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Disconnect (2012)

5 Jan

In a society growing more and more reliant on digital technology,  does such technology fundamentally the way in which we are communicating and connecting with one another? This is the questions Disconnect asks the audience, and through s series of interconnecting stories we see the multiple effects the digital age has created for its users.

Structurally similar to the 2006 Best Picture Award Winner Crash,  Disconnect strings together a series of characters and incidents surrounding the use and abuse of digital media. A lonely housewife flirts with an online stranger.. a highschool boy starts a fake Facebook profile as a joke… someone’s digital identity is stolen, someone’s daughter receives a sexually explicit text… you get the idea.  The film’s message is obvious right from the title screen.

What makes the film work is its use of editing back and forth between the stories to keep the film moving forward at a brisk pace.  Despite an overbearing amount of melodrama, the narrative is engaging, and the film paints an effective portrait of 21st-century life. Things get bugged down during the third act where a predictable finish is delivered to us in a painful slow-motion.  By this time, the audience is so numb from the film shouting in our faces about the evils of the digital world, this final sequence is simply an anti-climatic way of wrapping things up.

Directed by Oscar-nominee Henry-Alex Rubin, the film stars Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Nyqvist, Paula Patton, and Alexander Skarsgaard, who all give good-enough performances to make up for some of the less-than-enthusiastic child acting.

Rating: 7/10

Similar to: Crash, Babel, 21 Grams


Sightseers (2012)

6 Aug


Take a couple who are deeply in love but in need of some serious social skills and send the pair on a holiday into the British countryside. The end result is something like what Sightseers portrays but with a dash of good-humored, old-fashioned murder. That’s right, there is a lot of killing in this film.

We are first introduced to our protagonist Tina (played by Alice Lowe), as she mentions to her concerned mother that she is planning on hitting the road with her boyfriend Chris (Steve Oram). The pair seem likeable enough at first; we even see a brilliant scene where Chris confronts a man caught littering on a public heritage site. However, after Chris accidentally runs over a man he seemingly develops a darker side and good amounts of blood and carnage soon follow.  What starts out as a cute little story about new romance and adventure quickly detours into one miserable accident after the next. Sightseers is a perverse, disgusting, off-base, and uncomfortable film featuring a leading pair of actors who define what it means to be morally wrong.

Something about this film just didn’t sit right to me, mostly due to the film’s refusal on deciding what kind of a film it wants to be. We get pieces of a crime thriller, and elements of romantic and dark comedy, but we never get enough of either resulting in what I like to call a “cluster-yuck” of scenarios. One bizarre situation is strung along to the next interspersed with random montages that have no purpose and add no depth to the story.

The end result is something designed to test the audience’s limit for what could be considered “art”. Though it ends on an interesting note, Sightseers left me with a really bad taste in my mouth along with a dedication to avoid psychopathic British tourists. Or at least films about them.

Rating: 4/10

Similar to: Bronson, Natural Born Killers, Gummo,



Excision (2012)

24 May

Watching Excision is a bit like having a nasty, infected flesh wound.  You want to look away and stop picking at the damn thing, but you just can’t. The wound becomes more and more bloody, offensive and disgusting until finally it creates a lasting scar that stays with you forever.  But somewhere among all the blood and horror is a bit of playful fun – and that is where the movie thrives.

Bordering on John Waters-inspired trash-cinema, (we even get a cameo from the man himself), Excision is part coming-of-age story, part horror/comedy.  We see the story of a mentally disturbed girl who wants to become a famous surgeon, but she is trapped by her conservative mother and skeptical peers.  She is also obsessed with blood, dead bodies and loosing her virginity before her senior year of high school. What ensues when all these elements mix is a nice blend of campy dialogue, disturbing images, and teenage drama, with plenty of WTF moments injected in for good measure.

Stylistically, Excision is one of the coolest films of the year.  The bizarre images and scenarios culminate into an all-out freak-show, but unfortunately, the narrative falls flat after about 30 minutes.  There is no motivating drive for anything we see in Excision; no “rosebud” to keep things moving, and the film simply turns into a random-but-fun assortment of bizarre situations. When we do finally realize what is going on with the story, it is too late and the film ends at its most pivotal and dramatic moment.

Excision still has its interesting points though. The characters are all fun, especially the lead played by AnnaLynne McCord, and you can tell there is some smartness behind all the blood and gore.  Overall the film is best suited to fans of the camp/horror/comedy boat, although there is enough going on to keep most people entertained.

6/10 stars

Similar to: Bronson, Carrie, Teeth


Side Effects (2012)

12 Feb

Side Effects is the new psychological drama directed by legendary auteur Steven Soderbergh.  After covering a wealth of genres and cinematic styles, Soderbergh recently announced his retirement from film saying this would be his last theatrical release.

Thankfully he is leaving on a good note.

Side Effects follows the story of Emily Taylor (played by Rooney Mara), a NYC graphic designer whose husband Martin(Channing Tatum) has just recently came back from serving some jail time associated with insider trading.  Emily becomes increasingly depressed and starts seeing psychologist Dr. Banks (Jude Law) who prescribes her with a new anti-depressant that recently hit the market.

Soderbergh, mostly known for his Ocean’s Trilogy and the best-picture nominated Traffic, has recently excelled with a handful of successful films over the past three years. Haywire, Magic Mike, Contagion, and The Informant are a few that come to mind. Side Effects carefully mixes elements of Soderbergh’s past work (soft lighting, ensemble casting, and  noir-esc feel) with this ever-present feeling of impending doom.  You get the sense that things are going to end badly for the characters – and they do.

Overall, the film is an journey into the psyche of mental illness, depression, drug abuse and human nature – and it takes you places you never could have guessed. It’s unpredictable, suspenseful, thought-provoking and boldly acted; I loved this movie, and could not have asked for a better goodbye gift from such a talented director.


8/10 stars 

Similar to: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Contagion, The Machinist


Jack Reacher (2012)

24 Jan

Who is Jack Reacher?  Well after about ten minutes into the self-titled film we know this:

Jack Reacher is a war vet who earned all sorts of medals, recognition and military prestige. Jack Reacher is a loner/he has no known family/he is off-the-grid/no one really knows much about him. Jack Reacher is the typical bad-ass character we would expect Tom Cruise to play, and it’s a fairly typical mystery/thriller that we have seen Tom Cruise star in a billion times before.

And you know what? – there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The one and only thing wrong with this movie is how seriously it takes itself.  What was billed as a campy, fun action flick (I was thinking something like Taken, Die Hard or any one of the Mission Impossibles) is really more of a solemn, violent mystery.  Now there is nothing wrong with a sobering, thought-provoking mystery. We have had a good number of great films that fit nicely into this arena lately (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Shutter Island, and Notes On A Scandal are a few that come to mind).  Jack Reacher tries to align itself with the more serious in nature, but it just becomes so hard to take a film seriously when we hear lines like ” I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot” coming from the protagonist every 10 minutes or so.

Keep in mind that the subject matter for the film (a sniper kills 5 innocent people in a public shooting) is quite dark and the film doesn’t hold much back.  I am actually really surprised this passed as a PG-13 as the violence is brutal and uncomfortably shocking many times throughout the movie.  What’s more uncomfortable though, is that Jack Reacher plays off this violence with smug dialogue and unintentional humor.

Jack Reacher is still a solid, entertaining thriller, but the effort to try and play in both the serious and self-aware camps at the same time was my biggest issue with the movie. Tom Cruise, though playing a character we have already seen, plays it well and proves he is still one of the best-acting action stars around.  The supporting work by Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall, and (surprisingly) Werner Herzog all add to the movie and it’s unique tone.   The film is beautifully shot and it has a nice story with a few twists, with a great cast to help bring it to life.

Rating: 7/10 


Similar to: Hanna (2011), Faster (2010), Haywire (2012) 


Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

14 Jan

The last film for me to see during this year’s awards season was Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty. After being a huge fan her previous best-picture winning war film The Hurt Locker, I had high expectations for this new thriller about the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden.

Most of them were fulfilled.

The film starts moments after the horrific events of 9/11 have taken place. The United States are in a state of shock and anger; the term “terrorism” has now established itself with being synonymous with the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Jihad.  We are introduced to the film’s protagonist, Maya (played by the lovely Jessica Chastain), a new CIA recruit fresh out of high school who has been assigned to work with the interrogation of Al Qaeda members. Zero Dark Thirty revolves around this character as she tries to put together the complicated puzzle piece that eventually leads the US to Bin Laden.

Chastain plays a complicated and fierce female character who drives most of the plot.  Her performance, along with Bigelow’s understanding of the complicated story material, are what make Zero Dark Thirty a heavyweight contender for this years Best Picture Oscar.

While the film never quite reaches the suspenseful and emotional highs The Hurt Locker does, it is a very well-asembled and uncomfortably realistic film.  Like The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty is not geared towards the mainstream movie-going American audience of today.  There is nothing romanticized or sugar-coated about her depictions of conflict and torture, and most of the dialogue and high-level political speak will go above and beyond the average viewer’s comprehension (unless, of course you are a hardcore political or history junkie). Bigelow and her team went to great lengths to research and write-in the factual events the film is based off of, and regardless of weather or not the “facts” in the movie happened the way we see them, they still have a very prominent emotional impact on the viewer.

Despite the amount of international controversy a film like this could cause, Zero Dark Thirty stands out among other war films for it’s brutal realism and knock-out performances.  I’m hedging my bets on Chastain for this year’s Academy Award for Best Actress.


rating 7/10 


Best films of 2012

27 Dec

2012 was a great year for film-lovers.

With a slew of veteran directors including Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, Ridley Scott, Ang Lee, Peter Jackson, Robert Zemeckis, Tom Tykwer, The Wachowski siblings, Rian Johnson, P.T. Anderson, Ben Affleck, Sam Mendes, David O. Russell, and Tom Hooper all releasing films this year, there was no shortage of high-quality movies to choose from. Heck Steven Soderbergh, Tim Burton, and Joss Whedon each had two 2012 films.

This is why making a “best-of” list was no easy task, but after some thought here are my personal picks for the top 25 films of 2012 (meaning they had a widespread theatrical release from jan-dec).

25- Cabin In The Woods 

As cliche’ as it might seem, there is a subtle mix of playfulness and horror throughout Cabin In The Woods that makes it such a fun ride ride to see over and over again.

24 – Les Miserables 

The music, acting, and look of the film all work nicely together to create one of the most powerful musical adaptations I have seen in recent years.

23- The Dark Knight Rises

While it doesn’t quite have the thrills of it’s predecessor, Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment into the Dark Knight franchise is emotionally satisfying and clever with all the twists and turns that make the franchise unique among super-hero films. Even if they don’t make any logical sense.


22 – Cloud Atlas 

From the costumes to the cast to the six interwoven stories, everything about Cloud Atlas begs to be called epic.  While the first third of the film is a confusing mess of ideas and characters, things get straightened out nicely in the end once you figure out who is playing who and what planet they are on.  With such an ambitious project as this, it is really, really easy for things to go wrong. Miraculously, Cloud Atlas gets everything right.

21 – Skyfall 

Bond is back and better than ever in this wonderful addition to the 007 franchise.  Hopefully Daniel Craig will not hang up the suit quite yet…

21 – Compliance  

A simple concept brought to life with amazing performances with an even better nail-biter of a script.  This is the stuff great indie flicks are made from.

20- Chasing Ice 

The single most gorgeous-looking documentary I have ever seen.

19- Argo 

Great screenwriting and cinematography create a well-balanced political thriller. The great cast was the icing on the cake.

18- Carnage 

Four people arguing in a living room for hours might not seem like much, but when those four people are John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster, and Kate Winslet…….   things get interesting and dramatically hilarious.

17- Looper

Good movies are usually either intellectually, sensually or emotionally stimulating.  Looper manages to be all three at the same time.

End of Watch

While it might seem like a feature film about the TV show COPS, End of Watch is actually one of the most emotional movies I have seen all year.  Great chemistry from Gyllenhaal and Pena.

16- Seven Psychopaths 

An amazing cast mixed with an ever-unpredictable story makes for an offensively wild film. From the writer/director of the cult-favourite In Bruges.

15- Prometheus 

The epic and visually stunning prequel to Alien, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus proves you can reach the end of a journey looking for answers, only to have more questions that when you first started. The film’s many mysteries had Alien fans scratching their heads for ages, and left me wanting a sequel.


14- Headhunters 

Part heist-flick, part survival-drama, Headhunters tells the story of one man’s quest to steal a million-dollar painting. And what ultimately happens when things go sour.  If you are a fan of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, don’t miss out on this.

13- The Master 

P.T. Anderson’s sprawling epic about the life of a  very peculiar WWII veteran. Both Phillip S. Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix give amazing performances and the cinematography is stunning.

12 – The Imposter 

The bizzare-but-true story about a missing Texas boy who winds up in Spain over three years later. This is the WTF documentary everyone will be talking about.

10 – Django Unchained 

Tarantino returns with a revenge/western/drama/shoot-em-up set in the South 2 years prior to the Civil War. It’s long and overly playful, but Django Unchained somehow manages to be one of the year’s most entertaining films (if you can get past the hefty amount of racial slurs and fake blood).


9-  The Hunt

8- Holy Motors 

Obscure and senseless, Holy Motors is a collage of surreal scenarios and situations that make up a thought-provoking and mesmerizing piece of cinema.

7 – Frances Ha 

6 – Silver Linings Playbook 

David O Russel cleverly mixes bi-polar disorders with the Philadelphia Eagle’s in this witty romantic comedy.  Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, and Jennifer Lawrence are great, but the real treasure is seeing a chic-flick that is this entertaining without being cliche’.

5 – Killer Joe 

A low-budget crime thriller that hits all the right spots, and then some. Killer Joe boasts some of the best acting of the year, and a script that leaves you on the edge on your seat. You will never look at KFC the same way again.

4 – Moonrise Kingdom 

Wes Anderson’s magnificent drama about a boy and a girl who leave the world behind and set out together for adventure. Not only does the film look amazing, but Anderson has really outdone himself (again) with the set pieces, characters, use of music and brilliant screenplay.  Though it has an all-star cast, Moonrise never lets celebrity get in the way of it’s story and splendor.

3- Beasts of the Southern Wild 

A simple low-budget film that captures the innocence and curiosity of childhood, mixed with the drama and emotion of an entire community. This movie is brilliant, well directed and breathtakingly beautiful from start to finish.


2-  We Need To Talk About Kevin 

A powerfully gripping psychological thriller about a child who is…. different. This is one you will want to see a second time around.

1- It’s Such A Beautiful Day 

So there ya go. An honorable mention goes to 21 Jump Street for being the funniest movie of the year.

My picks for film categories can be seen HERE.

Feel free to disagree as there were so many other great films that I didn’t mention, and  if you want to take a look at what i’m most excited about in 2013, click HERE