Category: Film

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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It’s fitting that this film has done away with the usual numbering that we see in sequel titles since calling this ‘Captain America 2’ would be an oversimplification of the complex route its characters have taken to get here; its the third, fourth and fifth appearance for most of them, recurring as they have throughout the Marvel universe. It would also have been a mistake to imply that this is a direct sequel to the film that first spawned Cap into the MU since their relationship is more that that of Alien and Aliens: there are some deep-cut references and ties to the formers lore, but the tone, tempo and arguably the genre has changed over the break.

Which makes perfect sense given how much the character has changed since his first cinematic foray. Johnston’s film was a WWII-set homage to the adventure movies of the era that embraced the cheese and machismo of such things, but as the Captain is now a contemporary his films had to have a more modern feel to them. What doesn’t make as much sense is the fact that the filmmakers went to the well of the Cold War and the cold conspiracy films of the seventies to achieve this, merging them with the staple comic action of Marvel studios. Much has been made of the movies inclusion of drones and other such contemporary commentaries, but to call this a modern movie ( or Marvel’s Dark Knight) would be short-sighted; in its own way it’s just as dated and daggy as the original but that’s exactly why it works as well as it does.

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The 86th Academy Awards

So, after a longer period of press predictions than even the elections of late we’re finally here, getting the Oscars over and done so we can start shortlisting the twenty-fifteen selections. For now though we’ll say our final words on the films we’ve all spent the last year talking too much about. I’ll be updating as we go.

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Winter’s Tale

winterstale3 The Dissolve recently featured an article (Found HERE) about the effect of sincerity on the viewing of recent overly-saccharine releases such as Labour Day; in it the author proposed that the success of these films relies heavily on the audience’s willingness to have an authentically heartfelt reaction to what is occurring on the screen, that in this age of spoof, subversion, meta-winking and general cynicism the only way that a film which takes itself seriously can function is if the audience puts down their guard and allows it to. As a conflicted cynic myself I am want to agree almost as much as I want to have such a heartfelt reaction to a movie whenever possible; I’d always prefer to exit a cinema effected but it’s not always easy.

Winter’s Tale is without a doubt a film that takes itself quite seriously: the bleached-bright shots of its stars staring into one another eyes and holding one another on horseback that hang beneath the closing credits cast the film in the mold of a grand romantic epic, while the wonky and overbearing narration suggests that the story is a thing of profound depth and beauty. The truth though is that, regardless of your approach the film is neither of those things, it’s nowhere near as good as it thinks it is, but nor, I feel, is it as bad as many would have you believe; it simply requires that you do believe.

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A Single Shot

I took a somewhat strange path towards seeing this picture: when pre-production first began rumors began to circulate online around the all-star cast that was being assembled for the adaptation of an heretofore unknown crime novel that had some similarities to the stories of Cormac McCarthy and the Coen brothers that I have loved so strongly in the past. A man who lives alone in the mountains mistakes a young girl for a deer during a hunt, steals a stash of money from the site of the shooting and in doing so sets off a series of violent events as telling as they are tragic. It was summertime and I felt like a suspenseful, pulpy thriller so i picked up the book in preparation for a film that I felt sure I would like; it was disconcertingly different to what I had imagined from that synopsis, though far stronger for it.

The novel, by Matthew F. Jones (who adapted the screenplay used here himself), ticked all the boxes that one expects from accidental criminal stories such as these but intermittently it would work in other ways, effecting a much less conventional guise. There was something strange and ethereal about the way in which Jones tells the tale, his book is as much gothic horror as it is Noir. So the story stayed with me, haunted me you might say, ever since, as did my anticipation for the film which shed its cast and shifted its expected release date many times. I had become accustomed to this being one of those films that I would always be waiting around for and then, like a shot out of nowhere, it was released on VOD. So here we are.

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Drinking Buddies

Joe Swanberg’s was not a name I was familiar with prior to this picture (despite having just seen him in You’re Next) so I was somewhat surprised to read that this film, Drinking Buddies, is his fourteenth feature and not a debut. There is something about Buddies that causes it to exude both the energy and inefficiency of a filmmaker fresh on the scene, it has a youthfulness ill-befitting its age and this seemingly comes from Swanberg’s semi-improvisational style. The actors at the films core – whose names I am highly aware of, their being what initially caught my eye in the MIFF guide – were apparently given near free reign in which to inhabit and develop their characters and this looseness from Swanberg seems largely responsible for the film’s feel, its amazing performances and its one potent flaw.
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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

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I’m a lover of the crime spree sub-genre, particularly those of the sixties and seventies. It’s one of those topics perfectly suited for the storytelling of its time because of how many social rules the films must inherently break and how many bonds there were back then that needed breaking. So I was quite excited to see that the style was being revived for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, though I was also worried about whether or not it might actually sallow the strike-rate of this particular subsection of stories; I mean what were the chances of it being another Bonnie and Clyde? Another Badlands? To his credit writer / director David Lowery doesn’t attempt to ape those great seventies stories, instead he does something much bolder and far more interesting: he shapes for them, for all of them, a loose sequel of sorts. Another in the Badlands series, not a sibling but a son.
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Trailer Trash – Lovelace Filth The Canyons and Oldboy Out of the Furnace

This edition of trailer trash is going to take that title quite literally. After two straight weeks of school holidays and the fluttering of frivolous family film releases that these requisite I thought I might bring you some of the hard stuff to help wash that sugar down: every one of these films looks dark, dirty and dangerously unsuitable to watch with any member of the family. Check out even these short cuts at your own discretion.

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Trailer Trash – The Turning Wolf of Wall Street, The Counsellor Dealin’ With Idiots

This look at a few of the impressive trailers released of late will play out a little differently than normal, which makes sense given that the films being promoted all look a little out of the ordinary. There is no theme to this collection, the only thing connecting all four is my desire to see them as soon as possible (maybe two more than the others) but that’s hopefully enough to pique your interest.

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Mud

The best thing about Mud is that it feels so real and yet it maybe never happened at all. Jeff Nichols broke big, relatively, with the release last year of Take Shelter – a film about a paranoid schizophrenic with apocalyptic delusions – but his literal debut, Shotgun Stories was a small, gritty, rural-set drama that was barely seen by anybody. They seem a disparate pair at first and Mud, his third film and something of a modern-day fairytale, seemed on synopsis to take him out in a third different direction but in execution it actually unites the oeuvre of this esoteric auteur. Delusions, dynasties and the deep-south are all smashed together in this sublime, smile-evoking story.
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Stoker

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It seems as if Twenty-Thirteen is to be the year of Korea, more specifically it is a year in which more moviegoers than ever will be exposed to the singular style of South Korean cinema: Spike Lee will remake SK gateway film Oldboy, Bong Joon-Ho will release the blockbuster Snowpiercer, etc. This South Korean season premieres with Park Chan Wook’s English language debut, Stoker; a film that, on first appearances, seems ill-suited to his strengths. The set-up is essentially stolen from a soap-opera – A handsome millionaire dies under suspicious circumstances and days later his younger brother moves into his manor, seducing the man’s still grieving wife and daughter – but the execution is as stunning and strange as one might expect from the man, just nowhere near as good.

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