John: In Bruges is the debut effort of far-too-unknown writer and director Martin McDonagh. Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, this is the kind of film that makes you feel guilty about bursting out into gut-wrenching laughter. Farrell plays the young, impatient thrill-seeker and Gleeson portrays the classic oldie who only wants to take in the beautiful architecture of Bruges, Belgium, where the whole film takes place. This might seem like a familiar dynamic, but there’s a twist: they’re a pair of assassins-in-hiding after a job gone wrong.
The brilliance to the film really starts with its basic premise. Bruges, one of the most aesthetically beautiful and quaint little towns in the entire world, has become the hideout and eventual battleground of the hitmen and, ultimately, the mob boss they work for. There’s a vague element of mystique, as well, an almost dream-like quality to the film that fits so well because of how easily Bruges might compare to one’s idea of heaven. I suppose it’s possible that is what allows the layer of absurdity the film also possesses to work as well as it does. At no point does it feel like some of the more ridiculous occurrences are too much, or that they do anything but add to the awesomeness of the film. It is a true shame that Mr. McDonagh has, as of yet, only made two films (the second being 2012’s Seven Psychopaths). The Oscar-nominated writing, fun performances and harsh themes all make the film immensely enjoyable for anyone with even a slight taste for the darker comedy. If that’s you, then In Bruges is fun as hell.
Bridget: Leave it to Christian Laettner to beat you to the insult once again by complying with the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary I Hate Christian Laettner, about the extreme disdain for the devilishly handsome former Duke demi-god.
Another impressive shot in Laettner’s career? Director Rory Karpf’s staging of Laettner for the interview footage. Rarely do documentary makers consider the background/atmosphere of the standard interview shot. They default to placing their subject in front of a school portrait backdrop, missing an opportunity to bump up the effectiveness of their story. Laettner’s legendary dreamy blue eyes are piercing — the other pops of blue are strategic. Laettner sports a blue “Christian Laettner Basketball Academy” shirt (perfect self promotion, Laettner) and just out of focus, over Laettner’s shoulder is the career-defining game-winning shot against Kentucky, framed in gold, art gallery style.
I am not that personally invested in basketball, but this film transcends the sport. It gets into the psychology of the spectator — a subject that’s potential has only been tapped into by the 30 for 30 series. It reveals the odd whims of the fans. They root for the underdog but as soon as the underdog transforms into a consistent champion, the love affair is over, resulting in a quick divorce and future perpetual resentment for that team. Duke was that underdog. Coach K struggled in his early years at Duke. Laettner lost his sophomore year in the NCAA Championship in a 30-point blowout by UNLV. As soon as Duke became a powerhouse with Laettner as its main catalyst, cue the unbridled hatred for all things Duke. Does Laettner care? Of course not. His twitter header says it all: “Haters gonna hate”.
Matt: Recommending two movies? What unholiness! Is there no law? I could just recommend The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, which is a single movie also streaming on Netflix. But the story of James McAvoy’s Conor Ludlow and Jessica Chastain’s Eleanor Rigby should be seen the way it was meant to be seen, as two separate point-of-view films dubbed Him and Her.
This is either the best love story in ages or the worst. Following a terrible tragedy, Conor and Eleanor fight to retain some sense of normalcy amid the sudden chaos of their lives. In doing so they grow apart, and each has a different perspective on the reasons why. Part of the beauty of Disappearance is in the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style viewing: watch Him first (as I did) and you digest the story one way; watch Her first and the story you thought you knew gets upended. The question of whether this is one story or two is central to the entire concept, which is another reason to skip Them and go in for the full two-film experience — even in separated format, you badly want to believe in the “one heart” that Conor and Eleanor talk about. As in the best love stories, Conor and Eleanor represent every couple you’ve ever known or have ever been a part of; as in the worst, most crushing love stories, Conor and Eleanor still represent that same thing. Either way, Disappearance will make your heart ache.
Patrick: I had never seen Kill Bill: Vol. 1 until just a couple months ago. I suppose it was for lack of a convenient way to watch it, as I knew it was not a movie to watch on regular cable. Luckily, humans invented Netflix. For all those like me a few months ago (how I’ve grown since then!), Kill Bill is certainly worth the watch just to witness Tarantino somehow managing to out-Tarantino himself.
In terms of violence, Kill Bill makes most action movies look like a Pixar production — with the exception of Finding Nemo, which is really no different than Taken when you think about it. The body count is a ridiculous 95 (Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs have 22 onscreen deaths combined, to put that in perspective) which is almost as ridiculous as how all of these characters die, which involves a ridiculous (did I mention this move is ridiculous?) amount of blood flowing like a never-ending fountain from the given severed part of the body. From a random shift to animation to disjointed storytelling to a whole lot of shots of people’s feet, it’s clear that Kill Bill is the movie Tarantino set out to make a movie for himself. In that sense, Kill Bill is about as original movie as you’ll see.
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