March 26, 2016

The End of the Tour

James Ponsoldt, 2015
First off, I must admit that I am a person that entered this film not being completely familiar with David Foster Wallace. I knew of him, was familiar with the name but had no read his body of work. But there was a lot of intrigue surrounding this film. Jason Segal's dedication to the figure. The structure of the film has a unique construct, focusing solely on the final moments of Wallace's book tour for Infinite Jest - where he spent a week with Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg).

The film explores the Wallace figure, through the eyes of Lipsky. Eisenberg is probably the perfect casting choice. Lipsky is persistent, sharp, starstruck, but also a bit abrasive and aggressive at times. He occasionally presses Wallace to a point where not only he feels uncomfortable, but he becomes distant and despondent. This creates an environment in which it's not just two guys who meet and become friends, and quickly disassemble the boundaries. Instead you get a sense that Wallace is ALWAYS aware of Lipsky's agenda, and when they have moments of intimacy it's due more to him being a lonely person and wanting someone to confide in.

Although there aren't any real BIG moments in the film, the exploration is interesting enough to keep you engaged. There's an enigmatic quality to the Wallace character, and being someone who isn't so familiar with the actual person, I have to rely on Segal's performance to provide some depth. But Segal is really impressive here, feels committed to the role. The End of the Tour is a film that's not going to push me to go and read Wallace's work, but it provides a glimpse into an interesting literary character that struggled with some real demons.

March 10, 2016


John Hillcoat, 2012
All you really need to do is take a look at the plot synopsis and cast listing to draw interest in John Hillcoat’s Lawless. A prohibition-era period piece about three bootlegging brothers that are at odds with a local deputy. Starring Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane Dehaan, Gary Oldman. Basically a handful of some of the best actors working today. And although some of the casting decisions are a bit questionable (Chastain) for their respective roles, it’s hard for a film with that kind of fuel to go wrong.

The best quality of the film is probably the attention to detail in terms of the production design. The southern atmosphere is completely immersive. You really feel like you are there in the muggy heat with the bugs buzzing around you. You really get a good look at the natural beauty of the South - which is supposed to be Virginia but actually filmed in Georgia.

There isn’t a whole lot to the film other than a focus on the family dynamics between the Bondurant brothers and their battle against the eccentric special deputy Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pearce (who really nails the role). Rakes provides a couple hints that he suffers from an OCD-type of condition, as he is visibly horrified by his suit being dirtied. But this conflict between the deputy and the brothers is enough for a serviceable period drama, even with a muted Tom Hardy. Because even a muted Tom Hardy is still good. The film succeeds in getting you engaged in the brothers, all while building anger toward Rakes. Probably because the hypocrisy is so evident, the cops turning a blind eye to the moonshining operations because they are getting their palms greased. Rakes does nothing but flex is muscle without having to do any of the dirty work.

But looking back on this film years from now I probably won’t be thinking about the gun battles. I might be thinking about Pearce’s Rakes character. But I will undoubtedly be thinking about that old porch with the various chairs and how I would just want to sit in one of them for a few hours and sip on a mason jar with some moonshine and look out into the woods. So ultimately Lawless succeeds in being alluring without having to break new ground in the genre.

March 5, 2016

The 3rd Annual Coopies! The Top Five Films of 2015

Poopie Coopie (Most Disappointing film of 2015) - American Sniper
American Sniper is so forgettable that I almost forgot that it was released in 2015. With some of the great war movies released in the past 10 years (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds) , the standards are higher than this and I expect more from veteran filmmakers like Eastwood. This was a shallow, one dimensional look an American hero who should have had a more elaborate film treatment that wasn't just a plain watered down Hollywood feature. 

5. Room
An unsettling but completely memorable movie. Unbearably tense at times. An unforgettable story that introduced audiences to Jacob Tremblay and gave Brie Larson another opportunity to shine on screen. 

4. Kingsman: The Secret Service
Sharp, refreshing, witty and fresh and fun. 

3. The Revenant
Innaritu outdoes his work in last year's Birdman with this visual masterpiece. Certainly a style over substance piece, but there are some lasting images that will stick with me for some time. Especially the single take sequence early in the film. 

2. Ex Machina
Original Review
There are so many great things to walk away with from this cautionary AI tech tale. 

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Original Review
This just felt like the obvious choice this year. I'm with the masses on this. Nothing was as energized, entertaining and inventive as Fury Road.

If you were wondering, here is a full list of the 2015 films that I saw.

  1. American Sniper
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  3. Bluebird
  4. Circle
  5. Creed
  6. Creep
  7. Danny Collins
  8. Druid Peak
  9. Ex Machina
  10. Far from the Madding Crowd
  11. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
  12. Infinitely Polar Bear
  13. Inside out
  14. It Follows
  15. Jurassic World
  16. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  17. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
  18. Mad Max: Fury Road
  19. Maps to the Stars
  20. Me Earl and the Dying Girl
  21. Preservation
  22. Pressure
  23. REC 4: Apocalypse
  24. Room
  25. Sicario
  26. Slow West
  27. Spotlight
  28. Spring
  29. Steve Jobs
  30. Tangerine
  31. The Big Short
  32. The Lobster
  33. The Revenant
  34. The Visit
  35. The Walk
  36. These Final Hours
  37. Trainwreck
  38. Welcome to Me
  39. While We're Young
  40. White God
  41. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead