Lightning Round (week of 6/2-6/8)

Lightning Round is a new weekly feature on the blog.  It features shorter and more personal reviews of all of the films I see (but don’t review in full-length) in a given week, to be posted every Sunday or Monday.  Catching up on the month of June before I post the current week.

June 2, 2013

CloudAtlas-PosterCloud Atlas (2012)

Director: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Writer: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Barry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Wishaw, Keith David

Runtime: 172 minutes

Views: 2nd Viewing

Cloud Atlas was received with surprisingly mixed reviews.  Some critics and audience members applauded the films original premise, use of storytelling and editing, and acting, and some criticized it for being a hard-to-follow mess.  Cloud Atlas is a film that covers centuries (1849-2321) in its epic story, with the entire cast playing multiple characters throughout the film.  Having read David Mitchell’s incredible novel of the same name, Cloud Atlas was remarkable as both an adaptation of its source material and by becoming its own original work.  I had minor problems with it after my first viewing, but a second viewing helped clear nearly all of those problems.  Cloud Atlas is a science fiction film the likes of which we’ve never before seen, and one that is going to have a rabid cult fan base within the next decade.  A stunning work that has to be seen to be believed.  9.5/10.

June 4, 2013

High Noon (1952)Poster - High Noon_01

Director: Fred Zinnemann

Writer: Carl Foreman

Starring: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Katy Jurado, Eve McVeagh

Runtime: 85 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

High Noon has been on my personal “must-see” list for years now, and it was one I had avoided seeing simply because of its genre.  The Western genre has always been a fascinating one for me, but never one I could truly connect with.  High Noon might be the turning point for that opinion.  The film centres on main character William Kane (Gary Cooper) trying to rally his small town together in order to turn away a vicious gang whose leader he arrested and put away in the past.  High Noon is a beautifully made and incredibly personal Western, and easily the best film I’ve seen of the genre.  Cooper won Best Actor for his incredible performance, and the film features appearances from legends such as Lee Van Cleef (who would rise to fame in Sergio Leone’s future spaghetti westerns) and Lon Chaney, Jr.  The films theme “Do Not Foresake Me, Oh My Darlin'” has been stuck in my head since seeing the film, and adds greatly to it.  High Noon is highly recommended to anybody interested in a briskly-paced and personal western, featuring phenomenal music, acting, and direction.  9.5/10.

June 5, 2013

houseboatHouseboat (1958)

Director: Melville Shavelson

Writer: Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose

Starring: Cary Grant, Sophia Lauren

Runtime: 109 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Houseboat was a film with a far more interesting premise than its execution turned out to be.  Stars Cary Grant and Sophia Lauren have absolutely no chemistry within the film, which makes for a very awkward (not to mention overlong) 100+ minutes.  Houseboat is nowhere near as funny a film as it should be, and doesn’t benefit in any way for having two incredibly large stars in its possession.  This was a dreadfully boring and awkward viewing, and proof to the “back in my day” moviegoers that Hollywood has always been cranking out horribly mediocre films.  4.5/10.

Stoker (2013)Stoker_Movie-Poster-2013

Director: Park Chan-wook

Writer: Wentworth Miller

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Jacki Weaver

Runtime: 99 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Stoker is South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook’s North American debut film, and is nothing short of incredible.  The film follows young India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) who’s father has just passed away in a car accident.  Her long-lost uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes into her life at her father’s funeral, and moves into the house, seemingly beginning a secret relationship with India’s mother (Nicole Kidman).  Stoker is brutally violent at times, and incredible beautiful in other, quieter moments.  Park Chan-wook brings incredible cinematography to the table, as well as his patented directing style.  Stoker is Hitchcockian in the best possible way, seemingly a tribute to the Master of Suspense’s Shadow of a Doubt.  This is a film that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and one I can’t wait to revisit in the future.  It’s more beautiful than it has any right to be, and Matthew Goode gives an incredibly intimidating and charming performance as Uncle Charlie.  Stoker is a very high recommendation if you know what to expect before you go into it.  9/10.

June 6, 2013

american_splendorAmerican Splendor (2003)

Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Writer: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Judah Friedlander

Runtime: 100 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

I had absolutely no idea what to expect going into American Splendor, other than knowing it was in some way about comic books. What American Splendor turned out to be was far more satisfying and compelling than anything I could have ever imagined.  Paul Giamatti gives a powerhouse performance as artist Harvey Pekar, who begins writing about his everyday thoughts and encounters in his new comic book.  Pekar is angry, hilarious, neurotic in the most Woody Allen-esque way possible, and far deeper than many films would be willing to go.  The film is incredibly well-written (it was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at that years Oscar ceremony), and never stops being a legitimately interesting and hilarious journey through this man’s life.  Narration is delivered by the real Harvey Pekar, adding a whole other layer of legitimacy and hilarity to this incredible film.  I highly recommend American Splendor to anybody, if only for Paul Giamatti’s amazing performance.  9/10.

Alexander the Last (2009)alexander_the_last

Director: Joe Swanberg

Writer: Joe Swanberg

Starring: Jess Weixler, Justin Rice, Barlow Jacobs, Amy Seimetz

Runtime: 72 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Having previously seen nearly all of director Joe Swanberg’s works from the 2000’s before viewing Alexander the Last, I can’t say I was terribly impressed with the man’s body of work.  Alexander the Last is the film that completely turned that opinion around, and proved that Swanberg truly has an original voice in an industry that desperately needs as many as it can get.  Jess Weixler plays a young actress whose husband is away on a work-related trip.  She begins working very closely with a fellow actor, and sexual and creative temptations slowly begin boiling to the surface.  Weixler is incredible in the role, and continues to impress me with her acting skills.  It’s a shame she hasn’t had more opportunities to show off her talent.  Swanberg’s writing is better than it has even been in his career, and helps Alexander the Last feel all too real and frustrating in the best way possible.  Anybody interested in a short, charming, brilliantly written independent (or “Mumblecore”) film should check this one out.  8/10.

June 7, 2013

julia-movie-poster-2007-1020453348Julia (2008)

Director: Erick Zonca

Writer: Michael Collins, Camille Natta

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Aidan Gould, Saul Rubinek, Kate del Castillo

Runtime: 144 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Could Tilda Swinton possibly be any more interesting in the way she chooses what films to take part in?  Swinton again proves with 2008’s acclaimed Julia that she is one of the most talented and underrated actresses in America, delivering a truly bravura performance in the film.  Tilda Swinton plays the titular Julia who is the definition of a “hot mess”.  Through a series of events, Julia eventually decides to kidnap a young boy (Aidan Gould) and hold him for ransom, blackmailing his grandfather into paying $2 million for the child.  Julia lies and snakes her way through a messy situation, creating a real and truly incredible character study.  The film is brilliantly filmed, with many scenes set in the Mexican desert feeling hot, dry, and hopelessly real.  Zonca’s direction in the film proves that the director could be a force to be reckoned with, which when combined with Swinton’s brilliant performance makes for one of the best and most underplayed films of the 2000’s.  Julia is the highest possible recommendation I can give to a film.  This is one that desperately needs to be seen.  9.5/10.

June 8, 2013

Talk to Her (2002)talk_to_her

Director: Pedro Almodovar

Writer: Pedro Almodovar

Starring: Javier Camara, Dario Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, Geraldine Chaplin, Rosario Flores

Runtime: 112 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Talk to Her was my first experience with Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, and it has definitely managed to make me even more interested in the works of the celebrated filmmaker.  Talk to Her is about two men (a nurse and a journalist) who form a close friendship in a hospital when two women they care deeply for fall into deep coma’s.  The film is incredibly funny, touching, tense, not to mention very surreal is some of its more ridiculous moments.  Talk to Her is like nothing I’ve ever before seen, making you feel sick to your stomach and heartbroken at the same time, and making you feel for characters and relationships you never thought you would be able to care about.  The surreal highlight of the film is an absurd daydream sequence about a relationship between a full-grown woman, and her rapidly shrinking lover, told in a silent film style.  Talk to Her is a film that has been on my mind ever since seeing it, and one I’ve been wrestling with ever since.  Almodovar won his first Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for Talk to Her, an accolade I think is truly deserved.  Talk to Her is highly recommended, but don’t expect to instantly fall in love with it.  This is a film you sleep on, and one you debate the merits of in your head for days.  9/10.


Filed under Lightning Rounds, Reviews

6 responses to “Lightning Round (week of 6/2-6/8)

  1. This is a really good idea for a feature, wish I’d have thought of it first!

    • Thank you very much, friend! I’ve been meaning to find a way to cover the movies I don’t have a lot to write/say about, so I thought this might be a neat idea! You’re more than welcome to use it for your own blog! 😀

  2. Great reviews! I was just planning to see Cloud Atlas and Stoker when they come out on dvds, so sad I couldn’t make it on time when they were still in cinema.

    • Thanks a lot! I highly recommend seeking out Cloud Atlas ASAP. It’s a film that definitely grows on you with time. Have you read David Mitchell’s novel? It’s a phenomenal piece of literature, and I would go as far as calling it the best novel I’ve ever read!

      • Thanks a lot for the book recommendation, I haven’t read it. I think I’ll read it first and then watch the movie. At least that is my usual modus operandus when it come to book-movie situation 🙂

  3. Great short reviews! I’m curious: did you find the “Hollywood-ization” of Mitchell’s novel annoying? I saw the film first and really enjoyed it. Then I read the book (which is extraordinary) and realized how much had been dumbed down. It didn’t lessen the enjoyment of the film for me, but I would love a second opinion.

    And I agree that Matthew Goode is disturbingly good in Stoker. . . as well as very easy on the eyes even as he creeps on his niece.

    A belated thank you for visiting my blog! I look forward to reading more of your work.

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