Mini-Review: Jacob

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!

Jacob

There are a few things that are bit odd that are going on in Jacob. They are all easily explicable, however, that doesn’t stop them from being odd. The main thing I noticed is that the film, while never on easy footing, is far more comfortable and closer to offering escapism in its hyper-reality flashback sequence, which dominates the film. In the few present sections the film is far more stilted an awkward in its cinematography, performances and make-up.

The structure of the film is curious because it’s not as involved as the armature of the film would have you believe. It’s your standard flashback to the birth of a legend. However, what’s incumbent on a film when it flashes back not once but twice is some upping of the stakes. The conclusion of the film is fairly predictable and anticlimactic because we get a glimpse of the future beforehand.

The pace is never right and much of what holds the piece back is that it feels like it gets its tongue stuck in its cheek rather than just planted firmly. The inspiration appears to be the works of Rob Zombie based on some of the aesthetic, tonal, character and story choices, but no one involved can even bring the film up to that level. On occasion there is a wrinkle, a look, shot or set piece that stands out but overall the center is never found, so one can’t expect it to hold.

3/10

Advertisements

My Radar

This is a post that I’m creating for a few purposes. First, it will serve as an unofficial checklist for my BAM Awards. I will not hold up the awards in anticipation of seeing these films. A deadline is a deadline. It will help me either define Gray Area films or keep an eye out for undistributed titles. Secondly, this will serve as a back-up to my watchlist on GoWatchIt, which is a great site to get notifications about film releases. I anticipate I’ll update this bi-weekly as I do with films watched and older film posts.

1. The Fifth Season

Played SxSW 2013. Belgian film about a endless winter. Made known to me by Scott E. Weinberg.

2. To the Wonder

New Malick. Ebert’s last review. SOON TO BE VIEWED

3. White Elephant

From Strand Releasing. Look for it on Netflix.

4. Sister
Foreign language film nominee. Missed Theatre N date. Seek out on video.

5. Amour

Amour (2012, Sony Pictures Classics)

Only nearby engagements in 2013. Have missed them. For more about qualifying for the BAM Awards read this.

6. 56 Up

Knew it was hitting both Philly and local theaters and didn’t get out to it.

7. Our Children

Heard of it during Oscar-season last year, appears to be hitting screens, at least in the UK.

8. Mud

Heard of it last year at Cannes. Has been at Philadelphia Landmark theater(s) for two weekends and I haven’t been yet.

9. In the House

Heard of Ozon’s latest in late ’12. Have followed some reactions and release dates. Have had three weekends to see it. Haven’t yet.

10. The Dirties

The Dirties (2012, Phase 4)

Heard it was picked up by Phase 4 this week in THR.

11. Cody the Robosapien

There’s a one sheet. Not much in the way of release date information as of yet.

12. Dark Frontier

Saw the trailer for this film before watching Deep Dark Canyon.

13. Jacob

Was to be my second Redbox freebie recently had my other code not expired.

14. Faust

Heard of Sokurov’s version last year. Currently at Film Forum in NY.

15. Tragedy of Man

The Tragedy of Man (2011, Mozinet)

I know this hit an New York screen while I was not there. Haven’t heard about it being on video.

The following films are those which are on my GoWatchIt queue as of today (5/15/13):

Dracula-3D

16. Elles SOON TO BE VIEWED
17. Jack and Diane
18. Dracula 3D
19. In Their Skin
20. Beyond the Hills
21. Antiviral (SOON TO BE VIEWED)
22. Me and You
23. Post Tenebras Lux
24. Reality
25. Good For Nothing
26. Just the Wind
27. Thursday Through Sunday
28. Father’s Chair
29. I Killed My Mother SOON TO BE VIEWED

The following are selections based on Larry Richman’s top picks of 2012.

Dead Europe (2012, Wild Bunch)

30. Stuck in Love
31. Vanishing Waves
32. Una Noche
33. Pavilion
34. The Hunt SOON TO BE VIEWED
35. DELETED – DUPLICATE
36. Apartment in Athens
37. Tio Papi
38. The Playroom SOON TO BE VIEWED
39. I Declare War
40. Funeral Kings
41. Electrick Children SOON TO BE VIEWED
42. Blackbird

And a random one I just called which stars a BAM Nominee from last year for Best Original Song, Troye Sivan.

Spud 2: The Madness Continues (2013, Nu Metro Films)

43. Spud 2: The Madness Continues

The following title was made known to me by frequent reader/commenter Connie:

La Jaula de Oro (2013, Machete Producciones)

44. La Jaula de Oro

The following titles are ones I hear much buzz about recently in general or out of Cannes:

The Kings of Summer (2013, CBS Films)

45. Frances Ha
46. Stories We Tell
47. Blue is the Warmest Color
48. Inside Llewyn Davies
49. Heli
50. Nebraska
51. Ilo Ilo
52. The Past
53. The Kings of Summer
54. The Place Beyond the Pines
55. What Maisie Knew
56. Ginger and Rosa


57. Satellite Boy
58. Blackfish
59. The To Do List
60. Fruitvale Station
61. Only God Forgives
62. Chennai Express
63. Blue Jasmine
64. Standing Up
65. Summerhood
66. Horrid Henry: The Movie
67. The Human Promise
68. Hannah Arendt
69. Child’s Pose SOON TO BE WATCHED
70. The Rocket
71. Blancanieves SOON TO BE WATCHED
72. The Weight of Elephants
73. The Wicker Man (1973) Extended Cut
74. V8
75. The Double
76. Staten Island Summer

77. Leap 4 Your Life
78. Headlong (Corps Perdu)
79. The Art of the Steal
79. Grand Piano
80. Slow West
81. Beyond the Heavens
82. Bunks
83. As I Lay Dying
84. The Lost Medallion SOON TO BE WATCHED
85. Category 8
86. The Fall
87. Side Effects SOON TO BE WATCHED
88. Child of God
89. The Short Game SOON TO BE WATCHED
90. The Contest
SOON TO BE WATCHED

91. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair

The-Chronicles-of-Narnia-The-Silver-Chair-Christian-MovieFilm-DVD_5117

Yes, I know the odds are I won’t miss this one. However, not only do I plan for many of these titles to crossover into next year (and beyond) but this is the film I wanted next.

92. The Borgman
93. Joe
94. Concrete Night
95. Rhymes for Young Ghouls
96. WNUF Halloween Special
97. Chennai Express
98. Torment
99. Kid
100. Into the Woods
101. 13/13/13
102. Crystal Fairy
103. Prince Avalanche

See also: John Waters’ Best of 2013 list.
and Cahiers du Cinema for more options.

Mini-Review Round-Up May 2013

Here’s my standard intro to this post:

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings. Theatrical releases, regardless of how they are seen whether in an auditorium or on VOD, will get full reviews [That is when deemed necessary. As I wrote here I do want to focus more on non-review writing wherever possible].

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

Deep Dark Canyon

Deep Dark Cayon (2013, Screen Media Films)

Two things I often write about with regard to film-watching came into blissful convergence when I saw this film: first, there’s the Blank Slate Theory. Granted I read a line or two of synopsis, but up until that email from Redbox I hadn’t heard of this film. Secondly, and closely related to the first part, whatever expectations I created, over-inflated, and then guarded against in my head; were exceeded.

So why’s that? What Deep Dark Canyon does is take something that may sound like a higher concept or gimmicky set-up: two fugitives on the run while handcuffed to one another, and grounds it. What it gets grounded in is a wicked microcosm wherein one family, the Cavanaughs, calls all the shots and stacks the deck, whether inside or outside the law. When the Towne family won’t stand for it anymore things start to get complicated.

There are quite a few great turns of the plot in this tale, which coaxed audible reactions from me. This is a film that doesn’t fear going down the rabbit hole of further and greater consequences, but it never gets unreal in the given parameters.

While crimes, secrets and conspiracies bring you into the tale, it’s the human story that keeps you engaged in it. The revelations among Towne family members (uncle, father and brothers) swing the pendulum of power back and forth and the struggle is intriguing.

Of course, in a story that’s contained and stripped down, plot points can only take you so far. The performances have to keep you engaged. Spencer Treat Clark, in his first role as an adult performer that allows him to follow-through on the promise he showed as a young actor (there will likely be more to come soon like Much Ado About Nothing), and Nick Eversman, has quite a breakthrough performance (All I had seen him in prior was Hellraiser: Revelations); are captivating co-leads, who deliver incredibly raw, earnest performances.

Deep Dark Canyon delivers quite a bit of drama in the guise of a fugitive film, but delivers in both respects. It’s a fairly enthralling film that’s worthwhile viewing for sure.

8/10

Jacob

Jacob (2011, Odyssee Pictures)

There are a few things that are bit odd that are going on in Jacob. They are all easily explicable, however, that doesn’t stop them from being odd. The main thing I noticed is that the film, while never on easy footing, is far more comfortable and closer to offering escapism in its hyper-reality flashback sequence, which dominates the film. In the few present sections the film is far more stilted an awkward in its cinematography, performances and make-up.

The structure of the film is curious because it’s not as involved as the armature of the film would have you believe. It’s your standard flashback to the birth of a legend. However, what’s incumbent on a film when it flashes back not once but twice is some upping of the stakes. The conclusion of the film is fairly predictable and anticlimactic because we get a glimpse of the future beforehand.

The pace is never right and much of what holds the piece back is that it feels like it gets its tongue stuck in its cheek rather than just planted firmly. The inspiration appears to be the works of Rob Zombie based on some of the aesthetic, tonal, character and story choices, but no one involved can even bring the film up to that level. On occasion there is a wrinkle, a look, shot or set piece that stands out but overall the center is never found, so one can’t expect it to hold.

3/10

In Their Skin

In Their Skin (2012, IFC Films)

If there’s one thing that’s plainly easy to appreciate about In Their Skin is that its a very well regimented film, that through its structuring not only easily raises the stakes, but also slowly and surely disturbs and unnerves. It’s the kind of film that remembers that the most frightening concepts are those that hit closest to home and seem most plausible. It gives you some answers, the ones you need, but not all or more than necessary.

Through its traversing and escalating in tone it also allows each of the actors involved to give fairly layered performances. Much of the first act the family at the core of the drama is disconnected and distant. Then upon meeting their offbeat neighbors there is an extended period of awkwardness before things escalate.

There is a fearless approach to some of the sound design and scoring choices later on in the film, which is great. In fact, the only major quibble I really have with it, aside from some stock horror film brain-farting by the protagonists, is that the denouement feels more like a flopping thud than the breath of fresh air it should feel like. There’s a bit of a disconnect between that and what passed before that robs the film of a bit of the potency it had built up.

7/10

Yossi

Yossi (2012, Strand Releasing)

If there’s one thing I didn’t want inferred in my writing about North Sea Texas, is that all gay cinema should send out that ray of hope. There are as many stories as there are people. What I feel is important about that film cinematically and socially is that now that story exists in the face of many overwhelmingly dour and/or tragic tales. That’s not to say that it’s a mandate. Granted there’s drama in a tragic set of circumstances, at times unparalleled in pathos, but the seeming disproportion also needs to be held in check. However, this by no means there should be a Hollywood formula implemented.

I say this by way of introduction to Yossi because a few things need to be taken into consideration when viewing it. Firstly, even if targeting a niche, a film needn’t have far-reaching ramifications, but can be merely a character study. Secondly, there is the matter of another culture at play so we’d be wise not to judge the film by our standards mores. However, those concerns are mostly about lesser details.

What does bear considering cinematically is that this is a sequel and it would behoove you to see the first part before this one as I did. It finishes up a story neatly and rather well after much internal conflict. The only issue that’s created is that the end is kind of abrupt. However, there is a slow progress, slower than preferable, but it’s true to the character. What’s most intriguing is that it is a two-part process of being inwardly comfortable and outwardly comfortable with oneself. It happens in babysteps without fireworks or a parade, but there is an arc and there are moving scenes specifically one played among Orly Silbersatz, Raffi Tevor and Ohad Knoller that each echoes the last film. This is a film worth viewing in tandem with its predecessor Yossi & Jagger.

7/10

2 + 2 (Dos más Dos)

2 + 2 (Strand Releasing, 2012)

It’s funny that 2 + 2 should come to me now in short succession after having seen 4some and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. The difference here is not just another cultural one this film being from Argentina as opposed to the Czech Republic and US respectively. There is a slight twist because two couples who have been longtime friends have had a secret. Betina (Carla Peterson) and Richard (Adrián Suar) tell their friends they’re swingers.

What works best here is that it not only creates conflicts as many ways as it can (tell the secret/don’t tell the secret, do it/don’t do it, Test it out/don’t test it out) but it also fully explores them without seeming to be methodical, but rather natural.

One function of a tale like this is that it really gets to the core of a relationship and puts a divide in couples and forces them to examine themselves and each other. This is usually great fodder for actors to work with, and the performances here are stellar. The tone can also go either of two ways it can be very dramatic or very comedic. This one, like 4some, is mostly comedic but it balances the dramatic intentions of the stories well, and it handles long passages of time with unusual deftness.

Comedy is one of the genres where you usually look for a standout in a given year. There have been a dearth of offerings and only on pretty good result until now. This is the first film this year I laughed pretty persistently with through lengthy sequences, and it stands up on the dramatic end in equally well. There are great touches a long the way, really funny dialogue and committed performances. It’s one to look out for.

10/10

The ABCs of Death

The ABCs of Death (2012, Magnet Releasing)

Most of the things that are interesting to consider about this film, sadly, have little to do with the film itself. For one, due to the fact that it is an extreme example, it forever defeated to notion of averaging out scores in an anthology. Math is no way to quantify such an experience, and I may highlight that in a separate post at some point.

Another thing that is interesting to consider, though it does not make it better or worse, is that filmmakers were assigned their letter and given a $5,000 budget. The only way either of these traits makes itself apparent is with the two shorts that decided to go the “we don’t have a decent idea for this letter” route, which is fairly lazy and uninspired. Many of them do well at least in terms of production value.

However, what it more often than not reaffirms is that telling a story in approximately five minutes is very hard. Sadly, in most of the cases neither a style or a decent narrative was firmly established. Overall it becomes a very unnerving viewing experience because of the wide array of voices and variegated quality of the shorts.

If I had to put a number on it I’d say about five work very well. Two of those on a style over substance basis. It ends nearly as badly as possible and the convention established of revealing title, letter indicated and director after the short is over rendered many predictable, a few insipid and most frustrating.

It’s not for the feint of heart or weak of stomach, that in and of itself does not make the film an excruciating experience, but the envelope being torn apart to tell mostly inane and inept tales does.

1/10

This Girl is Badass!

This Girl is Badass! (2012, Magnet Releasing)

This is a film that does promise action and comedy and delivers small, portioned doses of both. Sadly, there is never really a good balance struck between the two. It usually seems to be one or the other, with comedy far outweighing the action.

The action is never overly dynamic, and the plot, which is not terribly involved, never develops at a sufficient rate to raise this above being a mere diversion into being genuinely entertaining. It’d be a passable film if it didn’t drag through certain sections, but unfrotunately it does.

4/10

Space Warriors

Space Warriors (2013, Walden Media/Hallmark Channel)

Director Sean McNamara, despite having mostly TV credits, has successfully brought for cinematic tales before; most recently Soul Surfer. It appears that Space Warriors with a proper theatrical premiere in Alabama and a brief limited run would be closer to film caliber than a made-for-TV project, which Walden Media and the Hallmark Channel recently repackaged it as. Especially when you include cast members such as Thomas Horn of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Ryan Simpkins, Grayson Russell, Dermot Mulrooney, Mira Sorvino and Danny Glover.

Sadly the film goes from the run-of-the-mill half-developed kid-with-a-dream narrative with a standard lie to get what he wants and several conventional plot twists along the way to an absolutely outlandish finale that surely and slowly creeps up on you. That intent, however, is not always apparent and the staging, set-up and writing of that conclusion is lackluster to say the least.

It really is a shame because through all the cheese the premise had promise with more sure-handed writing and directing but the foundation that this story built itself upon was weak so it was sure to implode at some point.

3/10