Monday, May 13, 2013
Mud - 2013 - Directed by Jeff Nichols
I first became aware of Jeff Nichols with 2007's oddly hypnotic, "Take Shelter." I became convinced of his immense storytelling talent with the brilliant and mesmerizing, "Mud."
Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are two 14 year old boys growing up on the river beds of Arkansas living what is their version of an idyllic life which is a cross between Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and Stand By Me. As the film opens, Ellis, complete with his flashlight, sets out on his adventure to sneak out of his house and head up river in his boat to an island off the Mississippi River. As he leaves his house he hears the first ominous notes of his life changing as his parents, Senior (Ray McKinnon) and Mary Lee (Sarah Paulson), are bitterly embroiled in an argument.
The two boys make their way to the island and find a boat dangling among the trees. Ellis immediately sees the potential of it being their boat, their treehouse. As they search through the boat Neckbone finds some Penthouse magazines and Ellis finds canned food and bread, they are not the only one's who know about the boat. As they head back to the shore they see footprints and then they meet Mud (Matthew McConaughey).
Mud, for all intents and purposes, is hiding on the island. To the boys he is a mysterious figure who pays attention to them and offers advice. Mud is deeply in love and awaiting the arrival of Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) and the boys relate to that as they are just beginning to notice girls and in one especially poignant scene Ellis receives his first kiss and Tye plays the moment perfectly.
As the boys spend more time with Mud they begin to learn secrets and are swiftly pulled into the adult world and all its consequences. I want to be careful and not mention any spoilers so I will say no more about the plot.
Much needs to be said about the actors though. The two boys, Tye and Jacob are revelations. While Tye was previously in "Tree in Life" this is Jacob's first role and they are both equally great. There are no pretensions here. These 2 are not typical child actors. They so assuredly inhabit these roles that they are destined to receive more work should they choose it. Reese Witherspoon is captivatingly audacious as Juniper, its easy to see why Mud fell for her and easy to see why he should let her go.
As great as the rest of the cast is this is about Matthew McConaughey. Recently he has taken a different path and gotten away from the rom-coms and this is a career defining performance. His Mud is superstitious, rebellious, reserved, bold, volatile, grandiose and McConaughey hits all the right notes. This deserves to nab him an Academy Award nomination.
The cinematography by Adam Stone is breathtaking. You actually feel like you are along the Mississippi river and might stumble and get bit by a snake. Where as Beasts of The Southern Wild pounded you into submission, "Mud" invites you in and asks you to go on a journey. It is a journey well worth taking. This is one of the best movies of the year.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Great Gatsby - 2013 - Directed by Baz Luhrmann
I am not a fan of Baz Luhrmann. He is a visually artistic director who frames every shot in bright multiple colors, uses CGI which enhances the color and not the experience, mixes old-time sensibilities with modern pop and hip-hop and worse yet creates worlds where the characters must fight to be heard over the overwhelming distractions. He is the second coming of Tim Burton to me. All style and no substance.
Most people who go see this movie are aware of the story. A reclusive millionaire, Jay Gatsby, (Leonardo Dicaprio) living in the area of "new money" NYC, throws lavish parties and meets his neighbor, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), who is the cousin of Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), Gatsby's long lost love. They form a friendship while Gatsby attempts to lure Daisy away from her husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton.)
Luhrmann introduces us to the world of Gatsby early on with the first of the film's many exorbitant parties. A phantasmagoric display of men and women dancing and drinking, a pulse pounding soundtrack featuring Jay-Z booming on the films soundtrack, Gatsby hovering in the shadows. This honestly was the beginning of the end for me. Gatsby throws the parties to get Daisy's attention but in the hands of Baz they are serenades to Jay. Everyone their is in worship of him and the film loses its balance immediately. We've bought a ticket but we aren't invited to the party.
Carraway is the narrative force behind the film and Tobey Maguire, with his blank, bright eyed stare is all wrong to play him. He doesn't fit the roaring twenties. He too worships Gatsby as a God, before he even meets him, yet he too is like us. An outsider trying to not fit in but to break away.
Carey Mulligan is the right note for Daisy, Joel Edgerton is even better as her slimeball husband but among the supporting cast its newcomer Elizabeth Debicki, as Jordan Baker, who shines the brightest and seems to understand the most what is being asked of her.
Dicaprio is pitch perfect as Gatsby and the films only saving grace. He hovers over the movie even when not seen, moves gracefully while maneuvering through the old money types, all the while presenting the best portrayal of Gatsby to date. Though not a favorite of the Academy he deserves a nomination for his mesmerizing performance.
In the film Carraway states, "You can't repeat the past." Clearly you can and Luhrmann is proof positive of that. No matter how many detractors, he continues to create over-the-top, visually stimulating and emotionally bankrupt films to a legion of ardent supporters. Its about time I stop watching his films.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Friday, May 10, 2013
Being the huge fan of Quentin Tarantino that I am, anytime someone from one of his movies is out I am trying to get them! Kerry was out the other day so I came with my photos and thanks to a couple friends who helped me I was able to get a bunch. While she did sign alot she was skipping so many photos! Anything too sexy, some photos from Django. From one photo to the next it was anyone's guess if she would sign it!
Saturday, May 4, 2013
As I always try to get people from Quentin Tarantino movies, I heard Kurt Russell was going to be out so I had to try. As I showed up and it got closer to him arriving I realized there must not be much going on in Hollywood as it seemed like every grapher was there! However, Kurt was real nice and signed for everyone and I was able to get a few!
Friday, May 3, 2013
The Place Beyond The Pines - 2013 - Directed by Derek Cianfrance
No other person working in film today so embodies that of movie star/actor as does Ryan Gosling. Whether it be "The United States of Leland," "Half Nelson," "Lars and The Real Girl," or "Drive," he is simply the finest actor of his generation and further proof of that is submitted here.
Gosling stars as Luke, a tatted stunt motorcycle driver for the circus, and in the films captivating opening tracking shot, reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights and Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, we are introduced to him as we follow him through one long take as he heads through the carnival crowd and into a throng of fans waiting to see him enter what appears to be an oversized metal hampster cage, to do what he does best, throw caution to the wind. It is a bold opening and instantly made me feel that I was going to see something unique and what I got was just that. This is not a movie interested in the conventions of film.
Luke eventually runs into his old flame Romina (played by Eva Mendes in her best role to date) and finds out that he has a son. He has no money but wants to do right by his son. He decides to leave the traveling circus and stick by his family and while looking for a job chances upon Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) who introduces him to a way to make quick money, rob banks.
But this film is not just about Luke and his family. We are introduced to Avery (Bradley Cooper,) an ambitious cop looking to move up the ladder who sees his chance when he meets up with Luke. What results is a epic saga of these two families and how their lives interconnect.
Luke, despite his appearance, is basically a good guy looking to care for his family who gets in over his head. Gosling's portrayal of him is a remarkable piece of acting subtlety. He is able to convey so much pain without saying a word. It is the finest performance so far this year. Avery, on the other hand, is the image of perfect guy next door who does everything for the wrong reasons. When he sees corruption he brings it to his superiors only if he his to be rewarded in the process. Bradley Cooper, with all his charms, plays Avery with his emotions held in check. You can see him thinking when he his presented with obstacles and he holds the film together in its second act.
The third act is about the son's of these two men. Will they commit the sins of their fathers? In the film's haunting closing shot, we see one of them ride off West in a motorcycle unsure if he is riding towards his fate or against it.
It is to the credit of director Cianfrance that he so assured in his storytelling that he is willing to flip film conventions on their head and aim for something truly original. He has succeeded. "The Place Beyond The Pines" is the first truly great film of 2013.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Iron Man 3 - 2013 - Directed by Shane Black
2010's "Iron Man 2" was an unmitigated disaster to me. When I heard Director Jon Favreau would be stepping aside and Shane Black would be taking over I thought it was just what this series needed, a fresh new voice. While part 3 is not up to par with the original, this is what summer movie season is all about - entertainment.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is having a existential crisis. After the events of New York, in last years blockbuster The Avengers, he keeps having anxiety attacks about who he really is and wants to be. His relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) has grown distant as he looks for meaning in his life. In comes The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley.)
The Mandarin is unleashing terrorist attacks throughout the world and if that was not enough, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a scientist that he met many years ago, appears to have his sights set on Pepper and Stark Industries.
In the comic book universe it is rare to see a film that takes its time and takes on these questions. It is risky. Normally it is blow some stuff up, show some cool gadgets and blow more stuff up. While "Iron Man 3" has those elements it also has what no other comic franchise has and that is Robert Downey Jr.
Who knew that Downey would be perfect for and become the biggest star to come out of a comic franchise? (Ok, Favreau knew!) His Tony Stark has always been the perfect mix of a wisecracking, debonair, self-absorbed billionaire playboy and Downey is pitch perfect as the film delves more into the man than his iron suit.
What the film does lack is a true villain. While there are many there are too many and the film does offer a few twists though one seems out of step with Marvel mythology.
Ultimately what makes this film so satisfying is Downey, a resurgent Pepper Potts who is given much more screen time and a very satisfying and touching relationship between Tony and a young boy played by the films breakout star, Ty Simpkins. In a summer movie filled with gadgets and explosions, it is refreshing to also get the human side of these characters.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Sunday, April 28, 2013
The other day I was at an event and a surprise happened when Rory showed up. Didn't know he was going to be there but I had my Argo photo with me and later on when he was leaving I was able to get him to sign it and get a picture with him. He seemed thrilled that I kept going on and on about how much I loved that movie!