REVIEW: PAIN & GAIN
I never thought I’d say this, but Michael Bay just isn’t the same without big robots. Actually, that’s false. Bay is exactly the same without the robots. The problem is, that polished, decadent style from Transformers doesn’t work around human drama. At least, not the way Bay does it.
Pain & Gain is what Bay might consider an independent film. Compared to his usual $200 million budgets, this movie cost only $25 million and features hardly any explosions. On top of that, Pain & Gain is based on real events, so Bay was restrained from turning any of his characters into invincible heroes. With no special effects to hide behind, there was an opportunity here for Bay to create an intimate lens into a true story of normal guys making an ill-advised foray into crime. Instead, he gave us a frantic hodge-podge of clashing genres.
REVIEW: MARRIED AND COUNTING
In late 2010, only five states (and Washington D.C.) recognized gay marriage as legal. At the time, gay couple Stephen Mosher and Pat Dwyer were preparing to celebrate their 25th anniversary together. Sharing a small, love-filled apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, Stephen and Pat wanted nothing more than to be able to call each other “husband.” Unfortunately, New York did not allow gay marriage. Unlike most states, however, New York did honor gay marriages that were performed in other states and recognized them as legal. So Stephen and Pat planned a romantic “wedding tour,” in which they would get married in every single state that would allow them.
REVIEW: TO THE WONDER
To the Wonder is only the sixth feature film in filmmaker Terrence Malick’s forty-year-long career. Known for taking several years in between projects, Malick has seemingly rushed his latest to the screen only two years after the alternately challenging, pretentious, baffling, beautiful, and altogether polarizing tone poem The Tree of Life. Daunting or not, this largely incoherent mood opus might be Malick in his purest form — a minimalistic plot, existential themes, philosophical whispered voice-overs, impressionistic cinematography of nature, and classical music. Seeing a more gorgeous-looking film this year is predicted to be impossible, but to watch To the Wonder is to have visual beauty and poetry wash over you and not feel a real sense of meaning or purpose. It’s like a cure for insomnia
REVIEW: THE LORDS OF SALEM
Most art is self-indulgent, but three out of four of writer-director Rob Zombie’s films have been freakishly aggressive, excessively ugly assaults on the senses. The jury is still out on whether or not the shock rocker-turned-shock filmmaker is actually going places as a horror-genre auteur. He’s normally more of an assailant than a director, wallowing in grubby, obnoxious white-trash freak shows. But, as relentlessly violent and twisted as Sir Zombie’s work is, his films do boast some sort of fascinating allure that’s hard to articulate.
In a world, where original and substantive science fiction is hard to come by sometimes, Oblivion isn’t very original or substantive either. But it tries, and that’s better than not trying at all. Elegantly designed and ambitiously cerebral, this Kubrickian space opera is predicted to be more thought-provoking than any of your big, soulless tentpoles and star vehicles of the summer season. On the terms of aesthetics and ambition, this summer’s upcoming blockbusters have their work cut out for them. Director Joseph Kosinski (2010′s emotionally empty but coolly enjoyable TRON: Legacy), adapting his and Arvid Nelson’s unpublished graphic novel with screenwriters Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt, improves on emotional involvement from his last feature. And yet, the screenplay still feels alternately underwritten and overwritten when some narrative twists are sprung on us.
WEEK IN REVIEW: 4/8 - 4/14
Walking Dead Showrunner to Pen The Shining Prequel - Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is perhaps one of the greatest horror films ever made. Despite being a stand-alone landmark of cinema for over 30 years, somebody decided that the experience wasn’t full enough, and now a prequel is in the works. Glen Mazzara, former showrunner of The Walking Dead, has been brought on to write the screenplay, which will be an original work considering Stephen King never wrote a prequel to The Shining. King is releasing a sequel to The Shining later this year entitled Doctor Sleep, but it has nothing to do with this film.
Is this necessary?
Danny Boyle is a filmmaker whom we can always trust to give us something fresh and exciting in any genre or no genre at all. Ranging from 1996′s brutally real but energetic drug-addiction dark comedy Trainspotting to 2002′s grippingly scary zombie-movie reinvention 28 Days Later… to 2005′s warm, whimsical Millions and 2009′s fanciful rags-to-riches fairy tale Slumdog Millionaire, and 2010′s harrowing survival story 127 Hours, he certainly can’t be accused of repeating himself or having a formulaic oeuvre. Now, with Trance, Boyle defies expectations again. A twisty, dreamlike, labyrinthine psychological neo-noir puzzle, Trance, is such a stylish, hyper-cool, brilliantly crafted trip that it can easily be spoken in the same breath as Memento, Vanilla Sky, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Inception and, most recently, Looper. For a brain-teasing parlor trick, it works like gangbusters.
REVIEW: THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
If Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine was an intimate, heartbreakingly hopeless look at the slow disintegration of love, his latest film, The Place Beyond the Pines, is a sprawling, heady generational drama with tragedy and a glimmer of hope. Co-written by Ben Coccio and Darius Marder with Cianfrance, the film is the director’s less concentrated but most ambitious so far and, flaws and all, it’s an intoxicating, absorbing, and affecting saga of guilt, fate, and fathers and sons
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in Antiviral, the feature debut of Brandon Cronenberg, son of David. As should be expected from anyone with the surname of the King of Venereal Horror, the film is icky and strange, daringly sick and emotionally icy. At the front is an intriguingly out-there germ of an idea for a vicious satire about celebrity mania, but considering this film’s conception came from a short by the writer-director himself, it’s just an idea in search of a story.
REVIEW: EVIL DEAD
Early posters for Evil Dead boasted that it would be “the most terrifying film that you will ever experience.” Well, it certainly did satiate my appetite for blood. But in order to truly make an audience feel terror, a filmmaker must make us empathize with characters by letting us get to know them and eventually want to see them survive. The original Evil Dead Trilogy didn’t succeed at this, but it wasn’t really trying to. That series was tongue-in-cheek fun from beginning to end. Fede Alvarez’ new Evil Dead makes one critical mistake that almost knocks it off the rails: it tries too hard.