Looking ahead to the rest of 2013

1 06 2013

With the year half over and Cannes behind us, here are the 10 films I’m most excited to see during the 2nd half of 2013.  Something I should address up front is that Man of Steel, the most anticipated film for many, is absent here. Though I don’t quite have superhero movie fatigue yet, I’ve just never been a fan of Zack Snyder, and so I’m skeptical of anything he’s behind.  This is his follow up to Sucker Punch, after all.

10) Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives

Having loved 2011’s Drive, I can’t help but be excited for Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling’s follow-up.  While Drive was universally praised, Refn seems to be going back to his more divisive ways this time, even drawing comparisons to Valhalla Rising in that it’s visceral, violent, beautiful, but all with a bare bones script.

9) This is the End

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This could be the best “midnight movie” of the year.  This fits right into Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s wheelhouse, and with a great ensemble and an emphasis on improv, it has the potential to be a blast.

8) The Past

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Like Drive, Asghar Fahadi’s  A Separation was one of my favorites of 2011.  His new film is getting very strong reviews and he’s becoming one of the most exciting new writer/directors.

7) Blue is the Warmest Color

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This just won the palme d’Or at Cannes, and so it automatically gets a spot here.  Other than the story centering around a young French lesbian couple, I know nothing of this film or its director.  However, Cannes has a history of picking amazing films for its top honor, and so I can’t wait to see this.

6) Anchorman: The Legend Continues

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Long in the works, and I really just can’t wait to see Will Ferrell back in this role.  Should be a lot of fun.

5) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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After seeing An Unexpected Journey, I’m no longer worried about The Hobbit being split into 3 films.  I didn’t feel it had any pacing issues, it set up a sequel well, and it felt wonderful to return to Middle Earth.  I’m sure Peter Jackson will work his magic once again.

4) Nymphomaniac

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Ever since Antichrist I feel there’s been a misconception among some that Lars Von Trier is a one-trick-pony only seeking shock value.  Though Nymphomaniac doesn’t look to change that view at all, I don’t think it could be further from the truth.  He’s always made wonderfully innovative films, from pioneering Dogme 95 to writing and directing Dogville, which Tarantino called “One of the best scripts ever written,” and that it “Would’ve won the Pulitzer had it been brought to the stage.”  He’s also been unpredictable, ranging from shock and horror to office comedy.  Nymphomaniac will at the very least be one of the most talked about movies of the year.

3) Twelve Years a Slave

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Steve McQueen might be the most exciting new director.  This is his 3rd film after Hunger and Shame.  This time he tackles slavery in NYC in the 1800’s, and he has maybe the best cast of the year led by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender.

2) The Wolf of Wall Street

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The 5th collaboration between Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, and with reportedly one of the wildest scripts around.  There are even rumors of an NC-17 rating, though I doubt a major studio would let a film such as this get that financial kiss of death. Regardless, Scorsese is an all time great, and I can’t wait to see him take on controversial and energetic material again.

1) Before Midnight

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Not usually one for romance, the first two films, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (which brilliantly plays out in real time), are two exceptions.  If Before Midnight reaches the same heights, this series will, in my opinion, be one of the all time best.  The three films were all made 9 years apart, with the actors aging naturally along with the characters. The two stars, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, also had a big influence on the scripts of each film, so not only have the characters aged naturally, but they’ve matured naturally as well.  Before Midnight opens wide on June 14th, and so far it’s been getting nothing but rave reviews.  It looks to be a great end to a trilogy 18 years in the making.

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Top 10 of 2011

23 08 2012

It’s late, but it took a long time to see everything on my list from last year.  After all, we’re not critics who get invited to screenings or have deadlines, so we took our sweet ass time.  2011 was an amazing year for movies, and there are quite a few that I loved but just couldn’t fit on the list.  Take a look and we encourage you to post your own top 10 in the comments.

10) Take Shelter

9) Shame

8) Midnight in Paris

7) Drive

6) HP and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2

5) Hugo

4) Melancholia

3) A Separation

2) 13 Assassins

1) The Skin I Live In

 

Almodovar’s probably one of very few who could make something so simultaneously bizarre, disturbing and thought-provoking.  I’ve loved Almodovar’s films for a long time, but with this I think he topped himself.  The Skin I Live In is a perfect mix of Almodovar with equal parts Hitchcock and Cronenberg.  It’s fantastic and my favorite film from an outstanding year.





Valhalla Rising

22 05 2010

To me, Nicolas Winding Refn films have always been perfect examples of all style and no substance.  Even Bronson, a biopic about one of the most compelling living figures, turned out to focus more on Refn’s visual tricks than the actual plot or characters.  What could have been a fascinating, dramatic character study ended up being more of a 90 minute music video.  It’s a fatal flaw, but Refn’s films survive because he’s just that damn good when it comes to visuals.  The cinematography in Valhalla Rising, for example, is un-freaking-believable.  Refn found the perfect look and feel for a gritty, violent viking movie.  He even found the perfect lead in Mads Mikkelsen, who is great in the role despite sadly having not one single line of dialogue.  If only Refn could find a way to marry his visual style with some great pacing, characters, and drama, the sky would be the limit.  Sadly, I don’t see that ever happening, and Valhalla Rising is more evidence of that.  As beautiful as it is to look at, there’s absolutely no emotion whatsoever in this film, and it’s not for a lack of trying.  Refn wants us to care about Mads’ character “One-Eye,” he trys to create a touching relationship between One-Eye and a young boy, and he even attempts to piece together a narrative, but mostly fails on all counts.  It probably would have been better had Refn decided to go completely abstract with it rather than even attempting any sort of narrative, since it does work so well on just an atmospheric level.  So if you see it, see it for those reasons alone, or if you just really like vikings, but don’t go in expecting anything more.

7/10





Bronson

18 10 2009

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Charles Bronson is Britain’s most famous prisoner.  He was originally sentenced to 7 years for a small robbery, but his term has been continually extended due to his violent crimes behind bars.  So far he’s spent 34 years in prison, 30 of which have been in solitary confinement.

Despite my opinion that this was mostly a big mess of a film, I still recommend it just for Tom Hardy’s performance alone, which is out of this world good.  This is probably the biggest physical transformation I’ve seen since Christian Bale in The Machinist.  Hardy carries the whole film and is great fun to watch, and he’s officially an up and coming actor to keep an eye on.

 Director Nicolas Winding Refn, however, tries so hard to imitate the style of A Clockwork Orange that it seems like he pays no attention to pacing or plot.  Bronson ends up being a perfect example of all style and no substance, which is really unfortunate considering it’s based on such a wild true story about such an interesting man.  It is beautiful to look at though, so it works on some level.  A few of the stylizations are brilliant, such as the animation sequence and Bronson’s stage performance, but it all feels like a collection of scenes jumbled together rather than a continuous film.

 Besides Hardy, the best thing about Bronson is the music, which again, is straight out of A Clockwork Orange.  The music is beautiful, fits perfectly, and carries the film almost as much as Hardy’s performance. 

RATING:  7/10





“Valhalla Rising” trailer

18 10 2009

The new film from Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of “Bronson.”  It’s getting mixed reviews, but I think it looks great just based on this trailer: