Archive for October, 2013
One of the natural reactions upon seeing a film is to try to uncover its deeper meaning. Sometimes, there is no depth, as is often the case with summer blockbusters or cheap scare horror flicks. Pure entertainment can be as rewarding and gratifying as a philosophical message. Other films try to impart a life lesson, usually one supported by the themes represented in the script, the stylistic choices of the director, and by the actions and dialogue delivered by the actors. Usually, this is a unified message leading to a crescendo of realization by the audience.
Then you have films like Ridley Scott’s ‘The Counselor,’ where there is no grand point, there is no lesson to be learned, and plot points merely happen for the sake of happening. Perhaps that is too harsh a critique to level against a film that I somewhat enjoyed, but I think it is important to get this point out of the way early. Some fans are going to love the stark simplicity of the story, while many audience members will be turned off by a film that is in many ways pointless. Perhaps it is a boring line for me to take, but I would say that both camps are right. Read the rest of this entry »
The 2013 remake of ‘Carrie’ starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore is a film that probably didn’t need to be made in the first place. After all, when attempting a remake of a film as well-regarded as the 1976 version of the film, it is the responsibility of the film-maker to bring enough vision, ingenuity, and freshness to the project to warrant its creation. Sadly, director Kimberly Peirce supplies none of the creativity I would have wanted to see from this remake, and instead creates a film that feels like it offers nothing more than a new coat of paint slapped on a film that didn’t need it. The familiar scenes feel too familiar, and the original sequences feel disjointed. It is almost as if the filmmakers don’t quite grasp why some of the elements worked in the original film, or which scenes would benefit from a revamp if subverted properly. Read the rest of this entry »
Fact: one in two marriages will end in divorce. Children of divorce often grow up torn between two homes, forced to grow up far more quickly than should ever be expected. Sometimes, these children feel as though something is missing, as though the sum of all of their parts do not equal a satisfying whole. Unfortunately, this same criticism could be leveled against ‘A.C.O.D,’ the 2013 comedy about the adult children of divorce directed by rookie director Stu Zicherman.
In ‘A.C.O.D.,’ Adam Scott is a seemingly well-adjusted man with a stable relationship and a steady career, despite the emotional baggage that he carries from his parents’ explosive divorce when he was nine years old. At first, Adam plays the role of uniter as he tries to bring his family together for his younger brother’s upcoming wedding. As the relationships between his family change, though, Adam discovers just how maladjusted he truly is. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Gravity’ is one of those films that absolutely screams for expectation management. In the days leading up to me seeing Alfonso Cuarón’s space mission disaster film, I was amazed at the number of positive reviews bombarding me from all angles. Critics are raving about it, all of my friends on Facebook are gushing about their experiences in the theater, and Rotten Tomatoes is boasting an impressive 97% critical fresh rating. Based on all of this glowing feedback, you’d almost think that ‘Gravity’ could also cure my gramma’s arthritis or make Crocs fashionable. As you prepare to screen the film for yourself, do yourself a favor: put all of these positive reviews on the back-burner and take in ‘Gravity’ with fresh eyes. This is a damn fine film, and failure to temper your expectations properly might rob yourself of a very rewarding cinematic experience. Read the rest of this entry »
Sometimes, the story behind a film is as intriguing as the film itself. One such case is ‘Chanthaly,’ a superb little ghost story that combines the elements of a slow-burning haunt with the emotional tension of a family drama. You see, ‘Chanthaly’ is a film from Laos, which to the uninformed is a Marxist country with strict views on propriety. In an effort to prevent criticism, the government maintains control over all of the newspapers and all media channels. In fact, to date, only nine films have been created in Laos, and only one of those films was directed by a woman.
That film is ‘Chanthaly,’ and director Mattie Do had an uphill fight getting her film approved by the Laotian government. Not only is the film industry in Laos still blossoming, but the government also frowns very heavily on tales about ghosts or the supernatural. Not to be deterred, Mattie Do utilized two of the greatest weapons in her arsenal to get the government officials to relent and allow her to create her film: her spunky, can-do attitude and a bottle of Johnny Walker.
I had the pleasure of attending a QA session with Mattie Do after the North American premiere of ‘Chanthaly’ at Fantastic Fest 2013, and the thing that impressed me the most about her is the amount of energy she brings to a room. Laos is fortunate to have such a driven, revolutionary visionary pioneering the next wave of Laotian cinema. Read the rest of this entry »