A popular boy befriends and loves a mawkish girl, but will his demons… MoreA popular boy befriends and loves a mawkish girl, but will his demons and the pains of adolescence spoil their burgeoning love?
The first act of this film is so drenched in cliche that it's difficult to take the rest of the film seriously. But it should be taken seriously because parts of it are really good, carried by a passable performance by Miles Teller and a strong supporting turn by Shailene Woodley.
The film's carpe diem message is muddled though, and the film doesn't take any real risks. For example, the scene by the car after Sutter meets his estranged father should have greater consequences than it does (that's an abstrusely constructed sentence to avoid spoilers).
Overall, now, it's not all that spectacular.
Two disaffected vampires deal with existential angst.
Moody and… MoreTwo disaffected vampires deal with existential angst.
Moody and atmospheric, Jim Jarmusch's vampire film is heavy on snob and light on plot. While I'm never one to complain about films that reward the audience for being smart and understanding obscure references, I also need more than abstruse literary allusions to keep me invested in the characters. Structured in four acts, the first two acts are about the two leads, and Jarmusch's vamps wonder if life is worth living and love is worth loving, eventually resolving these conflicts in under-toned affirmatives. Mia Wasikowska adds some life to the dour existence, but she is quickly exiled, and since this is the one part of the film where we had a real plot and conflict, the film limps into the final act.
Overall, Jarmusch's reliance on mood over story leaves the film flat.
A teenage woman has sex with her boyfriend and then discovers that a… MoreA teenage woman has sex with her boyfriend and then discovers that a shape-shifting demon follows her; if it catches up, she dies.
Here is what this film is trying to do: it's trying to send up the horror movie formula of if a female character has sex, she's sure to die. It's trying to be an homage to (or satire of) John Carpenter's original Halloween film.
Here is what the film actually accomplishes: it annoys the living shit out of me. The follow shots and heavy-handed music do nothing to add suspense. Rather, they're almost comic in their over-drawn melodrama. And let's talk a while about this demon. What about hand stuff? Does the demon only get transferred with procreative sex? What if she doesn't come? What about lesbian sex? And why is the demon sometimes one shape but other times another? Why is it only occasionally naked? Why did the demon kill everyone else, but when it catches up to our heroine, it only plays with her hair? Why does it have so much trouble with doorknobs but is capable of flying or climbing on a roof, standing there with Osama bin Laden's beard over its dick?
I know the film doesn't want to answer these questions, but they're so obvious.
Overall, what's being hailed as "one of the greatest American horror films in years" is a dumb piece of shit.
Four college students resort to robbery to fund a spring break trip to… MoreFour college students resort to robbery to fund a spring break trip to Florida.
Lacking almost all restraint, director Harmony Korine fashions a didactic drama about hedonism and materialism while including enough skin to make Hugh Hefner blush. Though the film is clearly "artistic" (as opposed to pornographic) with its slow motion shots, fractured narrative, and repeated "poetic" voice-overs, it can't escape the fact that it quickly becomes a parody of itself. Take for example a scene in which Alien shows off his "pad." He says, "Look at my shit" approximately twenty times, and I couldn't resist thinking, "Look at my props department. They found a lot of guns and an oddly shaped bed." A lack of subtlety isn't always necessary, but Spring Breakers goes so over the top that I couldn't stomach the predictable conclusion of its ham-handed plot.
Overall, Harmony Korine may be a fine writer, as evidenced by Kids, but as a director he has much to learn.
Chris Kyle, motivated by 9/11 and a perverse value structure, leaves… MoreChris Kyle, motivated by 9/11 and a perverse value structure, leaves his family behind to fight in Iraq, becoming the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history.
From a technical point of view, this film is well-made. Director Clint Eastwood knows his way around a compelling war sequence, and Bradley Cooper brings a complexity and humanity to Kyle that is absent from its source material.
However, the film's politics are intensely problematic, its ending blindly propagandistic, its treatment of veterans sinfully simplistic, its depiction of Arabs remarkably racist, and its portrayal of military families insulting. There can be no doubt that Eastwood's pro-war, right-wing politics influenced the film, despite his claims to the contrary; he might say that showing what war does to families makes American Sniper anti-war, but this statement is ridiculous when balanced against the glorified battle scenes. "Sure, war hurts families," the film seems to say, "but golly, is it fun to be there" -- a statement echoed by Kyle's book. At the end of the film, there are American flags waving about, reverential soldiers saluting, and tearful widows, all following the same nationalistic script. What Eastwood fails to realize that a thorough examination of the circumstances of war, men who understand the bullshit politics of war but nevertheless do nasty things for the benefit of friends and loved ones, is a more compelling plotline than a man who makes the fallacious connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Critical thinkers fighting is more compelling than the blindly patriotic.
Kyle's wife, Sienna Miller in a thankless role, is portrayed as an uncritical nagging housewife who is fine as long as her husband isn't being annoying with his nasty PTSD. Maybe this is the way she really is, but I hope not.
I can't leave this review without commenting about the horrible portrayal of Arabs and Iraqis in this film. Literally every Iraqi character is either a coward or a killer -- "savages" is Kyle's word. Unfathomable acts of violence, simplistic constructs of good and evil, and a barren, premodern desert are all that Iraq is in this film, and while it's certainly true that Kyle probably didn't have time to visit any museums while he was deployed, an overly myopic depiction of a vast and complex country makes the film unambiguously racist.
Overall, while I can't say that the film's technical achievements are absent, it's overall raison d'etre makes it impossible to recommend.
The Impressionist painter J.M.W. Turner experiences successes and… MoreThe Impressionist painter J.M.W. Turner experiences successes and failures.
I always write one-sentence plot summaries before I begin my comments, but with Mr. Turner I went through about five attempts before I settled on what is above. The reason is I don't know what the plot of this film is. There are plot events - kinda - but they don't build upon one another to form a cohesive story. It's a portrait, I suppose, but it's also a film with a compelling dramatic purpose.
Timothy Spall grunts and squints his way through the film, and I can't say that his choices weren't consistent. But his squished up face and mumbles didn't amount to anything more than a sweaty caricature.
Overall, director Mike Leigh gets a lot of accolades for his verisimilitude, but sometimes reality is boring -- even though I suspect nothing can be more boring than this film.