Posted on Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 by David Chen
I’ve always found Alexander Payne’s work to be challenging, funny, and heartfelt. His newest film, Nebraska, is no exception. After receiving Cannes’ Best Actor prize for Bruce Dern’s performance as Woody Grant, Nebraska is now out in limited release. It’s a beautiful, understated film and worth your time if you’re interested in a darkly funny, deliberately paced character study.
Russ Fischer joined me for a brief video review. You can hear more of our thoughts on the film after the jump.
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There’s a vast difference between simply making a movie and taking the time to develop a new idea to make a movie about. It’s the difference between franchises releasing a new sequel every year, and the work of Spike Jonze, a filmmaker who up to this point has only made three movies in 15 years. His fourth film, Her, is the director’s first original screenplay. It’s everything you’d hope for from the mad genius who brought to life Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Where the Wild Things Are.
Her is a dramatic sci-fi romance about a man named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his artificially intelligent computer operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). It’s a simple, yet brilliant conceit realized with depth and emotion, two rare traits in mainstream cinema. The depth comes from Jonze’s ideas about technological dependence and loneliness, and the emotion is conveyed as the film raises questions about what it means to love and our capacity to do so. It’s a film that’ll both spark intelligent debate and plenty of tears.
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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire isn’t your typical blockbuster sequel. Yes it’s bigger and better than the original movie. The stakes have been raised and new characters are added. But what makes Catching Fire unique is how it’s infused with a gravitas most major Hollywood entertainment lacks. At every single turn, the plight of the citizens of Panem is felt as they face the cruel tyranny of the Capitol, adding layers of pathos and tension to everything we see. Couple that with the impressive IMAX visuals and a more surprising story, and Catching Fire joins that rare breed of sequels that improve on the original. Read More »
The Wolverine Unleashed Extended Edition takes big steps towards giving long-time fans the version of Marvel’s clawed mutant that they’ve always wanted to see on screen.
The first solo Wolverine movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was a bloated, cartoonish mess that vomited stereotypical criticisms of comic book movies onto the screen as story points. Unsurprisingly, that left no one happy. When a follow-up, The Wolverine, was revealed to be drawing direct inspiration from the character’s early solo comic book outing created by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, there was reason to hope the character’s second headlining gig might fare better.
The Wolverine hit theaters this past summer, and thanks to James Mangold‘s direction (both on set and behind the scenes in dealing with Fox) it was a thematically strong film, with Nolan-esque ambitions to break the image of the comic book film as a superficial effects showcase. Yet it still seemed to be held in check; in particular the film’s violence and intensity didn’t quite match up to the intensity of Claremont and Miller’s conception of the character.
For the Blu-ray and digital release of The Wolverine, Fox is taking an unusual step by releasing an extended and unrated cut of the film. This marks the first time that Fox has veered away from the PG-13 rating with an X-Men movie, and a rare example of any major studio offering an extended unrated cut of a major tentpole. I saw the cut last night on the Fox lot. It is more bloody and violent; it’s a movie that offers the grimier side of Wolverine even as it fails to address issues that kept the theatrical cut from fulfilling all its ambitions.
Note: full spoilers for The Wolverine follow. Read More »
Posted on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 by David Chen
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is out in theaters everywhere this weekend and will undoubtedly reaffirm The Hunger Games franchise as an international box office juggernaut. I found the first film underwhelming, but was optimistic about Catching Fire, especially given early positive buzz and a director (Francis Lawrence) whose work I quite admire. So is it worth checking out this weekend? Hit the jump to catch my video review.
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If all the Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, animation and theme park coverage weren’t hints enough, we here at /Film are Disney fans. Big time. So a film like Saving Mr. Banks, which is about Walt Disney’s struggle to make one of the studio’s greatest films, Mary Poppins, is right in our wheelhouse. The film opens December 20 and will play the AFI Fest presented by Audi this weekend. Peter Sciretta and I were lucky enough not only to see the film before that festival date, but to see it at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA, where about 45% of the movie was shot and actually took place.
So while this film, which stars Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman, might not seem like the typical film for us to do a video blog for, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give our opinion of a Disney film which the Walt Disney Company made in the place Walt Disney actually had these experiences. Read More »
Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2013 by David Chen
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Thor, but I was starting to get psyched for Thor: The Dark World after seeing Thor’s plot extended in clever ways in The Avengers, and after reading Germain’s mostly-positive review of the film.
I was unpleasantly surprised to find that Thor: The Dark World is quite a mess. Not only are the action and stakes underwhelming, it also squanders a lot of the quality character work done in the first film, making me appreciate that film so much more. After the jump, hear my thoughts on the latest entry in the Marvel film universe.
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Posted on Friday, November 1st, 2013 by David Chen
Steve McQueen‘s Hunger dazzled me with its meticulously constructed tableaus, its daring long takes, and its incredible central performance by Michael Fassbender. When I saw that film, I believed its director to be one of the best filmmakers on the planet. It boggled my mind that that was McQueen’s first feature film – if that was where this person was beginning, I couldn’t even imagine where he’d end up.
12 Years a Slave, out in theaters now, is the latest step by McQueen on his filmmaking journey and it is indeed incredible. It’s McQueen at his most mature and accessible, delivering a film that has the impact of an emotional wrecking ball. Hit the jump to see my video review.
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