Monday, December 31, 2012

Les Miserables (***)

LES MISERABLES
Directed by Tom Hooper

***

For various reasons, musicals don't sell in Hollywood like they used to. As movies began to gravitate more towards sensibility and realism in the late 1960's, the spectacle of the Hollywood musical fell out of favor. There's something very stage-y about the old films like The Band Wagon and Meet Me In St. Louis, and I don't think it's much of a coincidence that musicals still run on the stage for decades to acclaim and popularity. Truth is, there's enough spectacle on the screen already, and singing doesn't add a whole lot. I'd love to see someone make another Singin' In The Rain type movie, but instead of singing about the death of the silent film, they'd be singing about the death of their beloved musicals. But I guess I shouldn't really be giving away free, uncopyrighted pitches here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Django Unchained (****)

DJANGO UNCHAINED
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino

****

The last two movies that Quentin Tarantino has made deal with the two biggest eras of racial injustice in America's two-plus centuries of existence. His first one, 2009's Inglourious Basterds, dealt with World War II, in which the German Nazis did their best to exterminate the entire Jewish race in a few years. In that war, the Americans were the good guys. But in his latest movie, Django Unchained, we're moved to what is probably the blackest (forgive the pun) point in the short history of this country: African American slavery. In this era, Southern Americans were not so much the bad guys as they were ignorant orchestrators of centuries worth of oppression that was so deeply rooted in the social and economic infrastructure that it wasn't even considered evil, it was considered a way of life. The Nazis seemed deranged in their genocide, while Americans were straight up stupid and entitled - a very dangerous combination.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Amour (****)

AMOUR
Written and Directed by Michael Haneke

****

Amour is about something that almost everybody has to deal with eventually, but that's not talked about very much, and is almost never shown with such stark detail as it is here. Georges and Anne are both retired music teachers, in their eighties, living in Paris with what appears to be a wholly solid, long-lasting marriage that has produced at least one daughter (at least, that's what the film shows) and several successful students that have gone on to success in the music industry. After decades of being together, I'd imagine that it would seem like nothing could pull you apart from your life partner. But when Anne has a stroke, and her quality of life begins to spiral down quickly and dramatically, it seems to be the first time that their near-lifelong commitment to each other will be tested.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (**1/2)


THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
Directed by Peter Jackson

**1/2

There seems to be two kinds of people in the world. One type has read all of J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings books and sang the praises - high and loudly - of every frame of Peter Jackson's trilogy of film adaptations, even going on to further suggest that these three bloated films (all three hover around three hours, with the last one spilling way over) could be even longer with all the material that was left out of the screenplay. Another type (my type, in case that wasn't obvious already) never read the books and found the three movies to interminable - like cinematic waterboarding - and the thought that any of the movies could be even a second longer, makes this type of person ponder a manic, hard-to-keep-your-hand-off-the-knife kind of lunacy. Like Democrats and Republicans, these two types of people not only disagree but fail to see anything but stupidity in the other side's logic. So, alas, Peter Jackson went ahead and made The Hobbit into three movies, the first of which just came out, bringing the two sides clashing again, but I'd bet only one side is actually going to pay money to see it.

Holy Motors (***1/2)

HOLY MOTORS
Directed by Leo Carax

Holy Motors is a strange movie. But it seems strange in a David Lynchian sort of way, that seems to cry out for meaning - for a puzzle to be solved. (As opposed to strange in a The Master sort, which is mostly just eccentric and aimless, and by the end seems to be exactly about being aimless.) I have never been a huge Lynch fan. I consider Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr. to be two tremendous movies, but I don't know why. If you want so strongly to imbue a story with a foundation of metaphor and meaning, why make it so difficult to understand? Why make putting the puzzle together so much work? Well, you can only bang your head against a wall so many times before you realize what a dumb activity it is, and that's how I feel about finding meaning in Holy Motors. I just sat back and enjoyed the fantastic limousine ride.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Skyfall (***1/2)

SKYFALL
Directed by Sam Mendes

***1/2

I'd been staying away from Skyfall despite the craze over the latest James Bond film. Not because I had some reservation about the franchise, or that I had found that - based on trailers and reviews - that I didn't think the movie was that good. It was more because I have such unfamiliarity with the franchise (with Die Another Day being the only other film that I'd seen), that I didn't want to jump in with a story without true appreciation for its past and history. Kind of how I'm weary of watching the TV show The Wire because I find the concept of watching 60 one-hour episodes unbelievably daunting. But after the constant imploring of many friends, I finally buckled and saw the movie (over a month after its initial release, but I digress) discovering that the franchise's past films do not really hold any stock in just how remarkable a film it is.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rust and Bone (***)

Rust and Bone
Directed by Jacques Audiard

***

The gulf between the roles that Marion Cotillard plays in her commercial American films and the ones in her native language seems large enough the fit a cruise through. Consider the ferocity of her Oscar-winning performance in La Vie en Rose and try to think if she's ever even done anything that commanding and demonstrative on an American screen. Perhaps it's not a fair comparison, because there are few actors who are ever as good/better in there second language (Javier Bardem?) - and she did come close in one particular scene in Nine, but that movie was an absolute garbage apart from that one glowing moment. Rust and Bone - part gritty love story, part redemption tale - gives Cotillard her first role with real meat since her pre-Oscar career.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Silver Linings Playbook (****)

 

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Written for the Screen and Directed by David O. Russell

****

There's something unbelievably infectious about David O. Russell's latest movie, Silver Linings Playbook. It's not that it's particularly innovative or is a technical game-changer. It's story is simple, almost predictable to a point. But it's the product of a stupendously talented (albeit controversial) filmmaker fully committed to a heart-warming story with highly complex characters. So, too, does a commitment from its cast, armed with stars - both rising and setting - that take characters that could be played as caricature, but instead play them out as fully-fleshed, fully-realized characters. It's this combination that makes this movie the most likable movie that I've seen all year. Funny, tense and wonderfully warm in ways that are very surprising, this may be the most crowd-pleasing movie of Russell's career - and I mean that in the best way possible.

Anna Karenina (**)

ANNA KARENINA
Directed by Joe Wright

**

There probably isn't a more difficult text that has been attempted at film adaptation more than Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. The material, so dense and involved, spirals over 860 pages and delves into issues beyond the main story's love triangle, including (but not limited to) Tolstoy's insistence on political overtones throughout the book's final installments. That being said, it is considered by many to be one of the greatest novels of all time (if not THE best) and so the film adaptations have continued to roll out, in Hollywood and beyond, since the creation of narrative filmmaking. The latest may be the most esoteric and challenging, stunning and beautiful; at times wondrously mesmerizing and at others, interminable and pondering.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Life of Pi (***1/2)

LIFE OF PI
Directed by Ang Lee

***1/2

I wasn't actually too excited about the concept of a film version of Yann Martel's famed novel, Life of Pi, because how can you really tell such a story through cinema? Something about its tale seemed particularly caged by the limits (or lack of limits?) that a novel has. But then I forgot about how resourceful and eclectic a filmmaker Ang Lee is. Shot in breathtaking 3D, Lee turned Martel's sparse tale about spirituality and survival and turns it into a spiraling opus of nature and the will of man. Using the beautiful and vibrant colors of India, along with the mystical tones of the sea, Ang Lee crafted the most beautiful film that I've seen this year.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lincoln (***)

LINCOLN
Directed by Steven Spielberg


***

There's a bit of an aura that surrounds two different figures involved in the making of the 2012 movie, Lincoln. One of the two is its director, Steven Spielberg, who may possibly end his career as the greatest commercial American film director of all time (depending on how much you like Alfred Hitchcock and whether or not you see Hitch as "commercial"). The other is its lead actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, whose well-publicized, near-psychotic performance methods has lead to some of the most ferocious, spell-binding screen performances of the last two decades. The combination of these two cinematic gods adds up to something of an other-worldly expectation. And add to that, this Abraham Lincoln project has been sitting on Spielberg's IMDb page for about fifteen years, and you have a cinematic event worthy of a film geek nerdsplosion.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Sessions (***)

THE SESSIONS
Written and Directed by Ben Lewin

 ***

The Sessions is a very optimistic, good-natured film about some very dark, adult themes. It's one thing to be a virgin when you're over 40 (as Judd Apatow has so excellently shown us already), but it's another thing to be a virgin at 40+ and have polio. Most people don't like to think about the terribly ill, but even the few that do will rarely want to think about that part of the equation. The Sessions is very frank, honest and compelling, mostly because it has a great character in its central role, but also because it is totally unafraid to tackle an issue most people would rather not think about: what happens when an incredibly crippled person wants to experience sex and love?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph (***1/2)

WRECK-IT RALPH
Directed by Rich Moore

***1/2

There's a dirty word in movies that comes to describe a certain pandering type of film that plays upon the easiest of human emotions to get cheap reactions. That word is sappy. I bring this up because usually the difference between something that is sappy and something else which is just organically sentimental is basically a screenplay that earns it. I think earning sentimental moments is one of the hardest things to do in screenwriting, and there are so few kinds of films that really do it. There's Rain Man, Terms of Endearment, mostly anything by the late John Hughes, as well as The King's Speech and WALL-E for more recent examples. When you can pull that off you can elicit a pretty strong reaction from audiences that can hide a lot of other flaws the movie may have.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Flight (***)

FLIGHT
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

***

Flight only works because of Denzel Washington. The film's message is plodding and hackneyed, its journey is predictable, and its resolution is something out of a screenwriting class at Alcoholics Anonymous. But it all takes part in a rather enjoyable movie because Denzel Washington, already considered a pillar amongst the screen acting community, gives a performance that is so unlike any that he's given over the course of his career. Building a brilliant career based on performances settled totally in control, here he plays a man so very, very unaware of his lack of control if his own illness. It leads to something of a revelation for the already heralded actor. And a pretty good movie, too.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Seven Psycopaths (***)

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS
Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh

***

There's a post-modern aspect to the screenplay of Seven Psychopaths that could be lost on a lot of viewers. A work of pretty extreme, complicated meta-fiction that seems to be a much more entertaining alternative to writer-director Martin McDonagh sitting in a room by himself and contemplating the direction of his career. But it seems like that was what McDonagh was doing here - well, at least that's what it seemed like his characters were doing for him. In the end, the complications compound atop each other until what we are left with is a highfalutin bloodbath, containing some fantastically oddball performances and the superb dialogue that we've come to expect from McDonagh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Argo (****)

ARGO
Directed by Ben Affleck

****

There is a very large (if somewhat transparent) part of Ben Affleck's latest movie Argo that is a love song to cinema. Or at least, to the power of cinema. The power that moving pictures draped across a seemingly giant silver screen can have on the mind of the common man - or perhaps an American hostage or an Iranian rebel. You tell a man you've worked in the Peace Corps, and he'll probably shake your hand and tell you he admires you. You tell a man you've worked in the movies, and he'll talk your ear off and remember your name for at least a week. This is what Affleck truly understands and what makes the movie work best. This is a movie about "the movies", even if it seems like anything but.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (****)


THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
Written for the Screen and Directed by Stephen Chbosky

****

When you see a film adaptation as good as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it ponders the question: why aren't more authors trusted with the film adaptations of their work? Then you stand back and you realize that the answer is simple. Writing novels and making movies are two different animals. Novels are too pretentious and insulated; cinema is too vain and eager to please. And not to mention the abundance of evidence that occasionally, the original author may in fact be the worst person to translate their story to the silver screen. This is especially not the case when it comes to Stephen Chbosky and his adaptation of his 1999 novel.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Looper (**)

LOOPER
Written and Directed by Rian Johnson

Looper certainly looks cool and flashy in all the ways a movie needs to be in order to be a hit in contemporary Hollywood fashion. I'm sure it fancies itself a sort of modern day Blade Runner, with it's future dystopian setting and moral ambiguity. Like Blade Runner and an earlier film by Looper director Rian Johnson, Brick, this film borrows a lot from film noir: cold cynical protagonist, over-complicated plot. And it's got some pretty good performances from two of Hollywood's finest young talents (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt), as well as one of it's most consistently fantastic veterans (Bruce Willis). But there's still a lot about Looper that just didn't work for me, and most of that lies in its screenplay.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Master (***1/2)

THE MASTER
Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

***1/2

There was a moment in between 2002's Punch-Drunk Love and 2007's There Will Be Blood in which the career of Paul Thomas Anderson shifted in its view. It seemed like an incredibly long five years between those two movies, much longer than the five years that separates There Will Be Blood and his new film, The Master. Before There Will Be Blood, Anderson was a niche filmmaker, specializing in tantalizing, offbeat independent films. Films which very scope challenged the limited resources he had overcame them. But with the release of There Will Be Blood, there was an entirely different scope. It was big. It was important. There was no more niche markets, he was a filmmaker that had to be watched. The movie starred Daniel Day-Lewis, for God's sake. And so, with this transition, P.T. Anderson has become an "event filmmaker", and his latest event is The Master.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

An Argument for Adam Sandler in 'Punch-Drunk Love'

The second piece that is part of 'September 2012: Paul Thomas Anderson Appreciation Month'. This will focus on Punch Drunk Love. #PTAAM

After much tormenting deliberation, I've come up with the five greatest screen performances that I've ever seen. And it goes like this...

Robert DeNiro, Taxi Driver
Faye Dunaway, Network
Francer McDormand, Fargo
Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon
Adam Sandler, Punch-Drunk Love

Sandler - Odd Man Out?

Yes, that is my list. I do not place Sandler in with the likes of Pacino and Dunaway out of some over-educated, zany contrarian need to make my list stand out amongst all of the others. This is how I really feel. This is my real opinion. And to be honest, I've kinda felt this way about Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love from the first time I'd seen it. For me, it's the kind of visceral, completely unhinged performance that would probably never come from someone who actually knows a whole lot about the craft of acting. I can't really see Jeremy Irons or Anthony Hopkins stripping down to such the vulnerable level that Sandler does in this movie, mostly because I think Sandler's novice stature in the acting community allowed him to follow P.T. Anderson to the end of the world. He put all his trust in Anderson's work, without even an ounce of thought of his own craft. Granted, it's not hard to do so when you're previous starring role was Little Nicky.

So, how do I make this argument? Well, I do feel that a lot of the people who would object to Sandler's placement on my list, probably haven't seen the movie. After all, it is probably Anderson's least-watched film. After that, what you are left with is the rest of Sandler's filmography - which is, while I think inherently underrated (considering the presence of what I find to be hilarious movies in The Wedding Singer and Happy Gilmore), still includes the likes of Click and Jack and Jill. There are other false starts at attempts for serious films. Reign Over Me was earnest enough but felt a little too much out of his league, and the film itself became just too melodramatic by its second half. Apatow's Funny People was prepped to be his great note about stand-up comedy with Adam Sandler tackling one of his best roles. But the film itself was overwrought and uneven, bloated in its 146 minutes. And most importantly, considering this piece, it was far too unkind to Sandler's character, George Simmons, leaving little room to feel anything but antipathy for his performance.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Celeste & Jesse Forever (***)


CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger

***

Rashida Jones has been one of the loveliest supporting figures in movies for about five years now. I remember seeing her for the first time on The Office, but it was small roles in films like Our Idiot Brother and The Social Network, as well as larger parts in I Love You, Man that really caused her to pop out to audiences and she's been a very reliable screen presence. Beautiful without being overbearing, modest without seeming standoffish. Truth is, in most of her roles she just hasn't been on the screen long enough for viewers to really see her flaws. In Celeste & Jesse Forever, from a screenplay she co-wrote with Will McCormack, she allows the cracks to show in what is easily the best role of her still young career.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Anderson Brothers (Part 2)

A continuation of Part 1, we continue the somewhat tedious process of comparing the overlapping themes within the work of Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson.

In Part 1, we discussed how themes of family and growing up play large parts in the two filmmakers' movies. This time, we take a couple more themes to further show just how cohesive these two Andersons happen to be.


Violence/Crime

For two storytellers who tend to stray from strict genres for the most part, both started off their feature film careers with crime stories. Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket involves three friends trying to pull off a complex robbery. As it already may seem, they are not exactly equipped to pull of this kind of crime and things don't go exactly as planned. But there are never really a whole lot of stakes when we see the crime in Wes' films. We are very casually shown Royal participate in dog fighting twice in Tenenbaums, but it's treated like a  throwaway joke (a joke I don't think could've been pulled off had the film been post-Michael Vick arrest). In Life Aquatic, the submarine crew casually strips an observatory lab of all its equipment. None of this is considered with much seriousness, and the resulting theft from the observatory is treated with ironic humor when we learn that the observatory was run by Alistair (Jeff Goldblum), Steve's rival.

P.T.A., though, fills the criminal activity of his characters with enough tension for the both of them. Hard Eight's protagonist, Sydney's past as a criminal is brought to the forefront when John hold a man hostage when he won't pay his prostitute wife, Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) for a job. When Sydney comes to help the young newlyweds, it's a scene with taut, rigid emotion. In his very first film, P.T.A. establishes that he does not treat violence as a laughing matter. Scorsese has always been a pretty obvious influence for P.T.A., and it shows most when we see violence occur. Consider this scene toward the end of 'Boogie Nights', which isn't necessarily a crime film or a particularly violent one, but it's an obvious example of how P.T.A. uses a stark, unflinching reality in the face of violence in a very Scorsesean manner, treating it with the utmost seriousness. Now, consider the pirate shootout in Life Aquatic, where there's significantly less blood and the actual combat is so flippant. All Steve does is fire a few bullets, kill one of them, and the entire flock runs out of the boat. Significantly more playful (and even scored to the tunes of Iggy Pop and the Stooges) than anything we'd catch from P.T.A.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Anderson Brothers (Part 1)


This is the inaugural article of A Blogwork Orange's 'Paul Thomas Anderson Appreciation Month'. Please check in for more through out the coming weeks. Oh, and forgive the length of this piece. They won't all be this long. #PTAAM



Every generation of film students have their collection of contemporary filmmakers that are generally appreciated and celebrated more than most. From my crop, it's the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, Danny Boyle, and to an extent Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan. Basically, filmmakers whose flourish began in the '90s, shaping the minds of future film nuts during that time, creeping into the term papers read by numerous film professors during the mid-to-late 00's. But amongst this group, there are two filmmakers that have always been connected in a strange, omnipresent way that's always been hard to explain. I'm speaking about Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson.
There's always someone somewhere placing those two names in some form of cinematic argument, usually in an attempt to prop one up while slamming the other down. It's easy to do, considering the drastic gulf between the two's heavy styles. ("Hey well, at least P.T.A. doesn't have dopey mat sets and 60's music." or "Well, at least Wes doesn't have it rain frogs at the end." etc.) In the end, there is always a the declarative statement of which one is better, which seems particularly silly when you consider just how different stylistically these two are. They differ visually (P.T.A. is a schizo cameraman, mixing winding track shots and staccato handhelds; W.A. is more methodical and intent) and tonally (W.A. a master of dry subtlety, with dark tones only arising when need be; P.T.A. loves big, chewy drama shown off in rambling monologues and swelling emotions). Even their influences seem on the opposite ends of the map - P.T.A. showing much love to the Altman/Scorsese/Lumet group from the 70's, while W.A. prefers the Woody Allen/Hal Ashby variety from the same time.

So why are these two always mentioned together? There are shallow, uninteresting reasons. Both had their first feature released in 1996, both hold a devoted - sometimes rabid - fan base, and both were christened with the birth name 'Anderson' (but that seems almost too obvious to mention). Wes is generally considered more prolific, though by the end of this year, he will have released seven features to P.T.A.'s six. Both tend to focus their stories on the privileged, with few moments of attention on the working class. In really internally discussing the question of their constant comparison, I've realized how many overlapping themes these two actually have. And even though they seem to do it in opposite ways, these are two Andersons who have been telling the same story about family, aging, crime and love. Here's a breakdown...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 2012: Paul Thomas Anderson Appreciation Month


By the power vested in me (and because his newest film The Master comes out later this month), I declare September of 2012 to be 'Paul Thomas Anderson Appreciation Month'. We will be celebrating this on the blog through various articles, essays and argument pieces dealing with our very own PTA at the heart. I will also keep posting contemporary film reviews throughout the month as well, but this month's main focus will be dedicating as much energy as we can to the awesome of Mr. P.T. Anderson.

Feel free to show your PTA love in the comments!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Expendables 2 (**)


THE EXPENDABLES 2
Directed by Simon West

**

Even without any introduction via the 2010 film The Expendables, you would know within ten minutes of watching The Expendables 2 that it is not a movie to be taken seriously. And why is that? Because before the ten minute mark we see martial arts movie star Jet Li punch someone in the face until it explodes. I'm the last person in the world who should be commenting on the physical possibilities within fighting, but even I feel confident saying that something like that is pretty excessive.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ruby Sparks (***1/2)


RUBY SPARKS
Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Davis

***1/2

Films about the creative process don't always work. There's a kind of self-referencing egomania that the audience can sense when we see something written about writing. But Ruby Sparks, the new film from Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Davis, is filled with such wonderful charm and sweet humor that it is able to overcome that. A love story at its core, Ruby Sparks is a fantastic film about the pressure put on artful creation, and the kind of person that the creative mind can make.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: 'Dog Day Afternoon'

I've always been a big fan of The Film Experience's series 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot', but have never had the motivation to participate, whether it be because of the film choices or (the more likely scenario) a grand abundance of laziness. But Dog Day Afternoon - a film that I have loved for most of my life - has pushed me out of my apathetic hovel and led me to add to the series.

I've seen the film close to twenty-five times and I've always thought it was a masterpiece, but like all great films, each viewing brings some small detail to light, making the film that much more great. As I sat down to watch it again, pondering which shot to use, I was most struck by the performance of John Cazale. Which is why I went with this shot:


Watching this film for the millionth time, it was this shot that stuck out to me so strongly. They've already been inside the bank for quite some time at this point of the film, but the FBI has stepped in and turned off the electricity. Threatened, they look outside and see FBI agent Sheldon (a terrifically underplayed James Broderick) calling for Sonny to come outside.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Campaign (***)


THE CAMPAIGN
Directed by Jay Roach

***

If I had to choose a classic cinematic model that set a template for The Campaign, it would probably be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. On the surface, it seems hard to imagine someone the likes of Frank Capra inspiring a film who has a lead who likes to shave handlebar mustaches into his pubic hair. But if you look at the basic fundamental ideals behind this sophomoric political satire, it's not unlike the optimistic naivete of Caprian classics, where the little man is always able to rise up against the political machine with nothing but his integrity and small-town wherewithal. Yet, like Capra's great film, The Campaign finds the real charm in this tale, even if it seems totally unrealistic in today's cynical society.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild (****)


BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
Directed by Benh Zeitlin

****

Occasionally, a film comes along and it's very scope and cinematic vision leaves you frustrated with the limits of contemporary narrative films. Talk about a film that is astonishingly beautiful and wondrously innovative without James Cameron-like resources. Taking place somewhere in between fantasy and reality, Beasts of the Southern Wild erupts time and time again with so much unbridled emotion and enthusiasm. Not too shabby for a film that takes place in a setting that is so lofty, they call it The Bathtub.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Discussing 'Batman' and other things with Sean


Hello fellow readers, what follows is an email conversation that I had with one of my best friends, Sean Novicki (the biggest Batman fan that I know), in which we discuss The Dark Knight Rises, and occasionally other cinematic topics (but mostly The Dark Knight Rises). Originally, I just asked him what he thought of the new film. This is what followed.

SN:  While I know it has it’s critics, including yourself to an extent, to me The Dark Knight is a perfect Batman story. And story is really the issue when it comes to these films, at least to my mind. I think it’s hard to argue against the artistry of vision, blockbuster ambition (in the best sense of the term), and technical mastery that Christopher Nolan and his production team have brought to all three of their Batman films, so any criticisms you have about these movies you want me to take seriously will have to revolve around story.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Waiting for 'The Master' (from a P.T. Anderson fanboy)

Has anybody seen the new trailer for new Paul Thomas Anderson film, The Master? Well, if you haven't, here you go...


It's unbelievably Andersonian, from its astonishingly crisp shots to it's unorthodox but effective music (working again with Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood after their spectacular combination in There Will Be Blood). And I know you're probably foolish for judging a performance from a two-and-a-half minute trailer, but Phoenix looks to be at his fierce finest in a role that could probably bring him back into the public's good graces after his much noted failed experiment I'm Still Here. And the cast around him, including Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, are some of the most consistent talent in Hollywood right now, and working with a genius filmmaker known for his work with actors, it's easy to assume they'll be superb. I've had a friend tell me that Anderson only looks like an "Actor's Director" because he only gets the good actors. Well, let's stop to see why they want to work for him in the first place.

The film is slotted for a very cozy October 12th release, which pleases me since I won't have to sort through the December prestige film glut. Hopefully I will be in New York by this time so that way I won't have to wait till Thanksgiving for it to get to my town. PTA FTW!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (***)


It must take some kind of film event to bring me out of film review hibernation. Alas, The Dark Knight Rises comes along and leads me back to the keyboard, one year after my last post to pontificate cinematically. Not that I'm doing anything original or new in going to the internet to talk about what will probably be the most talked about, most dissected, most hyperbolic-opinion-spreading movie of 2012. As soon as the screen went dark on The Dark Knight in 2008, there has been a large mass of the population waiting for this film, the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, which is probably some of the most beloved and praised comic book films in the history of the genre.