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Friday, August 30, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: 12 YEARS A SLAVE to Have U.S. Premiere at NYFF51

Chiwetel Ejiofor as "Solomon Northup" and Michael Fassbender as "Edwin Epps" in 12 YEARS A SLAVE.
Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight

The following is a press release from the Film Society of Lincoln Center:

NYFF51.Letterhead-header Film Comment logo


to present the U.S. Premiere of director Steve McQueen's

McQueen, and cast members, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender,
Lupita Nyong’o, Adepero Oduye, Paul Dano and Alfre Woodard
will be on hand to present the film

New York, NY (August 30, 2013) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Film Comment Magazine announced today that they will host the U.S. premiere of Steve McQueen’s new film, 12 Years A Slave, on Tuesday, October 8th at the New York Film Festival. McQueen will be on hand to present the film along with cast members, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Adepero Oduye, Paul Dano and Alfre Woodard. Tickets will be available starting Sunday, September 8th, when tickets go on sale to the general public for the festival.

Gavin Smith, New York Film Festival Selection Committee member and Editor-in-Chief of Film Comment Magazine said, “Film Comment is delighted to be able to champion 12 Years A Slave at the New York Film Festival. This is a powerful work about a subject that remains vital and I have no doubt that it’s one of the year’s most important films.”

"I am honored that 12 Years a Slave will be presented at the New York Film Festival in association with Film Comment” said director, Steve McQueen.  “For me, this feels like a true home-coming for Solomon as he was from New York and I'm delighted that his story can be celebrated here."

Steve McQueen’s courageous new film takes an unflinching close-up look at a subject that has rarely, if ever, been confronted with such unvarnished directness in American cinema. The film is based on the memoir of freeman Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who was abducted in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and delivered to slave trader James Burch (Paul Giamatti), bought by gentleman farmer William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and finally sold to cruel and mentally unbalanced cotton grower Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), a figure of both horror and pathos who comes to embody the true savagery—and insanity—of slavery. Screenwriter John Ridley, McQueen’s regular cameraman Sean Bobbitt and producer Brad Pitt (who plays Canadian carpenter Samuel Bass in the film’s final section) each make vital contributions to this difficult and troubling film, sure to reignite a dialogue on the most painful chapter in America’s still young life as a nation. Fox Searchlight Pictures will release 12 Years A Slave on October 18.

Regency Enterprises and River Road Entertainment present a River Road, Plan B and New Regency production in association with Film4. Producers are Brad Pitt (MONEYBALL), Dede Gardner (EAT, PRAY, LOVE), Jeremy Kleiner (WORLD WAR Z), Bill Pohlad (TREE OF LIFE), Steve McQueen (SHAME), Arnon Milchan (BROKEN CITY) and Anthony Katagas (KILLING THEM SOFTLY); executive producers are Tessa Ross (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) and John Ridley with Jonathan McCoy as co-producer.  The filmmaking team includes Director of Photography Sean Bobbitt, BSC (HUNGER, SHAME); production designer Adam Stockhausen (MOONRISE KINGDOM); editor Joe Walker (HUNGER, SHAME); Academy Award® nominated costume designer Patricia Norris (THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD) and Academy Award® winning composer Hans Zimmer (INCEPTION, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES).

The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Kent Jones, also includes: Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Cinematheque Programming; Marian Masone, FSLC Associate Director of Programming; Gavin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Film Comment; and Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Film Comment and Sight & Sound.

General Public tickets will be available on September 8th. Members and Patrons of the Film Society of Lincoln Center have the opportunity to purchase single screening tickets in advance of the General Public. VIP Passes for the New York Film Festival are on sale now. For more information about becoming a Film Society Member visit More ticket information for the New York Film Festival will be available on

Film Society of Lincoln Center
Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize established and emerging filmmakers, support important new work, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility and understanding of the moving image. Film Society produces the renowned New York Film Festival, a curated selection of the year's most significant new film work, and presents or collaborates on other annual New York City festivals including Dance on Camera, Film Comment Selects, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, LatinBeat, New Directors/New Films, NewFest, New York African Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival, New York Jewish Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, Rendez-vous With French Cinema, and Spanish Cinema Now. In addition to publishing the award-winning Film Comment Magazine, Film Society recognizes an artist's unique achievement in film with the prestigious "Chaplin Award." The Film Society's state-of-the-art Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, located at Lincoln Center, provide a home for year round programs and the New York City film community.

The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, American Airlines, The New York Times, Stonehenge Partners, Stella Artois, illy café, the Kobal Collection, Trump International Hotel and Tower, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Support for the New York Film Festival is also generously provided by Hearst Corporation, HBO®, Dolby, Paramount Hotel, ADK Packworks, WABC-7, and WNET New York Public Media.

For more information, visit and follow @filmlinc on Twitter.


Juno Temple, left, and Kathryn Hahn, right, in Jill Soloway's AFTERNOON DELIGHT
Photo courtesy of The Film Arcade

2013, 97 minutes
Rated R for strong sometimes graphic sexual content, language and some drug use

Review by Joshua Handler

Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Afternoon Delight is not worthy of that prize, but proves to be a fairly good showcase for writer/director Jill Soloway's talents, as she shows some serious promise as a fresh new voice in American Cinema.  Afternoon Delight tells the story of Rachel (Kathryn Hahn), a bored housewife who decides to take in a stripper, McKenna (Juno Temple), as a nanny for her young son. 

Soloway has a sharp ear for dialogue.  There is no doubt about that.  She captures the lives of modern Jewish moms so accurately that I felt like I was watching my family members.  The conversations are hilariously realistic and, at times, extremely uncomfortable to listen to.  It is with these uncomfortable moments, though, that Soloway shines.  She throws these moments in out of nowhere, almost as if she wants to make sure her audience is still awake, and as uncomfortable as these moments are, they are very funny and revealing.  

For the first 80 minutes of Afternoon Delight, Soloway has something solid.  She wrote some really good dialogue, created a good world, and tells a somewhat compelling story.  Suddenly, though, Soloway loses what she had by tidying everything up far too quickly, adding in an odd dose of unpleasantry, and making everything far too predictable and contrived.  It is at this point too that it became evident that Soloway had built a story up that was set up to go nowhere.  By the time Afternoon Delight falls across the finish line, it is an aimless mess, which is truly too bad, as I was enjoying it up until then.  If Soloway works on her story structure, she should have a big hit somewhere down the road.

The big saving grace of Afternoon Delight is its performances, particularly those of Kathryn Hahn (We're the Millers, Revolutionary Road) and Juno Temple.  Hahn is a revelation as Rachel.  In this film, she is as close to a modern-day Jewish mother as anyone I've seen on film.  An adept comedienne, Hahn shows that while she is funny, she's a serious actress, and her ability to conjure up a large range of emotions using solely her face is her greatest asset.

Juno Temple (Killer Joe, LovelaceAtonement) has a big career ahead of her.  The diversity of roles that she has played over the past few years is truly incredible and with each role she takes, she brings depth that many other actors wouldn't bring.  This is particularly evident in Afternoon Delight.  She could have played McKenna as a stereotypically ditzy, trashy stripper.  However, she plays her with far more depth.  She plays her as a human being, not an object or stereotype, and makes McKenna a character to care about.

Jane Lynch has a wickedly amusing supporting role as Lenore, Rachel's psychiatrist and Josh Radnor is quite good as Rachel's workaholic husband, Jeff.

I have one final complaint with this film: it looks as if it wasn't color-corrected.  I realize that Soloway may have tried to match  the look of the film with Rachel's state of mind, but whatever the case, it looks as if Soloway shot the film and never bothered to make it look good.  The coloring is very bland, which takes away from much of its life.  

Overall, Afternoon Delight is a bit of a mess, but worth viewing if you can relate to its characters.  It is truly an actor's showcase and watching Hahn and Temple work their magic is really something special. This is not a film I'd recommend seeing in theaters, as there is far too many better movies in theaters, however this would make a good rental, as it has a lot going for it.



Courtesy of Cinedigm and CNN Films

2013, 85 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Penny Lane's Our Nixon is a unique film composed almost exclusively of home videos taken by Nixon's closest aides during his presidency.  These videos were just released by the FBI and give a more personal view of Nixon's presidency.

The film portrays the Nixon Administration as a dysfunctional group of friends who managed to run the United States.  As one of the men interviewed in the film puts it, "It was a very unnatural kind of life, and you had the feeling you were in the middle of a great big brilliantly-lighted, poorly-run TV show."  

Our Nixon is a film full of irony that is helped by the fact that we all know how Nixon's presidency ended.  Because we know about Watergate, we wait and wait until it finally hits.  From the beginning, we get the feeling that this is a fragile presidency waiting to be cracked open by some scandal.  When the scandal hits, it not only cracks the presidency, it shakes the country as well.  

The insider view of this administration could have been used to make a penetrating, possibly critical portrait of it, but instead director Penny Lane opts for the less penetrating, more entertaining route, which is both good and bad.  While this film is undeniably interesting and compelling, it would have been made more interesting and compelling if some analysis of the administration was included.  Much of the whole film feels like a tease.  We get audio recordings of some really revealing conversations and pieces of information that allow us a glimpse below the surface, but as soon as we get that glimpse, the film moves on.  This happens when it is revealed that Nixon told pockets of people different information and had those that heard the information keep it secret from other cabinet members.  There were many secrets kept and this was the cause of much of the dysfunction.  This would have been a great topic to explore, but Lane glosses over it.

That being said, Our Nixon is a well-constructed documentary that distinguishes itself from many other docs because of the material presented.  No other documentary has ever shown material like this and getting the opportunity to witness it is reason enough to seek this movie out.  The most amusing thing Our Nixon shows is how Nixon shot himself in the foot.  His administration collapsed from the inside.

Overall, Our Nixon is a solid documentary that should entertain, but not enlighten, history and documentary buffs.  With the wealth of material Lane had at her disposal, Our Nixon should have been better, but was plenty entertaining in its own right.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013


(L-r) SELENA GOMEZ as The Kid and ETHAN HAWKE as Brent Magna in Warner Bros. Pictures and Dark Castle Entertainment's action thriller "GETAWAY," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Photo credit: Simon Varsano
©2013 ADF Acquisitions, LLC

2013, 89 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense action, violence and mayhem throughout, some rude gestures, and language

Review by Joshua Handler

Getaway epitomizes late-summer junk cinema.  It features two bigger-name actors and has no substance, all action.  There are some redeeming aspects of Getaway, but a truly terrible script nearly kills the movie.  Getaway tells the story of an innocent man, Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke), who with a teen girl (Selena Gomez) drive around performing tasks around Bulgaria according to the directions of an unnamed madman who has kidnapped Magna's wife.

Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez turn in fine performances.  The script doesn't ask either of them to do anything special, and they don't.  

Director Courtney Solomon (An American Haunting) shows some definite potential.  While this movie is riddled with logic holes and feels very cheap, Solomon directs some action scenes with particular energy.  While the action is fairly generic, it kept me entertained.  The action scenes feature an obscene amount of cuts which keeps the action moving at an extremely fast pace (too fast at many points).  In the last part of the film, Hawke's character is chasing someone and the camera films the action from the front of Hawke's car, immersing the viewer in the action, making it feel as if they were on the chase.  This shot is genius.  It is quite long, and it is thrilling watching this car chase from the first-person perspective.  It gave me an adrenaline rush equaled by very few movies this lamentable summer.  That being said, this one shot does not save the movie.

The screenplay for Getaway is terrible.  I can't imagine how someone would have let it slide with all of its logic holes.   Take the following as an example.  The car Magna drives is wired with cameras so that the madman can see what's happening in the car.  Gomez' character finds a poorly-hidden microphone placed so that the madman can listen to Gomez and Hawke's characters.  Since this is the case, it would seem smart not to reveal that you're onto the villain's plan and reveal your own where he can listen.  That is not the case in Getaway, where the protagonists talk freely in front of this microphone.  One would then think that the villain would punish them by killing Magna's wife.  Nope.  Where is the logic behind this?  This is certainly the biggest hole, but unfortunately isn't the only one.  

The screenplay doesn't win points for originality either.  There is one very important point that is ripped directly off of the far superior Speed.  The dialogue that comes out of the villain's mouth is laughable.  I was never invested in the story, as it is derivative and weak.  People need to realize that good action doesn't make up for a bad script.  There are no two ways around it.  I have been lamenting inherently good movies marred by poor screenplays all summer and I am thrilled that we are moving into fall awards season, as the best screenplays tend to surface here. 

I was very bothered by the large amount of innocent policemen that are killed in Getaway.  Action movies normally don't have strong morals and I do not care about morality in movies (look at my four-star review of A SERBIAN FILM), but it was mildly disturbing to watch innocent policemen killed without consequence.  

Overall, Getaway is just another disposable summer junk movie.  This movie is best for those looking for a really mindless time at the movies.  Even then, I'd recommend that they see something else like Elysium (at least that's well-made and isn't poorly scripted).  It is depressing to see a film that features a shot as excellent as the one described above blow nearly everything else.  As mentioned, Solomon has potential, but he should not be directing horrid screenplays like this one.


Sunday, August 25, 2013


Eric Bana, left, and Rebecca Hall, right, in CLOSED CIRCUIT
©2013 Focus Features

2013, 99 minutes
Rated R for language and brief violence

Review by Joshua Handler

Closed Circuit is a new thriller directed by John Crowley (Boy A), written by Oscar-nominee Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, a fantastic movie), and starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall.  It is one of those movies that justifies the existence of the word "meh".  Closed Circuit has very little personality and originality.  It could have been a riveting, edge-of-your-seat thriller, but instead turned out to be a slightly-above-average one that left absolutely no impression.  Honestly I remember how I felt afterward, but I remember very little of what actually happened in the film.  I didn't remember much shortly after it was over.

Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana turn in characteristically solid performances.  They don't have to do anything out of the ordinary, yet still seem to try to do their best with the little material they have to work with.  Ciarán Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Jim Broadbent have supporting roles.  They are also good, but were likely picking up a paycheck with this one.  Those two are among the most talented actors working on "the other side of the pond", but like Bana and Hall are not asked to do anything special. 

In terms of the story, Closed Circuit held my attention throughout, was never boring, and yet was somehow never riveting.  There are some well-executed sequences, particularly a chase scene near the end, but they add up to little.  The mystery at hand was interesting to a point, until I discovered that I'd heard it so many times before which made me not care anymore.  The biggest problem with Closed Circuit is that it doesn't have a climax and thus, is not satisfying.  The movie simply fizzles out and ends quietly and generically.  I thought the filmmakers were onto something interesting as the tension increased near the end, but alas, they weren't.

Overall, you could do a lot worse than Closed Circuit.  It is a well-acted thriller that relies more on story than action, but isn't much more than that.  There are far better movies to see in theaters now.


Thursday, August 22, 2013


Javier Núñez Florián and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre in UNA NOCHE
Courtesy of Sundance Selects
2013, 90 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Lucy Mulloy (my interview with her can be found here) wrote and directed Una Noche, an important, honest, and vibrant story of two young men, Elio and Raul (, and a young woman, Lila, who attempt to escape Cuba by raft.  The film deservingly won three awards at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival (Best Actor, Best New Narrative Director, and Best Cinematography).

Mulloy is undeniably talented.  She has an incredible eye for detail, which makes Una Noche an exotic treat.  Shooting the film entirely in Havana, Cuba, Mulloy captures the essence of the city.  The opening images are of a group of tourists riding around in a '50s or '60s car and a group of young men jumping into the deep blue ocean.  As the film progresses, Mulloy begins to show the less savory parts of Havana: hookers, AIDS patients, police.  The opening serves to show a tourist's view of Cuba, whereas the latter parts serve to show a citizen's view.  

Una Noche is a film that can easily be compared to Beasts of the Southern Wild in both look and its ability to capture a region close to the director's heart.  With Beasts, director Benh Zeitlin captured rural Louisiana and brought it to movie screens through his unflinching realism and lens of love.  Mulloy and her cinematographers Trevor Forrest and Shlomo Godder achieve a similar effect with Una Noche.  Each image is stunningly shot and captures the texture of Havana - grit, grime, and color.  The images transported me to their setting in a way that few films have before.  Mulloy, Forrest, and Godder also capture small, rich details that accumulate to form a fascinating portrait of a city.

Throughout the film, Mulloy develops her characters so that we understand why they want to leave Cuba.  She shows that it is not a decision that people make on the spot.  It is one that is provoked by many factors, and the fact that Mulloy takes the time to show us why people like Elio, Raul, and Lila would want to leave is a testament to her screenwriting abilities.  Nothing is black and white in Una Noche.  No one is simply good or bad.  It's much more complicated and these complexities add to the film's depth.

The performances from the lead three are all superb.  Each one displays ample talent and their chemistry is natural, making their characters easy to root for throughout the film.

More than anything, though, Una Noche is a reminder that it is possible to make a rich, complex film with a small budget and a non-profesisonal cast.  While some of the film's success can be attributed to the strong lead performances, this is, at heart, Mulloy's film.  She has put her distinct mark on it and has given us a beautiful work of art.

Overall, Una Noche is an honest, gorgeously-shot, powerfully-acted film that should thrill audiences.  It is a fast-paced, sexy piece of work that is one of the best indies I've seen so far this year.  It will certainly resonate with many audience members and will transport them to a place shrouded in mystery - a rare opportunity and a marvelous achievement.

Una Noche opens in New York (IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) and will be available on iTunes on August 23.  It opens on September 6 at the Sundance Cinema in LA.


An Interview with Lucy Mulloy, Writer/Director of UNA NOCHE

Lucy Mulloy on the set of UNA NOCHE
Photo courtesy of IFC Films/Sundance Selects

An Interview with Lucy Mulloy, Writer/Director of UNA NOCHE 

by Joshua Handler

Lucy Mulloy, a 33 year-old British filmmaker, has her first feature film, Una Noche, arriving in NYC theaters and on iTunes tomorrow.  Mulloy, a graduate of NYU’s Graduate Film Program, has lived in Cuba for the past decade and won the Best New Narrative Director award at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.  Today, I had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Mulloy about her film.

Una Noche follows the story of three people, twins Elio and Lila, and another young man, Raul, who attempt to escape Cuba.  The film is “inspired by a true story” and actually is largely true, according to Mulloy.  The last third takes place on a raft when the trio attempts to escape and that is the portion that Mulloy said was based in fact.  A young kid told her the story that became the basis for her film.  Three people, two young men and one young woman, attempted to escape on a raft.  The girl got her period and because the men were afraid it might attract a shark, they pushed her overboard.  They eventually floated back to Cuba.  Now this is not a spoiler for the film, as most of what I just described is not what transpires in the film.  This story was just the launching point for Mulloy who adapted the story to the needs of her screenplay. 

Una Noche is a seemingly critical view of Cuba, but that wasn’t Mulloy’s intention.  She wanted to make an honest portrait of the country.  She said that it is a country of many layers and that she never meant the film to be critical.  Surprisingly, Mulloy had no problems with the Cuba government with regards to shooting in Havana.

Una Noche was originally supposed to be a short, but eventually turned into the feature that exists today.  Mulloy estimates that she saw 2,000 people before casting her lead three.  Dariel Arrechaga, Raul in the film, was found in his schoolyard and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre, Lila, and Javier Núñez Florián, Elio, were cast later.  Mulloy was drawn to Florián’s natural acting ability, but said that he was uncharacteristically shy at his audition. 

Mulloy shot the film on 35mm film.  This proved to be a rewarding process, but one not without its challenges.  Because there is no processing lab in Cuba, some film was flown up to Toronto but was accidentally put through an x-ray machine, which gave Mulloy a scare.  Luckily, the footage was okay.  Mulloy quipped that the film stayed in a nice air-conditioned hotel room while the crew stayed in not quite as nice a place.

Una Noche was made through heavy collaboration, something that NYU stresses.  With regards to her time at NYU, Mulloy said, “You’re just experimenting and getting to know yourself and finding your own voice, and I found that amazing in such an incredible way to just take an intro into filmmaking.  That was really where I…learned how to put a movie together.  And film school was also incredible because…when you’re on a student film set, you kind of have to do the makeup and the clapperboard and move the lights, and everybody kind of does a bit of everything, and this very much DIY mentality of ‘if no one else is going to do it, I’ll just do it myself’, and that’s kind of the principle that we all got together and we started making this film on…”

In April 2012, Una Noche premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.  However, Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre and Javier Núñez Florián defected when they arrived in Miami.  Mulloy said that the two, a couple, ironically are expecting twins (their characters are twins in the film) and are happy and would like to continue acting.  They and Arrechada give astounding performances in Una Noche, their acting debut (Florián and Arrechada shared the Best Actor prize at the Tribeca Film Festival).  

According to Mulloy, there have been quite a few Cubans at screenings around the world who have been very moved by her portrait of their struggles.  Most of the people Mulloy has met in Cuba have known people who have tried to escape or have tried to escape themselves. 

Una Noche is a wonderful film (my review will be posted later) and is a fascinating tale focused around a subject rarely discussed in America.  Una Noche opens in New York (IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) and will be available on iTunes tomorrow, August 23.  It opens on September 6 at the Sundance Cinema in LA.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Sharni Vinson stars as ‘Erin’ in YOU’RE NEXT.
Photo credit: Corey Ransberg
2013, 95 minutes
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity

Review by Joshua Handler

I can't remember the last time I was this satisfied by a horror movie.  Fede Alvarez, writer/director of Evil Dead from earlier in the year, should take a lesson from Adam Wingard and his loony horror/thriller, You're Next, which features some impressive gore and a strong lead performance from Sharni Vinson.  The film is follows what happens when a family gets together for the parent's 35th anniversary in their country house and a group of people in animal masks attempt to kill them.

You're Next comes in a year of pathetic horror films - ones that take themselves too seriously and are poorly made.  The Purge was a ridiculous piece of trash that was not only poorly made, but was so lacking in logic from the beginning that it was hard to take seriously.  Evil Dead was well-shot, but was never crazy or smart enough to keep up with its impressive VFX or cinematography.  You're Next realizes that it is ridiculous, giving it a Scream kind of self-awareness that makes it simultaneously funny and disturbing.  The humor in You're Next is pitch black, but sickly hilarious.  

Classic horror movies like Halloween and Jaws made sure that their audiences had fun being terrified, and Wingard seems to realize this.  He takes full advantage of this, creating a fresh horror film from a tired horror sub genre: the home invasion movie. 

The dementedly delirious gore adds to the thrills and the fun, as it is actually disgusting and inventive.  Wingard and writer Simon Barrett dreamt up some wicked gore scenes that escalate in insanity and intensity as the film thunders towards its gleefully gory finale.  The film's climax is beyond satisfying and wonderful, for once.

Adam Wingard knows how to direct a horror film with panache and style.  You're Next is nicely-shot and features an '80s-inspired score, adding to the energy and fun.  

The performances are weak near the beginning of the film, but grow stronger as the film goes on.  Sharni Vinson's lead performance is a badass delight.  She is the smartest horror heroine in ages - something refreshing since horror movie characters, especially women, are usually imbeciles, even the supposedly smart characters.  Vinson's character, Erin, isn't just good with a knife; she's physically fit and delivers more than one brutal beating.

You're Next is lacking in scares and originality and there are some logic holes, but Wingard establishes from the opening that the characters are idiots, allowing for some logic holes.  It is easy to overlook these minor flaws, though, since the film is so fun.

Overall, You're Next is an excellent horror film that I suspect horror movie buffs will love.  It is an exceedingly well-made film with a sense of humor, made by a smart director and written by a sharp screenwriter.  It is a breath of fresh air.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Sexual Explicitness, Studio Films, and Cannes Winners - NYFF51 Commentary

Left to right: Tilda Swinton as Eve and Tom Hiddleston as Adam
Photo by Gordon A. Timpen, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

NYFF51 Omissions, Surprises, Commentary

An unusual, provocative, diverse main slate for NYFF51

by Joshua Handler

The main slate lineup for the 51st annual New York Film Festival has been announced. Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director Rose Kuo tweeted that this main slate features the most films in the history of the festival's main slate - 35. The lineup is Cannes-heavy with Palme d'Or-winner BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR by Abdellatif Kechiche, Grand Jury Prize-winner INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS by Joel and Ethan Coen, Jury Prize-winner LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Best Screenplay-winner A TOUCH OF SIN by Jia Zhangke, Best Actor-winner (for Bruce Dern) NEBRASKA by Alexander Payne, and Un Certain Regard-winner THE MISSING PICTURE by Rithay Panh. Notably missing is Best Actress-winner (for Bérénice Bejo) THE PAST by Asghar Farhadi, director of 2011 Oscar-winner A SEPARATION.  THE PAST is a film that I would have loved to see and have heard is excellent.  Also missing is Best Director-winner HELI by Amat Escalante.  In terms of non-Cannes films, I was surprised not to see Steve McQueen's TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE.

The main slate lineup also features films by acclaimed filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch (ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE), Hayao Miyazaki (THE WIND RISES), J.C. Chandor (ALL IS LOST), and Claire Denis (BASTARDS), among others.

Sony Pictures/Sony Classics have a few films (CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, THE INVISIBLE WOMAN, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE), as does Sundance Selects (BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR, LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON). Otherwise, many distributors have only one film and many films have no distributor (I expect this to change after the festival). There is a notable amount of films from large studios - 5.

This year, a few films have a disclaimer informing people about the sexually explicit nature of the film like BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (it caused waves at Cannes for its explicit 10 minute-long lesbian sex scene) and Cannes prize-winner STRANGER BY THE LAKE by Alain Guiraudie. Word is, Denis' BASTARDS is also quite explicit. It is interesting to see NYFF take on some more daring films. If the explicit content enhances the films instead of detracting by being included for shock value, this could be an especially provocative festival.

The festival's previously-announced opening night film - Paul Greengrass' CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, centerpiece film - Ben Stiller's THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, and closing night film - Spike Jonze's HER, are notably higher-profile than last year's films in the same categories. LIFE OF PI was huge, but THE PAPERBOY and FLIGHT were not as anticipated as this year's centerpiece and closing night films, respectively. It will be interesting to see what NYFF picks for their numerous sidebar sections this year. Also, watch out for their secret screening, a world premiere of an "unfinished" film. 2011 brought the premiere of HUGO, and last year brought LINCOLN. Both films were leading Oscar contenders in their respective years. If NYFF decides to bring in something a bit more daring, I believe they will choose Scorsese's THE WOLF OF WALL STREET or David O. Russell's AMERICAN HUSTLE. It would make sense for THE WOLF OF WALL STREET to premiere since it is a distinctly New York film directed by the city's greatest living director who has already premiered a film at the secret screening.

This year is also notable for the extraordinary running times of some of its films. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR runs 179 minutes, Claude Lanzmann's THE LAST OF THE UNJUST runs 218 minutes, Agnieszka Holland's BURNING BUSH runs 234 minutes, Frederick Wiseman's AT BERKELEY runs 244 minutes, and Lav Diaz's NORTH, THE END OF HISTORY runs the longest at 250 minutes.


If the films in this year's main slate are even half as good as they look, this should be a rewarding, provocative, and memorable film-going experience for film lovers across the city.

Now that you've heard my thoughts, what do you all think?  Please share in the comments section!

Main Slate Lineup for NYFF51 Announced!!!

Palme d'Or-winner BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR will appear at NYFF51.
Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects

The below is taken directly from the website of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.  I will likely be covering the festival and will bring you daily coverage.  I will also provide some commentary on this lineup later today or tomorrow.
"The wait is over! Today, FIlm Society of Lincoln Center announced the Main Slate of the 51st New York Film Festival and, with 35 highly anticipated features films, it is the biggest Main Slate the festival has ever seen.
Familiar faces abound in the lineup, which features over 20 filmmakers making a return to NYFF, some of them for the fifth, sixth, even seventh time! Repeate returnees include Catherine Breillat (Abuse of Weakness), the Coen brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis), Claire Denis (Bastards), Arnaud Desplechin (Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian), Agnieska Holland (Burning Bush), Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), and Jia Zhangke (A Touch of Evil).
“Cinema is a vast terrain with a complex ecology, encompassing a mindbending array of species and habitats," commented NYFF Director of Programming Kent Jones. "I love the level of diversity in the main slate selections, which includes documentaries, biographies, comedies, adventures, epics, chamber pieces, elegies, explorations and affirmations. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did."
Diversity is, indeed, another watchword of this year's Main Slate, and not just with respect to the films' genres. Entries arrive in New York after celebrated debuts at Cannes (where they took home a whopping six awards), Locarno, Berlin, and Sundance. They come from 15 countries and represent filmmaking debuts and the returns of long-loved masters, alike.
Stay tuned for a more detailed breakdown of the Main Slate of the 51st New York Film Festival. But, for now, scroll down (as if that wasn't the first thing you did) and dig in to the 35 exciting titles that will grace our screens when NYFF51 finally arrives, September 27 - October 13. Excited for a particular film(s)? Make sure to let us know on Facebook and Twitter!
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Main Slate lineup for the 51st New York Film Festival:
ABOUT TIME (2013) 123min
Director: Richard Curtis
Country: UK
Richard Curtis adds a touch of time-travel to this hilarious romantic comedy, a perfect vehicle for the comic talents of Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams, Lindsay Duncan, and emerging star Domhnall Gleeson. A Universal Pictures release.
ABUSE OF WEAKNESS (Abus de Faiblesse) (2013) 105min
Director: Catherine Breillat
Country: France
Catherine Breillat’s haunting film about her 2004 stroke and subsequent self-destructive relationship with star swindler Christophe Rocancourt, starring Isabelle Huppert.
ALAN PARTRIDGE (2013) 90min
Director: Declan Lowney
Country: UK
In the long-awaited big-screen debut of Steve Coogan’s singular comic creation, the vain and obliviously tactless Alan Partridge must serve as an intermediary when North Norfolk Digital is seized at gunpoint by a down-sized DJ.
ALL IS LOST (2013) 107min
Director: J.C. Chandor
Country: USA
Robert Redford as you’ve never seen him before, gives a near-wordless all-action performance as a lone sailor trying to keep his yacht afloat after a collision with a discarded shipping container in the middle of the Indian Ocean. A Roadside Attractions release.
AMERICAN PROMISE (2013) 135min
Directors: Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson
Country: USA
Two Brooklyn filmmakers follow their son Idris and his friend Suen from their enrollment in the Dalton School as children through their high school graduations in this devastating, years-in-the-making documentary that takes a hard look at race and class in America.
AT BERKELEY (2013) 244min
Director: Frederick Wiseman
Country: USA
Another masterfully constructed documentary from Frederick Wiseman, examining the University of California, Berkeley from multiple angles - the administrators, the students, the surrounding community - to arrive at a portrait that is as rich in detail as it is epic in scope.
BASTARDS (Les Salauds) (2013) 100min
Director: Claire Denis
Country: France
Claire Denis’s jagged, daringly fragmented and deeply unsettling film inspired by recent French sex ring scandals is the rarest of cinematic narratives—a contemporary film noir, perfect in substance as well as style.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (La Vie d’Adèle) (2013) 179min
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Country: France
The sensation of this year’s Cannes Film Festival is an intimate - and sexually explicit - epic of emotional transformation, featuring two astonishing performances from Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. An Sundance Selects release.
Please be advised that this film has scenes of a sexually explicit nature.
BURNING BUSH (Hořicí Keř) (2013) 234min
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Country: Czech Republic
A passionately brilliant Czech mini-series from Agnieska Holland about the events that followed student Jan Palach’s public self-immolation in protest against the Soviet invasion after Prague Spring.
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) 134min
Director: Paul Greengrass
Country: USA
Paul Greengrass has crafted an edge-of-your-seat thriller based on the true story of the seizure of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship in 2009 by four Somali pirates, with remarkable performances from Tom Hanks and four first-time actors, Barkhad Abdi, Faysal Ahmed, Barkhad Abdirahman and Mahet M. Ali. A Sony Pictures release.
CHILD OF GOD (2013) 104min
Director: James Franco
Country: USA, 2013
James Franco’s uncompromising excursion into American Gothic, adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s 1973 novel, about an unstable sociopath in early 60s rural Tennessee who descends into an animal-like state - not for the faint-hearted.
GLORIA (2013) 110min
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Countries: Chile/Spain
A wise, funny, liberating movie from Chile, about a middle-aged woman who finds romance but whose new partner finds it painfully difficult to abandon his old habits.
HER (2013)
Director: Spike Jonze
Country: USA
In Spike Jonze’s magical, melancholy comedy of the near future, lonely Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his new all-purpose operating system (the voice of Scarlett Johansson), leading to romantic and existential complications. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.
THE IMMIGRANT (2013) 120min
Director: James Gray
Country: USA
In James Gray’s richly detailed period tragedy, set in a dusty, sepia-toned 1920s Manhattan, a young Polish immigrant (Marion Cotillard) is caught in a dangerous battle of wills with a shady burlesque manager (Joaquin Phoenix). A Radius release.
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Country: USA
Joel and Ethan Coen’s picaresque, panoramic and wryly funny story of a singer/songwriter is set in the New York folk scene of the early 60s and features a terrific array of larger-than-life characters and a glorious score of folk standards. A CBS Films release.
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Country: UK
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars as Charles Dickens in this adaptation of Claire Tomalin’s revelatory 1992 biography, which brought the upright Victorian author’s secret 13-year affair with a young actress to light. A Sony Pictures Classics Release.
JEALOUSY (La Jalousie) (2013) 77min
Director: Philippe Garrel
Country: France
Another intimate, handcrafted work of poetic autobiographical cinema from French director Philippe Garrel, in which his son Louis and Anna Mouglalis star as actors and lovers trying to reconcile their professional and personal lives.
Director: Arnaud Desplechin
Country: France
In Arnaud Desplechin’s intelligent and moving depiction of a successful “Talking Cure,” the encounters between patient (Benicio del Toro) and therapist (Mathieu Amalric) are electric with discovery.
THE LAST OF THE UNJUST (Le Dernier des injustes) (2013) 218min
Director: Claude Lanzmann
Countries: France/Austria
This moral and cinematic tour de force from the creator of SHOAH will cause you to reconsider your understanding of Adolph Eichmann and of Benjamin Murmelstein, the last Jewish elder of Theresienstadt and the film’s central figure.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (Soshite Chichi ni Naru) (2013) 120min
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Country: Japan
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s sensitive drama takes a close look at two families’ radically different approaches to the horribly painful realization that the sons they have raised as their own were switched at birth. A Sundance Selects release.
THE MISSING PICTURE (L’image manquante) (2013) 92min
Director: Rithy Panh
Country: Cambodia
Filmmaker Rithy Panh’s brave new film revisits his memories of four years spent under the Khmer Rouge and the destruction of his family and his culture; without a single memento left behind, he creates his “missing images” with narration and painstakingly executed dioramas. A Strand release.
MY NAME IS HMMM… (Je m’appelle Hmmm…) (2013) 121min
Director: agnès b
Country: France
In this deeply personal, incandescent first feature from designer agnès B, a young girl holding her family together and bearing the weight of sexual abuse runs away from home and enjoys a carefree idyll with a kindly Scottish trucker.
NEBRASKA (2013) 115min
Director: Alexander Payne
Country: USA
This masterful film from Alexander Payne, about a quiet old man (Bruce Dern) whose mild-mannered son (Will Forte) agrees to drive him from Montana to Nebraska to claim a non-existent prize, shades from the comic to multiple hues of melancholy and regret. A Paramount Pictures release.
NOBODY’S DAUGHTER HAEWON (Nugu-ui ttal-do anin Haewon) (2013) 90min
Director: Hong Sang-soo
Country: South Korea
A young student at loose ends after her mother moves to America tries to define herself one encounter and experience at a time, in reality and in dreams, in another deceptively simple chamber-piece from South Korean master Hong Sang-soo.
NORTH, THE END OF HISTORY (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan) (2013) 250min
Director: Lav Diaz
Country: Philippines
Filipino director Lav Diaz’s twelfth feature - at four-plus hours, one of his shortest - is a careful rethinking of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, with a tortured anti-hero who is a haunting embodiment of the dead ends of ideology.
OMAR (2013) 96min
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Country: Palestinian Territories
A tense, gripping, ticking clock thriller about betrayal, suspected and real, in the Occupied Territories, from Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now).
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Country: USA
Jim Jarmusch’s wry, tender and moving take on the vampire genre features Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as a centuries-old couple who watch time go by from separate continents as they reflect on the ever-changing world around them.A Sony Pictures Classics release.
Director: Ben Stiller
Country: USA
Ben Stiller stars in and directs this sweet, globe-trotting (but New York-based) comic fable about an up-to-the-minute everyman, co-starring Kristen Wiig as the woman of his dreams, Sean Penn as a legendary photographer and Shirley MacLaine as Walter’s mother. A Twentieth Century Fox release.
Director: Jehane Noujaim
Country: USA/Egypt
Jehane Noujaim’s tense, vivid verité portrait of events as they unfolded in Tahrir Square through Arab Spring and beyond, in a newly revised, up-to-the-minute version.
STRANGER BY THE LAKE (L’Inconnu du lac) (2013) 97min
Director: Alain Guiraudie
Country: France
Alain Guiraudie’s lethally precise, sexually explicit film, which unfolds entirely in the vicinity of a gay cruising ground, is both a no-holds-barred depiction of a hedonistic subculture and a perverse and unnerving tale of amour fou. A Strand release.
Please be advised that this film has scenes of a sexually explicit nature.
STRAY DOGS (Jiao You) (2013) 138min
Director: Tsai Ming-liang
Country: Taiwan
Tsai Ming-liang’s fable of a homeless family living the cruelest of existences on the ragged edges of the modern world is bracingly pure in its anger and its compassion, and as visually powerful as it is emotionally overwhelming.
A TOUCH OF SIN (Tian Zhu Ding) (2013) 133min
Director: Jia Zhangke
Country: China
Jia Zhangke’s bloody, bitter new film builds a portrait of modern-day China in the midst of rapid and convulsive change through four overlapping stories of marginalized and oppressed citizens pushed to murderous rage. A Kino Lorber release.

LE WEEK-END (2013) 93min
Director: Roger Michell
Country: UK
A magically buoyant, bittersweet comedy drama about a middle-aged and middle class English couple who go to Paris for a weekend holiday, starring two of Britain’s national treasures, Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan. A Music Box Films release.
Director: Corneliu Porumboiu
Countries: Romania/France
A rigorously structured and fascinatingly oblique new film from Corneliu Porumboiu that examines the life of a film director during the moments on a shoot when the camera isn’t rolling.
THE WIND RISES (Kaze Tachinu) (2013) 126min
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Country: Japan
The great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s new film is based on the life of Jiro Hirokoshi, the man who designed the Zero fighter. An elliptical historical narrative, THE WIND RISES is also a visionary cinematic poem about the fragility of humanity."