Posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 by Angie Han
If you’ve heard of What Richard Did, there’s a good chance it was in the context of a conversation about Transformers 4. A few months ago, Irish actor Jack Reynor was plucked from relative obscurity to become Michael Bay‘s new Shia LaBeouf, and What Richard Did was one of the few films on his resume. If Transformers 4 does well, this young star has the potential to become one of Hollywood’s hottest young stars overnight. But as he moves on to higher-profile roles, his sensitive turn in What Richard Did makes me hope he won’t leave indies behind completely.
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(Note: This is a reprint of our Mud review from Sundance 2013. The film opens in a limited run today.)
For his follow-up to Take Shelter, director Jeff Nichols smartly casts Matthew McConaughey as a violent drifter who slides into the lives of two young boys whose families eke out a bare existence on the Mississippi River. Using the gift for gab that any character played by McConaughey must automatically possess, this outlaw wraps the boys up in his plan to achieve true freedom.
While Take Shelter trafficked in heavy ambiguity, Mud does away with uncertainty, at least with respect to the story. This is a straightforward tale that rides on the shoulders of McConaughey and two excellent young actors, Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life) and newcomer Jacob Lofland.
Mud is a riff on Mark Twain, and an exploration of the relationships between generations of men. It could be a Tom Waits song, perhaps a long-lost cut from Swordfishtrombones, revolving as it does around a man with a dark past who seeks to build an escape engine out of cast-off parts, with love as his fuel. The film casts a keen eye on people living a mostly bygone lifestyle, and wraps those observations in a rollicking little adventure that you might find in the yellowing pages of an old pulp novel.
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After getting out of Iron Man 3 I was inundated with text messages from friends and colleagues asking not only how it was, but more than not how it compared against the first two films. This seems to be the question more and more nowadays. When I saw Monsters University at CinemaCon, people asked how it compared against the original and more than not, how it placed in my ranking of the Pixar filmography. I can’t even tell you which Pixar film is my favorite, never mind asking me to rank them. I understand people want context, thats probably why film grades, rotten tomato and IMDB scores are so massively popular.
I could tell you that Iron Man 3 is a much MUCH better movie than Iron Man 2, but what does that really say? While I don’t think it tops the original, many aspects of this film are better than the first film.
But what does that even really mean? That’s comment without context. For me its hard to compare because, as it turns out, Iron Man 3 is much much different than the first two films in the franchise. After the jump you can watch a spoiler free video blog I recorded with Steve from Collider after a recent screening, along with a few written thoughts.
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Michael Bay has never attempted a movie as complex as Pain and Gain. He’s made plenty of films that flaunt action, crime and sex, but Pain and Gain isn’t one of them, at all. Below its glossy surface, Pain and Gain is a dark, terrifying true story of one man’s twisted view of the American dream and how he strives to achieve it. That means the film’s main characters — played by Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie — are not good people. They have good traits, maybe even good hearts, but though they’re presented as muscle-bound super men, they’re not good people.
Making an entertaining and thought-provoking movie filled with despicable characters is not an easy task. It’s a tonal nightmare and Bay struggles with that balance from the very beginning of the film. Ultimately, he finds a groove and the film may win you over, but the journey to that point is as bumpy as a muscled arm. Read More »
The Matrix. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Independence Day. Star Wars. Wall-E. If you know and like those movies (and at least one more we won’t mention to avoid spoiling anything) you’re going to find Joseph Kosinski‘s Oblivion incredibly familiar. The filmmaker’s second film directly references and was indirectly influenced by a plethora of classic films, giving his “original” story a not-so-original feel. It’s almost as if Kosinski’s love of sci-fi was so big, he simply had to stuff it all into one big movie.
Yet even with those influences bursting from its seams, Oblivion is a delight. It is a gorgeous, exciting and satisfying film filled with beautiful visuals, eye-popping action and confident storytelling.
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In the twenty years between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, Terrence Malick was elevated from director who salvaged Days of Heaven only after years of editing, to cinematic messiah. His aesthetic approach was canonized, and actors flocked to work with him, no matter how small the part. Now, with two movies in less than two years (and at least two more on the way) Malick is being brought down to Earth once more. This is a good thing. Once again, he’s just a guy who makes movies. Fortunately, he makes movies in a way that is unlike most others, and thanks to his improvisational process he still carries the trust of talented actors.
I’d very much like to love his latest film, To the Wonder. I do appreciate it quite a lot, which is something different. As if designed to be a miniature of his career, this movie describes a tension between the glorious and prosaic. It is not a conventional narrative, but rather a look over Malick’s shoulder as he feels his way towards an idea.
That idea is a portrait of our relationship to the divine, as expressed through four interconnected lives that sketch a difficult romantic relationship. Whether that “divine” is God or nature, or some ineffable truth, doesn’t really matter. Malick seeks to balance the first brush with wonder and the difficult process of sustaining it though the grind of everyday life. Read More »
What a beautiful thing, Upstream Color. Shane Carruth‘s second film is a melange of surprises and delights. For an audience familiar with Primer, Carruth’s time-layering ouroboros of a debut, one element may be more surprising than all others: simplicity. Though the telling of this new film is by no means conventional, the core is an elegant idea, yet one rich enough to foster myriad interpretations.
Crafted with an awe-inspiring confidence, Upstream Color establishes a strange and frightening sci-fi framework, then works within that frame to probe the nature of human relationships, and our proximity to and power over the forces that define us. The wild elements of the plot allow Carruth to examine love and destiny with unexpected sensitivity. Upstream Color belongs in the company of 2001 and Solaris; it stands with the very best that speculative fiction has to offer.
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Danny Boyle‘s latest film, Trance, is a victim of its own ingenuity. It’s a film about memory and how a person is defined by their memories. These memories can be tampered with, removed, replaced, even changed ever so slightly to make reality seem different than it actually is. To bolster those ideas, Boyle gives the film a lurid feel. At any given time, the audience isn’t sure if what they are seeing is real, fake, a dream, a memory or some blending of both.
Unfortunately, that ambiguity begins to overpower any interest generated for the characters or story, leaving the film with a cold feeling. There are certainly mysteries to be solved, and Boyle’s energetic style provides some fun moments, but if you can’t believe what you’re seeing at any given moment, you can’t begin to care about the characters either. Read More »