, 106 m., 2012
Shirley Henderson (Karen), John Simm (Ian), Shaun Kirk (Shaun), Robert Kirk (Robert), Katrina Kirk (Katrina), Stephanie Kirk (Stephanie), Darren Tighe (Eddie), Polly Kossowicz (School Teacher), Valerie Lilley (Grandmother), Peter Gunn (Shop Manager), Dylan Brown, Harry Myers. Directed by Michael Winterbottom and produced by Melissa Parmenter. Screenplay by Laurence Coriat & Winterbottom.
As a filmmaker, Michael Winterbottom has an obsession with all things realistic bordering on the religious/zealous. My favorite film of Winterbottom’s is Wonderland (1999), his hyperlink mosaic about three sisters, their significant others, their parents and their neighbors over Guy Fawkes weekend in South London. Continue reading
, 101 m., 2012
Emily Blunt (Mike), Colin Firth (Arthur Newman), Anne Heche (Mina Crawley), Kristin Lehman (Mary Alice Wells), Sterling Beaumon (Grant Wells), M. Emmet Walsh (Zazek), Nicole LaLiberte (Hipster Sarah), Autumn Dial (Charyl), David Andrews (Chuck Willoughby), Sharon Conley (Unemployment Official (as Sharon Morris)), Peter Jurasik (Bus Driver), Lucas Hedges (Kevin Avery), Steve Coulter (Owen Hadley), Michael Beasley (Detective #2), L. Warren Young (Deputy). Directed by Dante Ariola and produced by Mac Cappuccino, Becky Johnston, Brian Oliver, and Alisa Tager. Screenplay by Johnston.
This is one boring movie! If watching paint dry ever becomes an Olympic sport, I should win a frickin’ Gold Medal for enduring it. To call it dull as dishwater would be an insult to both dishes and their cleansing liquid. You know a film isn’t going well when the most exciting part is your getting a nosebleed halfway through and having to go to the bathroom for 5 minutes to clean it up. When I got back, nothing much had changed. So what could be so boring, you ask? I give you Arthur Newman – a drably filmed, mind-numbingly plotted, blandly acted American road movie starring those two shining stars of British cinema, Colin Firth and Emily Blunt. Take it. Please. Continue reading
, 114 m., 2012
Naomi Watts (Maria), Ewan McGregor (Henry), Tom Holland (Lucas), Samuel Joslin (Thomas), Oaklee Pendergast (Simon), Marta Etura (Simone), Sönke Möhring (Karl), Geraldine Chaplin (Old Woman), Ploy Jindachote (Caregiver), Jomjaoi Sae-Limh (Red Cross Nurse), Johan Sundberg (Daniel), Jan Roland Sundberg (Daniel’s Father), La-Orng Thongruang (Old Thai Man), Tor Klathaley (Young Thai Man), Douglas Johansson (Mr. Benstrom). Directed by J.A. Bayona and produced by Belén Atienza, Álvaro Augustín, Ghislain Barrois, Enrique López Lavigne (as Enrique López-Lavigne). Screenplay by Sergio G. Sánchez, based on a story by María Belón.
In 2004, a tsunami hit Thailand. J.A. Bayona’s The Impossible takes that painful reality and depicts it in as visceral and involving a way as possible. Based on a true story, Bayona’s film shows the remarkable human ingenuity it took to survive in the wake of such a stunning disaster. Continue reading
This film just gets me. No film moved me more this year than debut writer-director Stephen Chobsky’s adaptation of his own 1999 novel about high school malaise and the struggle to fit in. Its hero, Charlie (Logan Lerman), traumatized at a young age by a violent car accident which killed his favorite kooky aunt (Melanie Lynskey, shattering in mere flashback and insinuation), is set adrift in a suburban Pittsburgh high school only to find his niche among the outcasts and “freaks” (including a terrific Ezra Miller as flamboyantly gay Patrick; Emma Watson as his violent but fragile half-sister Sam, aka Charlie’s first crush; and Mae Whitman as even more violent and fragile Buddhist Mary Elizabeth). Perhaps no film has captured the humor and the heartache of young love and the growing pangs of adolescence quite so vividly. Chobsky is a talent to watch.
Ben Affleck has been the laughing-stock of Hollywood actors the past decade or so, but in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone and again in 2010′s The Town, he proved that he had a real filmmaker’s vision. His latest, a real thriller, is also his best. The astonishing but true story of a CIA-sanctioned operation to retrieve a group of Americans holed up in the Tehran home of the Canadian ambassador during the Iran hostage crisis, the film stars Affleck as a CIA operative who comes up with a crude but effective plan to get the Americans out of Iran alive: he’ll fly in as part of a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a B-grade science fiction film production and they’ll all fly out together. The ludicrous yet ingenious plan involves a foul-mouthed Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin, terrific), a fat but famous makeup artist (John Goodman) and a bit of finagling on the part of a CIA ally (Bryan Cranston). The results are wonderfully-made, tense, gripping and often hilarious.
Benh Zeitlin’s directorial debut is a powerfully-moving, imaginative and hand-crafted modern fairy tale from the perspective of the bravest New Orleans denizen ever captured on film. Six-year-old newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis stars (!) as Hushpuppy, an androgynous young girl in post-Katrina Louisiana who resides in a shack with her alcoholic, violently frustrated father (fellow newcomer Dwight Henry) perched in a rural area dubbed “the Bathtub.” When young Hushpuppy finds that her father is dying, realizing she has no mother to raise her, she must learn to survive on her own. This crushing reality is intermixed beautifully with stunning imagination on the part of Zeitlin, whose young heroine believes that when Global Warming destroys the ice caps once and for all, her world and everything inside will be ravaged by giant prehistoric buffalo. The results are a powerful concoction of American neo-realism and magical fantasy – one film I won’t soon forget.
Tony Kaye might be a name you don’t recognize, but it wouldn’t be for lack of trying. After having his career all but buried by the post-production fiasco that was 1998′s American History X (still young star Edward Norton locked Kaye out of editing and recut the film and the studio released it as he saw fit, only for Kaye to take out an ad ripping the star and the film a new one in Hollywood trade papers), Kaye all but disappeared. Now, he’s back with one of the very best films of the year…which nobody saw. Released in February on Video on Demand and in extremely limited runs in New York and LA, Kaye’s latest stars Adrien Brody, in what might be his best performance to date (yes, better even than The Pianist or Summer of Sam) as a depressed substitute teacher who is determined to avoid getting attached to the students in his charge, the faculty around him, or anyone else as he takes on an assignment at a Long Island high school. However, he soon finds out how hard that is. Further, the faculty (including Marcia Gay Harden, Tim Blake Nelson, Lucy Liu, William Petersen, James Caan, Blythe Danner, Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks of Mad Men) all have their own issues, as do the students (including the director’s daughter, debuting actress Betty Kaye as a depressed artistic soul) and hangers-on (including Sami Gayle as a young prostitute he takes off the street) he encounters. The subject matter could scarcely be more fraught or more timely, but the treatment shakes you to your very core. Seek this out.