Posts Tagged ‘2013’
Movie Review #717
Presentation: Alcon Entertainment
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Produced by Kira Davis, Broderick Johnson, Adam Kolbrenner, and Andrew A. Kosove. Written by Aaron Guzikowski.
Rated R by the MPAA – frequent profanity; disturbing content; infrequent, graphic violence. Runs 2 hours, 33 minutes. Premiered at Belgrade on September 18, 2013. Wide relase in the USA on September 20, 2013.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette, and Erin Gerasimovich. With a credited cameo appearance by Michelle Keller.
Time to make a pretty personal confession, if only to make this review a bit easier to write. I can sit through movies about the most depraved people. I often say I’m “immune” to movies, because you can make a movie about a guy who commits this and that crime time and again. I’ll willingly watch it. I might even enjoy the movie. But involve that character in child molestation, child murder, child abduction, and that’s when I’m done for. I still wonder why it’s only this topic that gets me, but anything that specifically involves putting children’s lives in danger is, by its own nature, just too disturbing for me.
Ergo two things. One, I face great trouble in saying that I “enjoyed” “Prisoners”. But I won’t deny that it’s a good movie. Two, the movie is, in my book, effective without having to do more than show up; it could be the most offensively awful movie ever made, and I’d still find it effective for the subject matter.
But “Prisoners” is a good movie, and there’s better ways of saying that. Several. If TV crime procedurals actually worried about more than name-dropping, being sponsored, making money, etc., they’d have a script with drama. I’d say that even the best of those scripts could only be half as good as “Prisoners”. Most of this is due to strong character development. Its way of identifying its ensemble cast is clever and well conceived: we’re not concerned with the happenings between characters during one crime, because once one crime has led to a few more (all involving prisoners, not so surprisingly), the whole thing’s about what Character X is hiding from Character Y. And how to slap a label on Character Z–the encompassing “whodunit.”
Now and then, the plot actually thins a little. Now and then. As in, not that often, but it’s easy to tell just why this movie is an inspired one. In the very first scene, a man shoots a deer. Not sure why, but that’s the most common opening scene I’ve noticed. Later on, “Psycho” and “The Silence of the Lambs” are paid homage. Not that you have to look for it, so long as you can automatically recall the Buffalo Bill manhunt when you see an identical basement.
On the plus side, the movie is impressively faithful to classical film-noir. Jake Gyllenhaal looks, sounds, acts like a 1950′s flick detective, but it’s really (drum roll) the camera that so definitively establishes style here. The camerawork practices the inventive effect that has been on the “wanted” list since John Carpenter’s “Halloween”. The cinematography (from that very first shot of the deer, moving back toward the gun) is incredible. Maybe I’m not the voice of reason, but I’d wager that it’s haunting all on its own, complemented by the use of simplistic music. The sound mixing, I might additionally note, adds to the intensity of this thriller.
“Prisoners” is a David Fincher movie from a director who doesn’t answer to that name. I say this having Fincher in my top ten: very little could he have added to the outcome. And if anything, he’s already done it, maybe even on a lesser level. “Prisoners” is much of the same mosaic full of red herrings that was “Zodiac” in 2007. Except “Zodiac” isn’t set in a neighborhood, and it doesn’t deliver its narrative so personally.
PRISONERS IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.
Movie Review #716
Baby Cow Productions
British Film Institute (BFI)
Magnolia Mae Films
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation – The Weinstein Company
Country: UK – USA – France
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Stephen Frears. Produced by Steve Coogan, Tracey Seaward, and Gabrielle Tana. Screenplay: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope. Book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee”: Martin Sixsmith.
Rated PG-13 on appeal – mature themes; infrequent, strong profanity. Runs 1 hour, 38 minutes. Premiered at Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2013; at Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2013; at Mill Valley Film Festival on October 6, 2013; at Hamptons International Film Festival on October 12, 2013; at Hawaii Film Festival on October 14, 2013; at BFI London Film Festival on October 16, 2013; at Chicago International Film Festival on October 17, 2013; and at Austin Film Festival on October 24, 2013. Limited release in the USA on November 22, 2013. Wide release in the UK on November 1, 2013; in the USA on November 27, 2013; and in France on January 8, 2014.
Starring Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, and Michelle Fairley. Also starring Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford, Ruth McCabe, Peter Hermann, Sean Mahon, and Anna Maxwell Martin.
In her younger years, Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) was separated from her young son by an Irish convent. This was kept a secret only she and the nuns knew for the longest time. Fifty years later, she wishes to find her son. She is assisted by an ex-reporter for channel 10 news (Steve Coogan); he also reported for, as she puts it, “that other job.” But this is only to figure out that her son has been dead for years.
I’ll spoil no more than that of “Philomena”. From the very beginning of the movie, I was reminded of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. This is a movie about a journalist teaming up with a disturbed woman to investigate a crime he will report on. Which I’m sure is a common premise, but “Philomena” earns the comparison. As if the true story it narrates isn’t horrifying enough, what director Stephen Frears gives us to chew on is absolutely disturbing.
That is why I’m a bit puzzled as to why on earth this was actually a dramedy. It works, but given the plot, any notion of comedy doesn’t make sense, logically. Flashbacks pervade the movie to illustrate Philomena’s haunted past. So does spirited conversation between the two leads (her and the reporter). The sudden shifts from the dismal into the charming feel uneven for a little while, but to much surprise, the script overall seems to pull it off rather masterfully. Philomena’s past (which she has kept secret for several decades) affects the way she behaves around people. Much to our enjoyment, she’s actually more whimsical and full of life than the average old lady.
“Philomena” is a slow moving but gripping and entirely rewarding movie. Steve Coogan’s performance is powerful; Dench’s, an absolute tour de force. Watch her conquer the whole movie, as the disturbed woman who cannot forget her past, as well as the spirited chatterbox who details the book she’s reading ever so thoroughly to someone who just doesn’t care. It definitely is flawed. But god do I hate to write something so meaningless about “Philomena” as much as you hate to read it. It’s like saying, “I looked for a flaw and, as you might guess, I found one.” There’s only one significant flaw that actually gets in the way of “Philomena”, and I’ve already mentioned that one. With the pathos that glows throughout the movie, it definitely COULD have been a great deal worse.
PHILOMENA IS IN THEATERS.
Movie Review #714
The Kennedy/Marshall Company
Matt Tolmach Productions
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Alex Gibney. Produced by Alex Gibney, Frank Marshall, and Matthew Tolmach. Writer: Alex Gibney.
Rated R by the MPAA – profanity. Runs 2 hours, 4 minutes. Premiered at Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2013; at Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2013; at Zurich Film Festival on September 29, 2013; at Hamptons International Film Festival on October 12, 2013; at London Film Festival on October 16, 2013; and at American Film Festival on October 25, 2013. Limited release in the USA on November 8, 2013.
With Reed Albergotti, Betsy Andreu, Frankie Andreu, Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, Daniel Coyle, Michele Ferrari, George Hincapie, Phil Liggett, Steve Madden, Bill Strickland, Jonathan Vaughters, Emile Vrijman, and David Walsh.
It’s the way Alex Gibney opens his documentary that tells me he really believed in Lance Armstrong. The disappointment is audible in his voice as he explains how this film, “The Armstrong Lie”, originally started as a chronicle of Lance’s return to le Tour de France. I have to say, though, that after doping was proven to be the reason for Lance’s domination of les Tours de France for seven straight years, Gibney should’ve just dropped the documentary. As someone who grew up in a family that supported the pantheon of cyclists, at the top of which stood Lance Armstrong, the documentary should have had an effect on me in the way hearing about him in the news at any other time did. I find it strange that I feel far more pissed off at Lance as I write this review than I did watching the documentary.
The movie’s approach is rarely anything new; when it is, it’s repetitive and unnecessary. There’s far too much focus on the drugs Lance used, his plans on how to use those drugs without getting caught. An interesting topic at first, but it often feels like a feature-length report on performance-enhancing drugs like EPO. That I learned more about how red blood cells are key to one’s success in pro cycling, than about how (and why) Lance has lied to us over the years, is terribly unexpected. As someone says early on in the documentary, “This is not a story about doping, it’s a story about power.” It’s so tiresome having to go through two hours hearing about how this nut was cracked. A movie with a title that is “The Armstrong Lie” should explore a much broader topic only fleetingly mentioned: Lance’s manipulation of his fans. His abuse of the power he had as a celebrity. The documentary is often times depressing and disgusting, but I’m led to believe that that comes naturally. I went in with an actual documentary in mind, something on the hamartia of Lance the Deplorable. I came out feeling like I’d just rewatched “Trainspotting”.
THE ARMSTRONG LIE IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.
Movie Review #705
In collaboration with Danmarks Radio (DR), Film i Väst, Sveriges Television (SVT) & Zentropa International Sweden…
…with the support of Det Danske Filminstitut, Eurimages, Media Programme of the European Community, Nordisk Film- & TV-Fond & Svenska Filminstitutet (SFI)…
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures (subtitled)
Country: Denmark – Sweden
Spoken Languages: Danish – English – Polish
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Produced by Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Morten Kaufmann, and Thomas Vinterberg. Writers: Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg.
Rated R by the MPAA – sexual material, violence, profanity. Runs 1 hour, 55 minutes. Premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2012; at Karlovy Vary Film Festival on July 1, 2012; at Paris Cinéma on July 5, 2012; at New Zealand International Film Festival on July 26, 2012; at Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012; at Zurich Film Festival on September 21, 2012; at Filmekimi on September 28, 2012; at PAC Film Festival on October 7, 2012; at London Film Festival on October 11, 2012; São Paulo International Film Festival on October 23, 2012; at Leiden International Film Festival on October 24, 2012; at Leeds International Film Festival on November 8, 2012; at Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival on November 9, 2012; at European Film Week on November 30, 2012; at Palm Springs international Film Festival on January 10, 2013; at Göteborg International Film Festival on January 26, 2013; at Portland International Film Festival on February 8, 2013; at Belgrade Film Festival on March 3, 2013; at Skopje Film Festival on April 20, 2013; at Newport Beach International Film Festival on April 25, 2013; at Seattle International Film Festival on June 4, 2013; and at Provincetown International Film Festival on June 20, 2013. Limited release in the USA on July 12, 2013. Wide release in Denmark on January 10, 2013; and in Sweden on April 12, 2013.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen. Also starring Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport, Sebastian Bull Sarning, Steen Ordell Guldbrand Jensen, Daniel Engstrup, Troels Thorsen, Søren Rønholt, Hana Shuan, Jytte Kvinesdal, Bjarne Henriksen, Rasmus Lind Rubin, Frank Rubæk, Jacob Højlev, Jørgensen, Karina Fogh Holmjær, Katrine Brygmann, Hunden Rosa, Thomas Frederiksen, and Lene Rømer. Featuring uncredited cameo appearances by Ole Dupont as Godsejer and Advokat, and by Thomas Vinterberg as himself.
Golden Globes night, 2013. I flipped out when “The Great Beauty” beat “The Hunt” for the Best Foreign Language Film prize. Flipped…out. I hadn’t seen either movie at the time, but I’d heard such rave over “The Hunt”, and “The Great Beauty” was a complete unknown to me. It just didn’t feel right at all.
Now I have to say, my reaction that night was a bit over-the-top. “The Hunt” (known to its native Denmark as Jagten) probably isn’t every bit of perfection you’ve heard. But it does have quite a good chance for the Foreign Language Film Oscar.
“The Hunt” centers on a fortysomething, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), who has had a less-than-perfect past and is trying to rebuild his life. He teaches kindergarten, and he’s not seen as the most trustworthy fellow. Even less so when he is accused of molesting one of his students. The allegation comes directly from that student, and everyone in the community is willing to believe this girl’s troubled imagination over the grown man’s innocence and honesty.
It’s hard to say that we take sides with this story. Mads Mikkelsen has established himself quite well as an overall villain character (“Casino Royale”, TV’s Hannibal). His protagonist in “The Hunt” doesn’t beg for compassion or to be liked, and this way, it more optimally tells the story. The point of the movie isn’t to tell the story from one side. It’s to tell the whole story, and with much certainty, it does.
“The Hunt” takes a story we’d rather not watch and makes it every bit worth watching. The story itself takes a while to unfold, but it’s engrossing as aything once it’s made itself into something. I’ve been under the impression that Scandinavia enjoys lower budget TV movies in their cinemas. While that may be so for films like “Headhunters” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Hunt” is utterly cinematic. The last 20 minutes reach the emotional apex. The last act? Beautiful–and yet anything but beautiful. As for the finale…well, that was plainly unforgettable.
Anatomy of a Psycho
THE HUNT IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD, AND IS FREE TO STREAM ON NETFLIX.
Movie Review #701
Manny O Productions
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Spoken Languages: English – Spanish
Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Produced by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and Manuel V. Oteyza. Written by Gabriela Cowperthwaite & Eli Despres. Co-writer: Tim Zimmerman.
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA — mature themes, disturbing content, violence. Runs 1 hour, 23 minutes. Premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2013; at San Francisco International Film Festival on April 27, 2013; at Hot Docs International Documentary Festival on April 30, 2013; at Montclair Film Festival on May 4, 2013; at Seattle International Film Festival on May 28, 2013; at Sydney Film Festival on June 7, 2013; at Provincetown International Film Festival on June 22, 2013; and at Nantucket Film Festival on June 27, 2013. Limited release in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on July 19, 2013.
Featuring Tilikum as himself. Also featuring Suzanne-Allee, Jeff Andrews, Kim Ashdown, Ken Balcomb, Samantha Berg, Diane Brancheau, Kelty Burn, Kelly Clark, Corinne Cowell, John Crowe, Dave Duffus, Howard Garrett, Dean Gomersall, John Hargrove, Steve Huxter, John Jett, James Earl Jones, Nadien Kallen, Lori Marino, Mercedes Martinez, Ken Peters, Christopher Porter, Carol Ray, Estefania Rodriguez, Mark Simmons, Thomas Tobin, Chuck Tompkins, Jeffrey Ventre, and Eric Walters as themselves.
My understanding is that a SeaWorld trainer is 50% veterinarian and 50% circus performer. They do care about animals, but it’s not a sincere be-all-and-end-all passion, because at a certain point, it has to be about putting on a show. The same is for the converse, that while they do love putting on a show, they won’t deliberately harm the animals just to put on a show. “Blackfish” investigates the moralities of SeaWorld in a way that is shocking and awe-inspiring. The name “killer whale” is highly inaccurate for an orca, unless they are aggravated consistently. That’s why the death of Dawn Brancheau, the most valuable trainer, honored highly by either species, was most shocking for those who knew her. When the beloved, happy-go-lucky star orca Tilikum lashes out on Brancheau, the only explanation is to look at anything that could have led to this incident.
I’m restraining myself from spoiling half the movie. There’s so much to say about the movie, and I’m dying to the say the would of it, but unfortunately, this world involve spoiling it. I ask that you see it before searching for spoilers. “Blackfish” takes an unflinching, often disturbing dive into the problems faced at SeaWorld. Anyway you look at it, the documentary is incredible and shocking. You’ll notice that this one had no problem becoming last year’s most controversial film. SeaWorld Entertainment has done seemingly everything in its power to keep the film from being seen, and let’s be honest, if you were the chairman of a multimillion dollar company that had been exposed, you’d take action. “Blackfish” doesn’t just wish to expose, though. It wishes to present the issue, to express its sympathy for those affected, and to understand what caused such an incident in the first place. Orcas, we are told, have minds that are driven by emotion more powerfully than most any animal. If you’d imagine “Blackfish” as unable to bring such emotional cleansing to a human, think again.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
BLACKFISH IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, AND FREE TO STREAM ON NETFLIX.
Movie Review #700
New Line Cinema presents…
Slap Happy Productions
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Spoken Languages: English – Spanish
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Produced by Chris Bender, Vincent Newman, Tucker Tooley, and Happy Walters. Screenplay by Bob Fisher & Steve Faber and Sean Anders & John Morris. Story by Bob Fisher & Steve Faber.
Rated R by the MPAA — frequent profanity, sexual content, drug material, brief/graphic nudity (extended cut also rated R). Runs 1 hour, 50 minutes (extended cut runs 8 minutes longer). Premiered at Traverse City Film Festival on August 3, 2013. Wide release in the USA on August 7, 2013.
Starring Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, and Will Poulter. Also starring Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Quinn, Tomer Sisley, Matthew Willig, Luis Guzmán, and Brendan Hunt. Featuring uncredited cameo appearances by Andrea Alcorn, James Alcorn, Laura Avery, Rachel Brewer, Christian Daniels, Amanda Fresquez, Rebecca Harran, Cathy Mattson, Monica Molina, Joe Montanti, Robb Moon, Kathy Walton Pulley, Ed Ricker, Ellie Rodriguez, Nick Thies, and Steven Ray Byrd.
“We’re the Millers” is a horrible, horrible movie, yet I feel neither shame nor hesitance in excusing it as entertaining. The humor was so consistent that I didn’t have to worry about pitying any failed attempts at comedy; I was guffawing instead.
I do pity the film, though: I’ve slapped it with two “horrible”s and its aim is the exact opposite. Clearly, the intent was to make the numero uno of dysfunctional family movies. It’s the establishment of character and story that ventures further than needed. Really, a ridiculous story doesn’t guarantee as many laughs as some filmmakers tend to believe. Spanning from the American Southwest into Mexico, the tale covers a grab bag of four neighboring people who have to act as a cheery, happy-go-lucky family.
This is the plan concocted by the “father” (Jason Sudeikis), so that he can smuggle drugs out of Mexico and keep his business running. But it’s not just him. All four of the “family” members have a screw loose. He’s a drug dealer in desperation. His “wife” (Jennifer Aniston) is a stripper who takes her job way too seriously. Their “daughter,” rescued from the projects, has no respect for authority, as if the drama queen in her isn’t too unnerving for them. And they can be sure that their “son” was dropped on his head as a young’n without checking with a doctor.
That. That story is a joke in and of itself. As the premise for “We’re the Millers”, it happens to fuel countless jokes. But still, given that ludicrous story, how in pluperfect hell are we supposed to believe the inevitable ending: that these people will get used to posing as a family, and they’ll eventually start to naturally interact like a family? Should I reiterate who these four are?
Not much in the screenplay gives the remotest face of reality. I mean, this basic setup technically could happen, once in seven or eight blue moons. All four familial asses are saved time and again by something that could probably happen when pigs fly. Character development and situational approach are often as realistic as some of the short films I would produce and direct in the fifth grade. Even the dialogue is unrealistic. I found the profanity excessive, more than likely because it was there just because. “The Wolf of Wall Street” was the record-breaker at over 500 F-bombs, and I didn’t mind. I minded the reported 97 in “We’re the Millers”.
(I might as well mention that pacing is horrendous, too.)
But there’s a saving grace to all of that. Not one of the four writers of “We’re the Millers” know how to write a convincing film. They do have jokes, and that’s what makes this entertaining at all costs. “We’re the Millers” unravels with side-splitting hilarity. The production is anemic in anything but its humor. The performances do save it in part, which is a given for the humor’s own success. Emma Roberts, especially, is an enthusiastic standout as the homeless “daughter.” It’s worth the warning that the humor does falter once, near the end. An extended scene that is the grossest thing in a hard-R comedy since that one scene in “Borat”. Remember how much you laughed in that movie? Every rose does indeed have its thorn.
WE’RE THE MILLERS IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.
Movie Review #699
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Woody Allen. Produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, and Edward Walson. Written by Woody Allen.
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA — mature themes, profanity, sexual content. Runs 1 hour, 38 minutes. Premiered at Traverse City Film Festival on July 30, 2013. Limited release in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on July 26, 2013. Wide release in the USA on August 23, 2013.
Starring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., and Peter Sarsgaard. Featuring an uncredited cameo appearance by Steven Wiig as a Midwestern tourist.
“I wanna go back to school! I wanna get my degree and become…you know…something substantial!” – Cate Blanchett, in the role of Jasmine
When I say that each and every Woody Allen is the same, yet completely different, I mean exactly that. I’m referring to the ever recurring/ever changing substance, not just the smooth jazz or the exquisite cityscapes, though those apply, too. “Blue Jasmine” is remarkably anomalous to any Woody Allen movie I myself have seen. And it’s oddly something we could swear we’ve seen a billion times from the filmmaker. It’s possible that this is because Woody Allen hasn’t really set his sights on the ugly duckling story before, but more than likely, the freshness we’d find in “Blue Jasmine” is thanks to focus on character more than situation.
This character couldn’t have been accomplished without its actress, Cate Blanchett. I fear that we actually know someone like her, someone just like her. It’s as if Mia Farrow gave Ms. Blanchett a soul transplant and made her an actress we want more of in Woody Allen movies. This newfound actress for Allen, she’s absolutely terrific. Never would I have expected Ms. Blanchett to play the female counterpart to the lovable neurotic that Woody Allen played from the nascence of his career all the way through the eighties. That Woody is merely focused on writing in that ego, as opposed to typecasting himself, is where the film allows for a more natural establishment of the neurotic female, a New York socialite named Jasmine who is visiting her sister in San Francisco. I’d conclude that the movie as a whole feels a bit deeper than Woody’s usual ninety minutes of wry.
This is a huge step up from Woody’s previous comedy, “To Rome with Love”, and enough to prove that “To Rome” was just a blemish on his winning streak. It got great at 2011′s “Midnight in Paris”, and now it’s only gotten better. I’ll admit that “Blue Jasmine” fails to meet comic potential during its opening, but past the first ten minutes, this is a very funny movie. It seems I was laughing harder and harder with each passing scene. By the time Ms. Blanchett was opening up to her nephews, likely not even ten years old, about her medical history (“You do know of Prozac, don’t you?”), I was dying. Best of all was the finale. The ten finishing minutes were so well played, and of course, it all ends on the Woody Allen definition of “sweet.” That’s not a complaint, because even at its most cliché, “Blue Jasmine” is still a beautiful comedy.
We’re the Millers
BLUE JASMINE IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.
Movie Review #682
Studio: RT Features — Pine District — Scott Rudin
Distributor: IFC Films
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Noah Baumbach. Produced by Noah Baumbach, Scott Rudin, Rodrigo Teixeira, and Lila Yacoub. Written by Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig.
Rated R by the MPAA – mild sexual content, profanity. Runs 1 hour, 26 minutes. Premiered at Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2012; at Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2012; at New York Film Festival on September 30, 2012; at Berlin International Film Festival in February 2013; at D’A – Festival Internacional de Cinema d’Autor de Barcelona on April 27, 2013; at IndieLisboa International Independent Film Festival on April 28, 2013; at San Francisco International Film Festival on May 2, 2013; at Montclair Film Fsstival on May 3, 2013; and at Seattle International Film Festival on May 17, 2013. Limited release in the USA on May 17, 2013.
Starring Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver, Charlotte d’Amboise, and Grace Gummer.
“Frances Ha” is a petite independent movie with all 86 minutes existing for one reason: to prove it’s truly something special. The one thing it has that Frances the character doesn’t is inner talent. Noah Baumbach directs this beautifully. Not as a 2013 flick, but a simple 2013 dramedy with a 1950s finish. It looks beautiful and it sounds beautiful. The soundtrack is every bit worth hearing.
Baumbach also cowrote the movie with its star, Greta Gerwig. Every breath of the screenplay is lifelike. None of it is overwhelming, nor underwhelming, nor superficial in any way that I can tell. What’s best is that the two writers seem to equally love and hate the titular character. She’s rendered a complete dork (and Gerwig’s appearance says so, too). It takes time to warm up to her, but once we do, we fall in love with her. What more can I say? This is pretty much what we want in a purist indie comedy. “Frances Ha” is always oddly humorous, often unapologetic where it is brisk and lighthearted. It has its flaws, but I’d rather not point them out. Not at the expense of a movie that had me willing to go for a second viewing before it was halfway over.
American Pie 2
Die Another Day
Movie Review #680
Paramount Pictures presents…
Studio: Apatow Productions – Gary Sanchez Productions
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Adam McKay. Produced by Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell, and Adam McKay. Written by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay. Characters by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay.
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – sexual content, drug material, profanity, comic violence. Runs 1 hour, 59 minutes. Sydney premiere on November 24, 2013. Wide release in the USA on December 18, 2013.
Narrated by Bill Kurtis. Starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Meagan Good, and James Marsden. Also starring Dylan Baker, Judah Nelson, Greg Kinnear, Kristen Wiig, Harrison Ford. Featuring credited cameo appearances from Clay Stapleford, Wilbur Fitzgerald, Karen Beyer, Brian Steele, Sacha Baron Cohen, Marion Cotillard, Liam Neeson, Will Smith, Kirsten Dunst, and Joe Washington; and uncredited cameo appearances from Gelin DiGennaro, William Frasca, Gary Hardt, Vince Vaughn, Amanda Q Williams, Jim Carrey, Tina Fey, Victor Gage, Chris Gethard, Tony Guerrero, Liam Neeson, Amy Poehler, John C. Reilly, and Kanye West.
“If I man dies with love in his heart, does he truly die?”
That’s the kind of marvelously written epic pondering you’ll find in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”. I know. I’m practically infamous for my distasteful review of 2004′s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”. Never would you expect me to refer to the sequel, nine years later, as “marvelously written,” let alone an “epic pondering.” But I did. This is priceless Will Ferrell-Adam McKay comedy. Priceless. The movie is defined accurately by words like “the legend continues.” Our hero, Ron Burgundy (Ferrell), fan of his own hair and gorgeous mustache, is married to Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). They divorce, but what do you expect from their obviously on-off relationship. Regardless, they now have a son, and she now has a job as a major nightly anchor. They’re basically rivals throughout the story, because Ron is working as a major anchor for another company–GNN (Global News Network), which is looking to pioneer 24-hour news. But in order to keep his family’s respect, his anchor team’s respect, and not throw his narcissism way out of line, Ron Burgundy must find a balance between work-love, family-love, and self-love.
As explained Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), who usually chooses to alternatively express his 48 IQ, Burgundy’s ego and hubris must be given up if he wants forgiveness. Or something like that.
And no, I’m not kidding. I actually enjoyed this movie, which succeeded mostly in its writing, a lot. That plot looks fairly normal, right? “A man with a more-than-respectable hairdo faces the ultimate choice: either gloating his marvelousness, or keeping steady relationships with his co-workers and family.” Well, that’s where a log line can throw you off, because that summarizes Beowulf and Odysseus, as well. Not that “Anchorman 2” doesn’t share those same epic proportions, but it’s in getting to all of that, that the written collaboration between star Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay succeeds dynamically. Amid a few shallow scrapes of predictability are a couple handfuls of comedy that work better than in the first one. (I did rewatch “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” recently, and even enjoying it a lot more the second time around, I’d say the sequel still comes out on top.) How do you explain the hilarity of that early scene when Steve Carell attends his funeral? Or that climactic scene where the main cast, as well as the cameoing twelve (at least!) established performers, orchestrate a science fiction battle against Ron Burgundy and company? Okay, I’ll admit that was part of a lazy wrap-up, but it fits. Everything leading in had me dying. Everything from the (first) moment Ron compliments his wife’s bodily formation, up to the point at which Ferrell spends two minutes singing a tribute to his son’s pet shark, “Doby”. I just couldn’t stop laughing.
“Anchorman 2” is flawed, but I’m dying to give it a higher score than three stars. This was the comedy of the year, and decidedly as signature a movie for Ferrell and McKay as 2006′s “Talladega Nights” (as if the first “Anchorman” movie wasn’t). Without a doubt, I’ll flick this out there to those who can only claim to have seen Ferrell as Blue Öyster Cult’s cowbell player on Saturday Night Live. His humor hasn’t become anything different, but it’s certainly developed. Often times some of the humor is just found in the musical choices, or how they complement their respective scenes. I’ll give “Anchorman 2” a special mention for its soundtrack, which enjoyably fits its time period. Neil Diamond, Kenny Loggins, Van Halen, Foreigner, Earth Wind & Fire, the Steve Miller Band, Simon & Garfunkel. The movie is a convincing and amusing representation of its time period in every facet I can think of, actually.
But one could go into much detail about how stylish “Anchorman 2” is, down to that beautiful mustache of Burgundy’s, and they’d still be overlooking the best of “Anchorman 2”. By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John, it’s as quotable as the first movie! I laughed like a ventriloquist dummy watching it at the theater, and for the intended audience especially, that’s truly enough to make it a worthwhile movie. For those of us here at Cinemaniac Reviews, I’m the Cinemaniac. Don’t just have a great night. Have an American night. (Or just stay classy. Thanks for stopping by.)
NOTE: Stay after the credits. I know, it’s a pet peeve of mine, too, but if you want that last laugh… Also, that last paragraph was filled with Anchorman quotes, in case you couldn’t tell.
Movie Review #679
Voltage Pictures presents…
Studio: HitRecord Films – Ram Bergman Productions
Distributor: Relativity Media
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Produced by Ram Bergman. Written by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Rated R by the MPAA – frequent and strong sexual content, nudity, profanity, infrequent drug material. Original Sundance cut rated NC-17 before edits. Runs 1 hour, 30 minutes. Premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2013; at berlin International Film Festival on February 8, 2013; at South by Southwest Film Festival in March 2013; at Little Rock Film Festival on May 19, 2013; at Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2013; at Jameson Cinefest International Film Festival on September 12, 2013; at Quebec City Film Festival on September 20, 2013; and at Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival on September 23, 2013. Wide release in the USA on September 27, 2013.
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Brie Larson. Also starring Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke, Italia Ricci, Lindsey Broad, and Amanda Perez. With credited cameo appearances from Anne Hathaway, Channing Tatum, Megan Good, and Cuba Gooding Jr.; and an uncredited cameo appearance by Mariah Quintana.
“There’s only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. And my porn.”
- Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
If you were at legal watching age when the NC-17 rating was created (1990), please avoid “Don Jon” with your life. The movie squarely pinpoints young audiences, regardless of whether one is a fan of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He certainly is no longer the child star the ’90s knew, to put it lightly. This one was made for those who like hard-R movies, and wouldn’t mind a movie about a guy who’s seriously addicted to porn. As in, he really has to find himself to engage in a functional relationship. Part of the fun in this movie–myself being in the under-forty demographic–is that this is a serious concern for him, so much that the movie becomes a smalltime legend of the man who tries to find his inner spirit. He even has a Miyagi, hilariously played by Julianne Moore. It’s lovably, comedically blown out of proportion, kind of the same way as “The Big Lebowski”, which can be looked at as a small-scale epic, even when it’s just about a guy who goes on a journey to hunt down the guys who pissed on his rug.
I don’t want to draw any comparisons between “Don Jon” and one of the single most hilarious movies ever made. “Don Jon”, like any movie of the past few years, isn’t literally side-splitting. What it is, is well-written comedy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his girlfriend, Scarlett Johansson, give off perfect chemistry together. Surprised? Oh and by the way, this isn’t the Joseph Gordon-Levitt we know from “Inception”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, “(500) Days of Summer”. He’s still the coolest guy in Hollywood, and definitely not the first person to use those words, but his likability drops significantly throughout the film. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. He’s the perfect choice for the lead character, in fact. He has the chance not only to manipulate the character before the screen but also behind it: this is Gordon-Levitt’s screenwriting and his directing debut.
Where do I begin with the screenplay? It’s rather impressive for a first-timer. Five in every ten characters in his edgy story speak like the stereotypical Italian-American, but if you happen to have seen anything from “Rocky” to “Silver Linings Playbook”, this is barely a step up in exaggeration. All three of the main characters (Gordon-Levitt, Johansson, Moore) are well-developed. But what is clearly Gordon-Levitt’s strong point here is his conversational scenes. I was laughing out loud during an extended moment between Gordon-Levitt and Johansson, concerning Swiffers. Much of the dialogue flows so freely here, it’s as if Tarantino’d written it. More than anything, though, I commend the film for its style. Gordon-Levitt orchestrates this as one of the most feverishly stylized movies of 2013, in fact. Shots are either extensive or rapidly cut. Whenever Gordon-Levitt throws a tissue away, the sound effect is the same one you’d hear if you moved something to “Trash” on an Apple computer. It’s cartoonish, but that’s this whole movie.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues