Tag Archives: New York City

Person to Person (Sundance 2017)

19 Aug

New York City has been an integral part of American cinema for decades. One only has to look through the films of Woody Allen, Jim Jarmusch or Martin Scorsese to see how powerfully the historic and iconic city is put on display – sometimes even becoming a character within itself. In Dustin Guy Defa’s new film Person to  Person, the city provides a backdrop where a colorful bunch of characters are let loose. An impressive ensemble piece, we first are introduced to Bene (Benne Coopersmith), a music enthusiast and record collector who is tipped off to connect with someone selling a limited edition vinyl.  Then there is Wendy and Melanie (Tavi Gevinson and Olivia Luccardi respectively), a pair of high school girlfriends who talk about weather their romantic flirtations with men collide with their feminist ideals. Claire (Abbi Jacobson) and Phil (Micheal Cera) are a pair of journalists who are investigating what is either a murder or suicide, and then Ray (George Sample III) is suffering the repercussions of having just broken up with his girlfriend (the reasons being are too good to be spoiled here). There are an assortment of other characters as well who come and go, providing the narrative surprises that coalesce over a single day in the city.

Dustin Guy Defa has a real talent for dialogue, and the characters he creates all feel so fresh and genuine. Shot on stunning 16mm, Person to Person looks stunning, and paired with the groovy jazz and neo-soul soundtrack, the film feels like it was lifted straight out of 70’s television. Luckily, the film never leans too hard into nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, and the interconnected stories are interesting enough to keep us invested without the vintage aesthetic.

Seamlessly edited from one moment to the next, Dustin Guy Drefe creates the type of experience that seems directly aimed at anyone who has ever watched an older Woody Allen film and thought “man, they sure don’t make movies like this anymore.”  Well – now they do.

Bottom Line: Taking the form of a vintage love letter to New York City, Person to Person is a beautiful cinematic examination of the intricacies of various human relationships.

Rating: 8/10 

Film Recipe: Coffee and Cigarettes + Magnolia  

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The Walk (2015)

19 Oct

It’s 1968 in Paris, and highwire artist Philippe Petit has a dream. After hearing about the massive Twin Towers that will soon be erected in New York (the world’s highest buildings at the time) Philippe becomes obsessed with walking between the towers, high above the earth on a wire.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back To The FutureThe Walk dramatizes the events leading up to Philippe’s dangerous attempt with Joseph Gordon Levitt taking the starring role as the charismatic performance artist. After talking it over with his girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) Philippe recruits a few “accomplices” to help him train, acquire the necessary equipment, and setup all preparations for the walk (an act Philippe refers to as “le coup”).

Following in the footsteps of Man On Wire, an excellent documentary about the same event, The Walk bounces back and forth from the events taking place onscreen and Philippe himself being used as a framing device to tell the story to us.  It’s an unnecessary distraction by having the lead constantly break the fourth wall explaining things and one that proves useless given the romanticized nature of the film. The film does do a great job however, capturing the spirit and passion of Philippe’s walk and his pure enthusiasm for adventure completely emmentates from Levitt’s convincing performance. Levitt also nails the exaggerated mannerisms and French expressions of the man, though most of the film is spoken between characters in accented English.

Zemeckis’ film provides visceral tension by focusing in on small details – like the subtle twang of metal flexing as Philippe steps onto the wire, or beads of sweat compiling around his face – so that we feel each anxiety-ridden moment to its fullest.

Unfortunately, these magical immersive moments are cut tragically short by the ongoing voiceover exposition, which seems obligated to provide its own commentary about each new development. It worked well in the Man On Wire documentary – where the real Philippe’s authentic personality and knack for adrenaline shines with his reminiscing. But here, where Joseph Gordon Levitt is simply retelling things we have just seen for ourselves, the commentary just takes us out of the movie.

The Walk works best when the characters stand back and let the visuals do the talking; The Walk looks absolutely stunning and the 3D visuals do a superb job of fully immersing us into the intensity of the event. Though it has an overreliance on CGI at points, the cinematography breathlessly floats in and around the action, showcasing the dizzying heights and dangerous nature of Philippe’s highwire. Those susceptible to experiencing vertigo be advised – The Walk will literally and figuratively take you beyond the edges of your comfort zone.

Bottom Line: Though the story-within-a-story is expository overkill, The Walk offers an indulgent visual feast and a romanticized and passionate retelling of the “artistic crime of the century”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt talks the talk, but can he walk The Walk?

Rating: 7/10 

Film Recipe: Man on a Ledge + flashbacks a’ la The Princes Bride + feel good optimism a’ la Secret Life of Walter Mitty 

A Most Violent Year (2014)

20 Jan

Director and screenwriter J.C. Chandor reaches auteur status with his latest drama featuring outstanding performances from Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain and (should have been nominee) Oscar Isaac as a business couple facing increasing pressures during a desperate property purchase. The film marks Chandor’s third feature following 2013’s excellent survival drama All Is Lost

The year is 1981, and crime rates in New York City have just reached an all-time high. Our protagonist Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), is the proud owner of a Standard Oil branch and he is about to close on a very important piece of property that would connect and open up his business in a new part of town. Violent attacks on Abel’s oil trucks are becoming more and more common as he is reaching a settlement with the previous property owners, creating doubt and an uneasy tension between his business’ financial investors. Adding to the mix is the local District Attorney Lawrence (David Oyelowo), who has a serious determination to prosecute Standard Oil for fraud.

A Most Violent Year is a fantastic film that deeply examines one’s determination to make it to the top. In a brilliant character display, Chandor gives his audience a detailed look at the complex frustrations that make his characters tic while under enormous amounts of stress. It’s a brilliantly written piece as well with many unexpected moments that do not distract from the overall narrative. Isaac, (who proved himself a serious dramatic actor worth keeping an eye on in last year’s Inside Llewyn Davis) returns in full force here with one of the year’s best performances. Jessica Chastain’s role is equally as impressive (a complete snub at this year’s Oscar Nominations) as Abel’s mysterious and calculating wife Anna who is in charge of the administration and financial side of Standard Oil.

As an introspective character piece that still manages to be grippingly tense, A Most Violent Year is one of 2014’s best films because of Chandler’s superb craftsmanship and his commitment to telling complex adult fare reminiscent of early Scorsese or Coppola. The fact that this film didn’t receive a single Oscar nomination still has me perplexed.

Rating – 8/10 

Similar to: Mean Streets (1973), The French Connection (1971), Margin Call (2011) 

 

The Loved Ones (2009), The Warriors (1979), Thirst (2009), Lolita (1962)

20 Feb

I’m going to try and update this thing more regularly, even if it’s just a quickie review of something I have seen recently.

I’m also going to try and talk about classics as well as some of the newer stuff I get my hands on.

What I have been enjoying this past week:

The Loved Ones (2009)

– Holy smokes. what a twisted movie. It is not everyday you see a teen horror film that is so chilling, disgusting and fun.  After seeing last year’s Snowtown, I know for certainty that when it comes to the disturbing and macabre, Australians do it best. While it has it’s cliche’ moments and becomes a bit predictable, there are enough twists and WTF moments to make this stand out among others of the genre.

Similar to: Hostel,The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Snowtown

Rating: 6/10 

The Warriors (1979) 

– I finally got around to seeing this cult classic and, while it is a bit slow at first, The Warriors was an overly entertaining and satisfying movie. The stylized story about gangs in a post-modern NYC goes places I wasn’t expecting and the ending was fantastic. Also a huge fan of the film’s score and wonderful costumes.

Similar to: A Clockwork Orange, Brick, 

Rating: 7/10

Thirst (2009) 

I absolutely loved this movie.  Park Chan-wook is no doubt one of the best directors working today, and he demonstrates his knowledge and passion for filmmaking perfectly in Thirst.  The story revolves around a priest-turned-vampire who is desperately trying to tame his appetite for bloodshed while at the same time helping a family in need. The film is incredibly unpredictable and beautifully shot. If the thought of blood grosses you out, you are better off avoiding this entirely, but if you have a thirst for the dark and disturbing – of if your tired of seeing the same old vampire movie – give this one a go. You won’t be disappointed.

Similar to: Let The Right One In,  Oldboy,

Rating: 8/10 

Lolita (1962) 

Finally managed to see Stanley Kubrick‘s iconic romance story about a man who falls for his landlord’s daughter.  Lolita is a superbly-writted drama and overall great film (but with a mastermind like Kubrick, what can you expect?).  The performances felt real and the characters are complex and interesting. Though it clocks in at over 2 hours the film never drags and you become immersed in the riske’ relationship between our protagonists.  I couldn’t help but thinking the entire time “how did they get away with filming this in 1962?”

Simmilar to: Eyes Wide Shut,  The Apartment, The Graduate 

Rating: 9/10 

so thats that. Any recommendations you have let me know! 🙂