The Dark Knight Rises: The one where Nolan disappoints

There are a handful of franchises that have pulled off successful trilogies.  Back to the FutureIndiana Jones.  Star Wars (IV, V, VI).  Then you have the failed trilogies: Alien, Terminator, The Godfather.  For whatever reason, the third film often seems to find consistent quality elusive. The one franchise that looked to define a generation of filmgoers outside of wizards and Hobbiton was Christopher Nolan’s Batman.  Despite a powerful filmography of solid films, from Nolan’s debut black and white thriller Following to 2010’s Inception, The Dark Knight Rises disappointingly stands as his worst film.

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The Amazing Spider-Man lives up to its name

ImageOver the last decade Hollywood has made it easy to be cynical of sequels, prequels, re-makes…we even got an adaptation of a board game.  Worse, studios keep converting films to 3D in order to make up for lackluster ticket sales,  and the rush to convert to digital projectors in order to screen said films has come at the cost of visual quality (anyone else sick of the image smear when a camera pans too quickly for these “state of the art” technologies?).

So there’s a lot wrong with movie going these days, but there’s a lot right with The Amazing Spider-Man, even if it is a naked attempt at your wallet. This is why you should see it….

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V/H/S transcends cinematic boundaries

When I tell people I’m into watching and making horror films, some try to shrivel into themselves like a turtle – with others, you practically hear the eyes rolling in their heads.  They seem to chalk the entire genre up to consisting merely of the ghoulish or the cheap trick, whereas, I’ve found the horror genre to be fertile ground for exploring human tragedies (The Descent) or tinkering with our own mythologies (zombies, vampires, etc.).

Horror films to me aren’t scary; there remains a distance.  It’s always a guy in a rubber mask, the knife is fake, and the dark is nothing to be afraid of.  There are always cinematic artifices that maintain the boundaries between reality and fiction: a film’s score, the editing, or the spectacle of special effects.  Even as a child I don’t know if I’ve ever been truly disturbed, unsettled at my core, by a horror film

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21 Jump Street: A re-make you’ll thank God for

Whenever we as human beings are privy to something truly extraordinary,  something that ignites an emotional power we usually only get glimmers of, we effusively try to convey the minutiae of that moment to others.  21 Jump Street is just such an occasion. With every new scene, every new cut, something hilariously brilliant and unexpected is lurking around the frame.  Your throat’s going to go raw from cheering and your hands sore from clapping.  This is what re-make dreams are made of.

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Pain, truth and transcendence in Shame

Unlike my experience with The Artist, I did not walk into a full theatre either time I saw Steve McQueen’s new film, Shame.  It was rather like a men’s restroom or a public bus with few passengers: everyone silently agreed not to sit near anyone else. We were all watching the film together, but each of us watching it alone.  The physical setup of the cinema space proved to be perfect for the film, whose protagonist Brandon (Michael Fassbender) wakes up to find himself utterly alone in the most populous city in the world. Continue reading

Character trumps mindless action in The Grey

The Grey star Liam Neeson and director Joe Carnahan have both been living it up in Hollywood productions for the last several years.  Neeson continues to pop up as some grizzled badass who will kill your childhood puppy, and Carnahan has been making zany slick action flicks like Smokin’ Aces and A-Team after making a big splash in 2002 with his gritty cop drama Narc (Ray Liotta, Jason Patric).  With The Grey, Carnahan and Neeson both return with less pomp and more dramatic flavor. Continue reading

Haywire shames other female “action stars”

On the screen is a 100 lb. blond girl who dreams of her head reaching the 5’2″ line on the tape measure.  Yet Ms. Twigs-for-Arms is able to throw a 200 lb. muscled man across the room, because she knows kung fu or is special in some supernatural way.  This is the sin of “Waif Fu“, which allows girl characters to kick some ass without bypassing the strict aesthetic of emaciated female tv/film actresses.  Haywire blows this trope out of the water, finally delivering a female action star that looks like she can take a beating equal to the one she dishes out. Continue reading