Saturday, 11 May 2013

Spring Breakers (2013)

Tom:
Spring Breakers, 2013, USA
Director: Harmony Korine
Stars: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez & James Franco
''This is the fuckin' American dream. This is my fuckin' dream, y'all! All this sheeyit! Look at my sheeyit! I got... I got SHORTS! Every fuckin' color. I got designer T-shirts! I got gold bullets. Motherfuckin' VAM-pires. I got Scarface. On repeat. SCARFACE ON REPEAT. Constant, y'all!''

Today was the day I finally became a man, a cinematic barmitzvah if you will. I attended my first R18+ theatrical release (technically I went to see 'Saw 3D' a few years back but I like to think that film never existed) it was Harmony Korine's 'Spring Breakers' a film I had been eagerly anticipating for a while now. 

A group of friends set out for escapism as they travel to Florida for Spring Break. While having the time of there life they are arrested for narcotics but are luckily bailed out by Alien, an eccentric, drug addicted rapper who may have ulterior motives for letting them loose.

'Spring Breakers' is one of those films that is guaranteed to separate audience opinions, on one hand most will think of it as a trashy hot mess with nothing redeeming about it, and others will think of it as ingenious and a hard hitting portrayal of a the major change in society's values, thankfully I am part of the latter. 'Spring Breakers' is a film that had me in a trance from beginning, the film is colorfully mesmerizing yet very dark and disturbing.

I'm not overly familiar with Harmony Korine's work, the only film I had seen prior to this that featured his participation was 'Kids', after 'Spring Breakers' I am already prepared to label the man as brilliant. Korine's work on this film is so admirable, creating something that will easily go over the heads of a majority of its audiences yet not relenting on his vision for a second. The film is packed with hidden themes and Korine's abilities in making them all work together is brilliant.

'Spring Breakers' is essentially a film about the American dream and how it has changed (deteriorated ?) over time. While I am not overly sure, I have always believed the American Dream to be starting a family, be successful etc. The American as portrayed in this film is to have a good time and party hard. The film seems to show that society's party culture is ugly and terrifying and we may be investing our values into the wrong things. While some may claim that the film portrays women in an unflattering light, I believe the opposite.

The film is a success on all technical levels. There are some downright beautiful sequences, especially a heist sequence in the beginning which is expertly filmed. The editing is all very well done but some may not appreciate the overlapping and repeating of dialogue, but I loved it. There is one scene in particular in 'Spring Breakers' that really set it apart for me and made me realize that I love the film, it was a sequence where Alien plays the Britney Spears song 'Everytime' on the piano which leads into a montage of the girls and Alien partaking in robberies. I really can't explain how utterly magnificent and beautiful scene this is. Just unbelievable and hands down the best thing I have seen in Cinema this year.

There are plenty of strong Acting performances throughout the film. A major talking point around the films release was the fact that it stars Disney stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. Both Actress do a great job, Gomez was probably was my favorite of the girls and she really does a good job playing the most sympathetic and down to earth of the group. Hudgens is also very good and goes to great lengths to shed her Disney image. James Franco plays Alien and does so in incredible fashion. He is both and loveable and frightening at the same time. Its a mesmerizing performance and Franco is brilliant as usual. Also I had no idea that Jeff Jarrett had a role in this film! it was awesome!

I know that some may not share my opinion, but I think 'Spring Breakers' is a brilliant piece of Cinema. A hypnotic film that it is orchestrated in genius fashion by Harmony Korine. Bound to go down as one of the most memorable films of 2013

****1/2

Friday, 10 May 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

Tom:
Evil Dead,2013,USA
Director: Fede Alvarez
Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez & Jessica Lucas
''You will die! Like the others before you, one by one, we will take you!''

My interest in this re-imagining of 'The Evil Dead' had been increasing at an alarming rate in the past couple of months. At first I groaned at the idea of this film, another one of my favorites being bastardized by a remake ? no thanks, but upon the films initial release in the States it had received some overwhelmingly positive reviews so my excitement grew. This week was finally the week where 'Evil Dead' was being released in my area and I was so pumped, I woke up early on Thursday to check the showtimes and...nothing. NO EVIL DEAD! I was crushed, first 'The Master' know this! After getting over the fact that I wouldn't get the chance to see the film on a big screen, I (bitterly) resorted to a torrent.

A group of friends travel to an isolated cabin in the woods but incidentally discover The Book of the Dead, an ancient document that could be the death of the them... to say the least.

After talking up my excitement for this film in the opening paragraph, I now must say that film was really disappointed me. 'Evil Dead' (2013) was exactly what I feared It would be, cookie cutter horror with excessive amounts of gore and no real redeeming values.

'Evil Dead' is a film that has billed itself as ''The most terrifying film you will ever experience''. This is a tagline that very much worried me, because one of the most brilliant elements the original 'Evil Dead's are their wicked sense of humor. I was really hoping that the remake could inject this in some way. Unfortunately this was not the case, I could not pinpoint a single of humor in this film and I never even came close to laughter. I understand that you cant have the antics of Bruce Campbell in the film, but cant there be at least an attempt to portray some charisma ?

One of the positives of this film is its amount of gore. It really goes all out in trying to push there audiences to the limits and it does quite a good job of it. I also enjoyed that the fact that all of the effects were practically essential ones. It was a very nice touch and it payed off in a big way. The great effects were able to compensate for the bland everything else...for the most part.

Another thing I like about this film was that it didn't try to emulate the plot of the original. Although the story and characters they put in its place aren't great in the slightest, I still respected the fact that it become a carbon copy. Director Fede Alvarez does a decent job of providing an entertaining experience but hes film is just so hollow and poorly paced.

One of the biggest problems with this film is its bland as hell characters. When I think about the originals I believe I enjoyed all the characters, here its not the same. There really isn't any bad performances but the characters are just so dull and its hard to give a damn about them. Jane Levy does a pretty decent job though.

Overall, 'Evil Dead' wasn't the film I wanted it to be, It lacks the entertainment factor of predecessors and is just so pedestrian. There are some very good practical effects throughout but Its not enough to save the film. Damn I really wanted to like this...

**

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

Tom:
The Place Beyond the Pines,2013, USA
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Star: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper & Eva Mendes
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-iyVfHaUM4aU/UWqe6XdhuTI/AAAAAAAAMtY/ugxqujKFWNQ/s1600/place_beyond_pines.jpg

''Ya know Luke, If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder.

As of late, I have gotten into the habit of purposefully going into films with a cold shoulder and really not knowing any thing more than the Director, stars and a maybe a vague outline of the plot, this was how entered 'The Place Beyond the Pines'. My mindset going in was that it was Directed by Derek 'Blue Valentine' Cianfrance and stars 'Drive'n Gosling and 'Silver Linings' Cooper. I thought the film was going to be centered around Cooper (the cop) hunting down Gosling (the Criminal). I couldn't have been more wrong, I got a far different film...Actually I got like three different films.

A traveling Motorcycle Stuntman discovers that he has a newborn child, and decides to begin robbing banks in order provide for his estranged family.

I don't think there has ever been a time in my cinema going life where I have left the theater in such an uncertain and bewildered mood. This film took my expectations and told them to go fuck themselves. Derek Cianfrance is a great Director and from the opening tracking shot you know the hands of a very talented man.

To be honest, While there was a lot of I really liked about this film. There was also a lot I felt uneasy about, specifically the Writing. After Derek Cianfrance's brilliant 'Blue Valentine' which was a film that really strayed from the boundaries of its genre, I was expecting 'Pines' to do the same. I was very surprised when the first half hour of the film was filled with the such an obvious, and dare I say cliched, build up. While the rest of the film was far from cliched, I still had problems with the script throughout and the strange and unfulfilling decisions it seem to make. I may be in the minority with these thoughts but It's something that prevented me from having an even greater appreciation of the film.

'The Place Beyond the Pines' is a film that deals with several themes. In particular that of corruption, Repercussions for your actions and most prominently the importance of father-son relationships. The film does a good job of dealing with these themes, especially that of corruption. To be honest I wasn't the biggest fan of the way it dealt with the father-son relationship aspect, I know it takes up a bulk of the films premise but I just felt it came of a little too sentimental and tacked on.

As I alluded to above, the film is tremendously Directed by Cianfrance although I felt like his vision came off a little clustered at times I still felt like he did a fantastic job. In what may be the highlight of the film though is the Cinematography by Sean Bobbitt. The fast paced chase sequences are absolutely incredible, its a simple technique of putting a camera on the windshield but it so damn effective through the chase scenes and gives a very realistic edge to the film.

Ryan Gosling continues his run as Hollywood's most popular star with another excellent showing here. Portraying the tattoo plastered ''Handsome'' Luke. Bradley Cooper follows up his career best showing in 'Silver Linings Playbook' with another fantastic performance here, I may be starting to like this guy. The rest of the cast is terrific and features plenty of great little showings, Eva Mendes is good, Ben Mendlesohn is awesome as always and Rose Byrne is good if not a little under utilized. Oh and Ray Liotta plays the same role he's been playing since 'Goodfellas'.

'The Place Beyond the Pines' was not the film I was expecting and to be honest I really wasn't sure what to think about it. On one hand there is so much I loved here, the acting, Directing, Cinematography. On the other hand I had major problems with the script and its still something that is still gnawing at me. Overall, I have decided to call 'The Place Beyond the Pines' the best Film of 2013 thus far, Due to the fact that it left me in a trance and left a huge impression on me.

****