BOFCA REVIEW ROUNDUP: 10/26

CLOUD ATLAS

“The kitsch factor is weirdly in keeping with the picture’s ardent, disarming sincerity. Even at its most risible, this oddball movie has a groovy, inclusive spirit that feels downright revolutionary.” – Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly


“The key is not to take CLOUD ATLAS too seriously. If you try to invest yourself in the sci-fi framework or the Wachowski-esque philosophical theory, you’ll be too busy chewing on sand rather than eating up the goodies.” – Norm Schrager, Meet In The Lobby

“This is not just a movie. It’s a cinematic mural, and while its elements may sometimes clash a bit, the overall form is really rather lovely.” – Kilian Melloy, Kal’s Movie Blog

“The year’s most ambitious film, one that will divide critics as well as audiences. You will either be enthralled or bored beyond tears. Given its nearly three hour running time, you’d best be prepared.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, The Sci-Fi Movie Page

“As it took up residence in my memory, my relationship with this film simply grew. I liked CLOUD ATLAS when it ended. But by the next day, I had fallen in love.” – Greg Vellante, The Eagle Tribune

“It looks like the short segments were put together by an editor wearing a blind fold and watching it gives audiences the kind of motion sickness feeling one gets trying to read a book in a moving car.” – John Black, Boston Event Guide

“At first, the frequent jumping between time periods is a bit jarring, but it quickly becomes second nature as you get invested in each one of the individual stories.” – Evan Crean, Reel Recon

“Not just one of the best movies of the year, but one of the most ambitious and audicious in a year that has been big on ambitious and audacious.” – Bob Chipman, The Escapist

 

SMASHED

“Just as the melodrama gains traction we cut to a coda and the credits. It runs a scant 85 minutes, and feels unfinished.” – Jake Mulligan, The Boston Phoenix

 

 

THE SESSIONS


“Such an earnest little puddle of feel-good inspiration that I feel like an  asshole for disliking it so much.” – Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly

“This is a movie not about sexual exploitation, but rather about sexual healing.” – Kilian Melloy, Kal’s Movie Blog


“It is entirely daring in what it chooses to show, but rather tame in what it chooses to say.” – Greg Vellante, The Eagle Tribune

 

CHASING MAVERICKS


“A Lifetime movie with some actual life to it, lending tender observation to the idea that dreams are sitting out there waiting to be seized.” – Greg Vellante, The Eagle Tribune

“An acting range that seems more suited to pouting on the fashion runway than performing as a fully fledged character.” – John Black, Boston Event Guide

“A coming-of-age story which should end with the young boy becoming a young man. Unfortunately, fate had other ideas. As the old saying goes, God writes lousy theater.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, NorthShoreMovies.net

 

SILENT HILL: REVELATION

“It’s like watching a recording of someone else playing a video game. You have no control and you have nothing invested in the characters or the outcome.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, The Sci-Fi Movie Page

“It’s more of the same, on a cut-rate budget, without Gans’s atmospheric reverie.” – Brett Michel, The Boston Phoenix

“A full-on, visceral thrill ride that uses 3D technology to throw buckets of blood and gore at the audience with gleeful abandonment.” – John Black, Boston Event Guide

 

FUN SIZE

“Crud. Perfectly unpleasant fluff that offers a few good moments in a mess of horrible ones.” – Greg Vellante, The Eagle Tribune

“If your ‘tweens and young teens are into the offerings on Nickelodeon and Disney then they’ll enjoy this, but there is stuff that parents may find surprising and even disturbing.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, NorthShoreMovies.net

 

BOFCA INTERVIEW: 10/25

Winner of the Audience Award and a Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, writer-director Ben Lewin’s new movie THE SESSIONS stars John Hawkes as poet and journalist Mark O’Brien, paralyzed since childhood after a bout of polio and confined to an iron lung.  How he moves – philosophically, mentally, emotionally– from a place of exclusion to one of participation is the journey the film traces.

Lewin visited Boston last month for a luncheon promoting the film. BOFCA’s own Kilian Melloy spoke to the filmmaker about how sometimes the best reaction is no reaction.

THE SESSIONS touches upon a multitude of charged topics with maturity and sensitivity. Offered this assessment, Lewin, a kindly man in his mid-60s, answered with a self-deprecating smile, “Well, I can lay claim to maturity in any case.”

Lewin is the son of Polish émigrés who settled in Australia in his boyhood. Like O’Brien, Lewin suffered polio in childhood. He was left needing crutches, but Lewin is perfectly able to live an ordinary life; indeed, his life has extraordinary, given that the former lawyer switched careers and moved to England to become a successful filmmaker.

“I was developing this sitcom called THE GIMP that was to have some politically incorrect humor,” Lewin explained. “The main character trades the use of his disabled [parking] placard for sex!”

“I was online doing research about sex and the disabled, and kept coming up with stuff like ‘Gimp Girls Gone Wild,’ ” Lewin continued. “And then I found Mark O’Brien’s article, ‘On Seeing A Sex Surrogate.’ ” Inspiration struck, and Lewin was off and running.

In one of the movie’s funniest scenes, O’Brien conducts an interview with a wheelchair-bound woman. His attendant, Vera, played by Moon Bloodgood, runs a tape recorder as the woman rattles off a list of favorite sexual practices. Vera seems as shocked to hear about the kinds of sex this woman enjoys as she is to discover that someone in a wheelchair could be having sex in the first place.

The actress was uncertain about how to convey Vera’s responses, so “I told her to do nothing,” Lewin chuckled. “Nothing is the best reaction.”

Another fine actor featured in the film is William H. Macy, who plays O’Brien’s priest, Father Brendan. At first, Macy’s man of the cloth –who is “a Berkeley hippie priest,” Lewin notes — is deeply troubled by the idea of intercourse with a sex therapist. But as Father Brendan gazes at the crucifix hanging above the altar of his church, he seems to hear an answer from The Divine: “Go for it,” he tells O’Brien.

Cheryl is played by Helen Hunt, who is fearless about taking off her clothes for the camera. Hunt is in her middle years, with crow’s feet and fine lines and other signs of her age, but the comfortable, confident way she inhabits her skin makes her nothing short of gorgeous. Her “sex surrogate” incorporates sexual passion and clinical professionalism in equal measures; Cheryl is direct, without being crass. Similarly, the sex scenes are not explicit, but neither are they camouflaged. The effect is less erotic than tender and affecting.

Hunt “had no objections to the part in principle,” Lewin said, but “it was a process to get to a place in her head where she could play the role. She asked me how I was going to film the sex scenes and I said, ‘In the same way as the rest of the film, no special angles or techniques.’ ”

That decision underscores the naturalness of sexuality as presented in THE SESSIONS. But Hunt’s process of getting comfortable took an unconventional turn when she tried out different positions, albeit fully clothed, on her own bed at home with the film’s cameraman.

Wait — the cameraman?

“The cameraman is the closest one to the action,” Lewin explained with a smile.

THE SESSIONS opens Friday, October 26th in Boston area theatres.

BOFCA REPERTORY PICK: 10/23

Everything old is new again.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, THE MASTER – which resurrected 70mm film and the career of Joaquin Phoenix in one masterful swoop – confirmed his position yet again as one of our country’s greatest artists. He’s chronicling our history, using his work to look at the growth of both our culture and our cinema. THE MASTER also confirmed, for better or worse, that he can’t help but make the same film over and over again. BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA, HARD EIGHT – all about troubled, oft-impulsive young men, driven to find love in makeshift families; looking to replace the lack of passion they found in their own (they reach varying degrees of success.) His 4th feature, PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, fits directly into this category.

Adam Sandler, his star, also seemed disinterested in breaking out of his formula (as of this film’s 2002 release, at least.) HAPPY GILMORE, BILLY MADISON, BIG DADDY, ANGER MANAGEMENT, it’s all the same shit: an angry, violent man-child with an odd task-at-hand (becoming a pro golfer, raising a kid, going through elementary school again; it’s all interchangeable,) falls for an ethereal blonde beauty, uses his newfound strength to conquer a barely-characterized comic villain (Shooter McGavin was always my favorite, for whatever it’s worth,) and eventually, at long last, finds peace through love.

The brilliance of their sole collaboration isn’t in how it breaks away from these formulas. It’s what it does with them. That’s what’s so beautiful about PUNCH-DRUNK. You’ve seen this all before, far too many times. You’ve just never seen it quite like this.

Because surely, as Barry Egan, Sandler fulfills his usual clichés: his violent temper is established early, he’s emotionally stunted, he’s tormented by a cartoonish villain (Phillip Seymour Hoffmann, transcendently infuriated, as the manager of a Midwestern phone-sex line/mattress outlet,) he’s obsessively pursuing a wacky hobby (an endless collection of cheap pudding, to be traded for unlimited frequent flyer miles,) and he happens upon the women (Emily Watson) who – with a kiss right out of a fairy tale – can imbue a sense of meaning into all these ailments.

And Anderson, behind the camera, brings everything we’d come to expect of him: an eclectic, mood-defining soundtrack, vibrant set design/color palette, and extensive film references (Egan rocks Jean-Paul Belmondo’s blue suit from A WOMAN IS A WOMAN; after one violent outbreak cuts on his knuckles form the word ‘LOVE’, recalling another famous fist from NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.) It’s all tied together by smooth tracking camerawork, courtesy top-class cinematographer Robert Elswit, which recalls the late-period films of Stanley Kubrick and Max Ophüls.

But PTA also brings something else along, something that’s been sorely (and obviously) missing from all of Sandler’s films. The film has a heart, a soul, and a sense of specificity. He blends interludes of abstract visual art (courtesy the late Jeremy Blake) into the feature, edits it to the beat of a hauntingly erratic score (it feels like a warm-up for the instant-classic scores he’d commission from Johnny Greenwood for THE MASTER and THERE WILL BE BLOOD,) and allows it to operate from a dream-logic almost entirely divorced from our own reality. When Egan sprints to Watson’s apartment, he awkwardly carries along with him the harmonium he discovered (stole?) the morning he met her. What should seem strange, pretentious, and distancing instead feels, for lack of a better term, completely and totally right.

A surrealistic experience, equal parts comforting fantasy and anxiety-driven nightmare, PUNCH-DRUNK transcends its many predecessors with a deceptively simple flourish: it values feelings over mechanics. Its hallucinatory construction never feels the need to adhere to anything other than its own mood. It’s a stunningly beautiful film; cutting past your brain to play directly to your heart. Some love stories are epic, some are sweepingly romantic, but Anderson’s feels nothing less than primal.

His early work mainly recalled Scorsese and Altman, and his last two films Kubrick, but PUNCH-DRUNK is Anderson’s anomaly – a truly singular effort. As a film critic, it’s easy to start thinking you’ve seen it all. And there’s nothing better than being proven wrong. - Jake Mulligan

PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE plays today, 10/23, at 5:30, 7:30, and 9:30. The Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle Street, Cambridge MA, 02138

BOFCA REVIEW ROUNDUP: 10/17

ALEX CROSS

“You’ve seen this movie before, but what makes this one almost interesting is just how amazingly poorly miscast the main hero and villain are.” – Bob Chipman, The Escapist

“The usual over-familiar mélange of forensic evidence and titillating torture-porn that reminds me why I don’t watch network television procedurals.” – Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly

“Lazy, tedious, contrived. This is, by far, the worst action movie of the year.” – Greg Vellante, The Eagle Tribune

 

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4

“Of course it’s all fake and pretty stupid, but that’s beside the point.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, The Sci-Fi Movie Page

 

CONNED

“It’s hard to ferret out who’s screwing whom, but surely, it’s the viewers who are being conned.” – Brett Michel, The Boston Phoenix
 
 
 

BOFCA REVIEW ROUNDUP: 10/12

ARGO

“One of the most entertaining and smart movies to come out of Hollywood this year. Affleck emerges into the front rank of contemporary American directors.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, NorthShoreMovies.net

“I think it would be impossible to make a movie about U.S. and Iranian relations that had less to say about our current situation than ARGO. Affleck has everything but a strong vision.” – Jake Mulligan, EDGE Boston

“A fast, no B.S. procedural drama that harkens back to the glory days of smart, tense espionage dramas.” – Bob Chipman, The Escapist

“Affleck also draws out the ending more than necessary, straying from the historical record in order to goose the audience along for the ride. No matter, as it’s a hell of a ride.” – Sean Burns, The Improper Bostonian

“Truly one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Affleck has successfully set a new bar of excellence for himself with this entertainingly complex slice of history.” – Tim Estiloz, Boston Movie Examiner

“If there is any film of 2012 more appropriate of being deemed a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, I have yet to find it.” – Greg Vellante, The Eagle Tribune

“I didn’t feel any tension or drama. I could hear the music pump up, I could see the editing speed up. And Affleck gives himself too many close-ups.” – John Black, The Post-Movie Podcast

“Ben Affleck may very well be one of the best directors of solid Hollywood entertainment today, a confident, reliable and effective visual storyteller.” – Norm Schrager, Paste Magazine

 

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS

“I’m not sure it all hangs together in the end, but McDonagh’s grasping at something interesting. And I laughed so hard, I made a spectacle of myself.” – Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly
 
“With a title like SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, you shouldn’t be expecting sweetness and light. This is a violent, profane and hilariously dark comedy.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, NorthShoreMovies.net
 
“I can’t think of any single moment I didn’t enjoy, even though some feel slightly out-of-place.” – Greg Vellante, The Eagle Tribune
 
“There’s a seething, underlying rage these guys all have that makes for great comedy.” – Steve Head, The Post-Movie Podcast
 
“The pieces of the action movie puzzle are the same, sure. But you’ve never seen them arranged quite like this.” – Jake Mulligan, EDGE Boston
 

 

THE PAPERBOY

“I don’t want to start giving things away, but get ready for watersports, telepathic blowjobs, and much more.” – Jake Mulligan, EDGE Boston
 
“Is there a way to make heads or tails of this icky cinematic mess?” – Monica Castillo, Bitch Magazine
 
 
 
SINISTER
 
“A frequently effective fright-machine that makes the most of the familiar footing it treads.” – Greg Vellante, The Eagle Tribune
 
“The result isn’t one of the great horror films, but it’s a lot better than many of the other offerings in the genre this year.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, The Sci-Fi Movie Page
 
 ”A virtual encyclopedia of scenes and themes from other, better movies without an identity of its own.” – Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly

 

HERE COMES THE BOOM
 
“In fact, here’s an idea: Kevin James should get a professional divorce from Adam Sandler. They can socialize in their off hours if they must.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, NorthShoreMovies.net
 
“The movie doesn’t fire on all cylinders, but it fires full force with what it’s got; dumb fun, clever strategy. All in all, it works.” – Kilian Melloy, EDGE Boston
 
“Yes, the movie has some stupid moments. Yes, the plot is absurd. But no, you won’t be bored.” – Greg Vellante, The Eagle Tribune
 
“The implausibilities of the film are insane.” – Steve Head, The Post-Movie Podcast
 
“Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions is the perennial pop-culture zombie that refuses to die and wants to eat your brain.” – Monica Castillo, The Boston Phoenix
 

 

KEEP THE LIGHTS ON

“In trying to capture a moment in time, Sachs has left nothing uncovered. Navigating his darkest moments with unsparing honesty, he finds a flicker of hope.” – Jake Mulligan, The Boston Phoenix 
 
 
 
ATLAS SHRUGGED: PART II
 
“It’s cute that Objectivists now have a BATTLEFIELD: EARTH of their own.” – Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly