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Geoffrey S. Fletcher's oddball "Violet & Daisy" casts Alexis Bledel and
Saoirse Ronan as a pair of assassins whose major target (James
Gandolfini) proves to be a quandary. What makes the movie really
interesting is the contrast between the title characters: Violet is the
tough one, while Daisy is the impressionable one. But Gandolfini's
Michael is another story.
This is not any sort of great movie. More than anything it's a quirky movie. I liked the side stories, such as what happens when the title characters go out to buy bullets. But the movie's main purpose is to show the evolution of the title characters' relationship with their target. It's an OK movie. Also starring Danny Trejo and Marianne Jean-Baptiste (of "Secrets & Lies").
Gus Van Sant has tackled a number of political and social issues in his
movies. "Promised Land" looks at the issue of hydraulic fracturing,
commonly called fracking. Matt Damon plays an executive from an energy
company trying to convince a town to allow the process in their
vicinity. Meanwhile, an environmentalist tries to convince people
I have liked most of Van Sant's movies, and it's good that this movie is addressing a process that has devastated entire regions. Indeed, the fracking industry criticized the movie's depiction of the process as destructive (surprise, surprise). Unfortunately, what happens at the end does not seem realistic. It reminded me of what happens in Bill Forsyth's "Local Hero". Other than that the movie is a perceptive character study of Damon's amoral exec, the sort of man who's totally in it for the money. Mostly a good movie, understanding that what happens at the end probably wouldn't happen in real life.
Like a lot of horror flicks, Måns Mårlind's and Björn Stein's "Shelter" (alternately called "6 Souls") takes an interesting idea and uses it as an excuse for shock value and people making nervous faces. There are plenty of scenes that I liked, but this is so much like countless other movies that it comes out very unimpressive. But most importantly, how did Julianne Moore get herself mixed up in this? She's supposed to be the star of Todd Haynes movies and similar cinema, not the star of cheap horror flicks. Similarly, Frances Conroy is now known as the matriarch on "Six Feet Under", so how'd she get herself mixed up in this? Long story short, this is not worth your time.
It would've been easy for Alexander Payne to use "Nebraska" to make fun
of its elderly protagonist. But Payne did the smart thing and depicted
him as forgetful but good-hearted. Bruce Dern and former "Saturday
Night Live" cast member Will Forte play a father and son who travel
from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska where the dad expects to
claim a prize. They stop in Hawthorne, Nebraska, where some old wounds
among family and friends get opened.
The black-and-white cinematography helps emphasize the bleakness of both the land and the characters' existence. Hawthorne looks like a REALLY miserable place, the sort of town where there's nothing for anyone to do except go to bars. But Payne does a great job showing all of this. The movie has some very funny lines. It's a perfect movie in every way. So far I've liked every one of Payne's movies, and this adds to it. I recommend it to everyone, and I recommend Dern and Forte - as well as June Squibb as Dern's wife - for Oscar nods.
Paul Newman had previously directed Joanne Woodward and their daughter
Nell in "Rachel, Rachel", and he then directed them in "The Effect of
Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds", which casts Woodward as the
irascible head of a dysfunctional family. Seriously, her character is a
The title refers to a science project by the younger daughter, and also serves as a metaphor for society's effect on Woodward's character. Any goal that she has will almost certainly get impeded by her instability. Basically, she and her daughters cannot fit in with the world around them. The older daughter's (Eli Wallach's daughter Roberta) epilepsy and rebellious attitude appear to be dooming her to repeat her mother's life, while the younger daughter finds solace in her pet rabbit.
I've liked every role in which I've seen Joanne Woodward, and this movie is no exception. She plays the disgruntled Beatrice as someone who tries to do the right thing but whose flaws get in the way of everything. Her and Paul Newman's daughter Nell (who now appears on the front of Newman's Own products next to her father) is also really impressive as the idealistic younger daughter. This is a really good movie.
Croatia had been part of Yugoslavia before becoming its own country in
1991. Arsen Anton Ostojić's "Ta divna splitska noć" ("A Wonderful Night
in Split" in English) looks at the result. The movie is set during a
rock festival in the coastal city of Split. Amid the festivities, there
are stories involving a widow, a drug addict, and a couple looking for
a way to consummate their relationship. The black-and-white
cinematography creates a surreal feeling throughout the entire movie.
Watching the movie, I was reminded of Jim Jarmusch's "Mystery Train", which features overlapping vignettes centering on a main topic. Much like how Jarmusch's movie looks at the underbelly of Memphis, Ostojić's movie looks at the underbelly of this ancient city on the Adriatic Sea. Is there any city that doesn't have an underbelly?
Anyway, I recommend the movie. I guess that they cast rap artist Coolio (of "Gangsta's Paradise" fame) to add some ethnic diversity. Worth seeing.
Before Arnold Schwarzenegger became a parody of himself, he starred in
this insightful documentary about bodybuilding. "Pumping Iron" features
a number of men whose muscles are beyond belief. Seriously, these men
look bizarre. It seems as though it would be hard on one's heart to
carry that extra weight. A scene that makes you think "uh oh" is when
they attend the Mr. Olympia contest in Pretoria, South Africa. No one
Anyway, it's a very fun documentary, even though a lot of the material seems really corny. Lou Ferrigno is best known as the Hulk, while I recognized Franco Columbu from some photos that Annie Leibovitz took of him and Schwarzenegger in South Africa.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Michael Haneke's internationally acclaimed "Amour" looks at an elderly
couple and how the deterioration in the wife's health forces the
husband to reaffirm his love for her. Her newfound needs prove very
demanding, but he does what he has to. What's really good about the
movie is that it doesn't lapse into sentimentality, instead taking a
true-to-life look at the trials and tribulations of this couple.
Emmanuelle Riva's performance is the especially impressive one. I can't believe that I was unfamiliar with her before this movie. Her stroke-afflicted matriarch has some scenes that might get treated as a joke in lesser hands, but Haneke's direction and Riva's acting make them great.
This is not to belittle the performances of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert. "Amour" is a series of fine performances combined with a great script. It is a perfect movie in every way. The last scene might have been the husband's imagination, but I interpreted it to mean that he died and so he and the wife were reunited.
I also recommend Haneke's movies "Caché" and "The White Ribbon".
I first learned about former porn star Linda Lovelace when she died
from injuries sustained in a car crash in 2002. Since I've never seen
"Deep Throat", "Lovelace" probably can't mean as much to me. The movie
is half look at the abuse that Lovelace suffered from her husband Chuck
Traynor, half look at the porn industry. It falls somewhere between
looking at how they treated Lovelace and fetishizing everything.
Amanda Seyfried plays Lovelace as a woman who sought to rebel against her conservative family and simply got exploited in the process. I'd say that she does a good job playing the role. Peter Sarsgaard is chilling in the role of Traynor. The movie features a number of other people in smaller roles, including an unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Lovelace's mom.
Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman previously did "Common Threads" (about the AIDS quilt), "The Celluloid Closet" (about the depictions of gays in movies) and "Howl" (about Allen Ginsberg's famous poem), while Epstein alone directed "The Times of Harvey Milk". In other words, "Lovelace" is a different turn for them. I wouldn't call this any kind of great movie. Its goal is to show what Linda Lovelace went through, and it accomplishes that. The main thing that it has motivated me to do is to watch "Deep Throat".
One of the most impressive movies ever looks at the ripple effects of different actions throughout history and into the future. The main cast members play multiple roles of people trying to right the wrongs and bring about positive change. I liked how they edited the movie to have the numerous plot lines coincide with each other, ensuring a better understanding of the characters' motivations. Like "Planet of the Apes" and "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Cloud Atlas" poses the question of humanity's origins and where we're headed. While the visuals are overwhelming in some scenes, the movie is all about the characters: Jim Sturgess's lawyer, Ben Whishaw's composer, Halle Berry's journalist, Jim Broadbent's publisher, Doona Bae's slave, Tom Hanks's tribesman, and the other characters played by each of these people plus Susan Sarandon's and Hugh Grant's characters add up to a most amazing movie. I really recommend it.
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