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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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Ashley Judd, Pulp Queen

"Double Jeopardy is my jam!!! I ain't mad at cha, Miss Ashley! " - Dorian

"Ashley reminds me of Ida Lupino, who in the '40s had a lot of talent but was undervalued because of her association with genre potboilers." -Brookesboy

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Entries in Reviews (595)

Tuesday
Feb182014

About Last Weekend...

TFE loves the 80s all up in our modern bizness, here's Jose to do the remake vs original battle

As you well know by now, the holiday weekend at the box office saw the arrival of four new major film releases. Three of those were remakes of 1980s films. Over the weekend I (mis)treated myself to screenings of the originals followed by their remakes. I'm devoted.

Here I present you with my findings. Read the very scientific results after the jump starting with the horny melodrama Endless Love...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Feb112014

Looking at "Looking" (Episodes 1-4) 

I wasn't looking for Looking. My experience with gay or gay-adjacent television series has been hit and miss at best, mostly miss. I outright loathed "Queer as Folk" what with its hypersexualized fantasy version of Pittsburgh and occasionally questionable acting. But mostly I hated it because it was populated by sociopathic characters who consistently behaved like no one anyone would ever put up with in real life. Sociopathic characters are fine if its part of the point within your concept or setting but otherwise, nope. Will & Grace was fun but like most sitcoms, once it established its 75 jokes, it basically repeated them for years with new words like a long-running "fabulous!" game of Mad Libs. Recently though it seems like gay characters, at least on non-gay focused shows have been allowed something like two dimensions; we're getting closer and closer to three! 

And so far so good with Looking... 

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Feb092014

Review: The LEGO Movie

'If you build it, they will come.' They'll come in droves. It's 2014 and at this point, it's safe to say that Hollywood has mastered the art of pandering to the masses. They deliver exactly what we are pre-conditioned to want. The box office charts each year are now completely filled by franchises and pre-branded efforts. Frozen, for example, isn't a true original, but the 12th episode of the Disney Princess franchise that's been breaking box office records since (gulp) 1937. It's now extremely rare for a non-sequel non-pre-branded film to ever become a mammoth hit; only one "original" per year even cracks the annual top ten now (Gravity in 2013, Ted in 2012, none in 2011) which is a big downturn from the Aughts which themselves weren't as original as the Nineties.

All of which brings us to this weekend's chart topper, THE LEGO MOVIE. With its built-in nostalgia for childhood as well as a huge swath of pre-licensed characters to dangle in front of your 3D glasses (Gandalf, Batman, Han Solo, Wonder Woman, and dozens more), it's easy to approach the new hit expecting the worst. But there's no need! I'll use Bad Cop / Good Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson) to illustrate the situation and my own immediate mood swing as the movie built its case.

[BAD COP] The LEGO Movie would be a massive hit even if it were terrible.

[GOOD COP] Who cares? It's wonderful!

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan302014

Sundance Wrap-Up / Review Index

Thanks to everyone who commented on or read our Sundance coverage! We braved Park City's confounding bus system for you, you know. (If you appreciated it why not like us on Facebook and follow Michael and Glenn and I on twitter?)  I had attended Sundance twice before. Once before I was a writer during college and once officially as press in 2010 when the highlight was dancing with Parker Posey at a party! But this felt like a first time again, mostly because I brought a team so we did it up right. Well, mostly right. 75% right. We definitely didn't attend enough parties but there's always next year if -- no, I can't even think about leaving NYC again any time soon. I've woken up in my own cozy bed the past few mornings for the first time in two weeks (a quick LA trip was before Sundance, remember) and it feels great.

Park City was not without its charms. I got to take a ski lift "to work" each day which was fun. 

those are not actually tears of joy but tears from the cold

(Those are not actually tears of joy I'm shedding but tears from the cold. I love that kind of bracing cold weather.  But I digress.)

Between the three of us we saw over 60 films and wrote up half of them up for you! We'll get around to some of the others eventually... but the constant barrage of Sundance coverage must now end since it's Oscar time.

THE AWARDS
The Official Sundance Prizes in case you missed them. I heard joking on twitter that if you screen at Sundance you win an award but this isn't actually true. Of the 42 pictures we wrote about (!!!) only 7 of them won something.

Elisabeth Moss had every reason to smile at SundanceMY PERSONAL JURY OF ONE PRIZES
PICTURE: Love is Strange or Boyhood
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
ACTRESS: All hail Elisabeth Moss. For many actors "Peggy" on Mad Men would be a crowning glory. But after Top of the Lake and now, for our Sundance purposes, Listen Up Philip (reviewed) and The One I Love, it seems clear that Moss is just warming up. Embarassingly talented. 
ACTOR: Alfred Molina & John Lithgow in tandem in Love is Strange
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Vera Vitali, Blind
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jonathan Pryce, Listen Up Philip
MOST BEAUTIFUL: Andrew Leung in Lilting
BEST CAMEO: Shirley Venard, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
FUNNIEST BABY: Jude Swanberg in Happy Christmas 

OUR COVERAGE in alpha order by film
52 Tuesdays (Glenn) - world cinema director winner
Appropriate Behavior (Nathaniel) 
Blind (Nathaniel) - world cinema screenplay winner
Blue Ruin (Michael)
Boyhood (Nathaniel)
Calvary (Michael)
Cooties (Glenn)
Dear White People (Michael) - breakthrough talent winner
Drunktown's Finest (Glenn)
Ernest & Celestine (Tim, screened before the festival)
The Girl From Nagasaki (Glenn)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Glenn)
God's Pocket (Michael)
Happy Christmas (Nathaniel)
Happy Valley (Glenn)
Hellion (Nathaniel)
Hits (Michael)
I Origins (Glenn) -walter p sloan winner
Infinitely Polar Bear (Nathaniel)
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter (Nathaniel) - original music winner
Laggies (Michael)
Land Ho! (Glenn)
Last Days of Vietnam (Glenn)
Life Itself (Michael)
Lilting (Nathaniel) -world cinema cinematography winner
Listen Up Philip (Glenn)
Love is Strange (Nathaniel)
Mitt (Michael)
My Prairie Home (Glenn)
Only Lovers Left Alive (Michael, screened before the festival)
Obvious Child (Michael)
Private Violence (Glenn)
The Raid 2 (Glenn)
Rich Hill (Glenn) - Grand Jury Documentary winner
Song One (Nathaniel)
Stranger By The Lake (Nathaniel, screened before the festival) 
The Trip To Italy (Michael)
The Voices (Nathaniel)
War Story (Nathaniel) 
Web Junkie (Nathaniel)
What We Do In the Shadows (Glenn)
White Shadow (Nathaniel) 

Thursday
Jan302014

Sundance: 'Lilting' and 'Happy Christmas'

Our last two Sundance movies! But for the roundup/index post in the morning, this is our final bit of coverage from Sundance 2014. Let's end with two movies featuring faces and topics I'm willing to bet you'll love: Ben Whishaw in a gay culture-barrier drama and Melanie Lynskey and Anna Kendrick in a dramedy about sister-in-laws.

Chang Pei Pei & Ben Whishaw in "Lilting"

LILTING
Remember Chang Pei Pei as Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? She's just as pissed off in Lilting, but with good reason. Her only son Kai (Andrew Leung) has abandoned her by way of sudden death. This is not a Spoiler Alert: We see him in flashbacks but he's dead as the story begins. She's left grieving and alone... but for unexplained visits from her son's "best friend" (Ben Whishaw) though she can't fathom why he keeps dropping in since a) she hates him though she can't exactly say why and b) she doesn't technically know that her son was gay. Props to Pei Pei's performance that those two details are so willfully and obtusely fused together. She knows. By the very nature of its plot, particularly if you've lost someone you deeply loved way too early in life, Lilting is hugely moving; I was a wet-faced wreck. But while the film gets much thematic resonance from Chang's inability to adapt or communicate in her new homeland (she never learned the language and leaned on her son heavily), I did grow frustrated with the constant withholding. Ben keeps refusing to tell her the truth, even though he has every reason and backstory desire to do so. Lilting won the World Cinema Cinematography prize and, though its simple images have a kind of crystalline beauty, I can only assume this prize is for all the dreamy shots memorializing the peak beauty of Andrew Leung & Ben Whishaw lolling about shirtless and snug in bed. That peaceful aesthetic beauty amplifies the furiously unfathomable irreversible loss of love.

Grade: B
Distribution: Not at this point but LGBT films usually find their way eventually. It was much easier for LGBT to get traditional distribution years ago when gay people were loyal to the arthouses. (But that hasn't been the case in some time.)

The Cast of Happy Christmas © Larry Busacca/Getty Images

HAPPY CHRISTMAS
IMPORTANT NOTE: Chicago readers can see this later today at the Music Box Theater with Joe Swanberg in attendance doing a Q&A!
Happy Christmas is an intimate highly enjoyable and tighly focused dramedy about a husband and wife (Swanberg with Melanie Lynskey) with a newish baby (Jude Swanberg - too hilarious!) who are lending their basement to the husband's sister (Anna Kendrick) after her latest breakup. Leaving the theater afterwards I wondered how much better Swanberg's films might be with a little more time for second drafts or rehearsal. He keeps cranking them out and though they're all quality (I highly recommend All the Light in the Sky if you can find it) they don't quite crossover. But then I realized how uncharitable that was. Though Happy Christmas is perhaps too modest for greatness I must also quickly emphasize that it is wholly satisfying. Swanberg describes his impetus for making the movie as wanting to dramatize the process by which in-laws become siblings. That's a beautiful goal and a rare topic, too. Also rare: the opportunity to see great supporting actors like Lynskey dig into a large role and mix it up in zesty character-based comic scenes with Lena Dunham & Anna Kendrick. (Swanberg writes outlines but the actors fill in the details)

Lena Dunham & Anna Kendrick babysit Jude Swanberg in "Happy Christmas"

On a related in-house note, I wanted to give a shout out to a reader 'TB' who, in our recent post about Anna Kendrick and the Movie Musical, provocatively suggested the following:

that Anna Kendrick is emerging as the face of musicals is a fundamental sign that modern Hollywood doesn't understand what makes musicals work. She constantly positions herself as an actress above and outside her films, happily pointing to all of the places where it's not real. She's skittish around her own emotions. She has two feet FIRMLY planted in reality at all times. She's staunchly contemporary. It's not just that these are flaws, it's that these...directly work against what a musical needs to survive.

I thought that was an astute point even if I don't wholly agree that a very contemporary persona can't work within the movie musical, a more flexible genre than most will concede. But I am happy to report that there is a pretty great moment in a funny-touching scene in Happy Christmas with Lynskey wherein Kendrick totally embraces and uses this very quality described FOR her characterization, both playing it out and commenting on her own skittishness. I think she's really talented. And, as it turns out, self aware. 

Grade: B+
Distribution: Yes. It's Magnolia so a very limited release will happen eventually. No word yet on when. But if you're in Chicago,  GO SEE IT TODAY. It's fun and sweet and the ensemble is great.