Usually the first movie you watch for a festival is a bit of a let down. You're super excited for the festival to kick off and you've hyped yourself up so much that almost nothing is going to stand up to your expectations of ...
When Dreamworks first announced their plans to turn Peabody's Improbable History (a short which ran during The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show featuring Mr. Peabody and his boy companion, Sherman) into a full length animated film, I was a little worried that my once beloved cartoon (I used to wake up at three in the morning in order to catch reruns of it on Cartoon Network) would be run through the standard generic animated blender everything seems to go through now. Little did I know I would be so, so wrong.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is remarkably smart, adorable, educational, referential, heartwarming, effervescent, hilarious, and even a little rude. But most of all, it's improbably entertaining.
Detroit Unleaded is a film that you have to let wash over you. The acting isn’t stellar, and it’s a little hard to figure out who’s related to who at first, but the film gives the audience a compelling, almost voyeuristic look into the world surrounding an inner-city gas station.
It may not be the heartiest meal, nor the healthiest, but it’s filling nonetheless.
As a 19 year old, I am well familiar with the Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire. It’s a vastly underrated animated flick where a wacky crew of steampunk explorers set out to find Atlantis. You don’t need to understand the ins and outs of the plot, but what you do need to understand is the tone. The dialogue is full of character -- if not particularly complex -- and the movie seems unconcerned with making the audience think, instead choosing to provide a highly entertaining spectacle.
When consuming (because that is the correct word) War of the Worlds: Goliath, I couldn’t help but think of Atlantis the whole time. Goliath wants to have a wacky steampunk-themed crew. It wants to provide a spectacle for the audience.
The poster for Winter’s Tale proudly declares that the film is not a true story. And brother, they couldn’t be more right.
Of all the words one could use to describe Winter’s Tale, “true” is certainly not one of them. “Nonsensical” might be a better choice. Maybe “stupefyingly inane” or “has a scene where Russell Crowe literally draws a picture of a girl with blood.” Take your pick!
At first glance, Child's Pose is making a political statement about the class divide present in modern day Romania. The narrative of a wealthy family trying to skirt its responsibilities to a poor family is heavily charged, and for much of the film's first half, I expected to open this review with some statement about how wealth and connections in the modern age can literally let people get away with murder.
But then things changed. The class thing became less important, and the story became a whole lot more personal, because Child's Pose isn't really a film about how much power the wealthy hold over the poor. It's about the depths of motherly love.
Any movie synopsis that includes "black comedy" and "David Koechner" is an instant sell for me. Toss in Empire Records' Ethan Embry and the two leads from Ti West's The Innkeepers and my expectations will be through the roof.
Cheap Thrills is in turns comedic, uncomfortable, and downright disturbing. Most of the times you'll find yourself laughing, you'll also be cringing. Ultimately, it begs the question "What would you do in this circumstance?"
There are few things on this planet more obnoxious than young love. By nature, teenagers are pretty unbearable, but when their hormones start going, they become even worse. “It’s true love!” they yell, as they obliterate friendships, argue with their families, and burn bridges. Put simply, watching teens in love is the equivalent of water torture.
So, by that logic, Endless Love is like 105 minutes of water torture, but at least you get to leave.
3 Days to Kill is oddly complicated, and it has the potential to lose people right from the start. To understand this review you will have to keep that in mind, as what the movie appears to be and what the actual movie is are two totally different things.
With that said, you are going to want to see 3 Days to Kill, even if the ride to the end of this roller coaster is extremely bumpy.
I'm all for a mixing of genres. Comedy/horror? Golden. Dramatic comedy? Awesome. Sci-fi/action? Great. It usually works for the best. You get a little of one thing you like and then a bit of another. Pompeii is what happens when genre mixing goes horribly wrong, turning what could have been a decent disaster movie into some sort of melodramatic romance replete with an awkward remake of Gladiator.
The thinking seems to be that when you already know that everyone is going to die at the end it makes it kind of hard to make any plot interesting so why not try them all out and see if any stick. None do... other than Kit Harrington's abs.
I've realized something important in the past year or two: I don't really like period pieces. I like watching films from other eras and seeing them as they represent their own culture and time, but I don't really like seeing them try to reminisce about a better (or worse) point in history. The further back it goes, the less interested I am. There are exceptions to be made, of course, but they're few and far in between.
Almost Human is set in the late 1980s, which would be a strike against it, if it wasn't for the fact that its time period is all but irrelevant. It would be basically the same movie if it was set in 2013 as it is set in 1989.
Did you know that there was an English Civil War in the middle of the 17th century? I had no idea, but apparently from 1642 to 1651, there were three sets of battles between those who followed the king and those who believed in a parliamentarian system. In the end, parliamentary won out, leading to the system that currently exists today. In the process, at least 100,000 people were killed.
All pretty interesting stuff, but I learned none of it from A Field in England, a historical thriller ostensibly set during that time period. In fact, I didn't learn anything from the film, other than the limits of my attention span.
I have a great fear, dear reader. A great fear that the new RoboCop film will become the next Dredd. I fear that it's a great action movie that's coming out in the doldrums of the movie season without a big enough marketing push and with a character that not enough people care about even though they should. A movie that deserves sequels, but won't get them because it doesn't make enough at the box office.
I have this fear so I'm putting this here so you don't even have to read very far to see it: Go see RoboCop. It deserves your money.
I will admit that I have not seen every movie that has ever been made. I have not seen every action film, martial arts film, or even all of the most revered of the action and martial arts films. I’ve seen my fair share, but there are gaps in my knowledge.
But you know what? That doesn’t matter. Even with my critical blind spots, I can say with conviction something that I know in my heart of hearts to be true: The Raid 2: Berandal is the best action film ever made.
When monuments men was delayed from award season to a early February release it didn't cause too much concern. The line that the film wasn't quite ready seemed plausible, since there's no way a film with this cast, taking place in WWII and featuring Nazis (Nazis make movies better, see: Indian Jones trilogy) could really be all that bad. It would be a nice break from the January doldrums, right?
Not so much. The Monuments Men is a movie in need of a story, which is odd because the true story its telling should be story enough. The problem is it isn't, and no manner of Hollywood fluff to make the true story more "true" is really going to save it. What could is a bunch of banter between some of the best bantering actors in the business. Yea, not so much with that either.
Since its first delightful teaser over a year ago, I have been eagerly anticipating The LEGO Movie more so than any other movie releasing in 2014. I was instantly drawn to the idea of seeing the very Lego sets I played with as a kid (and still play with on occasion) recreated in a loving stop motion/CG film. I'm just not quite sure why I was so excited in the first place. Is it nostalgia or some kind of attempt to rekindle my lost childhood? Now that I've grown up, should I completely forget things that once made me happy in order to fit in with the professional world?
Wait, am I really thinking about all of this? It's The LEGO Movie we're talking about here! Strange thing is, The LEGO Movie actually builds on these philosophical dilemmas in an intelligent, wacky, and surprisingly sophisticated manner.
I've never felt so totally lost watching a film spoken in my own language as I was watching 12 O'Clock Boys. It's bizarre, really, just how difficult to understand many of these characters are. The only close approximation I can think of would be Trainspotting, but at least I can feel like that one is foreign-ish, since it's from a different country. But 12 O'Clock Boys is not. It's just set in a culture that I am not a part of and have no connection to. In fact, I would venture to guess that 90% of the festival-going public who has seen this film so far can't really relate to the characters it follows.
That would be bad enough in a narrative film; it's potentially ruinous for a documentary.
I feel like I should hate That Awkward Moment more than I actually do. On paper, it seems like a real disaster. I mean, look at the title! Nine times out of ten, only inane dribble follows the phrase “that awkward moment…” So perhaps my lukewarm feelings towards the film come from a place of exceeded expectations.
However, even after you realize this isn’t going to be the worst thing in the world, it’s still a very easy film to hate. I don’t, but I can’t blame you if you do. The leads bounce off each other quite well, so there’s a good chance that will carry the movie for you, but it’s hard to escape the underlying emptiness that seeps into every pore of this film. There are flashes of brilliance, make no mistake, but they’re mired in a fog of unrepentant, smug, off-putting masculinity.
Ahhh, the left over goodness of January. The month where every movie goer's hopes are so low that even the most banal film can seem like a worthy excuse to head to the theater. That's where an established name like Jack Ryan can really pull folks in without doing too much.
It's not like Jack Ryan is a banal character. The Tom Clancy spy has been in some of the best spy thrillers ever made, but that was over two decades ago and his last foray into cinema, The Sum of All Fears, didn't exactly ignite the character back to life.
Enter another reboot of the character. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the first of his films to turn the name into a franchise, which is what they studio is clearly attempting to do. The question is can they make a 90s hero into a new millennium franchise or is there a reason the movie was released in January.
There's a thin line sometimes between buddy cop movies and comedy cop movies. Usually it's dependent on the amount of action and whether the majority of the time is spent trying to get laughs. When a film tries to tip toe on this line disaster can strike, especially when the movie isn't funny in the first place.
Ride Along is a comedy movie with cops in it, but it desperately wants to be a buddy cop movie. Unfortunately what it is and what it wants to be don't jive at all and everything just ends up in a crumpled mess. It's also just not funny.
Every time I watch an Asian film, I check out its page on AsianWiki. It's a pretty great database, especially for Korean films, and I have gotten a lot of use out of it over the past few years. Much of the time, the User Rating is not too far off from how I feel about a film. In fact, at one point last year there was a string of films where my scores happened to be exactly ten below their user ratings. (But our system is presumably much harsher than the internal feelings of AsianWiki's audience.)
At last year's New York Asian Film Festival, I saw a film called Secretly Greatly. It was... average, but the AsianWiki score (with 1104 votes!) was a 95. I've been wondering how that was possible ever since, but I think I've figured it out: It's all about the fangirls.
I had planned to skip Her. It was an early Saturday screening, which was bad enough, but because of the all-star cast attending the press conference afterwards, I knew I'd need to be up stupidly early to get a decent seat in the theater. But when I made that decision, I didn't know what it was about (I don't watch trailers), and Hubert offered to give me the one-line synopsis, just in case it might change my mind:
"A man falls in love with his operating system."
So the next morning, I woke up bright and early. Even though I was nearly two hours early, I wasn't the first person in line. I wasn't even in the first twenty. Over the next several hours, hundreds more arrived. Some grumbled about having to be up so early, and more were just glad that this whole NYFF thing was finally coming to an end.
But we were all there, whether we knew it or not, to see something truly special. Her is a love story that has been a long time coming, and it is one that Spike Jonze and his cast and crew have brilliantly realized.
[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2013 New York Film Festival. It is being reposted to coincide with the film's wide theatrical release.]