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As weird as it gets
Ah, Frank. What an odd, quirky, charming little film, and what an odd, quirky little journey it took me on. With its wildly weird for the sake of weird style and and careless indie pop bravado, it's a movie that any misunderstood avant garde hipster musician will tell you actually "gets it." If none of this is making sense so far, Frank is a movie about an experimental rock group whose front man, the titular Frank, wears a giant plaster head at all times. It's a film whose premise promises the oddest of antics, and then subsequently delivers on that promise.
Frank is freaking weird and it loves the fact that its freaking weird. It embraces the weird and dances around frivolously with its offbeat sense of humor and colorful cast of caricatured characters. It's a film that has its own sense of style and isn't trying to be like anything that has come before it, which is something that makes Frank a hell of a lot of fun. It definitely has its own sense of humor, one that is so weird that it works beautifully. The plot, which involves chronicling this band as they lock themselves in a cabin in the woods to make the greatest album ever, is pretty straightforward. But everything about the film's humor, style, and energy is everything but straightforward. It's a totally original kind of experience.
The main character of Frank that isn't Frank is Domhnall Gleeson's Jon, a musician who finds himself playing keyboard for Frank's band, a band where he stands out as quite possibly the only sane one out of all of them. Taking the film from his perspective grounds us in the real world that is inhabited by Frank and company's frenetic and unpredictable energy. He's an outsider looking into one of the strangest experiences of his life, just as the audience is outside looking in to this weird world of Frank. Without him this whole film would just be following this eccentric group of weirdos, which would admittedly be fun, but wouldn't allow the story to have as much substance, which Frank certainly has.
But taking Gleeson's straightman character and putting him with the rest of this wacky cast makes for a great time. Michael Fassbender's performance as Frank is one of the strangest and most hilariously unique performances I've ever seen. I can only imagine the difficulties of acting without the use of your face, but Fassbender nails it. He gives the emotionless plaster head so much personality that is way too much fun to watch.
The one thing about Frank that threw me for a loop was its third act which changed drastically in tone. It was a fairly sudden jump from wacky comedy to heartfelt drama, one that breaks down the beautiful enigma that was Frank for the first two acts. It caught me off guard, but with Frank's great ending note I think it actually worked.
All in all, Frank is almost too damn quirky for its own good, but its just so much fun. For entertainment value Frank is an A+. It's a movie where you're never completely sure what you're watching and you're not sure what the point of any of the film's strangeness really is, but you're having too much fun to really care. Frank is a blast and you will be hard pressed to find anything quite like it. It's its own brand. The enigmatic Frank brand.
Still Alice (2014)
Julianne Moore is perfect
I honestly cannot remember the last time a movie made me more terrified of a disease. In 101 minutes Still Alice makes Alzheimer's look like an absolute hell. This is credited to some superb directing, painfully captivating writing, and a jaw-dropping performance by Julianne Moore. Moore plays Alice Howland, a professor at Columbia University known for her sharp mind and quick wit. She has an ideal life with a loving husband and three beautifully happy adult children. This seemingly perfect life takes a sharp left turn when Alice is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease. Needless to say the movie doesn't get any happier from this point on. We get to watch a slow, painful decline as Alice's mind deteriorates over time, with absolutely nothing she can do about it. It's undeniably one of the most depressingly powerful films I've seen in a long time.
Still Alice doesn't try to play any tricks or go off the rails with its narrative. It presents the story in as straightforward a way as possible, which completely works towards the film's advantage. In the beginning we're introduced to Alice and her family, getting a clear sense of where her life begins, while also providing small subtle hints that something is amiss. Then of course we move on to the diagnosis and it's all downhill from there. It's a beautifully paced film that pulls us deeper down this hole along with Alice. The severity of her disease is portrayed in a multitude of depressingly ingenious ways both visually and via dialogue. It's all so painfully real and cripplingly believable as we watch this poor soul wither away.
As this is a character piece one would expect great performances and man oh man does Still Alice deliver on that front. There's only so much to say about the great Julianne Moore. I've always been a big fan of hers and Still Alice only lifts my already shining opinion. Alec Baldwin plays Alice's husband while Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart play Alice's daughters. Watching as these relationships deteriorate along with Alice's mind is devastating, but its one of the most endearing aspects of the whole film. Stewart's performance is a significant weak point acting wise, but the intentions behind her character are great and she doesn't take away from the impact of the film.
I think what's so impressive about this film is how well it executes such a touchy subject matter. It could have easily slipped into the dreaded realm of tacky melodrama, playing out like Lifetime's Movie of the Week. But the genius of Still Alice comes from it's subtleties in performances and the way Alice tries desperately to downplay her disease. Her attempts to maintain identity and keep the relationships she has with her family is absolutely heartbreaking.
The nuances here are what make Still Alice so amazing and so heartfelt. I really felt like I was watching this tragic story as a tragic reality, never being pulled out of the experience. I was captivated from start to finish during this beautiful tearjerker that gives us one of the best performances of the entire year. I got so much more than I could have asked for out of Still Alice, and I will be thinking about this heartbreaking film for a long, long while.
Good but not great
Growing up is tough, especially when there are cameras in your face from age 6 to 18. But that's what Richard Linklater decided to do with poor Ellar Coltrane, the star of Boyhood who grows up before your eyes in this three hour coming of age epic. Boyhood chronicles the life of Mason, his sister Samantha, and their two estranged parents played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. It's a scrapbook style series of events, some significant, others less so, that show a boy growing up and learning about the life, love, and the world at large. It takes us on a twelve year journey through adolescence, one that's captivating, compelling, boring, and dry, all at the same time.
Now, as I'm sure everyone and their mother is aware, Boyhood has been getting a lot of praise. Like, A LOT of praise. I mean its got a straight up 100/100 on Metacritic. I went into this movie with a lot of hype on my shoulders, and coming out of it I find myself wondering if these reviews are praising the film itself or rather just the concept. Yes, Boyhood deserves all of its praise for what Linklater accomplished, telling his 12 year story over a 12 year shooting period. Getting these actors to commit for so long, and to be able to put it all together in a clean and polished feature film is obviously impressive. Yet, I find myself wanting there to be more to the meat of this film. The execution of this ambitious concept is astounding, but the story told here is underwhelming as a whole.
Boyhood is definitely a good film, but for something that is telling a story in a whole new never-been-done-before way it should have been a great film. It should have been an amazing film. Instead I walked away from this pretty neutral. On the whole it's a well told, well put together story, and watching this kid grow up is a fascinating experience, but Boyhood lacks any blow you away moments or profound tearjerking. I found the trick is to not be waiting for anything. Instead you just take it piece by piece, giving every moment the same significance because it is all coming together for the sole purpose of completing this 12 year epic. This, of course, is fine. Movies are allowed to tell their stories like this, but with the lack of any compelling excitement I found it hard to become really attached.
One of the biggest things that detached me from this film was, sadly, Ellar Coltrane's performance as he grew older. He starts the movie at 6 and I was really into the film at the start. There were a lot of things in young Mason's life that I found myself connecting to, whether it was his typical sibling rivalry relationship with his sister, or growing up in a time of political turmoil overseas, since I grew up during this same time, also in Texas. But as Mason grows up the performance becomes much more about just reading lines, and when Mason's character is supposed to be all profound I just couldn't take him seriously and it really pulled me out of the experience. A lot of the younger performers in this flick leave a lot to be desired and it's the adults, mainly Ethan Hawke, who carry the latter half of Boyhood.
Nothing about Boyhood is actually bad though, except maybe for Coltrane's performance. If I had to assign one adjective to the whole of the film it would have to be "underwhelming." When I found myself starting to be compelled, the moment slipped away. When I found myself captivated by a performance, that character moved on to another part of their life. There was just not enough to grasp onto. Most of the performances are great and the writing is absolutely fantastic, but with so much hype surrounding Boyhood, I was expecting something with a little more life.
Tusk is everything I love about Kevin Smith
I am so incredibly happy that this world has a human being like Kevin freaking Smith. In a cinematic age polluted with writers telling uninspired stories and directors taking no risks in their filmmaking it's always so refreshing to see what old Kevin is up to. He's always been that filmmaker who makes the movies HE wants to make, so now that he's earned millions to put into ridiculous films that are part art and part excuse to hang out with your friends making a crazy ass movie, we get the traumatizing horror/comedy Tusk.
Tusk stars Justin Long as Wallace Bryton, a podcaster who goes to Canada to interview an old fisherman named Howard Howe who claims to have incredible seafaring stories to tell. However, Wallace gets more than he bargained for when he's abducted by Howe who reveals himself to be a fisherman with what must be a pretty great background in surgeon practice when he turns Wallace the human into Wallace the walrus. Yes, you read that right. A walrus. Tusk is a movie about Justin Long getting turned into a walrus by a crazy old Canadian man. It's at this point that you should know whether or not you want to see this movie, and if you share my taste for the twisted and deranged then you REALLY want to see this movie.
Tusk is essentially Kevin Smith's 102 minute long trolling of the film community. It's a big F-U to high brow comedy and "sophisticated" horror, and a slap in the face to typical B-movie fare, because of it's B-movie concept packed with great actors and excellent production value. But really Smith doesn't give a damn what you think of his film because he's busy laughing it up with his buddies who I'm positive had an incredible time making such an absurd film.
If you're at the level of success enjoyed by Smith then making this kind of a film is a win in every way. He's not trying to impress anyone here and obviously isn't trying to be taken seriously. And that approach to filmmaking definitely rubs off on the film itself because Tusk is an absolute blast. It's got all of the comedic brilliance that one expects from Kevin Smith dialogue, and it also brings you the joy of being able to watch such an impossibly bizarre concept actually play out on screen.
The blend of funny and disturbing works so well here, which is in part due to Smith's writing, and also because of the killer performance by Michael Parks who is one of the creepiest old men to ever grace the silver screen. Not only is Parks great but Justin Long surprisingly kills it as well. He's convincingly terrified for most of the movie and his walrus performance is...well... that's something you have to see for yourself. Tusk also has one of the most unexpectedly brilliant cameos I've seen in ages. So brilliant in fact I'm not going to tell you who it is. I will tell you that that performance is far better than Haley Joel Osment or Genesis Rodriguez who are good, but forgettable.
The great thing about Tusk is that there's so much twisted entertainment value and it's so disturbingly unique that all of its shortcomings become so forgivable. Tusk is certainly a movie wrought with issues, but it's nothing major enough to detract from how much fun it is. Smith's writing is mostly fantastic, but there are some scenes considerably weaker than others. It's also got some weird pacing issues going on, with some scenes playing out way too long, probably because Smith was just having too much fun watching his actors do what they do. I would have liked certain things to be cut down to allow more time for other more walrusy things to happen, but honestly I'm fairly certain there will never be another movie about a man turned into a walrus, so I am pretty damn satisfied with what I got to see in Tusk.
There's no two ways about it. I really did love this movie. The vomit-inducing terror that unfolds on screen has you laughing and cringing all at the same time. My stomach churns as my brain smiles, and honestly I wasn't asking for anything more. Admittedly I have some Kevin Smith bias as I'm a big fan of the fat-man's work, but even putting all bias aside I honestly believe that Tusk is a stroke of horrible, disgusting, hilarious genius.
Pseudoscience has never been so much fun!
Let me start out this review by saying that I freaking love The Fifth Element and The Professional. Luc Besson was killing it in the 90's, and while he may have lost some steam in the 21st century I still couldn't help but get excited over his newest explosive action exploit, Lucy. Scarlett Johansson stars as the titular character, a girl who inadvertently gets mixed up in a drug smuggling ring that isn't smuggling any old drugs. She is forced to smuggle a new drug that heightens a person's "cerebral capacity" and when she is exposed to the drug she starts gaining all sorts of crazy abilities that she rightfully uses to kick ass and take names. Honestly I don't really know what her actual goal was, but plenty of people get to die in cool fashions along the way, and that makes for an action packed 90 minutes of super powered ScarJo, so how can I complain?
Now, this movie centers around the idea that humans only use about 10% of their brain and it speculates what a person would be capable of if they could unlock all 100%. There had always been controversy over this theory and shortly after the movie came out, hell it might have even been before its release, this whole theory was disproved and smashed into fictional conjecture oblivion. Thus, it's really hard, nigh impossible, to take Lucy seriously. It takes a lot of scientific liberties and its attempts to explain things for the sake of the plot are mostly laughable. There is some seriously nutty pseudoscience being bounced around here, and at times it seems like they're making it up as they go along. But once you separate yourself from the silliness of the plot and just accept the absurd foundation on which this film is built, you'll start to have a lot more fun.
It only takes Lucy about seven minutes to kick off the action so if you like explosions, gunfire, or martial arts then Lucy will have your attention pretty quickly. Besson might be a bit older and a bit less on point, but I can't deny the sonofabitch still knows how to put together a badass action sequence. Lucy gives us the smart, tension filled action set-pieces reminiscent of The Professional. It reminds us that we go to the movies to enjoy ourselves and not everything has to be so serious all the time. And for that I have the utmost respect for Lucy.
A film based around such flimsy science is bound to have a swathe of issues, and Lucy is no exception. But the issues here you can really just chalk up to the conceit of movies. Sure, the dialogue is cheesy, transparent, and comically expository at times. The performances are good, but you have to take them with a block of cheese. Johansson is fun as the super powered ass kicking femme fatale, and Morgan Freeman is pretty entertaining too, even if his character's only purpose in the film is to explain the plot and give us back story. But these issues are passable things that don't stop Lucy from being a riotously good time, and it's wacky story actually plays out in a really satisfying way. I was prepared for a really stupid ending, but what I got was actually pretty awesome and something connections that I didn't see coming were drawn out by the end.
As far as action movies go Lucy is great. Its loaded with ass kicking and jam packed with wicked special effects. The film is a nonstop roller coaster and the ending certainly goes off the rails, but in an age where action movies draw out for far too long, what with our superhero and fighting robot movies clocking in at almost three hours half the time, Lucy with it's cool 90 minute run time is short sweet and to the point. It doesn't dwell and it doesn't over complicate things. If this movie's one goal is to entertain while not taking up too much of your time or too much of your cerebral capacity (hehe) then I would say it's a huge success.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
A story necessary to tell
Normally sappy love stories aren't my cup of tea, but once you introduce one of the greatest and most profound scientists of the 20th century into the mix, then you've caught my attention. That plus the healthy dose of awards hype made The Theory of Everything a must see.
That great and profound scientist I mentioned is none other than Stephen Hawking, and this film tells the story of his search for the beginning of time and the answers to the universe, chronicling how as his mind grew his body deteriorated due to Lou Gherig's disease or ALS. The film is actually based on the novel that Jane Hawking, Stephen Hawking's wife, wrote and it details her struggles in caring for such an incredible mind whose body had become hardly self- sufficient. It's a timeless love story that celebrates the triumphs of such a brilliant mind, and how Hawking learned to live with the disease, never letting it stop him from answering the questions he wanted answered.
The Theory of Everything tells a powerful and captivating story, albeit the execution is a bit dull. Stephen Hawking's story is obviously an insurmountably important one, and one that deserves to be immortalized in film, thus this film is doing a great service to the artistic and scientific communities. The extent of his triumphs are captured very well in this film, while also capturing the very human story at the center of all the scientific jargon. And so, despite any shortcomings of this film, it is still a very important one, and one that absolutely needed to be made.
My main issue with The Theory of Everything were its reservations. This film plays every conflict so close to the chest, never really capturing the struggle until the third act. Obviously the central conflict here is Hawking's battle with ALS and his trying to cope with the disease as it breaks down his body bit by bit. But this central conflict doesn't feel like much of a conflict because when one thing becomes an issue it seems to be resolved in the very next scene. It's a film that doesn't take any risks, and there is a severe lack of tension throughout, and it's honestly pretty boring for the majority of its two hour runtime. Not painfully boring, but dull.
The film definitely does get better as it goes along, though, and by the end I was left satisfied and a little more well informed about one of the most important scientific minds who ever lived. It transitions from sappy love story to compelling human drama, even if it takes a while to get there. From start to finish, though, this is a beautiful film with gorgeous cinematography and stellar performances. Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Hawking is shockingly accurate and the resemblance is uncanny. Felicity Jones gives it her all in her portrayal of Jane Hawking, and the two form an unbelievably adorable couple.
Overall I think I just wanted more from The Theory of Everything. The film centers around a lot of things, and it never devotes quite enough time to any one aspect. Major parts of Hawking's scientific advancements are glossed over. The conflict between Hawking and his wife never really picks up either. It's constantly a factor driving the story but the film shy's away from delving too deep into the conflict, and there seemed to be a resolution just when I thought things were really about to get going. But between the beautiful shots, fantastic performances, and incredibly significant subject matter I would say that The Theory of Everything is a great little work of art about one of science's most inspiring figures.
Side by Side (2012)
Fascinating interviews for days
If you aren't familiar with the debate of film versus digital when it comes to shooting movies, then this little documentary, Side by Side, is a great place to start. It's a documentary that chronicles the rise of digital video and how the technology started as something raw, dirty, and very poor quality, but quickly became a true contender against film, and is now beginning to surpass film as the gold standard medium to shoot movies on. The film details the workflow of movie making from getting the shot on set, to processing, to editing, to color correcting, and finally to distribution to theaters, most of which now project digitally as opposed to film projectors which dominated the industry until about ten years ago. This is a fantastic little doc, and it's even executive produced and narrated by the great enigma that is Keanu Reeves. Seriously, it's the most compelling you'll ever see Neo.
Keanu jokes aside, this really is a fascinating documentary that gives us candid discussions and genuine insight from some of the greatest minds working in the industry today. Reeves interviews everyone from Martin Scorsese, to Lena Dunham, with Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Danny Boyle, Wally Pfister, and Lars von Trier in between. Plus a swathe of other big names that it would be absurd of me to list completely here. The bottom line is, Side by Side has some of the most significant and valued opinions of the film industry within its runtime.
Side by Side tells a story of digital's rise and film's descent that is a fascinating one if you aren't already familiar with it. Living in Los Angeles and working within this field this whole conflict is nothing new to me so I'm not necessarily getting any new information by watching Side by Side but with so many great interviews that's not what I enjoy this movie for. I watch it for the insight of listening to an admirable director talk so openly and candidly about their work.
I've gained new perspective on some of my favorite filmmakers from this doc, and I walked away being able to fill an entire trivia book with things divulged in these interviews. Things I never knew before, like how Danny Boyle's masterpieces 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire were shot by Anthony Dod Mantle, the cinematographer who shot the very first Dogma '95 film, an incredibly experimental film movement that I now want to spend some time familiarizing myself with.
The great thing about this doc is that it never picks a side. Rather it just puts the two alternatives... side by side (aha!) and lets the audience draw conclusions. The film certainly has more digital advocates than film ones, but when the figurehead of the film camp is Christopher Nolan you've already got a hell of an argument. I do think that the death of film is inevitable and imminent, and I think most of the industry, including the makers of this documentary, know that as well. Thus there was never a better time to make this film, now that both mediums can be compared side by side and we can have a serious discussion about the pros and cons of each. In ten or fifteen years when celluloid is a thing of the past we will always have this fantastic documentary to remind us of the immaculate run that film had, and the beginnings of a digital technology that would fully surpass the medium of film.
The Interview (2014)
Never has a movie in recent years gained so much unexpected publicity from outside events or caused this much of a stir because of its subject matter. If you were living under a rock in December of 2014 and missed it, basically there was a period of time where The Interview was never going to see the light of day because of the hack that crippled Sony, and the threats made by the hackers to attack theaters which showed the movie. It was a long, confusing, and kind of absurd saga that made one question if we weren't living in the contrived world of this comedy. It eventually led to Sony releasing the movie on all the on-demand platforms, and even releasing it into a smaller batch of theaters, an act that somehow became America's greatest triumph over North Korea ever. Weird. But anyways, despite the strangely twisted backstory surrounding this film, I'm going to ignore all of it and just review The Interview at face value.
The Interview stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as a TV talk show host and producer, respectively, who get the opportunity to do an exclusive one on one interview with the dear leader of North Korea, Kim-Jong Un. When the CIA gets wind of this they enlist Franco's Dave Skylark to secretly assassinate Un with a ricin strip (Heisenberg anyone?) during their interview. And so begins the most delicate assassination plot to be carried out by the most incompetent assassin ever.
There is a certain level of hilarity that also comes with a certain level of stupidity when it comes to James Franco/Seth Rogen collaborations that we're all familiar with. You can expect both in The Interview, but you also get to see what the zany collaborators do with almost 50 million dollars at their disposal. I don't know how much money was spent on that tank, but I do know that every dollar was totally worth it.
It could really only be Franco, Rogen, and co-director Evan Goldberg who could pull off a ridiculous comedy event of this magnitude. I'm not saying they got everything right, but it takes a group of unapologetic assholes like these to tackle North Korea like this. Sure the South Park guys did it back in 2004, but that was with puppets which makes it different I guess. It takes a group of guys who take themselves just seriously enough to get the right kind of studio and financial backing in order to intentionally make asses out of themselves for the sake of comedy. That's what happens in The Interview, but as long as I'm laughing I really don't have a problem with it.
The Interview is a flick that had me laughing from start to finish. It's so over-the-top and so mercilessly silly that you just have to accept it for what it is and enjoy the ride. Don't be expecting any sophisticated dry humor, and don't wait around for that clever wit. Just sit back and embrace the poop, butt, and dick jokes that fly in from every direction. Instead of swatting them away just bathe in the stupidity. Bathe in the absurdity and before you get angry at the lack of sophistication here, just remember how much you laughed when that Asian woman said "butthole."
As is to be expected, the James Franco and Seth Rogen bromance is the glue that holds this film together. Rogen actually shows some comedic acting chops here, with impeccable comedic timing and some of the film's most memorable moments and one liners. Franco, however, is in top form as the obnoxious "how-can-he-be-this-stupid" manchild. I really wanted to hate his WAY over-the-top persona that is the farthest thing from believable, but the bastard kept making me giggle throughout the whole damn movie. As stupid as everything that came out of his mouth was, my reactionary laughter made me realize that this kind of humor is above no one.
I could spend a lot of time here breaking down the plot and character issues that surround The Interview. There are plot holes here big enough to drive a semi through, but to dissect The Interview in those terms would be missing the overall point. This is nonsensical and unabashed comedy that, oddly enough, has a strand of surprisingly poignant satire running through it. It satirizes Western media as much as it does the North Korean government but, at the end of the day its main goal is to make you laugh via dick jokes, and cheer via tank explosions. I did both, so I guess The Interview wins.
Monster movie madness
It's been years since the first time I watched this brilliantly badass monster movie, but last night I watched it for a second time and it's just as wickedly fun as I remember. The Host is a film that proves why Korean cinema owns the monster genre. Taking place in Seoul, South Korea, it is a film about a giant man eating fish monster that emerges from the Han River and proceeds to wreak havoc on the inhabitants of Seoul. It follows a family whose daughter is taken by the creature, and their desperate attempts to get her back.
Going into The Host, it's not what you would expect. It's a surprisingly fitting blend of creature feature horror, compelling family drama, and quirky comedy satire, three elements that work charmingly well together in some weird way. It's a movie that breaks a lot of horror/monster film conventions which surprisingly does the movie a lot of good. For one, we see our scaly green friend in the full glory of midday sunlight about 20 minutes into the film. Nothing is left to the imagination as The Host gets right to the point.
The opening exposition scene of the film shows a scientist being ordered to dump countless bottles of formaldehyde down the drain which runs off into the river, so any mystery element surrounding our creature is removed, which frees up the filmmakers to just go nuts and have fun with the baddie as he viciously terrorizes Koreans in broad daylight. Some people might hate this. I love it.
Some of the best movies of this genre often have some sort of undertone, and The Host definitely fulfills this aspect. The eco- friendly message of this flick is comically overt, but the over-the- top nature of the opening scene sets the tone for a heavy handed message brought to you in the most abrasive and bloody way possible. Come for the monster madness, stay for the poignant ecological subtext (subtext being a term used lightly here). There is no hiding the fact that this movie can be silly and extreme, but it doesn't make a point to hide this either. It embraces its wild nature in a perfect way, making it a very easy film to just enjoy the hell out of.
And to top it all off it's a beautifully shot film as well! There are some expertly crafted compositions set within the ominous beauty of Seoul's sewers or its immaculate bridges. We've got a great blend of intense close-ups and Kurosawa-esque wides. It handles action scenes incredibly well, while the dialogue heavy scenes carry just as much weight. There is no doubt that these filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing from start to finish, and this is reflected in virtually every aspect of the film. For all of its whack you over the head satire, over-the-top comedy, and multitude of characters that we bounce around from in a slightly disjointed fashion, at the end of the day there's a damn fine monster movie in The Host, and it's just a damn good movie overall.
Far more important than entertaining
Some of the darkest and saddest pieces of our history often make for the most compelling and powerful films of the year. Such is the case with Selma which takes us back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, showing us the tragic strife that the African American community was put through. Selma focuses specifically on the voting rights movement where Dr. King and his followers led an historical march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to peacefully protest Alabama's segregated voting rights in order to obtain equality across the voting board. It's a startlingly relevant film that explores a time in US history many would prefer to forget, and one that challenges us to look at our modern day society and draw some disturbing connections.
Admittedly it is a little bit sad that a film about civil rights can still have so much relevance in 2015, but such is the way of prejudice and bigotry in all of its ever changing forms. Selma does a fantastic job at making this fight as real and accessible as possible, highlighting this struggle on a personal level for King and his associates. These events were well before my time, but as far as I know this film paints a very realistic picture of the time, from the look of the sets, the costumes, and the emotions and tensions filling the air.
At the end of the day, though, it's the portrayal of Dr. King that drives this film home. David Oyelowo is a powerhouse that carries this film with a startlingly accurate representation of the reverend; one that is filled to the brim with passion and poise, while also breaking down the larger than life illusion that surrounds the man, and bringing him down to earth as the very real and very flawed human being he actually was. His controversial decisions are touched upon in the film, as well as his infidelities which truly bring him to the human level.
It's a damn good thing that Oyelowo can carry this film, too, as the emotional prowess of the story relies solely on him. Selma is packed with a great supporting cast with everyone from Tom Wilkinson to Tim Roth to rapper Common, but there is no denying that all these supporting players play second fiddle to Oyelowo. If Oyelowo is at a 10 as the lead of the film the rest of the cast sits at an 8 across the board with no one character getting a lot of attention as the focus consistently remains on King. I would have liked to see some more attention turned towards the supporting cast, but with a biopic on one of the most influential names in American history you almost have to expect this.
Selma highlights a grim portion of our history, one so grim that it needs to be immortalized in film so that we don't forget the troubled history we came from. This is an incredibly important film about an incredibly important man. It's not something you watch for entertainment value and not something you watch over and over again, but it is something you need to watch to gain some highly accurate perception of a crucial time in history it is imperative we never forget.