RSS

Archive | Film RSS feed for this section

Movie Breakdown: Amira And Sam (Noah)

January 29, 2015

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Drafthouse Films has a history of releasing exciting, interesting films from directors we’ve never heard of. I’m watching this for two things: the Drafthouse seal of approval and the one, the only Martin Starr.

The Reality:

Amira & Sam is a charming, at times clunky, indie-rom-dram-com that looks past the tropes and cliches of modern day Hollywood romance pics, to dig just slightly deeper into the current state of America. Sam (Martin Starr) is a military veteran (and stand-up fellow as the film tells us over and over again) who’s unemployed and a little lost. Amira (Dina Shihabi) is a spunky, Muslim woman who lives with her uncle and, makes money by selling DVDs of shitty movies on the street, and struggles to maintain her traditions while pushing against them at every turn. Through a handful of fairly believable circumstances, the two meet, and then are thrust into each other’s lives where events occur, love blossoms, and so on and so forth. Like the title predicts, Amira & Sam is at its very best when the film is strictly about Amira and Sam. Martin Starr is an underrated and under-used actor who’s able to fill the role of Sam with a sort of stoned melancholy, punctuated by bursts of goofy humor. His Sam, though it’s overly hammered upon us time and time again, is believably good-natured, an American soldier who’s returned to a world he just doesn’t understand anymore. Dina Shihabi is nothing to shake a stick at. She manages to express a hard-edged, emotional wall, but illuminates enough of the cracks that the character comes off as an agreeable mix of feistiness, idealism and adorable cuteness. The slow unveiling of their enjoyment, and then love of each other is so sweet and tastefully done, you never really want any thing else to happen. Yet, this is a movie, so there’s a cluttering of this sweetness with a sub-plot about Wall Street and Amira’s legal issues and Sam’s family. It doesn’t detract from the film, because you keep wanting to see how these two are going to interact in new situations, but it could’ve been leaner, and more focused, and ultimately a better movie, if director Sean Mullin had just let his two leads strut their impressive stuff. If anything, the moments with Amira and Sam raise the film above some of the tired genre tropes, but in doing so, reflect on the presence and quality of them.

The Lesson:

Give Martin Starr more roles!

The film will be on VOD and in theatres in Austin on January 30.

Continue reading...

Weekly Movie News Rundown

January 24, 2015

0 Comments

Time for your weekly movie news update!  Below you’ll find a slew of sentences meant to provide a brief glimpse of what’s been going on over the past week in movieland.  If something leaves you desperate for more info, then my advice is to do a little extra research on one or all of the following fantastic sites:  Latino Review, Dark Horizons, Ain’t It Cool News, CHUD and/or JoBlo.  Read on!

Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) is reportedly up for a role in Doctor Strange.

Simon West (Expendables 2) is set to direct a remake of The Blob.

Noam Murro (300: Rise Of An Empire) is rumored to be a top choice to direct Aquaman.  Karl Urban is also said to be up for a role in the film.

Simon Pegg and Doug Jung are writing the script for Star Trek 3.  Justin Lin is still attached to direct.

Jake Gyllenhaal has reportedly passed on the opportunity to replace Tom Hardy in Suicide Squad.  Jon Bernthal (Fury) and Joel Edgerton (Exodus) are rumored to be next in line.

Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Rooney Mara (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), Kate Mara (House Of Cards) and Felicity Jones (The Theory Of Everything) have reportedly tested for a role in Gareth Edwards’ Star Wars spin-off film.

Cedric Nicolas-Troyan has replaced Frank Darabont as the director of The Huntsman, which is the prequel to Snow White And The Huntsman.

Julia Roberts is set to produce and star in a movie based on Batkid.

Tye Sheridan (Tree Of Life), Sophie Turner (Game Of Thrones) and Alexandra Shipp will portray the young versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm in X-Men: Apocalypse.

Kaya Scodelario (Skins) may star in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Larry Charles will direct Nicolas Cage in Army Of One.  The movie will be based on Gary Faulkner, a real person who took it upon himself to find Osama Bin Laden.

This Week’s Notable Trailers

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: The Boy Next Door

January 22, 2015

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Jennifer Lopez has sex with the boy next door.  Shit gets weird.  This could be bad-good.

The Reality:

J.LOL

As I sat waiting for The Boy Next Door to start, all I had on the brain was J.LOL.  I just knew that the movie was going to be an innuendo-laced, Skinemax-esque good time, and I couldn’t wait to cleverly sling J.LOL around while blatantly celebrating the superstar for following up her divorce with an R-rated flick that’s centered around her banging a young hot dude.  Because screw you, Marc “I Need To Know” Anthony!

But no.  Instead of getting to have some fun throwing around the immensely stupid joke that is J.LOL, I had to jam it into the opening paragraph because The Boy Next Door is just an all-out awful film.  Imagine a mix of those laugh-track-less Big Bang Theory vids, the lamest Lifetime-movie cliches and the smell of burnt hair, and you’ll have an idea of what I experienced with The Boy Next Door.  Avoid it at all costs.

The Lesson:

What ever happened to the Jennifer Lopez that was in Out Of Sight?  She was great.

Continue reading...

Top 10 Films Of 2014

January 17, 2015

0 Comments

Since the Oscar noms were just rolled out, Noah and I figured it was probably time that we rambled a bit about our Top 10 Films of 2014.  Take a look!  My list is at the top, his is at the bottom.

JOHN’S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2014

10) The LEGO Movie

If I were to sort this list by how many times I watched something in 2014, The LEGO Movie would most definitely end up in the #1 slot.  It’s hilarious, charming and great for both kids and adults.

09) Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is certainly not a perfect film, but I’ve yet to get over just how immensely ambitious it is.  The world needs more filmmakers like Nolan.

08) Gone Girl

David Fincher is an incredible storyteller, and his adaptation of Gone Girl is just further proof of that.  The whole damn film is a rollercoaster of craziness.

07) Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler blurs the line between right and wrong so much that you start to wonder if you might secretly be the kind of person who is willing to do terrible things.  That’s impressive (and super creepy).  Also, I firmly believe it’s the best thing Jake Gyllenhaal has ever done.

06) The Grand Budapest Hotel

I didn’t really like Moonrise Kingdom.  I thought it felt too much like Wes Anderson trying to make a Wes Anderson film, and it largely just agitated me.  Thankfully, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a return to form for Anderson.  There’s honestly not a single character in it that I wouldn’t watch tool around for hours.

05) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

While Guardians Of The Galaxy is the most entertaining film that Marvel put out in 2014, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the most important.  Its serious tone is fantastic, and I really dig the way it completely flips the Marvel Cinematic Universe right on its head.  No longer can anyone say that the films between Avengers entries are filler.

04) Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is the bigger, weirder, drugier version of The Big Lebowski.  I plan on watching it religiously once it’s available on blu-ray.

03) Whiplash

When I saw Whiplash I squirmed around in my seat so much that I’m pretty sure I annoyed everyone in the theater.  What an intense film!  What an ending!  JK Simmons and Miles Teller have never been better.

02) Force Majeure

Force Majeure is a fascinating film.  It dives into some really important stuff – masculinity, family dynamics, married life – and it does so with such a twisted sense of humor that you receive an experience that’s both uncomfortable and enlightening.

01) Boyhood

I was roughly halfway through my first viewing of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood when I knew it would be my #1 film of 2014.  It’s simply about growing up, and I love that about it.  Think Terrence Malik’s Tree Of Life without all of the whispering and dinosaur scenes.

Here’s how I think my list would have looked if I had selected 35 films instead of 10.  And yes, this is just an excuse to give a slew of movies a minor mention.  2014 was a good one, man!

35 – Dead Snow 2
34 – I Am Here
33 – Frank
32 – Chef
31 – Selma
30 – Foxcatcher
29 – Snowpiercer
28 – Shrew’s Nest
27 – Nymphomaniac Uncut
26 – Neighbors
25 – The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies
24 – The Guest
23 – The Treatment
22 – The Babadook
21 – It Follows
20 – Wild
19 – The Raid 2
18 – John Wick
17 – Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
16 – The Imitation Game
15 – X-Men: Days Of Future Past
14 – Guardians Of The Galaxy
13 – Birdman
12 – Edge Of Tomorrow
11 – 22 Jump Street

NOAH’S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2014

Looking over my surprisingly long list of films (proof that my girlfriend’s claim that I’m ‘always at a movie’ is true) I’m stunned by just how many terrible films I saw this year. I don’t know what’s prompted Hollywood – possibly the rapidly decreasing IQs of the populace or the fact that people have become so inundated with media consumption that anything that isn’t someone’s chubby cousin wearing half a donkey-suit jumping on a trampoline is worth spending money on – to just let out a steaming river of horribleness, but man, what a year for crap. This will be a year stoner film nerds harken back to when trying to pick shitty horror films for a night of bong-rips and almost-boobs. And perhaps this is why the great films of this year, and there were many, seemed to shine so bright. I’ll agree, this was one of the great years of cinema in recent memory; from blockbuster to indie comedy to big fucking art-house smash, there was so much to consume and so much of it so fucking special.

Before you start harping on my critical taste because I didn’t include Boyhood, Birdman, or Whiplash on this list, for a variety of reasons I did not have the chance to view them, either theatrically or in the comfort of my own home. Thus, they are not on this list. Still, I’m sure they’re quite good, and you can assuage your anger by going to the theater and seeing them yourselves.  Now, here are my Top 10 …

10. The One I Love, d. Charlie McDowell

Sci-fi has made more and more of an impact in Hollywood, and the arrival of Charlie McDowell’s hipster-Twilight Zone piece, The One I Love is just another showcase of how far, and how good, it has gone. Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are a couple on the verge of divorce who are instructed by a couple’s therapist to visit a retreat. Odd things happen and that’s all I’ll say. It’s a beautiful rumination on love and identity and what it means to be married and the last few scenes are genuinely creepy.

9. Gone Girl, d. David Fincher

No one on Earth takes trashy literature (and Gone Girl is most definitely a happily trashy book) and turns it into intricate deconstructions of modern humans like David Fincher. Gone Girl is a cold, cool number about one truly fucked up relationship and the tornado of intrigue and madness they stir up. Rosamund Pike is fantastic, Ben Affleck is Ben Affleck, and Fincher makes suburbia feel like the empty, creepy place it is.

8. Edge Of Tomorrow, d. Doug Liman

No more fun was had in the theater this year. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt get dressed up like robots and fight giant hive-minded spider beasts over and over again. If The One I Love shows how good indie sci-fi is, Edge of Tomorrow showcases just how good our blockbuster sci-fi is getting.

7. Selma, d. Ava DuVernay

I’m an adamant anti-biopic supporter. They’re formulaic and often times a greatest hit collage of an important character’s life, rendering a chunk of our history almost completely without context or meaning. Selma is not that. Selma is a focused, complex look at a brief spell of very important time in both our history and Martin Luther King’s. It redefines the way we look at biopics and features perhaps the best performance of the year in David Oyelowo’s layered portrayal of MLKJr. DuVernay’s direction though, her control of setting and the wide base of characters is what really shines, she creates a film that doesn’t glorify a moment, it shows it for what it is.

6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, d. The Russo Brothers

Did you ever want to see your favorite 70s political thriller but instead of Warren Beatty as reporter, your main character was a hulking superhero looking to save the world from an insidious group of psychos? Me too, and this is it. Marvel continues to redefine what we think of as a blockbuster, and Captain America and his battle against The Winter Soldier is a serious foray into the more serious side of comic filmmaking.

5. The Trip To Italy, d. Michael Winterbottom

I’ve been describing The Trip To Italy, Michael Winterbottom’s sequel to the equally amazing The Trip, as the British version of the Before Sunset films. It’s just two dudes, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, driving around, ruminating and life and poetry and doing a shitload of impersonations, but like the first, the interactions between the two men highlight the ups and downs and of a certain age. I don’t know if there’s a more moving moment on film this year than Rob Brydon, impersonator extraordinaire staring into a mirror flaying himself in the voice of Sean Connery. I want a film like this every two years. What’s next, Spain?

4. Obvious Child, d. Gillian Robespierre

Jenny Slate in an abortion comedy = sold. But it’s more than that. It’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s realistic, it’s a star-making turn for the impressively attractive Slate. And hell, it’s just a very straight-forward film about a very funny girl who’s going to get an abortion. Any other year, this would’ve been my number one.

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel, d. Wes Anderson

It’s strange for me to see the auteur backlash that Wes Anderson has garnered over his career. He made a trio of brilliant films early on and then continued to make amazing films with a similar visual and thematic leaning and all of a sudden he was a one-trick pony. Now, in 2015, he’s like an underdog story in the press – “Will Wes Anderson ever make a good movie?” Go fuck yourself hipsters, Wes Anderson makes good movies, just about every time, and this, his opus, is as good as it gets.

2. Interstellar, d. Christopher Nolan

Interstellar in IMAX was the best experience I had in a theater this year. The sort of film that grabs you by the scruff of your neck and drags you back to a day when movies had heart and spectacle and big ideas and the sort of epic, wow visuals that left you with only cheek on your seat. The amount of internet moaning about the timeline of the film and how it doesn’t make sense and yadda fucking yadda is a sure sign that our digitally-addled society is going down the tubes.

1. Inherent Vice, d. Paul Thomas Anderson

Man, what a fucking flick. See it once and you’ll walk out in a haze of weed smoke, thinking, “My brain hurts, but that was amazing.” See it twice and the plot falls into place and suddenly you realize that PTA wasn’t just making a crazy, almost slapstick piece of dramedy, PTA was acknowledging the greater themes of the 1970s. It’s a fantastic film – fun, weird, riddled with amazing performances – and one that I believe will only get better, more complex and more interesting with each watching

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Foxcatcher, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The LEGO Movie, Neighbors, The Interview, The Babadook

Continue reading...

Weekly Movie News Rundown

January 17, 2015

0 Comments

Time for your weekly movie news update!  Below you’ll find a slew of sentences meant to provide a brief glimpse of what’s been going on over the past week in movieland.  If something leaves you desperate for more info, then my advice is to do a little extra research on one or all of the following fantastic sites:  Latino Review, Dark Horizons, Ain’t It Cool News, CHUD and/or JoBlo.  Read on!

The 2015 Oscar nominations are out.

Focus Features is moving forward with a Motley Crue biopic.  It will be based on The Dirt: Confessions Of The World’s Most Notorious Band.  Jeff Tremaine (Jackass) will direct.

The Russo Brothers recently confirmed that Scarlett Johansson will appear in Captain America: Civil War.

Tom Hardy has dropped out of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.   Jake Gyllenhaal may replace him.

Tom Cruise and Doug Liman will re-team for a 1980s crime thriller titled Mena.  It will follow the story of Barry Seal, a fired commercial pilot who became a drug smuggler.

Alex Garland and Danny Boyle have reportedly had serious talks about doing 28 Months Later.

James Cameron has delayed the next Avatar film until 2017.

Rodrigo Santoro will portray Jesus Christ in Timur Bekmambetov’s remake of Ben-Hur.

Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale will star in The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine, which will cover the financial crisis of 2007-2010.  Adam McKay is set to direct and write the adaptation.

David Fincher may direct Ben Affleck in a remake of Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train.  Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) is in talks to write the script.

DJ Caruso (I Am Number Four) may direct the next GI Joe movie.

Rumor has it that Spider-Man may show up in Avengers: Infinity War.

Jennifer Lawrence is set to star in The Dive.  Francis Lawrence (all of The Hunger Games films except the first one) is set to direct the film about free diver Audrey Mestre, who died while attempting to break a world record.

Michael Keaton may portray McDonald’s tycoon Ray Kroc in The Founder, which will detail how the famous fast food chain came to be.  John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks) will direct.

John Kraskinski is set to star in Michael Bay’s Benghazi movie 13 Hours.

Ron Howard’s In The Heart Of The Sea has been delayed from March 13, 2015 to December 11, 2015.

Simon Kinberg may replace Gary Whitta as the writer of the first Star Wars spin-off film.  Gareth Edwards is still set to direct.

Patrick Stewart recently noted that he and Ian McKellen will not appear in X-Men: Apocalypse.

Frank Darabont is no longer attached to direct Snow White And The Huntsman 2 due to creative differences.

There’s been some rumblings that Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four needs major reshoots.

This Week’s Notable Trailers

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Blackhat (Noah)

January 15, 2015

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

There are two reasons why Blackhat is a difficult movie to pre-assess. One, Michael Mann is a legit, classic-making American director. This is the guy who made Heat, The Insider, Manhunter, Last of the Mohicans, and Ali. Oh sure, there’s a couple Public Enemies floating around in there, but c’mon, this guy is the real deal. But, he’s decided to make a film about cybercrime (a notoriously boring subject) with Six Packs McThorson as his cyber-hacker. So … let’s be honest, it’s going to be awful.

The Reality:

Michael Mann is, undoubtedly, a great director and every director has to have one really, really bad film, and Blackhat is Michael Mann’s very, very bad film. Don’t let this film trick you, ’cause it will. It starts as a really boring procedural “thriller” about a multinational group of cops and criminals (Chris Hemsworth as super prison-hacker Ryan Hathaway is particularly badly cast) searching for a super-hacker who’s trying to, uh, do stuff for some reasons. This two-thirds of the film is just awful. It’s confusing and boring (which shouldn’t be surprising as watching people type things and talk about code is always boring) and there are so many characters without any names or backstories that when quite literally (spoiler alert) all of them die at one point, you don’t know any of their names or what they were doing in the film. That said, when all of the characters meet gruesome deaths, the film, now just starring Thor, picks up a bit, and becomes, well, a heist movie. There’s much less coding, a lot more cars crashing and violent knife deaths, and overall, it’s a pretty entertaining cable flick you wouldn’t mind stumbling across at 5:30 in the morning after a four day coke and hooker binge. Again, though, don’t let the film’s almost entertaining ending let you leave the theater thinking this is a good film, because it isn’t. This is a badly written film, with cardboard characters (though I will say Viola Davis’ Barrett is a pleasure in her brief screen time). A film that is so unbelievably boring, that every action has to be forced into feeling exciting by the presence of throbbing, thriller music. A film so badly written that if you can tell me the name of two-thirds of the characters on screen at any given time, hell, you should write a movie. It’ll probably get made in Hollywood. A film so plotted that the big, bad super-hacker they break out of prison because of his ungodly skills at computers ends up making a shiv out of a screwdriver and saving the day with that. Fuck computers bro, lets just stab each other. I wonder if Michael Mann is slipping into his Ridley Scott phase. Or maybe he had a dream when he was a child that one day he would make a movie where the Odinson played a nerd and this, this is the consummation of that dream. Or maybe this is just a shit movie and you shouldn’t see it and we can all hope the next Mann flick is another gem.

The Lesson:

If you grind down a screwdriver and rubberband it to your forearm, it’s a potent and deadly weapon.

Continue reading...

Weekly Movie News Rundown

January 10, 2015

0 Comments

Time for your weekly movie news update!  Below you’ll find a slew of sentences meant to provide a brief glimpse of what’s been going on over the past week in movieland.  If something leaves you desperate for more info, then my advice is to do a little extra research on one or all of the following fantastic sites:  Latino Review, Dark Horizons, Ain’t It Cool News, CHUD and/or JoBlo.  Read on!

Rumor has it that Batman VS Superman: Dawn Of Justice has been split into two films.  If true, the first half, Enter The Knight, would land in theaters this October, and the second part, Dawn Of Justice, would arrive in March of next year.

Michael Keaton is reportedly looking at joining the cast of Kong: Skull Island.  Tom Hiddleston and JK Simmons are already set to star in the film.

Melissa McCarthy is said to be in talks to join Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot.

Scarlett Johansson is set to star in Rupert Sanders’ live action take on Ghost In The Shell.

Reese Witherspoon, Matt Damon, Neil Patrick Harris, Alex Baldwin and Jason Sudeikis are all set to appear in Alexander Payne’s dramedy Downsizing.  It’s said to be about a down-on-his luck a man who realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.

Pedro Almodovar’s new film, Silencio, is set to begin filming in April.

The Purge 3 will be released on July 1, 2016.

Elle Fanning is set to star in Nicolas Winding Refn’s horror film Neon Demon.

Gary Whitta is no longer writing Gareth Edwards’ Star Wars spinoff.  A replacement has not yet been announced.

Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman (all from The Raid 2) are rumored to have some sort of part in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Liam Neeson is set to star in the remake of The Escapist.  Rupert Wyatt (The Gambler) directed the original film.

Bradley Cooper may make his directorial debut with the drama Honeymoon With Harry.

Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Wes Bentley (Interstellar) have joined the cast of the Pete’s Dragon remake.

Will Ferrell and Josh Gad may star in Russ & Roger Go Beyond.  The film is said to explore the friendship and working relationship between Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert.

Channing Tatum’s Gambit movie is set to be released on October 7, 2016.

Rumored contenders for the role of young Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse are Taron Edgerton (Kingsman), Jamie Blackley (If I Stay) and Tye Sheridan (Mud).  For young Jean Grey it’s supposedly down to Sophie Turner (Game Of Thrones) and Saoirse Ronan (Hanna).  Alexandra Shipp (Aaliyah: The Princess Of R&B) and Zendaya Coleman (Zapped) are said to be up for the role of young Storm.

This Week’s Notable Trailers

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Inherent Vice

January 8, 2015

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Paul Thomas Anderson returns with Inherent Vice, which looks like a quirky 70s-enthused crime drama.

The Reality:

I was probably about 20 minutes into Inherent Vice when it dawned on me that I had absolutely no idea what was going on.  Since a lot of info had been wildly thrown around to get the story going, I quickly reasoned with myself that I’d soon get the pieces settled in my mind and then unravel the peculiar case that unlicensed PI Doc Sportello (played by the always great Joaquin Phoenix) had gotten himself wrapped up in.  But I didn’t.  Nope, instead I walked out of the theater still thoroughly baffled about most of the movie.  I can for sure say this though, I had an absolute blast trying to figure out what was going on.  Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film is the smarter, twistier, grittier version of The Big Lebowski, and I loved every goddamn minute of it.  In fact, all I want right now is to re-enter that world and then spend all of my time watching its various weirdos try to sort out their bizarre circumstances.  Thanks for that, PTA.

Please join me in seeing Inherent Vice an unreasonable amount of times.

The Lesson:

Let’s watch that again.  And again.  And then four more times.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Selma (Noah)

January 8, 2015

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

The first trailer I saw for Selma featured every cliche from every bio-pic/historical moment movie ever, but instead of soundtracking them with swelling strings (Angelina Jolie I’m looking at you and Unbroken), they put big, bassy rap-music. It confused me. Thus, I enter Selma more confused than anything else.

The Reality:

There is a moment early on in Selma, a quiet beautiful moment with children on the stairs of a church that almost gave me a heart attack. I can’t think of a modern Hollywood film about a famed historical figure, or a notorious/inspirational historical moment that has done that in recent memory, but Ava DuVernay’s touching, beautiful film does just that. Where historical films most often falter is in their one-sided, best-of representations of the characters or moments they’re trying to bring to screen. It isn’t a terrible strategy; we’ve devolved into a culture of headline readers so when looking back at our history, why not just highlight the moments your popcorn munching audience will be most “emotionally” connected to? This isn’t that film. Yes, DuVernay does hit on the big moments of Martin Luther King Jr. (here played by the fantastic David Oyelowo) and his presence in the shitstorm that was the march from Selma to Montgomery because they are important and they do drive the story, but she places them in the context of what was a very tense social and political moment both for the dissolution of segregation in the South and the forward progress of the Civil Rights Movement. DuVernay isn’t trying to force feed you the inspirational message of what the Selma March has become in retrospect, she’s trying to show you the intricate political machinations that MLKJr. had to manipulate, along with his small army of assistants and aides and family members, to even get the march moving. She wants to explore how we look back on history as Americans – in the glossiest most black and white of ways – and to debunk the idea that any of the characters involved in the march from Selma to Montgomery were perfect people. ‘Cause they weren’t. From MLKJr. to the impressively portrayed LBJ (Tom Wilkinson), these were human beings with an incredible amount of weight on their shoulders, all with different motivations, trying, to some degree to arrive at a similar goal. It takes your typical bio-pic and puts it out to pasture. This is bio-pic as an artistic capturing of a moment that’s come before and Ava DuVernay absolutely nails it. She doesn’t fall into the cookie cutter visual aesthetic or narrative structure we’ve come to expect from movies depicting our history. Instead she does what a good filmmaker should and takes the pieces of history she needs to construct the story and the themes she’s most interested in and places them in a visceral, moving film. If you’ve ever experienced a scene with so much energy, emotion and visceral power than DuVernay’s depiction of the assault by the State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, you’re watching better films than I. It isn’t a perfect film – with some of the trappings of bio-pics coming to roost in the almost sappy ending – but it’s a great film, a ragged, true portrayal of the men and women who gave their time, their emotions, and their lives to trying to better this oft-times fucked up country.

The Lesson:

Pair this with Inherent Vice for a telling portrayal of America in the 60s and 70s.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Selma

January 7, 2015

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

The story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s incredible march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama makes its way to the big screen.  Is it Oscar-worthy or just Oscar-bait?

The Reality:

Good news!  Selma is most definitely an Oscar-worthy film.  Although, I will note that I largely feel this way because of David Oyelowo’s immensely impressive portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Every time he’s on the screen it’s impossible to not get hung up on every single thing he says or does.

As for the rest of the Selma, there’s a variety of things I could take or leave.  The story is one that’s engaging and historically important, but I often felt as though I was being given the Cliff’s Notes version.  Too many things happen off-screen or are just dealt with via a quick line of dialogue.  Also, while director Ava DuVernay does a nice job overall, many of the scenes between the powerhouse dramatic moments are lackluster, and she frequently pulled me right out of the movie with various oddball elements (particularly the on-screen FBI notes).  Obviously, none of these things are outright deal-breakers, but I found them to be just naggy enough to dent my love for the film.

So, see Selma because you should, but know going in that it has some flaws that may distract you from time to time.

The Lesson:

I hope David Oyelowo has a big trophy case.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Inherent Vice (Noah)

January 7, 2015

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Alright, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson (top 5 directors of the last 40 years) adapting a bat-shit crazy book by one of the great, insane, American masters of writing. I would see this film if the entire thing consisted of a 35mm print of my dog’s anal glands getting squeezed.

The Reality:

I saw Inherent Vice for the second time last night and it showed me two things. One, Inherent Vice is an amazing film. An almost slapstick, stoner-noir, that flits around some of the very deepest and darkest themes of the 1970s with a sparkle in its eye and a tightly wrapped joint in the corner of its mouth. And two, this is a film that audiences are going to be able to watch over and over again and enjoy it, and hell, understand it, more and more each time. When I saw this film in December, I walked out dazed by the rat-tat-tat-tat plotline and the diverging narratives and the piles of characters and motives and cases PTA gleefully dumps on the film. It’s beautiful (because PTA has no concept of how to make a film ugly) and the acting, across the board, is outstanding (especially the warm-hearted stoner Doc Sportello played by Joaquin Phoenix, again making the argument that he is the best actor currently working) and I will say that PTA’s use of music in the film ascends just about any other he’s made. It’s a great film, but the first reaction I had when stepping out into the cold light of the movie theater was, “That film was weird.” It’s a tightly wound knot of story and PTA does not, for a moment, slow the avalanche of information to let you figure out what the hell is going on narratively, let alone with the big ideas of perception and identity that he subtly injects throughout the film. It’s as if the propulsion of the film (kicked into high gear by the opening Can track Vitamin C) reflects the theme PTA is trying to show – the 1970s were no different than the 80s, the 90s, or any time before it. It was just a bunch of people, doing what they could to get by – and by crafting a film that rockets along but is centered on the bumbling antics of a stoner-detective and his pals, you get the rush of a speedball, with all the confusion of a bong rip. And that’s just the first viewing. Upon a second screening all of the frivolities of plot and character development feel like the immediate family. The Golden Fang, Coy, the strange and wonderful locales the film drags you through – they make sense on second viewing and the audience is given the freedom to wrap their minds around the big and beautiful ideas PTA is shining a light on. I don’t know how to judge a film that needs to be seen twice (or just once by someone smarter than myself) to be completely understood, but I do understand the beauty of a film that with each viewing gets better and better and better.

The Lesson:

See it as many times as you can.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Unbroken (Noah)

December 24, 2014

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Let’s just say that the only reason I slogged my way through the rain to sit and watch Angelina Jolie’s newest bit of Oscar bait was because some chubby bunnies in North Korea decided to continue being assholes. Thanks a lot fascism for proving that amidst a world of change there’s always some consistency.

The Reality:

Unbroken is an above average bit of Oscar bait sandwiched between two glistening pieces of turd. The true story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) is a pretty amazing, Hollywood-ready bit of narrative. Zamperini was an Olympic runner who signed up for WWII, made waves as an outstanding bombardier, was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean, drifted around on a raft for three months before being captured by the Japanese and shipped from POW camp to POW camp getting the shit abused out of him all the way. It’s a story of survival, of, ahem, unbroken spirit, and of one kid who went through a shit storm and came out the other side a new man. Or it should be that story.

When Jolie’s film (scripted by The Coen Bros., amongst many) is firing on all cylinders it’s exciting and heart-wrenching and beautifully acted by a troupe of talented young Brits (with reasonable American accents). The cinematography (by frequent Coen-Bro-collaborator Roger Deakin) is glorious and at times, this film stands up to the rightfully classic WWII epic Empire of the Sun. And in the middle hour and a half – raft time and POW time and a little bit of time where Zamperini holds a large log for a while – this is exactly what’s occurring and I thought to myself “Huh, maybe I do enjoy the silky marshmallowy goodness of Oscar bait.”

For some reason though, Jolie, even with a veritable army of talented writer types, can’t seem to figure out how to end this film (let alone start it, as Unbroken for the first twenty or so minutes plays out like a WWII version of Forrest Gump). Though the film is called Unbroken, the almost-last shot of the film, with Zamperini blankly staring into the camera as a cargo plan cruises above him, seems to point out that Mr. Zamperini was indeed broken by his experiences in the war. That, like any normal human being put through the months and years of torture that he did, his brain is a PTSD-addled bit of mush and that it will take years and years of introspection and professional help until he’s able to stare into the face of the world and feel okay. Which is fine, realistic even, but Jolie, being a perhaps bad director, decides to clog the tube of honesty with a heaping pile of title cards that duly explain that Zamperini – later, after the budget for this film dried up it seems – became Unbroken and did a bunch of stuff with the Japanese who’d imprisoned and tortured him. And this, this is not okay. Why make a two and half hour film and then when you get to the most important part of the whole fucking thing, just have your editor scrawl some shit on a computer screen and call it an ending? Oh wait, oh wait, that’s not what Jolie did, instead she first had her editor scrawl some shit on some title cards and then for bonus fun she had the holiday pianist from Macy’s pick his favorite elevator music track and have it lightly playing under a clip of the real Louis Zamperini carrying the Olympic torch through Japan. At which point the part of my brain that thinks critically imploded and I was left a drooling vegetable.

I hope this movie gets nominated for “Best Middle Section Surrounded By Forty Minutes of Film That Will Make You Feel Like You Just Beer-Bonged A Shit Taco, Yes, Technology Has Improved To Where You Can Now Beer-Bong Solid Matter, Frat Guys Are Fucking Stoked.” You know, if that’s a category this year.

The Lesson:

Fuck you, North Korea.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: The Gambler

December 22, 2014

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Mark Wahlberg is The Gambler.  The trailers have made the movie look like a gnarlier version of Rounders.  I approve.

The Reality:

I’m not at all sure why Rupert Wyatt’s latest film is titled The Gambler, as it doesn’t contain any actual gambling.  Sure, Mark Wahlberg stares a dealer or four in the eye and makes some bets, but these moments happen so quickly that his character doesn’t even bother with sitting down.  No, the movie should have been called The Rambler since that’s just about the only thing Wahlberg or anyone else does.  Personally, I love a good ramble, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of anything that was thrown my way.  I think Wahlberg is sad and/or angry because he is or isn’t a gambler?  Also, one of the “bad guys” is tired, so he would like to start an avocado farm?  And what about the basketball player that keeps saying he has a knee?  I don’t know.  I went for high stakes gambling and all I got was a bunch of people incoherently talking about their lives and how they may or may not matter.  Don’t see The Gambler unless you have “fuck you” money and time.

The Lesson:

Insert witty pun about gambling.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Big Eyes

December 22, 2014

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Tim Burton ditches Johnny Depp (finally) and goes “normal” in order to tell the story of artist Margaret Keane and her doozy of a husband, Walter.

The Reality:

While I really appreciate that Big Eyes is Tim Burton’s first film in a long while that doesn’t scream TIM BURTON, that’s not enough to keep me from scoring it as just another average effort from the famed director.  Burton certainly picked a great story to adapt, as what transpired between Margaret and Walter Keane is wildly interesting, but his telling of it is done in such an uneven and fairly bland fashion that I probably would have been just as satisfied reading the couple’s Wikipedia page.  Even Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams, who overall turn in good performances, often have moments where they seem aware that what they’re doing is just filler until the next “important” scene comes along.  For a film with such a great story to explore, I looked at my watch far too often.

At the end of the day, Big Eyes is far from bad, but it’s lacking the right mix of details to make it something worth calling great.  If you see the film, matinee it.

The Lesson:

Come on, Timbo!  I know you still got a great film in you somewhere.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Exodus: Gods And Kings

December 11, 2014

0 Comments

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Ridley Scott tells the tale of Moses.

The Reality:

Exodus: Gods And Kings (or as I like to call it, Moses Rises) is a mess of a film.  Ridley Scott succeeds at delivering a visual spectacle, but he falls flat with everything else – the pacing is clunky and tedious, the casting doesn’t feel right (who the hell hired John Turturro to portray a Pharaoh?) and the story itself just isn’t told in an interesting or entertaining way.  How disappointing.  I advise that you skip it.

The Lesson:

Nice try, I guess.

Continue reading...