Tag Archives: Jennifer Lawrence

Mother! (2017)

15 Sep

Move over Lars von Trier, there is a new provocateur in town.

Darren Aronofsky‘s latest film Mother makes a return to the psychological horror the director made a name of himself for with Black Swan, Piand most notably Requiem for a Dream.  Never one for subtlety, Aronofsky enters full-bore, envelope-pushing mode here and, in turn, creates one of the most ambitious and boldest films to be produced by a major studio this decade.

Playing the role of Mother and Him respectively, Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are a seemingly happy couple living in a remote countryside house so he can focus on his poetry. From the film’s opening moments however, we realize that the couple isn’t quite as happy together as they ought to be. He has an empty frustration sustained from a lack of creative inspiration and Mother seems disillusioned and dissatisfied with the lack of romance in the relationship. This is where the mysterious doctor (Ed Harris, whose character is referred to simply as Man) makes an appearance and becomes the first in a series of unwelcome visitors.

The series of narrative events that follow seem to ping-pong between a haunted house mystery, domestic melodrama, psychological thriller, and allegorical horrorshow that escalates to madness as the film progresses. Aronofsky is a master at diving deep into the headspace of his characters (often with disturbingly nihilistic results) and we witness the chaotic events unfold from Mother’s point of view without missing a beat. Scenes are beautifully shot by frequent Aronofsky collaborator Matt Libatique and stitched together by editor Andrew Weisblum. The film seems to take on a time and space of its own making; events don’t necessarily flow from one to the next as much as they seem to be taking place all at once simultaneously – or perhaps not even occurring at all. It’s obvious that Aronofsky is trying to provoke the hell out of his audience, and he has a masterful knowledge of film language to do just that with tremendous effect. As with any great piece of cinema, every aspect of the frame and beyond works in conjunction with the whole of the story to accomplish a specific vision. Here, Aronofsky’s goal is to deliver a tour de force of Mother’s ever-changing perspective to the audience in a brazen, unrelinquished fashion.

Bottom Line: Mother! is an unflinching allegorical nightmare running on all cylinders and a masterful showcase for Aronofsky’s audacious and unapologetic vision.   

Rating: 10/10 

Film recipe: Dogville + Repulsion + copious amounts of chaos, nihilism, misogyny, and anxiety

 

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MOST ANTICIPATED FOR 2017

2 Jan

So he were are. 2016 is history and as we look back on the best films of the year, we can also look towards the future and what’s coming down the cinematic pipeline. Here are my top ten most anticipated films -(provided we make it far enough in the age of Trump to actually watch them).   You can check out last year’s most anticipated here.

 

10 – Molly’s Game 

What’s it about? A young skier who get’s her own FBI investigation after creating an international poker series.

Why is it on the list? Aaron Sorkin is stepping into the director’s seat here, adapting a memoir by Molly Bloom. One of the finest screenwriters of our time, I’m curious to how Sorkin does behind the camera. Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba costar.

Release date – Unknown 

 

 

 

9 – Annihilation  

What’s it about?  All we know at this stage is that the plot has something to do with a team of scientists heading into the jungle for a secretive experiment of some kind.

Why is it on the list? Because Ex Machina was one of the most wholly original and singular sci-fi films in recent memory and Alex Garland has teamed up again with Oscar Issac. Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Natalie Portman round out a dream team of actors.

Release date – Unknown

 

8 – Wind River 

What’s it about? A Native American reservation becomes a murder scene which prompts an FBI investigation led by a veteran tracker.

Why is it on the list? Another accomplished screenwriter making a directorial debut. Taylor Sheridan‘s scripts for Sicario and Hell or High Water were both brilliant and I’m curios to see the acting duo of Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in a non-superhero context.

Release date – Unknown for now, but I’m hoping to catch this at Sundance.

7 – The Bad Batch 

What’s it about? A blood soaked love story of sorts set in Texas. Also, cannibals.

Why is it on the list? I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian-western-vampire coming of age story A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, but I was intrigued enough to see she had major directing potential. This new effort seems to have a Tarantino-influenced vibe and features a slew of great character actors including Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves, Giovani Ribisi, and Diego Luna.

Release date: Though it’s played a few festivals, a widespread release date is unknown.  

6 – I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore 

What’s it about? A revenge thriller about a women tracking down the thieves who burglarized her house.

Why is it on the list? Fresh from his role in Jeremy Saulnier’s excellent, white-knuckler Green Room, actor Macon Blair takes a shot at directing his own original script. The premise sounds gleefully Coen-esc.

Release date: February 24 

5 – Mother  

What’s it about? “…a couple whose relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home…” – IMDB

Why is it on the list? Because it’s Darren Aronofsky’s first film since the interesting-but-ultimately sub-par Noah.  Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Domhnall Gleeson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris star.

Release date: Unknown 

4 – Dunkirk 

What’s it about?  “Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II” – IMDB

Why is it on the list? Christopher Nolan is one of the rare few directors who can effectively blend pedestrian blockbuster fare with an inspired artistic vision.  This has potential to be one of 2017’s biggest critical and commercial hits.

Release: July 21 

3 – Lemon  

What’s it about? A boy gets dumped by his blind girlfriend.

Why is it on the list? Though Lemon is her first feature, Janicza Bravo has one of the boldest directorial voices in indie film today mixing awkward sensibilities reminiscent of films like Napoleon Dynamite and the works of Todd Solondz and Wes Anderson. Check out her short Gregory Goes Boom!  (NSFW) which also stars Michael Cera and Brett Gelman to get a taste of what we might expect from Lemon.

Release date: Unknown 

2-  Blade Runner 2049 

What’s it about? A sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott film Blade Runner. 

Why is it on this list? Though most modern sequels/reboots don’t hold a candle to their origins, the fact that this is being helmed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Arrival) and shot by cinematographer legend Roger Deakins (1984, No Country For Old Men, Skyfall, and so, soooo many more) might be reason enough to make an exception. The icing on the cake is a top-notch cast consisting of Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Robyn Wright, Mckenzie Davis, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto and Barkhad Abdi.

Release date: Oct 6

1 – The Killing of a Sacred Deer

 

What’s it about? “A teenager’s attempts to bring a brilliant surgeon into his dysfunctional family takes an unexpected turn.” – IMDB

Why is it on the list? The Lobster was unexpectedly my favorite film of 2016 and, I’m itching to see what Yorgos Lanthimos is cooking up.

Release date – Unknown 

 

 

Joy (2015)

14 Dec

The Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence duo are at it again with the appropriately-titled Joy, the latest from dramedy favorite David O Russell.  Following the true story of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence), the Long Island entrepreneur and inventor of the self-wringing “Miracle Mop”, the film tells Joy’s story from childhood through the eyes of her grandmother (Diane Ladd). Through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, we learn about Joy’s struggle to live up to her grandmother’s idealistic matriarchal expectations of self-reliance in the heavily patriarchal world of entrepreneurship. We follow Joy as she falls in love, has children, divorces, and comes to terms with the responsibilities and stress of single parenting and domestic life. In one of the most outwardly cinematic feminist statements of the year, Joy pits our titular character against a series of men – an apathetic ex husband (Edgar Ramirez), a distant father (Robert DeNiro), and a new business partner (Bradley Cooper), all whom – despite their goodnatured intentions – prove to be obstacles preventing Joy from sharing her invention with the world.

Always one for writing characters first rather than heavily-plotted stories, O Russell starts things off fairly quickly by giving us a rushed introduction into who’s who in Joy’s unique family. There’s her caring grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), and her TV-loving daughter Terry (Virginia Madsen) who’s married to a shop owner Rudy (DeNiro), who’s daughter from another marriage, Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm), is also in the picture. It’s a lot to take in during the first scene, but Russell’s characters deliver their snappy dialogue to us so effortlessly and convincingly that we get a real sense of how this personable but ultimately dysfunctional family operates. Unfortunately, the frantic energy of the first act dissolves by the film’s midpoint, where Joy reaches out to successful retail tycoon Neil (Bradley Cooper) for a helping hand. From this point on, Joy mostly turns into a standard underdog-overcoming-adversity piece that’s high on conventional dramatic tropes but low on Russell’s signature wit and humor.

Performance wise, there is nothing in Joy we haven’t really seen before. Jennifer Lawrence does a solid job and the leading lady, giving just enough nuances to show that her character is a real person and not some inhuman superwoman, but her interactions with the others seem distant and forced. Cooper’s character is easily the least developed, with none of the enjoyable quirks that made him so fun to watch in Russell’s previous works American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook.  

Fortunately, the script never goes into cringeworthy territory (remember I Heart Huckabees?), but it never ends up fully redeeming itself by the film’s close. The most frustrating thing about Joy is that it doesn’t feel nearly as inspired as it ought to be; by keeping things safe and accessible, David O Russell seems to drift slightly away from his typically rich and complex knack for storytelling.

Bottom Line: By toning down his distinctive dark humor, Joy gives us a conventional but still entertaining Cinderella story that feels robbed of reaching its greater, more complicated potential.  

Rating: 6/10 

Film Recipie: The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) + The Fighter (2010) + Erin Brockovich (2000)

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

2 Jun

When X-Men first appeared on the big screen back in 2000, it ushered in a new type of super-hero film. Nearly a decade before Christopher Nolan would give birth to his neo-noir inspired Batman, X-Men proved you could successfully adapt beloved comic book characters and place them in a serious, modern-day context (and make money while doing it). This was a drastic shift from the campy, playful superhero films from the decade before (Looking at you, Batman Forever).

14 years and seven installments later, and this group of mutants is still kickin’. Days of Future Past regroups many of the characters from the first film with the newer income of mutants from X-Men: First Class (2011), directed by the original director, Bryan Singer.  By including such a large cast of characters within a cinematic universe over a decade old, continuity errors are bound to happen. Fortunately, Singer is able to create an interesting and well-developed story that both establishes universality with existing X-Men films, and lays the necessary groundwork for the next installment (X-Men: Apocalypse, due in 2016).

Days of Future Past revolves around Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) traveling back in time in order to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from triggering a set of events which eventually lead to the downfall and imprisonment of mutants and non-mutants worldwide. In order to do this, he must recruit Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).  The inherint motivations and dynamic of these characters is what provides the lifeblood for most of the film. There is also opposition from Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), a human obsessed with implementing his mutant-hunting sentinel program in order to establish peace for mankind.  While all this is going on in the past, mutants of the future are battling these sentinels, trying to buy time for Wolverine to accomplish his mission.

All this action in both the past and future scenarios is cleverly displaced over the course of the film, and Singer makes great use of timing to keep the audience interested. With the exception of a lengthy middle segment where early Professor-X meets up with his future self (Patrick Stewart), the film moves along at a pleasantly brisk pace. Singer also makes an extra effort to include many references to the story’s origins, and die-hard comic book geeks will have plenty to talk about when the film ends.

Days of Future Past’s biggest accomplishment is in its characters. These aren’t your stock, one dimensional personalities you typically expect in a blockbuster; all the major players feel fresh and give great insight into their unique outlook and motivations. Specifically the ongoing conflict in the trio between Magneto, Professor X and Mystique is great stuff to watch.  While it does it have its shortcomings, X-Men: Days of Future Past is, so far, the year’s best summer blockbuster and should leave the fanboys and casual filmgoers satisfied.

 

Rating 7/10 

Similar to: X-Men, X-2, X-Men: First Class

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