Archive for January, 2014

The-Call-2013-movie-posterHands,

They put Halle Berry on the poster, but The Call is totally Abigail Breslin’s movie. Little girl’s hardcore! She performed two thirds of the film in the trunk of a car and the last third strapped to a table. Even with all these confines, she made Halle Berry look like a mannequin. I guess without the pressure of being under Billy Bob, Halle Berry ain’t got much to offer. Put the Oscar winner in a trunk, yo!

Also, those first two-thirds are nail-biting awesome-sauce. I got suckered in against my will when I walked in on Abigail Breslin beating the tail-light off the car from inside the trunk. Little girl is bad ace! But it all dissolves to a ridiculously forced female superhero scenario when Halle Berry decides X-Men’s Storm ain’t enough action figure fodder for one career.

Overall, The Call gets 2.5 fully clothed Morris Chestnuts out of 5. You can skip this entirely, unless your spouse brings it home from the RedBox.

– kiki

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Boys_love_laneJohn,

I’m addressing this to you because I cannot fathom for a moment that Grave or Dr. Wertnz would be much interested in an indie-flick (by Jonathan Levine, director of 50/50 and Warm Bodies) that collides a John Hughes highschool drama and an early 80s slasher-whodunnit so masterfully that I cheered at the end, spilling a sleeping pug from my lap onto the floor. Oh, and Amber Heard, before she was a lesbian or dating Johnny Depp, leads as Mandy Lane – the Amanda Jones of scream queens if Some Kind of Wonderful had been a slasher. Reasons to watch All The Boys Loved Mandy Lane keep stacking like bodies on a weekend woodland getaway!

There’s some indie-film lore surrounding this film about it making the tiny theater circuit back in 2006, then somehow landing on underground video (online or VHS, I’m not sure), and the rights were greatly debated for a spell until the director Johnathan Levine finally made name enough for himself with Warm Bodies to interest a distributor in releasing this thing to your local RedBox and BestBuy. I probably got all that wrong, having read about it in an Entertainment Weekly during a morning constitutional, the details are fuzzy at this point. What I do know is that the release of this sucker is considered a high-fiveable victory for indie-film, and film-buffs in the know were stoked. I tend to trust film-buffs in the know more than critics, and this time it worked in my favor.

This film looks and feels amazing. The music is creepy perfect, swimming all the way in-between Robert Earl Keen (who makes a cameo at a gas station) Texas country to the Go-Gos to Beethoven and back to something you’ve never heard but that fits the visual tone like a Nintendo PowerGlove that actually works. Levine choreographs a few montage scenes that lift the film above its horror genre trappings, tricking the viewer into believing this is all a sweet, Sundance coming-of-age drama rather than the kind of film where girls are slaughtered by shotguns literally shoved down their throats. The gore is good. The kill scenes are fun. And the acting is above expected par. Amber Heard is always great, even when the film sucks lobotomized brain balls (ie. John Carpenter’s The Ward).

But what makes this movie is Levine’s direction and Jacob Forman’s script. Again, Levine pitches this thing perfectly, allowing tensions to build while flinging red herrings like a Seattle fish market pro. My only complaint with the direction was Levine’s necessity to fill 90 minutes. Time swam around a few supporting characters’ existential crises, which felt laborious. Fortunately, this made the audience cheer for certain deaths all the more, so perhaps it worked afterall. Forman’s script is interesting because his characters are paper thin. However, combining the script and the direction – which shows us the majority of the story from Mandy Lane’s perspective – the viewer begins to wonder if they’re seeing the actual character or Mandy Lane’s impressions of each person. It gets a bit meta (as the kids are want to say these days), unless I’m just reading too much into it. The latter is usually the case when it comes to films like this.

Overall, I gave All The Boys Loved Mandy Lane 4 roof high swimming pool dives out of 5. This film was a pleasant surprise, convincing me all the more that the nerds know more than the critics. And since we’re nerds, that puts us on the winning side.

I heart you, John Barber, more than Keith hearts Watts, but not in a I’m-giving-you-my-future-in-the-form-of-earrings kinda way,

– kiki

1. GRAVITY – we walked into the theater thinking this was a movie about people stuck in space. we were wrong. my wife sobbed most of the film. we went with two friends and we all huddled in the lobby afterwards and declared viewing this film one of the more powerful cinematic experiences we’d ever had. IMAX 3D didn’t hurt. if sandra bullock does not win an oscar for this, i will puke on my own shoes.
2. MUD – loved this for obvious arkansan reasons. local boy. local scenery. the character of neckbone. the return of matthew mcdoucheanay. this film is perfect. PER-FECT. nichols could only improve on this film by putting it twice on one dvd.
3. FRANCES HA – this was the last film we saw on our netflix, and it was a gorgeous punctuation on a slippery chute of slothfulness. God, i loved this movie. and for multiple reasons. but the main two: one, i can’t get enough of greta gerwig. when i saw her in THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL i thought, “oh crap, i might have a new favorite.” and she owned FRANCES HA in incredible, old-school hollywood great actress ways. two, i think noah baumbach – minus his last two films – is the shit. he’s so dedgum pretentious that i can’t help but feel drastically endeared to him. i think my pretentiousness is drawn to his pretentiousness. we would coffee well together. so good. i can’t wait to see it again.
4. 12 YEARS A SLAVE – it lives up to the hype. steve mcqueen is a beast. i’ll watch anything he makes, even as soul-pulverizing as it may be. i’ve seen his other films, but this is the first one i felt comfortable recommending. there are several scenes here that make you want to recoil, record, and applaud eveything on the screen simultaneously. masterpiece.
5. THE CONJURING – yes! this blew my mind! and it’s not just a solidly amazing horror film: it’s a solidly amazing film. everything falls into place here creating a new genre classic that easily transcends the genre. with that being said, THE CONJURING did freak my shit out. i was all over my theater chair, gripping the arm rest, covering my eyes, even squealing a little bit. i love a film that makes me want a cigarette and a nap afterwards.
6. THE WAY WAY BACK – my all-time favorite cinematic genre is the coming-of-age story. and this one is near the top of my list. there’s not a lot of coming-of-age stories where the kid and the parent grow up together. but it happens here. also, i’m cuckoo for cocoa puffs for both toni collette and allison janney. they do no wrong in my book.
7. FRUITVALE STATION – the fact that this no-name filmmaker could make a feature length film, in which the entire audience already knows the ending, completely enthralling from beginning to end is a huge feat of storytelling and artistic confidence. yes, michael b. jordan killed it here. but ryan coogler’s filmmaking is what immortalized oscar grant’s story and created a prophetically day-numbering experience for audiences.
8. THIS IS THE END – it’s no secret that i dearly love seth rogen and bathe in his laughters. he’s my number one hollywood dude crush. and now that i’ve watched the first three seasons of EAST-BOUND AND DOWN, danny mcbride is a close second. with that being said, i walked into this movie with some raging nepotism. still, THIS IS THE END is honestly one of the top ten films of the year. super funny. super dorky. super dirty. and super more theologically sound than any of that LEFT BEHIND bull-shonkish. this is the apocalypse done right: with earth ending before michael cera becomes the next hugh hefner.
9. AMERICAN HUSTLE – best thing christian bale has done since AMERICAN PSYCHO. best thing amy adams has done. period. and best reality show housewife performance in a major picture by that glorious hot mess, jennifer lawrence. this movie was fucking delightful.
10. THE GREAT GATSBY – skip everything in the movie before and after gatsby. nick carroway is not that interesting and neither is baz luhrmann’s ego. but all the stuff with gatsby is golden. and the lana del rey montage of daisy and gatsby swimming and golfing and throwing shirts is reason enough for me to own the DVD. there’s plenty of crap in this picture, but luckily it’s all sandwiched on the outer edges for easy avoidance. but the stuff here that works worked better than the entirety of most films i saw this year.
WORST FILMS OF 2013: i saw a bunch of stinkers this year. but three films had me running to the ticket counter begging for a refund.
1. TRANCE – God bless danny boyle, but not even a fully cherubic rosario dawson could make this film one bit titillating.
2. SPRING BREAKERS – pointless and overly glorifying of the gluttony it hoped to demonize. and, no, i’m not getting old. this movie just sucked.
3. ELYSIUM – shamefully obvious and paper-thin. THE PURGE preached the superior “anti-1% sermon” this year.