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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies improves on Austen's original novel by raising the stakes of romance. Previous versions confine Darcy and Lizzie to verbal sparring, but director Burr Steer layers effete language of 19th century courtship with swordplay, allowing some of literature's most famous lovers to prove themselves equals.
3 years 4 months ago
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brian_fuller

Opening the film up to long shots and spacious locations reduces some of AbFab's trademark kinetic energy. But if you like the TV show, you'll like the movie. One callback follows another, rewarding sorority members with fan service, in-jokes, and cameos. For the initiated, the film summons a string of knowing, nostalgic smiles, beginning to end.
3 years 4 months ago
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brian_fuller

Tangerine offers much to celebrate. It's a case study in filmmaking's recent democratization: a micro-budget narrative shot on iPhones amplifies heretofore marginalized voices. Unfortunately, the acting lacks subtlety. Scenes of high-wattage anger are strung together by lots of walking. Walking. Walking. Walking. Except when the characters are driving. Driving. Driving. Driving. I wonder how long the film would have been had an editor trimmed the angry striding between locations.
3 years 4 months ago
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Woody Allen’s dramedy lampoons the inconsequential urban neuroses that would popularize Seinfeld a decade later. Inasmuch as it indicts cafe society’s hollow peccadilloes — intellectual, artistic, relational, financial — Manhattan might be understood as La Dolce Vita’s playful younger sibling. The Writers Guild of America included it (and six [!] other Woody Allen scripts) in its list of 101 Funniest Screenplays.

Perhaps more important than its plot — in which longing and regret constitute and reconstitute various romantic pairings — the film is an atmospheric love letter to New York. Cinematographer Gordon Willis’s Gotham is a series of widescreen postcards edited by Susan Morse to complement the music of George Gershwin. The city’s monochromatic timelessness is easily reason enough to justify Manhattan’s 2001 induction into the National Film Registry.
3 years 5 months ago
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Aimlessly wandering from a retirement home on the day of his first triple-digit birthday, Allan Karlsson unwittingly acquires a fortune in drug money. A caravan of unsavory biker thugs (apparently trained at the Home Alone school for comic criminals) gives chase. Oblivious to his pursuers (indeed, to his surroundings), Karlsson attracts a quirky retinue, people to whom he can tell the story of his life. In flashbacks, his love of explosives propels him through a series of global conflicts. The man caroms from Franco to Oppenheimer, from Truman to Stalin, in a string of improbable near misses that might remind seasoned cinephiles of Mark Sandrich’s collaborations with Astaire and Rogers — most notably 1935’s Top Hat.

Comparisons to Forrest Gump are inevitable. But Karlsson is a more passive character. An apter doppelgänger might be Chance the gardener, played to incognizant perfection by Peter Sellers in Being There (1979). He shrugs through life hardly exerting even the effort required to hold an opinion, much less an allegiance. An interview with director Felix Herngren suggests this lifelong ennui is the consequence of a eugenicist’s scalpel. But filmmakers are often stranded in the gulf between intending and demonstrating a character’s interior motive.

The enjoyable Hundraåringen deserves special mention for its clever redressing of locations, certainly its make-up, and definitely its pyrotechnics.
3 years 7 months ago
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Despite its many genre tropes, I’m not sure Shenandoah counts as a Western. Yet it performs a function common to Westerns of the 1960s. It allows pointed criticism of current events (in this case, the Vietnam War) from a safe, thus palatable, distance. Many have tagged this an anti-war film, but I’m not sure it is. Yes, Charlie Anderson (Jimmy Stewart) repeatedly avoids involvement in the Civil War, claiming “It’s not on my land. I’m not a slave owner. It doesn’t concern me.” But Anderson cannot long afford his isolationism. spoiler — he may not simply opt out of war’s collateral damage. Notwithstanding his earlier protests, there are, it seems, quarrels one simply cannot avoid.

In June of 1965 (the month Shenandoah premiered), Congress authorized the use of ground forces in Vietnam. By December, 190,000 US troops were in Southeast Asia. Given that context, it’s tempting to project a pacifist message onto screenwriter James Lee Barrett and director Andrew V. McLaglen. But such projection is ignorant of the hawkish messages of their oeuvre. Their filmographies boast titles like The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Green Berets, The Cheyenne Social Club, McClintock and Chisum. Even Shenandoah's ham-handed, b-plot nod to the Civil Rights movement hardly jeopardizes their conservative credentials.

The look of Shenandoah is as conservative as its message. Art directors Alexander Golitzen and Alfred Sweeney paint with an idyllic palette. Few farms have ever been as beautiful as the Anderson’s 500-acre spread. It’s a distractingly implausible archetype, lifted from pre-school picture books, flatly (even clumsily) lit by director of photography William Clothier. Clothier’s many collaborations with John Ford are testament to his interpretive understanding of light. Yet Shenandoah looks efficiently cheap, like so many television shows of its era. Dumping light onto a set accommodates slow film and speedy camera set-ups. But it results in a flat aesthetic, casting multiple unmotivated shadows that are impossible to reconcile with 19th century firelight, and add little depth to character or plot.

I’ll admit to being misty-eyed at several points during the movie — a response I attribute largely to the combined charm of its actors. The company falls crisply in line behind patriarch Stewart: Doug McClure, Glenn Corbett, Patrick Wayne (yes, son of John), Rosemary Forsyth, Katherine Ross (her debut, 2 years before The Graduate), and Phillip Alford (memorably “Jem” in To Kill A Mockingbird). I was rooting for these performers to be related to each other as were their respective characters. Ultimately, this strikingly winsome cast lifted sentimental story beyond pedestrian craft.
3 years 7 months ago
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A gimmick in search of a film. Yes, it's technically impressive to stage a single shot that travels the length of the Hermitage. But the script's structure is weak, as it pretty much follows a tour guide from one gallery to the next. Perhaps it would make more sense to those already familiar with Russian history.
3 years 9 months ago
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brian_fuller

One static conversation after another. Thoroughly uninspired directing with little differentiation in camera movement, composition, or lighting from one scene to the next. Essentially a radio play which counts on the (lackluster) script to make it funny. The funniest bits were from fish-out-of-water moments in which known celebrities (Daniel Radcliffe, Lebron James, Marv Albert) acted against type. I expect more from Amy Schumer, instead of this Grease retread, wherein a girl earns a man by trading her life to become the male fantasy: a sports-loving cheerleader. Dulls the shine of her TV work as a "fun feminist."
3 years 9 months ago
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Authentically moving. Certainly the leading roles (and even the adult cameos) are incredibly well cast for maximum emotional impact. Distinguished by some fearlessly original camera angles that will likely force audiences to consider even life's mundane aspects from new perspectives. A special treat for movie fans who will enjoy teen parodies of cinephile favorites.
4 years 3 months ago
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I think probably I saw this movie 20 years too late. Though its level of visual detail is admittedly stunning, the existential questions posed by Kôkaku Kidôtai have since been more stylishly asked (and occasionally answered) by films like Ex Machina and innovations like IBM's Watson or Apple's Siri. I wonder whether the evil machinations of governments and corporations can seem novel after Coppola's The Conversation or regular doses of The X-Files.
4 years 3 months ago
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I'd forgotten how long Wilder can leave a shot without cutting. The performances, the lighting, and the composition maintain audience interest without seeming to try. A lesser director would have opted for the easy dissolve away from the spoiler scene, long before moviegoers felt the emotional wrench. From the vantage point of 2015, The Apartment feels like Mad Men written by Aaron Sorkin.
4 years 9 months ago
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Yes, yes, I told myself, I should definitely watch this movie. After all, it's got Pacino and De Niro. On screen together for the first time.

And then I looked up and it had been on my watch list for two decades. A snowy afternoon opened up some hours in my schedule and finally I resolved to plug the Heat-shaped hole in my cinema literacy.

I was its champion. I commended it to my family on the basis of its reputation. Initially game, they sat down to watch it with me. Little by little, however, even these dedicated cinephiles peeled away from the screen, leaving me the only one to dutifully finish this ponderous thing. ~sigh~
5 years ago
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Wow. Morris is a master of the form. Hard to imagine any talking head could be interesting for 103 minutes, but Morris brings his "A"-game. His shifting placement of Rumsfeld on screen is a lesson in persuasive composition. He translates the Secretary's reference to memos as "snowflakes" into an elegant scheme of scene transitions. No matter their take on his politics, I predict viewers will be entranced by the form of Rumsfeld's story.
5 years 2 months ago
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I wanted to be fully bewitched by this foray into magical realism masquerading as cinéma vérité. But sequences featuring the aurochs woke me from the spell of an otherwise enchanting narrative. Still, I respect the film for offering audiences the seldom-heard voice of Terrebonne Parish. People who live southeast of the levees have been virtually sacrificed to the elements by the rest of Louisiana.
5 years 4 months ago
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I keep trying to be a Wes Anderson fan. And I keep failing. I get his signature style: the whip-quick, geometric camera movement; the quirky, almost expressionistic acting; the oblique, awkward dialogue. This movie takes too long to remind us that life itself is a spiritual pilgrimage.
5 years 5 months ago
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Audiences probably hoped they were in for an "Ocean's-Eleven-in-fatigues." But the film's considerable star power is squandered as its headliners are divided into two-man teams. Each pair is sent to a different place in Europe... where nothing much happens. Alexandre Desplat's aimlessly generic score is indicative of how listless even the creative team must have found the film.
5 years 5 months ago
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"Not as bad as I expected," seems to be a recurring theme of response to Edge of Tomorrow. Well I don't have money to throw away on intentionally disappointing films.

Based on word of mouth or trusted critics, I decide whether to see a movie (1) in a first-run, 3-D, IMAX theater after a steak, (2) in a $5 second-run house with a box of smuggled Junior Mints, (3) on a scratched DVD borrowed from the library, or (4) interrupted by commercials on broadcast TV. Okay, I employ other nuanced tiers of discernment, but you appreciate the gist of the economic scale.

I paid for three people to watch Edge of Tomorrow in its initial release. No 3-D. No IMAX. I downed an overpriced box of dark chocolate Raisinettes before the previews finished. I watched a man repeat the worst day of his life about fifty times... and I didn't get bored. I saw Tom Cruise play iterations of the same character across a broad spectrum of emotion and thought "okay, he's got some acting chops." I was impressed (but not browbeaten to exhaustion) by character design and FX spectacle. Afterward, I took a family out for burgers and joined in their conversation about time paradoxes, second chances, and the "gamification" of life.

I didn't regret the cost.
5 years 5 months ago
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It's (sadly) rare to see as many women in the creative team "above the line" as grace the credits of "Brave." It's also sadly rare for mainstream films to tell stories of mother/daughter reconciliation. I wonder if there's any connection...
7 years 1 month ago
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These days, anything short of a Baz Luhrmann seizure constitutes a slow editing pace. I thought that’s why Dirty Harry seemed so sluggish when I watched it a couple of years ago with the kids on the 9’ screen in our basement. Clint Eastwood was, of course, imposing and iconic, but the film as a whole felt like an overwrought Quinn Martin production. The dated Lalo Schifrin score didn’t help.

Sunday the kids took me to a revival house screening of Harry. It played on a 40’ screen (as surely God intended). It was a completely different experience. More screen real estate translated into more places for the Scorpio killer to hide. The audience spent long seconds between cuts tensely searching for bad guys in the blackness made possible by the seventies’ faster film stocks.

Once again I learn what I should already know: size matters. iPhones, laptops, and cinema screens each have their own dynamics of composition and pacing. Those dynamics aren’t interchangeable.

Did I mention the kids chose Dirty Harry tickets as a Father’s Day present? It seems that more than once during their childhood, as one or the other of them teetered on the brink of mischief, they each remembered looking my way, daredevil eyes glinting. They recalled (as I did not) the threat of discipline in my standard response: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well… do ya, punk?”
8 years 5 months ago
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In its initial theatrical release, Clash of the Titans took a deserved drubbing from critics, who often pointed to it as an object lesson in post-production 3D conversion. The 2010 iteration was also swimming upstream against reviewers’ nostalgia for Ray Harryhausen’s quaint, 1980s-era stop-motion.

Does director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) deserve a 28% Rotten Tomatoes rating? The answer is probably a function of ticket price. I bought a used DVD for $5, saw it in 2D on a 9’ screen with my 14-year-old son, and didn’t regret its 106-minute running time.

Some viewers were troubled by what they considered inaccuracies or continuity gaffes. Their complaint was often that scriptwriters Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi strayed too far from Edith Hamilton. Considering these are among mankind’s oldest characters and narratives, I think perhaps we’ll have to relax our grip on 11th-grade classroom memories. Surely no one invested in this film hoped for Bullfinch’s Mythology.

I have an opposing conviction: that this script hews too closely to the source material – at least in structure. Tales of Perseus and the Argonaut Jason are linear quests. Adventurers wallop a beastie in the forest, then survive a magical firefight on the beach, then behead a stony serpentine seductress in her lair -- connecting the dots from A to B to C. But modern audiences prefer to juggle multiple threats (even multiple timelines) simultaneously. Without more “meanwhile-back-at-Argos” cutaways one frequently forgets that the clock is ticking on the noble, would-be sacrifice Andromeda. Even when she does get screen time, she really doesn’t seem all that upset about her impending death. The stakes of Perseus’s failure thus seem pretty low.
8 years 5 months ago
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Similar in tone and bleak pacing to the original Swedish version of Let the Right One In, Winter’s Bone offers its audiences a story both seldom told and too common. Jennifer Lawrence and the chilling Dale Dickey ably carry a film which demonstrates how crystal meth is rotting rural families and communities. The authenticity of Missouri extras and locales colors the gray film with haunting heaviness.
8 years 6 months ago
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Fans of the Marvel comic reckoned Shakespeare vet Branagh a natural fit for a King James-era script. And true to his Hamlet, scenes of royal intrigue were among the film’s most intense. More tepid was the chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman. Were these lovers truly destined to bridge the gulf of taboo between heaven and earth? Probably not. At least they managed to [barely] avoid some obvious fish-out-of-water yucks when the thunder god was banished to earth.
Back on Asgard, director Branagh was – as filmmakers have been for years – on the brink (not the bull’s eye) of telling tales believably set in other worlds. Some might argue that George Lucas told audiences such stories two decades ago. But, in general terms, our own laws of physics and weather hold on Tattooine and Naboo. Asgard (and Oa in the forthcoming Green Lantern flick) grasp at more, however. While Thor was admittedly a little better than good, man’s reach still exceeds his grasp.
8 years 6 months ago
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The film is strongest when it confines itself to moments of discovery between only two or three characters. By contrast, it's weakened by overblown CGI spectacle (as in the finale). It's hip production design (indebted Connery's Bond era) and a setting during the Cuban Missile Crisis suggest a faux-gravitas that will be lost on many of this summer's popcorn munchers.

Many will remember the adoption of X-Men: The Last Stand as a metaphor for the gay community. That film asked "Is mutation illness or identity, sickness or signatue?" Should the franchise continue on course as 1960s historical fiction, I'd expect future installments to similarly address themes of the Civil Rights Movement.
8 years 6 months ago
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I can't say I'm a Fincher fan. His wan, industrial lighting may have worked in the days when he directed videos for Nine Inch Nails and Madonna, but I'm tired of the pretentious aesthetic of Alien³, Se7en, and Fight Club. Fortunately, Aaron Sorkin scripts seem almost director-proof.

Beyond the noble anti-heroes popularized by Eastwood and Nicholson, I can't imagine wanting to share dinner with any of these churlish, asocial code-writers. Yet an alchemy of Sorkin's words in Jesse Eisenberg's mouth makes a world of unlikeable wunderkinds watchable, suspenseful, even fascinating.

Sorkin's been vilified for the script's misogyny. And it's important to observe that the story's women are either window-dressing or obstacles to male achievement. Some have made the case that Mara Rooney's Erica Albright is an important exception, a grail-like macguffin Zuckerberg chases in hope of personal redemption. I won't let the writer fully off the hook for his treatment of the fair sex, but I am inclined to weigh Sorkin's history of strong female characters against the dramatic need to depict Harvard's "old boy" network. Like humankind, Facebook seems to reach maturity when it becomes aware of its sexual potential (a.k.a. "relationship status").
8 years 8 months ago
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I watched Kick-Ass with an appreciative crowd, but I'm not sure I can quite swallow with glee the notion of an 11-year-old assassin. Yes, yes, it's all fun and games, just a fantasy, just a comic book. My brain knows all that. The juxtaposition of bloodbath and baby doll is intended as comic absurdity. Normally, that sort of bent humor appeals to me. I'm just not sure what sort of person Kick-Ass makes me. There can be little doubt that audiences are made to root for a slaughtering schoolgirl as she plows through a Mafia phalanx with weapons blazing. Is that... funny? Surely the story's most violent chapters -- seeking revenge for a meaningful death -- aren't played for laughs

On the basis of supposed "realism," viewers are supposed to empathize with Kick-Ass. He is, after all, wounded in combat -- as any mere mortal would be. His costume is only what he can buy on eBay. He is thus neither the unattainably invulnerable Clark Kent nor the unattainably wealthy Bruce Wayne. His creators pass him off as Everyman, as one of us.

So perhaps I'm reacting to the contradiction of extreme realism (represented by the title character) and extreme fantasy (represented by Hit Girl). The two characters don't seem to belong in the same universe. They are pulling the super-hero milieu in two different directions. At one end of the spectrum, the noble Kick-Ass defends strangers, eschews firearms, models the involvement of citizens in the lives of their neighbors. At the other end, Hit Girl and Big Daddy are secretive, vengeful, murdering, weapons-mongers; a militia of two vigilantes -- one of whom has been robbed of childhood by her own father.

Yes, Kick-Ass is satisfying as an action extravaganza, a beer-and-cheap-pizza, don't-think-about-it-too-hard munitions dump. And I enjoyed it on that level. For a more convincing blend of comic and thoughtful reflection on the nature of heroism, however, you're better off watching Mystery Men.
8 years 10 months ago

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