Tag Archives: Reviews

Writing History with Lightning

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine.

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine.

Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker that has always been conscious of the films and auteurs that came before him.  Constantly paying homage to specific genres, actors, and directors, he demonstrates his love and admiration for cinema through his work.

His most recent offering, Inglourious Basterds, conveys these same reverences however it goes beyond any film he has made up to this point.  Tarantino has always been a master of engagement and subsequently we are very easily drawn into his works.  Our minds are tantalized by his stories, our ears become glued to his exceptional dialogue, and our eyes are stuck, mesmerized by his idiosyncratic shots.

Yet it is in Inglourious Basterds that Tarantino makes a career defining act by moving from being part of the conversation, which he has been doing brilliantly since the early 90’s, to starting one of his own.

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Magic by Hand

Ponyo magically gliding across the ocean.

Ponyo magically gliding across the ocean.

I haven’t seen much of Hayao Miyazaki’s work, but I am aware of his reputation.  I do know that his imagination is unrivaled, his stories are eccentric, and amazingly, all of his films are drawn by hand.  That’s right: no computers or cgi.  Cartoons made the way cartoons should be made.

Ponyo, based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, tells the story of a goldfish named Ponyo who falls in love with a boy Sōsuke (pronounced Soo-skay) and ultimately dreams of transforming into a real human girl.  It is a film that thrives on the magic it emits from its craft.  To quote Roger Ebert, “This is more than ‘artistry.’ It is art.”

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How I Learned About Love Through the Lens

Love at first sight in 500 Days of Summer.

Love at first sight in 500 Days of Summer.

“This is not a love story,” we are immediately told in Marc Webb’s 500 Days of Summer.  Instead, our omnipresent narrator instructs us that it is simply a tale of boy meets girl.  Perhaps that is why after making my way through the film I felt unsettled.  I yearned for more, but was pessimistic in believing that this film could provide me with the kind of closure I craved.

500 Days of Summer is by no means your average romantic comedy.  It aspires to be more: a meditation on the existence of love, the probability of us finding “the one,” channeling heartbreak into personal growth…..  (Cue the cynics who wish to roll their eyes.)  And while these aspirations are lofty and admirable, 500 Days doesn’t seem to be saying anything fresh about the subject.

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The Hair of the Dog

To a night we'll never remember.

To a night we'll never remember.

Todd Phillips is a money making genius.  Ever since his feature debut Road Trip, he has churned out low budget gazillion dollar grossing comedies that have a generation of youth busting their guts from every raunchy joke, improbable situation , and gratuitous flashing of women’s breasts.   He is a master of all these things and for good reason:  his premises are enticing, his down and out characters draw sympathy and his outrageous writing is memorized and performed endlessly by every frat boy and sorority girl.

And while it has brought him fame and fortune, I still can’t tell if he truly cares about his movies or if he’s simply going through the motions.  He knows what we want, or he thinks he does, and he unquestionably delivers.

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You Must Be This Tall To Ride The Nostalgia Coaster.

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart star in "Adventureland."

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart star in "Adventureland."

It’s 1987 and James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has just graduated from your typical liberal arts college.  He has his whole life laid out in front of him. He’ll go frolicking throughout Europe with his friends for the summer and then he’ll make his way to New York where he will attend graduate school at Columbia. The world is his oyster.

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Two Can Play At This Game

Clive and Julia keep things steamy in Duplicity.

Clive and Julia keep things steamy in Duplicity.

After an impressive directorial debut with Michael Clayton, Tony Gilroy takes a much more jovial approach with Duplicity, a quirky, yet entertaining cavalcade of espionage where we are constantly left guessing as to who’s backstabbing who and whether or not two former spies can pull off a heist that will change their lives.

The film opens with Ray Koval (played by the debonair Clive Owen, but what else would you expect?) meeting Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) at a July 4th celebration at the US Embassy in Dubai.  Ray is dashing and his persistence with Claire sets a nice tone for the film.  It is their first of many encounters that you continually admire.  The chemistry between Owen and Roberts is spot on.  His aggressive charm is countered with her skeptic wit and as expected, one thing leads another and they end up in his hotel room.  Little does he know that she is an agent for the CIA and that she has drugged him.  This allows her to avoid all of the social discomfort that comes at the conclusion of the casual “one night stand.”  I wish it were that easy all the time.

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