With such films as Bloody Sunday and United 93, Paul Greengrass has shown a strong ability to capture true stories in a way that are very genuine but nonetheless heart-pounding. With his latest film, Captain Phillips, Greengrass tells the story of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali Pirates. The film is multi-focused, following the Alabama's commanding officer, Captain Richard Philips, and the Somali pirate captain, Muse, who takes him hostage. Captain Phillips is a very fast-paced and intense film that doesn't feel even close to its 135 minute running time. That being said, the film feels epic in scale, with Greengrass creating a truly immersive experience as the audience watches this story unfold. The film never slogs in the slightest though, delivering an emotional ride that touches on the myriad effects of globalization. Early on in the film, Greengrass spends equal time with both Richard and Muse, capturing the very different worlds they both come from while also showcasing how they are both dealing with an ever-changing world around them. While Muse is not a "good person" we grasp his struggle in life but the film never goes too far in trying to become to sentimental for the character either. The story is tight and balances its themes and characters well but the dialogue is without question the weak-link of the film. There were quite a few scenes in the film that just felt forced, particularly an opening bit between Rich and his wife, or a little too "on the nose" for my liking. Captain Phillips is a return to strong filmmaking for Greengrass after the putrid Green Zone proving once again his ability to create a thrilling and somewhat thought-provoking film.
Bully is by all means a very important film showcasing how bullying can be absolutely
devastating to young children if they don't have the proper support system. From the very beginning, Bully goes right for the heart-strings, showing us the father of a boy who killed himself, due to the effects of Bullying. Its an emotional film that showcases the problem well, but It really doesn't provide many answers with a rather
narrow viewpoint on the problems inherent in the younger generations lives. It's exploration of bulling is simpy too simplistic and I wish the film could have digged a little deeper to dissect this problem. To
be fair, I personally think there is no real way to stop this from happening, so it's definitely a challenging thing to accomplish, so this is still a film that should obviously be seen. The one thing about Bully that really bothered me was its overabundance of playing with focus. I found it to be distracting for one, but more importantly a cheap and manipulative camera trick to create added emotion which quite frankly is completely unnecessary given the subject matter. All the negatives aside, Lee Hirsch's Bully is definitely a film worth seeing by the masses, even if it's not as interesting or complicated as it should have been.
Set in a small town during the 1930s, The Purple Rose of Cairo tells the story of Cecelia, a movie-lover who dreams of a better life. Trapped in a dead-end job where she must provide for her deadbeat and abusive husband, Cecilia's one release is cinema. She finds herself entranced by the latest attraction, a screwball comedy named The Purple Rose of Cairo, returning to the theater day after day. During one of her visits, the main character of the film, Tom Baxter, pauses in the middle of his dialogue and begins to talk to Cecelia. He proceeds to climb out of the movie. Free from the chains of the narrative storytelling of Purple Rose, Tom accompanies Cecelia on a tour of the town with the two of them falling in love with one and other. Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo is an inventive, charming experience that effectively blurs the boundaries between cinema and the real world. Allen embraces these differences, capturing how naive and simple Baxter's character is when taken away from confines of his fictional world. The Purple Rose does great job of playing with the idea of a fictional character trying to adjust to life in the real world. From Baxter's attempt to use fake money, to his attempt to start a car without a key, the film is full of clever moments throughout. Outside of the film's clever set-up, The Purple Rose of Cairo is very much a film that celebrates the power of cinema and its ability to provide an escape from the grind of everyday existence. That being said, it also captures the differences between the movies and real life, where life is never quite as simple and straight-forward. Cecilia is a woman whose been walked over all through her life and her interaction with film is what eventually empowers her to stand up for herself. Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo is a whimsical throwback to 1930s cinema, providing a truly unique, entertaining, and heartfelt experience that really captures the love-hate relationship many have with movies, particularly romantic comedies.
As one would expect from a Whit Stillman film, Damsels in Distress is a verbose, endlessly unique film about a group of girls who inhabit a fictional
upper-echelon college. The film is full of ideas and interesting antidotes
about the college experience, relationships, etc. and it's definitely full of Stillman's unique and colorful dialogue. This film seemed to get a fair amount of criticism compared to StiIlman's other films but I found it be very entertaining and quite funny, with a great central performance by Greta Gerwig as the head of this group of woman. While the film touches on some interesting themes it just scratches on the surface from an intellectual point of view. Personally, I wish the film would have gone a little futher in its analysis of morality vs. intelligence and the perception that they go hand in hand, but Damsels in Distress remains a fun experience regardless. The high point had to be the sequences involving the Thor character and the Fred Astaire homage towards the end.
Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity is a visceral, intense experience which effectively transports the viewer into the infinite and unforgiving realm of outer space. The story centers around Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer whose on her first shuttle mission, and long-time veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky whose on his final mission. What begins as a routine space mission turns into a terrifying fight for survival as rogue debris from a destroyed Russian satellite leaves the two of them completely alone in space. Gravity is a visually stunning piece of filmmaking which presents space in a way never shown on celluloid. The film is technically sound, beautifully shot, and equal parts terrifying and beautiful. The cinematography is fantastic, with great use of long takes, point-of-view, and inventive compositions that ratchet up an already intensive narrative. As the story unfolds I found myself gasping at the intensity of this experience, that seemed to come into play at every turn. In a way Gravity encompasses all of Cinema should be, but unfortunately the film's emotional and thematic beats leave a little bit to be desired. Thematically the film is really about letting go, accepting the things in life one has no control over. Dr. Ryan Stone's character is dealing with personal tragedy from back home and the film goes a little too far at times to hit this point home and spell out this theme. The tragic back story of Stone is really completely unnecessary but I don't have a problem with it in principle, more so because of the heavy-handed execution. The viewer really doesn't need any more incentive to root for Stone and the development of the theme just feels rushed. In the end, on a technical and artistic level, Gravity is a 10 out of 10 type film, but unfortunately the somewhat heavy-handed narrative holds it back from being a truly special achievement.
This is another example of a film in which the critics and I completely
disagree. I really don't get how this film got such terrible reviews. Although
the trailers leading up to this film were terrible, this is a cute, well made
film that is a unique and interesting take on the old fairy tale. It's definitely a film that targets children, with lots of humor aimed at that age group but Tarsem's visuals are rather engrossing--creating a nice atmosphere that really fit such a fairytale. It's a version on the tale with new elements, particularly the empowerment of Snow White as a strong willed character who can take care of herself and it also features a good amount campy humor. Don't really have much else to say about this one, but it's a cute, little film that is better than most of the children movies I have seen recently, with a nice message for the kiddies as well.
Set in the small town of Cochise, Arizona, Forty Guns tells the story of Jessica a tyrannical landowner who rules the town with her posse of hired guns, known as the Dragoons. She is the law of the town, with the Sheriff going along with anything she wants out of fear. One day Griff Bonnell, a once legendary gunfighter turned U.S. Marshall, arrives to restore law and order in the town. Things get more complicated with Jessica being attracted to this legendary gunslinger, while Griff falls for the Gunsmith's daughter, Louvenia. Samuel Fuller's Forty Guns is a stylized, fast-paced western exploring the moral landscape of the Wild, Wild West. The film captures this period in US history in all its glory, the tough and rugged-type of machoism it breeds while simultaneously observing the consequences this time had on the morality of all men, most notably Griff. Griff is a man who swore off violence long ago, opting to establish law and order. After a horrific event, Griff's vow of non-violence is put the test, pushing his new sense of morality and justice to the test. Samuel Fuller has such a great sense of how to design action sequences, using well timed editing and compositions that make even a simple sequence feel much more intense and exciting. While very stylized for the time, Forty Guns never feels over-stylized, with Fuller picking his moments, delivering on creating an intensity that a lesser director couldn't replicate. Forty Guns features cinematography and direction which are far ahead of its time, featuring editing and compositions which few westerns of this era even come close to matching. Samuel Fuller's Forty Guns captures the "Wild Wild West' in a way few films ever could, showcasing this constant pull between machoism and morality.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.