The Place Beyond the Pines is not the movie you think it is. That’s a good thing. Derek Cianfrance has created an epic generational drama that uses police and crime movie tropes as background to tell a bigger story about the consequences of action.
Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Dane DeHaan star in roles that each challenge our perceptions of the character types, and Cianfrance’s script (co-written with Ben Coccio and Darius Marder) unfolds at a methodical pace. This allows the viewer to live in several very different worlds that possibly should never have connected. It’s a strong new effort from the filmmaker who became famous for his 2010 effort Blue Valentine. Read More »
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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 »
Oddly enough, everything you need to know about Spring Breakers is represented by its two credited music composers: Cliff Martinez and Skrillex. Martinez is a veteran, a regular Steven Soderbergh collaborator who recently did the score to Drive. He’s known for pulsing, tense, dramatic scores. Skrillex is the world’s best known dubstep DJ, known for grimy, catchy party anthems infused with a certain soul and savagery. Those two sounds, traditional and modern, are Spring Breakers in a nutshell. It’s a wild, entertaining and vibrant movie with an underbelly of tension and purpose.
At times Spring Breakers pops with energy and excitement. It then dives into much more intense drama. The tones, like those of the score, sometimes clash. But often the oddfellows mesh beautifully, making us question why this film is the way it is: a fever dream of drugs, sex and violence. The answer brings to light some tough questions about society’s core beliefs. Read More »
“What does Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons do when he goes home at night?” At a post-film Q&A for the role playing game dramedy Zero Charisma, co-director Katie Graham suggested that question, which is wrapped in so much potential comedy and tragedy, as a perfect description of the film. She couldn’t be more right.
Written and co-directed by Andrew Matthews, Zero Charisma premiered at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival this week. It stars Sam Eidson as Scott, an overweight nerd who prides himself on being the Game Master of his weekly tabletop role playing game. The game isn’t Dungeons and Dragons, however, it’s a game of his own design. Scott focuses almost all his energy on it. So much so, that the game stands in for any semblance of a social life or career.
That scenario could have been played strictly for laughs or strictly for tears. Yet Matthews’ script and the performances he and Graham get from the actors help the film expertly tiptoe the line between the two. Scott’s story creates moments of hilarity and pathos, resulting in a relatable, complex film that explores what it means to be uncool. Read More »
When you watched Evil Dead II, did you feel pain when Bruce Campbell cut off his own hand, not because of any empathy for the horror, but because Sam Raimi didn’t show the chainsaw actually hitting flesh? If so, then stop reading and order a ticket to Evil Dead, because Fede Alvarez‘s remake is the movie for you. Drenched in gore, the movie doesn’t ever flinch away from violence.
Raimi’s original The Evil Dead was calculated to appeal to drive-in audiences, but his irrepressible personality shone through the exploitation effort. With star Bruce Campbell and producer Robert Tapert, he produced a blend of horror and physical comedy — splatstick, working from an underlying principle that proclaimed “the gore, the merrier!” — that had obvious roots in Three Stooges and Buster Keaton comedies. Raimi, Campbell, and Tapert set out to make the screen run red with blood, but ended up creating something more unique than another horror quickie.
All of which is preamble to set up the fact that Fede Alvarez’s skill with effects shines in his own Evil Dead. But look away from the gore and you’ll see a confused movie that lurches in different directions from one step to the next. It barely establishes a personality of its own beyond the brutal gore. Appropriately for a film that traffics in bodily dismemberment, Evil Dead ’13 is less than the sum of its parts. Read More »
Oz the Great and Powerful, Sam Raimi‘s first Disney film, is oddly two-faced. Here we have a director who made his name with low budget horror, who became a household name when he infused the superhero genre with his do-it-yourself, energetic visual style. And then there’s Oz, a massive film that gives Raimi the most toys he’s ever had to play with, but also the commitment to make a movie that’s fun for all ages. The result is a Sam Raimi movie wrapped up tightly in a Disney package. And the Raimi elements are willing themselves out.
There’s not a frame of Oz The Great and Powerful that doesn’t bear Raimi’s mark. The production design, the camera moves, the pulpy performances, everything screams his name. I mean, the movie is basically Army of Darkness, right? (Normal guy lands in magical land, is forced to go on quest to save that land.) But just when you see that kinetic, signature style starting to unleash, the story forces the film back into its Disney shell to play to the masses. We’re left with a film that’s entertaining, a little scarier than you’d expect, but extremely inconsistent. Read More »
Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2013 by Angie Han
In Jack the Giant Slayer, Bryan Singer engages in the time-honored tradition of taking a classic fairy tale and reshaping it to fit the times. Current trends being what they are, that means turning the film gritty and (relatively) realistic, with plenty of Lord of the Rings-style action.
Screenwriters David Dobkin and Darren Lemke take the basic touchstones of Jack and the Giant Beanstalk — the poor farm boy, the magic beans, the scary giants — but introduce several brand-new elements to the story. In this version, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) heads upward to rescue a beautiful princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) and stop her evil betrothed (Stanley Tucci) from taking over the kingdom. It’s a version of Jack that’s never been told in all the centuries that the character has been around. So why does it all feel so tiresomely familiar?
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In the event this discussion of Bruce Willis‘ fifth outing as John McLane trails off after a couple paragraphs, let me offer a pre-emptive excuse: that might be the purest way to reflect the prime characteristics of A Good Day to Die Hard. Willis gives a detached, disinterested performance in the series’ fifth film, and the movie skips from scene to scene as if being played from a DVD dragged across gravel.
A Good Day to Die Hard is a sketch of a movie, and a bare outline of a Die Hard film. It feels small, constrained, even cheap. Its closest kin are Luc Besson’s Euro-quickies, rather than John McTiernan’s densely-choreographed, gorgeously anamorphic franchise installments. If there’s praise to bestow, it goes to Fox’s marketing department for making this dead-eyed bore look zippy and energetic, even if that illusion can only last for bare minutes at a time. Read More »