MY WEEK WITH MARILYN Review

by     Posted 2 years, 327 days ago

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Sometimes a memoir has to be taken with a grain of salt. In My Week With Marilyn, a retelling of a young man who has the time of his life on and off-set with Marilyn Monroe, things can become a bit eye-rolling. How much actually happened manages to be less important. What is essential is a small glimpse into something we may already know but remains heartbreaking nonetheless: Marilyn was an imperfect creature trying to keep from being swallowed alive by her fame. Despite not answering much of the whys and remaining mostly fluff, director Simon Curtis gives Michelle Williams the daunting task of playing Monroe near the peak of her popularity and she nails it. You can look at stills as much as you want, but the moving image allows Williams to blend into the role and become something audiences can fall in love with all over again. Hit the jump for my full review.

Director Jose Padilha Talks ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN

by     Posted 2 years, 342 days ago

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Coming out of Fantastic Fest this year, one of my biggest surprises was how much I enjoyed a film I had heard very little about called Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within.  The fact that it was a sequel had me weary. Why would I drop in the middle of a story?  But then the buzz picked up, and I heard multiple people recommend it without the pretense of seeing the first film.  Luckily enough, director Jose Padilha‘s political thriller gives you enough of a foothold to not feel lost while also providing a living, breathing world filled with corruption and violence.  So when I had the chance to speak with the director I had to accept. After the break you can read the complete transcript as we talk about the hype surrounding the film now, the disparity between the first film’s ticket sales and the second, the extreme measures they took to protect the film, how he struck a balance between a message and entertainment, and whether Elite Squad 3 is a possibility.

FOOTLOOSE Review

by     Posted 3 years, 4 days ago

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I understand the allure of musicals, but the general idea behind a film with dancing as its selling point has always left me on the outside. You see, I can’t dance. At all. I can’t sing either, but singing isn’t nearly as popular as getting out on a dance floor and shaking it to some music. Yet that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the remake of the 1984 classic Footloose. While a lot of the themes and ideas may feel fit for the current MTV generation (do they even listen to music on that channel anymore?), Craig Brewer’s version is a rocking good time that will have you tapping your toes and nodding your head. Although the plot may not win any awards, it never treads down the path of utter ineptitude as much as it might in lesser hands. The premise was always hard to swallow, yet it is pulled off with a wink, a smile, and some actual sincerity. Hit the jump for my full review.

Fantastic Fest 2011: SLEEP TIGHT Review

by     Posted 3 years, 13 days ago

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I find myself lost trying to wrap my head around the tension built in Sleep Tight. While the film may lack more than one thrilling action sequence, it doesn’t lack for thrills. We are introduced to a world where a man who cannot feel joy takes some semblance of it by torturing those that have it. A melding of an invasion thriller with a slow building revenge aspect thrown in makes for a short and satisfying film. Jaume Balagueró is best known for co-directing the awesome [Rec] and [Rec] ² horror flicks, and he brings the single setting of a vertical shaft apartment building back into the fold. Whether that was his influence or the writer’s is inconsequential. He knows how to play within these confines, and Sleep Tight benefits from it. Hit the jump for my full review.

Fantastic Fest 2011: A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI Review

by     Posted 3 years, 14 days ago

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Director Yoshihiro Nakamura is on a roll. The Japanese director has continually scored big at Fantastic Fest, with 2009′s Fish Story and 2010′s Golden Slumber. He is back with a film that is on a smaller scale yet is possibly more charming than his previous two films combined. A Boy And His Samurai is a quiet, frill-free story of the complications this world can create when trying to balance work and family. Predictably, the film features a young, endearing boy who gains a transported samurai as his caretaker in modern Tokyo. While many of the standard adjustments to a foreign time themes are explored, Nakamura makes sure to tell a story that we can all relate to and fall in love with. Filled with endless charm, the film is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but it might lead to a goofy smile continually present on any onlookers. Hit the jump for my full review.

Fantastic Fest 2011: THE YELLOW SEA Review

by     Posted 3 years, 15 days ago

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Action and character propel The Yellow Sea through an epic run time that features more knife fights than I could count. Everything about this film is dark, brutal, and unforgiving. Director Hong-jin Na (The Chaser) weaves a complex story of love, debt, and crime in a setting many are unfamiliar with. There is even a thread of dark comedy from the ways characters can do the unexpected. At 157 minutes, this isn’t an easy film to make time for, yet if you are looking for an action film with an actual plot, some surprises, and excellent fight sequences, it is something I cannot recommend enough. Hit the jump for my full review.

Fantastic Fest 2011: RABIES Review

by     Posted 3 years, 15 days ago

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One would think a film titled Rabies would have something to do with the maddening disease that drives one into a frothing, hyperreactive rage within a few days of infection. This Israeli thriller instead focuses on how we can act with ferocity if pushed to our limits. Set in a forest filled with a maniac, an overreaching officer, and landmines, the innocent people that are leftover don’t have a chance. Especially when they start turning on each other. This short but brutal tale may be too forgiving to some characters yet is still a worthwhile experience. Hit the jump for my full review.

Fantastic Fest 2011 Mini-Reviews: AARDVARK, CLOWN, CARRE BLANC, THE DAY, SMUGGLER, THE CORRIDOR, LIVID, LET THE BULLETS FLY and More

by     Posted 3 years, 15 days ago

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Time isn’t always on your side. While at Fantastic Fest this year, I dove in way more than last year and exposed myself to nearly every film I could. Through screeners and screenings, I managed to fit in over 30 films over the last 11 days. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to review every one of them so instead, I will provide a slew of bite-sized capsules to provide a general feel and idea of what these films do well and where they might fail. So, without any more fanfare, join me after the jump for my reviews of Aardvark, Clown, Carre Blanc, The Day, Smuggler, The Corridor, Livid, Let the Bullets Fly, and A Lonely Place to Die.

FANTASTIC FEST 2011: BOYS ON THE RUN Review

by     Posted 3 years, 18 days ago

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Awkwardness can be infinitely easy to relate to because we have all felt out of place at one time or another. Some of us may even feel that way now, and Boys On The Run paints an interesting picture of how that can lead to mixed results in the real world. This story of love found and lost soon after is filled with over the top characters and situations, but at its core it is about how retarded we can be when love is on the line and all the dirt in between. Boys is a romantic comedy that follows an innocent looking guy that has good intentions but is sacked with a sex-drive that he can’t contain. Some of the real charm is its awkwardness and willingness to fully embrace those things most of us never mention. Hit the jump for my full review.

Fantastic Fest 2011: KNUCKLE Review

by     Posted 3 years, 21 days ago

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Sometimes feuds last for generations. Without any present rhyme or reason, the Irish Travellers at the heart of Knuckle may never find absolute peace from each other. Producer and director Ian Palmer puts us in the middle of the family feuds that end up utilizing bare-knuckle fights to solve their differences. Palmer’s lens focuses on James Quinn McDonagh, an undefeated champion of his family, who slowly begins to lament his position as the face, fist, and mouth of his namesake. Over 12 years, we are given a glimpse into the secretive nomadic families that is both tragic and thrilling in its brutality and upsetting because of the never-ending cycle of violence. More shocking is that bloodlines are so mixed and interwoven that it isn’t uncommon for brothers, uncles, and nephews to fight. Palmer gives us a brief look and with James as the focus, Knuckle will draw you in and leave a lasting impression. Hit the jump for my full review.

Exclusive Video Interview with Director Nicolas Winding Refn for DRIVE

by     Posted 3 years, 25 days ago

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Every now and then a film comes around that has the possibility of succeeding on an artistic and commercial level. This year, I hope that film is Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, a neo-noir fairy tale set in modern day Los Angeles that oozes cool and was released last weekend.  With a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, and Christina Hendricks, it has enough recognizable names and faces to become a hit.  However, it is the style, the story, and Gosling’s quiet performance that will win audiences over.  Recently, I got to talk with Refn about the lack of CGI and foreign cars, the use of a Ford Mustang, whether Gosling was the man behind the wheel, and even Wonder Woman.  Hit the jump for my video interview and the full transcript.  Finally, if you haven’t seen Drive, go see it this weekend.  You won’t be disappointed.

FANTASTIC FEST 2011 Signature Events and Additional Films

by     Posted 3 years, 28 days ago

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Sometimes it seems like film festivals can’t keep from brimming over with content. Last year held very few surprises at Fantastic Fest, besides being awesome and having four secret screenings that remained truly secret. This year, Fantastic Fest keeps adding more content and actually announcing it. Oh, and we have two secret screenings and possibly more content on the way. Scott Wampler and I are going to be busy bees covering the event. Stepping back a bit though, the genre festival also loves throwing events, and lots of them. How many film festivals can you recall that actually invites attendees and non-attendees alike to come celebrate and embrace the absurdity that genre films often entail? Austin’s annual film festival, co-created by Alamo Drafthouse creator Tim League, goes above and beyond to celebrate the madness and this year is no different. Among the events are karaoke, debates followed by boxing matches, horror film feuds pitting America versus the rest, parties, a film-inspired prom, superhero carnival, and much more. Drinking is encouraged, but with responsibility of course. Hit the jump for the full details including the two most recent film additions.

STRAW DOGS Review

by     Posted 3 years, 32 days ago

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Remaking a well-known film can leave you with many problems. If you stick too closely to the original, the audience will call you on it and more than anything, the film’s twists and turns can become predictable bores. Luckily for director Rod Lurie, he chose to remake a film that has a strong cinemaphile profile but never caught on with the mainstream crowd back in 1971: Straw Dogs. Sam Peckinpah’s controversial little film on violence and the nature of man starred Dustin Hoffman, yet never caught on, only raking in $11 million worldwide. What this means is that despite only changing the setting from England to the redneck South of the United States, Lurie’s tale can exist as a wholly new experience for the average filmgoer. However, your appreciation for that may be tempered by the controversial parts largely being in tact. Hit the jump for my full review.

Exclusive: DRIVE Director Nicolas Winding Refn on Flunking Driving Tests, Practical Effects, and WONDER WOMAN

by     Posted 3 years, 33 days ago

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I recently had the great privilege to sit down with Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of one of my favorite films of the year, Drive. As with most of my interviews, my goal is to try and find out new things and not have him rehash the same thing he has answered numerous times. You have a limited amount of time, and likely one go, so why not ask something you don’t already know the answer to? So, that’s exactly what I did. Along the way Refn spoke about the fact that he doesn’t have a driver’s license, his reasoning for going with practical effects, and how his fetish with Wonder Woman came about. So hit the jump to read what he had to say.

WARRIOR Review

by     Posted 3 years, 39 days ago

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The performances and well-choreographed fights are the main event of Warrior, a mixed martial arts drama that delivers counter-punches to the numerous cliches that continuously crop up. Raw emotion and rare truths are explored in this flawed film helmed by writer-director Gavin O’Connor. Equal parts testosterone-filled entertainment and a story of redemption and forgiveness, Warrior has a curious based-on-a-true-story feel. The film isn’t shy about giving you a story, clocking in at 139 minutes, and it’s that devotion to plot and background that will help it cut open a broader audience than the standard fight drama. There are hurdles to overcome as an audience, but the reward is a gritty bit of truth in an unlikely and fun package. Hit the jump for my full review.

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