Film Review: Her

 

 

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Please note that I am no longer updating this blog, and have launched a new website for any future essays and film reviews. All of my writing has been moved over to the new site, Alphaprimitive.com. You can find this review on the new site here.

 

It is at times difficult to think of what Spike Jonze’s creative voice actually entails. You wouldn’t necessarily expect this to be true, but looking at (for example) his first three feature directorial efforts, which were in many ways dominated by two writers. Adaptation and Being John Malkovich felt singularly like Charlie Kaufman films, and Where the Wild Things Are of course has the specter of Maurice Sendak floating over it. We know the traits of a Spike Jonze project; there are repeated motifs present in much of his work, dating back to his time as a cutting edge music video director. But the majority of these traits tend to be visual; heightened style, quirkiness and a sort of abstraction from the norm without calling attention to itself are hallmarks of what we’ve come to expect, but it doesn’t automatically give us a window into his personal narrative proclivities. Her is significant in this vein, as it is the first feature he wrote by himself from whole cloth, giving us an even better sense of what makes him tick. Continue reading

Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

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Please note that I am no longer updating this blog, and have launched a new website for any future essays and film reviews. All of my writing has been moved over to the new site, Alphaprimitive.com. You can find this review on the new site here.

 

The story of Jordan Belfort seems destined for the silver screen. The tale of the hard drinking, hard drugging Wall Street-adjacent hotshot who exploded on the scene in the late 80’s and took advantage of a lot of people’s gullible wallets would seem to will itself into the cinema. Continue reading

Film Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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Please note that I am no longer updating this blog, and have launched a new website for any future essays and film reviews. All of my writing has been moved over to the new site, Alphaprimitive.com. You can find this review on the new site here.

 

It’s been a few year since Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s last collaboration, 2010’s buddy cop lampoon The Other Guys, and for a time it’s felt like the McKay style of humor might have fallen out bit out of favor since the original Anchorman became a bona fide home video cult hit. Nine years have passed since Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) was unleashed onto the silver screen, and he finds himself returning to a different comedy landscape dominated by the likes of Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Melissa McCarthy and Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright. This is Ferrell and McKay’s first sequel, putting the focus on giving the audience the characters they fell in love with the first time around without simply rehashing jokes and scenarios we’ve seen before. Continue reading

Film Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

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Please note that I am no longer updating this blog, and have launched a new website for any future essays and film reviews. All of my writing has been moved over to the new site, Alphaprimitive.com. You can find this review on the new site here.

 

The newest entrée from the brothers Coen is the take of a down on his luck folk singer in Greenwich Village in the early 1960’s. Not particularly popular, he scrapes together meager amounts of cash with local gigs and gets by due to the kindness of friends and acquaintances offering up their homes, couches and floors for him to rest his head. When we first meet Llewyn Davis, he is in his element, delicately plucking at an acoustic guitar and mournfully crooning a song about suicide (well, assisted suicide, I guess) entitled “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me.” Llewyn doesn’t look particularly happy, but you can tell he is at the very least contented in the moment by his art. Continue reading

Film Review: La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)

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Please note that I am no longer updating this blog, and have launched a new website for any future essays and film reviews. All of my writing has been moved over to the new site, Alphaprimitive.com. You can find this review on the new site here.

 

When you look at a film like The Great Beauty, director Paolo Sorrentino’s story of an older Italian libertine flitting through life from party to party, it’s difficult not to think of La Dolce Vita, the 1960 classic about a journalist’s week in Rome attempting to find some inspiration from the Roman nightlife. It is, in many ways, the exact same movie. It doesn’t have the same sort of formal constraints of Fellini’s epic, no taking place over the course of a specific week here, but the parallels are quite noticeable. Sorrentino’s stand-in for Marcello Mastroianni is Toni Servillo, whose Jep Gambardella begins his 65th year as a passive former writer and sometimes journalist nominally covering the art scene of Rome as he moves from party to party and bed to bed. Jep is a fixture of the scene without ever particularly conforming to it. He is ever the critic, just as likely to spend his evenings commenting on the culture and actions of those surrounding him as he is chasing his next sensual experience. Without much of a structured plot to speak of, the film is content simply following Jep as he continues to live his life. Continue reading

Film Review: Saving Mr. Banks

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Mary Poppins, that titan of children’s cinematic joy of the 1960’s, will be turning 50 in 2014. Far be it for the Mouse House to let such a milestone to pass without fanfare; we’re likely to see some sort of super fancy Blu-Ray commemorative release, and I wouldn’t put a theatrical rerelease (in, shudder, 3D, perhaps?) past them either. In this case, though, the legacy of Disney’s grand musical could not simply be contained within the musical itself. With the help of screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, director John Lee Hancock (of the sugary biopic The Blind Side) to tell the “true” story of the making of Mary Poppins, specifically as it pertains to the character’s creator and her attempts to ensure the Disney film lives up to the legacy of their importance in her mind. Continue reading