An estranged father wants to spend his last Christmas with his family.… MoreAn estranged father wants to spend his last Christmas with his family.
The characters in this film aren't new and border on cliche, but Edward Burns can find a sliver of individuality in each type. Burns's films are not as good as Woody Allen's and don't deal with the same heavy, Bergman-influenced issues as Allen's, but they are vaguely reminiscent.
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is a light but unsentimental character study. The people are flawed but fun, light but not without significance, and separate but related personalities. They are, in short, just like the groups of people you know.
Overall, Burns, with his $6000 movies, proves that good story-tellers don't need special effects; they just need special people.
As their mother dies, a family journeys across the county to bury her.… MoreAs their mother dies, a family journeys across the county to bury her.
Dear James Franco,
While adapting William Faulkner's multi-voiced and complexly written novel is no easy task, James Franco's film fails on almost every level. It seems like everybody who had an idea got their idea into the film, and the result is a mishmash shitfest. The split-screen, direct address of the camera, the shots of Tim Blake Nelson drooling all combine to prove that James Franco should never direct a film again. Let's just take the split-screens: I've almost never seen split-screens work (the one exception that immediately comes to mind is (500) Days of Summer), but the reason they don't work is they take a responsibility that should belong to the director and transfer that responsibility to the audience. Rather than choosing what to show you, Franco puts the onus on you to decide what to watch. Likewise the direct address shots and reaction shots are indicative of a filmmaker who can't tell his story visually.
On the positive side, when I read the novel, I imagined Tim Blake Nelson and Logan Marshall-Green in these roles. The casting is perfect, and while the script isn't good, these actors make it seem better than it is.
Overall, I hope James Franco goes back to just looking good in movies.
Linda Lovelace's special talent propels her to stardom as she hobnobs… MoreLinda Lovelace's special talent propels her to stardom as she hobnobs with high culture, but her abusive husband casts a pall on the seventies era fun.
This film is structured oddly. During the first hour or so, it delights in all the sex, fashion, sex, riches, and sex, and while it isn't nearly as seductive as Boogie Nights or as a wild as The Wolf of Wall Street, Amanda Seyfried's doe eyes certainly make it attractive. The second hour is dedicated to making us feel guilty about having fun. As a result the film becomes a reproach of the porn industry. This is fine, but the structure of the film seems aggressive and didactic.
Peter Sarsgaard is actually bad. It's shocking, but his Ike Turner impression is cliched and without depth. Amanda Seyfried is perfect for Lovelace, but the film doesn't give her much to play with. She is allowed to be sexy, and she is; she is allowed to be a victim, and she is; she is allowed to be triumphant, and she is. But the beats between these transitions aren't fully explored.
Overall, this film had a lot of potential, but it doesn't live up to it.
A captured IRA operative must decide to cooperate with a MI5 officer… MoreA captured IRA operative must decide to cooperate with a MI5 officer and betray her family or risk imprisonment.
A slow, stolid, essentially British film, Shadow Dancer is remarkably predictable. Each choice is explored in stereotypical fashion: the MI5 agent talks about the futility of violent resistance and the IRA leverages nationalistic and family loyalty. The performances are good but not extraordinary. Clive Owen is as intense as ever, and Andrea Riseborough is occasionally too stoic to read but not dynamic enough to be worth caring about.
Overall, if there were some surprise at the end, I might look more favorably on the film.
A young girl is recruited to join a child army, and when she escapes… MoreA young girl is recruited to join a child army, and when she escapes and forms a relationship with a fellow soldier, she tries to find solace in a dangerous world.
Tense and depressing almost to the point of cliche, every horrible thing that you can imagine happening to a child does without fail. Portraits of desolate and uninviting worlds are always better when the characters have a hope the audience can share (think Midnight Cowboy's "Florida" or economic security in They Shoot Horses, Don't They). These hopes don't have to be tangible or even practical, but they have to be there otherwise we're stuck in Lars von Trier-hellscape. So War Witch is just one woe after another, and while the performances were natural and strong, the plot makes the film a downer in all the wrong ways.
Overall, if you want to hate the planet for a while, watch this film.
A Norwegian explorer floats from South America to the Polynesian… MoreA Norwegian explorer floats from South America to the Polynesian Islands.
There's no doubt that this is a harrowing journey and it could be a compelling story, but the film leaves much to be desired. The group of explorers is composed of virtually identical people, and while a few of the characters squabble, there isn't enough compelling conflict between them to keep this film from falling into a second act lull. What is more, the inciting action of the film implies that the central conflict calls into question Thor's blind and foolhardy determination, but this conflict isn't explored or realized. Rather, Thor is proved correct and his determination is supported almost uncritically in the film's non-ironic up ending.
Overall, while the subject is good, the film is not.
A hotel concierge is embroiled in a murder set-up after his lover… MoreA hotel concierge is embroiled in a murder set-up after his lover unexpectedly dies.
Wes Anderson, I'm tired of you. I'm sick of your one-trick-pony bullshit, your blithe presentation of heavy content, and your obsession with your favorite objects, inserts of hand-written notes, vintage suitcases, unmoving camera shots, Bill Murray. Thank you for The Darjeeling Limited; now go fuck yourself.
As you can probably guess from my quick, type-written note to Mr. Anderson, this film sucks in about 100 different ways. All style -- and I'm using that term loosely to describe Wes Anderson's repeated gimmicks -- and no substance, this film has so many unresolved plot elements and failed character development that I almost don't know where to begin.
For most of the film, I realized that I wasn't finding anything funny, except for a cat being tossed out the window, and that was a problem because the film seemed to be a comedy. After all, none of the dramatic elements of the film held any weight or was dealt with seriously (even the Anderson version of seriously, which merely involves an extra vacant pause).
Then, there's a murder plot that never receives any attention. Was Madame D. really murdered? Was it Jopling? How? Why at that time? What is his inciting action to kill her? And why the multiple levels of story-telling? This is a story within a story within a story, but why the layers? What's the narrative point? And why is F. Murray Abraham Mr. Moustafa? It's not racist to say that Abraham is white and Tony Revoloi is not white, so it's hard to believe that they're the same person. And if M. Gustave's fastidiousness made such an impression on the young Moustafa, then why does the older Moustafa allow the hotel to fall into such disrepair? These are basic questions, but I suppose anything can be covered up by some funny running.
Overall, thanks again for The Darjeeling Limited; now drive a cab.
After an alien species has taken over her' body, a girl resists her… MoreAfter an alien species has taken over her' body, a girl resists her invader and joins a group of humans looking to overthrow the aliens.
Convoluted and cliche, this film is uninspired in every way. The rival boys, a bland recasting of Jacob and Edward without all the sparkling personality, are indistinguishable in looks and character, and Melanie doesn't emerge as unique. The plot plods along predictably, and the characters remain undeveloped.
William Hurt, the sole reason I sat through this film, delivers a fine performance. He can't be blamed, but it's sad that even in The Village he got a great monologue that served to be worthy of his talents but in this film there's not a single inspired moment.
Overall, what will it take for all of us to agree that Stephanie Meyer sucks.
A hit-man must kill his ex-partner, who has just been released from… MoreA hit-man must kill his ex-partner, who has just been released from prison, but first they go on one last evening of entertainment.
Christopher Walken, who has discovered his sensitive side in his later years, and Al Pacino are great together, and I can only wish that they unite for a better story than this one. Uneven in tone and genre, the film is best described as Grumpy Old Men meets Carlito's Way, and those two films don't mix well. Alan Arkin, forever sardonic, is hilarious but miscast, only adding to the comedic milieu, until we're supposed to take the film seriously.
Overall, though I'm happy to see good actors giving good performances, even the best actors need a script.