Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday's Top 5... Buddy Cops

#5: Lee & Carter, Rush Hour franchise

The Rush Hour movies may not be high art, but given how seldom actors of color are given the opportunity to headline films, a franchise anchored by two is refreshing. Plus, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker have great chemistry as the mismatched pair.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: Punch Drunk Love (2002)

* * * 1/2

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson

Punch Drunk Love is an anomaly in writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's career. For one thing, it's about half the length of his other films (with the exception of Hard Eight). For another, it's imbued with the kind of quirky sensibility that feels more at home in the work of an Anderson contemporary like Spike Jonze. It's a fascinating little palate cleanser coming between the flashy, sprawling cast productions of Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and the more reserved and singularly focused There Will Be Blood and The Master. It's also an interesting take on star Adam Sandler's "angry man" persona.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: Mud (2013)

* * *

Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon

Two southern boys, navigating the rough terrain between childhood and adulthood, trying to break away, even if only temporarily, from home lives that leave something to be desired, and setting off on adventures that expose them to danger. You might call them Tom and Huck, but in Mud writer/director Jeff Nichols calls them Ellis and Neckbone. As an adventure yarn slash romantic vision of the unique freedoms of adolescence, it’s fairly good. As an entry in Matthew McConaughey’s recent career renaissance, it’s the best yet – at least until Dallas Buyers Club and The Wolf of Wall Street hit screens.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Before Midnight (2013)

* * * *

Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Deply

The tragedy of The Great Gatsby (the novel, at any rate; I can’t comment on any of the films) is that Gatsby spends most of his adult life trying to recapture something which he doesn’t realize he already destroyed by capturing it in the first place. His relationship with Daisy is never more perfect than in that moment before it is consummated, because until that moment it’s ideal – there are nothing but possibilities; it can be anything. Afterwards reality sets in, the relationship is out of Gatsby’s head, and it takes a course he couldn’t have predicted. This is a long way of saying that part of the reason why the relationship of Jesse and Celine – the couple at the centre of Richard Linklater’s Before movies – can be seen as one of romantic ideal is that for two films it existed in a transitory space. It’s a relationship that at once is and isn’t. Now, with Before Midnight, Linklater and stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy give us a view of the relationship that definitely is, one which no longer exists as a romantic ideal, but instead as a sometimes painful reality. It’s a harder movie than many viewers will want it to be, but it’s still great.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

21st Century Essentials: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

All eras have works of art that are fundamental to our understanding of not only the craft itself, but the culture from which it was created. The 21st century is still nascent, but it isn't too early to start creating a canon that demonstrates the heights to which film as an artform has reached since the year 2000. These are the essential films:

Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi
Country: Taiwan

To watch Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is to see a masterclass in film craftsmanship. Everything comes together beautifully in this film – the photography is gorgeous, making use of a beautiful color pallet, the score perfectly complements the action, the fight choreography is amazing, and the acting (anchored by Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh) is excellent. The film looks like a work of art but, more importantly, the strength of its storytelling gives it a timelessness that few films can claim.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday's Top 5... Zombie Slayers

#5: The Planet Terror Crew

Yeah, the deck is stacked in their favor - after all, one of them has a friggin' gun for a leg with a grenade launcher attachment - but they still do a damn fine job killing zombies. Even if they don't all survive, they put up a pretty decent fight right up to the end.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: Bachelorette (2012)

* * *
Director: Leslye Headland
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isle Fisher, Rebel Wilson

Like a more foul-tempered cousin to Bridesmaids, Leslye Headland's Bachelorette comes out with both guns blazing. Telling the tale of three terrible people playing bridesmaid to the high school friend that they all kind of hate, Bachelorette is as acid as Bridesmaids is sweet - at least until it starts to lose its nerve and allows itself to end with hugs and dancing. Up until then, though, it's a delightfully vicious piece of work that plays against the formula of female-centered comedy and delivers plenty of (admittedly evil) laughs.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: The Sapphires (2013)

* * *
Director: Wayne Blair
Starring: Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, Chris O'Dowd, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell

There are a number of ways with which to judge the success of a film, the most common being according to the skill the film displays, and the feelings a film inspires. In great films, those two threads often dovetail; in good films you sometimes end up with one or the other, either a film that is technically proficient but leaves you cold, or a film that leaves you feeling good despite its technical shortcomings. Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires is the latter, a somewhat messy piece of work that ultimately succeeds on its finely tuned crowd pleasing instincts, and an abundance of charm.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Upstream Color (2013)

* * * *
Director: Shane Carruth
Starring: Amy Seimetz, Jeff Carruth

Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color is less the kind of movie that you watch and more the kind of movie that you experience. It’s a work that isn’t so much about the story – though the narrative itself is dense and rewards multiple viewings – but about the sensory reaction to it. It isn’t, by any means, an “easy” film but the skill behind it matches its ambitions, which helps keep it from drifting into the realm of pretention. Difficult as it may be, Upstream Color is an absolutely enthralling film that doesn’t demand multiple viewings so much as it seduces the viewer into returning time and again to try to unravel its mysteries.