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Friday, June 24, 2011

Gangs of New York

Rating: ★★★★

They're about to literally stomp the yard.

The critical divide over this film is astounding, even after almost ten years since it was released. The general consensus seems to be "it's an excellent film, but a touch unnecessary". I can understand that, and in some ways I'm inclined to agree. But, when reviewing a film, it's important to not think of it in an existential way (unless, of course, it requires that). What the film is, regardless of its necessity, is a sprawling epic and a beautifully told story. Filled with large characters and passionate direction. In some ways, it's a masterpiece. In other ways, it's just a damn good film.

Most people understand the word 'masterpiece' as being the singular pinnacle of an artist's career. I've always understood it to mean a piece of work that reflects the artist being at the top of their game. And by that definition, Martin Scorsese's career is loaded with masterpieces. So much so that the standard of 'masterpiece' becomes a bit higher for him. Gangs of New York, as Roger Ebert once remarked (and I'm saying this here because I've agreed with him for almost ten years now), would have been any other director's masterpiece. But in a filmography that contains Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence, etc.... it falls just short. A towering achievement, nevertheless, but not 'his masterpiece'.

More after the cut --

Monday, June 20, 2011

Super 8

Rating: ★★★★

Taking lessons from JJ Abrams

I'd call it the best Spielberg movie never made, but his role as a producer limits the truth of that statement. His signature is all over the film, especially in terms of the craft. But, I think that has more to do with J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek, etc.) than anything else. Super 8 is most definitely a love letter to Steven Spielberg, and if the multiple shots of people looking just slightly off camera, the musical cues, and the treatment of the action is any indication, Abrams is most definitely in love. I've heard the film referred to as Stand By Me meets ET meets The Goonies, but... adding The Goonies to that list sort of insults the film. I say this, because I've always hated The Goonies, and I always will. But, that's for another post. 

More after the cut--

The Ballad of Jack and Rose

Rating: ★★

Another argument for the dangers of home schooling.

The Ballad of Jack and Rose furthers my argument that if The Parent Trap had only been about one child, it would have been a psychological drama. Haley Mills of course never had the near clinical sense of vacancy that Camilla Belle has as an actress. That isn't a knock on Belle, merely an observation - this character seems perfectly tailored to her abilities as a young actress. She's wonderful here, in ways that she isn't in other things. Of course, comparing this film to, oh... 10,000 BC is a bit like comparing this film to The Parent Trap. This is a film that deals with deep emotional issues, and some oddly specific parts of human nature - yet, it never manages to go as deep as it might suggest. And the film's director, Rebecca Miller (daughter of The Crucible's playwright Arthur Miller, and also Daniel Day-Lewis' wife), might not have been ready to delve into the story she presented. 

More after the cut--

The Adjustment Bureau, Unknown, and Others on DVD This Week

Mad Men returns 2012. Without Anthony Mackie.

On DVD this week, five films that require a little bit of an introduction. Only because they've seem to slip from the forefront of interest. The Adjustment Bureau, still one of the year's best films, almost seven months in; Cedar Rapids, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules, Unknown,  and The Eagle. Remember those?

No? Okay, well, don't feel bad. I do, and I'm here to help. Hell, I've reviewed two of them. And they're my recommendations for the week. Let's get down to brass tacks, shall we?

More after the cut--

Sunday, June 19, 2011

There Will Be Blood

Rating: ★★★★

I drink your milkshake.

If Daniel Day-Lewis tells you he’s a Mohican Indian, you believe him. If he tells you he has cerebral palsy and can only use his left foot, you believe him. And if he tells you he’s an oil man, you will agree. He’s taken much criticism in his wild approaches to method acting, but I’ve often said in his defense - yes, the journey might be outlandish, but it’s all about what’s on screen. It’s the performance, not just the preparation.

There Will Be Blood is a dark comedy, in the same way that Lars Von Trier’s Dogville is; it is sound and furious, satirizing nothing. A rare period piece that feels lifted from its implied period, rather than feeling filmed in 2007, the film takes place between 1898 and 1927. I’m always pleased when a period film manages not to suffer from what I call ‘Yesterday Syndrome’. The film has an early American, as well as an oily and slick, feel. Paul Thomas Anderson’s screenplay is derived from only pieces of Upton Sinclair’s novel “Oil!”

More after the cut --

Happy Father's Day.

Awful movie, but it's what the "father's day movie" Google search gave me. 

In celebration of this honored day, and as an excuse to be too busy to go shopping for ties and golf balls, I've compiled a list of the five best, and five worst, movie fathers of all time.

From Atticus Finch to Anakin Skywalker, here we go.

More after the cut --


Rating: ★★★★

If you're looking for a film that sums itself up, or answers the tough questions it proposes, this isn't the film for you. Consider it to be a less vacuous version of The Lovely Bones - but, without a realization that there's some form of God or Heaven. And it's that supreme grounding of reality that keeps Trust from being almost too much to handle. If the film had taken any other route, it would have been exploitative of its drama and lead actress, and deaf to the complaints it would gather. Thankfully, David Schwimmer makes a multitude of brave decisions in his direction of the film - the bravest of which, I fully believe, is showing the villain's face. He's real - and you probably know someone exactly like him. That's the real terror. 

More after the cut--