Margaret is something of a time capsule. Shot and originally scheduled for a release in 2007, director Kenneth Lonergan struggled for years in the editing booth to find a cut he was satisfied with, leading to multiple lawsuits that delayed the release of the film even further. Four years later, the film was quietly released in the fall of 2011 in a 150-minute cut that Fox Searchlight demanded he trim the film down to. Unfortunately, the scars of the lengthy post-production hell the film went through are apparent in the theatrical cut. The editing is choppy at best, and while certain sections, particularly in the first 100 minutes, benefit from it, the last 50 suffer greatly and stunt the impact of the film. The script, direction, and performances are firing on all cylinders, but the film becomes something of a beautiful mess in this rendition of it. The good news is that for this Blu-Ray release, Fox Searchlight saw fit to release an extra DVD disc with the film that houses the long awaited extended cut. Running at 186 minutes, this cut was apparently closer to Lonergan’s original vision. The result is something of a masterpiece.
Author Kevin Ketchum
Like Lorene Scafaria’s previous film, Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World makes for a better soundtrack than an actual film. That sounds like an extremely backhanded compliment, and while it isn’t meant to be, it still rings true in a lot of ways. The film finds itself oddly pre-occupied with music, especially towards the middle, especially for a story concerning the literal impending apocalypse. But perhaps that’s the point, to appreciate the little things in life when faced with the inevitability of death. It certainly seems a prevalent enough theme throughout the film, as everyone seems to be taking the end of days rather well, or at least trying to. It’s time to party like there’s no tomorrow, literally, and indulgences are everywhere. And yet, there’s a somber tone that, while appropriate, conflicts with the bizarrely comedic tone that it often strives for. It’s a movie of two minds, and it never really settles on being one or the other.
Reviewing any Pixar film represents something of a compromise. On one hand, does each film just get reviewed on its own merits? Or is it held up to the standard of the now legendary studio’s finest efforts? Surely, in a perfect world where we could watch films in a vacuum, it would be the former, but we don’t live in that work. Expectations exist, especially in today’s environment of the constant information-feed blogosphere. With the constant feed of trailers, clips, set-reports, etc., there’s no way not to have a certain set of expectations when it comes to a known property like Pixar, especially with the hype that surrounds them.
We Need to Talk About Kevin isn’t as much a film as it is a stream of consciousness. Presented in an entirely non-linear structure and forgoing traditional storytelling, one might think Gaspar Noe directed it. Instead, Lynne Ramsay has brought the now famous best-selling novel to the screen, and if this movie is any indication, she is filmmaking force to be reckoned with. This isn’t just a literary adaptation; it’s a cinematic tour-de-force of the most chilling kind, propelled by extraordinary performances from three young men and career-best work from the great Tilda Swinton.
Do you remember your first love? Was it a playground crush? A high-school sweetheart? We’ve all had a first love in our youth, and some of us may remember it more fondly than others. But it’s a universal experience: the feeling of wanting to be with someone more than anything in the world. That innocent and universal human experience is what’s at the center of Wes Anderson’s latest film, Moonrise Kingdom.
Tim Burton movies have become something of a joke recently, and not without good reason. For the last decade or so, he’s been more hit and miss than ever before, struggling to regain the creative stride he one had. For every great film he knocks out of the park like Big Fish or Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, he churns out a disaster like Alice in Wonderland. I’ve long defended Burton as a director who made a lot of good movies and still does, but only when he really cares. A film like Alice in Wonderland reeks of just taking on a project for a paycheck and to keep busy, whereas a deeply personal film like Big Fish becomes a sort of accidental masterpiece. So when he gets to do something like Dark Shadows, which has him returning to his more grounded period work of his earlier career, and is apparently a passion project for him, where does it land? The unfortunate truth is that it falls into the misfire category.
Others have said it before at this point, but The Avengers is a movie that by all logic should not work at all. A staggeringly ambitious project four years in the making, Marvel Studios’ big superhero team up could have been a disastrous blender of mistakes, and yet, against all odds imaginable, it works beautifully like a well-oiled machine. Briskly paced, superbly acted, and sharply made, it’s a triumph on nearly every level; delivering the payoff we’ve been promised since the post-credits scene of Iron Man way back in 2008.
Your enjoyment of Safe is really going to depend entirely on your expectations for it. If you’re expecting anything with an ounce of meaningful storytelling, run away fast. Safe is a film that draws upon nearly every single action cliché in the book and then some, utilizing them in the most cheesy and non-ironic way. This creates for some situations of big, dumb fun, but for most of the runtime, it’s a really tedious and dull affair. However, if you’re a Jason Statham fan who just wants to watch him throat-punching and killing an insane amount of bad guys, Safe might be right up your alley.
Steve McQueen is an incredible artist. Not a great filmmaker, but a true artist. Because that’s what he’s making: art. With his first film, Hunger, McQueen displayed the potential he had for crafting a nuanced, layered, singular vision. But apparently, it was just a practice round. Because what he has accomplished with his latest film, Shame, is the kind of masterful achievement most filmmakers can only dream of accomplishing.
The title Titanic is appropriate for such a massive cultural success as the film is. Before the film opened, most press had doomed it to be a massive failure. It was the most expensive movie ever made, and a significant departure for sci-fi action master James Cameron, a callback to the golden age of Hollywood epics. People inside and outside the industry had every right to be nervous about the film’s prospects. But then something incredible happened. It became the single biggest word-of-mouth success in history. It didn’t break any opening weekend records, but went on to be a box office triumph that lasted for nearly a half a year, in which time it swept the Oscars, winning eleven total, and becoming the highest grossing film of all time, only to be surpassed twelve years later by Cameron’s own follow-up, Avatar.