Category: Reviews

On the Waterfront

Overview:  A former boxer turned dock worker struggles with his involvement in a mob’s control of his community. Columbia Pictures; 1954; 118 Minutes. Everything Else:  Addressed honestly, the supporting structures set in place within On the Waterfront are most accurately measured somewhere between “standard” and “pretty good.”  The narrative of the working class heroes struggling against oppressive corrupt powers was not a fresh one then and it certainly isn’t fresh now.  The romantic pursuit feels obligatory.  Karl Malden and Eva Marie Saint (Father Baron and Edie Doyle) contribute performances that strengthen these two narrative layers.  But even at their...

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Funny Games (2007)

Overview:  Two seemingly normal young boys torture a family at their vacation home.  Warner Independent Pictures; 2007; Rated R; 111 Minutes. A Condescending Remake:  Funny Games (2007) is a near shot-by-shot remake from Michael Haneke, a replication of his own Austrian film from ten years earlier, wherein only the cast and language have been replaced.  Reportedly, the decision to re-film the movie in English was a product of Haneke’s having little faith that American audiences would watch or understand the original. The Strong Points:  There is currently no one better at fighting for survival on the screen than Naomi...

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The Social Network

Overview: During his time as a student at Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking website that would become known as Facebook. Columbia Pictures; 2010; Rated PG-13; 120 Minutes. The Opening Scenes: The Social Network opens with a brilliant five minute scene of dialogue at a bar between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). The two engage in a quick, back and forth conversation that illuminates everything the viewer needs to know about Zuckerberg. He is socially awkward with a genius intellect, woefully unaware of Albright’s feelings, and dismissive of her status and education....

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Godzilla (1998)

 Overview: The makers of Independence Day take a huge shit on a franchise. Tristar Pictures. 1998. PG-13. 139 minutes. Little More Overview: This fucking movie. Let me tell you, friends, in life you face obstacles and ordeals. That’s natural. But every once in a while, something comes along that just decides to ruin everything good about your childhood. Enter Godzilla (1998). The movie made to just hurt everyone’s feelings. The Few and Far Between Good Points: Godzilla is such an action fest with no substance that I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Bay jerks off to it every night...

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Submarine

Overview: Submarine, the debut of British director Richard Ayoade, follows 15 year old Oliver Tate’s adolescent experiences living in Wales. Optimum Releasing/The Weinstein Company; 2010; Rated R; 98 Minutes. The Comedy: Submarine is downright laugh-out-loud funny. Craig Roberts, in his feature film debut, plays Oliver Tate with a natural comedic deadpan cleverness. Tate narrates most of his story and his quips and observations will leave viewers chuckling. Paddy Considine also provides an amusing turn as Graham Purvis, a bizarre, mulleted, new-age weirdo who has a history with Oliver’s mother. Editing and Score: The film also uses camera and editing...

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Skyfall

Overview: James Bond must track down a mysterious cyber terrorist who seeks revenge against MI6 and M. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Columbia Pictures; 2012; Rated PG-13; 143 Minutes. 007 Opening: Skyfall opens in true James Bond fashion. The trademark 007 musical riff kicks in and Bond (Daniel Craig) appears, mid-espionage. Bond chases his mark on foot, in a vehicle, on a motorbike across the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar, and finally on top of a moving train through the Turkish countryside. All the action is well crafted and realistic, with exceptional stunt work and cinematography. At the close of the sequence Bond falls...

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The Darjeeling Limited

Overview: Three brothers gather in India to ride a train one year after their father’s death. Indian Paintbrush/Fox Searchlight Pictures; 2007; Rated R; 91 Minutes That’s My Train: Having expanded his scope with each passing film, Wes Anderson provides here a deeply personal tale of brotherhood. Family is well fed through the Wes Anderson anthology of films, but none of his other works have made the onscreen family conflict so barbaric or deeply affecting. Each brother arrives from different parts of the world, wearing the markings of tough times. Love loss, grieving, drug use, and depression have left Francis,...

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Godzilla (1954)

Overview: The classic giant monster raids Tokyo. Toho.  1954. Rated PG. 96 minutes Good: The original depiction of the legendary King of all Monsters is a deep and emotional tale. The acting is sound and the narrative, as dark as it is, stands the test of time. Godzilla, the monster himself, can be viewed as an analog for atomic warfare and testing. And while the portrayal of the beast is commonly remembered as villainous, this movie also frames him as a victim of said experiments, and in so being, a tragic character. The monster is also an event; his...

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The 25th Hour

Overview: A convicted drug dealer lives out his last 24 hours of freedom before serving a seven year drug sentence.  Touchstone Pictures; 2002; Rated R; 135 Minutes. A Crossroads of Career Bests:  This film serves as the intersection for two top artists who are in peak form.  With apologies to Do the Right Thing, The 25th Hour is Spike Lee’s purest and most impressive film effort.  This is due in part to Edward Norton, who, as Monty Brogan, gives a career best performance, and any fan of 21st Century film knows that that is no small statement.  Rarely is...

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Where the Wild Things Are

Overview: Spike Jonze’s unexpected take on Maurice Sendak’s classic childhood book. Warner Brothers; 2009; PG-13; 101 Minutes. Some Cinematic Highlights (A Formality):  Jim Henson’s Creature Shop preserves and enhances the traditional look of the Wild Things. Jonze collaborated with screenwriter Dave Eggers on a script that assigns the Wild Things empathetic personalities (where before there was just howling and gnashing teeth).  Max Records was born (and named) for the role.  An impressive list of vocal talents, including James Gandolfini, Chris Cooper, and Catherine O’Hara add even more dimension to our monsters.  The soundtrack is as organic a marriage of...

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The Artist (2011)

Overview: The fall of a charming silent movie star and the rise a young beautiful dancer intersect at a crossroads in movie history. Warner Bros. (France)/Weinstein; 2011 Rated PG-13; 100 Minutes. The Good: Astonishingly, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo exemplify the era of the film’s focus.  As George Valentine and Peppy Miller (even their names throwback to an era of stylized charm), the two screen talents excel under the unique demands of a film format that most would have thought to be eight decades out of practice.  Dujardin’s facial expressions, from his delightful smile to his contagious melancholy, are...

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Cabin in the Woods

Overview:  Five friends visit a remote cabin and… the rest should be pretty predictable, right?  Lionsgate; 2012; Rated R; 95 Minutes. The Expected:  Whedonites love chit chat. The script penned by Whedon with director and disciple Drew Godard provides… well, it provides words.  Like all of Whedon’s characters, this doomed group does a lot of talking, particularly for a horror movie (or a horror movie spoof?  We’ll get to that later), and whether talking is a fair substitute for character development might be a matter of personal taste.  The Good:  Unsubtle homages come in rapid succession.  There is a giddy sense of nostalgia evident here, and it is most distinct in the betting room scenes, where Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford push the meta-theatrical limit, scribbling over whiteboards that tease us with possibility. The creature work is a brilliant mishmash of CGI, costume, and make-up, cheesy where it needs to be, precise when the reference requires it.  The masked maniac, the werewolf, the zombie, the zombie redneck torture family (different things), Kevin, the merman (oh god, the merman), the giant snake.  For adults, none of these monsters, mutants, or murderers will be scary, but they are a great reminder of having once been scared.  Here Comes Mr. Academic Buzzkill:  I’m uncertain about Cabin in the Woods‘ intentions. Is this film essay a construction of celebration, satire, or diagnosis?  If...

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Shotgun Stories

Overview:  Tensions between two sets of half-brothers explode into a tragic family feud. International Film Circuit; 2007; Rated PG-13; 92 minutes. From the Beginning: From the very first minute, we are deafened by the quiet.  It’s in the distressed position of that long body.  That fatigued breathing.The walls of the house too low for the curtains—a woman’s touch.  The flip of the cards onto the nightstand.  The empty drawers.  The buckshot scars on his back.  This is a movie about a particular type of mean-ness. Not everyone has lived in or around places like this, but most of us...

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The Truman Show

Overview:  An insurance salesman discovers his entire life has been presented to the world as a 24/7 television program. Paramount; 1998;  Rated PG; 103 Minutes Contextualization:  The 1990s marked an interesting moment in movie history.  Studios realized the full potential of movies as magic moneymaking machines. This pre-dated the internet hitting its full potential as a chaotic war machine capable of levelling the democratic cultural battlefield.   Viewership was limited to a single voting method—the box office.  So the flood of funding produced, with few deviations, a string of safe-bet and formulaic genre exercises and what felt like monthly epics...

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Titanic (1997)

Overview: James Cameron’s follows the fictional courtship of young Jack and Rose as they illustrate all of the romantic clichés (the straight-laced social climber vs. the free spirit, the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, the star-crossed teens) during their short lived journey upon the fateful 1912 North Atlantic liner ship .  20th Century Fox & Paramount; 1997; PG-13; 194 Minutes. The Good: Alright, I’ll put it in print.  This movie is pretty impressive start to finish.  Cameron has always been at the forefront of movie special effects, and this disaster picture is no exception.  What is...

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