GRAVITY

How great can a movie be? How far can a director push the boundaries of technology and creativity? Alfonso Cuaron answers both in GRAVITY, and the answer is pretty damn great and farther than you could ever dream! This is easily the most spectacular use of 3D I have ever seen. Cuaron puts you in orbit with Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and tons of floating satellite debris. You feel you need to duck out of the way as the world Cuaron has created spins wildly out of control. And despite the grand scale, this is a very personal movie. A tale about loss and survival, expertly acted by Bullock and Clooney. And they better be good because they are the only two actors who appear on screen. The cast is only 7 credits long, the other five just get voice over credit. I feared GRAVITY would be claustrophobic, that we would be trapped inside Bullock’s space suit as she goes floating off to the great beyond. Sort of like being trapped in a coffin with someone who is buried alive. But I never got that feeling at all. I felt thrilled and captivated, always on the edge of my seat wondering how it would all play out. The images of earth and the astronauts silhouetted against the big blue marble are as beautiful as any real images you have ever seen– maybe better. I have spent hours trying to figure out how to put the experience into words only to realize that there are no words other than these: GRAVITY pulls you in and never lets you go! — Alan Yudman
Prediction on October 6th: GRAVITY will win Best Picture for 2013. It may or may not deserve it. Certainly, this is a thrilling picture that takes us with breathtaking visuals to a place we have seldom experienced so viscerally. (The opening shot seems a direct homage to Kubrick’s 2001, a jumping-off point, literally, for virtuoso demonstrations of the advances made since in film technology.) But my prediction is based on what works for Academy members, and here GRAVITY seems at war with itself. Director Alfonso Cuaron conveys not just the majesty, but the vast emptiness of space, an infinite void in which human connection is as tenuous as a safety strap that will claim a life (or two, or three, or a thousand) with a serene blankness that chills as it terrifies. But Cuaron (who co-wrote the screenplay) is unwilling to take that concept, rendered in such realistic fashion, to its logical end; instead, an all too familiar sentimentalism wins the day and a film that begins in awe winds up as a shopworn “tribute to the human spirit”. Riding down the escalator afterward, I overheard two people express disappointment with the “inspiring” denouement. But the audience did applaud multiple times including enthusiastically at the end, and of course when studios spend $80-million on a project, they don’t want people leaving the theater feeling crappy. If you’re willing to accept a big dollop of treacle (including one shameless bait-and-switch scene toward the end), you will enjoy a marvelous adventure with an ok Sandra Bullock (I’m not her biggest fan) and a charming, confident George Clooney who anchors GRAVITY even as it slips away. — Jeff Schultz

In IMAX 3D, Gravity is hands down one of the most incredible movie watching experiences I have ever had. This shows that when done right, 3D can elevate a film to incredible heights. That being said, the experience versus the actual movie are a little different. Sanda Bullock is Oscar worthy and Clooney is Clooney, but the story is very familiar. After watching it, my wife and I tried to figure out exactly what was lacking because we both really enjoyed it and she hit the nail on the head. It was like watching “Titanic” if it began with the ship sinking. Or imagine Cast Away without a before or after…just a during (him on the island). I guess with a big budget studio movie and A list stars, many risks can’t be taken which is kinda too bad. SPOILER ALERT!!! I think a better ending would have been if it ended 10 minutes before it actually did…with Sandra accepting her fate regardless of what happened to the capsule and a cut to black. That being said, it was a very good movie…I just don’t think it’s legitimate Best Picture material.


Stormy Curry

WE’RE THE MILLERS

It’s easier to forgive a comedy for being lazy because, unless it’s so god-awful it never even deserved to be made, it probably had a least a laugh or two. WE’RE THE MILLERS has lots more than that, but the writers are not on their A-game. The single biggest reason to see this is for the scene-after-scene stealing performance from Will Poulter. He’s “Kenny”, the waif-y naïf who becomes the phony “Miller son” — and who pretty much walks away with the movie. It’s not all that much to walk away from, mostly because it has no surprises.  It plays out just the way you see coming and goes soft the same way, although there’s a sweetness to that that goes down easily. Again, Will Poulter’s awkwardness around girls is the sugar plum center of that sweetness and here he is as touching as he is hysterically geeky elsewhere. Jason Sudeikis has a terrific way of underplaying a line that punches it home — I’m thinking of his first conversation with the “daughter’s” new boyfriend, and speaking of that boyfriend, he’s the other standout laugh-getter. Here, Mark L. Young is an older version of the longhair he played in the short-lived MTV American remake of “The Inbetweeners”. Funny kid. — Jeff Schultz

Every year there’s a comedy that gets critically destroyed yet somehow does gangbusters at the box office and is really funny…this is NOT one of those gems. Every joke in this “comedy” can be seen coming from a mile away, the cast is wasted, and it veers into what I consider the ultimate sin for a comedy: schmaltz. Gee, will this family of misfits become an actual family? Who cares!!!! Not even worth a rental, I’m trying to forget I even “met” this movie. One of the worst of the year.
Stormy Curry

MACHETE KILLS

Machete don’t do a lot of things. He don’t text, he don’t tweet, he don’t die. Maybe he should add sequels to his list. MACHETE KILLS is the next installment that features Danny Trejo as the former Federale who is the badass’ badass. We find Machete and his girlfriend (?) Jessica Alba busting American soldiers trying to sell weapons to a Mexican cartel. The cartel shows up and kills the soldiers, then some mercenaries show up and kill the cartel guys. Then Alba gets shot in the head. I could continue, but what’s the point. The cast is filled with pretty good actors (Walton Goggins, William Sadler, Michelle Rodriguez, Mel Gibson, Demian Bechir, Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara, Carlos Estevez… yeah, Charlie Sheen). But they have nothing to work with but smarmy dialogue and extreme violence. I expected the violence. I also expected some depth of character which the main characters in the original MACHETE had. Not here. They try to give a few characters backstories, but they are ridiculous even for this genre. To illustrate how awful this is, there are nods to Star Wars and Mooraker and neither are funny or work at all. Eventually Machete is launched into orbit on a Space-X rocket, complete with cameo send off from Elon Musk. And then all of a sudden, it just stops, with the promise of a sequel. What? Robert Rodriguez wants to make me sit through another one of these idiotic nods to 1970’s Grindhouse movies? No way. I’m out. No amount of cartoonish violence, women wearing body hugging bodices or snarls from Danny Trejo can get me into another theater to watch part three of this mess. MACHETE KILLS fun. — Alan Yudman

DON JON

If you are going to make a movie about porn you can go a few ways. BOOGIE NIGHTS is a “nostalgic” look at 1970’s era porn. You can go documentary like INSIDE DEEP THROAT which looks at how that film got made and how it became a cultural phenomenon. For his first time out as a director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt decided to go comedy with DON JON. To be fair, the movie isn’t “about” porn. It uses porn as a touchstone for its lead character, the womanizing Jon. The dude is obsessed with it, likes it better than real sex and thinks it’s ok because he confesses to it at church every Sunday. So as they say in New Jersey (where the film is located), all good. Jon thinks the problem is with the women, until his girlfriend breaks up with him over porn and lying, and he meets Julianne Moore, a more mature woman. DON JON is about love and obsession and how one can easily be mistaken for the other. It is a fantastic first effort for Gordon-Levitt. He is a fine actor who has done loads of good work on screen. It’s nice to see that he has a love of film and filmmaking and is talented enough to put it up on the screen for all of us to enjoy. Gordon-Levitt gets great performances from the entire cast, with special kudos to Scarlett Johansson who plays his bitchy-controlling girlfriend Barbara and Tony Danza who plays his stereotypical Italian-American dad. Just a heads up if you are thinking of checking out this movie. It is rated R, and not without reason. Lots of quickly edited clips from online porn. Nothing overly explicit, but you know what you’re looking at. If none of that bothers you or you can look past it to the real story, then DON JON is worth checking out! — Alan Yudman

THE WORLD’S END

When you’re trying to make a movie about a group of friends attempting to relive their youth, it can get messy. Very messy. The filmmakers have to watch out for over sentimentality. Some try to hide that in comedy and almost never get it right. No worries about that here. THE WORLD’S END is almost a perfect movie. It’s hysterically funny (I’m going to have to see it again because I know I missed some lines while we in the audience was laughing), but it also has a huge heart. These five friends (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman) return to their hometown to complete a pub crawl along the “Golden Mile”. The last pub is THE WORLD’S END. Along the way they learn about themselves and battle to save earth. Yeah, battle to save earth in a sleepy British town. This could have been an unfunny mess of a movie with rank sentimentality and melodrama. But, it’s NOT!!! It’s awesome. Pegg and Frost wrote it. Edgar Wright directed it. The results are brilliant. Every note is perfect. Pegg, Frost and Wright paid homage to zombie movies in SHAUN OF THE DEAD and buddy cop movies in HOT FUZZ. Those were great, but this is another level of excellent. This homage to sci-fi is smart and loving without making fun of the genre. That’s a hard tone to nail, but they did it here. Ok, I’ll say it. Pegg deserves to be considered for a Best Actor nomination. He is funny and touching and raw all at the appropriate time. Pegg and Frost deserve consideration for Original Screenplay and Wright for directing. Have a Cornetto and enjoy what may be the best movie I’ve seen all summer and the most fun I’ve had in a theater in more than a year. — Alan Yudman

Raise your glasses and toast the funniest movie of the year! From the beginning to the “End”, this pub crawling end of the world comedy does what seemed to be impossible: deliver more laughs than both “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”! When Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright work together, it’s magic. When they don’t, you get “Paul” or “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”. Pegg’s script and performance coupled with Wright’s unique direction make this a hilarious ride. No hangover here, this one is classic!

Stormy Curry

ENOUGH SAID

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won a mantle full of Emmy awards. From “Seinfeld” to “Veep”, she has without a doubt had the most successful career of any of the “Seinfeld” cast (not that we should measure such things, but there you go). But her success on the small screen hasn’t yet translated to the big screen. “Enough Said” may change that. Louis-Dreyfus is Eva, a divorced mom of a teenager about to head off to college. She’s a masseuse who drags her massage table around town in the back of her Prius. Eva goes to a party with her friends (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) and meets two people who will upend her life. One is Marianne (Catherine Keener), a poet who according to Eva has wonderful taste, becomes a massage client. The other is Albert (James Gandolfini), a divorcee who loves and overprotects his snob of a daughter. Both relationships grown. Eva’s initial discomfort over Albert’s size becomes a non-issue as the two fall for each other. Eva also become friends with Marianne who rants on and on about her loathsome ex-husband. The audience and Eva soon learn that the ex-husband Marianne has so much disdain for is Albert. Eva struggles with revealing her relationships with both of them, not wanting to lose her new friend or her new boyfriend. “Enough Said” can be predictable, but it is very well written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. And the performances of Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini are fantastic. The two seem mismatched (both on screen and in real life) but you believe both of them and like both of them and root for it all to work out. It’s heartbreaking that this was Gandolfini’s final role, since this is a perfect role to show off his talent and range. At only 90 minutes, “Enough Said” is a little gem that should not be missed. — Alan Yudman