Monthly Archives: September 2013

Review: Gravity

Gravity_Poster1You may never get to fly off to space, but “Gravity” is the next best thing.

Sandra Bullock leads as Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer about to wrap up her first shuttle mission. While making some seemingly routine repairs, her ship is hit by a vicious storm of debris. When the air clears, Dr. Stone and longtime astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are the only two left. With no connection to Earth, it’s up to Stone and Kowalski to navigate the blackness and silence of space on their own in order to find a way home.

“Gravity” isn’t just an outstanding movie; it’s a groundbreaking achievement. Considering the odds of most of us leaving the earth’s atmosphere are quite slim, this film could be as close as you’ll ever get. Alfonso Cuarón takes the concept of transporting a viewer to a new time and place to a new level by combining pitch perfect visuals, absolutely outstanding sound design, and one particularly moving performance to make you feel what it’d be like to experience such a nightmare.

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NYFF 2013 Review: About Time

About_Time_Poster1Time travel in “About Time” functions as highly entertaining and amusing component, but it’s also embedded in a barrage of tremendously honest and relatable drama that makes it a deeply affecting experience worth taking with you well after the credits roll.

Upon turning 21, Tim’s (Domhnall Gleeson) father (Bill Nighy) lets him in on a family secret – all of the men in their family possess the ability to travel back in time. After hopping into a dark closet and clenching his fists, Tim learns that this is no joke and sets out to use his newfound ability to achieve his primary goal, to find a girlfriend. While all the redos in the world do give Tim the ability to improve his life in various respects, the gift has its limits.

As someone in her mid-20s looking for “the one,” finding her footing within her career, and on the cusp of establishing a life of her own, “About Time” is overwhelming in the most wonderful way imaginable. That’s not to say that a moviegoer at any other stage in life can’t feel the effects of Richard Curtis’ directorial swan song, but as someone who drew an instant connection to the chain of events, “About Time” is a film I’ll never forget.

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NYFF 2013 Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside_Llewyn_Davis_Poster1“Inside Llewyn Davis” features a remarkable lead performance and impassioned journey, but the character’s destructive habits and off-putting attitude can make the experience deflating and unfulfilling.

The film covers a week in the life of struggling singer, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac). While trying to make a name for himself in the Greenwich Village folk scene, Llewyn drags his bag and guitar around, crashes on friends’ couches, ruins some of those relationships with his sour attitude and then, when all seems lost, heads to Chicago for a long overdue meeting with a media mogul who doesn’t even know he exists.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” is brimming with quality material, but Llewyn’s bleak existence and unpleasant demeanor makes it difficult to enjoy the experience. The guy is just a self-centered jerk. Not only does he suck all of his friends dry by invading their space, but then, while he’s there, he rarely manages a thank you because he’s totally consumed by his own agenda.

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NYFF 2013 Review: Captain Phillips

Captain_Phillips_Poster1“Captain Phillips” is the ultimate true tragedy-to-film adaptation. Rather than ride the “wow, this really happened” wave to an explosive finish, Paul Greengrass’ representation is so absorbing in and of itself, you won’t have an ounce of energy left for that until well after.

Tom Hanks is Richard Phillips, a cargo ship captain reporting to work for a new assignment, transporting a stock of relief supplies for Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya. While en route to Mombasa, the Maersk Alabama is boarded by four armed pirates determined to return home to Somalia with a sizable haul. With no cars or jewels, and little cash to give, it’s up to Phillips to keep the invaders from lashing out and harming his crew until, ultimately, he’s taken hostage himself.

When you’ve got a film that chronicles such a remarkable true story, it automatically gets a leg up. The material is intrinsically more profound because you know it’s the real deal. However, what makes “Captain Phillips” a standout in that sense is that the truth only comes into play before the film begins and after the credits roll because it functions as an all-consuming standalone piece. Then, once the material has sunk in, reconnecting with the idea that this series of events actually happened makes the whole experience all the more powerful.

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The Best – and Worst – Movie Trailers of the Week

Frozen_OlafNo matter what, we’re always bound to end up with three best and three worst trailers of the week, but unfortunately this week’s best aren’t particularly wow worthy. They’re just the best of what we got. Take Walking with Dinosaurs for example. The animation in the film’s new trailer is downright incredible, but the talking dinosaurs? That added element almost totally extinguishes the appeal of the illusion. However, while this week’s leading trio all have shortcomings of their own, the good outweighs the bad and they still leave you eager for more.

The Best Stuff

1. Frozen

The new trailer for Disney’s Frozen tests your patience for juvenile jokes and doesn’t manage to string together a clear-cut representation of the narrative, but the innocence and charm of the characters creates just enough appeal to put a smile on your face. C’mon, what packs more promotional power than that?

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Review: Don Jon

Don_Jon_PosterJoseph Gordon-Levitt’s highly stylized and well-executed directorial choices make “Don Jon” a raunchy romp, but then he throws in just enough of that good old JGL charm to give it some heart.

It makes sense that Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) values his physique, his home, his car, his family, his church, his friends and his girls, but porn? When it comes to things Jon just can’t live without, porn is pretty high up there. And we’re not talking about the occasional indulgence. Not only does Jon have a habit of using pornography to get the job done dozens of times a week, but he also prefers it to the real thing. Considering he tends to stick to one-night stands, it’s never really been an issue, but when Jon meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and thinks she might be worth a long-term relationship, the porn just has to go.

After putting a handful of short films on his resume, Gordon-Levitt made the move to features and, turns out, he was ready. “Don Jon” is out there to say the least and could easily have been an unfunny, pointless disaster, but Gordon-Levitt formulates the ideal unique style that well supports the comedy and surprisingly moving character journey.

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Interview: We Are What We Are’s Julia Garner

Julia_Garner_Ambyr_Childers_We_Are_What_We_AreIf you aren’t familiar with actress Julia Garner, it’s only a matter of time. You may have caught her in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” or “The Last Exorcism Part II,” but the must-see film that highlights her natural on-screen charisma and confirms that she’s a worthy talent on the rise is the March 2013 release, “Electrick Children.” And now, sure enough, Garner takes another major leap forward with her latest production, “We Are What We Are.”

Garner stars as Rose Parker, a teen living a quiet, reclusive life in upstate New York with her parents, older sister Iris (Ambyr Childers), and little brother Rory (Jack Gore). When Rose’s mother suddenly passes, it falls upon her and her sister to do what’s necessary to maintain their family’s existence – and that includes a cannibalistic ritual.

Even though there’s very little crossover between a cult member, a Mormon with a taste for rock music, and a family-oriented cannibal, Garner insists that there’s only one approach to playing each and every one of them:

“The key is, at the end of the day, no matter what, with all the research, I think the most important is just to focus on the situation that the character is going through, and to just think the thoughts of your character.”

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