The Official Review Thread of 2013

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Sabin » Mon Jun 03, 2013 7:35 pm

Mister Tee wrote
I found myself wondering if the story might have worked better if the last act had come first, and we’d seen in reverse order how the meeting of the two sons came to have such meaning – because, the way it is, the fact that these two would run into one another at school is blindingly obvious, and the story doesn’t go anywhere particularly revelatory from there.

It doesn't but what made it work for me were the performances by Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan. They held my interest even as in the final stretches it became apparent that this storyline was essentially a bloated gesture. That it wasn't as intolerable as Blue Valentine was a huge surprise for me.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Jun 01, 2013 9:10 pm

I’ve been slow at posting any reactions to films I’ve seen this year – obviously nothing has deeply motivated me. But, a quick recap:

I see Mud has emerged as the sort-of-hit indie of the season. I like its general feel, and think the kid playing Ellis (along with most of the cast) is pretty good. But I think there’s a lot less there than meets the eye. The story is simultaneously too densely populated and too tightly orchestrated: there are multiples of almost everything – women betraying men, sons struggling with fathers, people resisting life-changes, even (with McConnaughey and Sam Shepard) initially reclusive Boo Radley equivalents – and all strands get resolved too firmly and neatly (above all, I’d have preferred McConnaughey’s fate remaining ambiguous). The script also has a tendency toward redundancy – Ellis keeps having encounters and then recounting them to someone else verbatim. (If he’d lied or held back details occasionally, it would have meant something) There’s a general shit-karma feel to the story – I spent most of the film waiting for things to come crashing down – but the payoff, while loud and sort of flashy, didn’t come to all that much. And the resolution, while posing as uplift, feels like it contains a hint of misogyny (“Guys, pick yourselves up and find another girl… after your no-good bitch betrays you!”)

Oh, and, serious question: if the motel was supposedly under 24 hour watch, how was it Ellis was pretty much able to come and go at will?

The Place Beyond the Pines has some of the same aspect as Mud: artistically ambitious, but in the end not really about enough to justify its bigness. Pines’ canvas is, in time terms, far more broad than Mud’s – it spans decades, not Mud’s few days – and deals with an equally broad, diverse cast of characters. I found myself wondering if the story might have worked better if the last act had come first, and we’d seen in reverse order how the meeting of the two sons came to have such meaning – because, the way it is, the fact that these two would run into one another at school is blindingly obvious, and the story doesn’t go anywhere particularly revelatory from there. I liked the first two segments more – the first if only because Ryan Gosling (and Eva Mendes) made it interesting, and the second because there were some interesting, shades of gray developments (like Liotta and gang shaking down Mendes, only to give all the money to Cooper). I admire Cianfrance’s obvious desire to make a major movie, but wish he’d come up with something more tangible.

I saw 42 because two people told me it was better than the reviews had indicated; those people lied to me. I know, since The Natural, all big moments on a baseball field have to be accompanied by heavenly choirs, but 42 goes beyond that: Robinson being called into Rickey’s office gets the same soundtrack treatment. This is also the kind of movie where every key on-field challenge is met by a clutch hit – pure fantasy in a sport where people who fail 7 of 10 times are the big stars. The story of Jackie Robinson is obviously an important one, but the only decent scenes in the movie are the ones where Phillies’ manager Ben Chapman lets loose (and then rationalizes) his stream of racial taunts. The rest is at strictly Blind Side level.

The surprise about The Great Gatsby is how Gatsby-ish it is. The trailer (and Moulin Rouge) had prepared me for a visual assault accompanied by anachronistic music. There’s only some of the former (less and less as the film goes on) and practically none of the latter – lots more Gershwin and Porter than Jay-Z. And. other than that, Luhrmann actually hews pretty close to Fitzgerald. The question remains, as it did after the Redford/Clayton collaboration, was this novel ever a real candidate for a decent film? Don’t really know; I’m so over-familiar with the material, I almost don’t have a reaction. Well, two small reactions: I hope DiCaprio’s initial appearance, accompanied by fireworks and Rhapsody in Blue, was meant to evoke laughter, because it’s a howl; and, apart from that, DiCaprio is probably the best thing about the movie – he continues his ascent to maybe-respectable grown-up actor.

And that’s been Spring at my local cinema.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Jun 01, 2013 8:20 pm

I can't say I was wild about Behind the Candelabra.

Like everyone, I admired the two lead performances. Douglas is an actor I've always felt was trying a bit hard, but here he slips effortlessly into Liberace's persona without seeming like he's just doing an impression. He nicely conveys Lee's mixture of self-doubt and abject vanity. Damon may have the more difficult role, but he's equally impressive: conveying the naivete of youth without overdoing it into simpleton territory. He's believably innocent in some senses, even while making it clear he knows the bargain into which he's stepping.

It may stem simply from being aware of where this relationship ended up, but I found it hard to much enjoy the early "good times", when I knew they were leading inexorably to something fairly ugly. The downward trajectory of the relationship was pretty obvious from the start, and, while there were a few singular details (like the bizarre "Make him look like a young me"), on the whole the scenes felt pretty familiar from stories of any gender. And, maybe this is just me, but I've come to be mortally bored by watching scenes of people too hopped up on cocaine to function. Every story of a junkie is, in the end, the same story, and the only thing Scott's addiction did to the narrative was give Liberace a rationalization for something I had the feeling he'd have done eventually anyway.

It may be the story was striving for more: the fact that Lee summons Scott while he's in his death throes suggests in some way this was a greater love than it appeared from what we saw. But I have to say I didn't feel that while I was watching. So, a mediocre response from me -- I'm puzzled by the critical huzzahs.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Sabin » Sat Jun 01, 2013 10:28 am

There something that doesn't sit entirely easily with me about Behind the Candelabra, a movie that I certainly appreciated and would recommend for its craftsmanship. I forget the critic who wrote this, but like most of Steven Soderbergh's films it's about transactions. The film, I mean. I'll get to Damon and Douglas in a second. They enter into essentially an adoption pact and both of them fail to hold up their end of the bargain, which to me felt loosely defined although I get that that's the point. It plays to me like a several years long spiraling descent not unlike a horror film. I can't say I found much camp in it so there wasn't a winking factor to it, which I might have appreciated because it ricochets terrifyingly from one WTF?!? to another. So at a base level, I'll say something I didn't expect of the Liberace marriage pact chamber drama: it's compulsively watchable.

Much in the same way that I think Soderbergh's movies are about transactions, I don't think they say much about transactions. I think they amount to aesthetic coups. At this pint, his movies certainly has a style and a feel and they fit Behind the Candelabra, but while Damon and Douglas give pretty beautiful performances I found the film emotionally distant. When Damon tearfully acknowledges that one moment is the first time Douglas has been nice to him in years (or some increment of time), I felt like I was watching specimens and I don't know how I feel about that. I wonder if there's just too much difference in sensibility between what Richard LaGravanese is writing and how Steven Soderbergh directs. The very end of the film is supposed to feel transcendent and instead it felt like an entirely clinical dream sequence.

While I can't quite reconcile all that in Behind the Candelabra, it is pretty damn watchable.Michael Douglas is terrific. He's such an underrated actor and he's pretty perfect in the film. I don't know if Matt Damon is perfect but Scott is a difficult role and the film would sink if the right actor wasn't cast because you wouldn't care and you'd just be waiting for Liberace to come back on-screen (by which I mean it's likelier that Liberace is going to attract a star than Scott Thorson; if not Michael Douglas, then Robin Williams or somebody). It's impossible to predict if Michael Douglas would be win, but he would certainly be nominated and pick up a slew of critic's awards. The big thing standing in his way would be the fact that he would likely be a sole nominee, unless Damon was nominated in Support. Which he likely would be. I think there's a lot more to say about Matt Damon's performance honestly. Matt Damon might be too old but he finds the right balance of vacuous and dreamer, the latter of which the drugs scarily consume and replace with a raw nerve paranoia. I don't know if LaGravanese quite finds Scott but Damon does.

"Too gay" doesn't mean anything anymore. The reason that this film went to HBO was because Michael Douglas doesn't just enjoy having sex, but we get to see it too. In Brokeback Mountain, Jake and Ennis' doomed romanticism is fetishized in how much they are kept apart and tortured by their desires. Also, Jim Carrey may have done a number of scenes in [the awesome] I Love You Philip Morris but that film took forever to make, was released in the UK, and then awaited US release for over two years because of a soundtrack dispute that nobody felt like shelling out the additional cash for to remedy.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jun 01, 2013 6:36 am

NOW YOU SEE ME
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Melanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Common, Michael Kelly.
Dir: Louis Letterier.

The concept is fun: A quartet of magicians pull off elaborate illusions and rob banks of corrupt business men and give it away to their audiences. It has a fantastic ensemble cast. Though, I have to admit, the director, Louis Letterier, made me cast doubts concerning this film. Having now seen it, I have to say the first two thirds of the film is undeniably fun. The ensemble of actors grab the material and seem to actually have fun with it. The third act, however, stretches believability a bit. Though I was willing to forgive it at first and suspend my disbelief and logic, then came the final reveal and the film pretty much lost me. It does not COMPLETELY ruin the film but it was bad enough for me to knock down my rating a couple of notches.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby FilmFan720 » Fri May 31, 2013 10:08 am

Reza wrote:
Big Magilla wrote: I thought Matt Damon had the tougher part. At 42 it's more than a bit difficult to convincingly portray an 18-23 year-old but Damon pulls it off even if he did get considerable help from CGI as did Michael Douglas. Their body makeup was digitally produced. Douglas' piano playing was also digitally produced. His head was grafted onto a Liberace impersonator who actually tickled the ivories.


So in other words Douglas and Damon had no chance of getting nominated even if the film had debuted on the big screen? After all Audrey Hepburn was ignored because her singing was dubbed in My Fair Lady.


No, Michael Douglas would have been a slam-dunk nominee. Plenty of actors have been nominated for performances with dubbed singing (Deborah Kerr is the first to pop into my mind). Audrey Hepburn was probably not nominated because she's awful in My Fair Lady, but that's another conversation.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Reza » Fri May 31, 2013 9:52 am

Big Magilla wrote: I thought Matt Damon had the tougher part. At 42 it's more than a bit difficult to convincingly portray an 18-23 year-old but Damon pulls it off even if he did get considerable help from CGI as did Michael Douglas. Their body makeup was digitally produced. Douglas' piano playing was also digitally produced. His head was grafted onto a Liberace impersonator who actually tickled the ivories.


So in other words Douglas and Damon had no chance of getting nominated even if the film had debuted on the big screen? After all Audrey Hepburn was ignored because her singing was dubbed in My Fair Lady.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Big Magilla » Fri May 31, 2013 5:51 am

A couple of thoughts on Behind the Candelabra.

HBO is releasing the film theatrically in Europe. They could have given it a limited theatrical run in the U.S. to qualify for Oscars prior to the TV airing if they chose to. The film, however, was their most watched program in nine years.

I actually fell asleep watching the 11 P.M. second showing Sunday night and had it watch it Monday afternoon. This was not the first Liberace TV movie, or the first to focus on his relationship with Scott Thorson, although both dueling biopics of 1988 put more of an emphasis on his relationship with his mother who comes off as a monster, not the sweet, if daffy, old lady played by Debbie Reynolds in Soderbergh's film. Liberace with Andy Robinson and Rue McClanahan is generally regarded as the better of the two although Liberace: Behind the Music with Victor Garber and Maureen Stapleton had its moments.

I thought Matt Damon had the tougher part. At 42 it's more than a bit difficult to convincingly portray an 18-23 year-old but Damon pulls it off even if he did get considerable help from CGI as did Michael Douglas. Their body makeup was digitally produced. Douglas' piano playing was also digitally produced. His head was grafted onto a Liberace impersonator who actually tickled the ivories.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Fri May 31, 2013 2:37 am

Reza wrote:Matt Damon "pounding" Michael Douglas from behind should be old hat. After all Jim Carrey did that in a number of scenes in one of his old big screen films. Wonder what's the real reason Candelabra was made by HBO snd not by a studio?


Soderbergh wanted to make the film but the only studio that said yes to him AND agreeing to his terms was HBO. His experience trying to get that film made contributed to him deciding to quit making films.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Reza » Fri May 31, 2013 12:32 am

Matt Damon "pounding" Michael Douglas from behind should be old hat. After all Jim Carrey did that in a number of scenes in one of his old big screen films. Wonder what's the real reason Candelabra was made by HBO snd not by a studio?

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Greg » Thu May 30, 2013 2:33 pm

flipp525 wrote:Behind the Candelabra (2013)

From what I've been able to gather, Behind the Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh's swan song, was rejected by every Hollywood studio for being "too gay" (and we thought we were in a post-Brokeback world, huh? WTF is "too gay"?).


Could it be in this case "too gay" means too flamboyant? Jack and Ennis were sheepherders, after all, and, Liberace was, well, Liberace. Or, is Behind The Candelabra even more graphic than Brokeback Mountain? Your review makes it seem so.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby flipp525 » Thu May 30, 2013 1:39 pm

Behind the Candelabra (2013)

From what I've been able to gather, Behind the Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh's swan song, was rejected by every Hollywood studio for being "too gay" (and we thought we were in a post-Brokeback world, huh? WTF is "too gay"?) Which is a shame, because if this had received a theatrical release, Michael Douglas would be practically unbeatable for Best Actor. His performance as the over-the-top pianist Liberace is almost too good. Playing his first "real life" character, he dives into the glittery excesses of the character with abandon and comes out the other end practically unrecognizable. This kind of phrasing is bandied about too often when we start talking about big disappearing acts as performances, but I really did forget that I was watching Michael Douglas by the end of the movie ("Michael Douglas IS Liberace!"). He captures the kind of asexual sweetness Liberace used on-stage to woo the flyover fraus in the audiences, but also the lizard-like way he had of catching young men in his golden net. Matt Damon has never been better as Scott Thorson, Liberace's lover of five years, whose memoir provides the focus of the film. The script cleverly avoids some of the typical bio-pic pitfalls by keeping its focus strictly on the Thorson/Liberace relationship. But what also emerges is a portrait of late '70s and early '80s that, I would say, rivals Boogie Nights in verisimilitude and production value.

Debbie Reynolds is unrecognizable as Liberace's mother and has a fantastic scene with a slot machine. And Rob Lowe steals every scene he's in as the creepy plastic surgeon who reconstructs Thorson's face to look like a younger Liberace and turns him onto the "California diet" of pills. Cheyenne Jackson's nearly silent performance, as Damon's predecessor, is also quite good. The make-up for this film alone should win an award, it's just stupendous.

I never thought I'd see the day when I'd witness Matt Damon pounding Michael Douglas from behind as the latter snaps an ampule of poppers, but, well, that has now happened. Bravo to HBO for taking this on. I'm really looking for to The Normal Heart now (one can only hope that Larry Kramer doesn't suffocate the production with his particular brand of helicoptering).
Last edited by flipp525 on Thu May 30, 2013 2:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Sabin » Tue May 28, 2013 8:21 pm

Quick thoughts...

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)

Not sure if it's my favorite Baumbach but it might be. It's his strongest piece of filmmaking. This is a terrifically brisk film that marches to the drum in Frances' head. She hasn't begun to get her life together and it feels like she's time traveling into the future. So many wonderful moments are funny in such an off-handed way which is crucial for a movie that would be unbearable if it wasn't consistently amusing. I wish that the film had a little more to say, some stealth moral tale to come away with, and I wish it wasn't quite so resistant to the idea that people move on without you, but this is definitely going to be one of my favorite films of the year.


Iron Man 3 (Jon Favreau)

The Avengers and The Dark Knight aside, the biggest movie of the year/summer is usually the most forgettable. Iron Man 3 is pretty darn forgettable, but I found it interesting from a distance to watch Shane Black write a comic book movie. Usually comic book movies concern the destruction of the world or something like that. Shane Black movies hide their plot mechanics until the second half and usually concern someone who has kidnapped the mayor's daughter or something. For a plot like that, you don't need Iron Man. Spider-Man will do if Murtaugh is unavailable. On the surface, Iron Man 3 is about a bold new threat but it remains largely abstract until the second half of the film, so the filmmaker's efforts to impart a comic book "Most Important Thing Ever" weight (even with an Iron Man lightness) doesn't really work, especially when the villain is as fire-breathingly goofy as Guy Pearce. Really, Iron Man 3 is a water-treading exercise. No doubt, Tony Stark has to come out of retirement for The Avengers 2 but he super doesn't want to. Nothing else can really happen in this shared universe. That said, I had fun. There are laughs in Iron Man 3. The decision to keep Tony out of the armor for as long as they do was a terrific decision. And there is something borderline subversive of its cynicism towards global terrorism. But it's also choppily edited, long, and inessential. Worth checking out with lowered expectations.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun May 26, 2013 9:07 am

EPIC
Cast: Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Beyonce Knowles, Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis, Aziz Ansari, Chris O'Dowd, Steven Tyler, Pitbull (voices).
Dir: Chris Wedge.

First the positives: The film has GORGEOUS animation and eye-popping production design and character design. The concept of the film had potential despite the fact that it IS essentially Fern Gully meets The Borrowers. However, the film never really tries to do anything special with the concept and instead goes for something just a tad generic. It also doesn't help that some of the dialogue is kind of atrocious and the attempts at humor fall mostly flat despite the talents of Chris O'Dowd and Aziz Ansari. It's nothing offensive or horrible about it and kids will find it entertaining enough but it won't be too impressive for anyone over 12.

Oscar Prospects: Animated Feature is not out of the question (it is beautifully animated after all). It has a decent-ish shot at Original Song and an even less than decent-ish shot at Original Score.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 25, 2013 10:18 am

FAST & FURIOUS 6
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Luke Evans, Gina Carano, Chris "Ludacris Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot.
Dir: Justin Lin.

I actually dreaded watching this after disliking Fast Five. But I decided, what the hell, give it a try. And to my surprise, I found myself liking this one quite a bit more. The film is ridiculous, dumb, silly and stupid and it knows it. But what it lacks for logic and substance, it makes up for in extremely well-shot and edited action sequences (where you actually know what's going on, what are the stakes, etc.) I felt the plot in this one is a bit better because it has a more interesting villain and the car chases, fights and crashes are a bit more engaging and exciting. I mean, who WOULDN'T wanna see Michelle Rodriguez and Gina Carano kick each other's asses? Right? Still not a fan of this series but this time, at least I could see the appeal.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B-


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