Wednesday, May 28, 2014

RECENTLY BEHELD: MAY 19-25, 2014

(2014)


James Gray delivers his grandest film to date in the form of this softly-lit and glossily-glazed immigrant story circa 1920s New York. Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix (the latter a Gray regular) turn in incredible lead performances that keep them amidst the best of their respective generations. When all is said and done, The Immigrant feels like a natural title to list in the same sentence as The Godfather: Part II and Once Upon a Time in America. This is the latest American classic.

★★★★★


* * *


(2004)


When a filmmaker makes a finished project each year it's inevitable that some will get lost in the shuffle. That's especially the case with Woody Allen's 21st Century portfolio, and Melinda and Melinda is such a film (I'd heard nothing about this one prior to stumbling upon it on Netflix). Four friends are out to dinner discussing two great genres: comedy and tragedy. Which is more effective, more life-like and more appealing to an audience? It's a film (two films actually) within a film and does a good job of showing the merits of each. The weightier tragedy ultimately garners more screen time, but it becomes clear that either can venture into the territory of the other. Melinda and Melinda is bloated and self-adoring. Watching Will Ferrell play a part Allen would have played himself some years earlier is more distracting than it is funny. The project is still worth any Allenite's time for a diverse ensemble and a paralleling of the two perspectives of storytelling that this writer/director has been juggling for decades.

★★★


* * *


(2014)



The year of the doppleganger (see also Muppets Most Wanted and Enemy) marches forward with The Double. This time it's Jesse Eisenberg who is pulling double-duty. Mia Wasikowska, in one of her finest turns yet, plays the romantic interest that both Simon James and James Simon warring over. It's a hilarious and surreal experience, as much like Terry Gilliam as writer/director Richard Ayoade's Submarine was Wes Anderson-esque. To think of both only speaks to how competent the filmmaking is. There's some serious themes beneath the thick layer of style here.

★★★★


* * *


(2013)



My second viewing of Thomas Vinterberg's frustrating story became an observation of Mads Mikkelsen's Cannes-winning performance. He reacts to damning accusations in a determined yet soft manner. It's a character study during the worst months of one man's life and resonates strongly for it. Thomas Bo Larsen gives a mesmerizing performance of his own. The Hunt is about manhood, both the reaching and maintaining of that rite, in addition to providing a solemn portrait of the sleepy Denmark town that cultivates them.

★★★★½

* * *


(2012)


A second viewing of Jack Reacher further cemented its status amongst modern American action films, though it's unfit to belong to just that genre. It's a crime film, detective story and a thriller, of course. Cruise is still the best leading man we have for this fare and the trope-snapping script Christopher McQuarrie has adapted is immensely satisfying. Two stretches of dialogue-free action are phenomenal sequences all on their own: that horrific opening and what is now one of my favorite car chases post-Drive.

★★★★


* * *


(1984)




It's always a bad sign when the story within a story is more appealing than the film itself, which is how I felt in relation to the Western that opens this adventure rom-com. Alas, it's only the novella that Joan Wilder (Katherine Turner) is writing before she ends up in Columbia to save her sister's life. Expected more from an early Zemeckis film, but Romancing the Stone is still better than it sounds on paper.

★★★


* * *


(2014)



A form and mood swing away from last year's The Silence, with which it shares subject matter. This dark comedy glistens like blood through its first half before becoming hindered by unlikely interactions and undressed questions. Big Bad Wolves feels like a vital piece of contemporary Israeli cinema.

★★★½


* * *


Seen any of these films? What did you see last week? Please feel free to share your thoughts or your own recently beheld in the comments below!

Also, see what else I've seen this year in my Letterboxd diary.

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