Posts Tagged ‘Roger Ebert’

Going The Distance – Going For Need

Posted 04 Aug 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Going The Distance, USA, 2010 Drew Barrymore and Justin Long in New Line Cinema's romantic comedy Going The Distance, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Directed by Nanette Burstein

Some of us have experienced it, some of us have vowed to never go through it (once or again), some of us are doing it right now, but the fact is Nanette Burstein’s film might as well be “based on actual events.” It isn’t a film for everyone, hence its divisive critical reception, but for those of us who can connect, it serves as medicine for a most unique ailment: long-distance relationships. Some of them work, some of them crash and burn, but no matter what happens between the two loved ones, it’s a learning experience like none other. Burstein is a documentary filmmaker by trade, having only a few films, including The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002) and American Teen (2008), to her name. It’s always an interesting leap when a documentary director throws their hat into the ring to make a fiction film. I’m sure many of us long for the day when Michael Moore might make a buddy cop movie, but, until that (sure to be unfortunate) time comes, let’s look at what we have here. Read More

Frost/Nixon – The Reductive Power Of The Close-Up

Posted 16 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews

By Scott Martin

Frost/Nixon, USA / UK / France, 2008

Directed by Ron Howard

Frost/Nixon is a 2008 historical drama film based on the 2006 play by Peter Morgan which dramatizes the Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977. By now, we’re all familiar with the story. Some of us have been fortunate enough to see the original interviews that inspired the Broadway play by Peter Morgan, which in turn served to inspire Ron Howard’s film, which plays itself out like a boxing match, so much so that Nixon is shown jogging in place in a track suit before the final interview. The underdog of the match is David Frost, a once famed but at that time practically defunct English talk show host, relegated to the kind of fare you might see on E! on a Saturday morning, in Australia. Richard Nixon, the man, was out of office and essentially hiding in his home in San Clemente at the time; Richard Nixon, the President, was no more – resigned, pardoned, and reviled by the majority of the American public.

I’ve always been a big fan of films that pit two intelligent men against one another. Roger Michell’s Changing Lanes (2002) is a personal favorite, as is Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Five Minutes of Heaven (2009), a terribly underseen film starring Liam Neeson. Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (2006) is worth a mention as well. You can’t technically call this a cat-and-mouse film, as there’s no physical chase, but the mentality of the film might suggest otherwise. Nixon is set up as a heavyweight taking down a featherweight, David Frost, for a $600,000 prize bag. Read More

The Sixth Sense – He Saw Dead People; Let’s Move On

Posted 07 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

The Sixth Sense, USA, 1999

Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

The Sixth Sense is a 1999 American psychological thriller written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.What seems to be indicative of M. Night Shyamalan’s work, especially over the last few years, is his extreme attention to detail. Whether or not you appreciate his films is a moot point; it’s hard for one to argue that he doesn’t have a handle on what he does, and in The Sixth Sense, the ghost story that became a template for far too many films to follow, his detail-oriented direction certainly doesn’t go to waste.

Films like this only succeed, no matter how great the direction or cast may be, if their screenplays do; written by Shyamalan as well, this screenplay may be bold but is weighted by a slight amateur’s touch in the first half. Some of the dialogue is brow-raisingly awkward and (for those who have seen the film, which I’m pretty sure is the entirety of the human race) full of holes, holes so gapingly big that even simple assumption of what the characters may have done off-screen doesn’t help as it usually would. Some scenes are far too short to make the emotional impact intended and others are drastically overlong, but, once that scene hits, once Cole tells his doctor his secret, it’s a near flawless work for the next hour. Read More

Friday The 13th (1980) – Everybody Looking Forward To The Weekend

Posted 03 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Friday the 13th, USA, 1980

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham

Friday the 13th - a film that delivers what it promises. Alfred Hitchcock created the genre: the “slasher” picture. It was 1960, and the film was Psycho. If we wanted to stretch that fact, we can claim that the original slasher film was a small, yet admittedly scary, film called Peeping Tom, directed by Michael Powell. It was released only a few months before Psycho, but didn’t have nearly the same impact on audiences, or critics. Psycho soared to the top, and Peeping Tom was left to be later rediscovered and revered. Hitchcock, without intention, birthed a new era of horror film that wouldn’t come into its prime until 1974 with the release of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas.

Black Christmas redefined what Hitchcock had started, and set the rules in stone: a mentally unhinged masked killer stalks attractive teens and picks them off, one by one, in creative ways. After Black Christmas, then came John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), which cemented the popularity of the genre. After Halloween was a critical and financial success, studios ran with the idea that they could make money selling “dead teenager movies” (a term coined by Roger Ebert) to live teenagers. They were right, and in 1980, the first studio-backed slasher film was released. It was May 9th, and it was Friday the 13th. Read More

The Town – Not Just Hunting For A Paycheck

Posted 26 Jun 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

The Town, USA, 2010

Directed by Ben Affleck

The Town feels like a film that could stand on its own, and Affleck makes the material his own, while paying respect to Charlestown and the novel itself. In 1997, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon gave us a soft and emotional tour of Boston in Good Will Hunting, as they knew it growing up. They explored the values of hope and family. In 2007, ten years later, Affleck went it alone and took us back to Boston with Gone Baby Gone, exploring themes of loss and grief, right and wrong. In 2010, Affleck took us to the doorstep, sat us down on the curb, and said, “Watch.” The town, Charlestown, to be specific, lives and breathes by itself as the central hub of bank robberies in New England. The film’s opening quotes tell us that the trade is almost a birthright, something you’re born into, or against. For the four lads in this film, it’s the only life they know, and they’ll go to incredible lengths to protect it.

Ben Affleck is a fantastic director. Being an actor, he understands how to work with them and get the best performances possible. There isn’t a false performance in this film, not one, and if Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone weren’t already an indication, he’s an extremely gifted writer. He’s a great American filmmaker, if I may be so bold. After only two films as director, that’s pretty bold, but I’ll stand by it. Sue me. Affleck understands pacing better than most directors working today. I think it can be attributed to his involvement in the scriptwriting, and his timing as an actor. All of these elements elevate his films beyond what they might be in the hands of other directors. He isn’t a Scorsese or a Capra or a Coppola, but he’s Affleck, and, at the very least, he was the bomb in Phantoms. Read More

Show Me Love

Posted 20 May 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Show Me Love, Sweden / Denmark, 1998

Written and Directed by Lukas Moodysson

Show Me Love is the best film you've probably never heard of.

This gentle, insightful and wonderfully realistic comedy-drama from Sweden gets my vote for best film you’ve probably never heard of. We here at Movies I Didn’t Get feel it is our responsibility to not only debate the merits of popular and overrated films that we didn’t get, but also to champion those that we did get, and which we feel are underrated, or in this case, simply not well enough known (we also like to just review movies, as you can see by scrolling through our archives). At any rate, amidst a constant stream of banal, exploitative and unconvincing teen movies, Lukas Moodysson’s Show Me Love stands out as a testament to the truth of living through that difficult age between twelve and nineteen, especially when one is perceived to be “different” for whatever reason. As the great Roger Ebert said of this beautiful, understated masterpiece, “this film loves teenagers; most teen movies just use them.” I rarely quote another critic, but this is so astute, I couldn’t resist.

Moodysson’s most well-known film is Lilya 4-Ever (2002), a harrowing tale of teen prostitution in Eastern Europe and the conditions that can lead to it, there or elsewhere. The first time I saw Show Me Love, I was not aware it was made by the same director and I had not yet seen any of his other films, which also include Together (2000) and A Hole in My Heart (2004), the latter of which is even more disturbing than Lilya. However, even without prior knowledge of Moodysson’s always excellent work, there is a sense of impending doom throughout his first feature, a feeling that something terrible might happen at any moment; this is, in many ways, a perfect representation of what it is like to be a teenager in modern times.  Read More

Super

Posted 15 May 2011 — by Nicole P
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Scott Martin Super movie by James Gunn

Super, USA, 2010

Written and Directed by James Gunn

Super is twisted. Some films can pull that off in a positive way. Recall a film from 1998 called Happiness, directed by the superbly screwed-up Todd Solondz. That’s a film that somehow manages to find the dark humor in the sexually disturbed characters it portrays. Of course this isn’t a Todd Solondz film; it wouldn’t be as ugly if it were. No doubt, Super is very funny, in parts. Director James Gunn, whose last film was the deliriously strange Slither (2006), gives us a portrait of a mentally unhinged man who accepts a calling from God to be a superhero. He sees visions of demons and rights small wrongs before stumbling into a big crime. He wields a pipe wrench and cracks skulls for a living. The line between fantasy superhero and regular hyper-violence is blurred, not just in his mind, but in the film’s as well. We aren’t ever really shown a man we can get behind, even if it’s just to sympathize. Read More