Category Archives: reviews

Restrepo (2010)

Restrepo (Hetherington and Junger, 2010)

Cinema offers viewers the ability to visit different landscapes, different worlds, different universes; however, these journeys are usually kept within the confines of a constructed reality, a world that exists on the reels of film and perhaps in our minds, but not in our ‘world.’ Documentaries still create this barrier, but the realism of the genre is at worst an examination of a world that many of us are unaware of and are, at best, a portrayal of some truth that all great films can reach. I have not, and likely will not, travel to Afghanistan in my lifetime, nor do I plan on fighting in any literal wars, so Restrepo‘s portrait in to life during wartime in one of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones makes an attempt at capturing the spirit of men tied together by a desire for combat. Continue reading

The Illusionist (2010)

The Illusionist (Chomet, 2010)

The previous year was an incredibly strong year for animated films the world over. Japan delivered the strongest showing with Summer Wars, Ireland brought the fantastic The Secret of Kells, and France yielded the joyous display of absurdity known as A Town Called Panic. And once again we find ourselves in France for Sylvain Chomet’s adaptation of Jaques Tati’s script for The Illusionist. While Chomet plays his comedy in a broad sense, likely a departure from Tati’s signature style, the pull of the film is located in its ability to balance strong emotional scenes with the tension of an ever changing world. Continue reading

The Green Hornet (2011)

The Green Hornet (Gondry, 2011)

I had a chance to catch an advanced 3-D screening of Michel Gondry’s latest film, The Green Hornet, last night, so I am taking a bit of a break from my 2010 coverage to venture in to the present. Never early enough to get a jump on the current year, especially when that jump involves the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind, and others. Not to mention a script from the men who penned Superbad, an Asian pop star taking up acting, and one of the more compelling comedians working today. So with all this talent involved this cannot possibly go wrong, right? Continue reading

Turn The Bunsen Burner On. My Creation Comes Alive.

TRON: Legacy (Kosinski, 2010)

Earlier in the year we had princes of Persia, men made of iron, ogres in quadruple, more vampires, and dream theft. All, in their own way, disappointments, at least of the ones I had the unfortunate chance to view (so all except Shrek, Twilight and Prince of Persia). Without the potential promise of a Nolan at the helm or the inclusion of a Robert Downey Junior in front of the camera I placed on my 3-D glasses with great hesitancy as this sequel to a film I have only tangentially experienced through Kingdom Hearts II displayed the oddest warning about 3-D versus 2-D presentation typed itself across the screen. So without any of these draws, without this background knowledge, with all these warnings could TRON turn in a strong showing or make me wish I had been derezed?

What stands out about the latest film with ties to the Mouse House is not, as one may suspect, the stellar art design, transcending the previous look of TRON in favor for a much more stylized, slickly contemporary video game look. No, what really stands out is the incredible sound design, perfectly mixed to bring life to a world that, for the majority of viewers, is likely unimaginable and alien. The metallic sounds, the movement of the vehicles, the clicking of circuits, it all remains understated while still being integral to the experience as a whole. The Daft Punk soundtrack was highly touted leading up to the film’s release, but the star is the sound mixing and editing, two categories that it should be acknowledged for in a few months when Oscars roll around. But beyond this what stands out, perhaps even more, is the composition of frames. The director makes incredible use of symmetry to establish the highly mechanized world in which these individuals inhabit. All of these aspects seem to fire in perfect unison, making for a startlingly superb technical thrill ride.

But a film can have all the technical prowess it desires, if those aspects do not feed in to a higher purpose then a film is likely to flounder. What TRON: Legacy gets correct is keeping the core story incredibly bare bones and then adding on to these common themes (father and son reunite, stopping evil from taking the world) by layering a bit more subtext. The thoughts that are spouted off by the older Flynn force the story to turn its attention away from the generic evil that is found in Clu and focus it on humanity’s quest for perfection. It is through this search that much of the narrative weight is present, and while the movie does not do a great job of establishing exactly what Clu could do if he escapes, at least not until the very last scene when we see transference from the grid back to the real world, the twisted pursuit of his goal and the havoc he has wreaked on the grid does establish the potential threat of what may be possible if he escapes.

The film is brilliant in the way that it balances tremendous action alongside these higher, albeit overly dramatized, concepts. The film simply continues going, which I find incredibly admirable. By constantly expanding the scope of the ideas it tackles, all very well integrated into the fiction and narrative, the film starts to become existential. What is perfection? How does humanity develop? Do we need help? How do we exist? What can imperfection mean in the pursuit of perfection? Granted these ideas are not always handled completely, but the presence of such concepts in a film of this magnitude are incredibly refreshing. By having creations taking on human forms and still exploring the meaning of existence, of problems and conflicts that have spurred some of the largest conflicts of mankind, the film reaches a level of near brilliance without sacrificing the fun of a large scale action flick or existing as too serious. The main conflict is also genius in the way it has man take on himself, while still externalizing the conflict on a large scale level. Truly tremendous construction that holds a startling amount of narrative weight.

I was not sure how I would respond to TRON going in to the film, but the solid acting across the board, with some highlights breaking that solid descriptor, keeps the film moving and constantly developing in a way that nearly mirrors the more successful parts of the Star Wars franchise. On top of all that I do not feel as if I was ever lost because I did not see the original film, yet this one never was weighed down by exposition. TRON is plenty full of flaws, but despite it all the film still manages to be much more than a simple thrill ride and, when it comes down to it, we need more mainstream films like TRON: Legacy.

Forever off the grid,

Rich

Comments are encouraged and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

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Now In The Morning I Sleep Alone, Sweep The Streets I Used To Own

The Social Network (Fincher, 2010)

It seems that once every year a film comes out during ‘Oscar season’ that is labeled as immensely topical, a true testament to our time that perfectly captures a specific mentality that defines our world now, perhaps even defines a generation as a whole. Most of the time these films are mislabeled. Last year we had Up in the Air, the year before was Milk, and now it seems that David Fincher’s The Social Network has taken the mantle of my generation’s voice. However, just like all of these other films that are incorrectly labeled as purely topical ploys for attention, Fincher makes an attempt to transcend the times and deliver a cinematic experience from what appears to admittedly be a very topical concept: the invention of Facebook. So does Fincher deliver a film accessible by all, or something better left just for friends? Continue reading

I Wanna Be Like You, I Wanna Walk Like You, Talk Like You, Too

Animal Kingdom (Michod, 2010)

“Every morning in Africa a gazelle awakens knowing it must today run faster than the fastest lion or it will be eaten. Every morning a lion awakens knowing it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It matters not whether you are a gazelle or a lion, when the sun rises you had better be running.” This African proverb seems to perfectly encapsulates the world of David Michod’s Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom. The people in this film, whether cops or criminals, are always running from, or after, one another in an attempt to keep balance in Melbourne, Australia. The world is a bitter struggle for comfort and survival, two ideas the film explores in great depth. Continue reading

Used To Be The One Of The Rotten Ones And I Liked You For That

the Last Song (Robinson, 2010)

A common complaint leveled against the present day Hollywood system deals with the lack of originality. Every film seems to exist as a remake or an adaptation, leaving creative filmmakers in the dust and keeping a fine control over exactly what ideas and perspectives are brought to a wide audience. While I do not find the constant desire to remake films or adapt existing franchises to the screen as a necessarily bad tactic, when looking at a film like the Last Song, based on a Nicholas Sparks novel that at the time of filming was still a work in progress, certainly could have used a bit more originality, and a much larger injection of creativity. But many films have enough intangibles to transcend typical flaws, so can the Miley Cyrus factor shoulder the weight of the film on her shoulders? Continue reading