Top 5 Movies That Got Me Into Movies

Brother’s McMullen

I had to go with Brothers McMullen because I am a Long Island boy and can relate to Ed Burns, more so than Aronofsky – who is also a NY’er.  Burns grew up in a similar environment as me, and in fact we share common friends (although I’ve never met him).  Being able to relate to the filmmaker was just one of the reasons this is my top film to get me into movies.  The ability to take an ultra-low budget, financed by donations from family and friends, and turn it into an indie hit spoke volumes to me when I first realized that I wanted to follow a path in film.  Brothers and Pi were the two most influential films for me at the onset – which is odd because of their two very different styles.  I think I’ve seen each over 50 times now.  I found Burns’ film to be tightly edited and shot well, two things you don’t find often in indie films.  The score was a delight as well.  Harkening back to my being able to relate to Burns, I am also Irish Catholic and take that very seriously.  Therefore, the subject matter of the film really hit home and I thought each storyline was accessible.

Pi

The first film I saw where I was not only blown away – but thought to myself, ‘Hey, I think I can do that.’

Bottle Rocket

Before Wes Anderson was a photocopy of himself. Where style and oddity were actually unique, not overdone to death.

Star Wars

A film that is basically like turning your childhood dreams into reality.

Clerks

A film that made me pause and say, this is great, but pretty shitty.  Other than quoting a film because I loved it, this was actually the first time I noticed the dialogue in a movie.  I noticed it because it was all dialogue. It was eye opening in a few ways. I think this is Kevin Smith’s crowning achievement, but that’s another discussion.

Movie Review: Looper

After all of the hype surrounding Rian Johnson’s ‘Looper’ it shot up my to see list quickly. I was a fan of ‘Brick’ and even enjoyed ‘Brothers Bloom.’ However, when I went to the theater today and was faced with a choice between ‘Looper’ and Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’ I never thought I would choose Johnson over Anderson. But I did. And I did not regret it.

The film isn’t the next coming of ‘Blade Runner’ that some keep buzzing about. There are some truly funny moments, but there are also characters that stick out for being a bit too goofy (such as The Kid). They don’t ruin the movie by any means, but they definitely took it down a notch.

It is a rather small complaint in an otherwise awesome film. It has the best sound design of any film I have seen in a long time. Johnson’s script moves at a brisk pace – which is good in time travel movies so you can’t spend time poking holes in everything. Joseph Gordon-Levitt really shines here. I’ve been a fan for a while, and this may be his best performance yet. Also on display is excellent world building. Johnson doesn’t beat us over the head with concepts… He subtly weaves in aspects of his depiction of the future.

See this movie. In a theater.

Movie Review: Snowtown Murder

I am a sucker for any movie about a killer or serial killer. Whether it is the hunt for or genesis of… So when I saw the longline for Snowtown Murders I immediately added it to my Netflix queue. And as it happens, mu queue is mostly foreign language films. So when it comes to late night viewing, I went with this film not knowing much about it.

Turns out it is an Australian film about the worst killer(s) in the country’s history. It starts off slow, and lulls you into thinking it is about pedophilia… And then takes some even darker turns. It has one of the more disturbing rape scenes I have ever seen (Salo and Irreversible come to mind) and after that things get grim.

We are on a journey with Jamie, a young man who is dealt a pretty awful hand. And when we meet who appears to be his savior, a pretty great turn by Ben hens hall, we see why Jamie is sucked into what he does. I don’t know how accurate the story is, but it definitely shows how one can be complicit in crime and it make sense (as a human being).

I thought the director did a great job putting us in a time and place (I guess you could call it world building, but I would say world showing). The score was haunting right from the opening. And the acting all felt very authentic. If I had an issue with the film it would be the general malaise with which Jamie went through life. He is our eyes and ears and he was like a blank slate. However, I realize that was the intention. I had the same problem with another Australian film – Animal Kingdom – but I liked this film much more and have had it stuck in my head for days now.

Movie Review: The Hunter

Is there anything Willem Dafoe can’t do? He really shines here, in Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter – one of those films that you wish you had seen in a theater when you had the chance. The cinematography is beautiful and something tells me the small screen does it no justice. Sweeping landscapes of Tasmania, contrasted with an intimate journey through those same lands… It possesses this almost magical quality – not unlike the Tasmanian tiger he hunts.

Most of the time child actors are a burden, either coming off as annoying, overly precocious (usually both), or just plain bad. Here they are fully realized and completely real. The young girl curses like a sailor and it all seems to make sense in this world. It reminded me of Winter’s Bone in that way. As if the actors around Dafoe were real people who didn’t know they were part of a film.

This is definitely a film worth checking out – especially since it is available on Netflix Instant.

Movie Review: Mongol

I’ve been trying to get through all of Sergey Bodrov’s films as we are looking at him for another project. So far I have been underwhelmed, but Mongol was definitely a major step up.

I thought he did a great job with what he had. And I thought the acting was solid, particularly from Tadanobu Asano as Temudjin. He accomplished a lot without saying much of anything. I was along for the ride, but ultimately the script failed the director. They tried to cram too much into the film and had to make too many jumps in time. Some of those jumps happened at odd times. Or they happened at points where the lead was in a jam – and all of a sudden we cut to a few years in the future and it is no longer an issue. If you’re into Mongolian culture or history in general – it is worth your time. But it never goes further than skin deep.

35 Movie Minutes Earning Some Fans

I got a pretty great tweet the other day from Mark Fry (aspiring filmmaker and VFX artist).  He keeps a tumblr and posted one called ‘Interesting Podcasts’ and listed 35 Movie Minutes on there.  Right up along some podcasts that I listen to religiously (The Business, John August’s ScriptNotes).  It was a great feeling and the show will keep getting better as we keep going…

My plan is to be putting out more content.  I’m actually interested in bringing on more co-hosts – not for the weekly show but for film discussions, festival discussions and discussions about films coming soon (such as a Summer Preview).  So, if you think you’re that person – hit me up.  We work out of a studio in NY, but you can be anywhere.  The only thing that we ask is that you get a microphone and mixer so that the sound is professional level (a refurbished package, with headphones runs about $40).

Movie Review: Source Code

I started to watch Source Code in a motel room while producing White Space.  Three nights in a row I fell asleep about five minutes in and gave up.  Then it showed up in the mail through Netflix.  I confused myself because I assumed that I saw it, but realized that I was too tired to remember.

I enjoyed Duncan Jone’s Moon, and was looking forward to finally watching the whole thing of Source Code.  I generally like Jake Gyllenhaal, but haven’t appreciated any of Michelle Monaghan’s performances.  Maybe Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  I think the film with Patrick Dempsey has soured me on her – Made of Honor.

This time I made it all the way through.  Jones deviates from his rather isolated first film with a time-bending action thriller.  In Source Code, they can keep someone alive and insert that person’s consciousness into the last 8 minutes of a person who died.  I’m not sure how they’re able to keep the dead person alive or salvaged enough to be using his brain/memories – especially in this situation when the dead person was blown up in a train bombing. And that’s when and how we meet Agent Sean Colter, who is tasked with finding the bomber – before the bomb goes off.  This is his first trip into the Source Code – and, in fact, the first successful use of the technology ever.

The film is basically a ‘whodunnit’.  If there was one fault it is that it doesn’t give us enough upfront in terms of the suspects.  Let us size them all up and keep us guessing.  Although it keeps us guessing, the actual target turns out to be someone outside the scope of our eye for most of the film.

Gyllenhaal shines here.  He grounds the film and also has a strong physical presence. All of this unravels quickly – and they don’t force his relationship with Monaghan’s character (who is fine, but underwhelming).  We never feel that he falls in love with her – which would be ridiculous – but he definitely falls for her.  Vera Farmiga is good as his handler… she has an icy detachment that works well here.  I’m not quiet sure I buy her actions at the end though.

All-in-all this is a smart thriller.  And it is definitely worth your time.  Watch it in 8 minute increments.