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.


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.


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.


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.


Film Review : Night Moves (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 83%

Directed By – Kelly Reichardt
Starring – Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat, Logan Miller, and Kai Lennox

Three radical environmentalists look to execute the protest of their lives: the explosion of a hydroelectric dam.

Being a fan of Kelly Reichardt is hard. While I loved both “Wendy and Lucy” and “Meeks Cutoff”, I realize that they are both acquired tastes and not for everybody. The only reason this matters is that I want to see directors I like tackle bigger projects but in the case for Reichardt, she might not be given that opportunity. Her films are slow burns with usually ambiguous endings. That is like box office kryptonite in a country where explosions and animated musicals reign supreme. I never expected Night Moves to make a lot of money, nut I secretly wish I lived in a culture that applauds unique films that take time to set a mood and develop characters rather than spoon feed me action and back story. Night Moves ended up not being something I enjoyed as much as her previous films, but I applaud Reichardt for sticking to what she does best and digging out a unique niche for herself. Hopefully somebody in Hollywood will notice soon and give her some money to do something really special.

Her newest film, Night Movies, is set in the Northwest, Oregon I believe, where we follow a small group of environmentalists who are planning to make a radical change. I think some films benefit from not having that much of a backstory. This lets the viewer figure out things for themselves which I find important in film. We don’t really know much about these characters. We know they are passionate about the environment early on as we see Dena and Josh attending a screening of a pro environment film focused on the preservation of trees and rivers. Dena, played by a no longer little girl Dakota Fanning, shows her passion in the subject by speaking out during the question portion of the film screening. Later on Josh and Dena are driving down a baron road and we see them pass a deer that had been hit by a car. Josh pulls the truck over, examines the deer, realizes it is pregnant, and moves the deer off to the side to rest. It showed the compassion Josh had for living things and is a key scene to remember as the film progresses. Eventually they meet up with a friend played by Peter Peter Sarsgaard where they plan to blow up a dam and restore some balance to nature.

The story is pretty cut and dry but the thing that makes Reichardt’s films unique is how much she tries to in ordinary and frankly boring people a bit of mystery through atmosphere and delicately created photography. The film, which is mostly set at night, is shot beautifully through the use of long static shots with minimal score or music. The camera work on the night of the dam job is particularly impressive. The whole sequence had a distinct feel of realism to go along with the tension of the job. This was the highlight of the film for me. The movie trailer captioned that this was an “almost work of Hitchcock” and while I disagree with that statement I could really feel my heart racing during and after the Dam sequence. If you’re a fan of Hitchcock you know that feeling of tension when watching Grace Kelly snooping through Jimmy Stewarts neighbors house in “Rear Window” and seeing the neighbor come home and Stewart can’t warn her. I felt that kind of tension during that sequence in Night Moves. That’s a big plus for me.

The negatives didn’t ruin the film, but also didn’t help raise the film to a higher standard. I had trouble with the pacing at places as even I have my limits as far as slow burns go. I also needed a little more motivation and reasoning why these young people would risk their lives for their cause. I know why they were doing it but would have liked to know the reason each one of them personally had for jumping into the crime. The ending was also problematic for me as I honestly have no idea what it meant. I have theories, which is a good thing, but even my theories add up to anticlimactic results. It just kind of ended. You can stitch as much pseudo symbolism you want to a bad ending but for me it won’t work, and neither did it for Reichardt.

The acting in the film was subtle. Eisenberg really stood out to me but his character carried the most emotion with him so it was an easy choice for a standout performance. Eisenberg did a great job though as he is a gifted actor. Fanning, who reminded me I haven’t seen her in a film since she was like 12, carried her weight well but just seemed subdued to what she is usually accustomed to handling. Sarsgaard, who I find to be a completely underrated actor (see his work in The Killing) also does a fine job in a supporting role.

Overall the film was a little forgettable but had moments of brilliance and I really hope Kelly Reichardt continues working on her craft because there is immense potential with her. The film could have been a little more active due to the subject matter but events of pure tension and realistic suspense kept it from being boring to me.


Suggested Viewing – The East, Winters Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene