Film Review : Rush (2013)

IMDB Score – 8.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 89%
IMDB Top 250 – #140
Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Daniel Bruhl)

Directed By – Ron Howard
Starring – Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, and Pierfrancesco Favino

The merciless 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

I’m back. Along with having some family matters to attend to, I also have been busy as shit with my real person job and just haven’t been able to sit down and watch a film. I also just realized it’s been over two weeks since I’ve written a movie review and it’s time to get back on the horse. I picked a good film to come back to as the film ended up being a perfect example of powering through adversity and tragedy. I’m back bitches!

When I first saw the trailer for “Rush”, I was honestly not impressed. I remember muttering under my breath that it was going to be a completely cliche racing film with it’s cheap thrills and predictable outcomes. I really have to stop watching trailers and acting like a snob because I ended up really enjoying the film after reading so many positive reviews about it. The film tells the true story of the rivalry between formula 1 drive James Hunt and Nikki Lauda. It reminded me of an excellent documentary that is required viewing for anybody who enjoys racing or even documentaries in general. “Senna”, which chronicles a nearly identical rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, is a fantastic film that should be seen is you enjoyed “Rush” as much as I did. “Rush”, which took some liberties to dramatize the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda, still tells the story of what actually happened in the two years that the drivers were the best in the world. They are stories of true adrenaline filled eras that I don’t think have been seen since.

I think the first thing to be said about “Rush” is that it is an intense ride. Ron Howard, who I’ve always regarded as a very good director, crafted a thing of beauty when he made this film. I was on the edge of my bed watching this. It’s late where I live. I don’t usually watch films this late but I felt the urge to watch something but was a little skeptical on whether or not I was going to finish it. I had no problem finishing this film. The race sequences were some of the best action sequences of the last few years. Howard took advantage of every single sharp turn and car overtake to deliver a ride that made me feel like I was in the driver seat. Recently I drove down to Jersey City where they have some pretty fast go-karts. I think they got up to 45 mph which is nothing compared to the speeds of this movie but just fast enough to be an exhilarating experience. Watching the race sequences in this film put me right back in that kart flying around turns and overtaking fat middle aged men and their wives whom they dragged along onto the go-kart track. I should go back because it was honestly all I could think about watching the film. I didn’t expect that to happen.

The other great part of this film was the acting from both leads. Chris Hemsworth proved to me that he is a fully capable actor. I always thought he was just perfectly cast to play Thor and that his acting skills rode shotgun to a talented casting director but he really can excel in certain roles and he excelled in this. Daniel Bruhl however, stole the entire film. He perfectly portrayed the real life Nikki Lauda. He was able to get me to go back and forth between rooting against him and rooting for him. It’s a shame that most movies only consider one person to be the lead actor, usually the one who gets paid the most or is the most popular but this film proved that there can be two leads commanding the screen and when it really came down to it, Bruhl ran away with it.

I did have a problem with the film. The screenplay, which was mostly solid, failed miserably when it came to Olivia Wildes’ character. She was introduced and before I knew it she was married to Jame Hunt and before I blinked another eye she was gone. There was zero emotion whatsoever between the two of them. I barely saw them even kiss yet I was supposed to feel for them when the nature of their relationship came into question. It was completely necessary to even have her in the film and if the rest of the film wasn’t so engaging, would have completely distracted from an otherwise sound script. There was also way too many shots by Howard depicting nudity where there just shouldn’t have been. I’m a straight male, but even I was thinking “why the hell did you have to have these nude shots that contributed nothing to the film other than the source of erections?” It was just a strange tactic.

Other than that the film was pretty fantastic. It managed to balance the pretty boy lifestyle of James Hunt with the serious and precise lifestyle of Nikki Lauda without coming off redundant or preachy. It successfully ran home the theme that life will give you enemies and that they are just as important as friends. They give you something to be ambitious about and in the case of Nikki Lauda, fight through horrible circumstances. I don’t think it should be in IMDB’s top 250 films of all time but it was an addicting film with some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a long time.


Film Review : Berberian Sound Studio (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.3
Rotten Tomato – 83%
Netflix Instant Watch

Directed By – Peter Strickland
Starring – Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino, Fatma Mohamed, and Chiara D’Anna

A sound engineer’s work for an Italian horror studio becomes a terrifying case of life imitating art.

Horror is a genre that I find myself very amateur in. I’ve seen the essentials but have yet to really delve into the subculture that is the horror genre. Naturally I’ve missed some of the cult favorites that came out of Italy in the 70s. I think the only Italian horror film I’ve seen is Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” and to be honest I’m going to have to watch that again because I didn’t find it that great. Perhaps it’s a taste thing. Maybe it’ll develop over time. Peter Stricklands’ film is almost an homage to these films but strives for something original in the process. The film centers on sound engineer Gilderoy who is played with such subtly by Toby Jones. Gilderoy is hired by a bunch of pompous Italian filmmakers to engineer the sound for their horror film.

To be honest, I really didn’t get most of the film. I have some theories but ultimately the film is up to interpretation. It’s a slow burn. I actually had to finish it in two sittings. The reason being that the majority of the film is focused on the actual work of Gilderoy. There are long steady shots of Jones focusing on the audio being piped through his headset from the sound booth in front of him. His steady hands reach for the soundboard to manipulate the screams coming through. It’s a sensory driven film. Naturally the audio in the film is top notch as most of the tension and creepiness is taken from scenes involving the actresses’ blood curdling screams. Gilderoy, who is visibly disturbed by such a film, reacts with such subdued emotion but his eyes show how much discomfort he is in listening to such sounds.

The second half of the film, if you can get there, takes a very sharp right turn as if David Lynch was behind the wheel. This is where the essence of the film is felt as we are probed to decide what we are watching. Debates on how the film ends and what has been actually happening are divided arguments. I personally don’t have an idea of what was going on but it was fun ride getting there. Perhaps I’ll revisit it. It’s certainly an ambitious and unique take on the horror genre.


Film Review : Dogtooth (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 92%

Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Film

Directed By – Giorgos Lanthimos
Starring – Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Hristos Passalis, Mary Tsoni, and Anna Kalaitzidou

Three teenagers carry out their lives under the close watch of their parents. They have never been off their property and know nothing of the world.

Holy shit!

This is probably one of the strangest and most disturbing films I’ve ever seen. I mean, I’ve seen some pretty far out horror films and I’m a huge fan of Michael Haneke but this was just bizarre and crudely funny in a way. I’m not quite sure what is wrong with my taste in film to where I liked a film like this so much. The funny thing is, I don’t think I can watch it again. It was such an uncomfortable watch but like a car accident, just damn near impossible to turn away from.

Lanthimos directs a completely unflinching tale of family conditioning at its most nightmarish. I really shouldn’t go into the plot of the film too much because it’s really something you need to experience for yourself but the story revolves around a family of five and the way the parents raise their children. Let me just say that these parents make the Lohans and kiddie pageant people look like saints. It’s not even like they are cruel or abusive…well, okay, I have no idea what they are. All I know is that it’s so uncomfortable to watch that I just know it’s evil.

The film holds nothing back. Just when you think they are going to cut the movie goes from PG-13 to OH GOD NO in seconds. I’ve never really seen something like that. It just makes me believe that Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac is most likely going to make people explode. I can see a little old lady walk into that thing and just come out crying, wishing somebody would turn back time to wear they weren’t allowed to show people kissing on television.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of meaning behind Dogtooth. Obviously conditioning is a main theme and focal point. I mean they didn’t have to show this but they actually had worked dog trainers into the story just to drive that theme home. Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” also popped into my mind a few times as if you watch the film you can plainly see draws cues from the old man. AHHH I WANT TO SAY THINGS BUT I CAN’T.

Just watch the film. By yourself. This isn’t a date movie. Put the kids to bed. Prepare your mind for “WHAT!?” type ideas. Just watch it. It’s fantastic.


Documentary Review : Big Boys Gone Bananas!* (2011)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 75%
Netflix Instant Watch

Directed By – Fredrik Gertten
Nominated for Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema Documentray

Dole Food Company wages a campaign to prevent a pair of Swedish filmmakers from showing their documentary about a lawsuit against the company.

Yes. I’m aware that the title of this film is misleading. I can assure you that the film I’m about to review is REALLY about a lawsuit Dole filed against a film claiming defamation and not a film about a bunch of dudes going crazy on film with each other. As a lover of film it is my duty to remain unbiased towards certain titles and to never judge a book or film by its cover or title but I assure you that I read up on this film before I watched it. Now that I got that off my chest, let’s get to the film on hand.

So basically what this is is a documentation of the legal proceedings that followed the creation of Bananas!*, a film by Swedish director Fredrik Gertten about the legal battles and dangers that banana pickers/workers were going though at that time. Dole, the biggest manufacturer of fruit and vegetables in the world was mentioned in the film but not focused as a direct cause for these problems. The film is to be screened at the LA Film Festival and before it can do so, Gertten receives a cease and desist letter in the mail claiming that if the film is shown at the festival that a lawsuit will follow. The letter was sent by Dole. What follows is a document of how propaganda and direct violation of freedom of speech is rampant in US legal proceedings and that if you want to sue somebody you basically can as long as you have the money to back it up.

It’s kind of a weird concept. The film is about a film, one of which is readily available to the public now, but in order to take a side I feel like I should have seen this film in question. I haven’t and my opinion of the film only differs in a small sense but you should really see the film in question before watching this documentary. I feel it’s more fun that way. Even without doing so I enjoyed this. They show things through an ultimately biased but grounded viewpoint that becomes more factual and poignant as the story starts getting picked up by national news programs. It’s a great look into corporate dealings and operations and that if a company is big enough, they can basically do or say what they want as long as they have the funding for it. It’s a true David and Goliath story that sheds light on commercial industry and its treatment towards the bill of rights.


Film Review : Gimme the Loot (2012)

Netflix Watch Instant
IMDB Score – 6.3
Tomato Score – 92%

Directed By : Adam Leon
Starring : Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington

This is the description from IMDB of the plot to “Gimme the Loot”…

When their latest work is buffed by a rival crew, two determined graffiti writers embark on an elaborate plan to bomb the ultimate location: the New York Mets’ Home Run Apple.

This film has nothing to do with any of that. I have no idea why not only is this the plot description on IMDB but also the description which led me to watch it on Netflix. This however is not a bad thing. I ended up loving the film overall. The film really is about the relationship between two friends in inner city Brooklyn. The two are graffiti partners who for the first ten minutes or so scheme to tag the stupid apple that pops out of Shea stadium. The film then branches off into a whole other type of film. Leon didn’t have a huge budget to work with but made up for it with long takes of conversation and utilizing the great performances from the two leads. Hickson and Washington act like they’ve known each other for years and that they really are just going about their days. It’s in their performances that really sell the film and kept me involved.

The films plot however takes a huge dive towards the end and branches off into romanticland for what seems like no reason whatsoever other than to end the film. I horrible/great part about this is that it all occurs at the very end and doesn’t really deter from the overall experience unless you love nice little bows on top of your presents.

The film is one of the most realistic and convincing portrayals of what life is like in NYC. Way worth the 79 minute run time on Netflix.