Writer, director, and actor Jon Favreau cements his place as an… MoreWriter, director, and actor Jon Favreau cements his place as an underrated Hollywood gem with Chef, a film that surprises with its ingenuity. Focused on a chef who suffers humiliation at the hands of a critic and then finds his true calling and happiness in the form of a broken-down food truck, Chef is a Hollywood film that stands out from the rest. We get characters with nuance and heart, we get positivity, we get humor, and we get an outstanding study of family dynamics. It is perhaps the greatest example of a modern day father-son relationship as has yet to be put on screen. It's funny, engaging, heart-felt, and intelligent and a must see.
A huge win for Favreau.
Fresh, heartfelt, entertaining, and immensely memorable, Begin Again… MoreFresh, heartfelt, entertaining, and immensely memorable, Begin Again is a drama that packs a punch and lifts the heart. When a broken hearted amateur musician meets a washed-up musical producer, the pair create a tandem that turns their weakness in to strength, and brings a renewed sense of vigor and purpose to their lives. It's a funny film, it's an authentic film, and it's a near brilliant piece of work.
Written and directed by John Carney, Begin Again is one of the more organic and resonating romantic dramas I've seen. Yes, music is a big part of what the film is, yet that takes a back seat to the bigger over-arching narrative at play, and hence its themes of love, life, and redemption in the face of cynicism and despair. It's about achieving, not settling. The performances are pitch perfect, one of the most underrated entries of Keira Knightley's career, and the script gives us mature ideas with a lively, organic, and transfixing direction.
Sound of My Voice represents a low-budget indie film that both defies… MoreSound of My Voice represents a low-budget indie film that both defies expectations but also fails to elevate them. In it, we find a young couple attempt to infiltrate a bizarre cult that follows a young woman claiming to be from the future. As events unfold, the intrigue widens, and the mystery seems to envelope all involved. It's a character study, a thriller, and a drama. A unique blend of indie of more mainstream suspense dramas, it's a film that deserves to be seen.
Despite being an unknown cast, one has to venerate the performances from all involved, especially by its most accomplished actor, the fantastic Brit Marling. She inhibits her role to an extraordinary degree, and brings just the right amount of ambiguity. That ambiguity serves the film well, as it's never predictable, yet does leave us a bit unfulfilled as the ending seems overly artsy and wavering.
Familiar and uninspired, Purge: Anarchy suffers because there was a… MoreFamiliar and uninspired, Purge: Anarchy suffers because there was a film before it, as no originality can be gleaned. The film telegraphs where it's going to go immediately, the characters are hopelessly clichéd or one-note, and the action not particularly effective. Does the film do what it sets out to do? Well there's violence and contrived interpersonal dynamics, but nothing is added to the mythology. Instead, the reasoning behind the purge and the opposition to it feel like race-baiting stereotypes or imagined villains. There's no real sense of stakes with this Purge.
A B horror film through and through, Cold in July never aims for an… MoreA B horror film through and through, Cold in July never aims for an Academy award, yet provides enough guessing, enough twists, and enough intrigue to be a truly good thriller. In a rare example of a film that takes a completely different direction than you would think, we find small time family man Richard Dane unknowingly involved in a potentially deadly conspiracy, encompassing some of the most unlikely, and unseemly, characters you want to meet.
It's a methodical film, it takes a while to build, and yet it never loses us. The tension is felt throughout, and its major plot points, though surprising, never feel cheap or inorganic to what came before it. We are entreated to good performances by class A character actors, such as the venerable Sam Shepard. Director Jim Mickle guides the smartly penned film to be an effective, well-executed ride.
A fine genre piece.
Theory of Everything
Overwrought, dull to an intolerable amount, and… MoreTheory of Everything
Overwrought, dull to an intolerable amount, and relentlessly boring, Theory of Everything is perhaps the most overrated film of 2014. A biopic of Stephen Hawking, centering on the on-set of his rare disease and the love of his first wife, the film wants us to feel connected to its story, and adoring of its subject. The result is a film that seemingly loses nuance or objectivity with its subject, and instead gives us a central story, that of the romance, that never feels real. The performances, though good, fail to gain any real chemistry.
Above all, the biggest fault of Theory of Everything is in the direction. James Marsh, as talented and as mature as he is, fails to engage the viewer. The pace is slower than innovation at the DMV and what we see fails to translate well to cinema, it's a story that feels forcibly put on to screen, and a drain on our time.
As above, so below
Surprisingly engaging, and intriguing from the… MoreAs above, so below
Surprisingly engaging, and intriguing from the onset, As Above, So Below is a film that seemingly invigorates the found footage drama, at least to start. We find ourselves with a unique storyline, one which mixes mythology with real-life historical setting, and thrusts the viewer in without hand-holding. The direction is fast and energetic, the performances amazingly effective. The scares are genuine, and the tension is uncanny.
Where the film starts to veer, however, is about half way through when it seemingly loses all notions of constraint. Director Dowdle succumbs to gimmicks, as any sense of realism is lost and instead we are treated to a CGI spectacle of increasing absurdity. The film's script remains interesting, and we enjoy where it ends, yet had the film kept things more close to the chest, it could have been something much more.
Love and Other Drugs
Novel in some respects, but simplistic in… MoreLove and Other Drugs
Novel in some respects, but simplistic in others, Love and Other Drugs works as a romantic comedy, though it sometimes get lost in what it seemingly aspires to do--namely act as a satire on the pharmaceutical industry. It's generally funny, at least amusing, and the chemistry and comedic dynamic between Gyllenhaal and Hathaway keep the film engaging.
Where the film fails is in the character of Josh Randall, played by Josh Gad, whose antics are so over-the-top and so over-played so as to mute his character of any real substance. He's obnoxious for the sake of obnoxious, which is in contrast to the rest of the film which has more mature overtones. The satire of the pharmaceutical industry is also shallow, not taking the serious repercussions of these drugs seriously. Yes, it's a comedy, but when it wants to explore matters of life and death, a more nuanced take on the industry would seem appropriate.