By Ezra Stead
Kong: Skull Island, USA, 2017
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Nothing can destroy one’s enjoyment of a new movie like anticipation, and this type of (sometimes) misplaced enthusiasm is never more likely to occur than when it is attached to a new version of a beloved property. As excited as audiences might have been about, say, Jurassic Park in 1993, the anticipation for its sequel a few years later was bound to be even higher, leaving open the road for diminishing returns down which that particular franchise has been barreling ever since. 60 years before that first Jurassic movie, there was a little black-and-white classic without which Spielberg’s masterpiece likely never would have come to exist; that, of course, was the original King Kong, and if you’re not a pretty huge fan of that one, I’m kind of surprised you’re even reading this.
Needless to say, going into Kong: Skull Island, I had mixed feelings of hope and despair, balancing out to a sort of cautious optimism. Kong’s last big-screen outing, at the hands of Peter Jackson and company in 2005, was certainly reverent of the source material and technically impressive overall, if perhaps over-ambitious, and certainly a bit bloated at over three hours. Luckily, Skull Island has all the technical prowess of its predecessor with none of the awkward self-seriousness. It is a wildly entertaining romp from start to finish, and without a doubt my second-favorite Kong movie yet (I’m pretty sure most fans of the 1976 version are really just fans of young Jessica Lange). Read More
By Ezra Stead
I’ve been making these lists, in one form or another, for a dozen years now, and every year I’ve done my best to balance my own personal preferences with an objective and educated view of cinema in order to recommend not only my personal favorite films of any given year, but also those I believe to be the best. Well, no more! This year, and forever onward, I strive to give you only my own subjective favorites, the films that I have watched and am likely to watch over and over again throughout the years. When I look back over the last five years, for example, I have to admit that these have proven to be my actual favorite films, despite what I may have written at the time in an effort to recognize other worthy cinematic achievements to which I may or may not have returned even once in the years since: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007); The Dark Knight (2008); Inglourious Basterds (2009); Dogtooth (2010); and Drive (2011).
Of those five, only Dogtooth actually topped my list at the time. So, with this in mind, I present my favorite films of 2012, in all their highly subjective glory. Since ranking films in order of preference is often at least somewhat arbitrary, I should admit that some of these may have made it into the top 10, rather than the runner-up category, solely because they were more fun to write about. However, my top 5 is solidly made up of films I have already seen at least twice, and feel strongly that I would be more than happy to watch again at absolutely any time. Read More
By Ezra Stead
Carnage, France / Germany / Poland / Spain, 2011
Directed by Roman Polanski
We Need to Talk About Kevin, UK / USA, 2011
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
The title of this piece is obviously a joke, as I have no concrete evidence to support the idea that the excellent actor John C. Reilly actually hates children. However, being born the fifth of six children and having now fathered two of his own, he undoubtedly related to some of the sentiments expressed in his two latest films, Roman Polanski’s Carnage and Lynn Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, both of which provide starkly different perspectives on why it just might not be such a great idea to have kids. Carnage is very funny, while Kevin is dark, dark, dark – but the underlying insights about human nature in both are decidedly bleak and brutal, regardless of whether they are cushioned by humor or not. Read More
By Scott Martin
Cedar Rapids, USA, 2011
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Most of the time during this film, I thought to myself, “This feels like an Alexander Payne movie.” Payne, for those unaware, directed wonderful and heartfelt movies like Election (1999) and Sideways (2004). Sure enough, by the time the credits rolled, Payne’s name was listed as a producer for the picture; his fingerprints are all over it, though this is a bit more screwball than anything he would normally direct. The actual director here, Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl), doesn’t have the handle on human sympathy that Payne might, but he certainly hits it pretty close to home. Certainly pretty far from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which doesn’t seem to hold much sympathy for those who pass through it. Read More
By Jason A. Hill
In a press release today, the Sundance Institute announced that it will host its famed film festival in nine different cities in January.
PARK CITY, UTAH – Sundance Institute today announced the films from the 2011 Sundance Film Festival scheduled to screen in theaters in nine different cities, including the newly added Seattle, Washington Egyptian Theatre, on the evening of Thursday, January 27, 2011. The screenings are part of Sundance Film Festival USA, designed to introduce the Festival experience to film-loving audiences nationwide. The 2011 Sundance Film Festival opens January 20 and runs through January 30 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah. Read More