Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hesher (***)

Directed by Spencer Susser


There's something particularly sweet about how bizarre a film like Hesher is. Think about this: here, we have a movie led by a character that speaks in so many non sequiturs that we eventually just get used to it, as if we're reading a novel by Anthony Burgess. Also, we meet a young man, our protagonist, who tries to pry off his enemy's toe with a pair of pliers. I mean, what does this all mean? Throughout its story, Hesher gives the audience a dumpster filled with dots and no way to connect them all. Yet, somehow, with the some wicked funny dialogue and a slew of touching performances, the film is able to rise far above its rough, transgressive appearance to become a wonderful, sometimes touching tale about grief.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)

Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)
Sorry for posting so late about this great filmmaker. Sometimes you want to write so much and it's hard to meet the deadline.

Three weeks ago, Elizabeth Taylor - one of cinema's greatest in-front-of-the-camera talents - passed away. On Saturday morning, one of cinema's greatest behind-the-camera talents left us a well. Lumet, an incredibly accomplished and astonishingly prolific filmmaker, made movies for six decades and was responsible for some of the most Earth-shattering cinematic experiences this humble little blogger has ever had. I was shocked to find out that I'd only gotten around to seeing nine of his films in my life. Perhaps it felt like so much more because I've seen all of them (save for one) so many times. Perhaps an unfortunate run of mostly forgettable films in the late 80's and 90's has caused Lumet's name to fall out of the pantheon that included Scorcese and Coppola, but it's hard not to argue that Lumet's peak was not right up there with his greatest peers. If there is one consistent part to all of Lumet's films, it's a love for explosive drama and pyrotechnic-like acting, but his films never managed to feel over-the-top, even when they were the very definition of it.

Lumet did a lot of his early work in television, directing episodes for various television programs such as the murder mystery drama Danger and the historical re-enactment program You Are There. His breakthrough in movies came in 1957 when he released his debut feature, 12 Angry Men. It was nominated four three Oscars (Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay) and contained a phenomenal collection of performances from some of the top actors of the time. The story of jury meeting, it recalls how one lonely juror (played by Henry Fonda) is able to convince the other eleven men in the jury (to name a few from the stupendous cast: Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, and Lee J. Cobb) that a young teenager is not guilty of murder. The film was a powerful statement from the rookie director, showing his ability to handle incredible talent and hold tension and interest in a 96 minute film that takes place in real time.

Source Code (**)

Directed by Duncan Jones


I cannot say whether or not Duncan Jones is a fan of the 1993 Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day, but I may suggest to him to check out that film's screenplay. In it, Phil (a character played by Murray) has to relive the same twenty-four hours over and over and over. In Source Code, the film's protagonist has to relive the same eight minutes over and over. A large gulf in between those two allotted timeframes, I'll admit, but both films use similar tactics in order to convey the repetitive notion of the story. Yet, in Groundhog Day, the film takes the preposterous nature of this repetition and allows it to add a real charm to the story. Not the case in Source Code and I kind of wish it had.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Win Win (***1/2)

Directed by Tom McCarthy


When I originally saw the trailer for Win Win, I turned to a friend of mine and asked, "Does that movie look really good? Because I'm at a point in my life where anything that stars Paul Giamatti looks absolutely awesome." So, at least you know where I'm coming from. The film comes equipped with enthusiastic fanfare (not loud, but consistently positive) out of the Sundance Film Festival and is supplied with a terrific cast supporting a very funny, heartwarming screenplay. In case you wanted to just stop reading now, I guess I'll just tell you: I really liked this movie. Now, for anyone who wants to dive in a little deeper, follow me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jane Eyre (***)

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga


Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is considered to be amongst the greatest of the Gothic-Romantic novels of its time. When you read it, with its underlying sexual tension chastising the hypocritical nature of 1840's culture, you almost have to scoff at the faithless attempts that books like Twilight take to imitate it. It's a classic tale about a strong-minded, independent woman who comes from emotionally abusive childhood, that Hollywood has been trying to fully recreate on film for many years. There have been several versions made on both films and television but this latest film version is an excellent visualization of Bronte's brooding tale.