Monthly Archives: November 2009

Review: The Squid and the Whale

Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale arrived with great fanfare when it was released in 2005. Critics hailed it. Audiences adored it. Well, those that saw it did. Baumbach was the toast of critic’s circles, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Golden Globes, and the film wound up on over 200 Top Ten Lists. Or so the DVD case claims. When I saw it way back when, I felt conflicted about it. There was something about it that was undeniably appealing, but it was also an undeniably flawed piece. When revisiting it this past week those flaws came bubbling to the surface. Continue reading

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Review: The Visitor

the visitororiginally published in the middlebury campus

April is lame. I’m sorry if you have some kind of attachment to April, but it sucks. The weather is always lousy. The ground is always vaguely brown and always a bit wet. The skiing is only good for the first weekend or two. Most importantly, there is never anything good in the way of movie releases. I mean, let’s just take a look at what was released this past April: Fast and Furious, Knowing, and The Haunting in Connecticut all had their illustrious debuts that month. See what I mean? April is lame. But, if you find yourself unable to go outside and have a few free minutes might I suggest checking out a wonderful film that passed a lot of people by when it was released last April (the exception to the ‘April is lame’ rule), Thomas McCarthy’s The Visitor. Continue reading

Review: The Fall

the_fall_movie_image__9_originally published in the middlebury campus

Every now and then people need escape. No matter how stress-free your life is, an hour and a half of fantasy is necessary to ensure emotional and psychological health. That being said, fantasy and escape don’t need to be mindless. Jerry Bruckheimer doesn’t have the market cornered on escapism with pithy one-liners, half hearted romance, and over the top bombast. Recent years have proven that adult-oriented fantasy can combine escapist entertainment with intelligence, and The Fall is a perfect example of just that kind of fantastical escape. Continue reading

Review: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

assassination-of-jesse-james-by-the-coward-robert-ford-1originally published in the middlebury campus

Spring time brings a mixed bag to movie theaters. There is rarely the over the top bombast that one finds during the summer, the introspective independent films that usual see the light of day toward the end of the fall, or even the laughably terrible films that are released in January or February. The spring usually finds films popping up in cineplexes that are too unimpressive to see release at any other time, which usually means nothing worth spending time on is gracing our local theaters. This is actually a blessing in disguise because it can afford one the opportunity to go back and check out films that might have slipped by during their theatrical run and are now being released on DVD. One of the films that slipped past most people when it had its initial shot in theaters this past September was The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Continue reading

Review: Smart People

smart peopleoriginally published in the middlebury campus

The marketing team at Miramax touted their release, Smart People as being a creation “from the makers of Sideways.” I loved Sideways so this little marketing ploy was enough to ensnare me. The problem is that when they said, “from the makers of Sideways” what they really meant was “from the producer of Sideways and also staring Thomas Hayden Church.” Well, if a studio chooses to market their film like this they are inevitably going to invite comparisons and the truth is that Smart People doesn’t hold a candle to Sideways. Continue reading

Review: Paranoid Park

ParanoidPark(Scott-Green)WE-751176originally published in the middlebury campus

This first paragraph is going to be a bit pretentious, but bear with me. Movie titles are an important forum from which audiences can gleam information about a film; the story, a genre, or simply a mood can be pulled out of the title. It helps audiences know what they’re getting into. Every now and then, however, a film comes along whose title says more about the film’s themes than its plot; a title that retroactively seems to tell audience more about the film than reading a dozen reviews. Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park is just such a title, at once saying nothing about the film, but also evoking the youthful isolation, guilt and paranoia that are the film’s core themes. It’s a subtle feature of the film, but then again the strongest features of Paranoid Park is its amazing subtlety and the quiet grace with which it tries to capture the interior of the characters that populate it’s setting. Continue reading

Review: Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut Movie Review DVD Revieworiginally published in the middlebury campus

I reviewed films for the Middlebury Campus for about a year and a half. While I held the post people asked for my favorite film on a weekly basis. I get the impression that people ask this of all film majors as well, but I also get the impression that the deadly combination of critic and student makes this question come up more often for me than some others. I’ve never had a ready answer for people, to what I self-centeredly see as their disappointment. I vaguely considered reviewing a new movie for my last column; I mean, X-Men: Wolverine did come out that week. But, in the end, I decided that I didn’t want to end my time as The Campus film critic writing about some Hollywood blockbuster; instead I wanted to answer the oft-asked aforementioned question. Well, here is my potentially surprising answer: Stanley Kubrick’s last film, 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut is my favorite film. Continue reading

Review: Jumper

jumperoriginally published in the middlebury campus

Jumper, the latest offering from indie-director turned big budget schlock merchant Doug Liman, is a mess. The story, adapted from Steven Gould’s novel, is about David Rice (Hayden Christenson, exuding all the charisma of a bowl of dehydrated potato flakes) who, at the age of thirteen, discovers he can teleport after he falls into a frozen river only to find himself moments later in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s public library. He is a Jumper, part of an elite group of people who can teleport anywhere on the planet. Wait a second; doesn’t that make him a teleporter, though? It really doesn’t matter, this film doesn’t quibble over details (or plot or characters for that matter). Anyway, Jumpers are at war with the Paladins, religious fanatics who will stop at nothing to rid the world of Jumpers. Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) is one of these Paladins. He becomes obsessed with stopping our intrepid young hero, no matter what. That about does it for plot. Continue reading

Review: In Search of a Midnight Kiss

in search of a midnight kissoriginally published in the middlebury campus

As a film student, I saw the recent advances in digital filmmaking technology as the greatest gift to independent film since the advent of the 16mm camera. Consumer DV cameras and affordable editing software mean that anyone and everyone has the ability to make a movie. In Search of a Midnight Kiss, shot on DV with a minuscule budget of $25,000, is a product of this flattened filmmaking landscape, and stands out as a fantastic surprise in a year that hasn’t seen many surprises coming out of the independent film world. Continue reading

Review: There Will Be Blood

there-will-be bloodoriginally published in the middlebury campus

Indie auteur Paul Thomas Anderson was a critical darling of the late 1990s, with his films Boogie Nights and Magnolia firmly cementing his reputation as one of the most prominent rising directorial stars. His films tend to be paradoxical. They are dramatic, but have a strain of absurdist comedy running them. They are intimate, but have an epic vision. They are simultaneously about one person and all people. His latest release, There Will Be Blood, is different, though. Anderson jettisons the tongue-in-cheek humor one usually finds in his films and instead focuses on crafting a sweeping epic. Continue reading