Mud

Bill C’s Review – 4.5 out of 5

Below is the short review  I wrote after seeing Mud at SXSW.  It opens in Austin this week.  Definitely go see it!

This films reminded me a little of Stand By Me.  Two young teens are convinced to help an outlaw on the run.  Matthew McConaughy is great as the outlaw.  The two kids are great too.  The film also has Sam Sheppard, Reese Witherspoon, Joe Don Baker in small roles.  This is a good coming of age movie by Jeff Nichols,  the up and coming director of 2011′s Take Shelter.  Both Nichols and McConaughy were there for a Q+A after the film.  Definitely see this when you can!

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

The plot is not important, it’s the characters that captivate and their relationships. I can’t remember the last time I saw such realistic portrayals of teenagers, and the complicated relationships they have with the grown-ups in their life. The impact of a troubled marriage, with both parents struggling to raise their son the right way, was amazing to watch. Reese Witherspoon was almost unrecognizable, not due to her appearance, but due to her character. McConaughy is terrific, coming off his great showing in Magic Mike. But the real star is the main teenage boy.

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NY Times Article

Mud Movie

42

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

42 is the story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) breaking the color barrier in baseball in 1947.  It focuses on a relatively short time span, starting a couple of years prior to Robinson coming up when Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford!), the Brooklyn Dodger’s General Manager, decides to break the color barrier, and goes through Robinson’s first major league season in 1947.

For the most part, I liked the movie although there were certain parts where they took poetic license and factual liberties that were just unnecessary.  For example, in the movie Leo Durocher says his famous ‘Nice Giuys Finish Last’ line when talking to Rickey about whether Robinson was tough enough to make it with all the abuse he took.  I knew this wasn’t the proper context. There were other things like that, such as Branch Rickey miraculously showing up in the tunnel by the dugout at the precise moment that Robinson needs an inspiring speech. During the rest of the movie Rickey is comfortably seated in the stands. Gratuitously including things like this made me question more important part of the movie: were Ralph Branca and Pee Wee Reese correctly portrayed so positively or was it for dramatic effect?

For sports movies, the first thing that can ruin it is the quality of the sports scenes (think Gary Cooper in Pride of the Yankees). Here the movie did OK. The actors could all play pretty well. I think I did audibly groan however when Robinson got on base for the first time and started smiling as he prepared to steal a few bases.

I was surprised how much Harrison Ford looked and sounded like old clips of Branch Rickey I remember seeing, and I thought Boseman, for the most part, did a good job capturing the intensity of Robinson. The movie did a good job of showing the abuse Robinson must have taken (although I’m sure it was much worse) and the racism of the times from both the fans and the players..

The discrimination depicted in the movie is relevant in today’s world as demonstrated by recent discussions about whether men’s professional sports are ready for openly gay athletes.

Right now there are a couple of other movies I’d put ahead of this, but if you’re a big fan of history, sports or both, this film is worth considering.

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Trance

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with its subject of memories lost then regained, it’s a crime thriller that keeps you guessing, so I won’t tell even what most reviews expose. James McEvoy superbly plays a high end art auctioneer that has amnesia so he can’t remember where he stashed the $150M Goya painting to avoid it being grabbed during a heist at a Christies like auction. Rosario Dawson is the hynotherapist he hires to delve into his forgotten threads of memory. Vincent Cassell is the lead thief who alternatively appears inscrutable and ultra violent. Rosario is excellent as someone whose voice can hypnotize most men, not to mention her stunning appearance. There’s a jaw dropping scene when she appears to give James exactly what he wants (remember, I won’t give it away); I almost knocked over my Diet Pepsi. The convoluted exposure at the end helps you understand the plot finally, and keeps you talking and thinking as you leave the theatre. Pay attention and you will enjoy!

The Place Beyond the Pines

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Why the weird title? It’s the translation for Schenectady, the film’s setting. I didn’t learn this until after watching the film, which made me keep wondering where are the pines and what place are they talking about. So, consider this a spoiler that actually improves your viewing experience – no need to waste time wondering about the title. Ryan Gosling kicks this movie off with a terrific sequence of him walking from his trailer at a carnival right into his role as motorcycle rider inside a metal globe along with a couple of others. I will not give away any of the plot other than to say the following:

  • Ryan Gosling is fantastic, compelling to watch as his character both exhibits deep flaws while recognizing, sometimes only minutes after doing something stupid, how he continually makes bad decisions. His humanity shines through and you don’t doubt his sincerity (OK, you might have doubts), while you feel highly skeptical about his chances for a successful life.
  • Eva Mendes makes a startling first impression, appearing as one of the most beautiful figures in cinema that I can recall ever seeing. Pay attention, because she’s not as compelling later on.
  • Bradley Cooper is also terrific, playing a more complicated character than he did in Silver Lining’s Playbook, maybe the best performance of his career.

The film is structured in three parts, with each part’s story line connected to the prior part. Not all parts are equally excellent, but the ending is perfect, and I never got bored for the whole 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

First – thanks to Bill for the info on the title – I’m sure  I would have been distracted the whole time without his explanation.

I liked this movie a lot but not quite as much as Bill.  I agree with Bill that Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper were excellent with Gosling being the hilight (and I was oh so impressed with Goslings high jumping ability in the bank scenes!).  The other performances were great too.  I especially liked Ben Mendelsohn as Gosling’s friend.

While Bill really liked the ending I liked the first 2 segments more than I liked the third.  I found those a lot more interesting and thought the last third was bit contrived to bring the story together and just wasn’t as compelling to me.  And maybe I’m just a little denser as  I didn’t know how to interpret the final scenes (so I couldn’t spoil the ending of this movie if I wanted to).    But this is definitely worth seeing.

IMDB

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War Witch

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This is another really good 2012 Academy Award Nominated Foreign Language film. The movie tells the horrific story of Komona, a 12-year-old girl who is kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier in her (unnamed) African homeland. Komona has a gift for sensing the presence of the enemy and hence the title of the movie and her value to the rebels. Komona goes through unimaginable horrors, finds some happiness and then it’s back for more horrors before the final hopeful ending as she comes to terms with what she’s been through so she can move on with her life..

The movie is anchored by a great performance by untrained actress Rachel Mwanza. The story is well-told and I’d recommend it for anyone who doesn’t mind some violence and subtitles.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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