Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Advanced or Stunted?

Review: Liberal Arts

Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) was all over Liberal Arts. He wrote it, he directed it, he starred in it. Thus, its hard to assign fame or blame of the film's final result to anyone else. So, which is it, praise or criticism? Well, as it so often goes, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

Liberal Arts tells the story of Radnor's Jesse, a 30-something graduate who returns to his alma mater for the retirement of his favorite professor. But while there, Jesse meets undergraduate student Zibby, with whom he falls into a complicated relationship.

Radnor is his usual affable self, utilizing his unique talent of forming himself into an everyman into whose shoes most people can easily imagine themselves. Here, as in HIMYM, Radnor is more avatar than character, which is an asset in creating audience empathy, but a detriment to establishing a memorable on-screen persona.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sci-Fi Soup

Review: Oblivion

If Oblivion accomplishes very little at all, it will have at least provided further evidence that Tom Cruise (Minority Report) has discovered the cure for aging. Seriously, the guy looks the same as he did 20 years ago.

Fortunately, the merits of Oblivion go beyond its star's lack of wrinkles. Set in a distopic future still recovering from a repelled alien invasion, Cruise plays a drone repairman who begins to question everything he knows about his mission and himself after the appearance of a mysterious woman.

The film is visually stunning, from the smooth surfaces of advanced technology to the jagged locations on Earth. This should come as no surprise from director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), but is still one of the largest achievements of the film. The action occurring within these settings is likewise well-executed and incredibly precise.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Drowning in Emotion

Review: The Deep Blue Sea

Not to be confused with Deep Blue Sea, a movie about genetically enhanced sharks (which I secretly still find to be entertaining despite its ridiculous), THE Deep Blue Sea is about as different of a film as you can imagine.

Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) commands the lead as Hester Collyer, a woman who begins a self-destructive love affair with a man other than her husband. The husband, Sir William Collyer, loves her and treats her well, but Hester discovers an overwhelming physical passion for former RAF pilot Freddie Page.

Yet even Freddie fails to reciprocate the almost obsessive zeal Hester develops for their extramarital relationship. As the relationship continues to fall short of the ideal Hester idolizes, she is driven into depression and in devastation resorts to a suicide attempt.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Review: 42

Producing a film based on historic events is always a calculated risk. Audiences are familiar and therefore more comfortable with the material, so your advertising campaign starts off on a much stronger footing than a film with an entirely foreign concept; you are more guaranteed to make money. However, since your story already happened, everyone knows how it ends.

It is the struggle of historical films then to overcome their predictability with strong, engaging content; to enrapture audiences along the journey as you transport them to the expected outcome. A recent failure to accomplish this would be the drab Lincoln, a recent success would be the compelling Zero Dark Thirty. The new Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, can be placed squarely in the category of... (drum-roll, please)... success.


Review: Admission

Everybody loves Tina Fey. It's a simple fact of life, a preexisting truth, much like the earth is round, like I should be listening in class instead of writing movie reviews, like Michael Bay (Transformers) movies will be filled with explosions. Everybody loves Tina Fey.

Fey's TV show, 30 Rock, may have been a bit too weird for some, but it is fun and quirky and most people, if not weekly viewers, at least appreciated it. And we all know she and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) were great hosting the Golden Globes.

But Fey's experience in films is somewhat sparse and of arguably unreliable quality. Baby Mama, in which she costarred with Poehler, was decent, but a forgettable freshman headlining attempt. Date Night with Steve Carell (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) was also a light, but typical and too-safe experience.

Fey's newest film, Admission, brings us more of the same. In the story of a motherless Princeton admissions officer who spends an unlikely amount of time getting to know the head of an alternative school and the student he wants her to admit, little happens that is unexpected, unpredictable, or really all that interesting.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Tragedy of Love

Review: Amour

There cannot be many stories more heartbreaking than Amour. Not only was Amour nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, and Best Actress, but it won for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards earlier this year. In the film, legendary French actors Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima Mon Amour) and Jean-Louis Trintignant (Z) come out of retirement to play music teachers Anne and Georges. The couple has had a long marriage, but as Anne begins to die, both her and Georges are slowly overcome with despair. Georges, especially, is left to struggle with the sense of helplessness such tragedies bring. Riva, who well-deservedly became the oldest ever nominee for Best Actress with this role, and Trintignant are sensational in their roles, bring to life the unflinchingly grim script so realistically that their performances will lie lurking behind your eyelids and leering up from the crevices of your brain, ready to haunt your thoughts and dreams, for years to come.