Film Review : Foxcatcher (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 88%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Makeup, and Best Original Screenplay

Directed By – Bennett Miller
Starring – Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Venessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Hall, Guy Boyd, and Brett Rice

The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul – a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.

(I’m going to try a different writing style with this one and see if it works out. Just a FYI)

Like Whiplash, I’ve been aware of this film for a long time as it had a very early run at film festivals early last year. I heard Steve Carell was a revelation, that the film was a contender for Best Picture, and that Bennett Miller crafted a tight thriller aimed to get under your skin. Well, some of those things ended up being true, some didn’t. Let’s get into this.

Steve Carell – This was really the first thing I heard about the film. Steve Carell, Michael Scott himself, can act with the big guys. Considering he was recognized by the Academy, I’d say that he has found his way into talk of great working actors today. I didn’t think however that his performance was as monumental as most are claiming. I think that the fact that it was Steve Carell behind that enormous shnoz added to the talk of greatness. The guy who was speaking gibberish on Bruce Almighty and throwing tridents at people in Anchorman was now taking on a serious acting role in trying to portray John duPont. I think he did as fine a job as anybody could have, I just think the actual part was a bit underwhelming. duPont doesn’t say much. This role was all in the eyes for Carell and by all means did he nail it. My favorite parts of the film were when Carell, as duPont, is confronted with a problem, and his gaze goes cold, and his mind seems to be racing, but there is zero emotion on his face. That’s all Carell. He was able to give off such a creepy and subtle psychosis that even though I didn’t know the outcome of the story, I knew something bad was brewing. David Oyelewo should have been in the Best Actor category, but I had no problem with Carell being there.

The screenplay – This is where the film had its flaws. I love quiet films. This film is VERY quiet. There is a very subtle score consisting of light piano and strings but most of the film is dialogue and while that is happening, there is silence. There were times where this kind of slowness was totally important in the building of these characters. Other times it meandered. There were scenes involving duPont and his obsession with being in control that were important theme wise but seemed to drag on film wise. The two hour and fifteen minute run time felt like three hours mostly due to this meandering. The end of the film was also very abrupt and didn’t really give us reactionary points of view from all parties. Shocking? Oh, hell yeah. The pivotal scene that begins the end of the film is one of the most chilling scenes I’ve seen this year, but after that the film just kind of fades away. I needed more resolve. There was also a lot of holes in the film where Shultz and duPont start to get closer to each other. There’s a scene on a helicopter before a ceremony that leads right into bad haircuts and total character change. Nothing explained it other than what happened on the helicopter. Just felt forced.
Other than that, I felt that the comparison and development of duPont and Mark Shultz was fascinating to watch. Both these characters had father/mother issues, felt like they were in the shadows of somebody else, and loved America a whole lot. It’s a great character study.

Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum – Both of them, teamed with Carell of course, kicked major ass in this film. I said as the film was starting that I wanted to see if Tatum could actually act or if he was just a one trick pony with his sexy dancing and his buddy cop comedies. The dude can act. I’m now in the group of people that sees him as an actor rather than a celebrity who tries to act. For the record, I loved him in 21 Jump Street. Like Carell with duPont, Channing portrayed Mark Shultz as a silent time bomb, ready to explode at a given point. I was impressed. Ruffalo has been a favorite actor of mine for a while and even I didn’t understand the praise he got for this film until about three quarters of the way in. Then I got it. The last quarter of this film, Ruffalo becomes one of the more sympathetic characters I’ve seen in film in a while. He portrays the character and personality of Dave Shultz so well that all sorts of emotions were flying by the films end. He earned his praise.

The liked the film. I’m glad I didn’t see it in theaters because I may have fallen asleep but the film worked in most ways in telling the chilling tale of what happens when you mix immense power and money with mental illness. The three actors knocked it out of the park and the film had great tone and color. It dragged in bits, but overall it’s a film that I can see getting better with age. The character study alone of duPont and Mark Schultz was worth the watch.

3/5




The New York Film Festival Preview!

Friday night is opening night of the NYFF! I already grabbed my ticket for “Gone Girl” premier which has me pretty fucking excited. I’m going to try to grab cheaper tickets for “Inherent Vice” and “Birdman” but it’s looking like I’ll only be seeing one of the big three. I am however going to try to pick up some tickets to some lesser known films during the next three weeks. I may be somewhat broke, but I’m hoping to see three or four films this year to go along with the Gone Girl premier. In case any of you are near the tri-state area and are thinking about attending this years festival like I am, here are, along with the big three, my most inticiapated films at the 2014 NYFF!

Gone Girl

Fincher is one of the first directors to really get me into film. I grew up being blown away by “Fight Club” and even though my liking for the film has subsided (I still like the film, just not as much as I did in High School), his filmography is filled with incredible works. Zodiac and Se7en are two of the darkest and bone chilling films I’m seen in mainstream film and that credit goes to Fincher. His ability to invoke dread and suspense through perfectly lit backgrounds has always impressed me. Benjamin Button and Dragon Tattoo were huge disappointments but this new film looks like a return to form for the director. I can’t wait for Friday.

Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite living director. Every single thing he has made is a damn masterpiece. If I wasn’t such a broke bastard I would be 1st in line to see his new film, a film which I know nothing about. I won’t watch the trailer if one ever comes out. I won’t look at the production photos that leaked. The image above is the only thing I know about the film besides the cast. I like it this way. I’d rather just be immersed in his films rather than wait for parts I liked from the trailer. I can’t imagine a world in which I’d like a film better than There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, or The Master but the fact that I know he can out do himself only cements him as the next coming of Kubrick.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I love depressing films. Naturally, this fact means that the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu have struck a particular chord with me. When I heard that he was making a film that would star Michael Keaton as an out of work actor who used to play a super hero called Birdman and that the whacked out, bizarre, hysterical film would be edited in a way that it looked like it was done in one shot, well, I fell love. I fell in love with the idea. The film is closing out the festival and snagging tickets will be hard. I’m going to try though. Keaton looks like he might grab an Oscar nomination and the whole film looks bonkers. My kind of film.

Others that seem interesting…

Citizenfour

A documentary about Edward Snowden from director Laura Poitras. The Oscar nominated documentarian flew to Hong Kon to interview Snowden and while she was there, captured the unfolding of what we know as the life of Edward Snowden. The film is apparently a once in a lifetime film that captures the reaction of the world and Snowden as he continues his quest for freedom.

’71

Tells the story of an Irish soldier who was abandoned by his unit during the riots of 1971 in Belfast. The film looks like a tense action thriller and has tickets available right now. This is one that is definitely doable as far as price and ticket availability goes. It helps that it looks pretty intense as well. The film stars Jack O’Connell.

Foxcatcher

The film has made its round on the national/international film festival circuit and seems to be finding its final resting place before official release at NYFF. The film, lauded by some, shunned by others, offers without a doubt a lock for Best Actor during the academy awards with Steve Carell playing the insanely creepy John du Pont. Some of you may know the true story behind the film but for those who don’t I’m not going to spoil anything. I would also avoid the trailer because it seems to give away too much. Bennett Miller knocked it out of the park with his first two films, Moneyball and Capote, and I’m looking forward to seeing this one. The film is going to be playing towards the end of the festival.

Hill of Freedom

I’m a huge fan of Korean cinema. Sang soo Hong may not be as well known as his Korean contemporaries but his films such as “Woman on the Beach” and “In Another Country” were both well received. Having not see either of those films, this may be as good a starting point as any. The film is shot in a frenzy of non linear scenes as our protagonist tries to sort out letters sent to her from her lover after she drops them. She is sorting the chronology and the viewer is given the same task. I love the concept.

Map to the Stars

Cronenberg has always been hit or miss with me. I love History of Violence and Videodrome but found Cosmopolis and A Dangerous Method to be somewhat disappointing. However, the man is a daring filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from doing something out of the ordinary or considered taboo. I like striving for something different which is why I’m interested in this. The cast includes Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska. The story is about a hollywood family and the lives that are lived within that family.

Film Review : The Way Way Back (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%

Directed By – Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Starring – Liam James, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, and Maya Rudolph

Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

Oh man did the tagline nail this movie. I think most of us have been in the situation that Liam James’s character Duncan has been in. He’s 14, shy, doesn’t really know how he fits into the world and is looking for some kind of connection with anything. I know I have. I remember a vacation to Orlando, Florida when I was 14. We stayed at Universal and while my parents tried everything they could to cheer me up and get me to have fun, I was mostly running off by myself and getting lost in the park. In the film, Duncan retreats to a waterpark and tries to find his connections. My situation was a little different of course. I’m not an only child. My parents aren’t divorced. My Mom’s boyfriend isn’t a dick, but I felt that isolation that he felt in the film. It’s ultimately what made me enjoy the film. That, and the cast.

I think this is the most Sam Rockwell-ish that Sam Rockwell has ever been asked to become in a film. He is the epitome of charm and wit. It was almost to the point where his character became unreal because of how much charisma oozed out of him. He was hilarious to watch and as always, knew when to hit the emotions in just the right fashion. Steve Carell plays a different role in which he is like how I said above, just a dick. Comic relief in the form of the films writers and directors, Faxon and Rash, was also an enjoyable touch but they didn’t receive enough screen time to be honest. In fact, I would have wished for a longer film just so I could absorb all the great talent in this film.

It’s a fun movie. It’s not a game changer. I don’t know how films in the 80s or 90s that dealt with similar themes got to their cult status but I can see this being a great summer film in the upcoming years. It’s the dead of winter, snow on the ground, and all I want to do is go up to Martha’s Vineyard and have a summer. I think that feeling trumps over the large amount of sentimentality that occurred during the last ten minutes or the fact that this is basically a run of the mill coming of age story that we’ve seen a million times. The general entertainment from the cast and the overall vibe of the film are what I enjoyed most. Great summer film. Great film for teenagers. Rash and Faxon aren’t going to be winning another Oscar for this (The Descendants) but it’s a great debut for the first time directors/original screenwriters.

4/5