Monthly Archives: January 2013

Recent Movie Round-Up 1/29/2013

In today’s Recent Movie Round-Up: The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective continues, and a Studio Ghibli marathon ensues! MOVIES! ALL OF THEM!

#17 – The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)

The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective: ‘The Fountain’

One of my five favorite films of all time, and one of the most painfully misunderstood films ever made. Wanna know why? How about reading this huge-ass article I wrote on it for Movie Mezzanine! Analysis is fun!

#18 – Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

Spirited Away is another one of my favorite films of all time, and perhaps my favorite animated film in general. Here’s an experience that is purely, wholly imaginative. Not a single element of this film feels like it’s been done before and yet not a single emotional cue rings false either. Achingly melancholic, optimistic, and gorgeous, with Joe Hisaiashi’s moving score sweeping you across this unbelievable setting, everything about Spirited Away just feels perfect.

#19 – Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992)

Porco Rosso, meanwhile, is one of the few Miyazaki films that I hadn’t seen before, and god damn, where has this movie been all my life? Miyazaki is always terrific when it comes to his evocation of innocence and yearning, but Porco Rosso manages to highlight an oft forgotten staple of his films: They can be really damn funny when they want to. And Porco Rosso is simply hysterical. The humor is just pure and warm and comes organically from the characters and the settings in wonderful ways. Yet Miyazaki still manages to fit in his signature moments of quiet beauty as well. Simply put: You’d have to be a fascist to dislike this film.

#20 – Whisper of the Heart (Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995)

One of the most underseen, underappreciated films of Studio Ghibli, Whisper of the Heart is a deceptively heart-breaking coming-of-age story that understands the melodrama of teenage relationships without trivializing them either. The film starts out as a light but fun teen film, but as it progresses, it transcends its own trappings in ways I would’ve never anticipated to create a moving, and surprisingly inspirational study of discovering your place in adulthood. A small, but just as wonderful gem as the rest of the Ghibli canon. Seek this one out.

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The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective: ‘The Fountain’

The Fountain Poster

Here’s my write-up of The Fountain, which is both one of my favorite films of all time and one of the most under-appreciated films ever made in general. Click this link to read it.


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Recent Movie Round-Up 1/22/2013

On today’s installment of Recent Movie Round-Up: Drug addicts galore, killer mamas, KFBR392, Ahnuld’s return, Wahlberg and Crowe duke it out, and Robert De Niro has a really bad week. Movies, movies, MOVIES, OMG!

#11 – Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)

The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective: ‘Requiem for a Dream’

I wrote an article of this baby you could read here, but yeah, this one’s always a tough watch. The rare film that can induce physical discomfort with its brutally unflinching direction. The article I wrote is on and part of my retrospective of director Darren Aronofsky.

#12 – Mama (Andres Muschietti, 2013)

‘Mama’ Buries Originality Under Formula

A pretty decent if not problematic horror film. And OMG I WROTE A REVIEW OF IT ON MOVIE MEZZANINE YOU GUYS! #TheMostShamelessOfPlugs

#13 – MacGruber – (Jorma Taccone, 2010)

I see why many people find this film unfunny. It’s completely stupid beyond belief and its protagonist is beyond unlikeable. But the sheer silliness of it all is enough to win me over and earn big laughs out of me. As juvenile as the whole thing is, hey, funny is funny.

#14 – The Last Stand (Kim Jee-Woon, 2013)

The Last Stand really doesn’t do anything revolutionary, and its very oddly paced, but there’s enough fun in here to make it worth a watch. Arnold really doesn’t do much until the climax of the film, which goes back to the pacing and structural issues of the film, but the action scenes are competently directed enough to elicit some thrills, even though one should expect more out of Kim Jee-Woon who directed the terrific Korean films The Good The Bad The Weird and the problematic but brutal I Saw the Devil. The rest of the cast helps elevate it, with character actors like Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville giving the whole thing a tinge of personality. It’s not mind-blowing or as insanely fun as something like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, but fans of the Ahnuld should have no qualms with it.

#15 – Broken City (Allen Hughes, 2013)

Broken City is a movie running entirely on autopilot. The second you walk out of the theater, you forget that it even existed. Wahlberg and Crowe do all that they can to make this script interesting, and while the movie is safe and routine, it’s at least watchable. Yet there’s always a spark missing. On top of that, the film employs a pathetic twist near the end that’s as surprising and unpredictable as the glow in the horizon turning out to be sunlight. By no means bad, but so astonishingly mediocre that whatever it was trying to do totally failed.

#16 – Midnight Run (Martin Brest, 1988)

In the realm of odd-couple style buddy-action movies, Midnight Run is in the top tier. When people say “they don’t make ’em like that anymore”, they refer to films like this. Though it has all the predictable elements of buddy-action movies and chase movies, the chemistry between De Niro and Grodin allows for scenes of surprising poignancy and insight. Meanwhile, the rest of the movie outside of De Niro and Grodin is populated with great supporting performances that flesh out the world and manage to make the scenes without the odd-couple of the movie not a drag to watch, something that few of these kinds of movies succeed in. Everything about this movie is purely entertaining, and the fact that it has a heart to go along with it elevates it to greatness as well. Simply put, they really don’t make ’em like this anymore.

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The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective: ‘Requiem for a Dream’

What’s that? A new post from yours truly on Movie Mezzanine? Why, yes it is. Click here for my analysis of Aronofsky’s notoriously grim Requiem for a Dream.

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Mama Movie Review

My latest review for Movie Mezzanine: Mama, directed and co-written by Andres Muschietti and produced by Guillermo Del Toro. Also starring American Treasure Jessica Chastain Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (a.k.a. Jamie Lannister). My full review on this link.

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Recent Movie Round-Up 1/17/13

This week on Recent Movie Round-Up: A man finds the patterns in the everyday, a hitman is forced to kill his future self, a woman is hellbent on searching for the greatest war criminal of this generation, a group of police officers take out an army of gangsters, and…Ron Burgundy plays the hell out of that jazz flute. MOVIES GALORE!

#6 – Pi (Darren Aronofsky, 1998)

The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective: ‘Pi’

Pi remains a harrowing, haunting film about the realtionship between science and religion and the nature of obsession 15 years after its release. I wrote a whole article on it right here.

#7 – Looper (Rian Johnson, 2012)

I’ve already written a review of Looper, but it should be noted that my original review listed a bunch of flaws that I had with the film. After my second viewing, all those flaws instantly evaporated. When I saw it a third time in the theater, I knew it was a legitimately great movie. And even with my fourth viewing on blu-ray, it manages to keep getting richer. It’s that rare sci-fi film that truly makes you think as much as it makes you feel. The entire cast is superb.

#8 – Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)

I’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty twice in the theater now, each time still thoroughly enjoying it. Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have crafted a gripping procedural that manages to be about so much more than just the hunt for Osama bin Laden. It also manages to ask what the sacrifice for freedom is, how much we’re willing to let go in order to keep a nation safe. In a way, it’s almost like the ultimate revenge film, with Maya representing the American zeitgeist during the War on Terror, and Jessica Chastain plays her marvelously. Maya remains enigmatic and without backstory, but all we need to know is her determination and ruthlessness, which come in spades. If you haven’t checked this one out yet, you’re missing out.

#9 – Gangster Squad (Ruben Fleischer, 2013)

Gangster Squad just sucks. It’s not bad enough to be good, it’s not fun enough to be mocked at, and it’s not serious enough to be taken seriously either. It’s just a vapid waste of space of a film; the cinematic equivalent of a long sigh extended for 2 hours; the apex of a film with potential in so many of its aspects getting wasted by the second. None of the actors of its fine cast allow for anything resembling a memorable performance, with the exception of Sean Penn, who is over-the-top in the worst possible way. Penn chews scenery like he’s on a different planet, but instead of using that over-the-top nature to inform the audience on his character like, say, DiCaprio in Django Unchained, he just wallows in gangster villain cliches and comes across more like a parody.

The direction is ugly in its slickness, the script is phoned in, each character is underdeveloped, and everything feels hastily slapped together in the most haphazard possible fashion. And the pacing makes it a chore to sit through. The film tries so desperately to be part of the big boys club, wanting to have its mobster movie cake and rip it apart too, and it ends up failing at everything. A worthless, bland piece of nothingness.

#10 – Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)

Let’s play a game: Try watching Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy without quoting a single line of dialogue from it for a whole week. That’s right, it’s impossible. McKay’s gleefully silly period satire only gets funnier with age thanks to its dynamite cast, the ridiculous characters they inhabit, and the irresistibly quotable humor at the center of it all. And this year, we’ll thankfully get to return to these characters in the much-anticipated sequel. Lamp, oh how I’ve missed you so…

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The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective Part 1 – Pi

The Director Retrospective series returns! This time, on Movie Mezzanine and with our next featured director being one of my favorites of this contemporary generation: Darren Aronofsky! Click this link to read.

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Recent Movie Round-Up 1/9/2013

On the first Recent Movie Round-Up of the New Year we have: Robin Williams goes to heaven, little kids fighting the forces of the undead, the French Die Hard, a classic epic, and the most mysterious musical figure of our time. Kinda. MOVIES AHOY!

#1 – What Dreams May Come (Vincent Ward, 1998)

When I originally saw this film years ago, I was awed by its gorgeous, breathtaking visuals depicting Heaven and Hell. A couple years or so later, I read the book it was based on, by Richard Matheson, and was moved by its wonderful prose and gorgeous emotion. Earlier, the film was on cable and I decided to give it a rewatch. I remembered liking it, so why not. Little did I realize that there was one thing I didn’t notice when I first saw this film: The horrendous script. It was shocking to me how it was blocked from my mind, but this is a very poorly written film. Weird character twists, meandering pacing, and shockingly awful uses of flashbacks that break up the flow of numerous scenes. And what’s worse is that a majority of the dialogue is exposition, something that worked in the novel but is poorly translated on screen.

A shame because director Vincent Ward’s visual eye is astounding, and perfectly captures the beauty of Matheson’s original prose in increasingly inventive ways. He isn’t to blame for the film’s faults, for he tries so very hard. Instead it is screenwriter Ronald Bass (Who previously wrote Rain Man, a good film, and then lesser films such as The Joy Luck Club and Amelia), who can’t keep a sense of flow in this story and taints the original story with odd character twists that make no sense. Should be seen only as a visual experience.

#2 – Paranorman (Sam Fell and Chris Butler, 2012)

I already reviewed and praised this film enough so I won’t spend too much time on it. But one thing that doesn’t get nearly enough credit is just how smart the script to Paranorman is. Like Looper and Cloud Atlas, two of the other great films of 2012, Paranorman imbues almost every single plot point with theme, making everything important to the character arcs and the overarching message. This is a rare film about anti-bullying that’s surprisingly very two-sided, showcasing how abuse can damage youths, while also acknowledging that punishing those very bullies doesn’t make things any better. Either way, this is a terrific film that more people need to watch. The climax of the film is deeply moving.

#3 – Sleepless Night (Frederic Jardin, 2011)

Coined as the “French Die Hard“, Sleepless Night is a relentless, frenetic cat-and-mouse thriller that takes place almost entirely in one location, and makes great use of it too. Following a somewhat crooked cop who has to save his son from druglords, Vincent (Played by the wonderfully intense Tomer Sisley) will stop at nothing to save him. Sleepless Night doesn’t break new ground in the action thriller genre, but Jesus H. Christ does it to a damn good job of executing it.

Director Frederic Jardin hits the ground running and doesn’t slow down, even for a second, continually gaining momentum and always providing something interesting. The characters are all fairly well-drawn, enough to the point that you can distinguish each one’s motivations and backstories, which leads to some cool “reversals” when we learn that Vincent may not be the only cop with a secret. The action sequences manage to balance that line of being shot in a chaotic shaky cam while still being edited well-enough to create comprehensible fight sequences. It’s astonishing to me that this film makes for a better Taken sequel than the actual Taken sequel we got last year.

Simply put: Anyone who just wants a very, very solid action thriller needs to seek this baby out.

#4 – Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)

Yup, this was my first time seeing this movie. Yeah, go ahead and bite me, I guess. I thought I knew what to expect going into it: A huge, desert war epic about T.E. Lawrence’s escapades in Arabia during WWI. What I wasn’t expecting was one of the most fascinating character studies ever put to film, with one of the most nuanced performances I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Peter O’Toole and director David Leane takes the typical war epic and turn it into something more: A portrait of a man in crisis; of identity, sexuality, importance, belonging, etc.

Simply put, it lived up to its reputation, and more. And seeing it on a large monitor with 4k resolution was an astounding thing to behold.

#5 – Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul, 2012)

Searching for Sugar Man is a documentary that starts out with this simple premise: A musician named Rodriguez made two albums. They were beloved by all the recording studios and music executives across the industry, but it sold squat in America. However, what people didn’t know was that they were gangbusters in South Africa, and Rodriguez was more popular than Elvis in that part of the world. So why isn’t this man a superstar? Because it is believed that he committed suicide on stage in a bad concert.

It starts like that, and then…becomes something more. I dare not say what it is, but let it be known that not since Dear Zachary has a documentary moved me to tears the same way that this one did. Searching for Sugar Man is an incredible, profoundly beautiful experience about the enduring power of art and music that should be experienced by everybody. Fascinating, heart-breaking, and poetic beyond belief. Seek this baby out.

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The Impossible Movie Review

My first review to be featured on Movie Mezzanine. To read it, click this link.

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To Bigger, Brighter Things…


Well, it finally happened. 2013 is off to a rollicking start because I’ve finally been hired to be a critic for a professional site. And not just any professional site: A brand-spanking new one to boot. will feature reviews from critics across the globe from Melbourne to Austin to New York to my hometown of LA. Also worth noting is that each of the writers are all incredibly talented, smart individuals; each of whom are more intelligent than me.

Now, this does not mean I’ll be abandoning CinEffect completely. I still have Recent Movie Round-Up to use here as my personal film journal, as well as a bunch of other reviews that won’t be published on the Movie Mezzanine. Plus, I can’t talk about video games on a movie site now, could I?

However, expect some reviews from yours truly to also be on that site as well, plus potentially a weekly series of articles I might try my hand at.

Nevertheless, you should visit the site regardless. Lots of smart people, great reviews, there’s gonna be some really cool features, and more fun stuff. Currently, we have a Top 50 Films of 2012 list (With three blurbs about Cloud AtlasAmour, and Beasts of the Southern Wild written by me), and I’ll be having a review of the new disaster film The Impossible published there tomorrow.

Happy New Year, folks!

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