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Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Top 107 Films of All Time (Unranked)

Apocalypse Now Annie Hall Casablanca The Godfather Citizen Kane Psycho Rear Window The Grapes of Wrath Brazil Toy Story Who Framed Roger Rabbit? McCabe & Mrs. Miller The Wild Bunch Straw Dogs Sunset Boulevard The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Star Wars The Wizard of Oz The Incredibles Tootsie Double Indemnity Raiders of the Lost Ark Chinatown All About Eve One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest It's a Wonderful Life Schindler's List Gone With the Wind Bringing Up Baby Kind Hearts and Coronets Letters From Iwo Jima GoodFellas Lawrence of Arabia The Hurt Locker Ratatouille Network Babel Amarcord Nowhere in Africa Ninotchka Cinema Paradiso Wages of Fear Notorious (1946) Charade Bonnie and Clyde Amelie The English Patient Dog Day Afternoon Hannah and Her Sisters The Sound of Music Forrest Gump The Bridge on the River Kwai Notes on a Scandal In the Heat of the Night All the President's Men As Good as It Gets Jaws The Social Network Amadeus The Dark Knight Aliens Pulp Fiction 12 Angry Men North By Northwest The Lives of Others The Pianist Fargo A Streetcar Named Desire Rosemary's Baby Roman Holiday Enchanted April In America Seven Beauties    Talk to Her All About My Mother Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind The Shawshank Redemption After Hours Memento The Killing Father of the Bride (1950) 2046 Requiem for a Dream Y Tu Mama Tambien Blue Velvet Amores Perros Modern Times The Last Picture Show American Beauty The King's Speech Sophie's Choice Midnight Cowboy A Clockwork Orange Taxi Driver Incendies The Usual Suspects Titanic The Artist Groundhog Day A Single Man Punch-Drunk Love A History of Violence Boogie Nights Little Children Rachel Getting Married

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Like Crazy Review

Like Crazy Review
2011, 89 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language

        Like Crazy is this year's Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner and it completely deserves it.  It follows two people, one British, Anna (Felicity Jones), and the other, American, Jacob (Anton Yelchin) as they fall in love.  But, eventually, Anna's student visa expires and she has to return to London.  So, the two try to make their long distance relationship work.
        This film works on so many levels due to so many factors, the main being the acting.  Felicity Jones, winner of the Special Jury Prize for Best Actress, is on her way to becoming a big star.  As Anna, she shows depth and raw power.  She, as did every other actor, mostly improvised her role.  Improvisation is an incredibly hard form of acting to master, but she does it here beautifully.  Anton Yelchin as her lover Jacob is also excellent as he and Jones have chemistry to rival the Hollywood greats.  The love between them is smoldering and real.  None of it ever feels forced or corny.
        Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar-nominee for last year's Sundance sensation Winter's Bone, also plays the role of Jacob's girlfriend, Sam, while Anna is away.  She adds a sweetness and warmth not usually exuded by supporting/minor characters in films.  Lawrence has an excellent career ahead of her as she will be in the 2012 film adaptation of The Hunger Games.
        Director Drake Doremus does an excellent job here as he directs his already phenomenally talented actors and coaxes natural performances out of them.  The story that he sets up here is completely believable; most will be able to relate in some way or another.  The pain and love felt by Jacob and Anna is beautifully rendered here.  In this film, it is the small moments that matter, such as a whispered conversation under the covers, or just one look of loneliness or joy.  This is most prominent in the final scene (I will not tell you what it is), where one touch and resulting facial expression convey the power of memories of time gone by.  This scene is also very similar to one in this movie's companion, Blue Valentine.
        In addition to all of the pros of this movie, the camerawork is mostly hand-held (not the nausea-inducing kind, though) adding another dimension of reality to the film.
        In terms of cons, I can't really say there are any.
        Overall, Like Crazy is a beautiful film of the ups and downs of love, a movie we have all seen before, but observed so meticulously and acted so well, that it makes this story and film feel fresh and new again.  I cannot wait to see what comes of these actors and director.  They deserve all of the accolades and  attention they can get.

-Joshua Handler

Watch with Blue Valentine and Annie Hall

Take Shelter Review

Take Shelter Review
2011, 120 minutes
Rated R for some language

Take Shelter is Jeff Nichol's second feature film and is brilliant.  I know I've said this about the past couple of films I've reviewed, but these films are the best out there.  I try to only go to see the best.  Life is too short and money is too scarce to see all of the junk.  Anyway, Take Shelter is amazing mainly due to its original story and Michael Shannon's mind-blowing performance.  He carries much of the film's weight himself.  Take Shelter focuses on Curtis LaForche and his increasingly frightening and intense visions of apocalyptic storms.  The question is: is Curtis a modern prophet or a paranoid schizophrenic?
Michael Shannon turns in a performance that only few could achieve.  He keeps the audience on the edge of their seats the whole time and provides an extra dose of power and emotion to an already exciting film. He completely convinces the audience that he is LaForche and keeps us guessing about whether he is or isn't crazy the whole time.  If he does not get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, something's wrong.

Jeff Nichol's screenplay is excellent as it raises compelling points about Curtis that mirror our whole culture.  It asks whether the people we think are crazy really are or if we are the crazy ones.  This question culminates into an intense climax that makes way for one of the most brilliant finales of the year.  The dialogue that Nichols gives his actors is completely realistic and the situations he places them in are perfect.  The pacing Nichols gives to this film is also perfect because it is not too fast and not too slow.  It just moves at its own pace and lets the audience savor the genius. Take Shelter is only Nichol's second film and I just saw that he has two more lined up, Mud and Native.  He is another exciting talent to watch for and I look forward to his next films.

Overall, Take Shelter is another American masterpiece.  It is powerfully acted, very suspenseful, satisfying, and has a very unique message for the times.  If this under seen film is playing in a theatre near you, you must see it.  I've had few moviegoing experiences this year that rival the raw power of Take Shelter.

-Joshua Handler

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene Review

Martha Marcy May Marlene Review
2011, 120 minutes
Rated for disturbing violent and sexual content, nudity, and language

Martha Marcy May Marlene marks the start of two careers of the most exciting talents to come along in a while, Sean Durkin and Elizabeth Olsen.  The film follows Martha (Olsen) as she escapes from a cult and goes to live with her sister.  During this stay, Martha becomes increasingly paranoid and has frequent flashbacks to her time with the cult, led by Patrick (Oscar nominee John Hawkes of Winter's Bone).  Every aspect of this film is absolutely brilliant, the most brilliant being the acting.  Olsen (younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) is electrifying in the lead role.  I hung on her every word, expression, and move.  Most good actresses can play a paranoid person, but it takes a really good one to hold their audience on every word and it takes an even better one to do it without much dialogue.  In Martha Marcy, Olsen is given long shots to stare at the camera and bare her character's soul to the viewer.  In one of the opening scenes when Martha calls her sister to tell her that she needs her to pick her up, Martha is so scared that the cult will come after her that she can barely speak.  The look of pure dread and terror on Olsen's face speaks more volumes than any dialogue could ever portray.  
Hawkes is once again phenomenal as the manipulative leader of the cult that Martha belongs to.  His character, Patrick, is quiet, smooth, calculating, and vicious.  In a certain climactic scene, these all come together in one frightening and unnerving moment.  If I were to spoil this one, it would be tragic.  Hawkes beautifully fleshes out his character and has a commanding screen presence.  Though his character in Winter's Bone is similar in many ways to Patrick, the two are just different enough to make each fascinating.
Jody Lee Lipes' cinematography of this film is the perfect match to Olsen and Hawkes as it is foggy, soft, and quiet.  It does not have the hyper-realistic and sharp quality of that of The Social Network or The Artist.  The dream-like air of calmness is deceiving because under that dreaminess is violence and paranoia.  The tranquility of the film's look makes the scenes of violence that much more shocking.  Also, the takes are long and focus on the actor's faces emphasizing their emotions and slowing the pace to allow the audience to savor the film.
Sean Durkin, making his feature film directorial debut with this film is an exciting talent to watch for as he also wrote the film.  The dialogue and situations rarely fell less than real and feel like the work of a master.
Overall, Martha Marcy May Marlene is a piece of masterful filmmaking from true artists to watch out for, especially Olsen.  Please go see this film, no matter what.  If you do not see it now, you will be missing a truly great film that will surely be recognized come Oscar time.

-Joshua Handler