This summer my mother saw the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg directed apocalypse stoner comedy This is the End, upon my recommendation. The following is a close paraphrase of her reaction: “One of the worst, if not the worst movie I have ever seen. Just a bunch of random shit thrown together by funny guys with big egos playing on the fact that people know they’re funny.” I hadn’t heard a reaction that negative to a movie I recommended since I forced my Dad to take me to the Pokémon movie when I was seven. (He wouldn’t let me pick a movie again for years.)
Everyone can remember the feeling all too well: that boiling, under-the-skin itch you got in middle and high school when no matter what your parents did or said, they were absolutely insufferable. Your mom’s comment, your dad’s joke – everything was so embarrassing and terrible and gross. During the worst of those parental offenses it felt like you might actually die.
As a French major interested in film, I thought Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha would be great, just from the trailer—not only for its unusual monochrome aesthetic or music borrowed from the New Wave but also because the title character is broke and has no idea what she’s doing with her life. I thought I wanted a cinematic celebration of the all-too-familiar twenty-something existential crisis but realized that, with a growing sense of frustration throughout the movie, I’d like to grow out of it someday, too. Frances Ha explores a quest for fulfillment that resonates with a younger audience but offers us visual escape over thoughtful reflection, flat archetypes over compelling characters.
Director Dennis Iliadis brings his penchant for skin-crawlingly graphic violence to his new indie film +1, but it looks like that’s about the only remarkable quality he has brought to the project. If you saw Iliadis’s 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left, you know exactly what kind of violence is at play when Iliadis is at the helm. And while there are no head-in-microwave-death scenes in +1, there’s certainly more gore than you’d expect from a college party film.
With the advent of Netflix and OnDemand, it takes a really strong recommendation to get me to actually schlep to a movie theater and pay $15 to see a movie. 2012’s Chronicle was one of those cases. When it hit theaters last year, a friend of mine called it “The Blair Witch Project of superhero movies.” Now, I’m not averse to the found footage genre: District 9 and End of Watch are two of my favorite movies in recent years. However, I didn’t see those movies because they were found footage, but because they had intriguing premises. That’s where my friend turned me off Chronicle: I had no interest in sitting through a predictable superhero movie where the hero discovers his powers and then uses them to defeat a villain (and on and on—you know the drill), while also dealing with constant shaky-cam and spastic editing. I did finally see Chronicle via OnDemand, and I can confidently report: this is a groundbreaking, must see movie that you should move to the top of your entertainment to-do list.