Thursday, January 30, 2014

1959 - Dallas Buyer's Club

When I normally think about Matthew McConaughey I picture him on a poster with his shirt off.  So this is quite the change for me, and a welcome one at that.  I haven't gotten into True Detective yet, so this next stage McCanaughey is a breath of fresh air.  His character storms into the movie in such a great way - he's such a perfect prick and has one of the best character arcs an actor can ask for in a film.  For those who don't know, this film takes place that the height of the AIDS crisis.  It's about a straight man (homophobic) who comes down with the virus, and in an effort to save himself, becomes a savior for a lot of other people.
Jared Leto gives one of my favorite performances of his, and the two make a terrific pair.  I have to admit that I caught this on a whim because I had time to see something and picked between it and some other Oscar contenders - and I'm glad I did.  It's still in the theatres.  I don't think it's a Best Picture film, but the acting nod could easily go to Matthew for this one.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

1958 - American Hustle

I’ve heard a variety of things about this, and it was on my list to see but I wanted to make sure I caught it in the theatres.  Can I just admit to something out of the gate?  I love Amy Adams.  The intro to their characters (her and Christian Bale) with the duelling V/O as we watch them fall in love (and fall in love with them by proxy) is such an amazing and perfect set-up to get us into this story.  Bale is an amazing anti-hero.  There’s a long portion of the film where you’re not sure if you should be rooting for him or Cooper, and that’s a delightful way to experience a film like this.  The film is hard to describe - it’s essentially about two con artists who get forced to work with the FBI, and then it becomes a cat and mouse game of whose playing who.  The film is full of amazing performances by the previously mentioned, but also Louis CK has a fun little part, and Jennifer Laurence obliterates every single scene she’s in - she’s fantastic and worth all the praise.  

I think this film has been criticized as David O. Russell trying to be Scorcese, but I didn’t care.  I loved the feel of the film, and despite it feeling a bit long by the end, I really enjoyed it.  I love that it doesn’t paint the world as black and white.  The cast is in fine form.  It’s fun, it’s sexy, it’s a film well worth seeing.  It’s not going to change your life or the way you look at the world, but it’ll entertain you - or so I hope.  I liked it a lot and it could very well be my favourite David O. Russell film (though I’ve yet to see The Fighter).  Check it out pre-Oscars if you can!

1957 - Spring Breakers

I’d been warned by enough people that this was an odd little film, perhaps viewed best whilst high, but I voyaged into it sober.  It’s such an interesting little flick.  Essentially it’s about a bunch of young women who can’t afford to go off on spring break so they rob a little restaurant with water guns, and then when they get to their destination soon find themselves in the company of a true bad-ass.  And that bad-ass is played by James Franco in what seems like the son of Drexel Spivey, the Gary Oldman character from True Romance.  

The film is meant to be a bit of a trip, mostly played out in a dreamlike montage.  Korine does some interesting thing with voice-over, using the same piece to juxtapose different things.  It feels like it’s meant to be a satire, but the fear is young women see this and actually get excited by the goings-on.  Or maybe I’m just turning into a grumpy old bastard.  Anyway, it’s on Netflix, so if you missed it in theatres and were curious to see it, it’s pretty available.  Worth a gander!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

1956 - Inside Llewyn Davis

Before throwing down my own thoughts I read some awesomely varied reviews - people that love and hate the film.  I'm in the former category.  I'm not a Coen apologist - I hated Ladykillers, and I was meh on A Serious Man.  Everything else has been enjoyable for me, and many of them are among my favourite films.  Say what you will about the Coens - they've got a distinct voice, and in this particular film they know exactly how to use it.  In lesser hands a film like this would meander and be boring as shit.  If you described the plot to anyone I'm sure it would turn them off seeing the film (to be fair - there isn't much of a plot - that's not what this one is about) but it's the execution here and it gets top marks.  We spend time trying to get inside of the main character, and see what makes him tick, see what others see in him, why he annoys others (Carey Mulligan is goddamn fantastic here, every time she emphasizes a word here it makes me smile, and John Goodman's mocking of Lewis' genre of music of fantastic).  This is a film that's purely about the journey with little to no thought about the destination.  If you like the Coens and you like folk music - this one is a no brainer (I'd be remiss to not mention a sequence in the middle featuring Oscar Isaac recording a song with Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver that is comedy gold.  So delightful.).  I wasn't familiar with Isaac as an actor before but he's on my radar big time.
Not everyone will love this film - some will dislike it immensely.  As mentioned, I'm of the former mentality.  Give it a whirl yourselves!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

1955 - It's Kind of a Funny Story

I've been meaning to check this out since it was released - which feels like forever ago now.  I really love Keir Gilchrist, and this is a role that's perfect for him as the teenager who checks himself into a mental health clinic - and because the youth ward is closed, he gets hold up with the adults.
The film has a really lovely sense of tone and style and fun and there's some nice little fantastic moments of fantasy that play perfectly within the idea of the character and his world.  It doesn't take itself too seriously and if I'm honest there's times where that works nicely for it, but also against it in terms of predictability.  That said, I think this is the exact kind of film that today's youth should be seeing.  It's one of those "you are not alone" type films - which is exactly the message that's crucial at that age, but it doesn't do it in a way that's pandering.  It's honest.  I dug it.  If you haven't see it, it is on Netflix - give it a whirl.

1954 - Her

It's hard to write about a film like this.  One of my favorite films, especially in the relationship variety is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and this is the closest I've seen to that since.  Not to compare the two just because they both have outside-the-box concepts - but because they use them to put a spotlight on relationships in a really meaningful way.  This one, for those who don't know, is about a man in the near future who falls in love with his computer/phone's operating system. 
There's a moment in the middle of the film where Phoenix's character says that he thinks he's already felt everything he's ever going to feel - and it hit me like a ton of bricks and made me wonder if I'd experienced that as well.  It's a scary thing to think that you're cut off from feeling anything new.  This film is full of thoughtful commentaries on life like that - as well as "The past is a story we tell ourselves."  I'm a sucker for that kind of shit.
What Jonze does really well here is milk the concept about as much as it can be - which he does equally in other high-concept films he's done.  If I have a complaint about this film is I did feel that it went on a bit longer than needed - I went from being lost inside of this beautiful world and story and then suddenly was aware that it didn't feel like it was building to something.  That aside, I still loved this story.  It's without a doubt my favorite Phoenix performance.  Voice wise Scarlet Johanson is a perfect choice - she's playful and sexy and has all the other human qualities we need for the role as well.  I guess I wondered if it wouldn't have been different though with the voice of an unknown actor, where I wasn't able to picture their face the way I was here.  I guess I'll never know.
I was excited to see this nominated for Best Picture, it deserves that kind of attention.  It's still in cinemas - so please - if you like good solid love stories this is one that you need to see.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

1953 - The World's End

I missed this one in the cinema and got it for xmas and decided to make it my birthday movie!  I’m a fan of the filmmaking team of Wright/Pegg/Frost.  I still think I’d rank Shaun of the Dead as the height of this “trilogy” and that this and “Hot Fuzz” are more-or-less tied for second.  For those who don’t know the film is about a pub crawl that happens to coincide with a sort-of alien invasion.  
As an action-comedy director I can’t think of anyone who holds a candle to Edgar Wright.  His films skip right along, and they are filled with fantastic and fun action.  There’s an amazing sequence in here wherein the group is surrounded and fighting the “blanks” as they’re called all the while Simon Pegg continues to try and finish his pint.  It’s comedy gold.  The film is full of that.  Frost and Pegg again show why they’re such a solid team here and really play to the emotions when needed.  Simon is in fantastically fine form here.  

If I have a complaint it’s that the epilogue just feels… strange, not sure that’s the route I would have taken it - though I suppose it works and makes sense.  At any rate I’m not going to spoil it.  If you’ve seen the other films from this team then you’ll likely enjoy this one too!

1952 - Philomena

I saw this on the weekend with my lovely wife - she doesn't get to see as many films as I do and so it was her turn to choose and I was really impressed with her selection - I hadn't even heard of this film to begin with, but I'm a big fan of Steve Coogan and I like Judi Dench well enough.
There's this ridiculous poster for the film that's bright yellow and makes it look like a romp.  What a bizarre marketing move.  This is a film about a woman who, in her youth, got pregnant and sent off to live with nuns to have her baby, and then forced into labor while they raised her child and she was given an hour a day to bond with him - then three years later - the child is "adopted" by a family and she has no chance to know what's to happen to him.  That's the back story.  We start the story on the 50th birthday of her son, and learn that she's never spoken of him to the people currently in her life, including her daughter.  They get in touch with Steve Coogan who is a former journalist - currently an on-the-outs politician - who thinks the story is a mere puff-piece human interest story that he could write in his sleep, but as the details keep coming he realizes that there's a lot more to the story.
Stephen Frears is kind of a master of this kind of film.  It's funny in that wonderfully dry British sense, but it's also a bit of a tear-jerker in the real sense - not manipulative - it makes you really feel, and really care, and feel angry and sad when all the layers pull back.
It's still in theatres but doesn't seem to be mentioned anywhere, which is a shame.  It's a damn fine little film.  Give it a shot if you can find it!