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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Film Review : Whiplash (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 97%
Grand Jury Prize Winner at Sundance

Directed By – Damien Chazelle
Starring – Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, and Nate Lang

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Wow.

Fucking WOW.

I have only clapped at the end of one movie(which was this year…Boyhood), but now I can say I clapped to two. I couldn’t help myself. The theater couldn’t help itself. Whiplash was that good. I turned to my friend with absolute glee and shouted “THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME”. I was, and still am, completely blown away by this film. The plot is simple. Andrew (Teller) is an aspiring jazz drummer in the most prestigious school in the country. He is hand picked by Terrence Fletcher (Simmons) to join his competition band comprised of some of the best musicians in the country. While there are a small amount of secondary characters including the return of Paul Reiser, the film mainly focuses on the relationship between Andrew and his teacher; a relationship that grows more volatile by the second.

There just isn’t enough to say about this one. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that doesn’t let up from the starting drum roll to the final curtain. I was captivated the entire time. I’ve had experiences with all the parties involved. I saw Chazelle’s first film “Grand Piano” earlier this year and found it to be entertaining but ultimately forgettable. Miles Teller broke onto the scene with his role in “The Spectacular Now” but is mostly known for his college party films such as “21 & Older and Project X”. JK Simmons is a brilliant character actor who was perfectly cast as Jonah Jamison in the Spiderman films and always delivers an interesting performance. All three combine to give the highlights of their careers in this film. Teller is remarkable. He completely sells Andrew’s strive to be the greatest drummer the world has ever seen. He is passionate, dedicated, and driven. Simmons is a force of nature. It is, without a doubt, the performance of the year so far. He dresses in all black. His face is stone cold and the boom of his voice is thunderous. Not even the smallest mistake makes it past his ears and of you don’t fix it on the next try, you’ll be sorry. The thing is, never was anything he did, no matter how terrifying, ever over the top. Simmons played Fletcher with a frightening sense of realism that will notch him into the lists of greatest villains of all time. This thing was full on psychological horror film for most of its running time, and I couldn’t get more of it.

The films writer/director, Damien Chazelle, knocked this out of the park. The editing was perfect. The pace was perfect. The dialogue and story were engrossing. There was symbolism in the cymbalism. The sound design was amazing. The music was amazing. The man has made a perfect film. It’s always a good thing when as soon as the credits begin to roll, I want to go out and buy a ticket to the next showing. The final 20 minutes was one of the most batshit emotional tornado I’ve ever experienced. In minutes, I was on the verge of tears to almost jumping out of my seat with excitement. His script is uplifting, scary, and ambitious. It tells the story of people who try to be the best and try to get the best out of people. If you have EVER been REALLY REALLY good at something, this film will show you just how much you have to go.

I just…can’t say enough about this film. I know this review is kind of short, but I really just can’t talk about this film in too much detail. I’ve noticed that most of the films I review that I consider fantastic pieces of film, have short reviews. I want you guys to experience these movies with a general idea of what to expect but to still be blown away by completely unexpected events. This film is not a masterpiece. This film is like your grandma’s cooking. It may be lasagna, but there isn’t a thing you can find wrong with it or a thing you would change. I can’t wait to see this again. I can’t wait for it to be released in more theaters so others can experience it.

Fuck it. This is my film of the year. So earned. It was just my fucking tempo.

5/5




Film Review : Willow Creek (2014)

IMDB Score – 5.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%

Directed By – Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring – Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson

From celebrated Director Bobcat Goldthwait comes this edge of your seat horror that will make you think twice before going into the woods.

I had the opportunity to take the train down to the IFC Center in NYC to see the opening of my man Bobcat Goldthwait’s new horror film, Willow Creek. To my surprise and excitement, Bob was actually going to be in attendance and introduce the film before the start of the show at midnight. To my further surprise and disappointment, only about 20 people ended up showing up. Bob was professional about it, thanked us for showing up, cracked some jokes, shook my roommates hand (the bastard) and left the theater. I was hoping to catch him after the show, but he had left and honestly I don’t blame him. His film really only had one demographic, horror fans who like Bigfoot. There also wasn’t much advertising on his appearance but it was still nice of him to show up ad thank us. I’ve bee a big fan of his and routinely check out any interviews he does with people. The guy has some great stories. His film ended up being only so so but I still thought “meeting” him was cool.

Did you like “The Blair Witch Project”? If you did, you’ll like this film. If you didn’t, you’ll hate this film. That is’t to say that the films are exact images of each other, but they basically are. Bob put unique touches on it, but in essence it is exactly the same as Blair Witch. The film starts out with a couple who are driving to the site of the famous Patterson Gimmlin footage to try to see Bigfoot. They are making a film to document their journey which explains the use of the camera. I thought the set up was good as they didn’t have to put in the infamous “Look at Mark. He just never puts the camera down” thing that most found footage films. The two leads in the film were kind of annoying, which isn’t a good thing when you want your audience to feel afraid for them. I ended up just kind of wanting the show to get on the road, which it did about forty minutes into the film.

Once we were in the woods, the film finally took a breath of air and came to life. It was the last thirty or so minutes that ended up saving the film for me, but even then I still didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed his other films. The few good things were a very tense almost fifteen minute long take inside the tent where we hear a bunch of unsettling noises outside the tent, and the ending was fucked up and thought provoking.

It was a fun night. The film could have been better but it had its moments of fright even though we have seen this film a thousand times already.

2.5/5

Suggested Viewing – Blair Witch Project, REC, Trollhunter, Lake Mungo



Film Review : Blue Valentine (2010)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 87%
Netflix Watch Instant
Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress – Michelle Williams
Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actor – Ryan Gosling

Directed By – Derek Cianfrance
Starring – Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, and Faith Wladyka

The film centers on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.

Why did I do this to myself? Why did I watch this film the day before Valentine’s Day? I’m beginning to think that somewhere deep in my brain lies a section of tissue that loves to punish the rest of my brain. I knew what I was in for yet I hit play on my DVR anyway. I don’t understand it. I’m still glad I did it because I ended up loving the film.

Blue Valentine centers around the relationship of Dean and Cindy, two people who met by chance and fell in love. That sounds nice doesn’t it? That sounds like something you can curl up in your favorite PJs, get a nice glass of wine, pop in the DVD player, and just enjoy the romance. Well, there are some great elements but what you’ll ultimately get is a punch in the face. Right. In. The. Face. This is not a film to be viewed if you have recently gone through a breakup, but perhaps it’s what is needed to put things into perspective and get the grieving process into full gear. I know it hit me hard. Relationships are tough business. The relationship we see unfold throughout the course of the film is full of intensity from where we start to where we leave off. It’s a perfect example of how we roll the dice. Some people we meet will end up being people we love forever. Some people we meet will end up being people we hate. Sometimes we’ll meet a person and both of those things will happen. It’s necessary though. It’s necessary to go through these things. Sometimes you just have to get your heart ripped out and this film did a great job ripping mine out.

Derek Cianfrance is slowly becoming one of my favorite up and coming directors. His last film, “A Place Beyond the Pines” was a slightly flawed but overall fantastic film and now that I’ve seen “Blue Valentine”, I can’t wait for what he has next. The dude is a wonder behind the camera. There were a lot of scenes in BV that were done using a handheld camera and while the term “shaky cam” could possibly be used for some, what it did ws make the film more real. I didn’t think this was possible due to the fact that Cianfrance had both of his leads improvise many scenes but the camera added an extra sense of realism to the film. Long shots covering the length of conversation kept me interested in what was being said. The way in which Cianfrance also told his story was interesting. The film jumped from the beginning of Dean and Cindy’s relationship to the present day relationship. This, at least for me, kept the relationship as a whole in view. I didn’t forget what they went through at the beginning of the film because I was still being shown the beginning of the relationship at the end. This also laid the heavy on pretty thick as we are constantly watching them in love and in turmoil. It was very powerful.

Speaking of powerful, what performances by Williams and Gosling. They had some of the best chemistry on screen that I’ve ever seen and the fact that they improvised a lot of their scenes together makes it even more fascinating. Gosling has always been a solid actor to me. He collaborations with Nicolas Winding Refn have been a little off but he is a very capable actor who may have given his career performance in BV. Williams, who earned an Oscar nomination for her role, also is at her career best. Williams in particular was incredible once the camera was locked on her face, her eyes in every scene and her facial expressions were great to watch as you could tell she was losing herself in her character. Gosling was charming and also incredibly tragic. Both were incredible to watch.

I know I shouldn’t have watched this film with tomorrow looming, but I’m glad I did. It’s a tragic story but ultimately a real one. Relationships can be brutal beasts and not every single one ends with old age and grandchildren. It’s important to remember this and this film does a great job portraying what people have to deal with when they decide to fall in love. The film also boasts great music from Grizzly Bear and an end title sequence that is unique and uplifting. Great film.

4.5/5




Film Review : Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

IMDB Score – 8.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%

Grand Prize Winner at Cannes for Joel and Ethan Coen
Four Golden Globe Nominations including Original Song, Cinematography, Best Actor (Oscar Isaac), and Best Picture

Directed By – Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring – Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garret Hedlund, and Justin Timberlake

A week in the life of a young singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.

I honestly don’t think the Coen brothers can make a bad film. There is not a single film of theirs that I can say I didn’t enjoy in some respect. That statement was made with full awareness that “The Ladykillers” is a film. I actually enjoyed it. Lately, they have been making very subtle and quiet films with heavy undertones of sadness and bleak realism. We saw a completely cold and menacing hitman in “No Country for Old men”, a Jewish man seeming to be under a test from God in “A Serious Man”, and a revolving door of bad decisions in “Burn After Reading”. I don’t think any other filmmakers have such a unique style as the Coens. They have a resume of films spanning all kinds of genres but still seem like they fall in the same universe as each other. I’ll never get tired of seeing them succeed.

Inside Llewyn Davis is probably one of their best films. I absolutely loved it. I’m not going to go so far as call it a masterpiece because it’s going to be something that most people are going to like but certain people are going to fall in love with. People who seem to be set with their lives are going to laugh at the antics of John Goodman and a hilarious supporting cast of characters that fall right into place with all the other great Coen scene stealers. They’re going to appreciate the music and probably be confused with the end and you know what? That’s okay. This movie is really made for people who are having trouble finding where they fit in this world. The story follows Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk singer without an address who is trying to build a career in his passion of singing songs and playing his guitar. He sleeps on couches. Most people don’t like him. He is the epitome of a lost soul trying to find substance and meaning. I may not be in the same in the same situation as Davis, but I connected with him as somebody who just can’t catch a break in trying to find happiness. It’s a bleak but very real look into a time where so many people were trying to find themselves.

The film is smart and witty. I found myself belly laughing at a lot of scenes which feature the usual Coen sense of humor. John Goodman steals every scene he is in but also plays one of the films more tragic characters. Justin Timberlake and Garret Hedlund don’t have much screen time but each of their characters make an impression one way or another. The always great Carey Mulligan plays a former lover of Davis and a spiteful one at that.

The music in the film is the final character as it’s one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time. I’m not even that big a fan of folk music but the songs in here are sung with such emotion and feeling that it was hard not to fall in love with them. I’ll be purchasing the soundtrack. Oscar Isaac, whom I’ve only seen in one other movie (Drive), gives one of the best performances of the year. The dude can also sing. This is obviously to be expected but I was surprised by how good he was. His performance was crushing and while his character definitely came off a bit unlikable, I couldn’t help but sympathize with him. I wanted Llewyn to find happiness in his life just like I want everybody to find happiness, including myself.

The film is fantastic. It’s the perfect film for people trying to leave a footprint on this planet. It’s going to be too depressing for some, boring for the others, and pointless for many, but I found the film to be engrossing and completely endearing to the human need for purpose. It’s a special film with a special performance. I’ll be seeing it again.

5/5