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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 

 

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Entries in Reviews (310)

Tuesday
Jul282015

Review: Pixels

Tim here. There's a good movie to be made out of Pixels, and it would be the easiest thing in the world to get there. First, keep all of the visual effects setpieces from the movie as it exists, for they are surprisingly beautiful and convincing considering how much lower the film's budget than the usual summer tentpole. Second, make exactly the opposite choices that the filmmakers actually did, because there's literally not one thing about the plot, characters, tone, morality, or basic comprehensibility about Pixels in this form that works.

The film began life in 2010 as a lovely little conceptual short by French filmmaker Patrick Jean (which you can watch here, and have a far more enjoyable 2.5 minutes than anything in the lugubrious 105 minutes of the feature), whence it was almost immediately nabbed by Adam Sandler, who wanted to transform it into a feature. And that's really sad, because of all the changes that would have clearly benefit Pixels at some stage in its development "don't make it an Adam Sandler vehicle" is unquestionably at the top of the list. [More...]

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Friday
Jul242015

The Look of Silence

Amir returns to his favorite 2014 festival film, newly arrived in theaters...

Midway through The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to the 2013 Best Documentary Nominee The Act of Killing, there is a seemingly innocuous moment that sends chills down the spine. The film’s protagonist, Adi, and a male companion are trudging through the forest as they discuss their assassinated family members. Slowly reciting the “Ashhad,” Muslim prayer for the departed, they arrive at a river that runs through the trees. The camera stops as they exit the frame. The forest’s natural humming and buzzing, and the slow movement of the water in dusk’s light lend the moment a haunting eeriness. The weight of their wounds lingers above the water; the emptiness of the space is terrifying.

This sequence is not unique to the structure of the film, a documentary whose emotional impact and, frequently, its thematic development, hinges on small, quiet moments; a shot of a motorcycle riding away toward the forests, a woman sitting still at the doorway of her house, a long gaze that captures the gravity of decades of history.  Every miniscule gesture is effective, and the cumulative impact of these small wonders adds up to a film that is, without hyperbole, one of the best documentaries ever made.

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Friday
Jul032015

Review: Magic Mike XXL

This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad. It is reprinted here with in the Director's Cut version. i.e. it's longer this time...

 

When Magic Mike opened three years ago it was something of a risky proposition. Male stars exploiting their bodies for a young male star’s dream project loosely based on his own stripping career which he felt no shame about? Who would have guessed? Cut to three years later: Magic Mike and Friends (minus The Kid and Dallas “alright alright alright”) have returned to movie theaters with much teasing and blockbuster fanfare to a relatively new pop cultural context they helped create: male objectification is increasingly the norm. Just ask Chris Pratt, the ascendant superstar of the moment (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) who has acknowledged that his new body was key to his ascendance and that he’s all for it… the objectification.

This wondrous new world of happily exposed man-flesh makes Magic Mike XXL feel curiously demure. Usually sequels go for more-more-more but XXL (the title is a misnomer) downsizes even as the stages get larger. There’s less plot since it’s essentially a road trip movie but most curiously there’s much less nudity even if the women this time around seem a lot more eager to see it.

This withholding is smart and funny at the beginning of the film in a sensational opening dance number starring Mike alone in his workroom. [More...]

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Monday
Jun152015

Review: Sense8, season 1

Tim here. We've had a little more than a week now to play around with the new Netflix series Sense8, which has hopefully been enough time for everybody to process it. For myself, I'm still working on that: it's a whole lot of show, frequently not to its benefit. But it dreams no little dreams.

The show is the brainchild of J. Michael Straczynski, whose Babylon 5 largely created the "pre-planned serialized television" in the 1990s, and siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski, of The Matrix and its many attempted follow-ups, all of which have been met with widespread derision and a small but freakishly adoring cult. In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that I'm part of that cult. I even really liked Jupiter Ascending. So feel free to not trust anything I have to say about anything ever again.

Straczynski's achingly earnest liberal humanism blends seamlessly into with the pie-eyed optimism and sincerity of the Wachowskis' post-Matrix work, especially the swooning globalist poetics of Cloud Atlas. The result is a show that wears its politics and its sentiment right out in the open, with actors navigating big mouthfuls of dialogue that sound like an op-ed first, a stoned philosophy student's stream-of-consciousness second, and things that human beings would ever say out loud to other human beings third (another legacy of Babylon 5. I'm not even entirely sure I mean that as a complaint. Artlessness born out of sincere passion is a very different thing than a simple lack of talent. It's charming, albeit in a shaggy way.

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Monday
Jun152015

Sydney Film Festival: '54' Rises Like a Phoenix

Glenn here offering thoughts on some of the films at this year's Sydney Film Festival. Here he is on the '54: Director's Cut'.

The history behind Mark Christopher’s wannabe decadent, sexually-charged disco epic 54 is almost as interesting as the real life nightclub it uses as its setting. Originally conceived as a disco-themed coming-of-age drama like Saturday Night Fever blended with the hedonistic dungeon-like underworld of Cruising, all signs pointed to the film being a crazed and sexy paean to a world that no longer exists. And then Miramax got involved. There's a long history of director's cuts of famous films or those from famous directors (Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now) or cult titles (Dark City). 54 was neither, so how did it get into this position?

After a few fated audience test screenings, Miramax decided to change tact with 54. Cutting out 40 minutes of footage that showed an openly queer antihero and replacing it with 25 minutes of newly filmed material aimed to exploit the exploding popularity of stars Ryan Phillippe and Neve Campbell. Released to scathing reviews, the film ultimately limped at the box office, Mike Myers had a supporting actor nomination rescinded by the New York Film Critics Circle (at least according to the director) and was likely never thought much of since. Mark Christopher’s career was essentially ruined in the process.

Knock on wood with more after the jump...

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Wednesday
Jun032015

Review: Aloha's Good Intentions Can't Rescue It

Michael C here to try to make sense of what I just watched. Cameron Crowe’s Aloha is one of the most bewildering cinematic experiences in recent memory.

Gone is the filmmaker behind Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire that could gracefully execute romantic gestures grand enough to capsize lesser movies. Gone even is the maker of follies like Elizabethtown who missed the mark by a mile but at least left a coherent mess in his wake. In his place is a guy that can barely scrape together a moment of believable human interaction in Aloha’s 105 minute running time. Crowe is so besotted with his notions of spiritual uplift against a mystical Hawaiian backdrop, so dizzy with big statements about life and love and redemption, that he appears to have lost his bearings completely. Aloha’s outpouring of emotion is fed into the malfunctioning machinery of the screenplay and spat out the other end as gobbledygook.

Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a cynic with a heart of gold in the Jerry Maguire mold. Gilcrest is a soldier coming off a series of vague professional disasters given the cushy task of obtaining a blessing from some native Hawaiians so the army can relocate an ancient burial ground (I think). Returning to Hawaii means seeing the girlfriend he ran out on eighteen years ago (Rachel McAdams) and her new family. Gilcrest is escorted on this mission by spunky young fighter pilot played by Emma Stone. The pairing generates all the romantic sparks of a guy babysitting his rambunctious younger cousin on a weekend road trip.

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