Column by Jeff Whitson – contributing film critic.
I love watching my favorite movies over and over again. There are many reasons we watch movies more than once. It can be as simple as catching things we miss when seeing something for the first time. Perhaps, we may want to re-live a time from our past. It might just come down to enjoying the performances of our favorite actors. Whatever the reason, revisiting some of our favorite films can be comforting. We may know all the words, but like listening to great songs, experiencing them again and again never gets old.
Here is a list of my 25 favorite movies to watch and re-watch and re-watch…Continue Reading... Post a comment (3)
The 2013 Independent Critics List has been released…
Happy Holidays to All — TC CandlerContinue Reading... Post a comment (5)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a tremendous talent. His roles are intricate and daring. His films are usually thoughtful and interesting. Everything about his young career suggests that he will be one of the people to watch over the next few decades. That being said, “Don Jon” is a huge mis-step and ranks as one of his least successful choices to date.
JGL writes, directs and stars as the titular Jon in this childish, repetitive and shallow story of a New Jersey “guido-lite” who loves his car, his pad, his family, his friends, his girls and his porn. Unfortunately for Jon, the last two items on that list seem to be conflicting with each other. This becomes especially problematic when his starts dating Barbara, a NJ “guidette” played with skin-tight and scary accuracy by a sex-soaked Scarlett Johansson. Barbara is hell-bent on controlling her new boyfriend in every aspect of his life — and that includes Jon’s relentless porn habit.
Julianne Moore shows up, in the most underused role in the film, as a recent widow who teaches Jon a thing or two about “real sex” as opposed to the cold thrusting fantasies he craves on pornhub. Tony Danza delivers a nice little role as Jon’s slightly stereotypical NJ father. Together with Gordon-Levitt and Johansson, the entire cast is relatively good despite the rather average material. The acting is definitely not the problem here.
The film suffers a number of significant issues. “Don Jon” barely has a sympathetic character to offer. Juliane Moore’s character is the closest we get… and she only has 10-15 minutes of quality screen time. The direction is over-stylized and lacks any rhythm, pacing or patience. The writing is without nuance or wit. It merely repeats the same trashy messages over and over as the 90 minute running time drags itself to the finish line with loud clanging thuds. It is one of those stories that could have been told in half-an-hour… but gets stretched out with tedious monotony.
Sofia Coppola is a masterful director. Until now, she has either directed some very good films (“The Virgin Suicides” and “Marie Antoinette”) or absolute masterpieces (“Somewhere” and “Lost in Translation”). Until now. Unfortunately, her latest outing is a disappointingly thin true account of the vapid, celebrity obsessed group of high-school teenagers who repeatedly robbed the homes of Hollywood’s richest stars — stockpiling jewels and designer clothes so they could “live the lifestyle” they so envied.
The film primarily suffers from its subject matter. Neither the teenagers, nor the celebrity victims are particularly sympathetic. None of the characters in the film get the full exploratory treatment. All we are left with are scenes of empty human trash waltzing quietly around lavish homes, trying on Louboutin shoes, Louis Vuitton bags, Chanel dresses and Dior accessories.
It was incumbent upon the director to find an angle that could make audiences care. I think Coppola fails for the first time in her directorial career to find that angle. The film feels narrow and forced. It lacks a grand theme or a central humanity. There is absolutely nothing separating “The Bling Ring” from a cable TV movie. It feels cheap and lightweight.
The cast are all very solid here. Some of them are very early in their acting careers — a couple are even making their feature film debuts. However, they manage to capture the soulless materialism of their characters very well and each deserve a lot of praise. Emma Watson and Israel Broussard seem to get the most screen time and they are both really convincing in their roles.
“The Bling Ring” isn’t a bad movie… simply an irrelevant one. The time passed quickly and there were some entertaining moments. But it all could have been relayed to me in a twenty minute short and I would have had an extra hour of my life to make a sandwich, check my facebook and watch a rerun of “Friends”. Coppola has always been masterful at finding the profundity in small moments. Here, it seems there were no moments to explore. A minimal story with minimal characters resulted in a minimal film.
The film starts with a pretty short breakfast scene. Then BAM!!! Zombies galore for two straight hours. It sacrifices any character development for almost instant action… something that would normally irritate the hell out of me. However, I came into “World War Z” expecting, perhaps demanding, excitement and thrills. That’s exactly what I got. It is a kinetic ride that, although lacking depth or emotion, works on the most surface of levels. Sometimes that is just fine.
Brad Pitt plays United Nations employee, Gerry Lane — a family man who, when caught up in an intensely rabid zombie pandemic, is recalled to hop the globe in search of a cure for the disease. His wife (Mireille Enos) and two young daughters are left behind on a war ship as incentive for him. If he fails his mission, his family lose their safe haven and will be returned to land as non-essential personnel.
The action forces Gerry from South Korea to Israel to Wales… always encountering a few more clues and a whole host of freaky fast zombies with a hankering for flesh. Each time the movie takes time to breathe, the undead find a way to disrupt the peace with a horrifically scary attack. The film is relentless that way.
There are two small quibbles I have. The decision to abandon character development works on an entertainment level, but it does leave the emotional aspect quite inconsequential. I never really cared that much about any of it… and that will render the film slightly forgettable in years to come. Also, the zombies never felt real to me. Their quick spasmodic jerky movement seemed far too cartoonish to be menacing. It looked animated.
“World War Z” is pure popcorn. There is no message. There is no feeling. There is no depth. It is the simplest of films, played out at an extraordinary pace. I forgave its minor sins just enough to give it a good rating. I doubt I will ever return to the movie again. It is a two-hour diversion that works on a primal level. My adrenaline spiked. The edge of my seat was worn down. My fingernails were chewed. But I have already filed it away deep in the recesses of my memory.
The experience of watching “The Frozen Ground” is tantamount to a plane being on autopilot. All you have to do is sit there, in silence, twiddle your thumbs, and wait. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience… some of it was quite relaxing and the time passed pretty quickly. However, I was never engaged. It was a passive ride… One that we have all taken many times before. I am already starting to forget it as I begin writing this review.
Nic Cage plays Jack Halcombe, an Anchorage, Alaska detective who is looking into a possible serial killing in the area. One of the victims is Cindy (Vanessa Hudgens), a stripper and prostitute who managed to escape the clutches of her would-be murderer. The accused man is Robert Hansen (John Cusack), a husband and father who is thought to be of good standing in the local community.
However, the case is not clear cut. Cindy is uncooperative and unreliable, preferring to seek out drugs and turn tricks rather than testify against her abductor. The facts are all circumstantial and Jack can’t seem to convince the district attorney to issue a warrant for the arrest. “The Frozen Ground” then becomes a rather standard police procedural as they look for clues and tighten the noose around the suspect’s neck.
The acting is one of the strongest parts of the film. Cage doesn’t “lose his shit” or go “nucking futs” in this movie. Instead, he delivers one of his more restrained performances in recent years. Cusack is viciously cold as the “based-on-true-events” killer. He continues to try and distance himself from the typically Cusack-like roles that he became typecast in for so many years. Vanessa Hudgens stars in another impressive role for her in 2013, after her effort in the masterful, “Spring Breakers”. She is turning into a daring and interesting young actress… something I wouldn’t have predicted during the “High School Musical” era. Even 50 Cent shows up in this film as an eighties-style pimp. It is quite a decent ensemble.
Unfortunately, first time director, Scott Walker, doesn’t ever elevate the material beyond its seedy and morose subject matter. Films about serial killers are awkward for directors… they do not lend themselves to artistic flare or cinematic originality. “The Frozen Ground” is not much more than a glorified episode of “CSI”. It is mildly interesting and nothing more.
Addendum: This is not a spoiler. I also want to point out something during the final credits. There is a dedication of the film to the victims of Robert Hansen, followed by a photo roll-call of those victims. I found this to be uncomfortable and disturbing. I could understand something like this in a documentary, but not in a feature film masquerading as entertainment. It felt out of place, exploitative and highly unnecessary. A simple mention along the lines of “In Memory Of…” would have been a better decision.
After School releases their latest video for their new single, “Heaven”.
Jungah, Uee, Jooyeon, Nana, Raina, Lizzy, E-Young and Kaeun are the eight gorgeous girls in the KPOP supergroup, “After School”. Their newest video is another in a long line of catchy tunes and sexy vids that make them one of the most popular bands in the world right now.
Each and every one of them is a candidate for the 2013 Most Beautiful Faces List!
Enjoy…Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)
I am torn on this one. The trailer looks impressive. The cast in intriguing. The subject is fascinating. But there is a HUGE red flag in the director’s chair!!!
Paul W.S. Anderson has an atrocious track record. Movies like “Resident Evil”, “Death Race”, “The Three Musketeers (2011)” and “Alien vs Predator” are littered throughout his filmography. The man is quite simply one of the challengers to Michael Bay’s crown as the shittiest director in Hollywood.
Nevertheless, I am curious as to how this film turns out. It explodes into theaters in February 2014.Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)
Hitting screens in March of 2014 is “Divergent”, an exciting looking futuristic thriller that seems to combine “The Hunger Games” and “Equilibrium”. The film stars Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley, Ashley Judd and Maggie Q.
The director is Neil Burger, who was at the helm for really good movies like “Limitless” and “The Illusionist”.
Winslet is a legend. Woodley is a burgeoning star. The subject matter is cool. The director is reliable. What’s not to love?Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)
I loved the 2010 original, directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able. An entirely new cast and crew take over the sequel… a fact that usually does not bode well.
However, if they manage to maintain the perfect balance of the original masterpiece, then this will be a must watch movie.
Fingers crossed!!! It opens in 2014.Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)