Sammy and Terry Prescott were orphaned as children after the tragic death of both their parents in a car accident. The two have taken drastically divergent paths since childhood, Sammy being a single mother who has a simple yet stable life in a small town in upstate New York. Sammy on the other hand spends his time as a vagabond going from town to town, job to job, living a vastly unstable existence. When Sammy shows up at Terry's home, initially with the purpose of asking for money, the too rekindle their relationship, each learning not only about one and other, but also about themselves. Kenneth Lonergan's directorial debut, 'You Can Count On Me' is a sensitive, genuine portrait of two adult siblings that while their differences are vast, could learn a lot from one and other. The central performances by Laura Linney as the eccentric, protective mother and Mark Ruffalo as this fuck-up type character are both multi-dimensional and grossly affective. There is a great parallel between these two characters from Sammy, who on the surface looks to be living a nice, safe lifestyle, is tormented by her past and present mistakes and Terry, a caring yet somewhat confused character. The two siblings truly love each other very much but it's clear that their different viewpoints can at times make it hard for each of them to vocalize their feelings. This a character/relationship film through and through and the details and interactions between these two characters feel incredibly realistic and genuine. I particularly loved how the film deals with how these two characters have been affected by their parents death. It's really the backbone of the film, yet it is always in the background, not thumping the viewer over and over again, yet definitely a major influence in how these two characters were shaped. I don't think that Kenneth Lonergan views their parents tragedy as any type of excuse for these characters, rather showing the subtle reminders of how it helped create the type of people they have become and in the end showing how this is something which together, they can overcome.
Taking place eight years after the events of 'The Dark Knight', Gotham City has become a much safer place. Thanks to the Harvey Dent Act, most of the mafia is behind bars, leaving law enforcement to deal mostly with small petty crimes. With the city having no need for Batman, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, never leaving his mansion where he mourns the death of Rachel Dawes. All this changes after the arrival of Bane, a criminal mastermind who is intent on bringing Gotham to its knees. The final film in Christopher Nolan's batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is a worthy finale film in this remarkable trilogy. Personally, I feel like all the comparisons between this film and the first two films in the trilogy are asinine because a trilogy of films like this should never be about one film versus the other, rather the whole story arch of these characters and what Nolan has done with the character of Bruce Wayne, the journey he goes through in these three films, is masterfully told. The Dark Knight Rises does not have the constant unease and tension of its predecessor but the stakes are absolutely risen by what happens to the City of Gotham when Bane enacts his plan. It also isnt nearly as well paced, as early in the film I found myself a bit worried as it felt sorta disjointed, as if it may collapse under Nolan's ambition - luckily it doesn't. Another nitpicky negative was that this is the worst script of the three films, albeit not bad, just too much expositional dialogue a few times, which always bothers me. It is completely unfair to compare Hardy's Bane to Ledger's Joker, as much more can be done with the later. Tom Hardy is a phenomenal actor in his own right, maybe even better than Ledger, though Bane is much more a physical-cold presence, in which Hardy does bring a nice physicality to the role. His performance is much more nuanced and subtle, and while not nearly as fun, it is still a great performance. The other new additions of Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake, seamlessly fit into this world, both providing added depth to this epic story, and in Levitt's case, a ton of humanity. Just like its predecessors, The Dark Knight Rises has a social commentary, which could be completely ignored if desired. It touches on the problems with bureaucracy but also has something to say about this whole poignant issue of the the economic class structure. Personally I believe that Nolan concludes that there is always injustice between these economic classes, but ultimately the theme of the film is people's ability to truly let go of their pre-concieved notions or biases. Without going into spoilers, whether it be a mistake or circumstance which haunts their lives, every character from Bruce Wayne to Commissioner Gordon is scared to truly let go. In a way, this is why I would argue that Bane is a great villain, he is a truly frightening character for sure, but he is the only character in the film who wears his feelings and emotions on his sleeve, unafraid to let go.
Frederic Henry, a U.S. officer meets and begins to fall in love with an English red nurse, Catherine, while stationed in Italy during WWI. While on the front, Frederic is injured, ending up at the very hospital where Catherine works. While recovering, the two fall deeply in love with one and other, with the War constantly threatening to pull them apart. The first film adaption of Ernest Hemingway's classic novel, Frank Borzage's 'A Farewell to Arms' is a sweltering tale of everlasting love in a time of war. While the film remains almost solely focused on the love story, Borzage makes sure to continuously remind the viewer of the danger which surrounds these characters during nearly every second of their time. Sequences of romance are often abruptly interrupted by gunfire or worse - a harsh reminder that creates a nice contrast to the story. While the film does touch on these characters feelings of war and the nature of why we fight, It doesn't concern itself too much with this, opting to focus on the romance. While this is probably the worst Borzage film I have seen, which doesn't say much, it still shows Borzage's impressive directorial talent with some fantastic camera work, reminiscent of Max Ophuls, which is incredibly advanced for the time period. He just has such a profound ability to capture the story visually, capturing the intimacy between these two characters in a visual way. This is particularly impressive considering the small amount of actual screen time that exists between the two main characters, though Helen Hays as Catherine, really steals every scene she is in.
Filmmaker Muzaffer returns from Istanbul to his small rural hometown with the intention of making a new film featuring his family. His father, Emin, isn't particularly interested in being in the film, mostly due to him being in the middle of a legal struggle with the government over his land His mother, also not very interested, complains about her health problems. It's clear that his parents do love him very much, but don't particularly grasp his passion for filmmaking. His family does eventually agree to help, with his cousin even quitting his job, with the promise of bigger and better things waiting for him in Istanbul, or so Muzaffer says. Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Clouds of May is a very subtle piece of filmmaking which explores the character relationships among this distant family construct. Shot in a very minimalistic style, the film shows us characters that are 100% genuine and real. These characters all have problems of their own and the film does a great job at giving them all an emotional center, while exploring the various dynamics that exist. Muzaffer is kinda a selfish character, who doesn't truly see the error of his ways when dealing with his family, but he is not a bad man by any means. He just never seems particularly concerned with his families problems, only worried about his craft. Ceylan may be trying to make a point about the sacrifices one makes to become a director, but maybe I am just reading into this too much. Personally, I found the cousins story to be the most engrossing - a man that is haunted by his inability to leave the small town life behind and feel like he has achieved something. He seems to view himself as a failure, and I really wish this would have been a more central part of the story. Visually the film is very artfully composed - an arresting piece of imagery early in the film (pictured above) involves the cousin sitting at the window, watching his son go off to school - a constant reminder of his own failures when it comes to being accepted into the university. Nuri Bilge Ceylan's films tend to have very tepid pacing, and Clouds of May is certainly no different. I would argue that this pacing is similar to how life really is, but understand that this is definitely not for everyone.
Set in wartime Britain, Powell & Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale's is the story of an American GI, a British tank sergeant and Alison, a girl from London who is off to work on a farm as a "Land Girl". The three of them coincidentally meet in the small town Kent, on their way to Cantebury. The town is being tormented by a mysterious "glue-man", who pours glue in the hair of woman who are dating soldiers. On their way to Cantebury, the three individuals all find their lives changed forever. A Cantebury tale has a good amount of silliness, comedy, romance and drama as we explore the lives of these three individuals. One of the more interesting aspects of the film for me was the American GI's interactons with the British troops and civilians of the town. There are some great conversations, exposing the cultural differences of Americans and British, but also showing how similar both cultures are. Thematically the film is about the links between the past and present, and how important the past can be in understanding the present. This is demonstrated by the past details these character exchange and how by the end, we learn how important they actually are in understanding these characters. This all being said, I would be lying if I didn't say that I found this to be pretty disappointing considering the other Powell & Pressburger adaptions I have seen. The films pacing left something to be desired, and the whole mystery involving the "glue man" wasn't very mysterious as it's clear early on who this man is. One could definitely make an argument that this is not important to the story or theme, but then why make it a central part of the story? Visually it's a film that is very much soaked in English Realism, but there are definitely a few sequences that very atmospheric and expressive, though they are few and far between. I completely understand the significance of this film and how beautifully it captures the character and values of a nation, but I just was never all that invested emotionally, at least until the end, and found the film to be, dare I say, dull at times.
After the death of her parents, Justine arrives at a convent where she meets an enigmatic new friend Alucarda. The two are inseparable, and soon after meeting a mysterious man, find themselves obssesed by the Devil - lots of satanic rituals, gore and sleaze ensues. Juan Lopez Moctezuma's Alucarda is a film that has been described as part of the Nunsploitation genre, and while the film definitely has a lot of similarities to this subgenre, the sleazy-ness for example, it's probably not the best descriptor. This film is much more about these two girls, who gradual fall deeper and deeper into the threshold of Satan's control. I must admit, at the start of the film I feared thie film's cheap look would take away from its potential impact, but after a little set-up this worry did ring true in the slightest. Alucarda is an incredibly inventive, atmospheric experience that uses some amazing set designs, staging and well-designed compositions to tell a creepy story of two girls possessed by the devil. The sets are very lavish and inventive, creating a brooding, creepy atmosphere and while there are moments in the film that come off as dated and laughable in execution, the overall feel remains both horrifying and fun. The film does touch on some interesting themes about religious fanaticism, though it's not particularly interested in plot or character development, focusing much more on atmosphere and gore. Tina Romero who plays Alucarda, really stands out in this film, capturing this terrifying character quite well, usually with nothing more than a creepy-ass stare. The finale of this film is fantastic, which must have inspired the techniques used for the finale of De Palma's Carrie. Fans of Alejandro Jodorowsky, as well as anyone who enjoys atmospheric type horror, should seek this one out.
In a dystopian future, two rival gangs feud for control over Frazier Park (The FP). These gangs don't use fists, guns or knives to settle their score, instead using a dance video game called: Beat-Beat Revelation to settle their feuds. After his older brother BTRO is killed on the dance platform by rival gang leader L Dubba E, JTRO goes into isolation, vowing to never dance again. One year later, the FP lies in ruins, with L Dubba E controlling the entire town's supply of alcohol. This leads JTRO back into the dance ring, out for both revenge for his brother's life and for the greater good of The FP. If you didn't know already by the synopsis, The FP is a wildly original take on a tired genre which really revels in its cliches. The film has pretty much every cliche in the book to its credit from the training montages, to the girl who got away. While not as amazing as it probably could have been, 'The FP' succeeds far more than it doesn't because of how well it embraces its absurdity, while playing everything as straight-faced as possible. The dialogue is gloriously absurd, with the characters talking in the most ridiculous form of slang that is both hysterical and also sorta a commentary on the vapid machismo and stupidity which slang language encompasses today. To give an example of the absurdity, in one scene KC/DC, BTRO's old friend who promised to watch out for JTRO, is attempting to convince JTRO to get back in the ring for the greater good of The FB. He explains: "L Dubba E owns the liquor mart, keeping it all for himself. Now, with no drunks in town, there aint no bums. And with no bums their aint no motherfuckers to feed the ducks at the park. What's a fuckin' town with no ducks, JTRO? How's a nigga supposed to sort his shit out without no ducks? Do it for the ducks, JTRO." Yes, this is the type of film you are in for, but if you like this sorta thing, it definitely doesn't disappoint. A film that is certain to be a cult classic, mostly succeeds even when the novelty wears off, because of it's passion and energy in creating this absurdest dystopian future. Oh, and the last scene was a fantastic, hysterical way to end the film.
Sam has just been released from prison, yet in a matter of hours he returns to his old ways of heavy drinking and drug use with his biker-gang buddies. After a life-changing event in which he devotes his life to god, Sam makes the decision to go to Sudan to help repair homes destroyed by the civil war. While there Sam sees the unimaginable horrors caused by Kony, pledging to do whatever it takes to help as many of the kids and their families as possible. Based on actual events, Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher is an interesting story about one man's sacrifices to try and do what is right. Early in the film, Sam's transformation from a mean spirited hateful human being to someone who devotes himself to god happens far too fast. I understand the need to get to the meat of the story but it's quite important to see this gradual change in Sam. Sam becomes a man who has alienated his family and friends back home because of his cause, and while the film touches on these topics it does so in an unconvincing and not-so subtle way. Really this is a problem with the entire film in that it isn't particularly nuanced or subtle in the slightest, though there is no denying its poignancy in giving the viewer a vivid image of what is going on in Sudan and Uganda. Machine Gun Preacher also has quite a few cringe-worthy cliche moments (the racist bikers at the bar, the little child's lesson to Sam, etc) as well as a few unnecessary characters, particularly the humanitarian woman who essentially tells Sam he is no better than Kony cause he uses guns.. which was laughable bullshit. It seems as if the film itself isn't entirely sure how much of a hero Sam is, which at times makes the whole thing feel a little too bipolar. This film is not nearly as bad as the reviews would suggest, and while it lacks nuance, it clearly achieves it's primary goal of showing the atrocities in East Africa.
The film begins with Laure, a Paris resident, packing up her belongings in preparation for moving in with her lover. While on her way to have dinner with her friends, she is caught in a massive traffic jam, due to a public transportation strike. As she waits in her car, she meets a man, who she is instantly attracted to, starting off a lustful Friday night. Claire Denis' Friday Night is a film that features very little dialogue throughout, instead focusing much more on creating a cinematic experience which the viewer is transported completely into Laure's point of view. The film is full of Claire Denis' trademark visual design - the use of detailed close-ups, peculiar compositions, no coverage set-ups, etc. all aid in magnificently capturing this main character's feelings and emotions - giving the viewer a direct look into her perceptions. Laure is not a promiscuous character by any means, just someone who is fearful of such a big commitment. This notion is showcased by the fact that she sees her lover's face countless times among the crowd or in the background scenery. The man she discovers is her last escape or sense of freedom, as she romanticizes this one night stand greatly, which is expressed through her perception-inspired point of view. Denis uses subtle imagery and a few fantastical moments (the lamp shade floating in the air, the pizza winking at Laure, etc) as if Denis wants to remind the viewer that this story is merely Laure's perception, not necessarily the reality. While I do think it is a little ambiguous, it seems clear that Laure did spend the night with this man, it just isn't clear how much we witnessed Laure's perceptions rather than reality.
An Arctic research facility located in Northern Alaska, is tasked with exploring the possibilities of drilling for oil in an area which used to be some type of wildlife preserve. As the team gets closer to the possibility of drilling, they begin to experience bizarre happenings which are unexplainable. Larry Fessenden's 'The Last Winter' is horror film that fit's beautifully into the "Nature strikes back" sub-genre. Touching on the destruction of human greed on our environment, we see these team members one by one begin to experience things which are unexplainable. From the temperature rising at an alarming rate, to crew members having strange hallucinations, it begins to come clear to the various crew members that this isn't something as simple as global warming. The film creates a great atmosphere with the cinematography and sound design, capturing the isolation and loneliness of the setting. Shot on a small budget, typical of anything by Fessenden, the film relies on some stylized camera work that is very observational which can only be described as a character of it's own, creeping around the facility - creating an omnious tone. The Last Winter builds suspense through the less is more approach, creating a very clever treatment of how mysterious events come to fruition. The Last Winter relies heavily on the mystery and tension it is able to create, ending in a way that is quite mean-spirited in its depiction of "Nature's revenge", offering no nice message about how we can change, rather a warning that if we don't, Nature will surely outlast us.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.