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Reviews

Gravity
(2013)

Houston, We Have the Future of Movies
Houston, We Have the Future of Movies

Assuming the average viewer interested in seeing this film knows what it's about, I'm going to skip the plot summary—albeit brief—and jump right into how much I loved this stunning piece of art.

Director Alfonso Cuarón has a knack for beauty—he directed the most magical of all the Harry Potter films, recreating the world with a dark splendor; his dystopian CHILDREN OF MEN was a cinematic wonderland; Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN was so gorgeous in its simplicity—and now he creates a quasi-horror film set in space that is so dazzling and magnificent a part of you wants to keep drifting aimlessly around the globe.

The film is a thrill-ride, with a booming and heart-racing score that perfectly coincides with the tempo and action. The performances from George Clooney and specifically Sandra Bullock, who basically carries the film on her shoulders, are strong. We are with Dr. Stone (Bullock) every step—or floating inch—of the way, and we don't want to lose contact. This is the future of film, and when executed the correct way, as this film is, the thought is beyond exciting. The effects are breathtaking—but most importantly they're unnoticeable. They flow along with the film as easily as Dr. Stone does in zero gravity.

Be warned—I wanted to immediately re-watch the film as soon as it was over; part of me was thankful I was on earth but another part of me was curious to take a trip around space—and perhaps get lost in it's beauty. And that's just it—the film is frighteningly seductive. But I don't mind at all. Give me more!

Silver Linings Playbook
(2012)

A Terrific Tango of Two Misfits
The climax of the film, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, is a dance. Fitting—that's how I saw the entire film. As a dance. It's a beautiful dance in which immensely talented actors go toe-to-toe in a fiery tango and a director at the top of his game twirls his camera around effortlessly.

The chemistry between Bradley Cooper's Pat and Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffany is heaven-brewed. For that matter, even the supporting roles and minor roles all blend perfectly. As Pat's father, Robert DeNiro hasn't had material this good in a long time and he notably relishes in it. Watching him and Lawrence go at it is enthralling—she has no fear. Jacki Weaver, playing Pat's mom, deserves a shout-out. Juxtaposing her character with David O. Russell's most recent film-mother in THE FIGHTER, played by Melissa Leo, Weaver works with a subtle ferocity, as opposed to Leo's garish ferocity. The subtlety does more for me.

Speaking of Russell—it appears he's getting better and better with each subsequent film. I enjoyed THE FIGHTER but I wasn't head over heels for it. With SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, I can safely say that my heels are high over my head. I'm in love with this movie and what Russell has crafted from Matthew Quick's novel. The film is pure emotion—hilarious and heartbreaking. It's a helluva dance.

The finale that is the dance scene featuring Pat and Tiffany echoes the mood swings of the characters (DeNiro's Pat, Sr. included) as well as the offbeat quirks of human nature and life, which are on display, without filter, throughout the film. This movie gets it. It's one of the best of the year. But you don't have to take my word for it—perhaps my head is in the clouds. Perhaps, like Pat, I believe in silver linings. Perhaps I'm just a sucker for an occasional happy ending. I don't know. Like I said, you don't have to take my word for it. You should see for yourself.

Liberal Arts
(2012)

Charm and Wonderful Acting Make for a Worthwhile Watch
The hyphenate that is this Josh Radnor guy presents a somewhat thin but ultimately rewarding film with LIBERAL ARTS. The story is a charming one—jaded New Yorker makes an excursion back to his alma mater in Ohio and meets a much younger and gorgeous kindred spirit who forces him to self-reflect. But unfortunately, it's also a story that provides enough material for an 80 minute film which Radnor stretches out to around 97 minutes. Thus, some of the film drags a bit. Luckily, Radnor casts actors with incredible talent who breathe life into the film when it begins to deflate.

Elizabeth Olsen, specifically, is an ace. In a character reversal from her breakthrough in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, she is beautiful and funny, effortlessly natural. The scenes featuring her make the film. Watching her this early in her career and contemplating just how much potential she has and what she'll be able to do with it is exciting for any movie lover. Richard Jenkins is wonderful as always, as is Allison Janney. Even Zac Efron, making a humorous cameo appearance, helps liven things up a bit. The bond shared between Radnor's character and a depressed, anti-social undergrad, played by John Magaro, is particularly sincere.

The film seems to be a meditative-lite work. It's brooding and thoughtful, but it's not something that will permeate your thoughts or stick with you days after watching. But it isn't supposed to be. (At least I don't think so.) The film is probably significantly more appealing to a select group of people—mainly those with a "liberal arts" background, or those able to register all of the literary references—but that is not to say the film is only for some. The pleasant romantic-comedy-ish-drama story and the aforementioned acting is enough to create a film anyone can enjoy if they try. If the viewer tries to get past the somewhat pretentious collegiate talk, tries to hold on for the somewhat slow moments, tries to watch the film as a light and entertaining piece to pass 90-something minutes, it's highly recommended. Seek it out.

Django Unchained
(2012)

Freedom and Choices and Tarantino
In Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, there is a scene in which Django (Jamie Fox), soon after being freed by the incredibly likable dentist turned bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), shops for new clothes to wear.

Schultz tells Django to pick out whatever he likes. Django looks at the smiling white man in disbelief. You're gonna let me pick out my own clothes? Django can't believe it. The following shot delivered one of the biggest laughs from the audience I watched the film with. After the white man confirms that yes, he is indeed letting the black man pick out his own clothes, we cut to a wide shot of Django riding his horse, now decked out in his very own (outlandish) cowboy outfit—an all blue with white ruffle get-up.

It's a great little scene that provides humor and allows the viewer to further warm up to the two main protagonists. But it also does more than that. It's a simple scene that speaks for the whole film. It's an affirmation that this man of color is now free and able to make his own decisions. The choice he made concerning his extravagantly loud outfit acts as a warning to those that plan to stand in his way—watch out, here I come, I ain't gonna be quiet no more.

And the humor the scene provides echoes the entire film—it wants us to get comfortable with our hero. Tarantino knows that a man of color makes an unconventional hero in a revenge- flick—that's why he made the film. When was the black man going to get his revenge film? It's been long overdue. With Django Unchained, that film has finally arrived and it has arrived in style. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and meticulously written, it's Tarantino at his most epic.

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