Friday, January 3, 2014

2013, the bread and butter: Part II of II



I firmly believe that had this been a big studio horror film, this film would take the reigns from SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY as the next great horror franchise. Jeffrey Combs plays an eccentric millionare that collects a group of sad sack charity cases once a year for dinner where he offers them the monetary solution to all their problems. But they must play along with his games and there can only be one winner. What follows is a series of Would You Rather implements of torture and pain that very often gives you the opportunity to pass it on to your neighbor or let you go through with it yourself. In a world where CABIN IN THE WOODS has effectively retired horror, a film that doesn’t give in to clich√© and attempts to unfold events on it’s own merit is sadly a rare commodity.


The politics of the man are not what this movie is ultimately about, but the main success of this documentary is in the way it tells the story about one of the most crucial times of modern day New York City. It’s edited to set the tone and sounds and feel of a city steeped in crime and poverty and over the course of 40 years became a slick and clean tourist Mecca. The burden of being responsible for the city in such a turbulent time is highlighted rather intensely, and the city’s new chapter is heralded in as the city’s former shepards fade into the background. Koch died the day this movie came out, giving the final scene, a bridge being named after him and it being his seemingly proudest moment as The Only Living Boy In New York played put such a pretty cap on what seemed to be a very solitary life.

Another Best Actress contender, Shailene Woodley comes to fucking play in this. Miles Teller plays an alcoholic high schooler that accidentally gets involved with the sweet and shy Woodley and a relationship blossoms. Her first. Teller seems to open up from the inside out as she becomes a bigger part of his life and as he is willing to let that be so. Teller’s future starts to unravel in front of him as he is unable to handle his roots and his current place in life and while he keeps expecting to add a break up her dumping him on the list, she is only there for him more and more as he spirals down. Even in one intense moment where you realize this isn’t a crush, and this isn’t a clingy girl playing house, that she is in love with him completely and he doesn’t even know how to process such a thing when everything else in his life seems doomed to fail. Woodley pierces your heart with sincerity with just a glance, leaving behind her teenage melodrama roots in the process. It’s a shame she’s been snagged to be another heroine for some limp dick teen fiction book series franchise because she should actually continue to play real human beings.


Emma Stone is a young cave girl in the last line of cave people dwelling in a particular prehistoric valley. Her family stayed that way by holing up in the dark, scrunched in a rock, never letting danger find them. But she is too curious about the outside world, and when an earthquake destroys their home, the head of the tribe, Nicolas Cage must find them new shelter. Such a perfect cast with Catherine Keener as the mom and Clark Duke as the son and Cloris Leachman as the grandma. Mixed with amazing action sequences, clever production design and a 3D presentation actually worth the surcharge, THE CROODS thrives on imagination and discovery with colorful bursts of life and hilarity. The director of LILO & STITCH and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON shouldn’t be expected of anything less.


Edgar Wright is one of the best filmmakers of our time. Nothing is accomplished without a thick, rich layer of thought and care to every frame of his movies. Every movement or line has a meaning and every scene and character has a place and a purpose. This tale of trying to recreate youthful anarchy and ending up a descent into alcoholism is all over the map, but carefully strung more tightly together with every passing moment. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost deliver the performances of their careers. It’s a real feat how different their trilogy characters are and the relationships they have together work, almost going full circle in this. The music and action and top notch cast make this movie not only a must see, but a must see several times. A movie that is actually several movies, a different one each time you see it.


This movie nails it. A young boy, unimpressed by the way his snide father is raising him, decides to convince his friends to help him build a house in the woods to live in permanently. They survive off the land (with a Boston Market nearby) and answer to no one but themselves, but the freedom doesn’t change you. And sooner or later their fates become self fulfilling prophecies and the future that they were trying to avoid comes back to finally be faced. First time filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts creates his own style that is painfully funny, refreshing and introduces us to a great cast of young men that will hopefully have legit careers after this. Keeps the young rebellious heart in us strong.


Another 3 hour epic, this time subtitled and the most comprehensive love story I’ve ever seen on screen. With the long runtime, it uses the time it has with us wisely as it shows you the meeting of these two girls and how their relationship grows at a realistic yet still intriguing space. You’re there for everything. And I mean everything. There is a 15 minute hardcore sex scene that follows an intensely steady courtship that just erupts all over their sheets. It earns the scene. It gets your blood charged for their honeymoon phase and the subsequent sex scenes are just as appropriately proportionate to where they are in the relationship. There is a moment in this movie they do the meet the parents thing over dinner and any movie would have this be an opportunity for comedy or awkwardness but it taught me something so substantial about letting your partner into your life completely and without apology that was even more intense for me to handle than the sex scenes. My robot insides started to discharge a salty substance and I saw things that I didn’t bother to see in my own life. Of course, after all of the happily ever after comes routine. And sometimes hurt. And sometimes you make mistakes in the fleeting moments of doubt that you spend a lifetime wishing you could take back. For as long as we sit there and are with them, there is a moment in this movie that marks for the first time, exactly how much time has passed as all of this has been going on and it was so utterly heartbreaking and bleak to me that I couldn’t help but cry. At a passing line. The intensity of that lmost final scene then double downs and by the time the credits roll I felt like I had been in serious relationship and needed some serious me time. Fantastic performances by the female leads and not just one of the best movie of the year, but one of the best movies I’ve probably ever experienced. Keyword experience.


Richard Curtis, co-creator of Mr. Bean and writer/director of LOVE ACTUALLY owns beach front property in my heart and has a summer home on my funny bone. He has crafted a story here that I fear was improperly marketed as a run of the mill geek gets girl through magic premise but it’s far from actually being that. It’s not even the story of using super natural powers for gain. It’s used to get perspective. And it’s a romantic relationship at the center, it’s an entire lifetime. Rachel McAdams does deserve all the praise and paychecks though. There is something so undeniably genuine about her. Every smile and every stumble is TOO legit and Bill Nighy gets the chance to do some meaty stuff here. But Brendan Gleeson’s son Domhnall gets his feature debut here and does excellent. I was so taken by this movie’s sense of responsibility to the story when it came to time travel. It’s used in a rather conservative way that one might think would hold you back but it really amplifies the heart of what’s going on. LOVE ACTUALLY can seem a bit shallow at times, because it needs to serve so many stories at once. It works but Curtis focusing on just one story really blew me away. Also, there is a blonde bombshell in this that the movie trips in front of and apologizes as being “dreadfully sorry” as it accidentally drops it’s monocle in her cleavage. But the same blonde is in Wolf of Wall Street and really throws her against the wall for a good knackering. I just found it funny how British and American directors treated such beauty.


Having gone through my own parents divorce as a child (twice, it’s a good story), I know what it feels like to be in the middle of a dissolving relationship. I also know what it’s like to have my best interests completely ignored and what it was like to be shuffled off to two buildings you were supposed to call “home”, knowing full well you were pissing off the other parent by being there for any length of time. I think we might underestimate what a child can process in times like these. This movie is seen completely through the eyes of a little 7 year old girl and how she interprets her parent’s relationship ending. The parents hatred for each other becomes intense enough for to be used as a pawn and often too much a reminder of the other to be taken at all seriously. Maise’s parents find other people and they become part of Maisie’s life too. At first forcefully and out of necessity, but ultimately for her own good. And when the two people that care about her most, aren’t her parents and can be ripped from her life at any moment, the suspense builds and liquifys your insides unlike any movie you’ll see this year. It’s weird that we hemmed and hawed about that little girl in BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD for shouting some motivational slang or whatever the fuck and absolutely NO ONE is talking about Onata Aprile. Never have I seen a child actor deal with such loss and heartbreak as vividly as she did, and again, subtle. You know, like real life. I was at the edge of my seat all the way up to the credits rolling and I’m not sure I could take another emotional whallop like that of Maisie’s journey, but if it could open up your perspective and empathy to the lives of other people, it’s worth it.


There’s a lot I’ve already said about this movie. A whole 7 months worth of praise and recommendation. The story of a woman’s solitary journey to find the happiness within herself hit me harder than any movie I’ve seen since I was a teenager. Far from being their first film, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s script has the lean high impact bare bones whimsy that seems like the indulgence of a first time filmmaker. It’s got the youthful optimism running in it’s veins. There are many films like this, but this one is it’s own thing. An up and coming dancer in New York city is thrown into a spiral of self doubt when her best friend moves out of her apartment to be with her boyfriend. A relationship that’s becoming very serious very fast and Frances incomplete is not something that’s ready to function on her own. Needless to say, Greta Gerwig gives the performance of the year. One that never asks for sympathy. One that is always looking toward a positive outcome. I saw this movie 10 times in a theater and it didn’t even occur to me the first couple of times just how long Frances mills about. There is a feeling of loneliness and solitude while being surrounded by life that really strikes a chord with me. Her independence is unflattering and embarrassing at times, even though there is really no one around to judge it but herself. Others seem to succeed around her but she eventually realizes she has to define her own terms of success. It means a lot of letting go. Some dreams. Some parts of your life. Some regression and some hurt. And when she finally starts becoming comfortable with reality, the mania of her twenties calms down a bit. She sees the sky isn’t falling and as the clouds part a bit, she sees that the people she loves have always been there. Her person is still there for her. Maybe a little bit farther away, but she can still find her eyes across a crowded room.

- D

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