistic about his approach. He doesn’t try to explain Kit’s motives, and Holly never really explains why she goes along for the ride. Yet it is entirely clear why Kit is sick, and why Holly doesn’t resist. Malick and the performers leave it to the viewer to figure things out.

This might be the best script Malick has ever written. He’s the rare filmmaker who can use a voiceover and not make it feel like a storytelling copout. (Blade Runner, anyone?) Holly’s VO enhances and beautifies the story, rather than explaining things just because the narrative got confusing.

I had never seen Badlands on anything but crappy TV transfers and sloppy DVDs—and seeing it on Blu-ray in this Criterion Collection release is an absolute revelation. The imagery is as breathtaking as anything ever put to film.

Do I sound like I am over-praising? Just know that this man is one of my favorite directors, and this will always be one of my favorite movies.

Special Features: A nice new documentary features recently conducted interviews with Sheen and Spacek. You also get an older doc on Starkweather, interviews with the editor and producer, and one of those sweet Criterion booklets.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing