Tag Archives: days of heaven

The Terrence Malick Retrospective: Days of Heaven

days of heaven 1

My Terrence Malick Retrospective over at Movie Mezzanine begins with Days of Heaven, one of my 10 favorite films of all time. Click here for the link.

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Recent Movie Round-Up 3/2/2013

Sorry this is coming much later than it should but…I saw lots of movies! MOVIES! THEY’RE A THING! I WATCH THEM! I REVIEW THEM! OH MY GOD YOU GUYS LET’S DO THIS THING!

#34 – Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984)

Nausicaa is the first film to be made by the animation wunderkinds of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki’s second feature. Like all “first feature” movies (Even though Lupin III is technically Miyazaki’s first, but you get the idea), it’s got a host of problems regarding pacing, flow, etc. But that being said, I still loved it. It’s got an incredibly unique post-apocalyptic world, gorgeous animation, and a surprisingly emotional climax. I saw the dubbed version at the screening I saw it in (Thanks, Aero Theater!) and the dub’s very impressive. Alison Lohman (Who you’ll hopefully remember as the girl from Drag Me to Hell) shines as Nausicaa, Uma Thurman is badass in her few scenes, while Patrick Stewart….oh c’mon, he’s fucking Patrick Stewart! Give him all the awards!

#35 – Castle in the Sky (Hayao Miyazaki, 1986)

Now Castle in the Sky, meanwhile, avoids all the problems of Nausicaa. It’s paced beautifully. Feeling like an epic 2 and a half hour film within the span of only 126 minutes (And I mean that in a GREAT way), it’s got everything: Humor, action, romance, character, unbelievable animation, and it just feels epic. What can I say but… how have you not seen it yet?

#36 – Close-Up (Abbas Kiorastami, 1990)

Melding documentary and fiction in the most unbelievable of ways, Close-Up is surprisingly fascinating and heart-wrenching. The ideas the film posits about identity, fact, fabrication, and cinema in general are certainly head-scratchers, but even if you’re not into that, you can bear witness to a wonderfully beautiful character arc that feels intimate and personal, only enhanced by the philosophical quandaries.

#37 – Certified Copy (Abbas Kiorastami, 2010)

And speaking of heart-wrenching Kiarostami movies: GOOD GOD, THIS MOVIE. Talk about a perfect melding of enigmatic intellectualism and big-hearted romanticism. Binoche is astounding, as is William Shimmell. Their exquisite performances make both the romance and the philosophy about identity work so well. Again, if you haven’t seen these two Kiarostami gems yet, what’s stopping you?!

#38 – Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (Fritz Lang, 1924)

Is Fritz Lang one of if not the most important filmmaker of all time? Like his films or not, yes he is. That’s a basic fact. Crafting the first true epics (And I mean EPICS) of the sci-fi (Metropolis) and fantasy genres, his films still manage to hold up because they’re just so masterfully crafted, utilizing the silent cinema to its fullest potential. And his fantasy epic Die Nibelungen, which is 5 hours and split into two parts, personifies all of his best qualities.

#39 – The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, 2012)

I’m having a hard time thinking of a bleaker film than The Turin Horse. Maybe in terms of subject matter, there are bleaker things to watch, but few of them manage to actually personify bleak. Shot in grim black and white, with the sounds of harsh, apocalyptic winds howling all day and night, and with only one melancholic droning sound as the score, The Turin Horse is art-house cinema at its most uncompromising. Composed of only about 30 or something shots, glacially paced, and at two and a half hours length, there’s still something about Bela Tarr’s near-silent film that’s strangely mesmerizing. Perhaps it’s the mood, perhaps it’s the subdued performances, perhaps it’s the brilliant cinematography, and perhaps it’s how unrelentingly grim it is. Either way, I was enthralled the whole way through, even if it was deliberately overstaying its welcome.

#40 – A Lake (Philippe Grandrieux, 2008)

<i>A Lake:</i> Rolling Bank of Fog Can’t Hide Transparent Flaws

Now if you want an awful example of an uncompromising art-house film, look no further than A Lake, which I reviewed for Movie Mezzanine. You can read my review by clicking on this link, but here’s the short version: It isn’t very good. Did that come across? It isn’t very good.

#41 – Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami, 2013)

It took a while for me to really get this movie…in fact, I didn’t really get what it was going for until the very end. And now I can’t get it off my mind. I don’t wanna give away anything about it, but fans of riddles and Kiarostami’s other works should love it all the same.

#42 – Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)

It was my first time seeing this movie, and it was on a big screen. And god damn did it live up to its lofty reputation. Gone With the Wind is not at all what I expected it to be. Less of an epic and more of an epic melodrama featuring one of the most intentionally unlikable protagonists that you can’t help but root for thanks to Vivien Leigh’s brilliant performance, it’s visually astounding even after almost 75 years and breathtaking in its ability to make us care about such a shrew of a human being. And it was on the big screen for Chrissakes. If it’s available to you, that’s the only way to see it.

#43 – A Good Day to Die Hard (John Moore, 2013)

The original Die Hard is my favorite action film of all time, and all of its sequels are either fairly entertaining or really good in their own right. So when I heard this sucked, I was prepared to expect the worst. And yeah, it’s not particularly good at all, but it’s far from the badness I was expecting. There were a few action scenes that I liked, and it’s at least competently directed. All the problems are script-related, but the actual performance, action, visuals, etc. range from decent to kind of good. Still, that script truly is atrocious, but it wasn’t enough for me to call the whole movie so.

#44 – Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978) (Second Viewing)

#45 – Die Nibelungen: Kreimhild’s Revenge (Fritz Lang, 1924)

The second part of Lang’s epic is even more satisfying than the first, with intense melodrama, an incredible (for the time) battle sequence, and a fitting finale that ties up all loose ends. Silent film fans, this is a can’t-miss.

#46 – The Slender Man (AJ Meadows, 2013)

No matter how over-used he’s gotten, I’ve still found the Slender Man myth inherently creepy. The design, the backstory, everything. I still really love Marble Hornets, the found-footage YouTube web-series that popularized it, and I waas willing to give a movie a chance when I heard a Kickstarter funded project got backing. Sadly, however, this film written and directed by film critics AJ Meadows and Jeremy Kirk is exceedingly generic, unscary, and fails to capitalize on the Slender Man myth. That being said, they put up the whole movie for free on YouTube, so if you’re that interested, you could check it out. But I would not recommend it in the slightest.

#47 – The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse, 1956)

Perhaps the best short film ever created. A moving, heartfelt ode to companionship that still holds up to this day thanks to some of the best visual storytelling imaginable. I tear up during its heartbreakingly gorgeous finale every time.

#48 – Dark Skies (Scott Stewart, 2013)

<b><i>Dark Skies</i></b> Is Better Than You Thought It Would Be

I was fully expecting this to suck. And it turned out not to! In fact, I thought it was very good! Here’s my review of it on Movie Mezzanine.

#49 – How to Survive a Plague (David France, 2012)

Chronicling a decade of the AIDS epidemic and the LGBT community’s attempts to combat it, this is a surprisingly interesting and sometimes moving documentary that’s filled with archival footage that does a fantastic, brilliant job of educating us of the struggles of that time period and giving a great sense of the people involved. Deserving of its Oscar nomination.

#50 – Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962) (Second Viewing)

#51 – The Invisible War (Kirby Dick, 2012)

And speaking of good docs, The Invisible War is a searing indictment of the American military that allows its US soldiers to be raped frequently and on occasion. The doc has its share of problems, like the fact that it feels much too long and sometimes repetitive, but this is nonetheless disturbing and could bring some serious change.

#52 – Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)

I’m not fluent in the filmography of Woody Allen, having only seen three of his other films, so take it with a grain of salt that this is my favorite one of his that I’ve seen so far, and a simply gorgeous and fantastic experience. Novelistic, funny, and even a little heartbreaking, it’s a deeply humanistic portrait of a cast of dozens that gives all of the characters the right amount of development and room to breathe. Just beautiful and sweet in every regard.

#53 – The Last Exorcism: Part II (Ed Gass-Donnelly, 2013)

<b><i>The Last Exorcism: Part II:</i></b> The Fun of a Straight-To-DVD Sequel in Your Multiplex

Stay far away from this piece of shit as soon as possible. Trust me. I reviewed it.

#54 – Stoker (Chan-Wook Park, 2013)

<b><i>Stoker:</i></b> Korean Style Meets American Gothic in Beautifully Depraved Coming-of-Age Tale

Anyone worried that Korean auteur Chan-Wook Park (OldboyLady Vengeance) would lose his disturbing luster in his transition to American filmmaking should leave all their worries behind. Stoker is bloody brilliant, and further displays that Park simply can not be messed with no matter what language he’s working under. Deeply disturbing, yet in its own way kind of beautiful, this coming-of-age gothic fairy tale feels classic, incredibly stylish, and chillingly creepy. Do not miss out on this one. For the love of god, seek it out as soon as possible.

#55 – Men in Black 3 (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012)

“Did we really need a third movie from this series?” I asked myself when the trailers came out for this threequel. Because of this I skipped out on it when it came out in theaters and now I regret it. Men in Black 3 is actually very good, almost shockingly, surprisingly good. It manages to bring fresh life to the characters and material thanks to its time-travel premise and contains a surplus of imagination in its alien designs and even a few of its sci-fi concepts. My favorite aspect was the character of Griffin, an alien who could see every possible variation in the future. He’s played by Michael Stuhlbarg from A Serious Man, meaning he’s fucking awesome. Further proof that Stuhlbarg deserves to be in pretty much every movie from now on. That plus the fact that the movie is just very fun helps as well. Incredibly solid blockbuster entertainment.

Whew. That was a lot of movies. I’ll do my best to keep up to date on this thing more frequently. Can’t make promises, but still.

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Recent Movie Round-Up 2/10/2013

Too many movies to list! TOO MANY! MOVIES!

#21 – The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)

The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective: ‘The Wrestler’

Part 4 of my Darren Aronofsky Retrospective can be read on Movie Mezzanine by clicking on this smexy link.

#22 – Somersault (Cate Shortland, 2004)

Cate Shortland’s debut feature is a lovely, provocative character study on a young girl’s sexual awakening, and tying it all together is a wonderful debut performance from Abbie Cornish. What’s most surprising however is that Sam Worthington is in this movie and he isn’t a boring scrap of blandness. Hooray for nice surprises!

#23 – Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (George Hickenlooper, 1991)

Hearts of Darkness is without a doubt the best documentary about the filmmaking process, not only because of how much access the documentarians had to behind-the-scenes video and interviews with the director, cast, and crew of Apocalypse Now, but because of how it miraculously mirrors the struggles of the main character of both the film and the source material it’s based on.

#24 – Lore (Cate Shortland, 2013)

<i>Lore:</i> A Nation Divided; A Woman Torn

I wrote a review about Cate Shortland’s WWII film Lore on Movie Mezzanine. You can read it here.

#25 – Robocop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)

Because fuck you, it’s Robocop.

#26 – John Dies at the End (Don Coscarelli, 2013)

Here’s a weird one. John Dies at the End is a ludicrous, strange, off-beat film that goes through parallel dimensions, hallucinogenic drugs, psychic abilities, talking dogs, chest slugs, elder gods, and the like. It’s also fun as hell. Don Coscarelli (Director of Bubba Ho-Tep) goes through all these strange twists and turns with ease, while providing a surplus of wit and humor thanks to wonderfully charismatic lead performances from Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes. That being said, the movie starts out expertly-paced for its first half only to really rush things in the second half. Based on a book of the same name, you can tell that it’s just going through the motions and crams a bit too much ideas into the latter half of the film and the whole thing loses its luster as a result. But even at its worst, John Dies at the End is simply a ton of fun, and I had a blast watching it.

#27 – Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)

One of my favorite films of all time, Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven is one of the most beautiful, poetic, and heart-breaking films ever created. Not just because of the astounding cinematography from Nestor Almendros, but because of how exquisitely it melds together all its themes. Malick is a guy who simply knows how to convey the subtlest of human emotions, and here, the heartache of forever saying goodbye to a paradise you’ve loved is devastating to watch. Simply put, Malick can do no wrong.

#28 – Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine, 2013)

Warm Bodies may be the first adaptation of a young-adult novel (a la Twilight) to be actually good. In fact, it’s kinda more than good. Warm Bodies is unabashedly sweet, romantic, optimistic, and adorable; each of those words never fitting the usual zombie-apocalypse genre. The oddball premise is approached with as much sincerity as humanly possible, creating a film that just perks you up when it’s over. The characters are all well-rounded, the film commits to its ludicrous premise, and the performances just sell it all.

#29 – Bullet to the Head (Walter Hill, 2013)

Described as an “anti-buddy” movie, Bullet to the Head is a strange sort of action film. It’s a buddy movie where the buddy-aspect never coheres into anything, an action film where almost everyone–even the protagonist–is reprehensible in a way, and the movie doesn’t shy away from it either. I really don’t know what to make of this film. It’s not bad by any means, but it leaves a lot to be desired because of just how it constantly resist the urge to be traditionally likable. I dunno whether to recommend it or not, that is unless you’re a die-hard Stallone fan, in which case, this will most definitely do the job.

#30 – Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective: <i>Black Swan</i>

Black Swan is a modern masterpiece of a film. So much so that I wrote a whole analysis on it. I conclude my Darren Aronofsky Retrospective with a look at the Oscar-nominated ballet-thriller on Movie Mezzanine. Click this sexy link to read it.

#31 – Identity Thief (Seth Gordon, 2013)

Ugh, don’t even get me started on this one. Identity Thief is really bad. A shameless amalgamation of Midnight RunPlanes Trains and Automobiles, and the comedy stylings of Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, the film is hardly funny at all, and worst of all, the relationship feels utterly forced. McCarthy tries her damnedest, but she’s given a role that doesn’t do her justice. The character she plays here is absolutely reprehensible to the point of no redemption, being rude, crude, obnoxious, and just a downright awful person to be around. But what’s even worse is the film’s attempts to humanize her with some of the most unearned, laziest tonal shifts I’ve seen in a film, comedy or otherwise. We’ll see McCarthy performing abhorrent acts and behavior, yet the next scene will show her crying in a corner so we could feel sorry for her. Then we get treated to a slice of backstory that feels totally genuine because of McCarthy’s fantastic delivery, but it’s absolutely unearned and totally unfitting because it contradicts everything that came before the film.

All in all, McCarthy deserves better than this. I’m glad that she’s become a big comedy star thanks to Bridesmaids, and she deserved success for being in a good film such as that. But for this? Skip it. Skip it like you mean it.

#32 – Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh, 2013)

Side Effects, which Steven Soderbergh has declared his last film before retiring from directing, is the best kind of thriller. Adult, intelligent, unsettling, eerie, and fascinating…at least for the first three quarters. This is a problem that I always have with thrillers that desperately try to come up with a twist ending. Without giving anything away, the movie ends with the kind of revelation that completely contradicts everything we’ve seen before rather than reinforce it. This ostensibly means that Soderbergh and the writer pretty much had to lie to the audience in order to keep its twist ending, and it doesn’t make a lick of logical sense upon retrospect because of it. It’s a damn shame because the central storyline was so interesting–that of a medication that leads to sinister side-effects–that it deserved a better resolution than that.

That being said, this is still a recommendation. It’s interesting and well-acted enough, especially from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo‘s Rooney Mara and Jude Law at the center, and well-directed enough to make for a good time at the movies. Hell, it’s worth it just for one sequence involving a knife that had the entire theater gasping in shock. Not great, but a pretty good send-off for Soderbergh’s career.

#33 – Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine, 2013)

Yes I saw it a second time, shut up!

Follow me on Twitter @CGRunyon, and don’t forget to read more of my material at Movie Mezzanine, including a list of my 20 Most Anticipated Films from the Sundance Festival. Have fun.

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