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Staff Picks: Movies

Palo Alto

Palo Alto is based on the book Palo Alto: stories by James Franco. The stories are based on James Franco's high school days. Basically a story of kids in high school defining who they are, dealing with issues that come up in high school; drinking, drugs, girls. Jack Kilmer son of Val Kilmer is the star. It is his first movie and he kind a looks like Val Kilmer just a little especially in the face. Val Kilmer's is also in the movie as the stepdad of Emma Roberts who is the other major lead. You can tell it's a low-budget film but it's entertaining and really talks to the raw emotions of highschooler's.
The main theme for this is that April (Emma Roberts) has a crush on her soccer coach James Franco. Teddy (Jack Kilmer) and his buddy Fred do things together, smoke weed. go to parties. Teddy has a crush on April. Now one thing I did notice in this movie is the lack of parental supervision. Not until Teddy gets in trouble and has to go to court do you see the mom. Other than that you don't see a lot of the parents, mostly if you do see them it's the kid saying “Hey I'm going out”. That's just my view was as a parent.
Come on down to KPL and check it out.

 


A Late Bergman Tour de Force

Autumn Sonata (1978) is a masterful portrait of the kind of personal conflict embedded within family relationships fraught with regret, shame and disappointment. The great actress Ingrid Bergman (who only worked with Ingmar Bergman once) puts in a fantastic performance as the aging classical pianist who tries to reconnect with her two adult daughters, both of whom she has emotionally neglected over the years in pursuit of her career. Racked with guilt, Bergman clumsily attempts to express her deep feelings of regret and love for her eldest daughter (played by the great Liv Ullman) over the course of a long awaited visit. A brilliant a depiction of the corrosive discord between a parent and child, Autumn Sonata’s evocative power revealed that Bergman was still a master at the melodrama by excavating both he and Ingrid’s personal challenges with mediating family, love, art and career.

 


Fetch

The whole dystopian thing may have reached the point of oversaturation in our popular culture: zombies, givers, hunger gamers, diverging, purging, maze running—we’ve had so much of it, the genre’s bound to regress into some sort of metaphorical mass-market post-apocalyptic wasteland of itself. And yet this summer’s underappreciated gem The Rover is so delicate in its vision, so realistic in its squalor, you may forget you’re watching something taking place ten years after a catastrophic global economic collapse. Set in the Australian outback, the film depicts a world of desolation and lawlessness, of dog-eat-dog survivalism; there’s no fantasy or sci-fi to this wasteland—this is what real dystopia is going to look like.

Amidst this societal decay is Eric (Guy Pearce), a drifter whose life is as hollow and ruinous as the world around him. While passing through the middle of nowhere, Eric encounters thieves who are fleeing from a botched robbery, and they steal his car. Taking the last possession of a man with nothing left to lose proves to be a bad move on their part, as Eric begins a dogged pursuit to retrieve his vehicle with the steely vigilance of a Terminator. Just when he thinks he’s lost the trail, Eric comes upon a wounded man named Rey (Robert Pattinson) who turns out to be the brother of one of the thieves—badly injured in the robbery, they left him for dead. Eric takes Rey hostage and demands he be led to where his brother’s gang will be hiding out. Rey is the one man who can help Eric get back the last thing in his life that he cared about, but will he be more trouble than he’s worth?

Written and directed by David Michôd, who also made the excellent, Academy Award-nominated crime drama Animal Kingdom, The Rover is suspenseful and well-acted (Pearce is always reliable and Pattinson goes a long way to make you forget all the sparkly vampire paint he used to wear). The gritty world is richly detailed in its bleakness, and the final shot, though some may find it divisive, is a pitch perfect elegy to companionship and a dirge to life before the world collapsed under the weight of selfishness and greed.

 


Making the Grade

There’s just not enough time to compose a lengthy review of some of the great and not-so great feature films, television series and documentaries that I’ve caught over the past month, so instead, I’m handing out a grade and an abridged appraisal.

Bastards—A grim, pointless waste of time from French Director Claire Denis (C-)
Hateship Loveship—Continued proof that former SNL star comedian Kristin Wiig should keep looking for dramatic roles (B)
Orphan Black—Yes, lead actress Tatiana Maslany was robbed of an Emmy nomination for her multiple roles in this great BBC-produced show about clones (A)
Requiem for the Big East—For college basketball fans who grew up in the 1980’s and recall watching these legendary teams, this ESPN documentary will rouse a healthy dose of nostalgia (B+)
The Bridge—in keeping with the very trendy, neo-noir subject of serial killing and the relationship between detectives charged with solving the mysteries (see: True Detective), this cross-border drama explores the messy dialectics of national politics, the consequences of drug/human trafficking and the tension between rich and poor (B+)
Captain Phillips—nothing here was particularly new, assuming you followed the story when it originally unfolded, but it still remains a dramatically compelling, well-paced action film that will jump-start your adrenalin (A-)
Top Hat & Tales: Harold Ross and the Making of the New Yorker—a satisfactory if not condensed portrait of an eccentric visionary and his creative collaborators who developed a unique and lasting publication (B)

and...

Palo Alto—a drained, vacuous sketch of the psychic ennui of rich, white teens whose lives gravitate around sex, drugs, video games and pathetic, exploitative adults (D)



The Unreliable Narrator

An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theater, whose trustworthiness has been seriously questioned. Film audiences should be wary of gleaning truths from the narrator’s account of the movie's unfolding and plot details. Here are some films that have employed the unreliable narrator approach to storytelling to great effect.

Last Year at Marienbad
Muriel
Citizen Kane
Memento
Fight Club
Big Fish
Rashomon
The Usual Suspects
Possessed
Forest Gump
Atonement
Fallen
American Psycho
Lolita
The Great Gatsby


The Reconsidered Film

Sometimes a film just does not hit you in that sweet spot the first time around. You leave the theater disappointed or mulling over what could have been. Maybe it was you all along, your mood, your unwillingness to open up and let the film work its magic. I’ve hated films that I later came to love and respect after my initial dismissal. There are those films that grow on you and seem to get better with multiple viewings. The first time I saw Frances Ha, I moaned about its obvious influences and reference points (Godard, Truffault). The protagonist’s personality was a bit grating and I just couldn’t give in to the film’s cloying repackaging of the classics of the 60’s and 70’s it so self-consciously aped. It simply felt derivative, the kind of film where its style devours its substance. I recently gave it a second chance and have subsequently modified my early misgivings. I think the elements of the film I enjoyed the most were the editing and the choice to convert the digital footage into black and white. It’s quite the looker. Now there are a lot of movies not worth a first viewing let alone a second but sometimes there comes a long a film that deserves a reconsideration.


Run & Jump

I don’t tend to gravitate toward watching romantic comedies because they’re often disposed to possess the worst elements and doses of sentimentality, cliché, bathos, and stereotype. That’s not to say that in the proper hands, these qualities cannot be reasonably constrained so as to reduce the number of times I consider hitting the eject button. Having said that, I decided to watch a small film from Ireland called Run & Jump (a title that is a metaphor for loosening up and living life more freely I suppose). It hits most of its notes most of the time and we can probably attribute this to the fact that Hollywood didn’t have its hands all over the writing, casting or plot. There’s only one recognizable actor here and that’s former SNL star Will Forte. There’s plenty of Irish quirkiness (see: stereotype) but it’s finely regulated so as not to delve into caricature. The film centers on a stressed out family coping with the changes to their home life after the father suffers a stroke, leaving him with cognitive and physical disabilities. Forte plays a doctor living with the family and studying the father’s recuperation. A triangular relationship begins to form as Forte and the wife begin to bond, messing up an already chaotic domestic situation. It’s not all dour melodrama as there are plenty of moments of humor sprinkled about this well-crafted film.


Locke Is An Existential Miniature

Locke is about a man (Ivan Locke) who gets into a BMW and then proceeds to have one conversation after another on his car phone while driving toward London. The end. That’s pretty much it and that’s just enough for this engaging but austere film about one man’s attempt to control his life from a car phone as it spins out of control.


2 Black and White Classics from the Age of Color

The name Peter Bogdanovich may not be a household name but he’s made a career out of making movies, writing about movies and occasionally acting in movies and television (The Sopranos). While his film output is slim compared to other filmmakers of his generation, he made two classic movies in the 1970’s that alone, would establish his cinematic credentials. These two films are Paper Moon (1973) (DVD coming soon!) and The Last Picture Show (1971). Both films put the spotlight on young actors that would go on to become big stars (Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Cybill Sheperd, Ellen Burstyn, and Jeff Bridges). Both films were filmed in black and white and both looked back to a past milieu that seemed a life time away from the early, counter-cultural 70’s when they were made. The Last Picture Show is a moody, bittersweet portrait of teen life in a gloomy, withered West Texas town, one that’s literally been abandoned by the rise of corporatism and the growth of urban and suburban development. It’s a visually rich film that avoids sentimentality while arousing a deep lament for the death of small towns and the innocent, one-dimensional values associated with them. The word ‘longing’ comes to mind when watching this film--the longing for community, for a left behind past, and to be understood.  

No less somber in its depiction of desperate living in times of economic decline, Paper Moon does have its moments of levity and humor. Overall however, the film’s two protagonists, a grifting duo conning their way across the Midwest, understand that survival in the midst of hard times is at best precarious and at its worst, fraught with danger. The movie’s heart and soul is animated in large part from the wonderful performances of the father/daughter team of Ryan and Tatum O’Neal. These are two American classics that continue to inspire and influence today’s best filmmakers.

Movie

The last picture show
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Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Last year, the Danish film The Hunt was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. It's the story of the social and individual price of a child's lie. Good natured Lucas works at the local elementary school, beloved by the school children and adored by his hunting buddies, Lucas finds himself at the center of a police probe after his best friend's daughter claims that Lucas abused her. As the town rallies behind the girl's claim, Lucas finds himself socially disconnected from the small town and the target of violence. The film tackles the subject of mob mentality and how quickly a faleshood can function to demonize an innocent person. Driven by a strong performance by the lead actor, The Hunt is an excellent film worth checking out.

Movie

The Hunt
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