Mini-Review: True Grit

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Gray Area post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

True Grit

This film falls into the Gray Area because I only managed to see it in January though I had chances to in December. For the record, I would not retroactively include this film in my Top 15 of 2010, however, that is one of the few things I can really fault it for. The film works and it works well I could just never get as involved with it as it wanted me to be.

The other thing that is a little bothersome is that in a rather realistic and well-spoken film you get an ending that smacks of a hollywood cliché. The annoyance of false climax aside it’s two perils combined in one to add a little more running time and a quasi-tragic button to the whole affair.

Regardless of that the film is beautifully photographed by Roger Deakins and is played very convincingly by its cast particularly Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. It’s a plot that’s simple enough but also intriguing enough that it naturally becomes a character study without ever being tiresome.

8/10

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Mini-Review: Electrick Children

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Electrick Children

Certainly when the premise of a film is such as this: a Mormon girl listens to a cassette tape with forbidden rock music and has an immaculate conception; you’re wandering into a tale that will likely not tell its tale, or resolve itself, conventionally. That would all be fine if there wasn’t a preponderance of coincidence later on that made it seem as if there would be a tidied, more clear conclusion.

Instead what you have is a journey that is not completely devoid of enjoyment for the open-minded viewer but rather one that just feels like a beginning; it doesn’t feel like an opening ending but rather a not-quite-complete tale that reaches what it considers its ending a bit too easily.

5/10

Mini-Review: In the House

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

In The House

This film deals with a fascinating premise of what occurs when a high school student is seemingly drawing from real-life experience about his insinuating himself in another family, and what his French teacher, a frustrated writer, does or does not do to encourage his talent. I sat with this film for a while because I knew I greatly enjoyed it. I loved it for most of the way through, however, I didn’t know how much I liked it in the end mostly because of how it concluded. A lot of that decision to me boiled down to how well I felt the film followed its self-prescribed rule about endings. I concluded that I think it did well. Essentially, you have to keep in mind that there’s a very self-aware narrative being told. There are times when the story may seem a little lost, but, of course, Germain, the teacher, says that very thing to Claude often. And who is molding the narrative ultimately but him? Sure, we’re not always witnessing a dramatization of his writing, but it tends to revolve around him, and he is manipulating those around him in one way or another. The film writes Claude intelligently and he’s acted deftly by Ernst Umhauer such that he’s an interesting character, one that you could at least understand may have a way of wrapping people around his finger, even if you don’t particularly care for him you’re engaged.

On the strength of a majority of the film, and my reconsideration of the end I give it 8/10; your take may have you rate it higher or lower, but it is worth seeing and judging for yourself.

Mini-Review: Side Effects

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Side Effects

This film plays the part of a thriller well and even includes some intriguing professional ethics conundrums. It’s well acted and well-shot. Where it implodes for me, at least in the largest and most disastrous way, is in the motivation of one of the characters. The plot that’s weaved is a bit hard to swallow to begin with, assuming you stick it out past that point, the film delves into the why such an orchestration occurs and comes up with an idea so sophomoric that it reads like something rejected as a mid-’90s Joe Eszterhas/Sharon Stone project.

5/10

Mini-Review: Out of the Furnace

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Out of the Furnace

This is a film that almost seems as if it was adhering to some edict that it needed to run two-hours in length in order to be taken “seriously.” When taking a narrative as straight forward as this one waters it down tremendously. The interstitial montages only build so much ambiance and character, and the over-inclusion of fact and de-minimization of mystery makes it an exercise in the obvious. Some really good scoring, moments of empathy don’t pull it through.

4/10

Review: Corpo Celeste

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Corpo Celeste

I have previously discussed the benefits of programs like Film Movement. This film is their most recent offering.

What is most interesting about Corpo Celeste is that it comments through its narrative or visuals on any number of topics but always does so in an interesting, thoughtful and compelling way it is never didactic, pedagogic or heavy-handed. This is key with themes such as coming of age, religion, politics, family and nationalism (to name a few) being discussed. Most of the reason the film can do this is that all of these things are discussed personally and visually. They barely need to be elucidated. When dialogue is employed to convey the touched-upon themes it is used sparingly and tightly.

The personal approach keeps a film that might be overly aloof rather cool and connected. One of the more interesting things about it is the approach the film takes in bringing its protagonist to the fore. The first few images, scenes even you rarely see Marta alone, she is in crowd scenes and crowded dinner tables and gatherings. Our knowledge the story is to be about her allows us to get a glimpse of her world and her not really seeing a place in yet, hence she’s coming of age. She soon comes further and further into focus and in some way identification is already established.

The film features a tremendously natural performance by Yle Vianello, which enables you to connect to the film not only through her character but through any facet you see fit. The two major ways to connect to the film are either as a coming-of-age tale or a spiritual journey. Many of us have been through either, if not both, so closely examining these two major journeys in one protagonist makes it quite effective.

This is a really good film that is worth your while. The DVD also features the Academy Award nominated short Raju, which I saw earlier.

8/10

Review: Magic Silver and Magic Silver 2

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Magic Silver and Magic Silver 2

Without going into a full rehash of recent guest post that I did, what I will say on a wider scale with relation to the Magic Silver films is that it’s a prime example of what’s great about Netflix. Here you have two recent and rather popular Norwegian films that I had heretofore not heard of. Physical home video distribution of these titles in North America is a riskier, more expensive proposition so the streaming solution is perfect and brings these films to a wider audience.

As for the films, what drew me to the films at first was the 1980s-like illustrated approach to the artwork. Sure enough, the first film does have that feel, with some 21st Century technique thrown in. The film excels in virtually every level of production and maximizes the values it can get for whatever the budget is.

It’s a fantastical tale about how gnomes can control the weather and their life in a mountain. The sets of the inside of the mountain in the first film are simply but beautifully done and gives everyone just enough room. In the sequel the expanded space is not maximized. Similar to the costuming which in the first film is simple but effective, but in the second gets a bit more intricate and somehow doesn’t work as well. However, the art direction in both is quite good.

The story, however, again more so in the first film than the second, introduces the rules of this world wisely, as we hear it being told to the children of the village. It’s a thin but effective veil on the exposition, and some of the rules are really fascinating dramatically as they have intriguing consequences.

Both films are quite good, but the difference being that the first film has much higher stakes. Not only is the protagonist, Bluerose, coming to grips with overcoming her own fears, she must also learn the consequences of her actions, learn to assume responsibility, deal with mortality and try to do what is best for all concerned; a test of true leadership. Making this an even more intriguing dynamic is the fact that her struggles as princess are mirrored by a child king in the other clan of gnomes. There’s an innocent, subtly played romantic interest, but they both in working together learn how they can face up to their newfound responsibilties.

In these films I expected good escapist fun, what caught me most off guard about the first film was the gravitas of it, how involved and moved I would be by the narrative, and how compelling the performances of the entire cast especially Ane Viola Semb and Johan Tinus Lindgren. The best fantasy tales go to a very real place emotionally, when they are character-driven. When plot-drives a bit too much it’s harder to reach that heightened level. So a film like the former can be fun (read the sequel) but is ultimately disposable. Whereas, the film that finds universal truths in its fantastic settings, and also connects across cultural boundaries is truly special.

One more note about the follow-up film, it is fun and intriguing for randomly deciding to have four musical numbers. The first caught me totally by surprise but the next three are better, and the last one is a great Christmas-themed song that also highlights the climate change subtext of the story.

Very fun and different movies both that lend themselves to consecutive viewings like I had.

10/10 and 6/10

Review: Bestiaire

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Bestiaire

This is a film that qualifies for this year because, though I heard of it last year, I had no legitimate chance to see it. I learned of it through a coming soon postcard while I was in New York, the soon it was referring to was not while I would be there.

What’s interesting is that I was anticipating seeing another documentary free of significant dialogue prior to this one, but when I saw this pop up on Netflix instant I had to jump at it.

Bestiare plays out like a non-fiction version of Le Quattro Volte inasmuch as the structuring of the very slight, and completely open to interpretation, narrative is nearly invisible. The description of this film on Netflix is appropriately stripped down there are extended sequences of static shot either of animals observing humans, vice versa or sometimes they seem to be staring right at us.

Some of the shots are framed beautifully to convey either claustrophobia or just how nestled some animal enclosures in the modern world are be they farms, ranches, zoos or what have you. As I mentioned, it doesn’t insist upon deciding for you what the interpretation of the film should be, believing instead that the audience is the ultimate arbiter of meaning.

I found the film very effective in places with some great cuts and angles that underscored a harsh indifference. The incessant rhythmic banging of a zebra against a wall, or the frantic pacing of an ostrich, and the, to me, disquietingly laid back work of a proficient taxidermist were scenes that really shocked me out of the lull that this hypnotic film can get you into.

It’s not a long film but it is deliberate. I would qualify it as experimental, and I think more times than not the scenes work, so I believe a 6/10 is fair for now.

Review: There’s No Place Like Home

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

There’s No Place Like Home

ESPN’s 30 for 30 continued last week with There’s No Place Like Home. Here’s another case whereupon seeing the synopsis of the film I was not so interested, but after having viewed the film it’s more effective than anticipated.

The film tells the tale of Josh Swade, a lifelong Kansas Jayhawk fanatic, who organized a grassroots effort to try and win the original rules of basketball as written by James Naismith. When reading the narrative the piece I was missing, either from ignorance or faulty memory, was that Naismith shortly posting these rules in a Massachusetts YCMA took the game to Kansas and started the Basketball program at Kansas. He was at the University for four plus decades after that. So, yes, Kansas has, and had, a very rightful claim to ownership that I was unaware of.

Another moment of enlightenment was the underscoring of the fact was that basketball, as opposed to other sports which became formalized after years of play, was very much created fairly spontaneously. I was always a rules nerd as a kid, and gaining access to rule books was a big deal, and writing down rules to created games was something I’d partake in. Therefore, the provenance of the document also interested me.

However, that’s all information gleaned, which is valuable but not the be all and end all. What’s truly most interesting in this film is that it takes perhaps the most interesting avenue in telling the film. It takes the perspective of a superfan who has the unmatched, undying passion for his team and has him be the mouthpiece, the spokesman for what he knows is something right but hasn’t the means to accomplish: acquisition of the rules. Through sheer will and determination he does get in contact with those who have the connections and the financial means, and it is impressive to see the seemingly spontaneous outpouring of similar emotions from members of the KU family.

There are some occurrences that would’ve been great to see on camera (like the apparent defeat faced), but other portions that seem rather extraneous do come back into play. The film does feel like it could’ve been tightened a bit, however, it builds the personal connection well and gets a lot of tension and drama out of the auction day even though the outcome is somewhat foreseeable.

All in all, it’s a very good dramatic rendering of the situation, and I always like to see the bump where the filmmakers discuss the process, their inspiration, etc. and this one is perhaps the best I’ve seen.

8/10

Rewind Review: Flipped (2010)

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Flipped (2010)

Flipped is likely a film that has gone unnoticed by many. It has had a weird distribution schedule considering Rob Reiner is its director and its coming from Warner Bros. It hit a few screens, very few, on August 3rd and made a wider release without much fanfare on August 27th. It’s quite unfortunate too because this is great little heartfelt film that is sure to have an emotional resonance with audiences of all ages. Hopefully, once it hits video more people find out about it.

Flipped while telling a seemingly simple story of a protracted relationship between neighbors Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) and Juli (Madeline Carroll)  it tells the tale from the perspective of both the male and the female, here we get the truest illustration of the now cliché that men are from Mars and women are from Venus as they are rarely on the same page. However, their perspective on each of the major events of the tale is very interesting indeed.

While it does seem at first like it is a narrative device which is being used simply for you to get to know the characters it quickly becomes the signature of the film. It is slightly unconventional and so it may not be an unusual reaction to be waiting for a more traditional narrative structure to take hold but eventually I did find myself awaiting the visual flip in which the story switch to the alternate narrator for a chapter and part of what becomes so engaging about it is that you start to identify at some points with either side of the seemingly star-crossed lovers.

Flipped (2010, Castle Rock Entertainment)

It therefore becomes a very emotionally involving experience and to an extent and intellectually stimulating one whereas you see a scene play out and know the opposing party will have their own version of the events and you wonder what that might be.

A great surprise that this film has in store is at the end when their feelings are mutual is when the narrative divide is crossed and they speak in the same segment both of them telling the story. It is a wonderful break from the myopic views as they now are sharing a moment they’ll both remember with equal fondness.

The film in the latter stages does become manage to become very moving and by then the characters have been built so well you want for them and might even feel your eyes stinging with tears.

What is most fitting about the ending is that it is done telling the tale and that is all. There is no “happily ever after” it can be implied if you wish it or not the story at hand was about the beginning not the end so why venture a guess.

Flipped (2010, Castle Rock Entertainment)

In the end the ebb and flow of the film was quite satisfying and there was likely something most people could relate to regardless of the construct of this particular tale or the period it is set in.

This film being a period piece was a decision that Rob Reiner came to and one that was not suggested by the novel and it was a good decision as the story itself does ring a bit more true being set in the past than it would in the modern-day. Particularly due to the connection that Bryce’s grandfather (John Mahoney) and Juli have. While this does allow for a few things that make you wonder if they are accurate like dinner table conversations about salmonella and the prices of things it is ultimately a change for the good.

What is perhaps most interesting in this film in that because it has two protagonist/narrators thus it focuses on two family units and it does manage to give us some understanding as who all these characters are and allows for great dramatic scenes amongst the family units.

Flipped (2010, Castle Rock Entertainment)

The cast is impeccable all the way to the smallest player like Juli’s older brothers who not only look the part of aspiring doo wop singers but sing the part as well. However, the glue that holds the film together can be found in its young leads Callan McAuliffe, who not only convincingly plays a somewhat naive well-intentioned boy but also has no remaining trace of his Australian accent throughout and Madeline Carroll who is like a young Ellen Page.

This is a throughly enjoyable, heartfelt, funny and endearing film that you should make an effort to see.

7/10