Sunday, April 20, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (4/13/14 - 4/19/14)

Ordet (Carl Theodore Dreyer) **** - A close-knit family of famers' respective faiths are tested when the pregnant wife of the eldest son dies in childbirth. People who know me knows that I'm not religious (though not an atheist either). Though I'm not the biggest believer, I still found this a profoundly moving film. It's heartfelt, earnest yet also intelligent and not at all preachy (something that Christian movies that Kirk Cameron churns out sorely lack). Beautifully acted and directed, there are a lot of things here for people of all faiths and lack thereof. You need not be a believer to be moved by this moving testament to the power of faith and the existence of miracles.

Transcendence (Wally Pfister) *1/2- I was excited for this film. It's the feature directorial debut of Christopher Nolan's favorite cinematographer, Wally Pfister and it boasts a great cast and a very intriguing premise. Unfortunately, any potentially interesting idea is quashed under a whole lot of hooey that's alternating boring (a word I try to use sparingly in my reviews) and ridiculous. It's frustrating because there are sparks of an interesting film which a better script and director would've fleshed out more. It clearly wants to say something intelligent and profound about the relationship between humanity and technology but the results on screen are anything but. Johnny Depp sleepwalks through his performance, almost literally phoning it in with a vague impression of HAL-9000.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) **** - I love Wes Anderson's films. That's no secret. I thought he would never equal or top Moonrise Kingdom but he just did with this film. Though it would not convert non-fans of his work, this extremely intricately designed, shot and uniquely structured film is a joy to behold. Ralph Fiennes gives a hilarious performance as Monsieur Gustave who is the concierge of the titular place as he takes under his wing his immigrant lobby boy. The film is filled with Anderson's trademark style which some people may find annoying (but not me) but it does not lose sight of the story and characters. You remain invested in both which is really quite a feat. Very funny but also ends up kind of dark and even sad. It is my favorite film of 2014 so far.

Stranger by the Lake (Alain Giraurdie) ***1/2 - I've heard about this film mainly due to its graphic gay sex scenes (with a couple of shots that are unsimulated) but that's doing this film a wee bit of a disservice. What it is really is an unconvential gay love story/thriller about a man who frequents a lake infamous for gay cruising and falls for a man who he just witnessed murder his last lover. If you aren't too squeamish about having to sit through lots of full frontal male nudity and the aforementioned gay sex scenes, this is quite a wonderful film. It feels like a Michael Haneke film, almost (but with lots more penises) and beautifully photographed and acted. This is another one of my favorite films of the year.

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