Films about debilitating diseases can be uplifting like The Theory of Everything, sentimental like The Notebook, unexpected like Amour or surprisingly funny like The Intouchables. Some films put the disease front and center while others treat it as part of a character. How the film handles and tackles the drama surrounding the disease can make or break it. The latest film from the directing team of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Still Alice, is a film that looks at Alzheimer’s Disease, and unlike the aforementioned films, it never rises above being a heavy-handed “disease-of-the-week” TV movie.
It is the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Norway is in the midst of an oil boom. The Norwegian government has contracted internationally crewed drill teams to get things set up as the oil rigs are prepped for delivery. Petter (Aksel Hennie) and his brother Knut (Andre Eriksen) are two of the first divers to attempt to set up a hub in the ocean depths. During their mission, something goes terribly wrong, and Knut is lost in a tragic accident. While trying to find out the cause of the accident and ensure this accident doesn’t happen again, Petter finds himself involved in a perceived conspiracy and cover-up.
In a seemingly not-to-distant future, drought and famine consumes the Earth as massive dust clouds blanket the inhabitable regions of the planet. People are growing ill from the prolonged exposure to the dirt, crops are dying one by one and within a generation there will be nothing left to feed anyone and the world will begin to die. It’s an ironic extinction event, the very ground that provides life is the very one that will wipe it off the planet. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a farmer and former NASA test pilot, does his best to keep his family fed and his crops growing. After an unexpected encounter with a brilliant professor and his daughter, Cooper is enlisted for a critical mission that will send him and his crew through a wormhole and into unexplored space in a search for a planet that can sustain life.
Thirty years ago, Dulce awakened on the floor of her home, bleeding and surrounded by shards of a broken mirror. Confused and disoriented, she was ultimately arrested, tried, and convicted of murdering her husband and son in their home.
Decades later, Dulce, now a frail, elderly woman, is released and placed under house arrest in the very home where her family died. Dulce was convinced that it was the house that killed her family, but no one believed her. Now, the supernatural forces that may have taken her family have returned, and Dulce’s terrifying journey to solve the mystery begins.
In the post-Raid era it’s an unescapable certainty that any action film that follows simply won’t be able to achieve the lofty heights of those masterfully made films. The films, especially the second one, featured a fine balance between compelling drama and hard-hitting, fast-paced action. They had a palpable energy that many films, regardless of genre, seldom achieve. For recent action films, the adage of “old is new again” holds true as many of the big action films have been ‘80s-‘90s action-throwbacks that feature aging action-stars. Actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Costner, Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson have all graced the silver screen with action-thrillers, some with greater success than others. Keanu Reeves now joins that group with the action-thriller John Wick.
Think back on the last movie you watched. Where and how did you watch it? On your laptop? On your phone? On Blu-ray or DVD? In a movie theatre? Regardless of how films are ultimately distributed they are always meant to be seen on the big screen with an audience. Good or bad, ultra-low or sky-high budgeted, recent release or over a century old, movies were meant for movie theaters. When films are out of circulation that is where the repertoire theaters come in. Revival theaters, as they are also referred to as, screen films that are no longer in circulation. Often these theaters will screen a film in whatever format is available to them, on film, via Digital Cinema Package (DCP) or even off a blu-ray if necessary. Nearly all the films screened are readily available on some home format. So this begs the question, why would you want to see something in a theatre when you can just watch it in the comfort of your own home? Julia Marchese’s entertaining documentary looks to answer that question and more as she examines the revival cinema culture, film preservation and the palpable impact of recent developments in film exhibition.
The creature feature. It’s a genre that hasn’t received much attention as of late. In the last decade, horror movies have primarily focused on crazed killers, self-mutilation, supernatural entities and recently unearthed, never-before-seen footage. Every now and then genre fans would love nothing more than to see a good old-fashioned monster movie.
I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t like Gregory Dark’s 2006 horror-thriller See No Evil. While it introduced a new crazed psychopath, Jacob Goodnight, to genre fans, it didn’t leave much of an impression. The film arrived when torture-porn horror films were beginning to reach their peak. Films like Saw and Hostel were pushing the envelope in terms of what horror films can get away with or even show. At the time, the genre became more about shock, blood and just how brutal and gross can you get. After a while you can become so desensitized that it becomes boring. That pretty much summed up my opinion of the original – all shock and brutality and little substance – to the point it was forgotten. It’s 2014 and here comes See No Evil 2, and much to this viewer’s surprise, it’s better than the original and is a pretty well made slasher film.
Horror-comedy is a genre that you seldom see much from nowadays. In recent years you’d have to look to films like Shaun of the Dead, Slither or Zombieland to deliver the shrieks and guffaws. The genre’s offerings can take many forms, such as flat-out parodies (like the Scary Movie franchise), self-aware films that scare you while letting you in on the joke (like the Scream series) or films that deliver exactly what the title promises (like Killer Klowns from Outer Space).
Theodore Melfi’s feature directorial debut looks like a fairly conventional piece of cinema. There are many conceits that may seem all too familiar to even the least discerning of audiences. On the surface, St. Vincent looks like a piece of feel-good cinema that could have easily been dismissed as nothing more than a TV movie of the week. Despite the material’s familiarity, Melfi manages to put together an entertaining feel-good comedy that features a solid cast who elevate the film altogether.
In this day and age, it’s very easy for someone to take a video of an event and submit it for viewing, whether it’s via YouTube or on the evening news. For example, during an earthquake or tornado people will submit their footage, and if it’s deemed good enough to show, it’ll hit the airwaves. There it is, your video with your name appearing on screen. If you have just the right footage, a video on YouTube can become an overnight sensation.
Boy meets girl (or vice versa). Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back.
This pretty much sums up the basic structure of the countless romantic comedies that have been made since film’s early beginnings in the early 20th century. The challenges filmmakers face when tackling a rom-com is finding a way to entertain an audience familiar with the genre’s many tropes. And finding a fresh angle is certainly a daunting task when rom-coms are a dime a dozen.
Often times a writer/director can surprise you by making something they are not known for. It can be refreshing, or cringe inducing, to see artists broaden their horizons. Roland Joffe directed Captivity. Barry Levinson directed The Bay. The Coen brothers had True Grit. Renny Harlin made Die Hard 2.
It’s been ten years since estranged twins Maggie and Milo have spoken to each other. They have established their lives on opposite coasts. Milo is a gay, struggling actor living in Los Angeles, and Maggie seems to be living the ideal life with her husband in upstate New York. There has always been talk of some sort of psychic bond between the twins. For example, one twin may feel pain in an arm that the other may simultaneously feel in the same spot, not necessarily as pain but as a sensation. With that in mind, it is a near-tragic moment that brings the two of them back together. This is how Craig Johnson’s entertaining dra-medy The Skeleton Twins opens, and it only just begins to scratch the surface of just who these people are and what they are going through together.
What does it take to change one’s circumstances? Must you make a personal change? Do you need to make a change in environment? Are you fated to take the path you’ve set for yourself or is there more to life than what lies before you? Does your past predetermine just where that path will lead? These are some very philosophical questions that many people have at one point or another have stopped to ask and pondered their answer.
When striving for fortune and fame just how far are you willing to go? How much are you willing to sacrifice? Are you willing to do all you can to get noticed? When opportunity knocks are you ready to answer or would you rather continue on your current path? In Lenny Abrahmason’s film Frank, these are just some of the questions that Jon Burroughs must answer in his quest to become a singer/songwriter.