Kurt Cobain, one of the most iconic and beloved musicians of all-time, experienced near Beatlemania status in the early to mid-ninties with his band, Nirvana, prior to his suicide on April 5, 1994. Cobain was hailed as the spokesperson of Generation X, an alienated and fed-up slice of America’s youth, and he hated how much he loved the title. Bashing mercilessly on the strings of his guitar and screeching and shouting and even burping into the microphone, Cobain captured the very essence of what the pissed off and too-far-gone teenage masses felt; he cut to their core with his metal-punk (coined as “grunge”) riffs, which laid restlessly underneath his growling and raspy, but nevertheless catchy, vocal melodies.
He was just what they needed, and he came at the perfect time. Just when painting had become complacent, Van Gogh turned everything on its head; as soon as the proper place of literature in society had been defined, Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience; once music ceased to be music, Kurt Cobain jump-started the industry with an overdose of adrenaline. And it was an overdose…
Continue reading Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)
Of the three Daniel Craig Bond films, two have been received with applause from audiences and critics alike. One of the two is Casino Royale, Craig’s debut as 007. Royale has changed the game as far Bond films go. No more (completely) preposterous gadgets or (literally) impossible feats are featured in this film. No more corny lines and no more maniacal, manacle-wearing, super-genius super-villains. Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale is rooted in reality. Of course, there is some stuff that might seem somewhat far-fetched, but you just don’t have yourself a Bond film without at least a splash of absurdity.
Daniel Craig is stupendous in this film. He fully embodies the perhaps overly confident, womanizing alcoholic who, at the same time, wears a badge of courage and integrity at (almost) all times. Craig portrays the smoothest Bond I have ever seen. I know what you’re thinking…probably screaming, actually. Connery will always be Bond, no one is saying otherwise. At the same time, Craig, in my most humble opinion, one ups him in the “I’m the coolest dude on planet Earth” department. It’s everything from the way he carries himself to the timing and delivery of his lines (every one of which hits perfectly). What is most notable, though, is the dark side that Craig brings to the timeless character. His orphanage is addressed in the film, the emotion behind his first kill is evident, and Bond drinks with a purpose throughout Royale. Craig makes it all work so well, from the stern look in his eyes as he races through the Miami Airport to the sarcastic smirks he makes at Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) from across the poker table.
Continue reading Casino Royale (2006)
Although I feel like it cannot be, I have to suppose that it is just a coincidence that this film, entitled Hunger, completely lacks any meat whatsoever. This film had me quite excited to see it; I am a total Fassbender fan and it had garnered a strong 82 Metascore. I thought it was going to be one of those slightly dull, but really fantastically unique and emotional films with great writing and better acting. Well, I got the acting out of Fassbender, but literally every other single aspect of this film fell heavily flat for me. Which did come as a surprise considering who the director is: the great Steve McQueen. With 12 Years A Slave, McQueen, in my genuine opinion, made one of the greatest movies of the twenty-first century. Everything just worked so well, from the otherworldly penmanship to the astounding, Oscar-winning performances. The Wolf of Wall Street was my favorite in 2013, but 12 Years was undoubtedly the best.
The biggest gripe I have with Hunger is probably the fact that it refuses to settle on a protagonist until about thirty minutes in. Inexplicably, the film starts with, and carries on with, the tale of two characters who ultimately become totally irrelevant. Granted, they do set up the scene; their situation portrays how terrible the conditions were for those imprisoned men. That does not change the fact that the exact same effect could have been as, if not more, easily achieved focusing instead on Fassbender’s character, Bobby Sands (the ultimate protagonist). The two initial characters essentially share a few lines of dialogue, smear their shit all over the walls of their cell, and grow long hair and beards.
Continue reading Hunger (2008)
Sex, drugs, and rock & roll. This is what Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous is about, although it’s mostly rock & roll. If you enjoy music, particularly classic rock bands such as Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, Dylan, Hendrix, and plenty of others, I can near guarantee that you will fall in love with this film.
Also, I can near guarantee that you will fall in love with Kate Hudson, playing Penny Lane, or Lady Goodman. Aside from the fact that she is absolutely gorgeous, Hudson portrays one of the single coolest females of all time in her character. She is a die-hard rock lover, and a simply down to Earth, kind and generous person. Undoubtedly wife material. While the acting in this film is not necessarily something that jumps out at you, Hudson turns in a really enjoyable and fun performance that helps establish a strong emotional connection to her character.
Continue reading Almost Famous (2000)
I would like to start off this review by stating plainly that this is my all-time favorite film. I would never go to such lengths as to suggest that this is the “best” film ever made, but rather that it contains all the things that I truly care about in a movie — simply good writing, good acting, and an enlightening theme. I put a lot of emphasis on a film’s ability to speak to me in an emotional and personal way. Good WIll Hunting brought me to tears; it wrenched my gut with laughter; it inspired me, and it made me want to go out into the world searching for something special to call my own. This film won two Oscars in 1998, one for Best Original Screenplay, accepted by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and one for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, awarded to Robin Williams. I would like to dedicate this review to the memory of this remarkable man, whose passing, even months later, pains me deeply. We love you, Robin.
It is no surprise that this film spends a lot of its run-time focused on Will’s (Matt Damon) therapy sessions with Sean McGuire (Robin Williams), considering that a major theme of the film is about overcoming the obstacles that we make for ourselves within our own minds. Will has serious difficulty with allowing new people into his life in any real and significant way because the first people that were meant to love him, his parents, deserted him. This is why Will hangs up on Skylar (Minnie Driver) after running out into the rain to call her on a payphone; this is why he simply cannot bring himself to say that he loves her, even though he wants to, even though it breaks her heart that he won’t. This is an issue that nearly all of us deal with to some degree or another. The complete desire to do one thing, but to be so inhibited from doing so because of various psychological dilemmas is undeniably a common and quite frustrating problem. Will goes further, masking his issues by adopting the persona of an aloof, no-shit-giving punk. He’s a janitor who evenly divides his time between batting cages and bars.
Continue reading Good Will Hunting (1997)
Chris Pratt dominated 2014. From reprising his role as the lovable Andy Dwyer on the hit comedy Parks and Recreation to his starring roles in blockbuster smashes The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, which will garner the attention of this review, he seemed to be everywhere you looked. While I assert that Pratt was at his best in Guardians, his attempts at seriousness in various parts of the film felt a bit like he was trying too hard. But, his first scene in the film was absolutely brilliant, as he gets a little funky and sings into a space rat as though it were a microphone. This scene sets the stage for the tone of the remainder of the film: a collection of comical ridiculousness that you simply can’t take your eyes off of.
Guardians is a borderline Star Wars spoof, while at the same time paying all due respect to it. The genius of the film is found in the clever dialogue that evidences this point. One scene that comes to mind in particular is the one in which all the guardians decide to fight together against Ronan, all standing up to somehow state their dedication to the cause. Bradley Cooper’s hilarious Rocket comments, “Great. Now we’re all standing. A bunch of jackasses standing in a circle.” While the mocking of the cliché trope that is standing up to display emphasis is something I found to be tremendously clever, I also recognized the themes, such as devoting oneself to a just cause regardless of the dangers attached to doing so, that are so similar to those of the original Star Wars trilogy. Thus, Guardians is a sort of revitalized Star Wars reboot that stresses humor over drama but nevertheless paints a potent emotional portrait when it needs to, despite Pratt’s overacting at times. In addition, the film resolves itself in an incredibly familiar way. A band of outlaws come together to save the galaxy and are rewarded with impunity and heralded as heroes by the galactic authorities. Sounds a lot like A New Hope to me. To take it one step further, I honestly wouldn’t have been disappointed had this film instead been titled Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
Continue reading Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Nothing says “happy holidays” like an incredibly violent, utterly vulgar, yet strangely comedic look at slavery and racism in the Antebellum South. Quentin Tarantino’s latest effort has garnered exceptional critical support, seeming to morph together styles and tones from three of his previous cinematic achievements: Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, and Inglourious Basterds. The scope of the film is quite epic, occurring over months in various Southern states, yet it in no way takes itself too seriously. Instead, Django is extremely humorous and several of its minute details, when given closer examination, actually seem rather bizarre, almost finding itself belonging to the Wes Anderson genre of film. While dealing with a very serious topic and maintaining an ethically appropriate opinion of said topic, Djano truly reels in its audience with its Oscar-winning dialogue and impeccable acting. The film may seem controversial to some, but anyone really paying attention will easily be able to understand the stance the film is taking.
The film has a subtle but significant Reservoir vibe to it. The plot is intricate and well thought-out; dramatic irony (when one or more characters are aware of something that others are not privy to) is abundant; and there is even a particular scene in Django that is a directorial parallel to a different scene in Dogs. Let’s discuss the similarity in complexity of the plot. These movies are no rivals to Inception when it comes to complex storytelling, nor are they trying to be, but they do certainly contain these types of elements. Dogs places a police officer undercover in the mafia, thus tricking the mafiosos into believing that he is one of them. Django places an African American in the fourth largest slave plantation in Mississippi, posing as an expert in the well-regarded field of Mandingo fighting; in front of Leonardo DiCaprio, no less. This similarity simultaneously explains both the intricacy of the plot and the abundance of dramatic irony. And then there are the scenes using the slow-motion walk. If you do not recall what I am talking about, you now have an excuse to go rewatch these fantastic films.
Continue reading Django Unchained (2013)
This is certainly one of those films that you either absolutely love or downright hate, and I can understand why. Martin Scorsese’s latest work, The Wolf of Wall Street, really isn’t that much different from many of his other pictures except for the intensity of the vulgarity -the literal sex, drugs and rock n’ roll – which turns certain people off from the film. The use of 569 F-words, numerous sex scenes including a gay orgy, the consumption of copious amounts of Vitamin B (posing as cocaine) and Quaalude’s, as well as speeding cars, helicopters and yachts, all add to the excessive feeling and tone that the movie captures so well, love it or hate it. Whether or not you enjoyed this film, you cannot deny how energized it is and that watching it was probably the quickest 180 minutes of your life.
It is easy for someone watching The Wolf of Wall Street to miss many of the film’s truly great aspects due to this vulgarity. The endless bare breasts and drunken and/or high (usually and) benders that the majority of the characters go on may serve as a kind of invisibility cloak for the less well-trained moviegoer. First off, the wittiness, intelligence, and authenticity of the dialogue is likely the most impressive thing about The Wolf of Wall Street. The script, penned by the Sopranos genius Terry Winter, is undeniably phenomenal; see “the McConaughey lunch scene,” “the Jean Dujardin negotiating scene,” “the epic f@#king DiCaprio speech scenes.” At the same time, however, Scorsese encourages his muses to improvise, delve deeply into their characters and bring that necessary authenticity to their performances and the film. It is this combination of impeccable writing and spontaneous inspiration that makes the dialogue in this film so good.
Continue reading The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The first installment in Richard Linklater’s acclaimed “Before” trilogy, Before Sunrise is one of the most uniquely structured films in recent memory. Entirely dialogue based, the film discusses important social issues with great depth while examining the nature of a newly formed romantic relationship. Although Before Sunrise is masterfully written, acted and shot, there is no real plot; nothing really happens. Both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy turn in exceptional performances that demand close attention, and yet all their characters do throughout the film is walk around Vienna and talk about life. Linklater’s aim here is not to make greatest film ever made, as one might assume is the aim of many directors embarking upon a new project. It is meant to be a simple film, a small film with a small scope. It is short and it is brilliant in its own right.
The only two real characters in the film, Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) are total strangers that meet on a train and subsequently fall in love. The film is somewhat inspiring as a result. This detail of the film speaks to the spontaneity of love, the romance of romance, so to speak. Once the two get to talking, the film takes off. Their discussion covers the innate differences between men and women and the good and bad aspects of American and French society and everything in between. The dialogue is serious and provocative at times and humorous at others, and Hawke and Delpy’s performances are smooth and keep it realistic, despite the remarkable intelligence and obvious care put into the writing. A fantastic, stand-out moment comes in Jesse and Celine’s pretend phone calls to their friends back home, in which they reveal their thoughts about and feelings toward each other. Another comes when Jesse asks Celine to get off the train with him. This moment almost becomes a cheesy, cliche rom-com-esque scene, but Jesse’s actually quite intelligent reasoning for why Celine should oblige him makes it truly enjoyable to watch.
Continue reading Before Sunrise (1995)
This is Boyhood. This is right now. This is no ancient Greek tragedy; there is no intricate or precise or necessarily coherent plot structure. What this film is all about is in the title: Boyhood is the narrative of a young man growing up in a difficult and harsh world. This film will make you laugh hysterically, and it will make you cry. Watch this film alone for the first time. That way, you can let yourself truly feel it. That’s important, because this is more than a movie. This is a therapeutic exercise.
It is possible that I am partial to Richard Linklater’s film because: one, I am a boy; two, I share some of the same experiences that Mason (Ellar Coltrane) has had. I know what it is like to have divorced parents, and I know what it is like to see my mom cry. I know what it is like to be bullied and I, too, have often wondered why the world has to suck so much. Many of us have. Many more will. That is why this film is so truthfully beautiful. It captures such incredible, emotional aspects of human life and brings you back in time to the moments in your own life that are relatable to what is going on in the film. I cannot even begin to think of another film that has brought me so close to tears so many times. Boyhood is able to give its audience that inexplicable Dead Poets Society vibe. Just that feeling that makes the film relevant to life in such an actual and immediate way. This is the type of film that leaves you unsure what there is to do next. When you decide to sit down and watch this film, you effectively decide to spend the next three hours completely and totally immersed in and consumed by the universe of Boyhood.
Continue reading Boyhood (2014)