Monday movie corner!

After spending the summer in D.C., I’m home and searching for jobs. Unemployment means I have time to watch movies, something I almost never did during college (except for screenings for film classes). Here’s what I’ve seen in the last week.

Capturing the Friedmans: This doc has been chilling on my hard drive for some months, part of my ongoing quest to see as many movies as possible from the AV Club’s excellent and exhaustive “Best films of the ’00s” feature. At #8, it beats out Grizzly Man (#13) as the highest documentary on the list. (Also, after viewing The New World and The 25th Hour in the past year — both mind-blowing films — I’ve now seen their whole top 10. And what a top 10 it is.) This is one of the most heart-stopping, powerful documentaries you’ll ever see, and it continues in the legacy begun by Errol Morris with The Thin Blue Line of using the documentary form to investigate the elusive nature of truth. If that sounds like an overly academic goal, think again: as with Thin Blue Line, the consequences here of finding the truth involve the possibly wrongful conviction of father Arnold Friedman and youngest son Jesse Friedman of a litany of horrific child sex abuse charges. I won’t say anything more except that the revelations get more and more shocking and you’ll have even less idea of whether the Friedmans are guilty at the end than you did at the beginning. Director Andrew Jarecki (best known as the creator of Moviefone) masterfully juxtaposes contradictory statements, often made by the same person at different times. Get ready to have the wind knocked out of you. Conclusion: SEE THIS ASAP!

Crazy, Stupid, Love. I like a good rom com every now and then, but 21st century Hollywood seems less and less capable of delivering the goods, and it’s rarely the type of movie I specifically seek out. But CSL has been getting good buzz, so on a lark a friend and I decided to catch it as a double feature before Captain America, which we had planned to see. There were about five other people in the theater, which I often enjoy because, come on, talking during movies is fun, and I ate up pretty much every minute of CSL (except the graduation speech scene, which didn’t ring true). I lol’d, I omg’d, I wtf’d. Which is to say, it was both hilarious and poignant, with some nice twists thrown in for good measure. As some have pointed out, the seduction scene between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is just wonderful. Also, fine acting by 14-year-old Jonah Bobo, even if the strength of his character made his non-character little sister look like the family pet in comparison. And it’s always heartening to see a feature in which Steve Carrell only has one or two Michael Scott-esque moments. If you’re in the mood for a rom com, it’s hard to imagine anybody not liking this. Conclusion: See it!

Captain America: The First Avenger: Expecting much from standard superhero-blockbuster fare is a stupid pursuit, but I am perfectly willing to grin through explosion-based films if they’re delivered with a bit more flair than this. I finally saw Iron Man 2 a few weeks ago, and I loved it. I ignored its overstuffed plot, caricatures-for-characters, and fizzle-y ending because the dialogue was just snappy enough and the leads sold their roles with a smart sensibility that felt much more modern than Captain America‘s pervasive hokeyness. I went into this movie thinking of Chris Evans as a pretty reliable actor, but I think I might have based that entirely off his somewhat self-aware performance in Scott Pilgrim and none of the many other garbage roles he has appeared in. And though the reasons behind it are obvious, it’s always groan-worthy when Hollywood casts English-speaking actors as foreigners, and Captain America has plenty of that. (I like Hugo Weaving, and he and his solid German accent were hardly the worst thing about the film, but other countries produce talented actors too, you know. From Weaving’s first appearance I was wishing we could see Christoph Waltz in the Red Skull role, back in full-on evil Nazi mode. I’m not sure he’s corny enough for it, though.)

As far as 3D goes, this movie solidified my desire to avoid the medium at all costs. I haven’t seen enough 3D movies to know if this was the fault of the movie, the 3D projection system in Keene’s small theater, or 3D itself, but the “wow cool” factor was not enough to overwhelm how distracting and, well, bad the visuals looked sometimes. Especially in scenes with a lot fast motion, the visuals jostled around a lot and were downright hard to look at. Is this a common phenomenon in 3D movies? I don’t know. None of this was aided by the awkward and unseemly grafting of Evans’ face onto a smaller actor’s head for the first part of the film.All I can say is I’m glad I paid the regular ticket price for CSL and then snuck into this one for free. Conclusion: Skip it!

Mid-August Lunch: I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one, but I though I’d include it so that they wouldn’t all start with C. My parents just signed up for a one-DVD-per-month Netflix account and it comes with a free month of Instant streaming, so we streamed this pleasant Italian slice-of-life film about a middle-aged man (Gianni Di Gregorio, right, also the director) who takes care of his ancient mother (Valeria Di Franciscis, left, in yellow) and ends up taking in the mother and aunt of his landlord and the mother of his doctor for several days as bargains to cope with his ever-increasing debt. Most of the film consists of their interactions in the stuffed apartment, and while it felt somewhat light and inconsequential, the acting was refreshingly honest and the camerawork was impressive without being showy. Conclusion: Check it out, if low-key foreign films are your thing. 

Preview special: A trailer for upcoming Disney adaptation John Carter screened before Cap’n America, and it looks like a pretty silly movie, but then I checked it out on Wikipedia, and it has some pretty cool people attached to it: director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E), writers Mark Andrew (The Incredibles) and Michael Chabon ( 🙂 ❤ 🙂 ), and composer Michael Giacchino (Lost and pretty much anything J.J. Abrams). It seems like Disney is still trying to figure out what it is in the 21st century, but maybe it’s just in another transitional phase and will one day reemerge and bloom again like it did in the 90s after many years of weird films. I’ll keep my eye on this one.

Also, I just heard about the upcoming Roman Polanski film, Carnage. It’s based off an acclaimed play by Yasmina Reza in which two sets of parents have a meeting after their children have been in a fight at school. The parents will be played by: Kate Winslet & Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly & Jodie Foster. Yes yes yes! This is exciting news. The poster is also great.

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~ by toren on August 22, 2011.

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