“What are you doing Lars Von Trier? Okay, I’m going to go along with it because I like him.” Beautiful still images, more extreme slow motion images set to music. “I can’t. He’s got to start the movie. If I want to see still images, I’ll go to a museum. Please start the movie!!!!!!!”

That’s a snippet of my internal monologue during the first few excruciating minutes of Melancholia. Maybe it’s a symptom of the digital age or the fact that I’m part of the MTV generation but I have no patience for this type of painterly, extended type of montages, at least not at the start of a film.

Unlike previous Von Trier films Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, which had a cohesive structure and well developed characters although they both left me feeling suicidal, Melancholia has only the bare outlines of characters and no story for the viewer to grasp onto. The basic premise of the film is that a planet is on a collision course with earth and the end of mankind may be only days away. Unfortunately, it feels like it’s the movie that is days away from ending. Continue reading »

I add movies to my Netflix queue and then forget about them. Getting the DVDs has become somewhat like opening a fortune cookie. I know there will be something inside but I don’t know what it will be. When I opened up the red envelope to find Hachi: A Dog’s Tale I was relieved because I’d read it was a heartwarming story and I wasn’t in the mood for anything dark. I was also curious to see this film starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen that had gone straight to DVD.

Gere is Parker Wilson a music professor who finds a lost puppy at the train station on his way home one night. He brings the puppy back to his house but his wife Cate (Joan Allen) insists he cannot keep the dog. Parker and his daughter Andy (Sarah Roemer) are instantly smitten with the dog and despite putting up flyers around town and a half-hearted attempt to find the dog another home it’s clear he isn’t going anywhere. Continue reading »

The first 15 minutes of Win Win are bumpy. It starts out with that familiar whimsical Indie movie music that signals we’re about to meet a bunch of intentionally quirky White people who mean well in spite of the fact that they’re socially awkward and have trouble connecting. To drive home the point, the king of Wonder Bread angst Paul Giamatti is present and accounted for as Mike Flaherty, a struggling lawyer.

The cutesy music soon fades away though and the story’s choppy beginning is quickly forgotten as the characters begin to emerge as real people. Mike, a family man with two kids and an opinionated but loving wife Jackie played by Amy Ryan, is on the verge of losing his law practice. When a client Leo Poplar (Burt Young) suffering from dementia comes to him for help he sees a way out of his financial dilemma that is not only unethical but doesn’t serve what’s in the best interest of Leo. Mike’s actions, of course, will come back to bite him later. Continue reading »

Take Shelter is a haunting movie that will either stay with you for days or frustrate you with its deliberate pace. I can understand why some viewers would lose patience with this film that keeps you guessing until the end about whether Curtis, a devoted husband and father is losing his mind or is a modern day Noah who can see what everyone else around him cannot. I like the suspense of not knowing if Curtis’s nightmares and hallucinations are real or imagined and this story burrowed into my psyche.

Curtis, played by Michael Shannon, seems to have a good life. He has an attractive, loving wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain), a house, and a well-paying job. The only wrinkle in the picture is that daughter Hannah (Tovah Stewart) is deaf but the family appears to have adjusted to this and is happy.

Soon, though Curtis starts experiencing strange dreams of yellow rain pouring down from the sky and violent lightning storms that eventually spill over into his waking hours. He becomes convinced that his family is in danger and decides to expand their existing storm shelter into a fortified bunker where they can live should disaster strike. At the same time, he’s afraid the schizophrenia that drove his mother into a mental facility years ago may be manifesting itself in him. Curtis’s continued uncertainty and strange behavior threaten his job, his safety, and his marriage. Continue reading »

Drive stars Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver and mechanic who also happens to be a getaway driver. The solitary Driver whose name we never learn is a loner with no friends or family except for his beaten down employer, Shannon (Bryan Cranston) who owns the garage where he works and is also the stunt coordinator who hires him to work in movies.

Driver is a man of few words preferring to let others do the talking while he reveals nothing. Gosling is magnetic as a man who possesses a calm demeanor on the surface but harbors a tightly coiled animal instinct to survive and an explosive propensity for violence when necessary.

Nicolas Winding Refn the director has a firm grasp of his material. There’s a consistent tone to the film from beginning to end. His is not the bright candy colored Los Angeles seen in so many other films. Instead, the Danish director perfectly captures the sprawling and alienating landscape of LA that often serves as a barrier between people.  The empty desolate streets at night and the strip mall restaurants and markets that give the city an eerie, disconnected feel. Continue reading »

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