Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekly Roundup: Bay's 'Pain,' Nichols's 'Mud' and Bahrani's 'Price'

It was a pretty decent weekend overall for film. I really enjoyed Jeff Nichols's "Mud," which I'd say is my second favorite of his three pictures - after, of course, 2011's "Take Shelter."

The film deftly combines a crime story with a coming of age tale that appears inspired by "Huckleberry Finn." And it's further proof of that Matthew McConaughey renaissance you've been hearing about.

I also enjoyed Ramin Bahrani's "At Any Price," which combines - you guessed it - a crime story with that old nugget - the farm drama. All in all, a pretty decent movie with a strong Dennis Quaid performance.

Not so crazy about Michael Bay's "Pain and Gain." It's not as clunky as those "Transformers" movies, but it's not the smaller, independent-styled picture that it was originally rumored to be. As I mention in my review, I'm not sure Bay is the guy to be doing a critique of American excess.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend, I'm very excited to see Olivier Assayas's "Something in the Air" as well as Carlos Reygadas's "Post Tenebras Lux," despite those wildly mixed reviews.

And, of course, summer kicks off with "Iron Man 3," which I'll also see.

Monday, April 22, 2013

'Oblivion' and 'The Lords of Salem'

It was a bit of a disappointing week at the movies. It's not that I was expecting Joseph Kosinski's "Oblivion" or Rob Zombie's "The Lords of Salem" to be among the year's best or any such thing.

But I thought both films were - on occasion - visually striking, but somewhat lacking.

Kosinski's film, at least, proved that Tom Cruise has still got it. His presence adds a little bit of a human presence to a film that is primarily concerned with its gadgetry and artificial intelligence. "Oblivion" is often great to look at, but it's story is a bit messy. And it owes a great deal to a number of much-better movies.

Zombie's latest horror opus provides further provide that the heavy metal singer-turned-filmmaker has talent behind the camera. He knows his horror movie history and makes interesting use of music. And his visual style is all his own.

Yet, there's something missing from "Salem" as there was something missing from his previous pictures. I'm convinced that Zombie will, at some point, deliver a truly solid genre film. I just haven't witnessed it yet.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll catch Jeff Nichols's "Mud," Ramin Bahrani's "At Any Price" and, most likely, Michael Bay's "Pain and Gain."

This year's Cannes lineup is pretty impressive. I'm especially looking forward to Nicolas Winding Refn's "Only God Forgives," the Coen Brothers's "Inside Llewyn Davis," Alexander Payne's "Nebraska," Claire Denis's "The Bastards" (or whatever it's being called now), Roman Polanski's "Venus in Fur," Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" and Asghar Farhadi's "The Past."

Monday, April 15, 2013

'42' and 'To the Wonder'

On the one hand, Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" is not among the elusive auteur's best films. It certainly pales in comparison to "The Tree of Life," the director's 2011 film of towering ambition that marked, in my opinion, a career high.

On the other hand, Malick's latest is still more than worth a look. As always, the picture is filled with stunning imagery and thematic resonance.

"To the Wonder" is, hands down, the most experimental work in the filmmaker's ouvre, relying almost completely on voice over narration and visuals that tell a fragmented story.

All in all, it's a very good film - just not on par with Malick's finest films.

I also caught Brian Helgeland's "42," which is a solid bio picture of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. It's just not the Robinson drama for which you may have been waiting.

For years, Spike Lee and Robert Redford tinkered with their own Jackie Robinson projects, but neither came to fruition. It's likely that their films might have delved a little deeper than "42," which often relies on cliche.

However, Chadwick Boseman makes a fine JR and the picture has more than its share of worthwhile elements.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll catch "Oblivion," which features the single-most overplayed trailer of the past decade, if you ask me. Also, I'll see Rob Zombie's "The Lords of Salem."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Weekly Roundup: Redford, Boyle, Potter, Carruth, Campos and 'Evil Dead'

Not such a hot weekend for movies, I gotta say, despite some very high potential. In fact, the best thing I saw this weekend was on TV - the "Mad Men" Season 6 debut, of course.

In theaters, my pick of the week was Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep," which was not among the director's best films, but better than recent efforts "The Conspirator" and "Lions for Lambs." All in all, a thoughtful and entertaining political thriller.

I only reviewed two other movies - Danny Boyle's stylish and occasionally interesting, but mostly disappointing, "Trance" and the pretty awful remake of "Evil Dead."

Here are my Patch reviews.

The films I didn't get around to reviewing included Sally Potter's "Ginger and Rosa" and Antonio Campo's "Simon Killer." The former was an ethereal - and just almost recommendable - tale of two young women growing up in 1960s Britain and their eventual drifting apart. Elle Fanning is very solid in the movie and the supporting cast was also noteworthy. It's one of those films that just nearly makes it, but doesn't quite. Not bad overall, though.

Campos' picture was also interesting in spurts. Brady Corbett certainly gives it his all as the titular sociopath. But I didn't find the picture as involving as the director's debut, "Afterschool."

Then, there's Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color," which as been pretty widely acclaimed by almost, well, everyone.

I wasn't a huge fan of his debut, "Primer," but it was a film I'd label as "of interest." His latest, however, left me scratching my head. As you probably know, I have no problem recommending a movie that I don't necessarily get, you could say. And I'm a big fan of some truly weird cinema - including Jodorowsky, Lynch, Weerasethakul, etc.

The problem with "Upstream Color" was not just that it was completely impossible to follow narratively or thematically, but also that I quickly became bored and lost interest in being able to follow it. It has some nice visuals, but that's about it. I know I'm in the minority here.

Next week, I'll be reviewing Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" and "42."

Monday, April 1, 2013

This Must Be 'The Place'

This past weekend was one of the better ones for movies in recent memory. I was a big fan of Derek Cianfrance's vastly underrated "The Place Beyond the Pines," which gets my vote for the year's best film so far. The picture is both a solid crime drama and family saga.

I also dug Rodney Ascher's loopy "Room 237," which chronicles the obsessions of several dedicated fans of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining."

The week's one bust was Andrew Niccol's "The Host," which is based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer. Here are my Patch reviews for all three movies.

This coming weekend, I'll catch up with Danny Boyle's "Trance," Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep" and the remake of "The Evil Dead."

That means I'll probably not get to "Simon Killer" and Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color" over the weekend, but I'll definitely catch up with them during the following week.