Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This is the End (***)

Written and Directed by Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen


This is the End seems like the epitome of comedic success. You make enough hit movie comedies and you too can be given $32 million to make a movie with all of your friends, not even give them character names - don't even write much of a script, really, just improvise! - and ponder the destruction of the universe while going as far and over the top with dick and fart jokes as you possibly can. It all seems very..... ponderous. But much to my surprise, the film is actually much more of a structured story then its production process would allow you to believe, and while this group of actors would seem to be giving themselves a reason to hang out with each other for thirty days, they all bring their comedic A-game cumulating in one of the funniest movies of the year.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing (***1/2)

Written for the Screen and Directed by Joss Whedon


If Much Ado About Nothing does anything for the image of pop filmmaker Joss Whedon, it surely extends the range of fanboy-ism that is so synonymous with his image. Filmmakers have re-done Shakespeare often, and will probably continue to do so for many centuries, but very few times do these adaptations stick. Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time, but his words are so archaic that it sometimes seems impossible to perform them without drowning in staunch prestige. More often then not, films related to Shakespeare's themes (not straight recreations) develop better on the silver screen - see Ten Things I Hate About You's spin on Taming of the Shrew, or even West Side Story's modernization of Romeo and Juliet. Only Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet and Orson Welles' Othello ever felt like truly cinematic experiences while still committing to the Bard's words.* (see below) Whedon's Much Ado might be headed into that category.

The Bling Ring (**)

Written and Directed by Sofia Coppola


This year's new Sofia Coppola movie dissects celebrity through an unfamiliar prism. In other words, this year's new Sofia Coppola movie is a lot like every other Sofia Coppola movie. I imagine that growing up with Francis Ford Coppola as your father can give you a pretty twisted vision of the Hollywood scene (after all, is there any other career like Papa Coppola? Universally considered a master but hasn't made a movie worth watching for three decades?), and it would definitely give you a unique perspective while growing up. There's always been an obsession with fame in all of her movies, and an equal obsession in pointing out its not-so-flattering qualities. The Bling Ring is another example of her telling this story, but its very far from her best attempt.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Before Midnight (****)

Directed by Richard Linklater


Richard Linklater's Before... series is easily one of my favorite film trilogies of all time. Born in 1995, from the dialogue exercise Before Sunrise, which took a young Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and put them in Vienna, then had them talk and talk and talk and talk and sometime in the middle of all of that fall in love. Nine years later, Hawke, Delpy and Linklater reunited for the 2004 film Before Sunset, an 80-minute masterpiece which showed their characters reuniting for the first time since their wonderful night in Vienna. Now, another nine years later, we have the latest film in the series, Before Midnight. All three films are so intrinsically different, yet so familiar in the most charming ways, marking time in both the fictional lives of this couple and also the actual lives of the viewers. Before Midnight is incredible because this story is so lived in for two decades by its audience; we are totally aware and familiar with even the most unflattering aspects of their relationship.

Stories We Tell (***1/2)

Written and Directed by Sarah Polley


Documentaries simply don't unveil themselves the way that Stories We Tell does. At once, a story about a family, it transforms itself into a story about a mother, than a daughter, two separate fathers before ultimately becoming a story about the unreliability of storytelling. It's a pretty fascinating, constantly shape-shifting piece of familial journalism, unafraid to blur the line between reality and fiction (even openly admitting that stating that trying to draw the line between the two is ludicrous). The film is directed by Sarah Polley, who is becoming a filmmaker so adept at storytelling (both narrative and cinematic) that I will likely go out of my way to see every one of her movies. Her 2007 film Away From Her was an emotional masterpiece staring Julie Christie as a woman fading from Alzheimer's; while 2011's Take This Waltz was an occasionally problematic, always singularly viewed character study of an unhappy woman (played by Michelle Williams), that dares to tell a story where a female protagonist leaves her amiable husband. Stories We Tell shows her taking a knack at nonfiction, and further proves that she's a master at numerous styles and juggling several stories, and a filmmaker on the rise.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Frances Ha (***)

Directed by Noah Baumbach


The cinema of Noah Baumbach is usually bitter, awkward in the most cringe-worthy definitions of the word, and derivative references from the various poles of the cinematic/literary world. It's hard not to watch the first third of his latest film, Frances Ha, and not think of Woody Allen's Manhattan. Then its hard not to look at its last third and not think of Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim. All of these films are shot in stylish black & white, filled with neurotic characters running around metropolitan cities, and imbued with an enthusiastic spirit that seems to betray the desperate actions of the characters. Frances Ha is not as angry as Baumbach's previous work, and a lot of that shift is owed to its star, Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the script with Baumbach (and they also date, so there's that) and does a great job of putting Baumbach's usual annoyed, passive-agressive tone away and filling the void with a character that is so delightful as she is delusional.