Archive for November, 2007

Juno (Five out of Four)

November 29th, 2007 | Category: Lost Films

My roommates, Natalie and I took a trip out to Bensalem, PA to see a special sneak preview of “Juno”. Bensalem is 2 hours away, and if it was 4 hours away, it still would’ve been worth it. If you follow this sort of thing, you’ll have heard that “Juno” recently was named “best movie of 2007″ by our friends at Paste Magazine. And on top of that, it just grabbed 4 noms at the Spirit Awards (the indie film Oscars), Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best First Screenplay.

“Juno” tells the story of 16 year old Juno MacGuff, who after having sex with best friend Paulie Bleeker, gets pregnant. Deciding abortion isn’t for her, she decides to give the baby up for adoption. To say more would ruin the sheer fun “Juno” is, and yeah, it lives up to all of the hype.

Starting with the script, the first ever script from the woman I wish was my wife: Diablo Cody. The entire movie is insanely quotable, brilliantly paced and completely moving. The acting is great, with Ellen Page stealing the entire show. When Ebert stated that he thought she deserved to win the Oscar, he wasn’t lying, and I for one will be rooting for both and the film to go far come the big awards in February. Director Jason Reitman, responsible for the great “Thank You For Smoking” tops himself, and the soundtrack, primarily by Kimya Dawson of The Moldy Peaches fame, is a perfect soundtrack to, well, a practically perfect movie.

Even though we will of course be showing this in the spring, I hope you go see it when it’s out in theaters. The more successful this film is, the better it is for movies in general. And we really can never have too many movies of this quality, or of the quality of so many movies this year.

What a great year for movies, and there’s still so much to come out!

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I’m Not There (Four out of Four)

November 24th, 2007 | Category: Lost Films

Wow, did 2007 suddenly become a great year for movies?

Looking back over my past few reviews for the sadly under-read SAB blog, I can’t help but think that there’s an awful lot of positive-to-all-out-raves in there. I can’t even think about what my favorite movie of the year is. That’s always a good sign.

One of my favorite directors, Todd Haynes, he of “Safe,” “Velvet Goldmine” and film school favorite “Far From Heaven,” returns with what is probably the most ambitious movie of the year. Seriously. It makes “Across the Universe” look as daring as an Oprah rerun.

The story is simple: Six actors play six different incarnations of “Bob Dylan”. And it’s GREAT. Only Ben Whishaw, as a Dylan under interrogation, is wasted. He does a good job, but he doesn’t really do anything (he has the least screen time by far. In fact, I don’t think he ever gets out of his chair). But the other five, whoa boy.

Cate Blanchett gives what just might be her best performance as a Dylan locked in a Fellini fever dream. Heath Ledger gives his now dependably great work as an actor who played a different Dylan in a movie. Christian Bale plays THAT Dylan, who went from folk singer to preacher. Marcus Franklin plays a young black kid that just wants to sing about the past. And Richard Gere plays a Dylan that’s just trying to escape the world.

It’s a movie that is richly rewarding, infuriating, and truly unique and haunting. Several moments gave me chills, a rarity for me. It’s a movie about hiding, about masks, about loss. And when it ended, I felt truly taken aback.

It’s flawed, sure, but who cares? It wrestles with Dylan’s songs in as mature, adult a way as one could hope for. When Bale sings “Pressing On” in his church service, it’s truly moving. When Jim James sings “Goin’ to Acapulco” at a funeral, you’ll feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. “The Ballad of a Thin Man” montage rivals (and probably surpasses) any of Taymor’s work in “Across the Universe”.

I think comparing those two films is important, and endlessly fascinating. The Beatles make an amazing cameo in “I’m Not There,” but it’s there the similarities end. To compare the two, “Universe” is to MTV what “I’m Not There” is to XPN. One is style, the other is substance AND style. While “Universe” is much more about the catchier song and the flashier image, “I’m Not There” is digging for something a lot deeper.

It’s not a movie all of you will like, but it is a movie that some of you will LOVE. If it comes around here, I plead with you to check it out.

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No Country for Old Men (five out of four stars)

November 18th, 2007 | Category: Lost Films

The Coens Brothers make yet another masterpiece, and this time, it’s one of their best. It’s just incredible, incredible filmmaking; the final third will be sure to bring lots of controversy and talk, but the more I think about it, the more I love what the Coens and McCarthy did.

The acting is INCREDIBLE, especially Bardem and Brolin. It might be the Coen Bros. best directing effort yet, and their strongest collaboration with DP Roger Deakins yet. The almost complete absence of any music only heightens the tension, making this by far the scariest, most action packed Coen Bros. film yet.

This is really turning out to be quite the year for film.

Yeah, I really have no idea how I’d rank The Coen Brothers. Maybe just ranked by grade (for sanity’s sake, I’ll just pretend I gave no country 4/4)

4 stars:

Blood Simple
Fargo
O Brother Where Art Thou?
The Man Who Wasn’t There
No Country for Old Men

3.5 stars:

Raising Arizona
Barton Fink
The Big Lebowski

3 stars:

The Hudsucker Proxy
Miller’s Crossing

2.5 stars:

Intolerable Cruelty

2 stars:

The Ladykillers

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Peter Jackson sleeps through BEOWULF (two stars out of four)

November 18th, 2007 | Category: Lost Films

Upon seeing Beowulf at the Imax in King of Prussia, I realized that personal hero of mine PETER JACKSON, the Oscar winning writer/director of The Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Heavenly Creatures, was practically standing beside me. My roommates and I, all film nerds of the highest order, giggled with Beatlemania like glee, and sat in the front row of the theatre, directly in front of him.

The movie was okay. I’m not sold on the 3-D. However, PJ fell asleep halfway through and snored loudly. Take from that what you will.

Afterwards, I shook his hands, and said thank you. He had just woken up and mumbled words of thanks, and we left.

I don’t know what else to say.

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Lars and the Real Girl (Four out of Four)

November 11th, 2007 | Category: Lost Films

This is probably the most gentle-hearted, adorable movie I’ve seen all year, at the very least. It never gets sappy or manipulative, thank God, thanks to a sterling script from Six Feet Under writer Nancy Oliver, and a great acting ensemble. The show is of course, all about one man, Ryan Gosling, giving what is probably his best performance to date. There’s a scene where he dances by himself that is possibly the single most heartbreaking scene I’ve seen all year.

Gosling, referring to flowers given to his missionary-made-of-plastic girlfriend Bianca, says “They’re not real, they’ll never die, they’ll just live forever”. I paraphrased that a little. But regardless, I think this throw away line is the key to the whole movie, and the moral and themes it’s discussing in a very subtle way. Lars doesn’t need Bianca for some perverted reason, for those who fear that, and I won’t give away anything other than that.

A simple joy of a movie, equal parts hysterical and emotional, another powerhouse performance by Gosling, how can you say no?

Also, where did Kelli Garner come from? She plays Margo, and I’m completely in love with her, just like I am with this movie.

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