Saturday, October 26, 2013
As low-budget shockers go, Don Coscarelli's Phantasm (1979) is as assured and imaginative as they come. Working from his own script, Coscarelli crafts a trippy little adventure that blends monster horror and fantasy and science fiction quite nicely. It's loaded with jolts and a fair amount of gore but the whole notion of a reed thin undertaker stealing bodies with a crew of robed dwarves for their masters in another dimension is ghoulishly warped and entertaining.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Lake Bell's In A World has so much clever quirkiness (quirky cleverness) that you'll catch yourself checking with your movie mate to make sure he / she heard that line or caught that bit of stage business you saw because it's all so fresh. Bell, who wrote the script and stars, has crafted a fine film about a talented, though emotionally stunted, vocal coach an dvoice-over artist (Bell) in a disjointed family who is trying to catch a break into the big time. Her disapproving father (Fred Malamed), a big dog in the voice -over business, and her self-involved, concierge sister (Michaela Watkins) are of little help as she tries to crash this boys-only party. She does have champion, however, in studio engineer Louis (Demetri Martin), who loves her and her voice, but not necessarily in that order. It's funny and refreshing and highly recommended. Note: Kids won't get it.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Documentarian Vlad Yudin's Generation Iron is an engrossing trip into the world of international bodybuilding. He follows a half dozen world-class competitors as they prepare for the 2012 Mr. Olympia contest in Las Vegas. Yudin devotes most of the film's 100 minutes to the rivalry between the arrogant though affable title holder Phil Heath and the reflective zen master Kai Greene. Though both men are finely sculpted behemoths, they come from starkly different backgrounds and take starkly different approaches to their quests. Yudin plumbs the depths of bodybuilder culture, it's obsessions and excesses in this fascinating film. Recommended.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Metallica: Through the Never is a visually arresting treat for both fanboys (and girls) of the venerable metal band and for cinephiles wanting to see a successful experiment in which 3D technology actually enhances and doesn't detract from the film. Directed by the Hungarian filmmaker Nimrod Antal, the picture combines pristine, eye-popping footage of a faux arena concert with the tale of a hapless roadie (Dane DeHaan of Chronicle) who is sent on an errand that turns into an urban nightmare of apocalyptic proportions (much like the band's songs). Antal is credited along with the four band members (singer James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo) with crafting the story, episodes from which are scattered among the dozen or so blistering odes for head-bangers that are actually the purpose of the film. It's a generally entertaining movie that appears to be targeted at a decidedly niche market.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Friday, October 11, 2013
Monday, October 7, 2013
Peter Landesman's historically based Parkland raises many questions but none about the event at the center of this film -- the assassination of President Kennedy. The main question it raised for me is what did Landesman hope this film, his directorial debut, would be? It doesn't seem to have a unifying idea or premise for the audience to ponder or respond to. It's just sad recreation of a sad day for our country. Named for the hospital where Kennedy was taken after the shooting, the film is a collection of characters swirling around the action -- medical personnel, Secret Service and FBI agents, Dallas police, members of the presidential motorcade -- but also Abraham Zapruder, whose home movie at Dealy Plaza captured the assassination, and accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, his brother and his mother. There are far too many people for the movie's 93 minutes, and no emotional investment in any of them despite having some pretty solid Hollywood wattage in Paul Giamatti as Zapruder and Billy Bob Thornton as special agent Forrest Sorrells.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
In this wonderful and winning film, writer / director / star Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a Jersey bartender who loves the gym, beautiful women and pornography -- not in that order. And that's the film's central conceit -- Jon, a handsome and fit stud, has no problem picking up women while out with his wingmen (Ron Brown and Jeremy Luke) but he does have trouble connecting with women emotionally because he's fixated on the fantasy girls of online adult films. When he meets the winsome Barbara (a sparkling Scarlett Johansson), Jon thinks she's a true "dime" (on a 1-to-10 scale) but is not ready to commit. At her insistence, he takes her to meet his parents -- Tony Danza and Glenne Hedley -- who are enamored of her. Soon his passion for the seductive Barbara has him blowing off rounds with his buddies and committing to take night classes for upward mobility, all while dry humping her in the hallway of her apartment building. Jon tries to dump the pornography cold turkey and keeps his parish priest updated on his progress during confession on Sunday. An observant audience member will catch on to Jersey Girl Barbara way before Jon does but that doesn't mean the film is not full of surprises and thoroughly engaging because it is -- in spades. Gordon-Levitt, who kills as the randy and conflicted Jon, is clearly one of the smartest and brightest stars in Hollywood. His script is immaculate and funny and insightful and his direction hits every mark. He's assembled some heavy hitters for this work, including a marvelous Julianne Moore as a boundaries-challenged classmate who teaches Jon a few lessons about life and love. Highly Recommended but in no way is it for children.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity is a spectacular film with what is being touted as revolutionary film-making technology in the service of a special survival adventure. Hollywood A-listers Sandra Bullock and George Clooney portray astronauts stranded in space after their shuttle is bombarded by orbiting junk from a Russian satellite catastrophe. Both Bullock (the lead in this perilous tale) and Clooney are on their game but the biggest attraction, for me, was the jaw-dropping scenes of the rotating Earth from 370 miles above ground and the backdrop of stellar eternity stretching out behind the players. How small we are. Highly recommended but it is likely too intense for the youngest of the youngsters.
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