Big Eyes, Blurred Focus

Big Eyes, Tim Burton’s latest biopic, brings to mind that quote nebulously attributed to Mark Twain: “It is no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” While the life story of artist Margaret Keane is fascinating, and Burton adapts it more accurately than you might expect, the film as a whole doesn’t cohere. Simple chronology plays a larger role than narrative craft in its structure. Big Eyes is far from senseless, but its themes and storylines conflict in ways that are more acceptable in life than art. Continue reading Big Eyes, Blurred Focus

World War Three Will Have To Wait

The Interview has been released on Youtube which means unfortunately that two valuable time-wasting Youtube hours will be squandered on this movie by many unsuspecting folks. Of course this is partially the result of all the hoo-hah that this film has already caused. A hacker group had broken into parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer network and threatened terrorist attacks against cinemas that show The Interview before the film was even released. The likely result of all this free publicity however is that most people are going to be vastly disappointed that such a film caused any concern in the first place. Continue reading World War Three Will Have To Wait

The Good Machine of the Last Good War

The marriage of man and machine is a classic trope, and Fury takes it to the next level by bonding multiple men with the ultimate war machine of the Second World War. The result is a complex and original film about the familial bond between soldiers. Brad Pitt is Wardaddy, the hardened veteran commander of his M4A3E8 Sherman tank named Fury and the father figure of his tank crew family. The film’s formal introduction to the gang is through trained typist and new recruit Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), reassigned to be Fury’s assistant driver and bow gunner. He meets gunner “Bible” (Shia LaBeouf), driver “Gordo” (Michael Peña), and loader “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal) after Wardaddy reluctantly but good-humoredly accepts Norman into his command. Continue reading The Good Machine of the Last Good War

A Touch of Crass: The Transcendent Vulgarity of The Eric Andre Show

In 2015, in an era when Office-style cringe comedy is the norm, where the President can appear on Between Two Ferns, and Tim & Eric’s basement public access style has become a Madison avenue fixture, The Eric Andre Show‘s ferocious assault on conventional comedy manages to stand out as something entirely new. Continue reading A Touch of Crass: The Transcendent Vulgarity of The Eric Andre Show

Unbroken? Speak For Yourself

Angelina Jolie’s sophomore feature, Unbroken, is the kind of film that you could probably only sit through once. Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, Unbroken tries to give legs to the harrowing true story of a man’s journey from celebrated athlete to Japanese prisoner of war. This film, which Jolie terms her “passion project,” brings together Hollywood heavyweights behind the screen. The Coen Brothers (True Grit), Richard LaGravenese (P.S I Love You), & William Nicholson (Gladiator) join Jolie as screenwriters with Universal Pictures distributing. Jolie commits to an honest account of the brutality inflicted upon Zamperini during the film’s 137-minute runtime, but in doing so forgets that everyone’s tolerance for pain is not quite as limitless.

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I Sacrificed Three Hours So You Don’t Have To

With Dean’s Date rapidly approaching, I gave up an eighth of a day to watch the Golden Globes and even more to report on them here. I did that for you, readers, so I hope you forgive me if we disagree about any of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s decisions. Unlike the ceremony and Michael Keaton’s speech in particular, I’m going to keep it concise. Here, then, are the noteworthy moments from the 72nd Golden Globes!

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Snowpiercer: The Little Engine That Couldn’t

The year is 2031. In a colossally failed attempt to combat global warming, scientists have accidentally launched the world into an inhospitable ice age. All forms of life freeze solid after just minutes of exposure to the murderously bitter cold. Humanity has narrowly escaped total extinction by clambering aboard a glorified choo-choo train. Continue reading Snowpiercer: The Little Engine That Couldn’t

The Perfect Collision of Science and Music

The first person to receive praise for a great film is often an actor. And why not when they are indeed the faces that fill a million billboards and bus stop canopies. A strong case can be made for the director, or if a critic is feeling exceptionally inclusive, perhaps even the screenwriter. Of the hundreds of movies that I’ve watched since my adolescent self knew how to work a VCR, there have been very few times when I’ve thought the shining star was the composer – until I watched The Theory of Everything. Continue reading The Perfect Collision of Science and Music

Camp X-Ray Fails to Look Below the Surface

Camp X-Ray is a film that becomes less interesting as it goes forward. The premise seems bold: a troubled connection develops between a young soldier and a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. The opening scenes draw you in with compelling performances and cinematography. In the end, however, this movie has very little to say. Camp X-Ray is the cinematic equivalent of a “Coexist” bumper sticker slapped on an SUV. Continue reading Camp X-Ray Fails to Look Below the Surface

Pride: Sweet and Sour History

It’s always dangerous to add too much sugar to your cup of bitter historical fact. For many filmmakers, however, the temptation is too great to resist—after all, a neatly shaped and heartwarming narrative is likely to do far better at the box office than a somber reflection on the usually messy truth. In Pride, released on DVD in the U.S. on the 23rd of December, director Matthew Warchus falls into this predictable trap. The result is certainly moving, but his chosen subject deserves more honesty, and even an impressive cast can’t totally save their film from the saccharine.

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Whiplash: A Riff-Off Unlike Any Other

As its name might suggest, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is not a film for the lighthearted. It is very much a one-force-drives-all film that explores one question: to what depths are we willing to go to succeed? Like the jazz music for which the characters suffer, the tone is feverish, frenzied, and maniacal. In this film, characters are embellished caricatures. The director brings them to the brink of insanity, takes them out, and then just loops back around to bring them back in. If the film were put on a heart rate monitor, the screen would show fast jagged lines, a heart rate of over 100 beats per minute, and a risk of cardiac arrest. Yet somehow, for a film traveling through hyperspace, its pacing is remarkably measured and its message decidedly thought-provoking. It just might be one of the most unapologetic and self-assured films of the year. Continue reading Whiplash: A Riff-Off Unlike Any Other

A Film and Television Review