Despite strong moments, “Loitering with Intent” ultimately lacks follow-through

By Jena Keahon
Via Variety

Via Variety

Adam Rapp’s new film “Loitering With Intent” starts out strong, but quickly deteriorates into a superficial mess as the film progresses.

The story centers around two friends and struggling actors in New York City who lie to their producer friend (Natasha Lyonne) about having written a screenplay that other producers and directors are interested in. When she tells them that she’ll show it to her boss who’s looking to fund a low-budget film, the two friends have 10 days to complete an entire script. In search of solace and inspiration, Dominic (Michael Godere) and Raphael (Ivan Martin) head out to the countryside to write in a house owned by Dominic’s sister Gigi (Marisa Tomei). Expecting peace and quiet, the pair find themselves distracted by the arrival of a very distraught Gigi and her friend the beautiful, young gardener Ava (Isabelle McNally). They are also sucked into the drama between Gigi and the arrival her ex-boyfriend Wayne (Sam Rockwell), particularly Raph, who had previously dated Gigi and is still in love with her.

As Godere and Martin wrote the film, one can’t help but wonder just how autobiographical “Loitering” is. The two leads have great chemistry, and there are some genuinely funny and heartfelt moments between them. However, their interactions with the other characters are lacking. While the relationships between the characters start out as intriguing and full of promise, the film unfortunately only scratches the surface of these relationships, and the characters are never explored fully.

Although Tomei gives a delightful performance as Gigi, the character never manages to escape the “manic pixie dream girl” trope. All of the characters are in love with Gigi and are amused by her antics, yet she has no depth or resolution. The same goes for Ava, who does nothing but act as a muse for Dominic, and as an object of lust for Wayne’s friend, Devon (Brian Geraghty).

Unsurprisingly, Sam Rockwell is the standout in the film. Although his character has PTSD and an inclination toward violence, Rockwell underplays it. He is a terrifying presence onscreen, and one that is impossible to keep your eyes off of. What’s especially brilliant about Rockwell’s performance is the palpable difference in his eyes as to when he is calm and normalized as opposed to when he is triggered. He looks dead in the eyes as he feigns calmness in an attempt to rein in his anger, and they only brighten after the confrontations have ended. Rockwell’s Wayne is a ticking time bomb, making you tense up as you watch the violence brewing underneath him and wonder when he is going to explode.

Ultimately, while “Loitering With Intent” has some genuine moments of humor and realism, the film never manages to dig deep into any of the relationships it introduces.

Jen Keahon is a contributing writer. Email her at film@nyunews.com.

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“Mr. Turner” more likely to induce sleep than joy

By Ethan Sapienza
Via Deadline

Via Deadline

The later and arguably more famous paintings of JMW Turner were those that depicted beauty in a hazy yet dominating fashion. Though exact images, locations and people are difficult to discern in the pictures, it is clear that Turner wished to depict the raw beauty of nature and its awe-inspiring power. Writer-director Mike Leigh’s biopic of England’s most famous artist, “Mr. Turner,” instead depicts nature with astounding clarity, yet undermined by brutish and crude human beings.

The main problem with “Turner” is that it only wishes to serve itself. While film is certainly an art form, one that can explore profound ideas, emotions, etc., it is also a medium dedicated to entertainment. Leigh does not wish to entertain the viewer, at least not any typical human being. Structured more like a very lengthy and slowly progressing lecture, the film trudges through the later portion of Turner’s life, attempting to show how, though gifted, the painter was a short tempered and gross man.

I can respect that Leigh desires to construct an accurate portrait of an often-celebrated figure, but there’s a difference between doing so in a fantastically boring manner and then one that is slightly more digestible and engaging. Characters fade in and out, without any introduction or suggestion as to their importance. Leigh is entirely indulgent as he just makes the movie he would want and not one that would appeal to a wide audience, if even an audience at all. Even at the close of the credits a disclaimer is left informing that events and characters and such were fictionalized for dramatic effect, though quite simply no drama is really ever had.

In all fairness, the film is rather well shot and filled with heartfelt performances. Timothy Spall is phenomenal as Turner. His performance is intimidating, as he makes his presence felt in every scene through a brooding demeanor and lines delivered with great emotion, whether it be anger or anguish. Paul Jesson is wonderful as Turner’s closest confidant, who happens to be his father, William, acting as a beautiful foil consisting of great manners and care for others. Dorothy Atkinson is Hannah Danby, Turner’s loyal, sexually and emotionally abused servant, who is horrifyingly sympathetic in her skittish and reserved way.

Unfortunately, in their commitment and accuracy, the characters’ thick, archaic accents make it difficult to discern what they are saying. This, along with the film’s pace which does nothing to inform but rather to progress for itself often make it remarkably difficult to follow what is occurring in Turner’s life at the moment.

As sad as I may be to write this, “Mr. Turner” is not a film worth seeing. Though upon occasion it has startling picturesque imagery and worthwhile acting, it is more likely to induce sleep than it is joy.

Ethan Sapienza is a staff writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com.

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James Franco’s NYU-driven project succeeds in capturing life of subject

By Anubhuti Kumar
Via Indiewire

Via Indiewire

 

“The Color of Time” follows the life of Pulitzer Prize winning poet CK Williams. Named after a collection of the poet’s works, the film is a deep and interesting look into his history and inspirations. Its seems like a risky experiment, being directed by 12 relatively novice NYU filmmaking graduates, but the end product can definitely be called a success. The film stars James Franco as CK Williams, Mila Kunis as his wife, Jessica Chastain as his mother and Zach Braff as an old friend.

The use of CK Williams’ own poetry as the way to move through the distinct phases of his life demonstrates the skill and thoughtfulness of the screenwriters. It serves to provide some very startling insight into the poetry along with the poet, as it is woven through the film in the form of mostly voice-over during poignant scenes. Anybody unfamiliar with this poet and his work might want to brush up before venturing into this film, but either way it is a touching tribute to CK Williams and his contribution to American poetry.

Franco, himself a former student and professor at NYU, collected 12 of his former students to direct this film, and despite the prospect of conflict between twelve different directors and ideas, “Time” manages to succeed. The storytelling and the depiction of the poet’s journey is seamless and easy to follow — and intriguing as well.

From looking at his relationship with his parents to his relationship with his wife and son, “The Color of Time” is a dramatic and insightful look into the workings of CK Williams’ mind and the events that inspired his poetry. Franco seems to only amplify the feeling that the audience is watching a reel of Williams’ personal memories rather than an interpretation with his very believable performance. The use of the camera also exemplifies this idea with a presentation that is reminiscent of a home movie at some points.

With touching and realistic performances all around, “The Color of Time” is definitely a must-see. Whether or not you’re well-versed in the poetry of CK Williams, the film is an interesting look into the mind of an artist and will give the audience a better, deeper understanding and appreciation of his life and work.

Anubhuti Kumar is a contributing writer. Email her at film@nyunews.com.

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Pandora’s second ‘Discovery Den Holiday Concert’ takes to the Grand at the Manhattan Center

By Nina Jang

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Fans kicked off the holiday season to live performances at Pandora’s second annual Discovery Den Holiday Concert featuring big names the Neighbourhood, Rudimental, and Kiesza at the Grand in the Manhattan Center. Turnout at the completely free Saturday night concert proved its popularity among Pandora users and fans alike.

London-based group Rudimental hyped up the night from the start with tunes from the debut album “Home” as well as popular singles like “Not Giving In” and “Waiting All Night.” Singing and dancing to the medley of beats fused with pop and techno, the group seemed to genuinely enjoy the stage, emulating an energizing vibe like the audience had stumbled upon good friends having a go in a makeshift club with upbeat music.

Canadian pop star Kiesza followed suit, sweeping the audience with an impressive gig proving fans of her trademark compacted dance choreography complemented with two hype backup dancers by her sides. Underneath the flashing lights with a decked-out microphone stand at hand, Kiesza performed songs from her new album “Sounds of a Woman” but of course treated fans to the incredibly catchy song, “Hideaway” released just this past April and the music video shot in Brooklyn that everyone was most anticipating.

The tune that got everyone getting low was “Take U There,” a hybrid song fused with some house, techno, and dubstep as born from a collaboration with Diplo and Skrillex during Kiesza’s visit to Ibiza this past summer.

Closing the show was none other than indie rock band the Neighbourhood, hailing from across the nation in California. With minimal light effects, with mostly the same white hue the entire show, all the focus was on the music, but especially on lead singer Jesse Rutherford as he strutted across the stage.

Adding some flair with yells here and there, the band had the audience swaying and mouthing the lyrics to songs like “Afraid” from its “I Love You” album releases last year. To top off a good performance, the Neighbourhood performed its best-known hit released back in 2012, “Sweater Weather” which seemed quite fitting with the increasingly colder weather as winter is coming.

This year’s Discovery Den Holiday Concert proved to be a success with a solid turnout and entertaining performances by three talented yet completely different groups so that fans were treated to essentially three concerts but in all in one space at the stunning Grand.

Nina Jang is a contributing writer. Email her at music@nyunews.com

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Time Warp delivers spirited Brooklyn debut

By E.R. Pulgar

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Think of the biggest rave you can imagine and double it; even this isn’t enough to grasp the scope of Time Warp, techno’s most important festival on the European circuit. Usually held overseas in Mannheim and around Germany, the heart of Europe’s deep house scene, this unreal festival has finally come to our side of the pond, and the debut was explosive. Despite having to relocate to the 39th Street Pier in Brooklyn after failing to secure permits for the festival’s original location in the Bronx’s Kingsbridge Armory, the night went off without a hitch.

The festival was held within a large warehouse meant to imitate the full-floor stage that the original European incarnation of the festival is typically held in. The locale proved effective, stretching over two expansive dance floors which hosted around 9,500 techno fans eager to get their rave on. One of these comprised “The Cave,” with decorations revolving around the theme and speakers that boomed every beat to the far ends of the wide corridor. This was the larger floor, where big-ticket performers like Sven Väth and No Regular Play performed. The latter impressed the crowd with a unique performance that incorporated a live trumpet, castanets, and Spanish guitar that reverberated through the room in a ghostly marriage between the traditional and the modern.

The alternate to the mammoth main floor, appropriately titled “Floor Two,” housed more intimate sets that were no less intense, such as tINI and DJ Tennis. Despite being smaller, it also boasted more space, and became a sort of progressive house breathing room for fans exhausted from the exorbitance Floor Two’s sister stage on the other side of the warehouse.

Techno superstar Richie Hawtin was a particular standout playing to an unrelenting audience and even standing atop his booth to tease them. The usually composed Hawtin accidentally pushed a monitor on a fan, although thankfully nobody was injured.

The variety of music was impressive, as were the contrasts from stage to stage, with a middle ground that included a bar and a coat check for fans. You could walk between stages with relative ease, and the vibe completely changed. It was like two completely different festivals, with the relaxed deep house of Floor Two contrasting the relentless beats of The Cave.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams made an unexpected appearance during New York native’s The Martinez Brothers’ set. He went on to praise the festival, saying that “[it was] great for Brooklyn.” He then invited the festival back to the Borough for another installation to uproarious applause. Techno fans can only hope the masterminds behind Time Warp accept the invitation and continue to bring a taste of Europe’s legendary scene to the states.

E.R. Pulgar is a staff writer. Email him at music@nyunews.com

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J. Cole returns to his roots with “2014 Forest Hills Drive”

By Ahmed Bubshait

Via Billboard

The announcement, or lack thereof, of “2014 Forest Hills Drive” was met with confusion. Some speculated it would be an end-of-year festival; others claimed it was a surprise tour. Having a new J. Cole album at this time of the year rang too-good-to-be-true for many hip-hop heads who were now, in mid-November, reminded of three words, “Friday Night Lights.” The twenty-track project released in November 2010 established Cole as the leading light of the conscious-rap crowd.  Jay-Z’s protégé followed up FNL with two LPs brimming with filler tracks and radio singles that alienated his day one fans.

Good news, “2014 Forest Hills Drive” is a vintage Cole’s hour-long offering with no fillers and no singles.

J. Cole is a striver, and his music attests to that.  The album kicks off with “Intro,” a soulful self-reflection on Cole’s journey—“Look where I came/Look how far I done came.”  The two-minute track eases into “January 28th,” an ode to the Fayetteville-native’s life in which he boldly claims to be “New York’s finest.”  Cole lets go of his referential tendencies in track three, “Wet Dreamz,” as he muses over the anxiety of losing his virginity.  The homage-filled “03’ Adolescence” details the inner thoughts of a slightly older Jermaine, who tackles his insecurities over a sophisticated Willie B. beat.

“A Tale of 2 Citiez,” Fayetteville and New York, is a braggadocios affair reminiscent of Drake’s “Worst Behavior.” Aggressive Cole reappears in “Fire Squad,” yet with even more complex introspection this time around; he splices together musical eras to address the white appropriation of hip-hop culture, name-dropping Elvis, Eminem, Macklemore and Iggy Azalea in the process.  Cole’s signature production retakes the spotlight on “St. Tropez” as he repurposes Esther Phillips’ “That’s All Right With Me” to create a relaxing vibe.  The mood drastically changes in the 808s-infused “G.O.M.D.,” a feisty record written from the perspective of “Hollywood Cole” who daringly pronounces himself as the “best in the West.”

The album’s best moment is also its most intricate.  In “No Role Modelz,” three verses packed with fierce rejoinders are mingled with a George W. Bush snippet and a crowd-inducing infectious hook—“Don’t save her/She don’t wanna be saved.”  Unfortunately, it’s followed up with a succession of the album’s weakest points. “Hello” contains the album’s least-flavorful bars, and “Apparently” relies too heavily on Cole’s mediocre singing skills. Cole, however, bounces back with the emotional “Love Yourz.”  The drum roll and the strings blend nicely as Cole touches on highly personal themes.

The final track on the album exemplifies Cole’s growth over the past year.  He takes his time on “Note to Self,” a fifteen-minute denouement that serves as the album credits, to charismatically thank everyone who worked on the album.

“2014 Forest Hills Drive” is an album of higher quality and more variety than Cole’s past two works, and this could be attributed to the minimal promotional effort that took place this time around.  Under less commercial pressure, Cole manages to free himself from the “label-signee” moniker and shine as an artist.

Ahmed Bubshait is a contributing writer. Email him at music@nyunews.com

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Chadwick Stokes brings upbeat, connective show to Bowery Ballroom

By Carter G. Shelter

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A Chadwick Stokes show is unlike almost any other concert you’ve been too. Between his solo work and his work in the bands Dispatch and State Radio, Stokes has never had anything that resembles a “hit song,” but for the small army of devoted fans gathered at Bowery Ballroom on Dec. 5, every song was a hit.

Stokes kicked off the show with “Pine Needle Tea,” a new song that will be on his upcoming album “The Horse Comanche.” Opening with an unreleased song is normally a little risky, but for this crowd it proved no object: at least 50% of them knew all the words.

This knowledge of his new material was on display throughout the night, as a total of six songs of his 16-song set were from the new album. Following up “Pine Needle Tea,” Stokes and his band broke out into the State Radio song “Right Me Up,” probably the song that the few casual fans knew best.

The show began to really hit its groove with another State Radio tune, “Camilo,” which gave his backing band, The Pintos, their first chance to really shine, taking the normally rocking riff at the end of the song and slowing it down into a deliciously funky jam.

Stokes kept most of the show upbeat, mixing folky songs like “Coffee and Wine,” “I Love You Like a Seatbelt,” and the reggae-tinged “Calling All Crows,” with slightly more rocking numbers like “Mr. Larkin” and “Our Lives Our Time.” The latter tune, the first single from the upcoming album, was another clear highlight. The band accented the lyrics’ political bent with the perfect amount of aggression, and during the song’s third verse their instrumental breakdown contrasted strikingly with Stokes’ steady fingerpicking and rapid-fire rapping.

The song was followed by Stokes bringing his Dispatch band mate Pete Francis onstage for “Bang Bang,” noting how the pair used to play the song in Washington Square Park and that they used to perform together at The Bitter End.

For his encore, Stokes brought a little reggae flavor to the State Radio favorite “Indian Moon” before playing a brand new tune called “Cease Fire,” inspired by the recent grand jury cases in Ferguson and Staten Island. The often-political Stokes remarked that it is up to us to create change and that we need to both “learn how to love” and “hold other people responsible for their actions.”

To close the night, Stokes and his band launched into “Elias,” one of Dispatch’s signature songs, and probably the biggest sing-along and dance-along of the night. The smiles on the faces of every person in the crowd as they dutifully sang every word at the top of their lungs and on the faces of the band as they closed out this tour with a bang were evidence of the power of Stokes’ music.

His songs are fun, but they also connect with people in a very deep way. While his army of fans may not put him in stadiums, they are some of the most loyal soldiers a musician could have.

Carter G. Shelter is a contributing writer. Email him at music@nyunews.com

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