Tag Archive | Film

Film Break: “Cars 2”

I reviewed the latest from Team Pixar for CT; you can read my take here. Wish I could say that Cars 2 was yet another addition to Pixar’s rather incredible winning streak, but I’m afraid this is squarely a bottom-tier Pixar offering, down with A Bug’s Life and the first Cars. I did like it more than most critics seem to, though– right now, if forced to choose, I would maybe just barely prefer it to the first one– and it definitely offers its share of pleasures, even if it is really nothing more than a good, adequate cartoon.


Film Break: “Rejoice and Shout”

Rejoice and Shout is a terrific new documentary– out in limited release today– that functions as a sort of whirlwind tour of the 200-year history of black gospel music. The film’s historical perspective is fascinating, and the vintage performances are outright inspiring. You can read my full review of the film here— but of course, I also encourage seeking out the movie itself.

Film Break: “Hanna”

My review of Joe Wright’s new movie Hanna is posted at CT Movies. I’m afraid the visual stylishness of this one wasn’t enough to compensate for the rather hollow storytelling, at least in my experience.

Film Break: “Limitless”

I don’t have time to write about film nearly as much as I’d like to, and, truthfully, I don’t make it to the theater quite as much as I used to. I have seen a couple of films recently that really impressed me, however; the animated Rango is as delightful and inventive a movie as I’ve seen in… dare I say years? I’m completely head-over-heels for it. And I had a great time at The Adjustment Bureau, which is just about perfect as both a thriller and a romance, and better than expected as a philosophical endeavor. Not everything about it works, but I was swept away by its ambition, and by the chemistry between the two leads.

Limitless, opening today, is not nearly as good as either of those movies, but it is still a pretty good time, as far as pure escapism goes. It won’t win any awards, and it’s about as dumb as these things get, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it on some level. My CT review is posted here.

Film Break: “Just Go With It”

Just Go With It, from Adam Sandler and the director of Grown Ups and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, debuts today, along with my CT review. Word of advice: Don’t just go with it.

To date, Adam Sandler has been in exactly one truly excellent romantic comedy. It’s called Punchdrunk Love.

The Films of 2010: Ten Favorites

I think I saw fewer movies in 2010 than in any previous year– going back to, ah, my infancy, anyway– but even so: I’ll go on record for this past year as the most rewarding moviegoing year of the last several. I have actually heard more than a few critics dismiss it as a lesser year– never mind the fact that it gave us a masterful Coen Brothers, a superb Scorsese, a top-form Polanski, and a typically sublime Pixar. A disappointing year? Perish the thought.

Of course, there are still films I wish I’d seen, and one in particular– Another Year, from one of my favorite directors, Mike Leigh– that sources close to me have indicated to be among the year’s finest. So, a revision, a couple of weeks down the road, is entirely likely. For now, though, these are my ten favorites of the year. And by the way, I’ve never been more serious about the distinction between Best and Favorite; these are all terrific films, I think, several of them masterworks, but my selections this year are, more than ever, based on my own emotional response to the works in question, to how they spoke not just to my intellect but also engaged my heart.

10. Inception
Dir. Christopher Nolan

The knock against this one is that it’s an action blockbuster that’s a little too brainy for its own good, at the expense of emotional payoff. Fair enough, I suppose, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to trash a summer blockbuster for being too smart. That the film plays out like one giant puzzle is no dismissal of it at all, but rather a summary of exactly why it’s an action movie like no other, and, one can only hope, a template for things to come. For the record, though, many of the puzzle pieces– the almost psychoanalytical infiltration of submerged emotions into our dreams, the typically Nolan-esque metaphor of cinema as a sort of waking dream– these are things that did in fact resonate with me, and even those who weren’t as moved by it ought at least give DiCaprio his due for acting the hell out of it.

09. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky

In the pro camp, they say this one takes on an almost Shakespearean level of emotional and psychological grandeur; in the con, they say sure, but if it’s Shakespeare, it must be Titus Andronicus. I’m not sure why both can’t be true. I don’t care to defend the movie against its criticisms so much as embrace it precisely because of them, for the way it grabs hold of camp and turns something sort of trashy and vulgar into something darkly, at times comically but always grippingly operatic. As my abiding love for There Will Be Blood suggests, I have a fondness for films that mine the darker regions of human psychology and project our shadows into horror movie monsters, something that I think this movie does rather well.

08. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Edgar Wright

This one I feared would be either a bracingly satirical take on hipsterdom, or else a movie that celebrated hipster culture in the most inside-jokey way possible– in other words, a movie made with a particular subset of young people as its target audience and anyone else can stay the hell away. What a pleasure, then, to find it such a warm, goofy, charming, and utterly winsome hoot of a movie– one that seems to be made with real fondness and affection and no particular ax to grind. Visually, it’s the most original thing I’ve seen since Speed Racer, a film that I have always desperately loved, and it also happens to be the funniest and cleverest thing I saw at the movies all year, though what makes it stick is that its cleverness is not for its own sake, but for the a sake of a movie that tries really hard to entertain and succeeds in the most strikingly unique way I can imagine.

07. The King’s Speech
Tom Hopper

In truth, it’s the kind of movie I normally hate– a prestige picture, a period piece, an acting showcase that seems to have Oscar intentions written all over it. But this– this is a marvelous picture. Perhaps it is due, partially, to the fact that I am a words man, and this film is, among other things, a celebration of the language. I dare anyone to watch the scene in which Lionel Logue explains the therepeutic value of swearing and find it to be anything less than unflinchingly honest, and hilarious to boot. But more than that, I think, I simply love the fact that this film sparkles the way it does with humanity, with wit, with real emotion, all enhanced– not obscured– by its deft sense of craftsmanship.

06. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese

Yes, I saw the ending coming from the very first scene– but so what? This is the kind of film that isn’t interested in pulling the rug out from under us as forcing us to watch, in dreadful anticipation, as all the wheels of the story move toward that inevitable and awful conclusion. (In this regard, by the way, the film is not at all unlike Black Swan). I love the cinematic vision of this picture, the Hitchcock homages and film noir injections, but what I love most is the portrait it paints of a world so hell-bent on its own destructive madness, the only escape some men can find is into pure insanity.

05. The Ghost Writer
Roman Polanski

A genre picture that actually stands for something– though whether its true meaning is in its allegorical spin on the auteur’s own personal problems, in its kinda-sorta rewrite of the Blair years, or in a political resonance more universal than that, you’ll have to decide. My own inclination is to say that it’s a shockingly effective thriller that’s fueled by anger– or better yet, good old-fashioned moral indignation, the kind we don’t have nearly enough of these days.

04. True Grit
Joel and Ethan Coen

I’ve long given up on picking which of the Coens’ films is the best– in a career that encompasses such diverse masterpieces as Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski, how could one possibly select a single pinnacle?– but I’ll at least throw my support behind this as one of their most pleasurable films– which is really rather odd, given the austere, almost puritanical morality of the thing, its ruminations of righteousness and biblical grace, but true nevertheless: It’s a warm and welcoming movie, a hilarious and heartfelt movie, and as stirring an argument for good old-fashioned storytelling simplicity as I can think of right now.

03. Toy Story 3
Lee Unkrich

I have, in a very real way, grown up with these characters; with the third installment behind us, we’ve come to a place where we have learned to let go. This is a movie about grown-up decisions and grown-up emotions, the series’ usual existential questions about our place in the world here covered in bittersweet emotions that– I readily confess– damn near had me weeping in my seat. It’s worth noting, though, that for all the complaints about Pixar’s movies becoming too adult-oriented, this is the cartooniest, most delightfully silly thing they’ve made since Monsters, Inc. Also, I’ll say this: Best trilogy ever.

02. The Social Network
David Fincher

It’s been called a Citizen Kane for our generation, and the only thing more audacious than the claim itself is the reality of just how close to being accurate it really is: This is an important film, a timely film, a film that encompasses big themes about who we are as people, and how we relate to one another. It’s also a really funny movie, with dialogue that’s as propulsive as any action footage you can imagine. Between Fincher’s artful directing, Aaron Sorkin’s beguiling screenplay, and an oustanding cast that includes, among many others, a really superb acting turn from one Justin Timberlake, I’m inclined to say that this picture single-handedly renders it impossible to single out a 2010 MVP.

01. The Fighter
David O. Russell

The movie’s a knock-out, and I feel like it speaks for itself; since I’m in the minority in choosing it as the year’s best, however, let me offer a quick defense. There were more important movies this year, I grant you. But this one got its hooks in me early, and it didn’t let go. It dragged me through the ringer, through some of the most devastatingly harrowing on-screen moments I’ve ever seen and some of the most hard-won triumphs. As pure cinema, as pure story goes, its pull is simply astonishing. It sings. And all the extra stuff– its nature as a “boxing” and as a “based on a true story” movie, Christian Bale’s weight loss, Mark Whalberg’s ripped arms, Amy Adams’ way-against-type casting– these things don’t impress me nearly as much as the movie’s contentment with being a movie that doesn’t teach a lesson or become a parable, but simply gives us real, complex people making real, complex decisions. Honestly, it still hasn’t really let me go.

Film Break: “True Grit”

My review of True Grit is up at CT Movies. For those of you wondering if this is my new favorite Coen Brothers movie, the answer is yes– right alongside Raising Arizona, No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski…