Tag Archives: children

Mud – Review

10 Sep

One of the things I’d love to do with my life is to be able to teach film, wether it’s film history, writing, or anything really. That being said, there are times where I watch a movie and I think, “That’s one that I would teach.” This is where Jeff Nichols’ film Mud comes in. Without a great screenplay, there’s no way for a movie to achieve true greatness, but when I say the screenplay for this movie is the best I’ve seen in a long time, I would not be exaggerating. It may be a slow moving story, but it is full of mystery, true to life characters, and a strong sense of pacing.

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Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are two 14 year old boys growing up in De Witt, Arkansas. One day while investigating a boat stuck on the branches of a tree on an island on the Arkansas River, they meet a man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) who is apparently using the boat and the island as a hide out. According to Mud, he is waiting there for his girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), to meet him there and start the rest of their lives together. The two boys become so enraptured by Mud’s tale of love and adventure that they start bringing him food and helping him get the boat down from the tree to get away on, but little do they know the danger that lurks from Mud’s past and the trouble that their curiosity might get them into.

When I say the screenplay for Mud is some of the best writing I’ve ever seen, I don’t think I’d be kidding you or myself.Everything that is said or done over the course of the movie is important in some way. Not only that, but this movie works great as both a coming of age drama and a suspenseful work of mystery. The mystery begins right away when the boys find a boat in a tree, which is a really intriguing plot device. to begin with. Thing get even more complex and interesting when they meet Mud and he begins telling them what his life has been like and why he’s hiding out like he is. The thing is, Mud can’t really be trusted and the fact that we’re seeing all this through the eyes of a fourteen year old boy makes it more questionable.

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Having this movie’s story told from the perspective of a fourteen year old is a very important element to the plot. When you’re fourteen, the world seems huge, but you’re ready to face it head on. I know that when I was fourteen, I would hear something and believe it no matter what anyone else told me. This makes the character of Ellis so complex, because he can be so easily molded by what’s around him. This also makes his interactions with Mud more intriguing and mysterious, because even I didn’t know what to make of Mud or how much to believe him. I feel like I’m ranting now. What I’m trying to say is that Mud is a super deep film with themes that span from adulthood to love and to truth, just to name a few.

This was shot during McConaughey’s big comeback. Before this there was Killer Joe and The Lincoln Lawyer, then there was Mud and finally Dallas Buyer’s Club for which he won the Academy Award. Needless to say, McConaughey gives a fantastic performance as Mud, who is both likable and, in a way, reprehensible. Even the kids give good performances. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland have great chemistry and seem to have a great understanding of their characters. The only person I feel was underutilized was Reese Witherspoon. The scenes that she’s in are great, but she really isn’t in the film all that much.

Mud is one of the most well written movies I have ever seen, and anyone can feel free to disagree with me. It’s a deeply layered story of growing up and learning the truth from the adults around you, who are both liars and honest. I’ve seen comparisons to the works of Stephen King and Mark Twain, and I almost see this as a combination of their works. The only thing that doesn’t work is a tacked on ending that I don’t want to really get into. The bottom line is that Mud is a must see for the acting, the story, and the layers of the screenplay.

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The Fall – Review

2 Aug

Speaking as someone who was a child, it’s easy for stories and imagination to blend into the real world. This combination of fantasy and reality for children has been beautifully captured in movies, with my go to prime example being Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Fortunately, as of a few days ago I can add another go to film that explores this theme, but also a film that is one of the most beautiful exercises of cinematography and editing that has ever been used in all of film history. Not only is this a beautiful looking film, it’s story is beautiful. The entire movie itself can only be described as beautiful.

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In the early 1920s when the world of film was evolving, stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) finds himself in a European hospital after severely injuring himself for a particular stunt. He soon finds company in a little Romanian girl, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), who he begins telling an epic, swashbuckling story of a group of heroes out for revenge on the evil Governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone). What Alexandria doesn’t know is that this is all a distraction and a ploy for Roy to earn Alexandria’s trust and convince her to steal morphine from the hospital so that he can commit suicide after losing the love of his life and possibly ruining his career. As Alexandria hears more of the story and risks more than she knows trying to steal the morphine, employees in the hospital begin weaving their way into Roy’s story more and more while evils from the story are finding their way into the hospital.

Before I started watching The Fall, I had a concern that this movie was pretty much just going to be about the visuals and the locations. Pretty much I just thought that this movie was going to look nice and lose some points in terms of story. I was happy to see once again that my assumptions were wrong. This movie has a wonderful story that is filled with hallucinatory moments, wonderful moments of childhood, and an imagination that would do Hollywood a lot of good. The Fall was one of those movies that slipped through the cracks, which is really unfortunate since it has so much to offer. I was also surprised to see how little awards were given to this film, especially in terms of cinematography and editing which are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. It’s like walking into a museum and seeing the paintings come to life.

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One of the best things about this movie is the relationship between Roy and Alexandria. It’s one of the most touching and genuine friendships and really makes you feel the emotional impact when something good or bad happens to either of them. The performances by Pace and Untaru are both really great, and at the risk of sounding redundant, they feel very genuine. This is especially true for the young actress Catinca Untaru who gives a startlingly impressive performance. I’ve never really seen a child actor give a performance that felt so real. Apparently the director Tarsem Singh has Catinca believe that Lee Pace was actually paralyzed, a move that he felt made the performances more real. From what I can see, it actually did work.

Finally, the themes of this movie are very heavy and true to life, much like the ones in Pan’s Labyrinth, which I consider to be the fraternal twin of The Fall, being as they both were released in 2006 and share much of the same thematic material. In The Fall, however, the themes concern self worth, suicide, and childhood innocence and naïvety in both children and adults. It’s so interesting to see the scary adult world filled with violence and self loathing through the eyes of a child who has lost so much, but still doesn’t understand the real meaning of loss. Both characters have suffered loss, but only one seems to be really affected by it while the other is still lost in her own world of innocence. This is a very sad movie, but it also leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction and hope for the characters, and possibly even life itself.

The Fall is really a beautiful movie to look at, listen to, and understand. It has swashbuckling adventure, unbelievable visuals, and a core story that is as real as we made out favorite heroes out to be when we were children, ourselves. The way fantasy and reality begin to become one was so interesting to see, and made me think of this movie as another reminder why I love movies as much as I do. It was a perfect combination of talent, idea, and dedication especially since it took four years to film on so many different locations. This is an intelligently executed work of art that would be a sin to miss out on.

The Orphanage – Review

25 Sep

I have a feeling that I’m going to get some heat for this review, but I guess it was bound to happen sometime. It seems like everyone loves The Orphanage and praise it as one of the scariest movies of 2007. Well, I must have watched a different movie, then. It was certainly well made, but the scares were few and far between leaving this film to be a mixed bag of a movie if there ever was one.

Laura (Belén Rueda) spent her childhood in an orphanage. As an adult, she has returned with he husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), and their adopted son, Simón (Roger Príncep) in order to open a home for special needs children. Simón spends his days with Laura, but always seems to have his min on his invisible friends, particularly Thomás. One day, Laura is confronted by Thomás, and Simón disappears without a trace. Laura begins to believe that Simón’s “invisible friends” had something to do with this, and heads down the supernatural rabbit hole in order to find her son and solve the mystery of the orphanage.

Before I even begin talking about the movie, the marketing campaign for this film really blows the big one. The trailer made it appear as if it were a flat out horror and the reviews were making claims that people would run out of the theatre in horror. I didn’t run out of my living room, but I did leave for a while, and not out of horror but boredom.

Ok, ok. That might have sounded a little harsh. The Orphanage is certainly not a bad movie. Far from it. The problem is that it didn’t really deliver on the level that I wanted it to. That being said, it was filmed beautifully, the acting is great, and the overall story is really intriguing. The plotting really made it feel like it was stuck in the mud and the scares were few and far between. Look at The Shining. Objectively long and slow, but there were plenty of unique scares that happened throughout the movie. The Orphanage offers, in my opinion, three memorable ones.

I will also admit that the entire story is horrific. Without giving too much away, there is a great twist at the end that forces the viewer to re-evaluate everything they have seen and add a whole new layer of drama to what is already there. This makes for complex storytelling that would have succeeded if the movie only had a little bit more to offer. Maybe it was how it was marketed or maybe I was just genuinely not too interested after a while. I have a feeling it might be a combination of the two, but I blame myself mostly.

 

My final consensus is that I was pretty disappointed with The Orphanage, especially after hearing nothing but good things about it. Sure, it’s very well crafted and acted, but there isn’t much depth when it comes to scares. The entire plot has a mortifying mood and conclusion, but there weren’t many particular frights that really grabbed my attention. Who knows? Maybe I just need to give it another watch. I can’t not recommend it because I certainly do respect it, but I can say that it didn’t really tickle my fancy too much.