Month: July 2016
Stick It In Your Eye
If in the first installment of this derogatory franchise money was magic, in this one magic is a farce. Trying hard to figure out practical explanations for his crew of illusionists’ CGI tricks, panting writer Ed Solomon tinkers with various form of comedy, from a Rube Goldberg self-decapitation to slapstick to witty banter, the rest of the writing team being in charge of “character development”, or rather the illusion thereof.
Back are our Five Horsemen, even though the only female character has changed. Details. Please have a round of applause for Mr Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo, playing Mark Ruffalo), Mr Wilder (James Franco, very good at smiling charmingly), Mr McKinney (Woody “Ham” Harrelson), Miss Lula, who doesn’t have a name since she’s a woman (Lizzy Caplan, as perky and quirky as Isla Fisher was, well, neither the one nor the other), and Mr Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg, easily the best of the lot as he manages to infuse some measure of vicious cipher into his performance). And of course our super duper magical team of sociopaths would not come back without their pet peeves: Mr Bradley (Morgan Freeman, in charge of the ‘An eye for an eye” voice-over because he has a soothing voice), Mr Tressler (Sir Michael Caine, cashing his check), and some new flesh: Mr Li, who doesn’t have a first name since he’s Chinese (Jay Chou, who might have the best line of dialogue translating what grandmother said in Cantonese), and Mr Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe, good at cult lines like “Tadam!” or “Splash!”).
What does it say about a movie when the name of nine actors are above the title, among them two Oscar winners and three nominees? One thing: cash machine. In the first movie, the Four Horsemen, under the shady guidance of the fifth, were actually performing some grand illusions which Mr Bradley debunked, in order to rob heartless insurance magnate Mr. Tressler. In this one, they debunk their own tricks in order to perform a heist. If you have kept your childhood fascination for prestidigitation, disappearing bunnies and appearing doves, avoid this film at all cost: it must be the most depressing backstage visit you will ever have.
So, what happens this time, are you asking? Mr Mabry has invented the movie’s McGuffin, a program which is alluded to sometimes as a chip, sometimes as a card and as a stick the rest of the time. He proudly shows a PowerPoint presentation about it in Macau, where the Horsemen are teleported by way of a swirling pizza box and a debris chute. You don’t wanna know. He’s a genius, see, and therefore is insufferable and childish, the only way Hollywood knows to write geniuses to pander to the short attention span of its audience. Also, he looks and sounds high.
Said stick is the reason why an endlessly protracted scene involving an ace of spades will test your patience, not to mention the disbelief you had to check at the door. It is also responsible for Mr McKinney to have a twin brother, resulting in Woody Harrelson trying to out-ham himself. Those scenes are a pain to watch. It also brings together father and son Mr. Tessler and Mr Mabry and frankly, the very concept of Sir Michael Caine fathering Daniel Radcliffe is terrifying, if a good example of poetic justice. Damn stick.
Unable to give any character any motivation that is not rooted in family bonds, unable to stage any violence out of the proverbial “nobody gets hurts” box, unable not to picture Asians full of wisdom and – AWESOME! – able to speak English, unable to even film Macau or London, you can’t expect NYSM2 to know anything about pattern recognition or magic, even though it tries to bullshit you it does. If by the first hour you have not guessed who will be revealed as head of The Eye in the next movie, you deserve to see it next year. If you do, one guesses you will muse which one is best, pulling a head out of an eye or a hat out of a rabbit.
Florence is home for two worldwide luxury brands, which now each have their own museum: Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci. The latter has opened at the end of 2011 on a – relatively – quiet corner on the Piazza della Signoria, on the left flank of Palazzo Vecchio. It occupies the 14th century former Palazzo della Mercanzia, which hosted the Florence merchant guilds, and has been soberly converted into three floors of exposition space, a shop, an bookstore, a lounge and a café with a nice terrasse offering moderately priced – for such a place – organic fares.
The ground floor exposition space is free of charge, and some of the most striking pieces are on display there, like one of the ten Cadillacs Seville customised by the brand during the sixties, which, if not exactly an exercise in tasteful restraint, is something to behold. The bookstore is well stoked in art books, the lounge has a lot of such books in free access and two large communal tables with high speed wifi. The place truly comes as a welcome haven after negotiating the constant flow of visitors going from the Duomo to the Uffizzi, and has a smiling, welcoming staff: if you feel ill-at-ease entering the brand’s flagship store a few streets further, this is a good way to get yourself acquainted to it.
On display upstairs are a seemingly endless series of handbags from the 1960s to the early 21st century, a dark dramatic room devoted to Tom Ford’s creations during his 90s reign on the Gucci realm, some red carpet couture from the Frida Giannini era and spotlights on the House’s iconic products like the Flora scarf, created for Princess Grace, the Monogram fabric or the Bamboo bag.
Unlike other houses, Gucci did a pretty bad job at preserving its archives and legacy, so one could be founded in thinking that the collection is a bit flimsy at times. Most prominently missing in one’s opinion is the Tom Ford-designed silly objects from the 90s, like the Gucci Dog collection or his hammock in black monogrammed leather, not to mention leather-clad dumb bells or ice cube trays in shape of the G logo. Maybe later. Judging by the first collections helmed by Alessandro Michele since 2015, the room-to-be sporting his creations will add some spunk to the display.
The museum shop has a capsule collection specifically designed for the place, and clearly overpriced notebooks and shopping bags sporting the brand’s iconic motives, like the Renaissance pattern. You can’t escape Renaissance, it’s Florence after all.
Here We Go Again, All The Way From The Start
After the usual “No shit?” Emily voice-over, this time acknowledging the fact that chaos can’t be controlled, we are back to square one and the pilot: the Fire & Ice engagement party. Once again, suspense is cranked to eleven at Daniel’s shooting on the beach, but wait, what did really happen on that fateful night?
Well. Taylor did. Again. Supposedly locked up in an institution for the criminally insane, he’s swiftly revealed in possession of Emily’s Box of Secrets – he actually calls it so. Also, he abducted Karamanda and demonstrates to her that Terminily is her enemy. They team up to blackmail her, which works out reasonably well, but when Taylor reveals he wants to frame Emily for Daniel’s murder because an eye for an eye (AGAIN?), Karamanda runs away, taking a bullet in the process. Bleeding, she pays a romantic hello/goodbye visit to Jack, ready to leave for Port-au-Prince on his boat.
Grayson-wise, Pops has taken a firm grip on the helm of the company he built from scratch, Conrad being busy pestering Victoria about the divorce and Daniel not being interested being CEO: Pet wants to elope Emily to Paris, because it’s romantic and he had enough of his family’s lies. The irony! Pops is good at damage control, he prevents Charlotte to see a shrink to protect the family’s reputation, so she starts self-medicating, which is not the most brilliant idea when you’re drunk. One just says.
Revenge Ninja appears at the engagement party, returning Emily’s Box of Secrets. Victoria signs the divorce papers but is planning to unleash the Security of Exchange Commission on Grayson Global. Taylor confronts Daniel at gun point on the beach and spills the beans about Emily’s revenge. The gun is shot, and even though it happens during a – red and white – firework everyone converges on the shore because convergence is an iron series rule. Jack finds the body, skinny-dipping Declan and Charlotte spot him, Victoria is mad with anguish, Emily looks mildly concerned… and this is Taylor who got shot, presumably by Daniel since he appears, covered with blood. Oh boy, what a ride!
Fun fact of the week: as soon as Emily refuses to leave with him to Paris, Daniel furrows his expressive brow and appears convinced she’s what his mother said Emily was five minutes earlier: an opportunist and a gold digger. Remember Daniel, you will never trust your mother again and Emily is way wealthier than you? The guy is not a man, he’s a weathercock. Sigh.
Shopping in the Plastic Age
Two shops in Florence – and a corner at the Amerigo Vespucci airport – display the synthetic resin tableware designed by Mario Luca Giusti. Starting at 20+€ for goblets, the more elaborated pieces, like classic “cut crystal” wine glasses, pitchers or salad bowls will set you back 35 to 95€ but they are virtually indestructible and come in an array of vivid colors that will give a pop boost at any table dressing. The white wine glasses (pictured) are a thing of beauty, looking like abstractions or ghosts, while their black counterparts make a bold, gothic statement.
Florence is a small city, heavily relying on its heritage and traditions. One can feel the weight of the past on one’s shoulders at virtually every street corner. It is therefore good witnessing the city reinventing its heritage by re-interpretating some classical shapes by way of the less Renaissance possible material. If you want to bring home an unpredictable gift, go to Via della Vigna Nuova or Via Spada. The hardest thing will be for you to choose which one…
So Much To Do, So Little Time
Stupid to the point of being insulting, this series’ pilot should not have been made at all, not to mention the entailing first season. It’s a wall-to-wall carpet of terribleness, with a blinding pattern of poor writing, lousy acting, non-linear “dialogue” and slasher clichés which, in our time and age, have lost all the modicum of interest they could have possibly sparkled thirty years ago. It’s not hommage or nostalgia, it’s exploitation. It’s Friday the 13th all over again, with some apparent satanism poured in the stale, instant mix found in the back of a cupboard left unopened since 1985. One should stop there, but surely some redeeming features might be considered?
No, there are none. This mess’ most interesting feature is the presence in the juvenile crew promised to gory ends of an openly gay guy, a probable lesbian and a possible transgenre with a dark secret, and these three characters are treated in the most conventional way possible: the gay is effete and wanna screw, the lesbian is butch and rather ugly, the possible trannie is played as the pilot’s cliffhanger, ripped off from Sleepaway Camp.
But pray, what is at stake at Crystal Lake, sorry, Camp Stillwater, reopened by Mrs Carpenter (who could have written the soundtrack, aha) after some past events, rhubarb rhubarb rhubard? Well. There is a lot of work to do, the grand reopening taking place three days later. All camp counsellors involved are very excited since the shitty, spooky camp is the place where “they can be what they wanna be” and they all have terrific childhood memories there. Yeah, sure.
But really, there is a lot to do, in between basic jump scares that might work on a toddler. Maybe. Our happy crew therefore divides their busy schedule between campfire bullshit, bullying Final Girl because she’s new, and jumping into the lake. Repeatedly so, even though at their first attempt there was a corpse below the pontoon (there would be an essay to be written about how maleficent these contraptions are).
The Deputy Sheriff, who is the same age as the camp counsellors, falls for Final Girl and walks her to her cabin when she gets lost in the woods for reasons too ridiculous to be reported. This two minute scene excels at excrescence: please let one walk you through it. So, he walks her back, but halfway there he excuses himself. But wait, isn’t it the dead guy’s cabin? Let’s take a look! Oh, a secret room, full of satanic books, what’s the hell? Oh, fire! He pushed her outside and gets trapped into the sudden furnace. Oh, an axe! She frees him through a hole in the wall. OK, see you!
There is no phone but there is. Final Girl is not afraid of mice but she is. Women can’t run more than a yard without falling flat on their face. Flashbacks teach us what Final Girl did last summer. The camp opens tomorrow and there is a lot to do, so Mrs Carpenter plants a Camp Stillwater sign and voilà, the Deputy arrives with the opening authorisation. Wait a second, she hired people and shit without proper paperwork done? Oh, rutabaga. Life’s too short.