Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook Gives Romantic Comedies Their Dignity Back

Writer/Director David O. Russell tells relatively straight forward stories in slightly left-of-center fashion. His Gulf War heist film, Three Kings, about U.S. soldiers stealing a dictator's loot, somehow transforms from a thrilling comedy into an affecting drama about helping fellow human beings in need. His last film, The Fighter, about a boxer struggling to prove himself all while working toward "the big fight", follows all the familiar underdog story beats, but is arguably more of an examination of an intensely dysfunctional family. These films are Russell's takes on heist films and sports films respectively, which would make Silver Linings Playbook Russel's slightly left-of-center take on a romantic comedy.

The film opens with Pat (Bradley Cooper) being driven home from a court ordered stay at a mental institution by his mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver in a subtly perfect performance.) Pat's forced stay was the result of a violent episode that has since alienated him from his wife. Now that he's back in the world, it is his life's obsession to improve himself and win her back. On his regimented journey toward self-betterment, Pat meets recent widower Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), herself prone to exhibiting destructive behavior worrisome to her family. Pat believes she may even be crazier than he is. Tiffany's tangential relationship to Pat's wife however encourages him to engage in a friendship with her and while she doesn't seem to mind his admitted ulterior motives, she decides to use his vulnerability to her advantage, forcing him to become her partner in her own current constructive outlet - a ballroom dance competition. 

Both Cooper and Lawrence are solid here, avoiding the easy slip of having their characters being little more than eccentric caricatures. Lawrence as Tiffany doesn't just say rude things, she's sad and curious and angry and fragile - in my opinion, earning every bit of her recent Oscar nomination. Cooper also crafts a man who is more than just mood swings. There's a lot going on behind his eyes - suppressed and unsuppressed rage, sadness, and an endearing and often times heartbreaking hopefulness.  

A particularly strong showcase for both begins in a diner where Pat and Tiffany are sussing each other out, discovering the other's buttons, and thanks to their unapologetic natures, pushing them. Tiffany in particular discovers just how broken Pat is and her realization of her power over him, as well as her sympathy for him, is the kind of stuff that makes this film a gem.

Also of note, of course, is Robert DeNiro as Pat's father, who is mostly able to hide issues of his own behind his befuddled but sincere attempts to understand his confusing son.

The end of the second act introduces a jarringly conventional story device that in any other film probably wouldn't have felt so out of place, but here felt oddly contrived only because the rest of the film had been operating in such an un-apologeticly grounded way. Fortunately, it all leads back to a solid place with a third act that's sweet and weird and spastic and truthful - just like its characters.

Monday, January 28, 2013

MovieFilm Podcast Episode 14

Once again the MovieFilm crew is joined by JoBlo.com News Editor Paul Shirey in this, our fourteenth installment.

This week we gents discuss what may in fact be Arnold Schwarzenegger's  "Last Stand", the fascinating sideshow surrounding Lindsay Lohan's upcoming movie The Canyons, as well as our thoughts on a few of the recent Oscar nominations. Additionally, Zaki interviews comedian Hasan Minhaj about Failosophy, the new show he's hosting for MTV. And if that isn't enough, we also unpack the trailers for RED 2, the remake of the horror classic The Evil Dead, and the upcoming "Die Hard in the White House" thriller Olympus Has Fallen.

You can stream it below, download at the link, or find this episode and a whole lot more at moviefilmpodcast.com. Like always, make sure you write a review or rank us on iTunes, and feel free to hit "like" and join us on our official Facebook page.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Brian's Favorite Films of 2012

Now that a new year has begun, it's always fun to take a look back at the previous year and remember the movies that managed to stand out among the rest.

This isn't a traditional Top 10 list, and these aren't my picks for "best films of the year." Instead, these are simply my favorite movies and theater going experiences of 2012. Oh, and I should mention that as of this posting, I still haven't seen The Hobbit or Beasts of the Southern Wild. I will though. ...No, really. ...Stop looking at me like that!


These film were the most memorable theater-going experiences for me last year:

            A satisfying examination of two broken people 
            learning to live with each other's help. Great
            performances make this a fun and sweet story 
            to watch. 

I love me some Wes Anderson. I've been on board with him since Bottle Rocket and while he seemed to be wavering a bit for a time, this was a lovely return to form. His confidence in his quirky voice brings this story of young love to life in a left of center, but most importantly, honest way.

An un-apologetically grim and heady time travel thriller. While the film proudly owes much to many films that came before it, it still manages to feel like a breath of fresh air.

I loved the no nonsense, laying-out-the-facts nature of the film, all leading to a cinematically thrilling reenactment of one of the most famous take downs of one of the most famous real-life villains in history.

Yes, it's too long. Yes, if I could, there are a few things I would want differently. But there was no other movie that grabbed me by the lapels and swung me around like this one did in 2012. From the opening airplane heist to Batman flying away, lugging a nuclear bomb, ready to die for his city, nitpicks and notes aside, this movie is a triumph of execution and I still enjoy it. 


Ambitious and intriguing, this nearly three hour epic spanning centuries isn't without its lulls, but the way the six or so stories are woven together - melding the beats and crescendos of each story with one another, seamlessly hopping back and forth between them - is remarkable, giving the film an exciting energy. While some stories work better than others, and ultimately the movie comes just short of the impact I feel it was building toward, I still found myself taken with it.

 A popcorn flick of the highest caliber. It's effortlessly fun and pulls off what should have been a next to impossible juggling act of charismatic personalities, exciting set pieces, and impressive effects eye candy.


While not my genre at all, this fun deconstruction of horror films (while actually being a darn inventive one itself) had me intrigued, laughing and hooked from the opening title card.


A sweet, offbeat tale about a guy convinced he's built a time machine, all he needs now is a partner to travel with him. For such a goofy premise, the film found a good hook with a lot of heart that keeps you invested in figuring out what's really going on.

Kind of can't believe this came from a major studio. Although a found footage film about teenagers, this is a thoughtful and kind of melancholy take on what would happen if regular kids inherited super powers. In spite of a teeny budget, there were still many memorable moments of the kids' powers on display in grounded, real-life settings.

Yup, the one where Will Ferrell speaks Spanish the entire film. Think Three Amigos meets Anchorman and you're on your way to an idea of what this bizarre and hilarious movie is like. All I know is my brother and I were laughing constantly.


But you want to know what my favorite theater going experience was this past year? Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I somehow managed to catch three times on a big screen - once even with Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg in attendance!  Watching a movie you've seen a million times in an actual movie theater is a special experience because that unparalleled immersion allows you to get invested in the film as if seeing it again for the first time. You take notice of things you've missed or forgotten about, sucking you into the story in a way you just can't experience at home. "If you have the means I highly recommend it. It is so choice."

And that about wraps it up! Thanks for taking a look and feel free to shoot me your thoughts on YOUR favorite films of last year.