Sunday, November 16, 2014
One of my favorite comedies of the year is the gloriously misanthropic Listen Up Philip. Sadly, I missed it while it was playing at this year's New York Film Festival because it screened the day after my flight back home. But it's now playing on VOD and opened here in Atlanta (at the Plaza Theater) this past Friday. Jason Schwartzman plays what might be the douchiest among his repertoire of arrogant, self-absorbed characters. Promising young novelist Philip Lewis Friedman is someone who looks for any way to sabotage the great things he has going for him. He's the kind of jerk that finds it notable that another young, more famous rival killed himself not because of the inherent tragedy but because he turned down a chance to profile the author in what would have been the man's last, and therefore most attention-getting, interview.
Friday, November 7, 2014
The idea of Disney exploiting its newly acquired Marvel properties for an animated film is a great on its face. The first of these films, but hardly its last I believe, is Big Hero 6, a cute superhero movie that should prove to be a font of unending merchandising opportunities directed to young boys the way Frozen has been to young girls. Cute as it is however , Big Hero 6 still comes up short as a children's fantasy.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
An adventure into time, space and the human soul, Interstellar is more than reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But any similarities only heighten the sense that the nearly 50-year-old Stanley Kubrick science fiction classic may never be surpassed as the definitive movie on space exploration. And for director Christopher Nolan, that's a problem. Interstellar, with its integral dramatic dependence on concepts like the Einstein's theory of relativity and Newtonian physics, is Nolan's most significant stab at coherence. Yet the increased focus on the film's attendant technobabble only serves to demonstrate how inept Nolan is at advancing a story with anything that might resemble logic.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Elements of Peeping Tom, Network, Taxi Driver and a powerhouse performance by Jake Gyllenhaal are all fused together by veteran screenwriter Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut, the jittery, sleazy Nightcrawler. A gaunt-looking Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, a twitchy bottom-feeder with aspirations, but for what? Even he's not certain. At the start of the film, he is busted by a security guard as he steals copper wiring, scraps of metal, and even the guard's wristwatch after he manages to overpower the man. But a transaction for the stolen items sets Bloom on a different path after his polite eagerness isn't enough to convince the buyer to overlook his thievery and hire him, even for free. Before long Bloom has a chance meeting with Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), a scumbag who scans police airwaves to arrive first on the scene and shoot video he sells for top dollar to bottom-rated KWLA's news team. The entrepreneurial Bloom is soon teaching himself how to shoot and edit ratings-grabbing news packages for KWLA's ambitious director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo).
Monday, October 27, 2014
In recent years, the American independent film has become as much a genre onto itself as it is a label distinguishing it as a work made outside the Hollywood system. The Sundance Festival movie in particular was burdened with all sorts of expectations which over time created a stereotype called the "indie." Featuring a cast of young up and coming actors, peppered with a few veterans working for little pay in the hopes of breaking out of some sort of career rut, the worst kind of indie generally recalls a special moment in a young man or woman's life, weighted with a deep, life altering lesson, all under an acoustic score by some folkie/emo instrumentalist who possesses enough street cred to sell some soundtrack albums. Where "independent" once connoted originality, "indie" now simply means lo-fi. That's why Whiplash is so refreshing. 2014's Sundance U.S. Audience and Grand Jury Prize winner is a vibrant, jazz-inflected drama that's also an anti-indie. As it goes into general release this week, Whiplash is poised to take awards season by storm.
Friday, October 24, 2014
"Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see." That's a piece of advice offered in Stonehearst Asylum to the film's ostensible hero, Dr. Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess). It's also the most important suggestion made by author Edgar Allan Poe to his reader in the droll short story that the movie is loosely based on, "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether." Directed by Brad Anderson (The Call), Stonehearst Asylum is more clever than scary. But there's a lot to be said for a well plotted thriller in a time when too many horror movies hinge more on shocking their audiences instead of getting under their skin.