Zero Dark Thirty

(Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)

with Cayla O’Connell, 42nd St. Regal, 1/27/13


zero dark

Too diffuse, too procedural, too plodding and literal-minded.  Like Argo, Zero Dark Thirty feels more like a reenactment of events than a fully realized movie.  Watching Jessica Chastain try to act tough is an awkward experience; her character is not just a static cipher, but a somewhat unconvincing one.  The bright spot in the movie is Jason Clarke, whose presence grips the screen. When he’s gone, the movie slackens – and alas, he’s increasingly gone.

Published in: on January 30, 2013 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  

The Look of Love

(Michael Winterbottom, 2013)

with Robb Stey, Rose Wagner Theater, 1/23/13


look of love

The biopic is one of my least favorite of Hollywood formulae; one of its key flaws is that everyone’s life seems to come out about the same.  The Look of Love does manage to supply an emotional through-line, in the form of a father’s regret, and the ending does have its impact, even earning a tear or two.  Still, too many of the scenes are redundant and familiar, and Steve Coogan’s charming performance can only pave over so much.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  

There Will Come a Day

(Giorgio Diritti, 2013)

with Robb Stey, Broadway Cinemas (SLC), 1/23/13



Lovely and intriguing, but too elliptical for its own good.  I would have loved to learn more about Brazilian favela culture and the forces that threaten it, but I got only a few teasing glimpses.  I would have been fascinated to discover the challenges faced by Catholic missionaries traveling along the Amazon, but I got only a brief taste.  And I think I could have been brought to care about a grieving woman’s quest to rediscover her sense of meaning, if that woman hadn’t been kept so distant from me, and her quest so persistently under-articulated.  Most of the key moments in There Will Come a Day seem to be absent from the movie, and while that’s a strong choice in theory, its overzealous application undermines the story, and thus the emotion, and thus the movie itself.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 10:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Breathe In

(Drake Doremus, 2013)

with Robb Stey and Mike Lavoie, Rose Wagner Theater, 1/22/13


Felicity Jones and Guy Pearce in Breathe In

A sensitive melodrama of frustration and desire, richly suffused with classical music, and grounded in real empathy for flawed and blinkered human souls.  The plot outline of Breathe In is far from groundbreaking, but artistry and conviction can go a long way, and Drake Doremus has both to spare.  Breathe In is a little slow and music-heavy for my personal taste, but it’s a deft and affecting movie, and Guy Pearce is subtly wonderful as its wounded, embittered, reviving heart.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  

This Is Martin Bonner

(Chad Hartigan, 2013)

with Robb Stey and Mike Lavoie, Redstone Cinemas, 1/22/13



A warm, uneventful, and wistful character study, full of sad, lonely people treating each other as well as they know how.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much awkward small talk in a movie, but somehow I didn’t mind it – maybe because the longing underneath it is so palpable.  Paul Eenhoorn gives Martin Bonner a certain minor-stakes heroism, and Richmond Arquette, with his sour face, rumbling voice, and fumbling gentleness, is perfectly cast as the recently released convict Travis – a man quietly desperate for small victories in a world that has moved on without him.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 10:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Blue Caprice

(Alexandre Moors, 2013)

with Robb Stey and Mike Lavoie, Prospector Square Theater, 1/21/13


blue caprice

You could probably gain a deeper insight into the DC sniper shootings by reading the Wikipedia page than you would from watching this movie.  Our murderous protagonists remain largely blank, their motives obscure, their evil inexplicable.  Blue Caprice isn’t badly made, but the whole things amounts to a feature-length shrug of the shoulders – a needless and unenlightening exercise.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Django Unchained

(Quentin Tarantino, 2012)

with Mike Lavoie, Brewvies Cinema Pub, SLC, 1/17/13



Quentin Tarantino is American cinema’s foremost masturbator, and here he is, pleasing the hell out of himself once again.  Aurally, Django is a feast – not just the music, but the vividly hyperbolic sound design, complete with whoosh effects for the snap-zooms.  Visually, it ain’t bad either, and the acting is first-rate; I especially enjoyed Christoph Waltz as a jolly bounty hunter with a soul.  But the movie suffers from deep story problems (characters are always complicating their own lives in perverse and inexplicable ways), and the pacing is much too slow (at one point, a musical montage segues directly into another musical montage, which means that Tarantino has out-Tarantinoed himself at long last).  As a revenge fantasy against white slavers, Django didn’t do much for me, possibly because I’m white, or possibly because the revenge is so indiscriminate that it’s difficult to cheer for.  I left Django Unchained feeling a bit icky – and I don’t think that was the intended effect.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  


(Rian Johnson, 2012)

with Mike Lavoie, Sugarhouse Cinemark, SLC, 1/16/13



Clever, inventive, furiously bleak yet with a surprisingly clear moral compass – Looper really is a hell of a movie.  Some people have complained that the film’s time-travel mechanics are illogical, but of course that’s the deal with time-travel movies: you suspend a few of your logical faculties, and in exchange you get to see something awesome.  Looper is awesome.  It’s well worth ignoring the carping pedant at the back of your brain for.

Published in: on January 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Flirting with Disaster

(David O. Russell, 1996)

alone, streaming on Netflix at 115 Fourth Place, 1/15/13



Flirting with Disaster is a zany and amusing comedy which hardly ever actually lands a joke.  The movie has pace, it has strong performances, it has overlapping dialogue and vivid characters and farcical situations, but you could probably count the laughs on one hand.  That’s not to say it isn’t engaging; in fact, it’s a fairly clever and well-made film that never loses sight of its characters’ humanity.  But we leave it wishing for more.

Published in: on January 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  


(Ben Affleck, 2012)

with Mom, Dad, Caitlin, and Darcy, Barn Screening Room, 1/10/13



I’ll say this for Ben Affleck: the movies he’s directed have gotten steadily better.  Argo is noticeably less stiff and solemn than The Town, though it does have a certain muted quality, even in scenes where a little anarchic comedy might have been à propos.  As a thriller, Argo is tense and suspenseful, though its hair’s-breadth escapes are contrived and repetitive.  In the end, the movie comes across as an awkward compromise between a vérité-style drama and a traditional Hollywood spectacular; it’s neither credible enough to work as history, nor juicy enough to work as drama.  That said, it does keep you on the edge of your seat, and you’ve got to give it credit for that.

Published in: on January 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment