Director Alfonso Cuarón is finally back, and he’s showing us truly amazing things.
Gravity is a technical marvel, an optical treat of the highest order. However, it can also lay claim to being one hell of a narrative, combining genius-level visuals with a taut script; the end result coming together as something really special. On the face of it, it’s the story of two NASA astronauts on a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, and the obstacles they’ll have to overcome to survive in space. Really, Gravity is the age-old set-up in which humankind attempts to operate in an environment designed to kill. Indeed, though a far different film than Children of Men, both thematically and in terms of scope, Cuarón has created another film with weight, resonance, and a strong sense of style.
George Clooney and Sandra Bullock easily carry this briskly paced film, Bullock in particular (as Mission Specialist Ryan Stone). She turns in a remarkable performance, more textured and compelling than anything we’ve seen from her prior, including The Blind Side. Making the hostile setting of space the focal point of a film certainly comes with a huge element of risk, but I’m pleased to say everyone involved pulled it off. They’ve made a 90-minute cinematic gift for us.
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The Fifth Estate is an extremely strange movie. That’s fitting, perhaps, given the central focus of the film: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Star Benedict Cumberbatch is his normal awesome presence, but the story itself should have been redacted.
As a story attempting to encapsulate massive cultural questions regarding government secrecy, privacy rights, dictators, and the misuse of power, it would seem that The Fifth Estate had everything teed up to be a vitally important film. That it doesn’t end up getting there is likely the fault of a weak script or lesser directing, because Cumberbatch, as Julian Assange, comes off pretty great. Yes, the Cumberbatch was willing, but the muddled mess of The Fifth Estate isn’t able to stitch together anything nearing cohesion, even with these significant built-in advantages. Read More »
Note: This review originally ran during the Sundance Film Festival in January. It is based on a cut of the film that is slightly different than what opened limited last weekend and expands this week.
The best way to revitalize a well-worn story concept is often to approach it openly and honestly, but from an unusual angle. That’s what writer/director David Lowery does with the ages-old conflict between an outlaw, a lawman, and the woman between them, in the exceptional modern western Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.
Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Rooney Mara are the people crossed at a crucial point in time. You’ve heard the story before, or at least seen the setup: one guy pulls a criminal job, and is caught in a fight with sheriff’s deputies as a result. His girlfriend is stalwart and sticks with him, even when the consequences of his criminal actions hit hard. But life is complicated, and plans go right to hell.
Deliberately paced and more interested in aftermath than big action scenes, a shorthand caption for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints could be “Cormac McCarthy by way of The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford.” Each role is acted with calm precision, and directed with a measured hand. Lowery never falls to the temptation of overplaying a scene. It is one of the best films I’ve seen at Sundance 2013, and a must for fans of the slow burn or directors Andrew Dominik and John Hillcoat. Read More »
Editor’s Note: Short Term 12 opened in New York and Los Angeles last weekend and expands this week. Below we’re republishing Germain’s review from South by Southwest 2013 and click here for an interview with the director.
Sometimes you watch a movie and, at the end, can’t think of anything in the film that could have been done better. The whole thing just feels perfect or magical, a shining example of what cinema is all about. Short Term 12 is one of those movies.
Written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton based on his award-winning 2009 short film of the same name, Short Term 12 stars Brie Larson as Grace. She’s young woman who spends her days overseeing a huge group of foster kids in a group home, many of whom are mentally ill. They suffer from depression, have suicidal tendencies and OCDs. It is Grace’s job — and that of her boyfriend Mason (The Newsroom‘s John Gallagher Jr.) and a new guy (Rami Malek) — to try and keep the kids content while they go about their lives. This is easier said than done when Grace is probably more messed up than everyone else in the building.
Funny, moving, surprising and emotional, Short Term 12 is an awards contender from top to bottom. The performances are mindblowing, the writing sharp, and the direction beautiful. It’s a very special movie, and worthy winner of the 2013 South by Southwest Grand Jury and Audience Awards. Read More »
The two major things missing from Kick-Ass 2 constitute the two major problems with an otherwise decent sequel. Those things are Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman. Vaughn, who directed Kick-Ass in 2010, is an incredibly talented director. Goldman, who wrote the first film, is a fantastic screenwriter. They both return as producers this time around, but their respective duties have taken over by Jeff Wadlow, the director of Cry_Wolf and Never Back Down. Wadlow has an obvious passion for this material and does an admirable job at times. Without Vaughn directing Goldman’s words, however, Kick-Ass 2 never comes close to the energy and smarts of the first movie.
That said, fans of the original will enjoy all the new characters, the many tense/violent situations, and the uptempo, fun pacing. Kick-Ass 2 doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of the first movie, but in the realm of flawed sequels, it’s pretty entertaining. Read More »
[This is a reprint of a review that originally ran in January, at the Sundance Film Festival. Jobs is in theaters today.]
While Steve Jobs changed the world with his innovations and forward thinking, the first biopic about him, Jobs, does not. It is a competent retelling of Jobs’ life, beginning with his college years, and running through the period when he regained control of Apple in the 1990s.
Ashton Kutcher plays the title role and does a good job at making you forget there’s a big star under the beard and glasses. It’s the script by Matt Whiteley, however, where the cracks begin to show. Jobs [the new official spelling of the title] is so hell-bent on cramming all these seminal moments into one film, it never builds much context around them. We never feel like they mean anything or understand the “why” about the big moments. The film loves to tell us things, but never quite explains any in a satisfactory way.
The resulting product is an entertaining but flawed take on the man who co-created Apple. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern, Jobs had its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Friday night. Read more after the jump Read More »
Posted on Monday, August 5th, 2013 by Angie Han
There’s no question at this point that The Lone Ranger was a big fat flop, but why it failed so badly remains up for debate. Were audiences turned off by the cultural insensitivity? Does Johnny Depp need to put down the white makeup? Was the movie just not very good?
According to director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and stars Depp and Armie Hammer, the answer is none of the above. Instead, the team pegs the film’s poor box office performance on film critics, whom they believe were “gunning for” the movie due to its production troubles. Cue every single movie reviewer I know: If only we had that kind of power. Hit the jump to watch them complain.
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Why is a film in which a magic horse eats scorpions off Armie Hammer’s face so insufferably fractured and dull? Now that I’ve got your attention, consider the unfortunate fate of a film, one eager to subvert Western tradition, which becomes deeply lost in the wilderness between the arthouse and multiplex.
The Lone Ranger, masterminded by the Pirates of the Caribbean team of Gore Verbinski (director) and Jerry Bruckheimer (producer), throws out one weird idea after another — fanged rabbits factor in — almost as distractions for the fact that it wants to batter the very myth of the American west. In all cases, it does so without any significant unifying principle to weave the ideas into a movie of any compelling merit. More interesting to talk about than it is to watch in the moment, The Lone Ranger is still a dud in the end.
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