A Horrifying Education: SLEEPAWAY CAMP

by     Posted 18 days ago

sleepaway-camp

I don’t avoid any genre of cinema, but horror is my blind spot.  I have favorite horror films, but the genre is so rich and diverse, and I feel like I haven’t even come close to scratching the surface.  Thankfully, I’m now lucky enough to be working alongside two horror aficionados, Evan and Perri.  Since October means Halloween and therefore horror, we decided to do a four-entry feature where they would decide on four horror films I would have to watch and then report back with my thoughts.  They would then reply with why they chose the film, their thoughts on it, and the movie’s legacy.  Hopefully, if you’re as ignorant of horror films as I am, you’ll join in on the lesson.

Hit the jump for our thoughts on the first assignment, 1983′s Sleepaway Camp. [Note: To encourage discussion, the comments section can contain spoilers.]

BIRDMAN Review | NYFF 2014

by     Posted 19 days ago

birdman-review

You would think that one movie that blurs the line between reality and fiction to convey the challenges of being an actor would be enough for one week, but Birdman is just as absorbing as Clouds of Sils Maria and also offers up a totally unique experience.  It’s neat that Michael Keaton portrays a former superhero movie star after having played Batman himself and the one-shot shooting style is an absolutely astounding technical achievement, but the best part is that both are used in ways that serve the story, not as alluring gimmicks.  If it were the other way around, Edward Norton’s Mike Shiner wouldn’t approve of it.

WHIPLASH Review

by     Posted 21 days ago

whiplash-slice

[This is a re-post of my review from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  Whiplash opens today in limited release.]

We know “greatness” demands sacrifice. It’s blood, sweat, and tears, and if you’re not willing to dish out all three constantly and consistently, then hey, you’re not worthy of your dream. Physical greatness–the greatness of athletes, for example–is easily quantifiable. But when that physicality is blended with musical expression, it becomes something more vague, complex, and fascinating. Writer-director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash provides an intense and disturbing exploration of the primal drive to dominate and achieve greatness but at a horrific cost. Anchored by extraordinary performances from lead actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, Chazelle’s film never loses its brooding, unnerving energy even as it stumbles trying to find a fitting crescendo.

KILL THE MESSENGER Review

by     Posted 21 days ago

kill-the-messenger-review

I really admire investigative journalists.  They’re like detectives who works for all of us where it’s not about protecting one person, but looking out for society as a whole by trying to get at the truth and hold the guilty accountable for their actions.  However, too often we get bogged down in what’s salacious rather than what’s honest.  Director Michael Cuesta falls into the same trap with his new film, Kill the Messenger.  Although his movie (which is based on a true story) firmly sides with reporter Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), the director seems distracted by Gary’s paranoia and government intrigue when the more interesting story is about how newspapers would prefer to sabotage each other rather than join the search for truth.

THE JUDGE Review

by     Posted 22 days ago

the-judge-review

David Dobkin previously directed broad comedies such as Wedding Crashers and The Change-Up, and now he’s moved to broad drama with his latest feature, The Judge, a movie that clumsily grasps at every heartstring you have.  It’s a soft-focus weepy that rarely elicits any emotion.  Instead, the film feels made to showcase Robert Downey Jr‘s acting ability by proving he can do more than play variations of Tony Stark.  While the movie succeeds in showing the actor’s range, it still feels indulgent as it piles on plotlines instead of keeping the focus on the chemistry between Downey and co-star Robert Duvall.

DRACULA UNTOLD Review

by     Posted 22 days ago

dracula-untold-review

For a movie with the title “Dracula Untold“, it’s a story that’s painfully vague.  We all know Bram Stoker’s classic monster.  Some may know that the character was loosely based on Prince Vlad the Impaler.  Director Gary Shore and screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless seemed content to keep it at that with a bit of an emphasis on Drac’s family and then mostly relying of CGI bats.  The film plays like a treatment rather than a real script.  It’s lean to the point of being anemic as Vlad’s transformation into Dracula doesn’t feel tragic but rather a slog towards the inevitable peppered with lame action and stock characters.  Dracula Untold proves some stories aren’t worth telling.

CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA Review | NYFF 2014

by     Posted 23 days ago

clouds-of-sils-maria-image-juliette-binoche-kristen-stewart-slice

During the Clouds of Sils Maria post-screening Q&A, Juliette Binoche pointed out, “Kristen [Stewart] just takes the text in the morning, she reads it two times and she knows it.”  Binoche on the other hand, noted that she requires far more prep time.   There are no biographical elements in Olivier Assayas’ latest, but there’s definitely some life imitating art (or art imitating life) going on and it adds yet another highly provocative notion to the already deftly layered and remarkably thoughtful feature.

STRETCH Review

by     Posted 23 days ago

stretch-review

One of the things I like about Joe Carnahan‘s films is that they filter drama and action through a working-class lens.  Narc is on the down-and-dirty streets; The Grey is about a group of oil drillers trying to survive in the wild; and even his blockbuster feature The A-Team sides with guys just trying to make a living.  The outlier is Smokin’ Aces, an ensemble piece that ranges from cartoonish to somber as assassins compete to take out an informant.  Carnahan’s latest feature, Stretch, attempts to blend the slapdash attitude of Smokin’ Aces with a grounded, working-class character.  The result is a movie that still manages to be endearing despite how often it tries to remind you of its weirdness.

JAUJA Review | NYFF 2014

by     Posted 24 days ago

jauja-image-viggo-mortensen-viilbjork-malling-agger-slice

Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja opens with a stunningly picturesque two-shot of Viggo Mortensen and Viilbjørk Malling Agger.  The two sit side-by-side, Agger facing the camera and Mortensen with his back to the lens, discussing her desire to own a dog.  The entire conversation plays out in that one shot, but it works.  The colors are so vibrant, the topic of conversation is relatable and their affection for one another is palpable as well.  Unfortunately, that’s the only time the performances and the beautiful backdrop can carry the minimal amount of coverage and sluggish pace.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST Digital HD Edition Is a Worthy Addition to Your Digital Catalog

by     Posted 25 days ago

x-men-days-of-future-past-digital-edition

In the near future, our world will undergo two drastic changes: firstly, mutants will be hunted to near extinction, and secondly, everyone will download movies to watch in Digital HD.  The heroes of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past do their best to prevent that first change from happening, but the excellent audio/visual quality of the film’s digital edition will help to ensure that second change still takes place.  Let’s be honest, it’s for the best.  Boasting a clear, crisp picture that is indistinguishable from watching a Blu-ray, along with instant access to special features and behind-the-scenes bonuses, it’s quite apparent that Digital HD downloads are the way of the future.  Hit the jump for my X-Men: Days of Future Past review in this particularly convenient format.

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT REVIEW | NYFF 2014

by     Posted 26 days ago

two-days-one-night-slice

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne pose a number of very intriguing questions in their New York Film Festival entry, Two Days, One Night.  If you had to choose between getting a raise and laying off a colleague, which would you go for?  And what if you were that colleague?  Would you fight for your job even after being betrayed by your co-workers?  Those are the predicaments that the characters in the film face and while they are engaging to a point, the execution feels frustratingly lifeless, depressing and repetitive – although that’s likely the point.

INHERENT VICE Review | NYFF 2014

by     Posted 27 days ago

inherent-vice-josh-brolin-joaquin-phoenix-slice

After the New York Film Festival screening of Inherent Vice, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson and a good deal of his cast took the stage for a brief Q&A.  At one point, Anderson discussed Howard HawksThe Big Sleep and noted, “I saw The Big Sleep and it made me realize, I could not follow any of it and it didn’t matter because I just wanted to see what was gonna happen next.”  Anderson does manage to achieve that to a degree in Inherent Vice, but it winds up making the film even more of a disappointment because what happens next is rarely satisfying.

GONE GIRL Review

by     Posted 29 days ago

gone-girl-review

There’s nothing that makes us as emotionally blind as love.  Because we crave is so badly, we’re willing to distort reality and distort others so that they meet our needs.  And when the veil lifts and the truth is exposed, everything breaks apart.  Our emotions can surpass hate.  At least hate is outright rejection.  David Fincher‘s Gone Girl is a vicious, nasty, and bitingly funny look at anti-love.  It’s a dark, twisted, borderline celebration of how deluded people can be in what they demand of others be it morally, emotionally, or truthfully.  Perhaps Fincher’s most cold, pitiless, and acerbic movie to date, Gone Girl is not without its flaws, but even those flaws serve this bitter, captivating, knives-out picture of marriage as a violent crime.

LEFT BEHIND Review

by     Posted 29 days ago

left-behind-review

I am not a Christian, and I never thought Left Behind would ever convert me or appeal to my faith, but I hoped I could at least admire the courage of its convictions.  Instead, Vic Armstrong‘s adaptation of the best selling novel uses Christianity as nothing more than a ham-fisted plot point in a laughably cheap-looking movie that isn’t reaching movie theaters because of the source material or the premise.  The movie doesn’t exist by God’s will.  Left Behind exists because, God willing, people might go see Nicolas Cage in a religious picture that’s not all that interested in religion.

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN Review

by     Posted 30 days ago

men-women-and-children-review

[This is a re-post of my review from the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.  Men, Women & Children opens today in limited release.]

It’s comforting to view the Internet as a force. Things existed one way, the Internet came along, completely changed everything, and now—for better or worse—those things are barely recognizable. We’re all looking down, clacking into our smart phones, so the Internet must have transformed us, right? It’s just so powerful, and we were caught in its wake. Current communication technology has changed us, but Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children wryly, wisely, and astutely observes our fears and insecurities long preceded our smartphones. The film is a sharp commentary on the decay of intimacy as we, isolated in the cosmos, have now become isolated from each other. Woven together with well-crafted storylines, sharp performances, and convincing drama, Reitman’s latest film mostly avoids being a cautionary tale and instead provides an insightful look on how online communication changes our relationships but doesn’t define our lives.

Click Here