Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Film Columbia 2014

Each year the Chatham Film Club (which I am a proud member of) put on an amazing film festival. This year was no different. I saw so many wonderful movies and got to know a lot of really nice people, several of  whom I see at the Sunday matinees the film club does every other week. I ended up seeing 12 movies over the course of 5 days. By the end I was exhausted but it was worth it.

As I've done in previous years, I'm not going to do long, detailed reviews like I would normally do. One, because most of these movies have yet to be released to the public and I don't think it would be fair to spoil them. And two, I just don't have the time or the energy. So I've decided to do a quick summary of my thoughts and a rating for each. Hope you enjoy :)

The Imitation Game:
What a movie to start with on opening night! Benedict Cumberbatch gives the performance of his career as mathematician Alan Turning, who helped crack the German Enigma code during World War 2. Very touching and moving. Complete with a beautiful musical score by Alexandre Desplat. I have a feeling this will do very well come award season. My Rating: 10/10

Low Down:
Standard story about jazz pianist Joe Albany, told from the perspective of his daughter Amy. Based on a true story. Good performances by John Hawkes and Elle Fanning. Peter Dinklage is sadly wasted here though. The editing was very odd. Also, I wasn't crazy about the overall look of the film. My Rating: 6/10

Goodbye to Language 3D:
What a pretentious piece of shit! Jean-Luc Godard is this world class director but he certainly doesn't show it here. I'm a pretty open minded person but I just didn't get it. Completely incoherent. I never thought it would happen but this movie takes the title from Clash of the Titans as the worst 3D I've ever seen. I seriously thought there was something wrong with my vision until I got to talking to some people afterward and they said the same thing. The only reason I'm not giving this is a zero is because there were a few pretty images scattered throughout. My Rating: 3/10

This movie pretty much mirrors the career of Michael Keaton. He plays a washed up actor who's most famous for playing a superhero over 20 years ago. He's now trying to make a comeback by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway play. There are quite a few Oscar worthy performances here. I like how director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu made the whole movie feel like one long take. He took a lot of risks and they paid off. The movie was a little odd at times but that's not necessarily a bad thing. My Rating: 8.5/10

Soul of a Banquet:
Lovely little documentary about Cecila Chiang- a woman who introduced America to authentic Chinease food. Make sure you don't watch this on an empty stomach because there's massive amounts of food porn here. My Rating: 7/10

Powerful and well made movie based on the true story of Mark Schultz. Both he and his brother Dave were Olympic wrestlers who formed an interesting relationship with wealthy sponsor John du Pont. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo put so much work into these characters. Everything from the way they walked, talked, and even their mannerisms were so much like the real brothers. Of course, the one who really stood out was Steve Carrell. Let's face it, he'd be the last person in the world you'd think of to play du Pont. But he pulls it off brilliantly. My Rating: 9/10

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsallem:
Riveting drama set in Israel where it's almost impossible for a woman to get a divorce- the husband must agree to it. Vivian had been separated from her husband Elisha for years but he refuses to grant her request for a divorce. Takes place almost entirely in a courtroom. As you watch these meetings take place you can't help but feel frustrated. All this poor woman wants is her freedom. Very powerful performance by Ronit Elkabetz (who was also one of the directors of the movie) as Viviane. The supporting cast was great as well. My Rating: 9/10

Two Days, One Night:
Marion Cotillard stars in this raw, realistic drama as Sandra, who is being laid off from her job because most of her co-workers have opted for a bonus instead. She has one weekend to try and change their minds. While not Marion Cotillard's best performance, it's still worth watching. My Rating: 7.5/10

Mr. Turner:
The Saturday night surprise movie. Well, surprise... this was one of the dullest movies I've seen in a long time. The movie is about the last 25 years (which is about as long as this movie felt) in the life of British painter JMW Turner. I enjoy period dramas as much as anyone, but director Mike Leigh made this so difficult to watch with his style over substance and deafening musical score. Timothy Spall is a good actor but even he couldn't save this mess. The only reason my rating isn't lower is because the movie didn't make me angry like Goodbye to Language. I was just bored. Plus I was able to catch up on some sleep. My Rating: 4/10

Happy Valley:
A documentary about the Jerry Sandusky scandal that focuses mainly on the community's reaction and the aftermath. There's also several interviews including Jerry Sandusky's adopted son Matt, who was one of the victims. Even though I knew a lot of the information already, it was still interesting. My Rating: 7.5/10

Reese Witherspoon gives another Oscar worthy performance as Cheryl Strayed who, after a tragedy occurs in her life, decides to hike 1,100 miles. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, who gave us last years Dallas Buyers Club. My Rating: 8.5/10

The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus:
This musical special was originally filmed in 1968. Features some great music by The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jethro Tull, and many more. An interesting choice to close out the festival. My Rating: 8/10

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Fuck! Sorry, but that was all that was going through my head as I walked out of the theater. I don't mean that the movie was bad. Quite the opposite- Fury was a very good movie. But it was so depressing that I immediately went to the bar afterward and had a drink.

Fury takes place in April 1945. World War 2 is just about over. While the Allies are making their final push through Europe, army sergeant Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt) commands a tank with his crew- Boyd "Bible" Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Trini "Gordo" Garcia (Michael Pena), Grady "Coon-Ass" Travis, and the inexperienced Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). They're outnumbered and outgunned as they attempt to strike deep in the heart of Nazi Germany.

I like that director David Ayer didn't shy away from the brutality of war. I strongly suggest watching this movie on an empty stomach. It's incredibly graphic and violent. I swear every few minutes there was blood spewing out, limbs being torn off, and people on fire. There's even a guy who gets his face literally blown off. It's nearly two and a half hours of non stop action with very little room to breathe.

Each actor, I felt, did an outstanding job. Brad Pitt it goes without saying. I've rarely seen him give a bad performance. The person who really surprised me was Shia LaBeouf. When he's not going bat shit crazy he can actually be a decent actor. I hope he does more movies like this in the future. And Logan Lerman I'm starting to take as a serious actor. His character annoyed me a bit at first being such a dumb ass who could get everyone killed. But the more I thought about it the more I felt sorry for him. He's a guy who's very young and never even seen the inside of a tank. Suddenly he's thrust into this world.

My biggest problem with Fury is the lack of character development. You get very little information about the characters background. I get what David Ayer was trying to do but it still would have been nice to know more.

I've been comparing Fury to 12 Years a Slave in the sense that it's a good movie, but you'll only be able to watch it once. But unlike Fury, with 12 Years a Slave I felt emotionally attached to the characters and was sobbing by the end. Here I was sad and depressed but never really teared up that much.

Still, I think Fury is a movie that everyone should see. Just be sure to have plenty of comedies on hand for afterward.

My Rating: 8/10

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dracula Untold

Dammit! I was so excited for this movie. It had so much potential. Luckily while it wasn't great, it wasn't awful either.

Dracula Untold tells the story of Lord Vlad (Luke Evans), once known as Vlad the Impaler. He's now trying to live a peaceful life ruling over Transylvania with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and young son Ingeras (played by the forgotten Stark child Rickon. I can't remember his actual name). One day a Turkish Sulton named Mehmed (Dominic Cooper who I know can act but in this he's a pretty forgettable villain) arrives and demands a thousand boys for his army, including Vlad's son. Desperate to protect his family and kingdom, he goes to the Master Vampire (Charles Dance aka Tywin Lannister) who gives him all of his strength and abilities. With this he'll be able to single handily destroy the entire Turkish army. But he only has three days to do it. If he can resist human blood for those three days then he'll return to being human. If he can't, he'll remain a vampire forever. Think of it as a twisted, reverse Little Mermaid but with vampires.

Let me just start off by saying what I did like about the movie. Luke Evans... wow!! I can't imagine anyone else playing this role. He's just so charismatic and you can tell he really gave it his all. I completely bought him as this troubled man who has done some horrific things in the past but is trying to redeem himself and will do anything for his family.

If you're going into this expecting a horror movie then you might be a little disappointed. There are some horror elements sure, but I considered it more of a superhero origin story.

I also liked the look of the vampires. It's so nice to see the more traditional version of them again and not ones that sparkle. That's always a plus. But speaking of the visuals, while some moments looked good overall they were pretty terrible. I read somewhere that the movie's budget was $70 million. I don't know where the hell all that money went.

Certain scenes and dialog were so cringe worthy that at times I had to either look away from the screen or laugh out loud. Sometimes both. One scene in particular that stood out that was especially bad. All I'll say is it was almost exactly like a certain scene in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Believe me you'll know it when you see it.

I was thinking about taking off another point for the ending. I won't spoil it obviously but once that scene was over and the credits rolled I felt like shouting, "Oh fuck you!" But I'm feeling generous at the moment and I like Luke Evans so that's why I'm giving it as high of a rating as I am.

I know it seems like I'm knocking Dracula Untold a lot and that I didn't like it. I'm so conflicted about this movie. Parts of it I really enjoyed and others parts I thought were terrible. But not for one second do I regret seeing it. If you're into these types of movies check it out. I just wouldn't rush out to see it or anything.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Gone Girl

Gone Girl proves what I have been saying all along- David Fincher is a top notch director who deserves to have his name up there with the other greats in Hollywood. Wow! I knew that this movie would be good but I had no idea just how good.

Gone Girl is based on a 2012 novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay. I haven't read the book yet but from what I've heard it's a pretty faithful adaptation. The story is about a married couple named Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike). On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing under mysterious circumstances. Nick displays some odd behavior and is of course the main suspect. The media goes crazy. Is Nick guilty or innocent? The way he's portrayed makes you think it could go either way at first. Just when you think you might have it all figured out, the movie takes some surprising twists and turns. I just love a good mystery/thriller.

Everyone in this movie was perfectly cast and gave unbelievable performances. I'm so happy Ben Affleck's career is going in the right direction now. His portrayal of Nick, from his emotions or lack of them right down to his facial expressions, leaves you wondering if he really did do it.

Rosamund Pike I think stands a very good chance of getting nominated for an Oscar. Her performance as Amy just blew me away. I wish I could tell you why but then I would be giving away some major spoilers.

But the person that surprised me the most was Tyler Perry. Who knew he could actually act? He plays Tanner Bolt, Nick's lawyer (think Johnnie Cochran). He could have easily played this character as over the top but he was very subtle and even humorous at times. You know that David Fincher is an amazing director when he can get a good acting performance out of Tyler Perry. They should give him the Best Director Oscar based on that fact alone.

Speaking of humor, there's surprisingly a decent amount of it spread throughout. The trailers are a little misleading when it comes to that. It never felt forced though.

Visually this movie is very dark which obviously fits with the tone. It goes well with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' hauntingly beautiful score. It's very much a David Fincher movie in that sense. But it's also a lot different than his previous work.

It feels like I've given out this rating a lot this year but Gone Girl definitely deserves this. I can't really think of any flaws. It's two and a half hours long but I was never bored. It had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I have a feeling it's going to be nominated for a lot of awards this year. At least I hope it is.

My Rating: 10/10