Category Archives: Filmsmith Faves

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

Until now. Continue reading

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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Attack the Block will rock your socks

Around the same time J.J. Abrams was showcasing his ode to Spielberg, Super 8, Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block was in limited release and getting none of the attention it deserved.  In contrast to Spielberg and Abrams’ penchant for quaint middle-American childhoods, Attack the Block is all about urban hoodlums putting their life of hard knocks to use when they have to fight an alien invasion.  They aren’t going to share Reese’s pieces or heartwarming moments with the invaders – they’re going to fuck ‘em up. Continue reading

Drive is the coolest film of the year

Nicolas Winding Refn should be mandatory viewing for film nerds.  The audacity and craftsmanship of his filmmaking put him on par with the likes of Darren Aronofsky (see Refn’s Bronson), but with a sense of subtlety (Valhalla Rising).  Pair Refn with the magnetic Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl) and a high concept heist film that co-stars Bryan Cranston, and you have an unholy concoction of brilliant variables unseen since the release of the Double Down (with less heart disease).  But this is far from an action film… Continue reading

The New Generation of Comedy Filmmakers

Comedic auteurs are few and far between, or they were, until recently. The last decade has offered up so much fresh talent, as alluded to in my recent review of the second season of Eastbound and Down, that we seem to be in a veritable age of comedy. Somewhere between Judd Apatow’s ubiquitous productions, and Adam McKay’s strange blend of raunch and politics, for the first time in recent memory funny movies are becoming quite good. Continue reading

Hail Caesar! Rise of the Planet of the Apes seizes summer

Frequently, films of the big budget sort have issues because the men with money don’t respect the filmmaking process.  When building a skyscraper you don’t rush it to completion – otherwise you get catastrophic results.  The same goes for visual storytelling, in which character development will never happen if you don’t allot the appropriate amount of time to build a connection with the audience.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes respects this, which is why it’s the surprise blockbuster hit of the summer.  Forget Thor or even the decent Captain America, this film may even be better than Harry Potter 7 Pt 2.  Not bad for a bunch of damn dirty apes. Continue reading

Stake Land the great American vampire tale

It’s not often that a genre film doesn’t realize that it’s a genre film.  A comedy plays within the conventions of its niche and most horror films do the same.  Daybreakers is one of the best vampire films since the 1980′s unleashed Fright Night and The Lost Boys because, like its forerunners, it knows how to play to the genre trappings as intelligent entertainment.  That’s usually the best horror fans can expect from the genre. But films like The Blair Witch Project, Let the Right One In or Stake Land treat a horror tale like a drama and not a creature feature – which makes it all the more frightening. Continue reading

Crazy, Stupid, Love the best kind of romantic comedy – A genuine one

The love movie, just like stories about the subject in music or literature, has been done to death.  It’s hard to knock it though, since everyone at some point (save for the sociopaths in the house) has experienced love.  The passion.  The sweetness.  Late night talks.  Late night escapades.  The chemical high of the first few months.  And because we’ve all been there, we can spot a fake tale from a mile away.  Real life Love isn’t formulaic like the romantic comedies dumped into cinemas every February 14.  It’s the most personal, individual experience there is, save for the loss of a loved one, and few stories about Love can capture that lighting in a bottle.  Here’s a film that captured it on celluloid. Continue reading

Three Must See Documentaries: Winter Soldier, Lake of Fire, S&man

Within the U.S. at least, documentaries tend to live within two different frameworks: the first is the editorial harpings of Michael Moore. The second is Oscar-nominated documentaries that are either too depressing or too under-funded by distributor advertising to gain an audience.  Fortunately, things are changing:  last year three stunning documentaries managed to get serious attention while also stepping out of the box (Catfish, I’m Still Here, Exit Through the Gift Shop).  Also, the rise of Netflix Instant has put a plethora of documentaries at the finger tips of millions of people who might not have otherwise even seen the DVD cover of these films (2 of the 3 films on this list were titles I found at random on Netflix).  So here are three documentaries that will make you re-think your assumptions about documentaries. Continue reading

Knowing maturely conveys the tragic nature of disaster

Alex Proyas has probably directed some of your favorite films, yet you don’t know his name.  His filmography is confounding: The cult-hit The Crow (1994),  Dark City (1998, the visual forerunner to The Matrix), and the Will Smith blockbuster I, Robot (2004). Proyas also directed Knowing (2009), the Nicolas Cage prophecy/disaster film at which you likely laughed.  “Great, another Nicolas Cage feature on the heels of such beloved films as Bangkok Dangerous and that National Treasure sequel.”  Yet Cage and Proyas deliver a grounded sci-fi disaster movie unlike anything we’ve seen, and though it isn’t perfect, it’s a refreshing sci-fi narrative. Continue reading