Quick Review : Love is Strange (2014)

IMDB Score –
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Ira Sachs
Starring – John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marissa Tomei, Charlie Tahan, Darren E. Burrows, Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez, and Chrstina Kirk

After Ben and George get married, George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place and look for cheaper housing — a situation that weighs heavily on all involved.

Today is Easter, and while I’m waiting for a succulent ham to enter my mouth, I’ve got a few words to say about this cute little movie. That’s right, it’s cute. I don’t care.

Love Is Strange is a little indie film from last year from writer/director Ira Sachs. The film features Lithgow and Molina as longtime partners who get married and immediately have their lives uprooted after the marriage. Molina works at a church as a music instructor and gets fired after the church finds out about the marriage, even though they knew of the relationship. This cause them to lose their apartment and have to spend time apart as they stay at their respected family members houses. The distance apart, and the drama at their temporary places of residence tests their love for each other in different ways.

I really liked this. Like I said before, it’s cute. That isn’t to say it’s a bunch of roses and happy endings. The film deals heavily on family, personal art and dreams, and age. Lithgow and Molina at first don’t have much chemistry, but as the film continues, their bond is very apparent. Both actors portray their characters with class and realism instead of stereotypical mannerisms that an older gay man may posses. Think the opposite of Christopher Plummer’s character in “Beginners”. I liked this better. It’s a subtle film that doesn’t put too much on the fact that they are gay, even though it’s basically the whole reason the film exists. The background story dealing with the family of Marissa Tomei’s character was a bit frustrating. The mother, played by Tomei, is a self centered bitch that farts out nice toasts about her uncle, played by Lithgow, and then seems to be annoyed by his existence when he has to stay at their place. The father is always absent or a ghost when present, and the son is a little shit, but young enough to get away with it. Their story is almost as important as the relationship between the two leads. It just pissed me off how much I hated them, especially the mother.

The film is well shot. I’ve been trying to find a still of one of the last scenes of the film were Ben and George are leaving a bar late at night. The streets are empty in what I presume to be the east village in NYC. They live on opposite ends of the city so at an intersection, one goes one way and the other another. The shot is stagnant and pretty as hell. I’ll try to find it and stick in in here. That being said, it’s a wonderfully made film.

It’s totally worth your attention. It’s a small, subtle, and ultimately heartbreaking film about love and what it all entails. Molina and Lithgow are fantastic in it and it’s pretty to look at.

4/5



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Quick Reviews! : The Imitation Game, Housebound, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and Old Joy

I’ve been busy getting ready for a move so I wasn’t able to give these films a dedicated full review. Here are some quick thoughts on each film.

If I didn’t see Selma this year, Benedict Cumberbatch would have been my lead performance of the year. He’s that good in it. You can tell how dedicated he is in portraying Alan Turing as graciously as he can and it showed. Sure Turing was a bit frustrating to work with, but the man was a genius and didn’t deserve to endure some of the hardships during the end of his life. Graham Moore, who charmed us all with his Oscar speech, deserved his moment in the spotlight after crafting an airtight and seemingly flawless screenplay. From the start to the finish the film runs effortlessly like one of Turing’s machine, turning and spinning on a heartbeat like rhythm. I can see why Morten Tyldum was nominated for an Oscar. This film is just so well put together. The score, the acting, the cinematography, and the writing are all free flowing and synchronized. The film reminded me a lot of A Beautiful Mind, both in subject matter and in storytelling. I didn’t really understand the Keira Knightley praise but it’s always nice to see Matthew Goode in stuff. I love watching him act. Good show.

4.5/5

New to Netflix, this New Zealand film from director Gerard Johnstone actually surprised me. I expected a serious horror film but what the film really excelled at was the sort of horror/humor that guys like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson gave us early in their careers. The film centers around a brat of a woman who gets in trouble trying to steal an ATM and has to be under house arrest for nine months in the house she grew up in. Stuff starts to happen that you would normally find in a movie like this but then the film takes a sharp right turn. The result is funny, original, fun, and occasionally disgusting. Give it a try if you like movies like Dead Alive of Evil Dead.

3/5

This Studio Ghibli film was recently nominated for Best Foreign Language film at this years Oscars. This is for good reason. The film is gorgeous. What seems to be colored pencil from time to time, Princess Kaguya’s beautifully animated story tells the tale of a girl born from a bamboo stalk that grows as fast as the plants she grew out of. Obviously there is some magical realism here, but that nuance is why I love Studio Ghibli films. This one was directed by Grave of the Fireflies director Isao Takahata, and features his best animation to date. Every scene leaps off the page in a colorful albeit very subtle display of animation. The simple story didn’t wow me as much as Ghibi’s other films, but its the kind of story that you can just sit back on a rainy day, like I did, and just take it all in. The music was also fantastic.

3.5/5

This was a bit of a slow watch. I’m a fan of Kelly Reichardt. I thought “Wendy and Lucy” and “Meeks Cutoff” were wonderful examples of what you can do with still images and slow burn story telling. Night Moves was a bit of a disappointment but after seeing that Old Joy was on Netflix, I decided to check it out. I didn’t realize a movie that has a run length of only 73 minutes could drag so long. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like the film. It was just the opposite of entertaining. Instead, it was a film that featured two friends going on a camping trip where their past and present only ever so slightly hits the surface of what we can see. There is a lot going on in the background of their lives that we aren’t directly told. I enjoyed it for what it was but I don’t think everybody will like it. It’s literally a car ride and a camping trip. Nice to see NJ natives Yo La Tengo doing the film score though. That helped.

2.5/5

Quick Review : Force Majeure (2014)

Rotten Tomato Score – 93%
IMDB Score – 7.5

Directed By – Ruben Östlund
Starring – Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius, Vincent Wettergren, and Clara Wettergren

A family on a ski holiday in the French Alps find themselves staring down an avalanche during lunch one day; in the aftermath, their dynamic has been shaken to its core, with a question mark hanging over their patriarch in particular.

What would you do in a situation where your life could be in immediate danger? It’s the classic fight or flight scenario that really can’t be answered until the time has come. Tomas and his family found the answer to that question after their vacation lunch is interrupted by a controlled avalanche, or so it seems controlled. What follows is a unique, entertaining, cringe worthy film that deals with the aftermath of such an event. I didn’t expect it to be so funny.

I like to think that I would be the kind of man that stares danger in the face and puts up a fight. Fact is, I have no idea if that’s true or not. I’ve been in some situations where I was able to handle myself. I was in a car accident, helped rescue a hurt ATV rider calling for help in the woods, and two friends pass out on me, one from heat stroke and one from exhaustion. All these however were instances where I wasn’t involved or wasn’t involved minimally. The car accident was a low speed rear ending. My life has never truly been in danger. The lives of my friends and family have never been in danger. I’m waiting for the day that I’m walking down the street with somebody I care about and get approached by a man with a knife. Would I run? Would I shield my loved one? I’d like to think the latter, but can I be sure? The reaction is pure instinct and that’s where this film stores all of it’s interest. It provokes these thoughts in the viewing while simultaneously conjuring thoughts about the characters in the film. It was very entertaining.

The film should have been included in this years Oscar ceremony, but what are you going to do? There were so many scenes where family members and friends are trying to get a hold on what happened and how they feel about it. Those instances show the true person behind all the presentation we show other people. It was fun getting to see how this is handled, by both the people affected by the decision, and the person who made it.

Did I mention Tormund Giantsbane is in this? His beard is still amazing. Don’t know what I mean? That’s too bad, I’m not telling.

The film is also shot very well with many standing shots of the Alps with the action happening around the frame, like a moving picture. There was so much white filling every space that it really made you appreciate the darkness and the shadows, much like how we explore the parts of ourselves that aren’t bright and in your face.

It’s a great film.

4/5




Film Review : Selma (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 98%
Nominated for Best Picture

Directed By – Ava DuVernay
Starring РDavid Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth, Andr̩ Holland, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Colman Domingo, Omar J. Dorsey, Common, Lorraine Toussaint, Dylan Baker, Wendell Pierce, Stephan James, Keith Stanfield, Henry G. Sanders, and Stephen Root

A chronicle of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

Pencil me into the group that is upset that both Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo were not chosen as nominees in this years Academy Awards. I don’t think it was politically fueled like some people are claiming, but rather just an injustice to superior work in the film/acting industry. They flat out should have been included.

Man, this was a powerful film. It took me a long time to see this because I knew it was going to be a powerful experience. I guess I just didn’t want to go through such a thing until I knew I was ready. I wasn’t ready though. I was choked up throughout most of the film. It’s funny how just the presence of David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. was enough to get me emotional. The man was almost identical to Dr. King. That wasn’t enough though. His performance is what drove this thing home for me. He’s mesmerizing in every single scene that features him. My eyes focused on him as if I were really looking at the man who fought so hard for equality years ago. I would never go as far to call myself an activist. I’m far too lazy in my life right now to appoint myself with that title. Ideally though, I stand tall for equality. I believe that every person in this country deserves equal rights. I’m a big supporter of the LGBT community and the legalization of gay marriage. I’m a supporter of a government that creates laws for the people and not their own gain. I’m in favor of a military and police force that would just fucking relax. I do this all from my bedroom though. I know in my heart that if the opportunity arises where I can help make a change, I’d do it. I guess it just hasn’t presented itself yet. Watching David Oyelowo portrayal Dr. King stirred up a lot of these emotions inside me though. It takes a tremendous performance to do that and Oyelowo accomplished that. It may be the performance of the year for me.

There is still some political hoo-ha that I need to get off my chest. I’ll try to relate it to the film as much as I can.

Ferguson was fascinating/revolting to me. When the big riots were going on, I was able to watch on my computer thanks to the miracle of iPhones. This film couldn’t have come at a better time. People think that what happened in 1965 is ancient history. Ha. That shit ain’t over and it probably never will be over 100%. We still have rampant racism going on all over this country. We have military police lining the streets with assault rifles and tanks to try to “defend” themselves against protesters armed with and harsh words and numbers. Sure, we aren’t lynching black men in the streets anymore. There are laws now that says we can’t do that. I have no doubt in my mind that if those laws weren’t in place, they’d be happening every weekend like Bingo. Racial crimes are still being committed out there on both sides. That’s what gets me about Ferguson and why this film is so important right now. The film focuses on the non-violet march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama. Non-violent. Hell, not only were they non violent, but they were polite in doing so. That’s why Martin Luther King is remembered today in the same way Ghandi is also remembered. Fighting violence with violence is never the answer long term. I remember seeing video of the riots in Ferguson. There were people antagonizing police. They threatened them and covered their faces with bandannas as if they were going to rob a house. Oh wait, that’s what they did. They looted the business of their city because they could. They didn’t care about what was going on. They just needed a reason to fuck shit up. It’s a horrible way to look at things.

This is still happening. Racism isn’t over. It’s hiding in the shadows. Selma is a film that brings light to the darkness I feel.

It’s a beautifully shot film. I haven’t seen Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything, or The Imitation game. I can’t comment on those directors. I can say however that this film couldn’t have been filmed better. There isn’t any exposition in the beginning of the film. This isn’t a bio-pic or a History Channel movie. The film doesn’t insult our intelligence by giving us the back story on how Dr. King became who he was. This was about the march on the capitol. I liked this way of telling the story. I was able to be drawn in more with the attention to detail being focused on an event that took place over the course of a couple weeks. You lose a lot of the power when you’re telling a story that spans years. This film stayed focus on the march and in doing so kept me focused on the message at hand. The camera work was also impressive. Many shots involving Dr. King bathed in back light were just a beautiful thing to see. Emotional scenes didn’t feel forced or unearned. I was fighting back tears in most of the brutal scenes of what went down during these marches. None of it felt heavy handed or too dramatic.

There were other great performances besides David Oyelowo. Tom Wilkenson and Tim Roth did fantastic jobs portraying LBJ and George Wallace.Both are actors that in my opinion don’t get enough work for how great they are when they do. Stephen James, who had a smallish role as a young John Lewis, was also very impressive.

I’ve always been an admirer of Dr. King and what he did for equality in this country. I always viewed people with racism in their hearts and speech as confusing because I don’t see people as divided. I’ve always laughed at people who claim that we live in the greatest country in the world. It takes some pretty big balls to make that claim while there is so much wrong still going on. I don’t know which country is the greatest. I like to think that we have the potential to stake claim to that title. There is a lot of work to do though. A lot of work. Political activism in the media comes and goes. People, including myself admittedly, get bored and move on to the next story. Ignorance makes us think that just because something else is happening that the previous news stories just kind of went away. Ferguson is still a mess racially. There may not be riots in the streets every night, but it’s still a city full of ignorant people on both sides of the argument. We’re a country in debt. We’re a country who can’t decide if we should be teaching Creationism/Evolution, whether we should grant gay people the right to marry, or even whether we should be at war or not. How can a country with so many divided segments call itself the greatest country in the world? It confuses me.

What gives me hope however is the arts. As long as films like Selma are being released to the mainstream, there will be new people with views that they never had before. Dr. King started a new way of thinking for a lot of people and granted new rights to people who already had it figured out. It’ll never end though. Hopefully people will see this film for what it is, a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, powerful remembrance of what we were at one time as a country, what what we still are today.

5/5




Double Review! : Coherence (2014) and Starred Up (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%
Amazon Instant Watch

Directed By – James Ward Byrkit
Starring – Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Nicholas Brendon, Elizabeth Gracen, Hugo Armstrong, Alex Manugian, and Lauren Maher

Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead.

This is going to be one of my shortest reviews. Why? I am not going to ruin the privilege of seeing this film as blind as I did. All I knew going in to the film was the IMDB plot summary above and that it was a sci-fi film. That is all you’re going to get too. I didn’t add the trailer. Don’t watch it. It gives too much away. The film is currently on Amazon Instant so if you have Prime you can watch it for free. If you don’t have prime, find it on VOD and pay for it. You won’t be disappointed if you love sci-fi and mindbending movies.

I’m pretty much going to end it after this. This certainly isn’t a masterpiece. It is however a film with a completely unique story and consists mostly of improvised dialogue and low budget film making that is both impressive and promising. The acting splits between amateur and really good. Baldini and Brendan are the standouts here. I hope they do more things.

See the film. See it.

4.5/5

IMDB Score – 7.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 98%
Amazon Instant Watch

Directed By – David Mackenzie
Starring – Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend, Sam Spruell, Anthony Welsh, David Ajala, and Peter Ferdinando

A troubled and explosively violent teenager is transferred to adult prison where he finally meets his match – a man who also happens to be his father.

Well, Jack O’Connell is going to be a fucking star. He’s already breached into the public eye with his role in “unbroken” but this is the film that he shines. He’s a powerhouse. He’s a wrecking ball. Think Tom Hardy in Bronson. It’s that good of a performance.

Starred Up isn’t a pretty film. It’s ugly. The brutality behind the violence is troubling to watch at times. It’s a hard look into the British prison system. For those who grew up with Oz and Shawshank Redemption, this is going to be different for you. Guards aren’t always right around the corner and when they are, they don’t usually have the upper hand. There were many moments in this film that made me confused as to who was really running the prison. Fights break out and are left unattended for minutes. Assaults on guards don’t really end too bad for the inmate. In fact, it’s like getting the shit kicked out of you is almost a daily hassle, for both the inmates and for the guards. Enter Eric Love, a 19 year old kid who is as explosive as they come. Right from the get go he is rubbing oil on his body in preparation for guards bursting through his cell door. I told you it’s like Bronson. Starred up however is a bit less theatrical than Bronson. It’s a realistic view at just how fucked up it can be in prison. It sheds light on how far prison officials are willing to go or how blinded they can be that there are people in those cells that need help. Its eye opening.

A lot of the film is a bit hard to understand. I don’t mean story. I mean I had problems getting through the mumble mouth cockney jargon that these prisoner conversed in. It really is a whole other language but I got through it without the subtitles. I’m proud of that. Ben Mendelsohn, who is fantastic in this by the way, plays the father of Eric and at times is completely non-understandable. That Mendelsohn though. He’s been acting like that since Animal Kingdom. I don’t want him to change. He’s always a menace whenever he’s on screen and I love it. The relationship between father and son is interesting in prison. You can’t always take peoples shit, including your fathers in fear of looking weak, but you also need to look out for your son. I think this is the main focal point of the film for me. The relationship between father and son here is handled beautifully and comes full circle by the films end. There is also a great sub theme by which a young anger management counselor, played by Rupert Friend, tries to get some of the more violent and angry inmates to calm the fuck down. Those scene were like Dead Poets Society except instead of poetry we’re dealing with pure insanity filled rage.

The film is a wonderful look at a different kind of prison system. It is brutally violent at just the right times and features powerhouse performances by O’Connell and Mendelsohn. Watch out for Jack O’Connell. He’s looking like the next Michael Fassbender or Tom Hardy.

4.5/5