It is relatively rare for a film not of the horror genre to create an atmosphere so unsettling and uncomfortable as to remain with you long after viewing. Sexy Beast, the first feature from advertising and music video maestro Jonathan Glazer, is for the most part an excellent character drama based around a bank job, but at times it is as intense a viewing experience as you will have from any film.
Browsing: Rewind Review
About one-third of the way through Jonathan Glazer’s Birth comes its narrative and stylistic turning point: for a nearly three-minute unbroken long take, protagonist Anna (Nicole Kidman) gradually realizes that she believes in ten-year-old Sean’s (Cameron Bright) claim that he is her husband reincarnated. Having tardily made her way into a packed concert hall with her new fiance (Danny Huston) after Sean’s adamant refusal to recant his story, Anna stares past the camera as Wagner swells on the soundtrack, representing the roiling emotional turmoil beneath her placid, fragile gaze. That single shot — audacious, severe, just as aural as visual, and entirely reliant on Kidman’s focused, interiorized performance — encapsulates the film’s overall strengths and weaknesses. Engaging yet self-consciously bravura, the oppressive zoom frames the lead actress’s face and lets duration and minute gesture relay what meaning it contains. It’s a moment that may try one viewer’s patience while piquing another one’s, becoming emblematic of the film as a whole.
On many levels The Raid: Redemption shouldn’t work. Firstly it’s a film set entirely in Indonesia that is written and directed by a Welshman. Secondly, said director Gareth Evans and the star of the film, Iko Uwais, are virtual unknowns. Thirdly there is virtually no plot to speak of and finally much of what you see is borrowed in part from many other films from Die Hard to The Wild Bunch via any martial arts film you care to mention. The thing is it does work…it works almost perfectly.
Muppet movies have always been problematic. While many moments are good, the films struggle to maintain the zany attitude that the television show established. Somehow the translation to a long-form format always missed, sometimes just slightly and other times widely, off the mark. That changed with The Muppets (2011), possibly because co-writers Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller approached the screenplay with the irreverence that permeated the series and utilized the trademark Muppet self-reference and breaking of “the fourth wall” to draw people in and keep the plot afloat.
Based on the words and images of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s graphic novel adaption of the true life events of the Battle of Thermopylae, 300 tells the front and back story of Leonidas (Gerald Butler), the kind of Sparta and a favorite amongst the Greek. A Persian amry is gaining momentum, lead by a supposed “god-King” named Xerxes. He wants to take over Greece, and he expects Sparta to just roll over and accept it. But as they’re bred to do, Spartan warriors don’t know such a thing. Leonidas commands an army of 300 Spartans up against an infinite Persian army. What happens next is one of the most enthralling acts of courage ever told, regardless of format.
Naomi Watts is Ellie Parker in Ellie Parker (2005), a film about a struggling actress in Los Angeles and her ensuing adventures arising from her seemingly endless bad luck. This is a great picture and a forgotten classic. For the most part, movies-about-movies are a dime a dozen and instantly forgettable. Worse, they are often extremely dull. Ellie Parker may be many things but it is rarely dull. That said; this film is probably going to be enjoyable or even intelligible only to hardcore movie fans that understand the behind-the-scenes drama that go into making a film.
The characters speak industry-talk almost all the time that may intimidate people completely uninterested in the day-to-day aspects of film production. Also, the picture looks bad since a digital camera is used for apparently the entire film – and has been edited on Final Cut Pro as the credits boast! But this, again, is part of the story since this is a real look at acting and directing and it’s often hilarious.
Leatherheads, starring and directed by George Clooney, features Dodge Connelly (Clooney), the captain of the Duluth Bulldogs, a football team in an American league that’s slowly losing popularity. In an effort to save the league and to get his team to go pro, he decides to recruit Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), a top-notch college football player who became America’s darling after coming home a war hero. Things don’t go smoothly at first, and the intrusion of reporter Lexie Littleton (Rene Zellweger) only makes things more complicated. She thinks there’s more to Carter’s war story than he lets on, and Dodge will do anything to protect the integrity of this team, even as he’s swept away with Lexie’s charm.
There is something glorious about Good Night, and Good Luck. Not only does it document a legendary stand by a highly respected newsman against the paranoia induced by the Red Scare of the 40s and 50s, it does so in an electric, vibrant way unlike many films set in the 50s and in a newsroom. Shot in glorious black and white and written for an ensemble instead of a star, the film does its best to give us a sense of what news used to be before the days of the 24-hour news cycle where non-news is spouted at us as though it were important and live coverage of events goes on for hours with no new details.
What is it about this stupid movie that makes me laugh so much? There are lots of answers to this question, one that I’ve been struggling with for nine years now. One answer is the total commitment that the actors have to their characters, especially Will Farrell as Ron Burgundy. Another is the way that first time director Adam McKay seems to purposefully create a cheesy film. He doesn’t make the film slipshod by accident or lack of talent; I think it’s all on purpose to emphasize the ridiculousness of the characters and the situations they get into. Then there is the wonderful period flavor throughout the film, firmly setting it sometime in the 1970s though a year is not specifically given (unless I missed it). Lastly, I think the off-the-wall script, fashioned to be as crazy as possible, ultimately works despite not really feeling successful at the end of the film.
“I have never begun by asking the big questions, because I was always afraid that I would come up with small answers.”
These words are the first to be spoken by the respected historian and political scientist Raul Hilberg when he makes his appearance in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, and they go a long way in explaining why any assessment that casts this immense investigation into the Holocaust in terms of all-encompassing rhetorical statements or sweeping critical clichés will inevitably come up short. When it comes to a historical catastrophe of such incomprehensible dimension, whose ramifications—ethical, political, spiritual—continue to this day unabated, superlatives are invariably a form of reduction.