Love or hate it, Zero Dark Thirty is one of the year’s most discussable films. Less than two full years after it happened in May 2011, Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal have already immortalized the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in film (I mean digital). This incredibly rapid turnover from real life events to movie dramatization provides for a rather bizarre viewing experience that makes it impossible to watch the film simply as a piece of art. One’s enjoyment of the movie is constantly interrupted by a nagging voice going: Is that what really happened? Is that what she was really like? The she, in this case, is Maya (Jessica Chastain), the film’s representation of the CIA Officer known only as “Jen” who played a key role in the decade long manhunt for Bin Laden. Chastain plays Jen as a fiery, cocky heroine who’s as smart as she is brash. She’s entertaining to watch but sometimes feels a little bit too Hollywood. For example, did the real life “Jen,” in answer to the CIA director’s question “Who are you?” reply: “I’m the mother fucker that found the guy”? It’s a funny line for something meant as entertainment, but Zero Dark Thirty isn’t just that. Given our nation’s closeness with the subject matter it can’t be. Read More
Though many will probably hail The Loneliest Planet as a quiet, gripping drama, describing it with words like “contemplative” and “meditative,” what it really is, is a tedious overlong film with too many shots of the mountains. In writer/director Julia Loktev’s new film Gael García Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries) and Hani Furstenberg play a young couple, engaged to be married, who decide to take a backpacking trip through the Georgian mountains. Why exactly these mountains isn’t clear. They don’t really seem the dare devil type – Furstenberg’s character is actually kind of clumsy – and the Georgian mountains don’t particularly strike one as a place for sightseeing. They have their fair share of striking scenery, which Loktev is only too eager to capture, yet, after the first forty-five minutes the viewer already feels exhausted by this lonely environment so one can only imagine how the characters must feel. Whatever the reason, they are there, hiking through the mountains with Bidzinia Gujabidze as their guide. The mountains are a green but barren place with little to see and less to do, so very little happens in the course of the movie, save one or two small incidents which have a large impact on the character’s relationships. Here, finally, is something the viewer can enjoy. When, halfway to the end, the incident (shall we call it) does finally happen, our mouths salivate; finally some food for thought in this barren wasteland. And delicious food it is. The tiny incident, is realistically the kind of thing that could change the course of an entire relationship. It’s the kind of thing, as the film’s trailer rightly puts it, that makes one question just how well one knows someone. On top of this it calls into question numerous assumptions about gender roles and what society expects of each sex, but the problem remains that it’s only food for thought. It’s like conceptual art or a Duchamp ready-made piece: It’s lots of fun to talk about but not so much fun to watch. Yet, this is exactly what Loktev wants – forces – the viewer to do. The result is less a movie going experience and more a conversation piece; for some this may work, for others it may not.
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If there is one thing that End of Watch is not, it’s cliché. What is it is a highly entertaining fast paced ride-along with two wise cracking, ass kicking LA cops. Played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala are two of LAPD’s best – or worst depending on whom you ask. They’re the kind of guys you want on the case if you’re in danger but not the kind of guys you want to work with; they’ll run into a burning building to try and pull you out but they’re a little trigger happy and aren’t so fond of paper work. “This is a ticket book,” explains their sergeant, “use it.” “I would,” jokes Zavala, “Except I don’t know how to write. So…” These characters are a stark contrast to writer/director David Ayer’s previous films (Training Day, Street Kings), which often focus on corruption within the system. The two are pretty good guys and the most they share with Denzel Washington’s corrupt cop character from Training Day is a love of wiseassery. The worst that can be said of them is that they may enjoy doing their jobs – busting people that is – just a bit too much. Aside from this, the two are incredibly likeable and the chemistry between them is fantastic. After 20 minutes of riding a long in their car, laughing at their jokes, and enjoying their banter it’s hard not to love ‘em...
2 Days in New York is the hilarious sister film to Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris (2007). The two films share a love of snarky fast-talking heroes and revel in the complications of French-American relations. In this film Marion (Julie Delpy) has moved back to New York and is now living with her new boyfriend (Chris Rock) and their two children from previous marriages. Marion is about to have a big art opening so her father (Albert Delpy) and sister (Alexia Landeau) have come to visit, bringing Marion’s ex and Rose’s new boyfriend, Manu (Alexandre Nahon). As you can imagine, all hell breaks loose.
The comic style of 2 Days In New York’s brings to mind the great screwball comedies of Howard Hawkes (His Girl Friday) and Preston Sturges (The Great McGinty) where even as things approach the absurd characters remain bitingly witty and intelligent. Punch lines come and go without a pause for laughter, and even as the film descends into near farce it feels grounded and smart. A wonderful cast populates the screen, each playing characters that are lovable and charming while annoying and mischievous in their own way. Read More
Third movies in a series are generally lackluster and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is no exception. This is not to say that the film is downright bad just that it’s not very good either. Dog Days is a fairly typical Hollywood kids movie so expect the usual: overacting, butt cracks being cause for laughter, and the older generation misunderstanding the younger one. No fart jokes, though, so the film earns points for that.
The film’s main problems stem from its overall lack of narrative direction. To be fair, this is a movie about summer vacation, which has never had very much direction in itself. So, much like a summer vacation, the film plays out in a series of loosely strung together comic vignettes linked by lead character Greg’s (Zachary Gordon) two goals: befriending Holly Hills (Peyton List) and feigning productivity so he can slack off and play video games. But the film never chooses which of these is to be the main plotline until the final third when an actual conflict is introduced. Without a driving force behind them, the first two acts flounder, as what’s at stake isn’t quite clear. Meanwhile, the third act feels rushed with a conflict that’s resolved not twenty minutes after it’s introduced. Read More