Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

vie-sauvageThe French drama Vie sauvage (Wild Life) starts at full tilt. A father is headed out for the day to run errands, leaving his wife and three children behind in less than bucolic splendor at the rural site where their camper is parked, their chickens are roosted, and their goats are roped. No sooner is Dad’s car pushed through the mud by the three boys than Mom begins to move frantically through the checklist of an obviously well planned and rehearsed escape. She gathers a few belongings, corrals the boys, and meets a friend by the side of the road who will take them to the train station and a start to their new life. The boys have other ideas, and she must keep control over them and make the train, while the threat of her husband returning looms. (more…)

self-madeIf you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see Self Made – a pleasure limited to attendees at a number of film festivals, including the London Film Festival, since the movie’s premiere at Cannes earlier this year – do not be mislead by the one-sentence teaser description that often accompanies a showing. Self Made is not a mere comedy of mixed identities between an Israeli and a Palestinian. This is no Freaky Friday for the Middle East, where two women develop a mutual appreciation by walking a mile, or standing in line at a checkpoint for half a day, in the other’s shoes. Self Made is not a fairy tale, nor does it offer a magic wand solution for peace in this most troubled of regions. (more…)

serena1You know that a movie is bad when an appearance by Jennifer Lawrence can’t save it – and not simply an appearance in the film, but an honest-to-God, in-the-flesh (and quite a bit of flesh was showing) physical presence at a screening. Such was the case at the world premiere of Serena at the London Film Festival. Director Susanne Bier, in her introductory remarks, announced a huge surprise and then brought Lawrence out before a delighted audience at the sold-out Vue West End Cinema. Looking like Hollywood royalty in a perfectly fitted tuxedo jacket, high heels, and very little else, Lawrence smiled, waved, and warmed the crowd on a chilly, rainy London evening. She then wisely departed – not just the theater, but the country as well. Lawrence was nowhere to be found when the houselights came back up after the showing of a film that could charitably be described as disappointing.

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Gone Girl“Did he do it?” is only the beginning of this one.

If you are at all inclined to see Gone Girl, and you should be, considering that along with Boyhood, it is one of the two best American films of 2014 so far, go to the theater immediately. It is a movie that begs to be spoiled. While there is no single “Luke, I am your father” moment, the story has so many twists and turns that even the most innocuous of commentaries, the most restrained of reviews, the briefest of clips runs the risk of ruining the fun. And that’s what this is: glorious, gorgeous, edge of the seat, what the heck is going on, bravura filmmaking fun.

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HollidaysburgThe Chair is a reality show airing on the Starz channel. Two aspiring filmmakers have been given funding and provided with the same script and shooting location (Pittsburgh). Their films – Not Cool and Hollidaysburg – were released on iTunes on September 23.

Hollywood (and we’ll use Hollywood as shorthand for American filmmakers) has an ongoing struggle with the portrayal of teens in movies. While audiences are accustomed to actors in their late (and later than that) twenties squeezing into teen roles like a pair of too-tight pants, they expect, at a minimum, for the behavior and situations to be representative of what they perceived to be commonplace for those on the cusp of adulthood. When that does not happen, it is difficult for the movie to succeed. Anna Martemucci’s new film, Hollidaysburg, fails to convey a convincing portrait of teenagers returning to their small western Pennsylvania town during Thanksgiving break of their freshman year at college, and this failure overshadows much of the good work contained in her effort. (more…)

White Bird4“I was 17 when my mother disappeared…”

There is a haunting beauty to the tag line of White Bird in a Blizzard, an ambiguity that echoes throughout the film. Kat Connor (Shailene Woodley) loses her mother (Eva Green) just as the young girl is becoming a woman, but has Eve Connor walked away from her family or was she taken? The mystery of the mother’s departure, and the effects of her absence for better or worse on Kat and, to a lesser degree, on husband and father Brock (Christopher Meloni), form the center of the film. Unfortunately, the narrative is burdened with too much extraneous material that distracts and detracts from the beautiful, wondrous, excruiating, painful, scarring and fascinating mother-daughter relationship that should be the sole focus.

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Open WindowsIf you try very hard, you can make a case for Open Windows to be a cyber-inspired reimagining of Rear Window. In the 21st century, laptops, smart phones, and surveillance cameras are to us what a telephoto lens and an apartment window were to Americans in the 1950’s: a means to look into the living rooms and bedrooms of our neighbors. That would make Elijah Wood this generation’s Jimmy Stewart, and Wood does carry some of the same nebbish Everyman qualities, though his characters, to date, have not shown the same flinty internal strength. Where this imagined connection between movies falters is with Sasha Grey as a stand-in for Grace Kelly, or Nacho Vigalando for Alfred Hitchcock. Still, Rear Window was a gimmick movie as is Open Windows. The difference is that in Hitchcock’s masterpiece, the gimmick is used to introduce the action; in Vigalando’s rather ordinary effort, the gimmick overwhelms the action.

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JamieMarksJamie Marks Is Dead is a film that is more interested in being earnest than it is in being entertaining. It is a muddled mess that purports to be a message movie, but one that cannot articulate a coherent view. Jamie Marks Is Dead is more easily characterized by the things it is not, than by what it is. It is not a horror movie. It is not a ghost story. It is not a mystery or a thriller. It is not an allegory about bullying or even a worthwhile feature-length public service announcement for It Gets Better.

On the other hand, it is long, languid, and dull, albeit well intentioned.

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Coherence-02Coherence is a vigorous affirmation that a great script trumps special effects in crafting a superior science fiction movie. James Ward Byrkit’s screenplay is the real star of this rock solid, thinking man’s flick. The film has a theatrical sense to it with a relatively small cast of eight spending most of the 90-minute runtime in a dining room as a typical suburban dinner party turns into a cosmic event, but what the movie might lack in explosions and spaceships, it makes up in tension and intellectual provocation.

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RufusRufus is not a bad movie. In fact, it is almost a good one. One final rewrite of the script, the removal of one character, a clarification or two of the central figure, and a slice of about 20 minutes from the 110-minute runtime, and you would be staring straight at a modest Canadian independent production with strong cult appeal that would play very well on the festival circuit. As is, however, Rufus suffers from a lack of clarity and purpose. Director/screenwriter Dave Schultz overextends in what should be a more barebones effort; in the process, he muddles the narrative and leaves the audience wondering what might have been.

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