Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ranking the Films of Darren Aronofsky


Darren Aronfosky: Clearly proud to be from Brooklyn. Image via Zimbio

Ever since I was first urged by a friend to see Pi at the ripe age of 13, Darren Aronofsky has been one of my favorite modern directors.

With each film he makes, Aronofsky explores bodily mutilation, addiction, and obsession in nearly all of his works. While each film is thematically similar, he breaks enough new ground with every film he makes that it feels new each time.

Even when he is not involved in every aspect, Aronofsky still feels like the auteur. Also, you can thank him for allowing us to imagine Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis making out at will now.

I decided to put up his latest effort, Noah (which cleaned up at the box office this weekend), with the rest of his filmography. Here is how I would rank every Darren Aronofsky film (from worst to best):

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Movie Review: Noah

Russell Crowe as NoahI thought Noah would be the kind of film that gets a love-it-or-hate-it reaction. Instead, Noah tells us to take back all of our preconceived notions. It is big and insane like any Biblical story is, and boy is it proud of it.

Noah is the sixth film by Darren Aronofsky. If he can turn this into a big hit, then he will be granted virtually all of the creative freedom he wants for a very long time. In a lot of the Noah reviews, I have seen words like “impersonal” pop up. Noah might not be a beautiful character study like The Wrestler, but that does not mean that it is any further away from Aronofsky’s heart. After all, he has been dreaming about making this film since he wrote a poem about it in grade school.

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Movie Review: Muppets Most Wanted


“Hey Kermit! Did you know that there is no God and the Bible is a lie?” Image via YouTube

Like any good Muppets movie should do, Muppets Most Wanted begins by announcing what it is to the world. “We’re a sequel, dammit, so like us or don’t like us!” But it’s the Muppets, and the Muppets are impossible to hate. If you were looking for a Muppet movie that is equal parts charming, funny, and chaotic, then Muppets Most Wanted will give you everything that you are looking for.

Muppets Most Wanted picks up almost directly where the last movie left off, with the Muppets reunited and famous once again, but this time without the help of Jason Segel or Amy Adams. Celebrity cameo numero uno is Ricky Gervais as Dominic Badguy, which is French for “good man,” as their new manager. Celebrity cameos in any given Muppets movie are always exciting. I wait for the cameo like people wait for the scary moments in a horror movie.

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Movie Review: Nymphomaniac

Nymphomaniac 04 photo by Christian Geisnaes“I’m sorry your stepmother is a nympho.”

-Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski

Nymphomaniac, also known as 2001: A Sex Odyssey, is Lars von Trier’s ambitious sex epic. Yes, this film is about sex. And there is a lot of it and it is about as graphic as you could imagine.

Nymphomaniac once pushed well beyond the five hour mark. Then, it was split in half and cut a little more for both time and explicitness. I am not sure if the version I saw is butchered or exactly what Lars von Trier wanted within the limitations of reality.

There has been a lot of debate about how to review this film. Some say that it is okay to review both parts as separate films, while others think that both parts of Nymphomaniac must be reviewed as one. At first, I thought it would be fine to review both parts separately. But then, I watched them both and realized that while they were different in some ways, one half could not function without the other. Sure, Kill Bill could do it. However, the difference between Nymphomaniac and Kill Bill is that the ending of volume one of Nymphomaniac does not feel like a free-standing conclusion; it feels like a story that is approaching a midpoint. This saga can be seen in two parts, but it was probably not made with that possibility in mind.

However, middle ground is my middle name, and I would like to try both approaches of reviewing Nymphomaniac. Brace yourselves for my review of Nymphomaniac, a review written in three parts:

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Exploring the Movie Posters of London and Paris

divergenteFor about as far back as I can remember, I have always been obsessed with movie posters.

The best posters can be works of art. The worst can completely change how you feel about the film it is representing, even if you haven’t seen that film yet.

I decided to spend a part of my recent trip to Europe looking around at whatever movie posters they had hanging in public places. The truth is, no matter what language they are in, the posters on both sides of the pond are fairly similar. The most interesting part is trying to figure out why some titles changed, and what local posters tell you about that culture.

Look below for the highlights of the movie posters I found while exploring London and Paris:

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In Theory: If Other Directors Got to Remake Disney Classics

hipsterariel2In Theory is a feature in which I make up theoretical projects and try to develop them. 

Yesterday came with news that is either great or terrible, depending on who you are: Sofia Coppola will direct a live action version of The Little Mermaid.

At this point, the gritty reboots that Hollywood has been putting out in this post-Dark Knight era are starting to wear thin. Just because characters are moody, that does not mean a film is good. We are all looking at you, Snow White and the Huntsman.

The news that Sofia Coppola is at the helm is good news, given that she actually cares about important things like writing and directing. This will be a big test for her, as it will be her first major blockbuster effort as a director. I am hoping that Ariel will be played by Scarlett Johansson. Meanwhile, Eric will be played by an equally talented actor who will whisper something in her ear at the end. The fact that we can’t hear it is the point. So stop trying to figure it out, Internet!

Anyway, this all made me wonder what other directors would do if they were given a classic Disney property, a lot of money, and the maximum amount of creative freedom allowed by Mickey Mouse.

This week, I put myself in the shoes of an executive who can’t afford to screw another project up. Here is my list of hypothetical animated Disney reboots, and the directors who would bring them to life:

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In Theory: Casting Wes Anderson’s Future Movies

wesandersonowenwilsonIn Theory is a new feature in which I make up theoretical projects and try to develop them.

Not just anybody can star in a Wes Anderson joint.

Wes Anderson is perhaps best known for the incredibly detailed worlds that he designs. He is like a science fiction artist who is more interested in people than outer space. His characters are just as intricate and unique as the houses, ships, trains, and hotels that he puts them in.

Throughout his career, Anderson has assembled some of the best ensembles ever seen on film. Without Wes Anderson, we would never have been able to see Jason Schwartzman try and kill Bill Murray with a tree. Wes Anderson is good with actors, and actors are even better when they star in one of his films.

There are certain people who you see, and they just look like they belong in a Wes Anderson film. It might be because of their public personas, their looks, or their general attitudes. Being a Wes Anderson actor requires you to be as goofy as a cartoon, but then have the ability to get serious at a moment’s notice.

Today, I decided to step into the shoes of a casting director. Here is a short list of the actors and actresses who Wes Anderson should put into his films in the future:

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In-Flight Entertainment: Ranking the Films Available on Your Next Flight

frozenadeledazeemMaybe it’s recirculated air or the claustrophobia, but a movie that is good on an airplane is not necessarily good everywhere else.

That is what I am here for.

In this new feature, I will offer brief reviews on whatever films I watched on recent flights and decide whether it is good on a plane, better in real life, or both. Will it distract you from the snoring stranger to your right? Can noise canceling headphones do it justice?

On two long flights in which I had to cross the Atlantic Ocean, I watched Enough Said, Frozen, The Counselor, and Inside Llewyn Davis. Here is what you should or should not watch en route to your next destination:

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Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Grand-Budapest-Hotel-clip-Ralph-FiennesThe Grand Budapest Hotel constructs a European past that looks like a game of Candyland, yet feels like a very serious history lesson about events that never actually happened based on events that really did happen.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, the eighth feature film by the one and only Wes Anderson, is his most dense, elaborate, and cartoonish (even though he has made an animated film). It seems like the kind of film you get to make once you turn stories like Moonrise Kingdom into Oscar nominated hits.

At times, this film feels like Wes Anderson’s attempt to top his own whimsy. There are only a few moments that are annoyingly typical of him (oh look! a humorously disabled child!). However, I think it is better to invent your own clichés than to steal them from others. More importantly, he weaves those clichés he invented into gold. I mean, this is about a girl reading a book about an author telling a story about how a man told him a story. It turns out, F. Murray Abraham makes as good of a narrator as Alec Baldwin (in The Royal Tenenbaums) once did.

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Ranking the Films of Wes Anderson (So Far)


I’m not sure if that horse is dead or alive. Image via New York Magazine

Even if you are a Wes Anderson hater you have to admit: he knows how to make a film, and the fact that he has any unique style at all is something he should be admired, not admonished, for. While he has reached the edge before, Wes Anderson hasn’t become a caricature of Wes Anderson just yet.

A majority of my life (since I was in elementary school) has revolved around Wes Anderson’s films. He has changed the way I see both film and the world itself. I personally think that if everyone had Wes Anderson’s careful eye for little details, then the world would be a much better place. Then again, it would also be a world where adults act like children, and children want to be adults.

Matt Zoller Seitz recently released an amazing book called The Wes Anderson Collection that chronicles all of Wes Anderson’s films. Don’t worry, it has lots of pictures and drawings if you’re not into the whole reading thing. While I don’t think I can do them as much justice as Seitz did in his book, I have been an admirer of Anderson for long enough that it is worth a shot.

With the upcoming release of his latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, I figured now was a great time to take a look back at all of Anderson’s films so far. From his humble beginnings, to the moment he completely surrendered to his incredible imagination, Wes Anderson has turned his filmography into his own personal sandbox, where all of the sand castles are decorated in a very particular way.

Without further adieu, here is how I would rank all of Wes Anderson’s films:

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