What do Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, and James Gandolfini have in common? They were all in a decent movie that no one will remember in five years. Released at the end of November (in the middle of Oscar season), Killing Them Softly is an easily forgettable crime thriller written and directed by Andrew Dominik (the mind behind The Assassination of Jesse James). I saw Killing Them Softly in the theater, and I genuinely enjoyed it. Solid performances, an engaging story, nifty cinematography; certainly not an Oscar winner, but a good movie nonetheless. A week later, at Christmas dinner with my
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Honestly, I forgot this movie existed.
Need some help for your Oscar pool?
I have seen a lot of short films. Many of them were mediocre at best, steeped in their creator's overflowing pretension. Others were genuine and heartfelt, and touched on the very core of human experience. This year's class of Academy Award nominees had a little of everything. Asad Asad is the story of a young Somalian named Asad with conflicting interests. On one side are his friends - the older boys in the village - who have joined up with pirates and spend their days raiding yachts (you remember all the news reports). On the other side is the old
Animation can do anything quite literally.
Animated short films are often relegated to film festivals, and as a result go almost unnoticed. Unfortunately, the only time the general public cares about them is during Oscar season, and even then, most people are too wrapped up in the nominees for Best Picture and acting. Thankfully for those who enjoy them, ShortsHD is continuing their tradition of programs featuring the Oscar-nominated shorts (Live Action, Animation, and Documentary), which will be in theaters across the U.S., Canada, and Europe beginning February 1st. The 2013 Oscar-nominated animated shorts are: Maggie Simpson In "The Longest Daycare" The Simpsons has been on
Pierce Brosnan's debut is the last Bond movie to really feel like a Bond movie.
I am far too young to remember most Bond movies opening, and GoldenEye is no exception. Released in 1995, GoldenEye marked Pierce Brosnan's first Bond film, and the last appearance of the Walther PPK as Bond's trusted sidearm. It was the first 007 movie produced after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and end of the Cold War, which provided a wonderful backdrop for the plot. In true 007 fashion, GoldenEye opens with our hero rappelling down a dam in Soviet Russia (1986) to destroy an illicit chemical weapons factory. Things go bad when Bond's partner - 006 -
Jim Jarmusch's third feature film is nothing short of extraordinary.
Jim Jarmusch. A name that should resonate with independent filmmakers and aficionados alike. Sadly, I had only heard the name whispered around film festivals and classrooms. This shiny, new, Criterion Collection Blu-ray of Down by Law was my first exposure to Jarmusch. Starring Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni, Down by Law follows three characters as they escape from a New Orleans prison and make their way through the bayou - hopefully to freedom. The entire film is paced, scripted, and scored as if it were a stage drama. With every best-seller coming to theaters, successfully adapting a story
Thankfully, it doesn't take itself too seriously.
Lonely women on New Year's Eve become easy prey for a misogynistic maniac whose resolution is to kill. Seriously, that is the only description you'll find on the back of the box. Honestly though, you just bought a movie titled New Year's Evil; did you expect anything more? When you pop your copy of New Year's Evil into your fancy-shmancy DVD player, the first thing you'll see is a prompt asking you to choose between the film, and its trailer. The trailer is the only extra on the disc, but it is worth it. It's not quite as good as
It does a little too much telling.
Almost Kings, in the press release, is described as "an edgy, coming of age drama centered around a young man (Ted) following in his destructive brother’s (Truck) footsteps. Almost Kings asks the question that echoes in every school in America: how far will you go to be accepted?" This sounds like my kind of movie. I happen to like coming of age dramas - the good ones really stand out against the crowd. Unfortunately, like so many high schoolers, this film just kind of blends in. The greatest shortcoming was without doubt, the writing. Forced lines left and right, plot
The gang go to India, Italy, and the U.S.
Petrolheads rejoice: Clarkson, Hammond, May, and The Stig are back with another season of Top Gear! The 18th series, although short (seven episodes and a Christmas special), is packed with fast cars, explosions, and its perennial British wit. For those who don't know, Top Gear is, arguably, the best car show in the world. You won't learn how to fix a flat, or get much useful purchasing advice, but you will learn the 0-60 times of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster, the Jaguar XFR, the McLaren MP4-12C, and countless more Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Aston Martins - basically, every ten-year-old's dream
A classic in its own right.
Imagine, if you will, that David Lynch and the Coen brothers had a French son. This is the movie he would make. Nobody Else but You is a darkly hilarious murder mystery that nods to Twin Peaks, Barton Fink, Fargo, and even The Big Lebowski. Let's get one thing out of the way right now: This is an incredible film, and you should go watch it. Now, let's dig a bit deeper; the devil is in the details, after all. David Rousseau is a bestselling Parisian crime novelist who goes to the remote community of Mouthe to collect inheritance from
It exists somewhere between generic indie and art/experimental film.
According to the press release, “Jess (Sarah Hagan) and Moss (Austin Vickers) are second cousins in the dark-fire tobacco fields of rural Western Kentucky. Without immediate families that they can relate to, and lacking friends their own age, they only have each other. Over the course of a summer they venture out on a journey exploring deep secrets, identity, and hopes of the future in the wilds of their world.” It delivers, but in a very roundabout way. Jess is a high-school graduate who has lived with her inattentive father since her mother left them (which she blames herself for).
The 50th festival in retrospect.
Another festival has come and gone. Over 200 films were screened (I personally attended 67). Over $20,000 in prizes were awarded. The festival isn't about the numbers, though, or the money. It's about the experience, the atmosphere, the audience. I've seen hundreds of movies on my couch and in the theater, but the ones I remember most vividly are the ones I had fun watching (midnight screenings of The Room come to mind), and I had a blast watching everything at the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival. Nothing can compare to sitting in a small screening room late at night,
Films that don't quite fit anywhere else.
Palaces of Pity Consisting of beautifully disjointed scenes, and echoing The Fountain, Palaces of Pity exists cinematically in a very odd place - somewhere between imagination, dream, and memory. The whole film feels odd, too. Every shot is beautiful, the story is magnificent, the sound design and pacing are exceptional, but it feels incomplete. Two teenage cousins, Margerida and Ana, live with their dying grandmother as she decides which one to leave her estate to. The film begins to explore the relationships between the cousins, their grandmother, and their circle of friends. Palaces of Pity has the air of memory
A night of unexpected endings.
Films in Competition Honestly, I wasn't terribly thrilled about attending this selection of competition films, namely because of Soft Palate. If you'll recall, I reviewed a piece from opening night titled Shadow Cuts, and I was less than impressed with it. Soft Palate is by the same filmmaker, and from the same “Deconstructing Disney” series of shorts. I expected it to be repetitious and pointless, but I was wrong. Soft Palate is a far superior piece: it is more restrained, it builds tension to a climax, and lets the audience back down softly. I was very excited to see Im
The historic 50th festival continues with a strong collection of shorts and a moving pictorial.
Poetic Injustice - Short Films from the Arab World The “Poetic Injustice” program of short films from the Arab world didn't have the energy of the Student Film Showcase, or the charm of Out Night, but the films were just as good. Individually, most were a little weak, but together they created a very strong pastiche of a war-shaken culture. Particularly moving were Mona Hatoum's Measures of Distance and Bouchra Kalili's Mapping Journey #7 (the festival program lists this as Mapping Journey #5, but #7 was screened). Measures of Distance is a collection of narrated letters to Hatoum from her
Day 2 features filmmakers of the past and the present.
Student Film Showcase There's something special about the raw creative talent of student filmmakers. Experimental festivals tend to draw artists making art for the sake of art. Students, on the other hand, just make what they think is cool. Their films, while not always technically superior or groundbreaking, are always true to their visions. The entire student film showcase was wonderful. With entries from The University of Michigan, the College for Creative Studies, Eastern Michigan University, even Washtenaw and Oakland Community Colleges. Genres ranged from animation to documentary, drama, comedy, and everything in between. Every film was stellar, but one
The 50th AAFF opens with a short film program focused on technical experimentation
Tuesday night marked the beginning of a historic week. An aged George Manupelli stood on stage at the Michigan Theater and joked with a tightly packed audience as he opened the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival. Manupelli, a professor at The University of Michigan at the time, founded the AAFF in 1962. Since then, it has become the nation's longest-running independent and experimental film festival. The festival runs through Sunday April 1st, and I'll be there all week to bring you my reactions to the cutting edge of avant-garde filmmaking. Once everyone got over their opening-night jitters, the festival began
Well, it wasn't the worst thing I've seen.
I waited for what seemed like eons for my copy of Dirty Girl to arrive in the mail. When the Fed-Ex envelope finally came to my door, I was elated. After weeks of watching nothing but deep symbolic films, I could finally let my brain take a vacation. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed. Dirty Girl is not a good movie. However, between bouts of ham-fisted messages about being yourself and mediocre dick jokes, there is a spark of a story. On the back cover you'll find the entire plot laid out for you.
A wonderful film that doesn't deserve to be forgotten.
How Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze squeezed 104 minutes out of a 10-sentence children's book still amazes me. But they did, and boy, is it wonderful. Where the Wild Things Are is about Max (played by Max Records), a young boy with an extremely active imagination, and his journey to an extraordinary land populated by giant, terrifyingly cuddly beasts. After throwing a tantrum, culminating in biting his mother (Catherine Keener), Max runs away and sets sail for the Wild Things' island. In his first encounter with the giant beasts, he is nearly eaten but quickly establishes himself as their king