Saturday, June 27, 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Jesse Andrews

Seeing the trailer for the film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I couldn't help but dread something like Wes Anderson directing The Fault in Our Stars. That sentence may seem negative towards the two parties involved, but I actually liked The Fault in Our Stars to some extent and have found at least some intermittent enjoyment from Wes Anderson's filmography (some of his films are better than others). The problem is the mixing of the two, the mixing of the heavy subject of a girl dying of cancer and the type of comedic quirk that has come in vogue with the success of Anderson. Instead, what Me and Earl and the Dying Girl ends up becoming is an original voice telling an unconventional tale that manages to be funny, heartfelt, and at times very raw.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: Ted Turner's Greatest Race (2015)

Directed by Gary Jobson

The 30 for 30 shorts series has wielded quite a few stunners, and when you include Errol Morris’ It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports shorts, you could even compile a greatest hits and have a pretty good compilation on your hands. However, the series has a few clunkers as well, films which don’t quite seem to fit the format for whatever reason. Perhaps they need more fleshing out to fully tell the story they’re trying to tell, or perhaps the subject matter is just dull to begin with. I fear that with the latest in the series, Ted Turner’s Greatest Race, it may be a combination of the two. The film speaks to Turner’s triumph at the 1979 Fastnet yachting race, which is notable for its inclement weather conditions.

The Fastnet race is a race which begins in England, races around the Fastnet rock just off the coast of Ireland, and finishes at the port of Plymouth. In 1979, Turner and his crew faced strong storms at open sea, but managed to persevere and win the race. However, there were countless other boats whose fate were lost at sea, with crews having to abandon boats and some lives even being lost at sea. Gary Jobson, who was part of Turner’s crew, directs without a true sense of the type of story he wishes to tell. I couldn’t tell whether I was supposed to see Turner as this great man who won this impossible race, or whether I was supposed to see the 1979 Fastnet as a great tragedy. Jobson seems to want it both ways, but succeeds in neither.

Part of the film’s unconvincing tribute to Turner is Turner himself, who speaks about the Fastnet with mild interest, leaving me to believe it was just another race to him, which either means his ego is enormous, his pride/interest in his accomplish is insignificant, which may also lead me to believe that he is not affected by the lives lost during the race. As I said in the opening paragraph, perhaps if Jobson had a feature length to explore the details of the race, the intricacies of Turner and the other crew, a better film would have resulted. But at the same time, I’m asking myself how much I even want to see that film, based on how unsuspenseful and uneventful Jobson seemed to make a pretty intense boating race.

** - Poor

Monday, June 22, 2015

Inside Out (2015)

Directed by Pete Docter
Written by Meg LaFauve & Josh Cooley and Pete Docter

Pixar has changed the game with animated films more than a few times. Initially, of course, it was with the release of the first ever feature length computer animated film, Toy Story, which proved the method could not only be financially and commercially successful, but also that computed animated films could be a viable and convincing storytelling medium. Any more it seems hand drawn animation is a thing of the past, with Disney’s The Princess and the Frog almost marketed as a nostalgic look back the style. Pixar’s successful, in addition to its innovation, has stemmed from its masterful storytelling and endless imagination. These two powerful elements in the Pixar tool belt have allowed them to present more mature content in the realm of “kid’s movies”, with Inside Out perhaps being the most mature yet.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Iris (2015)

Directed by Albert Maysles

When I wake up in the morning, I jump in the shower, put in my contact lenses, shave, and get dressed. When I pick out my clothes, I often default to the same old same old. For me, having an office job, that means a polo and some slacks. Not very creative. I run downstairs, eat my breakfast, and slip on my shoes. Shoes, now there is where I have a chance to make a statement! I admit to having a few more pairs than I used to (living with someone who worked for a shoe company for 7 years will do that to you), so my choices here are a little more colorful than the “uniform” I put on upstairs. My weekends are often spent in t-shirts of my favorite sports teams or musical acts, paired with jeans or shorts of some kind. What I’m trying to say is I don’t make a statement when I dress. I’m sure my “fashion” goes mostly unnoticed throughout the day.

Friday, May 29, 2015

ESPN 30 for 30: Sole Man (2015)

Directed by Jon Weinbach & Dan Marks

I just googled “How much does a pair of Jordan’s cost?” The answer? Well, it’s complicated, you see. There are so many different pairs and variety of the classic basketball sneaker. There are high end and low end, high top and low top. Some of the cheaper ones will run you closer to $100, some of the expensive ones, well, upwards of $200. For sneakers. The Jordan shoe is a cultural thing at this point, part of the fashion lexicon. But where did this all start? Nike of course! Well, no not really, but certainly it had to have been the brilliant marketing idea of Phil Knight! Well, no not really, but everyone knew marketing MJ would be the easiest way to the bank! Well, still no, not really. If it weren’t for Sonny Vaccaro, the Jordan sneaker, and just about everything else in basketball show history, may never have been.

ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: The Anti-Mascot (2015)

Directed by Colin Hanks

After an uproarious topic such as Sidd Finch in the previous installment of the 30 for 30 Shorts series, perhaps it is only logical to move on to mascots for its next production. In this Colin Hanks directed short, the mascot is explored in a different way than most people think about mascots. When I think about mascots, I imagine the Philly Phanatic, and the current reigning MLB mascot king, Orbit from the Houston Astros (if you are unfamiliar, please peruse YouTube to your own joyous benefit). These often furry friends are marketed to entertain the children out to enjoy a game at the ballpark, often garnering laughs from their adult audience as well. They keep the atmosphere loose and enjoyable for the fans; all except one that is, the anti-mascot.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

San Andreas (2015)

Directed by Brad Peyton
Written by Carlton Cuse

“Some men,” as Alfred tells us in The Dark Knight, “just want to watch the world burn.” I suppose he is right in many ways, though perhaps not to the extreme that the Joker wanted to watch the world burn in that film. But in terms of entertainment, there certainly appears to be an audience for the disaster film, which depicts great forces of nature, or acts of war, or the invasion of aliens, etc., wiping out parts or all of the world in one fell swoop. I suppose the draw is the hero complex inside all of us, wondering how we might respond in such a situation, hoping that, if put into the same situation as the hunky hero, we might save everyone on the planet too. At the same time, there is something somewhat sadistic about the genre, reveling in seeing thousands, millions die in a tsunami or fire or earthquake. The best disaster movies, however, play on the most basic human elements of love and survival.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Woman in Gold (2015)

Directed by Simon Curtis
Written by Alexi Kaye Campbell

Cinema, as much as we may want to think of it in different terms, is in fact a business, with a bottom line to be met and money to be made. So while it is a nice thought that cinema may be this “thing” that allows for either self-expression or the depiction of some common human truth, at the end of the day that art, that creative expression can only be possible if it proves to make a dollar. I start with this sentiment only because Woman in Gold, a film with mostly positive critical response, has made a residence at my local independent art-house cinema, taking up one of only three screens in the building in favor of other very interesting films the theater could choose to go with. However, this choice makes sense, given the theater’s main demographic, proprietors, and benefactors. So I was not surprised, nearly a month into its stay at the theatre, to attend a screening with a good crowd.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tomorrowland (2015)

Directed by Brad Bird
Written by Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird

What is in store for us in the future? In whose hands does it lie? Well, of course we have all been told since birth that the children are the future, and of course they are. Walt Disney invested in the imagination of children and their vision of the future, of tomorrow land, for his entire career, going so far as to develop a whole region in his theme park called Tomorrowland, featuring the dreams of tomorrow, today. But, of course, as humans we are extremely flawed, doomed for doomsday, but when will it come? With the melting ice caps, the volatile military/crime state of the world, ever changing climate and weather events, tragic natural disasters, etc. it could be very soon.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Directed by George Miller
Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy & Nico Lathouris

To even attempt to act like I know how to start this review would be insincere. To even pretend like I had seen the original three Mad Max films would be entirely insincere. To state that Mad Max: Fury Road was one of my most anticipated summer movies would not be an understatement, and to say that it delivered on all promises and even exceeded my heightened expectations would be entirely accurate and not altogether surprising, given the exceedingly positive reviews and responses from critics and audiences alike. Released just on the heels of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max will not supplant the super heroes for blockbuster of the summer, but it will certainly thrill and please those who do choose to see it this year on the big screen.