Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Anticipations of NicksFlickPicks

Every January, I re-invest in two myths, no matter how often they've been disproved.  First, someone reports that Lauryn Hill's eternally-postponed CD is finally coming out in the new year, and I believe it. Second, I truly think I will update my site more often, write more reviews, resolve unfinished projects, or at least keep up with annual features.  Usually I'm at least reliable to post a Fall Preview in September or early October, with a ranked list of the movies I'm most anticipating, divided into echelons furnished to me by some favorite pop star: Janet Jackson in 2012, when Holy Motors was a "Throb" and Atlas Shrugged a "Black Cat"; Mariah Carey in 2011, when We Need To Talk About Kevin was a "Touch My Body" and Jack & Jill was an "Up Out My Face"; and noted in-cinema texter Madonna in 2010, when White Material was "Erotica" for me and The Owls of Ga'Hoole prompted shouts of "Rescue Me."

I badly missed my start time this year: I've been too busy teaching, advising, bungling other important site features, and hitting every film festival in North America, to a degree that even the programmers find remarkable.  But late is better than never, as I can only hope Lauryn agrees. So, here goes.  I've of course already seen several of these titles, but I did a handy System Restore on my own brain and remembered how I felt Before as well as how I responded After...


TO ZION
Gravity - Even small steps for Cuarón are often giant leaps for popular cinema
A– - Sure, the emotional allegory feels kind of shoehoOH MY GOD! THE CAMERA! Maybe a bit maudJESUS! DID YOU SEE AND HEAR THAT?!
12 Years a Slave - Hollywood finally taps major vein of U.S. lit and life. McQueen!
A - Solomon as open book and opaque protagonist, caught in a heightened nightmare and in yes-it-was-that-bad history.
Bastards - Even at her most opaque, Denis commands loyalty like few other auteurs
B+ - Sort of Denis' Skin I Live In, a handsome, tensile take on a story bound to repel. Semi-illuminating, fiercely confident.
Blue Is the Warmest Color - Eager for any Kechiche, but especially a Palme winner
B - Two very compelling characterizations in engaging but oddly proportioned film with few interesting images
Faust - Two-year delay of release augurs poorly. But I'm still a Sokurov devotee.
A– - Intoxicating, even if, like a lot of intoxicants, it puts you to sleep a little. Painterly, imaginative, and sells the myth.
Her - Sure, premise could tilt into precious self-pity, but I have confidence it won't.
B - Toggles between blunt and subtle approaches to its themes. Generous in spirit. Actors really lift it. Adams a standout for me.
The Past - After Elly, Separation, I'd follow Farhadi anywhere. Breakout for Bejo?
C - Turgid, sporadically wise wallow in exposition, with few stakes for viewers. Stale visuals. Farhadi's rhythmic gift fails.

SUPERSTAR
American Hustle - I'm cool on Silver Linings but so far I dig this one's splashy vibe
B - American cons, America as con. Film's a con at times, though Cooper, Adams never are. Uneven, for better and worse.
The Square - Urgent topic for documentaries, especially from reliable Noujaim
At Berkeley - I'm not a Wiseman completist, but great subject for him and for me
A - Prodigious in every sense. Typically lucid institutional survey, comprising many views of what ideas and politics mean.
Inside Llewyn Davis - Tuneful blend of Coens' comic charm and scabrousness?
B+ - Aloof, icy, yet almost secretly tender. Steel, sadness, and spook knitted together. Funny-ish. Isaac amazes.
Captain Phillips - Even "lesser" Greengrass like Green Zone lands well with me
B - US drama of Somali pirates, rendered as seasick immersion in a military precision strike. Uneven but ends strong.
Blue Caprice - Shootings sure got to me in '02. Tour-de-force for a new director?
B+ - Backstory of 10 murders that remain inexplicable. A grotty national and psychological moodpiece. Bracingly assembled.
Carrie - Peirce a great choice to give high school rough textures, moral complexity
C– - Halves of Carrie seem further apart than ever. Direction most invested in the Mom, production in the Prom. Ensemble flails.
Mother of George - In Notting Hill, I'd be Hugh and d.p. Bradford Young my Julia
B+ - Lustrous images heighten emotions of a rich, bold script; odd angles, sound mix keep it from feeling on-the-nose.
Dallas Buyers Club - Felt stunty on paper but trailer and buzz for Leto encourage
B+ - Moving, funny, excitingly angry. McConaughey hits Brockovich levels of typecasting, type-busting, and charisma.
Fire in the Blood - Doc sounds very probing; a good companion to Dallas Buyers
A Touch of Sin - Jia always merits attention. Intriguing swerves in tone, content.
B+ - Hard work, which I'm not against. Sharp images, knotty plotting both entice. A Chinese Amores perros, but glassier.

JUST WANT YOU AROUND
August: Osage County - Uneven play has high peaks. Eager for Roberts, Lewis.
C - Enjoyable but rarely admirable beyond MVP actors. Script has great moments but smug calculations still rankle.
American Promise - I hope it's more Love & Diane than Waiting for Superman
B - Affecting, but director-parents may not have distance necessary to make a Hoop Dreams about their kids' schooling.
Let the Fire Burn - Crucial but obscure U.S. tale has already inspired good films
B - Less penetrating or contextualized but possibly more harrowing than other films on 1985 bombing of MOVE compound.
Museum Hours - Not on my radar till many friends ranked it among year's best
B - Elegant, involving, aloof by design; strong sense of the past within the present. Something a tad calculated about it.
God Loves Uganda - Another promising doc; bookend to spring's Call Me Kuchu
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete - Buzzy at Sundance. New sides of Hudson?
C - Fitfully affecting but rarely adroit. Soderbergh's King of the Hill from synthetic fabric.
Enough Said - I'm still seeking a Holofcener vehicle that's as strong as her debut
B– - After ace debut, Holofcener's follow-ups all have execution problems. Still, rich ideas for starved demos. Gandolfini!
We Are What We Are - Notably strong reviews for a horror film and for a remake
Saving Mr. Banks - For Emma, I'll accept anything, even from John Lee Hancock
D+ -  Markedly unsubtle for an explicit defense of subtlety. Broad, repetitive, untrusting. Nails a moving end, though.
The Invisible Woman - Wasn't too jazzed till every review cited a pleasant surprise
Camille Claudel 1915 - I tend to like Dumont, even if I always feel guilty about it
D+ - Never connects with Camille. Casting stunt sullies and disjoints the film. Alienating; next day, feels worse.
Computer Chess - Beeswax was incomparably winning. Will I react that way again?
B– - Seemed funnier during my first, more fatigued screening. A great premise with gold moments, but execution is muddy.
Wadjda - Dramas with Noble Themes can break any which way, but I'm optimistic.
Prisoners - Sharp-looking Villeneuve pic drew both hoots and cheers in Toronto
B– - Lots of craft on display. Gutsy script. Real steel from Jackman. Virtually all of it poisoned by escalating absurdities.
Black Nativity - Trailer looks a bit off to me. Still: Lemmons? That cast? Sure.
C– - Earnest but perfunctory. Reads as if producer TD Jakes literally called more shots than snazzy helmer Kasi Lemmons..
Concussion - Nifty premise for lesbian drama. Weigert in lead is a cool prospect.
B– - Story, chic images feel affected throughout, which only makes sharp script and Weigert's candid acting more impressive.
After Tiller - Risk-taking profile of doctors who offer third-trimester abortions
Touchy Feely - Things got awfully quiet after Sundance, but ensemble entices
Here Comes the Devil - Just read the setup and tell me you're not a bit intrigued

LOST ONES
The Immigrant - Every still looks transfixing, but the Weinsteins seem ambivalent
B+ - Operatic conception, playing romantic hope against inexorable forces of grief and myth. Cotillard, Khondji astonish.
Foxcatcher - Such an odd tale, but you won't catch me betting against Miller
Grace of Monaco - I liked La Vie en rose but let's kindly call Dahan a big variable
The Monuments Men - Your $11 can help these rich pals take a European vacay!

I FIND IT HARD TO SAY
All Is Lost - Sounds like awards-baiting stunt for Redford, yet I hear otherwise
B+ - Water, water everywhere, and not a bad or boring shot in sight. Exercisey but absorbing. Boy is Redford in good shape.
Out of the Furnace - For those who wish Crazy Heart had featured more hitting
C - Winter's Boner: characters, filmmakers treat grotty vision of rough, hophead Appalachia as macho proving-ground.
Adore - A good movie seems too much to ask, but possibly deliciously bad?
D+ - Unquestionably misdirected, stifling scenario's capacity to indicate more than tawdry melodrama. Wright saves what she can.
Oldboy - I found Park's film both tedious and repellent, but at least I'm curious
Kill Your Darlings - Seems likely to glorify yet render dull a minor anecdote
D+ - Early sparks gutter completely. Climactic montage ties anal sex to drug injection and murder. Opaque and inert.
The Face of Love - Bening's lowest-profile work in years. Harris a good match?
Philomena - Festival audiences sure love it. Dench inspires hope. Frears doesn't.
C+ - Pro or con to keep mixing tones and to avoid overstating analogies at the cost of vague, fitful storytelling? Your call.
As I Lay Dying - It's my favorite novel, maybe. I think I just don't want to know.
The Summit - Climbing docs have gone wrong before. Still, a whopper of a tale.
Great Expectations - A year after its debut, smelling like moldy wedding cake.
The Pervert's Guide to Ideology - Little Žižek goes a long way. Maybe too long.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - Evidently even Elba, Harris can't animate it?
Lone Survivor - Late add to season. Beefy cast. Berg a mixed bag. Trustworthy?
C+ - Actors very committed; moving as soldier tribute. Still, Berg wobbly director of action, dialogue. Ending feels off.
All Is Bright - Director Phil Junebug Morrison is only draw here. But a big one.
Machete Kills - Good, bad, or good/bad? Hoping for a Planet Terror groove.
A.C.O.D. - Love the topic, but maybe just charming comedians farting around?
Metallica: Through the Never - Good or bad, I can't even work out what this is
Insidious: Chapter 2 - Never got it up to rent the first, but ample for a rainy day
Dracula 3D - Even with tepid reviews, dashing Kretschmann is hard to resist
C - Two D's are for Dumb and Dumber. The other's for Delirium, which at least has its pleasures. Garishly but gamely stupid.
Escape from Tomorrow - Trailer has some kick, but strains hard for cult status
Nebraska - Hated Descendants. Not that wild about earlier Payne, either. So...
D+ - Payne still loves: banal images, banal music, using one character as bellwether of Reason and ranking others in relation.
Sal - Film-star bio from the Franco factory that's sat around for two years? Sure!
Mr. Nobody - A Venice prize-winner that's sat around for four years? Why not?
Inequality for All - These films vary widely in quality but Reich's a good hook
The Best Man Holiday - Statute of limitations on credit for Undercover Brother?
Instructions Not Included - I lamely keep skipping Spanish-language breakouts

I USED TO LOVE HIM
About Time - Gleeson's my hope. Curtis, McAdams have exhausted good will.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - The title begs non-converts to stay home.
The Wolf of Wall Street - Is latter-day Scorsese right guy to critique wild excess?
D+ - One-hand tally of interesting shots. Wonky edits abound. Flatly plotted in story and style. Elephantiasis.
Labor Day - I hear it's safe for Kate, risky for Reitman, triumphant for neither
Finding Mr. Right - I'd go anywhere with Tang Wei after Lust, Caution. I think?
Diana - Can we now agree that Watts has Swank-ish range and batting average?
The Armstrong Lie - Gibney should slow down. Armstrong should hide in a hole.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - Anyone else getting a big Majestic hit off this?
Don Jon - I'm glad Juli & Scarlett get along with Gordon-Levitt. I usually don't.
B– - Flat technique; hashed final act seems more annoying with time. But funny. Moore is good, and Johansson deliciously great.
Out in the Dark - Gay cinema can't cast enough bland hotties in familiar plots
C - Scene by scene, the Serious Drama you'd expect about a handsome Palestinian guy and a handsome Israeli guy in love.
Rush - Feels like an aging producer-director pair's idea of Youthful Excitement
D+ - Tritely conceived, stylistically ragged. A dispiriting pile-up of shots and entire scenes that only pad or coarsen the movie.
Salinger - At last! A venue for John Cusack's ideas about The Catcher in the Rye!
Runner Runner - Excited me for six minutes as IMDb news item. Never since.

NOTHING REALLY MATTERS
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Director's a trade up. Still not persuaded.
C– - Talk about death that never feels deadly and whispers of revolution that never feel revolutionary.
The Counselor - Sorta thing that seduces stars on paper, then explodes on them
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - Not if I missed the first part, it doesn't
Ender's Game - The only things I'm boycotting are iffy casting, awful preview
Winnie Mandela - Virtually laughed out of existence two years ago. A zombie.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa - Uninspiring, but I never count this crew out.
Homefront - Franco in a Statham film written by Stallone? Is this an installation?
The Fifth Estate - Wan thrillers keen on trumpeting their Importance are the pits
The Family - Best show in town is watching Tommy Lee Jones hide involvement
Shepard and Dark - So there's this famous guy and this less famous guy, and... ?
Baggage Claim - As a title, that's a half-notch above Sack Lunch, but not funny.
Frozen - Disney hasn't hit for me since Lilo. Images and cast list leave me cold.
B - Charm, belly laughs, sweetness, and story momentum. Songs, character designs, backgrounds not on same level, but I liked it.
Thor: The Dark World - I'm even less interested than Natalie Portman seems to be.

WHEN IT HURTS SO BAD
One Chance - Clears path for Salt, Pepper, and Success: The Taylor Hicks Story
The Book Thief - Those Pyjamas are looking awfully Striped, if you ask me
How I Live Now - Why aren't Saoirse's agents scared to piss her off? See: Hanna.
Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas - Perhaps unwisely, I stick to just his dramas
Romeo and Juliet - While we're at it, how 'bout Twelfth Night with Chloë Moretz?
Last Vegas - If we were talking Sally Kirkland, Diane Ladd, and Diahann Carroll...
C - AARP Hangover is funnier and better acted than Hangover. Looks awful and has unwell ideas about young women. Semi-sweet.
47 Ronin - The nobility of the samurai, minus authenticity or production values
Riddick - Vin Diesel still trapped in the cl projects no one wants. A tax write-off?
Haute cuisine - Some people see any film about food. But some people ain't me!
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 - Probably not a sequel to see first, or at all
Free Birds - Tagline: "The greatest turkey movie of all time." I'm not kidding.
Walking with Dinosaurs 3D - A feature? An IMAX Experience? No, don't answer.

FORGIVE THEM FATHER
Parkland - We've all wondered how JFK's murder went down for hospital staff
Escape Plan - Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte for straight guys, except not amazing
Grudge Match - What Ever Happened to Raging Bull? with laffs, mo-cap suits
Delivery Man - A horror film where Vince Vaughn fathers a town's worth of kids

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5 Comments:

Blogger CanadianKen said...

Nick, you are an eloquent riot. My favorite line of the week:
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - The title begs non-converts to stay home."
Take a bow.

10:53 AM, October 28, 2013  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

i love these so much. both in concept and in execution and by way of whichever diva we're listening to.

though i really hope 2014 belongs to Missy Elliott.

2:17 PM, October 28, 2013  
Blogger Tim said...

So many great lines. "A horror film where Vince Vaughn fathers a town's worth of kids" is my absolute favorite, but the whole thing is a pure delight. Best way to deal with the oncoming rush of movies I'll force myself to see without wanting to.

6:52 PM, October 28, 2013  
Anonymous Evanderholy said...

I look forward to this every year. It always makes me laugh while also informing me about a lot of movies coming out I hadn't been turned on to yet. Look forward to seeing your thoughts as you check them off!

7:52 PM, October 28, 2013  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@CanadianKen: All the bows belong to you, my friend.

@Nathaniel: She was the runner-up! And they both fit the delayed-release theme so well. Watch this space.

@Tim: I forget how much of the bilge you're actually going to swim in. At what point do you elect to save yourself?

@Evan: I learned about a lot of movies for this one, too, especially some of the documentaries, the Tang Wei vehicle, and (sad to say) the Vince Vaughn horror show.

10:21 PM, October 28, 2013  

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