CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.
CHICAGO – “Inside Llewyn Davis” shows the strength of the Coen brothers’ authorship, and the vitality their vision gives to different time periods, locations, and life experiences. This freewheelin’ bildungsroman of destiny? coincidence? trails a scraggly singer/songwriter (Oscar Isaac as the title character), daring to spread olden tunes in a period of American artistry that is pre-Dylan.
Films about musicians are remarkably common. Artists from one medium have always loved to put themselves in the well-worn shoes of craftsmen from another. Most of them are stories of an underrated talent rising to the top of his profession, designed for both audience and filmmaker to live vicariously through the protagonist’s success.
CHICAGO – One of more memorable performances of 2013 is from an actor who has been a bit under the radar – Oscar Isaac. After character parts in several familiar films, like “The Nativity Story,” “Sucker Punch” and “The Bourne Legacy,” Isaac steps out as the lead in the new Coen Brothers film, “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
CHICAGO – God, I want to love “The Great Gatsby,” on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Bros. tomorrow, August 27, 2013. I adore “Moulin Rouge!” and think Baz Luhrmann’s approach to the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic was a daring one. And, watching the film again at home, in a great 2D/HD transfer instead of a garish 3D one, I found more to respect here.
CHICAGO – There’s a scene in “The Great Gatsby” in which Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) is gleefully throwing multi-colored clothes down upon a smiling, spinning Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). While she seems happy at first, she ends up covered in colored fabric and crying. I knew how she felt.
CHICAGO – We’re never going to get the films we deserve from adult filmmakers if the NC-17 continues to operate under the stigma that it does. “Shame” was a perfect film to warrant an NC-17 and yet the rating became the story instead of the film itself, to the point that critics and awards voters didn’t give this excellent work the credit it deserves. When viewers catch up with it over the next few years, they’ll be stunned that the film earned zero Oscar nominations. What Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan do here is nothing short of stunning.
CHICAGO – “Drive” will surely be one of the most remembered and beloved films of 2011, no matter what Academy members (who notoriously snubbed the film except for one lone tech nod) may think. And so it is disappointing that the Blu-ray edition from Film District and Sony is surprisingly light on special features. The film itself looks (and especially sounds) incredible and, considering it was my #2 for 2011, is well worth a pick-up, but you can presume that this is a placeholder for a Special/Ultimate/Collector’s Edition inevitably down the road.
CHICAGO – Kicking off our annual series of year-end film features, we begin with the ensemble players, the supporting cast members who provided the necessary dramatic support to allow their leading men and women to shine.
CHICAGO – Steve McQueen’s “Shame” is a daring examination of isolation and addiction with the best performance of the year courtesy of Michael Fassbender and one that nearly matches it from the always-stellar Carey Mulligan.
CHICAGO – Writer/director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender have the kind of interview dynamic that only comes with two people who know each other very well. They broke through with the same film, 2008’s “Hunger,” a masterpiece of human drama.