Category Archives: Lightning Rounds

There isn’t enough time in the day to review every single film I see in full-length. Lightning Rounds are for those films I still want to talk about briefly. Posted every Sunday night or Monday morning.

Lightning Round (week of 7/14-7/20)

July 14, 2013

lunarcy-theatrical-posterLunarcy! (2013)

Director: Simon Ennis

Starring: n/a

Runtime: 80 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Lunarcy! is a 2013 documentary directed first-time documentary filmmaker, Simon Ennis.  The film focuses on a group of mostly-misfits who have one common interest: The moon.  These incredibly interesting characters are spellbound by our moon, and are dedicated to the habitation, mapping, and selling property on the moon.  The documentary is very light in tone, which helps make Lunarcy! a very interesting and fun, if not entirely important or relevant, documentary.  It is one that goes by incredibly fast, running just 80 minutes.  The subjects in the film alone are more than enough reason to see the film.  I recommend it to doc fans looking for something light and fluffy to settle down with for just over an hour.  7.5/10.

Cottage Country (2013)cottage-country

Director: Peter Wellington

Writer: Jeremy Boxen

Starring: Tyler Labine, Malin Akerman, Dan Petronijevic, Lucy Punch

Runtime: 90 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

After seeing 2011’s Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Tyler Labine had been cemented as a comedic force to be reckoned with.  Cottage Country is a sort of spiritual successor to the film, and hits most of that same notes that made Tucker and Dale such an enjoyable experience.  The film stars Labine and Malin Akerman as a couple looking to get away for a week, so they go to cottage in the woods in order to escape from their lives for a short time.  While there, Todd (Labine) plans to propose to his long-time girlfriend Cammie (Akerman).  Unfortunately for the two, their idyllic week at the cottage doesn’t exactly as planned.  The film is filled with hilarious dialogue, as well as many moments of above-average physical comedy (mostly from Labine).  It may not be as memorable as Tucker and Dale was, but it’ll be more than enough to tide me over until another Tucker and Dale-esque masterpiece.  Cottage Country is a blast from start to finish and a film I highly recommend, if only for the sheer entertainment value is possesses.  8/10.

July 15, 2013

urlDr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)

Director: Freddie Francis

Writer: Milton Subotsky

Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Bernard Lee, Donald Sutherland

Runtime: 98 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors is my first experience with Britain’s Amicus Horror production company, known mostly for their Hammer-esque films, and their many anthology horror features.  The film is told through five different stories, as well as a main segment that sets up our short horror anthology segments.  In the main segment, Doctor Schreck (played by Peter Cushing) reveals through the use of Tarot cards the futures of five men aboard a train late one night.  One man is terrorized by a werewolf while altering his former home, one by a creeping vine, Christopher Lee by his own severed hand, and more.  Most of the five segments are very fun and fast-paced, with the exception of the third (the voodoo segment), which slows down the film slightly.  Overall, Dr. Horror was a very fun experience, and one that has me very excited to further explore the world of Amicus Horror.  Recommended to horror fans, who will definitely get a kick out of seeing Lee, Cushing, and Donald Sutherlund all together on-screen.  7/10.

Watchmen (Director’s Cut) (2008)0600005030QAr1.qxd:0600005030QAr1

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: David Hayter, Alex Tse

Starring: Malin Akerman, Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode

Runtime: 186 minutes

Views: 2nd Viewing (1st for Director’s Cut)

What on earth could have possibly kept me from revisiting Watchmen for nearly five years?  I first saw it during its initial theatrical run, and even though I enjoyed the film, it didn’t seem to be an entirely memorable or special film for any reason.  Boy, was I wrong on that front.  Snyder’s director’s cut for Watchmen is easily one of the best superhero films I’ve ever seen, managing to be dark, satirical, grounded, over-the-top, and stylish all at the exact same time.  This is without a doubt Snyder’s greatest achievement to date, and shows exactly why production companies would choose him for films like Man of Steel.  Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, Jackie Earle Haley, and the rest of the principal cast do an incredible job at portraying the Watchmen, specifically Haley, who gives one of the most memorable performances of the 2000’s as Rorschach.  The music, the direction, the acting, and the amazing cinematography make Watchmen one of the most unique and misunderstood films of the decade, and one I can’t wait to revisit as soon as I possibly can.  9/10 (leaning towards 9.5).

July 19, 2013

broken-2013-poster02Broken (2013)

Director: Rufus Norris

Writer: Mark O’Rowe

Starring: Lily James, Cillian Murphy, Tim Roth, Rory Kinnear

Runtime: 91 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Broken is a film I had heard a lot about after its limited release in 2012, and yet knew very little about.  I decided to watch it on a whim this week, and was not disappointed in the least.  The film is an incredible coming-of-age tale with a strong lead, Lily James, playing Skunk.  After she witnesses the beating of her neighbour, her life is drastically changed forever. Tim Roth is also incredible as Skunk’s father, as is Cillian Murphy as her teacher.  I can’t say a whole lot about Broken without delving into spoiler territory, but the film takes a turn for the bleak in its third act.  Many critics have pointed out the films third act as the weakest part of the story, but I have to completely disagree with them on this.  The last act of the film packs such an emotional punch, and comes completely unexpectedly.  I feel that everybody should see this film if they have the opportunity to.  This is a truly great coming-of-age tale with solid performances, a lovely soundtrack, and an emotionally-draining third act.  9/10.

July 20, 2013

A Separation (2011)

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Writer: Asghar Farhadi

Starring: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat

Runtime: 123 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

I finally did it!  I finally managed to catch up with Asghar Farhadi’s 2011 Academy Award winning film, A Separation.  I had high expectations for the film, and it managed to exceed them in every way possible.  A Separation manages to completely blur the lines between truth and lies, to the point where even the viewer has a hard time deciding who is right and who is wrong during throughout the film.  The performances from Peyman Moaadi (Nader) and Leila Hatami (Simin) as a separated couple are absolutely stellar, as are the supporting performances from most of the films cast.  A Separation is littered with moments of moral ambiguity, and is a very challenging film is many ways, making it an incredibly rewarding experience at the end of the day.  I can’t wait to see more from Farhadi, and to revisit the film again in the future.  Highly recommended.  9.5/10.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

the-night-of-the-hunter-posterDirector: Charles Laughton

Writer: James Agee

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish

Runtime: 93 minutes

Views: 3rd Viewing

It may be seen as a controversial pick to some, but Charles Laughton’s lone directorial effort, The Night of the Hunter, is without a doubt one of my all-time favourite films.  The lighting and use of shadows throughout the films short runtime is impeccable, as is the iconic performance by the legendary Robert Mitchum.  Mitchum plays Harry Powell, a reverend who is after two children, John and Pearl Harper, in order to capture the money their fugitive father hid away inside young Pearl’s doll.  Powell is easily one of the greatest villains in the history of film, making the most of every minute he has on-screen.  The soundtrack, lighting and cinematography, direction, and the performances by Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish make The Night of the Hunter stand out as one of the greatest and most unique films ever made, in my opinion.  It’s one I find myself drawn to, and even now I can’t wait until my next viewing of the film.  I highly recommend this stylish and creepy noir to absolutely anybody.  10/10.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lightning Rounds, Reviews

Lightning Round (week of 6/30-7/6)

June 30, 2013

MV5BMTc0Nzc5MDEzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjc2NTEyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR7,0,214,317_As Good As It Gets (1997)

Director: James L. Brooks

Writer: Mark Andrus, James L. Brooks

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr.

Runtime: 139 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

As Good As It Gets was my first exposure to the films of James L. Brooks, whom I’ve heard many good things about (specifically about Broadcast News), and I wasn’t completely let down when the credits rolled.  Nicholson is incredible here as Melvin Udall, a slightly racist and homophobic writer, and is easily the highlight of the entire film.  Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt both deservedly won Best Actor and Best Actress respectively at that years Oscars, with Greg Kinnear also being nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  After a solid first half of the film, As Good As It Gets unfortunately suffers from an unbelievably cliched and silly last act, somehow leading to Nicholson and Hunt’s characters eventually falling in love.  Even though I still enjoyed the film, its bloated runtime and horribly cliched last act detract from the film.  7.5/10.

July 1, 2013


Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Writer: Ingmar Bergman

Starring: Ake Gronberg, Harriet Andersson, Hasse Ekman, Gunnar Bjornstrand

Runtime: 93 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Ingmar Bergman’s Sawdust and Tinsel is definitely an interesting film in all respects.  It features a travelling circus stopping in a small town for a show, where the ringmaster Albert Johansson (Ake Gronberg) is trying to reconcile with his wife while maintaining a relationship with his mistress.  The group and mostly Johansson are humiliated by a local acting troupe, soon leading to what might be the end of Johansson’s circus.  The film features a few of Bergman’s familiar faces, but was made before Bergman seemingly found his voice as a filmmaker.  The themes, ideas, and atmosphere are all there, but the film just never becomes the great piece of art it could have been.  Definitely a film I need to re-visit at some point in the future when I may be able to respect it more.  Still recommended to fans of Bergman!  7.5/10.

we_and_the_i_ver2The We and the I (2013)

Director: Michel Gondry

Writer: Michel Gondry, Jeffrey Grimshaw

Starring: Michael Brodie, Teresa Lynn, Raymond Delgado

Runtime: 103 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Michel Gondry seems to be an incredibly divisive filmmaker, and with a catalogue including films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind and The Green Hornet, it’s easy to see why.  The We and the I is definitely an interesting idea, but the execution is significantly less interesting, unfortunately.  The film takes a brief look at the lives of several teenagers who have nothing in common other than the fact that they take the same city bus route on a regular basis.  Some of them are mean-spirited and cold, while some of them are caring, passionate kids.  The problem with the film is that it’s incredibly unfocused, and doesn’t feel like a Gondry film at all (at least not one he’s passionate about), in fact it feels far more like the work of somebody like Spike Lee.  The acting, done mostly by non-actors, is passable, but the film is just too impersonal, too long, and far too unfocused to ever amount to anything significant.  Can only recommend it to fans of Gondry.  6/10.

Some Like It Hot (1959)220px-Some_Like_It_Hot_poster

Director: Billy Wilder

Writer: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe

Runtime: 120 minutes

Views: 2nd Viewing

The American Film Institute (AFI) voted Some Like It Hot as the greatest American comedy of all-time a few years ago, which is an incredibly difficult decision to argue with.  The film is the perfect example of 1950’s comedy, with most of its major jokes delivering huge on the laughs.  The performances from legendary actors Jack Lemmon (who earned a Best Actor nomination for his performance), Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe are all incredibly funny for their own reasons, and the writing is a perfect example of long-time collaborators Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond at the top of their game.  Some Like it Hot feels slightly overlong at some points, but that seems to be a common problem with the films of Billy Wilder.  This is one of my all-time favourite comedies, and one I’ll be revisiting a lot more often in the future.  Just as funny the second time around.  Very, very highly recommended!  9.5/10.

July 2, 2013

Poster-Apartment-The_01The Apartment (1960)

Director: Billy Wilder

Writer: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Krushchen

Runtime: 125 minutes

Views: 2nd Viewing

The second of Wilder’s films I’ve taken the time to re-watch this month certainly didn’t disappoint.  In fact, The Apartment might be one of my all-time favourite films after this viewing!  Jack Lemmon is absolutely perfect as the down on his luck C.C. Baxter, and Shirley MacLaine is incredibly lovely as his co-star, Ms. Fran Kubelik.  Incredible supporting performances from actors like Fred MacMurray, Jack Krushchen, and Ray Walston round out the film and make it one of the best acted movies I’ve ever seen!  The script by Wilder and Diamond is hilarious, touching, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking throughout the film, rightfully earning Diamond and Wilder an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  The film also won Best Director for Wilder, as well as Best Picture in 1960, going down as one of my all-time favourite judgement calls by the Academy in its long and storied history.  I could go on and on with my love for this film.  If you haven’t yet seen it, do yourself a favour and check out this gem of a film.  10/10.

July 3, 2013

These Amazing Shadows (2011)These-Amazing-Shadows-poster

Director: Paul Mariano, Kurt Norton

Starring: n/a

Runtime: 88 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

These Amazing Shadows is an incredibly informative and interesting look at the world of film preservation and the National Film Registry.  It features interviews with industry professionals such as Martin Scorsese, Peter Coyote, Steve James, John Lasseter, Leonard Malton, Rob Reiner, etc. as well as incredible archival footage of the films featured in the Registry.  I highly recommend this documentary to anybody interested in the history of film, as well as its future.  A much better effort than 2012’s Side by Side, which was a massive disappointment.  My only complaint about the film is that it could have gone on for two more hours, and I hate the fact that it didn’t.  9/10.

July 4, 2013

evil-dead-poster-hi-resEvil Dead (2013)

Director: Fede Alvarez

Writer: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues

Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci

Runtime: 91 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Fede Alvarez’s remake of Sam Raimi’s horror classic Evil Dead is a film that seemed to split audiences immediately upon its release.  Some loved the serious nature of the film as well as its non-stop violence, and some saw it as a slap in the face to all horror fans.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle of these reactions.  Evil Dead certainly isn’t an example of a bad horror film or even a bad remake, but it certainly falls short of ever becoming a great one.  Evil Dead is impressive in its acting and special effects, but the screenplay seems to slowly degrade as the film wears on.  One thing I did love about the film was the detox of the films main character, which felt very fresh and original, but also felt like it could have been used much more.  One I would watch again, just based on how much fun it can be at times.  7/10.

Strange Frame: Love & Sax (2013)MV5BMTg1NjUxNzY3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODM3MzQ0OA@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_

Director: G.B. Hajim

Writer: Shelley Doty, G.B. Hajim

Starring: Claudia Black, Tara Strong, Tim Curry, Ron Glass, Cree Summer, Alan Tudyk

Runtime: 98 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Where exactly can I possibly start with this film?  Strange Frame might be the most unique film I’ve ever had the pleasure(?) of experiencing, both in the best and worst ways possible.  Described as a “Lesbian sci-fi jazz film” on the DVD cover, I had no idea what to expect going into it (other than the three things listed above, which /do/ sound intriguing).  The film features some great sound design and voice acting, but the compliments stop there.  The nonsensical plot, completely inconsistent animation styles, and incredibly flawed logic stop (and absolutely derail) this from being an enjoyable and fun film.  Despite its many, many, many flaws I highly recommend it to fans of science fiction, and those looking for something to laugh at with a group of friends.  5/10.

July 5, 2013

The-Place-Beyond-the-Pines-Poster-UKThe Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Writer: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper

Runtime: 140 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Wow.  After seeing Derek Cianfrance’s film Blue Valentine in 2011, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into a film like The Place Beyond the Pines, and I can’t say I saw anything within the film coming.  The film tells the epic and yet incredibly intimate story of a motorcycle stuntman who is trying to provide for his newly born child, a rookie police officer trying to take him down, the corrupt department he works for, and the future families of both men.  While I didn’t enjoy it as much as Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines establishes Cianfrance as a force to be reckoned with, and solidifies the working relationship between he and Ryan Gosling as an incredible team with endless potential.  Gosling is great as Luke (although never quite reaching the heights of Blue Valentine), Bradley Cooper gives his second incredibly impressive performance of the last two years, and the film is almost impossible to predict.  The only weakpoints of the film are its slightly too-long runtime, and the presence of leading lady Eva Mendes.  I highly recommend this film, as it’s easily one of the best of 2013.  9/10.

July 6, 2013

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010cameraman-the-life-and-work-of-jack-cardiff

Director: Craig McCall

Starring: n/a

Runtime: 86 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Cameraman is a very respectful and well-earned look at Academy Award winning cinematographer Jack Cardiff.  The film explores the man’s incredible career in both cinematography and direction, and features interviews with some of the industry’s finest.  Highly recommended!  8.5/10.

hot_coffeeHot Coffee (2011)

Director: Susan Saladoff

Starring: n/a

Runtime: 88 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

2011’s Hot Coffee is a documentary that takes a look at the infamous “hot coffee” McDonald’s lawsuit, as well as similar cases in the United States.  The first half of the film is incredibly interesting and informative, but it soon crashes and burns into a boring mess of near conspiracy theories and unrelated cases.  I can’t recommend Hot Coffee because of the last half of the film, when it turns into an almost completely different documentary.  6.5/10.

42 (2013)forty_two_ver5

Director: Brian Helgeland

Writer: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Alan Tudyk

Runtime: 128 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

42 is one of the most well-received films of 2013 by critics and audiences alike, and it’s easy to see why.  The film is about the life of legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman), the first African-American to ever play baseball in the United States.  The film unfortunately dips into highly sentimental territory more than once over its two hour runtime, making the film feel like many other biopics.  The performances are mostly memorable, with the supporting performance from Harrison Ford being the standout of the film.  I don’t have much to say about 42, but I can certainly say that I was slightly disappointed when the credits rolled.  There’s a lot to admire about the film, but at the end of the day it feels like an incredibly standard and safe biopic of a very important figure in sports and civil rights history.  I recommend it to anybody interested in seeing Harrison Ford actually acting, and those interested in biopics.  7.5/10.

hansel_and_gretel_witch_hunters_ver6Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Director: Tommy Wirkola

Writer: Tommy Wirkola

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen

Runtime: 88 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

When I first saw the trailer for Hansel & Gretel, I must admit that I was rather skeptical about the fairy tale duo hunting vampires and living in a darkly comical world.  Luckily, writer-director Tommy Wirkola makes the film work for the most part.  Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters certainly isn’t a flawless film, but it is certainly the most fun I’ve had watching an action movie in a very long time.  Hansel & Gretel (played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton respectively) are set up in record time, and unleashed into the hilarious world of the film.  The special effects are admirable, as are most of the moments of comedy within the film (most of them not quite being laugh out loud funny, but being respectable enough).  This is a film almost anybody can watch with a group of friends and have an amazing time during.  I must admit that I am looking forward to the potential of a sequel film where more emphasis can be placed on action set-pieces and special effects, rather than setting up our titular characters.  Highly recommended, but only if you know what you’re getting yourself into.  This isn’t a /good/ film, but a very, very fun one.  6.5/10.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lightning Rounds, Reviews

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