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 – David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth, André 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




Film Review : Inherent Vice (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 69%
Academy Award Nominations for Best Costume Design and Dapated Screenplay

Directed By – Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring – Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, Joanna Newsome, Martin Short, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, ERic Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Michael K. Williams, Hong Chau, Jena Malone, and Martin Dew

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

It’s been just over two weeks since my last post. Apologies for that. My viewing habits happen to be changing week to week but good news is that I should have a few more posts coming up after I finish seeing the Oscar nominated films. I also may write up an actual post on the Oscar nominations but I’m debating it because I’ve honestly stopped caring about the show. Anyway, thanks for reading as always.

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON HAS A NEW FILM OUT! YES!

Being my favorite living director right now, I have been excited for this film while also actively avoiding anything related to the film. I wanted to go into this thing fresh. Turns out, it doesn’t matter how many times I watched the trailer or how many articles I read, I would have left the theater confused either way. I honestly have no clue what the hell happened in this film. Now, normally this would be a negative. Normally, this would be an indication that the screenplay was weak, disjointed, or too complex. That isn’t the case for this film. I heard and understood every single line of dialogue in the film. I just don’t know what most of it means. Sure, the film is complex and offers about a thousand different characters with their own connections with the story. Some of these characters appear in the beginning and disappear for two hours only to be revealed at the end as a major plot device. Some of these characters only grace their presence once and after the scene changes they’re gone. I don’t have a problem with too many characters. Hell, Magnolia is one of my favorite films of all time and there are just as many characters in that as this. What makes this such a hard watch is simple, we experience the film like our main protagonist Doc Sportello experiences it, in a very foggy haze. It’s this haze that makes things murky and confusing. There is nothing wrong with that in my mind. PTA has crafted a film that even he doesn’t understand. Seriously, he said that in an interview with Marc Maron. While I haven’t read the source material, he states that a lot of the films dialogue and story arc is just how Thomas Pynchon wrote it in his book. Pynchon, who is one of the most unique writers of the last thirty years, had his book translated into film beautifully by PTA. The only problem with that is how it affected the audience which was a mixed bag.

I had two reactions during the two and a half hour run length of the film. The first half I was actively trying to keep up with the story and understand everything that was happening. I wasn’t enjoying the film that much. I was frustrated that I couldn’t get a grasp on the significance of each character or that Joanna Newsome, who acted as the narrator of the film as well as a friend to Doc, would keep chiming in with Pynchon jargon. Don’t get me wrong, Newsome was great in this, and I liked the narration. It just didn’t help with the frustration of trying to figure out what’s going on. Halfway through the movie I decided to give up and just let the amazing cinematography, acting, and 70’s vibes wash over me. I should have done that from the beginning because I enjoyed the film so much more.

Joaquin Phoenix plays our protagonist Doc, a weed smoking private eye who is tasked to put this puzzle of a story in the right pieces. I’m not even sure if he does by the end or if everything that he went through was even real. PTA did a fantastic job of making the film feel like you just smoked a huge doober. The cast is overbearing at times. Del Toro, Short, Witherspoon, Wilson, and Roberts aren’t in the film enough. This is all Phoenix, Brolin, and Waterston. Josh Brolin plays Bigfoot, a longtime acquaintance of Doc and also the person who wants to see Doc arrested. Waterston plays Doc’s ex ladyfriend whom has gone missing. We see her in flashbacks and sporadically through the film but she’s incredible whenever we do. The last scene we see her in is especially impressive as it’s a long, almost seven minute take with just her and Doc talking, and then some. The comedy comes mostly from Brolin, Phoenix, and a hilarious Martin Short. The cast kicked ass is what I’m saying.

Obviously I’m going to have to see this again. Even if I wasn’t confused I would see it again given that it’s a film by a living, and young, legend of cinema. There’s just something about PTA’s films where these whole other chambers reveal themselves and open up on repeat viewings. This review is a lot shorter than what I expected a PTA review would be but honestly, I can’t talk much about what I don’t understand. I’ll say this though, there is literally nothing like a Paul Thomas Anderson film. It’s a strange, hypnotic, hysterical, haze of a film that demands repeat viewings and crackpot fan theories. There are scenes in this film that are bizarre and puzzling mixed in with scenes that are just flat out outrageous and funny. It’s always a fun time in the cinema with PTA.

Plus, I don’t mean to spoil anything, but at one point Josh Brolin tells Doc that he smells like a patchouli fart. That’s hilarious. Damn hippies.

4/5




Two Film Review : Interstellar and Birdman

You may be wondering why I’m lumping these three films into one post. Well, fact of the matter is that both Interstellar and Birdman need second viewings from me to really get into full review mode. I have pretty laid out opinions on both but I don’t think I could justify a full post for each one without having seen the film a second time.

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%

Directed By – Christopher Nolan
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Wes Bentley, Josh Stewart, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Topher race, and fucking finally, Ellen Burystn

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

Okay, I need to get this out of the way first. I saw this film almost three weeks ago. If you have not seen this film in a REAL IMAX theater with 70mm film, please do so. It will most likely be one of the last times you will seeing something this new be projected on film. The projectionist in me had a field day with this one. I was privileged to be able to see this at the Lincoln Center IMAX which is one of the largest screens in the country and most likely the world. Regardless of your opinion of the film, it’s something to be seen in 70mm before film goes the way of the 8 track and seatbeltless vehicles.

That being said, I didn’t particularly love this movie. I didn’t really hate it either. What I ultimately came to was a feeling of mild satisfaction mixed with utter bewilderment. I’ve been a fan of Nolan from the beginning. I generally believe The Dark Knight, Memento, and The Prestige to be some of the best films of the decade. Interstellar marks the second film in a row from Nolan that not only failed to meet my expectations but seemed to lack in the screenwriting that characterized his earlier films. This was just a mess story wise from beginning to end. In fact, parts of it nearly ruined the whole thing for me.There were instances in the film where decisions were made at the blink of an eye, huge decisions, LIFE ALTERING DECISIONS, MADE AFTER ABOUT TEN MINUTES OF THOUGHT. Seriously, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper is the worst father ever. What he does to his daughter in this film is just atrocious. I hated his character for like 40 minutes after this happened. There is also huge jumps in timeline. Basically Matthew McConaughey goes from farmer to in space in like three days. Sure, he was a NASA fighter pilot a long ass time ago, but you don’t get trained for space in three days. You just don’t do it.

The dialogue was also pretty bad. Anne Hathaway delivers a monologue in the middle of the film, about love, that nearly had me puking in the auditorium. It came off so cheesy and forced that I couldn’t stand it. A big character reveal in the middle of the film also progressed in a way that could be seen a mile away. This character also forgets who he is and ruins pretty much everything. The end of the film, which will be talked about for some time as it is very “2001”-esque, kind of muddles the entire thing for me. Like, I get where they were going with that. I get how unimaginable space can be an how it works, but to put it all together like that just seemed like Nolan was trying to be more profound than he needed to be. I don’t like throwing around the word pretentious often because I think that it insults creativity, but the end of this film teetered on being a bit pretentious. Also, the BIG emotional reunion end the end of the film, the one that the audience has been waiting for the entire three fucking hours, was over in like four sentences. Seriously, fuck Matthew McConaughey’s character in this movie. He’s the worst.

What did I like? First off the acting was pretty top notch. Matthew McConaughey was in full form as he has been for the past two years. There are a few scenes in this movie that really struck a chord with me emotionally and that was all on MM. Michael Caine continues to be sad Michael Caine and that’s okay because the man is a true legend and makes my eyes water every time he is sad. The voice acting from Bill Irwin, who voices the robot TARS, was a wonderful addition to the cast and might have been my favorite character. The robots were awesome by the way. At first I thought they were too weird but then I really got into the functionality of them. The action and space sequences were gorgeous to watch in 70mm. It made the effort to see this is IMAX all worth while. Also, Mackenzie Foy can act. That girl is going to be big if she continues acting.

Overall the film just wasn’t up to what I thought it was going to be. As far as space movies go, I enjoyed Sunshine and Solaris much more but there were definitely some great reasons to see the film. The camera work, the acting, the practical effects mixed in with CGI, all made this a film to see. It just happened to be a mess in the story telling department that may get better with a clearer viewing but I’m not holding my breath. Nolan gets points for doing it in film though. I’ll give him added points for that.

3/5

IMDB Score – 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring – Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and Lindsay Duncan

A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

What a show. I don’t particularly know what the show meant or if I was 100% into it, but what a goddamn show.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the film is shot in a way that looks like one long take. You can tell where the edits are, but the film chugs on like an engine through the entire run time. It didn’t come off gimmicky. It came off glorious. The fact that Emmanuel Lubezki was able to keep every single frame of this movie gorgeous as shit while still maintaining the longness of the shot is a true thing to watch. The film also had this rhythmic drum fill that permeated the entire film from start to finish. It was like a heartbeat, getting faster and louder as scenes unfold into chaos. It was such an opposite kind of feeling from the rest of Iñárritu’s work that it almost made me forget who made the film. His previous movies are all filled with depressing situations and heartbreaking performances. I laughed out loud in this film. I was having a fucking ball. The whole cast pretty much had be heaving. Well, maybe not Emma Stone’s character, but she was still sassy enough to give me a chuckle.

The acting is top notch. We’re going to see at least two major award nominations from this film. Keaton is the star. He is in nearly every scene and completely solidified himself as “back in form”. The film goes into a meta sense as I realized just how alike Keaton and his on screen character Riggan were. Both are actors who portrayed superheros in the 80s and have been away from the spotlight for some time. Both are trying to make a comeback and in the case for Keaton, he does, in a big way. The guy just hit it out of the park. Edward Norton steals every scene he is in. It reminds me a little of when Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder because he was so goddamn funny. You could make the case for Melissa McCarthy as well but I don’t find her funny. Norton is going to complete that triangle. His character of Mike is so out of his mind that it can only be achieved by Norton, who is himself a lot like his on screen character. He was hysterical and also hammered in the scene chewing jobs just as well. Everybody else was fitting for their role. Emma Stone could sneak in the Oscars but honestly I felt her performance to be a bit overdone. Galafianakis was on point as always. I’ve considered him to be one of the best underrated actors for a while now. Watts finishes the top of the line up as she always does. She’s a professional and it shows.

The only reason I didn’t shower this film with praise is because there are so many subtleties in this film that I just can’t grasp them all right now. The ending left my head spinning a bit and there was a lot of dialogue I missed the meaning of because the film was rolling by my face at a million miles an hour. Will this affect my rating? Not really. It just makes this review a little shorter than usual.

See this film. It’s something that you’ll be thinking of for a long time and itching for a second viewing. I may have to see this again before it leaves theaters.

4.5/5

Classic Film Review : Five Easy Pieces (1970)

IMDB Score – 7.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 86%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Picture, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Supporting Actress (Karen Black), Best Original Screenplay
Netflix Watch Instant

Directed By – Bob Rafelson
Starring – Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Bill Green Bush, Susan Anspach, Sally Struthers, Ralph Waite, and Lois Smith

A drop-out from upper-class America picks up work along the way on oil-rigs when his life isn’t spent in a squalid succession of bars, motels, and other points of interest.

I have a confession to make. I actually watch two films before this one and I’m not going to write about them because I didn’t enjoy them like I thought I would and even so, I have no idea what the hell I’d write about. The films are “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain”. What batshit insane films. The only way that I’ll watch those again is if I’m wasted and it’s okay to shout. I’m still going to watch “Santa Sangre” though. I just felt like disclosing that.

What is it about Jack Nicholson when he was young in which I instantly see Jack Torrance in every one of his roles. It’s easy to see how perfect he was for that role because you can see little pieces of Jack in all his characters. This is no different. Jack plays Bobby, a, well, he’s a dick. The film starts out with him working on an oil rig and being a total bastard to his girlfriend Rayette, played by Karen Black. Rayette is a dumb southern belle who doesn’t know what the hell is good for her and puts up with his shit until Bobby gets word his father is ill and they both ride up to Washington to see him.

The film marks the first award nomination for Jack in the Best Actor category and although he didn’t win, gave one hell of a performance. The transformation he goes through, or seems to go through during the film was heavily helped by Jack’s performance as the direction of the film was just kinda of shabby. The story was interesting but the camera work and editing was flat as it left me a bit confused when the scenes changed. It wasn’t a fluid transition. Besides Black, Susan Anspach gave a great performance as the wife of Bobby’s brother, a woman who would go toe to toe with Nicholson on more than one occasion and hold up to him.

The film ended up being a nice watch for fans of acting and the ending to the film, while a little bleak, was fitting and true to the character of Bobby. The film was also one of the beginning films that started a new era of Hollywood. It’s just a shame Rafelson couldn’t join the ranks of Hal Ashby and other great directors of that time. He tried though.

3.5/5

Suggested Viewing – Last Picture Show, Midnight Cowboy, Paris Texas