Dracula

(Tod Browning, 1931)

with Devin, Lake House Screening Room, 10/29/13

4

Dracula-1931

It’s nearly impossible to evaluate a movie like Dracula from the point of view of 2013.  It comes to us through the mists of the past, cryptic and teasing, a relic of the early years of talkies.  It’s a vampire movie in which we never seen a drop of blood, a cinema classic with no definitive musical score, a feast for the eyes with a strangely flat narrative and an almost non-existent climax.  The lighting and the sets are gothically gorgeous, and the grainy old film stock adds an archaic eeriness to the proceedings, but it’s hard to escape the impression that the filmmakers hadn’t quite cracked the secret of cinematic storytelling – or at least, not the post-silent version.  It’s astonishing to think that Hollywood’s legendary “greatest year” – 1939 – was less than a decade away.

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Published in: on October 31, 2013 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Cabin in the Woods

(Drew Goddard, 2012)

with Devin, Lake House Screening Room, 10/27/13

5

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A horror movie wrapped in a commentary on horror movies, wrapped in a horror movie – and for all that, it’s not really very complex.  The best thing I can say about The Cabin in the Woods is that it does take its story to some unexpected places.  The worst thing I can say about it is that it’s not nearly as clever as its reputation would suggest.  Sure, there are some decent jokes and a certain “meta” level to the story, but at the end of the day this is still a movie about people being killed by monsters – and I just don’t find that very compelling.

Published in: on October 30, 2013 at 10:42 am  Leave a Comment  

The Counselor

(Ridley Scott, 2013)

with Devin, Millerton Moviehouse, 10/25/13

1

Vile, boring, pretentious garbage.  There are very few movies that I wish I could un-see, and this is one of them.  Cormac McCarthy should probably stick to novels, or kill himself.

Published in: on October 28, 2013 at 6:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Gravity

(Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)

with Devin and Robb Stey, Millerton Moviehouse, 10/24/13

3

GRAVITY

Phoney, phoney, phoney, all the way through.  Superficially deep and profoundly shallow.  Self-indulgent and repetitive, with laughably clumsy dialogue, confusing visuals, and practically no plot.  When Alfonso Cuarón’s name pops up at the end (multiple times), it becomes painfully obvious why this movie exists: so that everyone can be very impressed with Alfonso Cuarón.  There’s nothing else behind it.  The excellent Children of Men is starting to look like a fluke.

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 6:33 pm  Comments (2)  

Witness for the Prosecution

(Billy Wilder, 1957)

with Mike Lavoie, Lake House Screening Room, 10/18/13

8

Witnessfortheprosecution

Billy Wilder must be the greatest writer-director the cinema has ever seen.  Who else can lay claim to so many classics?  Who else demonstrates such a conspicuous mastery of dialogue, character, plotting, pacing, and visual narrative?  Who else can so deftly infuse humor into drama, and pathos into comedy?  Witness for the Prosecution is a sly treat, modest in scale, rich with detail, twistier than a labyrinth, and brought to life by a droll, rumbling, authoritative Charles Laughton performance.  The pacing may be a bit too deliberate by modern standards, but the film is a joy from first to last.

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  

The Imposter

(Bart Layton, 2012)

with Mike Lavoie and Carlee Briglia, Lake House Screening Room, 9/16/13

6

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Truth may not always be stranger than fiction, but it is denser, deeper, more opaque, more troubling.  The Imposter asks a lot more questions than it answers, and it’s not clear how far their resonance extends beyond the bizarre particulars of the case at hand.  Still, if the movie’s a tease, it’s a pretty fascinating tease.  How can a French adult impersonate an American teenager, and fool even the boy’s own family?  Which is more unlikely – that they were convinced, or that they pretended to be?  And how on Earth did someone as patently stupid as Nancy Fisher become an FBI agent?  We’ll never know for sure.

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 9:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Captain Phillips

(Paul Greengrass, 2013)

with Robb Stey, Mike Lavoie, and Carlee Briglia, Millerton Moviehouse, 10/15/13

4

Captain-Phillips

A movie like Captain Phillips plays more like a dramatization than a drama; it lacks the depth of a documentary, as well as the urgency of a fiction film.  The whole thing is ably done, and Tom Hanks is excellent, but it’s all too slow and repetitive to really grab you.  Conscientiousness is not a great virtue for filmmakers.

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Rush

(Ron Howard, 2013)

with Jen Krichels, Court Street UA, 10/7/13

7

RUSH

Solid and stirring tribute to the intimacies of male rivalry and the poetry of risk.  The racing sequences are mostly just a jumble of tight shots and nervous editing, but the dramatic scenes play nicely, with an unhurried economy and precision.  Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl are perfectly cast as the contrasting rivals, James Hunt and Niki Lauda – one a charismatic and irresponsible party boy, the other a hard-driving perfectionist whose cold exterior makes him unpopular with his fellow drivers.  Rush doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but it’s a skillful and affecting drama with moments of real resonance.  Not bad at all.

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment  

In a World …

(Lake Bell, 2013)

with Mom, Dad, and Devin, Millerton Moviehouse, 9/25/13

3

lake-bell-in-a-world

Irritating vanity project with far too many plot strands and not nearly enough laughs.  Lake Bell has talent, but her movie lacks focus, and she’s far too infatuated with her “oh-my-gosh-we’re-so-awkward-and-stammery” style of dialogue.  Cast standout: sweet Demetri Martin.  Cast lowlight: smarmy, shallow Fred Melamed.

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Grand Illusion

(Jean Renoir, 1937)

with Mom and Dad, Barn Screening Room, 9/23/13

6

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A grand old oddball of a movie.  While most war movies are content to depict the horrors and/or the heroism of war, Grand Illusion zeroes right in on its absurdity.  At first, the film seems to be a kind of comedy of wartime manners; then it morphs into a chronicle of a daring escape, before veering into social commentary, then melodrama, then dreamy pastoral – concluding, finally, on a note of melancholy triumph.  The whole thing is unclassifiable as a genre piece, fascinating as a document, and somewhat slow and meandering as a movie.  It’s a head-scratcher, without question – but a very likeable one.

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 8:50 am  Leave a Comment