September 04, 2015

Tag Archives: david robert mitchell

The Best of the first three quarters of 2015

Believe it or not, but today is actually the last day of August, which means tomorrow stars September and the final quarter of the year. With this changing of the calendar, I wanted to again give you a bit of a look inside my mind. In short, this will be a quick little look at what I’ve enjoyed most over the first eight months of the year, as opposed to some of my slightly longer outings of this ilk. 2015 has been an interesting cinematic year for sure, so there’s no shortage of films worth praising. I’m keeping it simple this time and not being repetitive with commentary, but this does give you a look at what my favorites of the year so far look like before awards season truly gets underway. That’s something, right?
So far this year, I’ve seen 206 films, including a few that I can’t talk about yet (one is a big Oscar hopeful that I’m just under embargo for), so it’s been a busy 2015 so far. That being said, I’m limiting this to only things that have had a release date before September 1st. As such, that keeps a few great flicks off the list, like Sleeping with Other People and Time Out of Mind, of the titles I can speak freely about. Those will get their due soon enough, but right now they have to be on the outside looking in. The former of those two is sitting very pretty for a spot on my year end Top Ten list right now, so there’s that.
What’s interesting to me, before I reveal the updated list, is that of the over 200 movies I’ve seen, very few are actually going to seriously contend for Academy Award nominations. Excluding what I’m embargoed from discussing, only The End of the Tour, Grandma, Inside Out, Love & Mercy, Mad Max: Fury Road, and maybe Trainwreck will potentially show up anywhere even just on the precursor circuit. Awards season is going to be dominated by late year releases in 2015, that much seems certain. I’m not sure what that says about the year in film, at least right now, but it’s worth making a note of.
Below you’ll see my top ten films of the first three quarters of the year so far, along with my awards. Stay tuned for a longer piece at the end of the year, since there’s […]

The Best of the First Half of 2015 so far

Wow folks, can you believe that it’s the second half of the year already? Seriously, it’s July now, so we’re officially into part two of 2015 right now. With the fourth of July on tap for tomorrow, what better time than now to kick back and look at what the best of the first half of the year was? That’s what I thought too, so go figure…that’s what I’m doing now. Much like I’ve done in the past, I’ll highlight the ten best films of the first half as well as give out some personal awards to boot. As a note, I’m only including things that have come out between January 1st and June 30th. That eliminates a ton of great flicks, like The End of the Tour, Grandma, Irrational Man, Magic Mike XXL (which just missed), Sleeping with Other People, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Time Out of Mind, and others. It was tempting to open it up, but I opted to keep it pretty strict this time out, if only to mix it up. Those other titles will have their moment in the sun potentially when I discuss the first two thirds the year come the fall, but that’s another story…
Now, here’s what I have to say on Part One of 2015!
The Top Ten Films of the Year So Far:
10. ’71 – The highlight is Jack O’Connell’s performance, but this gritty war drama has an on the ground and up close look to it that’s hard to match. O’Connell missed out on awards attention last year, but he’s way more deserving this year. He’ll likely be left out in the cold, but this performance is worthy of some nominations. He’s the best part of this intense and effective film.
9. The Hunting Ground – For my money the best documentary of the year so far looks at sexual assault on college campuses. It’s basically a companion piece/follow up to The Invisible War, with filmmaker Kirby Dick continuing to inspire outrage. It’s powerful and sure to make you angry (as well as be in play for Best Documentary Feature), even if there’s a small silver lining to be found.
8. Love & Mercy – With two powerhouse performances from John Cusack and Paul Dano, this represents one of the first half of 2015’s few chances at Oscar attention when awards season comes around. Dano will likely be a fringe player in a […]

“5 to 7″: The Best of the First Third of 2015

Ahoy! With it now being May, we’ve officially finished up with the first third of the year. As such, I wanted to highlight the best of the year so far, consisting of my top ten and various awards for 2015 to date. Much like last time, when I did the first quarter of the year, I’m mostly limiting it to things that have already hit theaters. My only exception is that I’m including titles from the recently concluded Tribeca Film Festival. There are some others from last year that I’m fond of and might have otherwise included, but I didn’t want to cheat too badly, so they’re on hold. Anyway, let’s get to the fun stuff…
Below you’ll find my top ten of the year so far, along with my awards for the first quarter of 2015. Here you go, and enjoy:
10. Amira & Sam – Much like I said last time out, this is one of the bigger surprises this year for me so far. I really did fall hard for this romantic dramedy. Not only does it give Martin Starr his best and most dramatic role to date, it also crafts one of the better movies about New York that I’ve seen in the past few years. It was cruelly under-seen earlier this year, but I hope this recommendation does its part to fix that when it hits home video next week.
9. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief – Without question, this documentary is taking aim at a slightly easy target in the Church of Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard, but tons of incredible claims come out of it all the same, as I said the last time I spoke about it. Director Alex Gibney isn’t doing his best work ever, but it’s still an angry and passionate bit of work. The ratings when it played on HBO were through the roof, so it definitely caught on.
8. ’71 – To reiterate, this was a title that I first saw at NYFF 2014 but had it stick with me well into 2015. This war drama is the best tale of survival starring Jack O’Connell yet, and yes, I know that Unbroken exists too (that only furthers my argument). This is a small scale and gritty flick that manages to really captivate you. Another barely seen title that I want to shine a light on. Go seek it out […]

“The Ladies of the House” and “It Follows” have indie horror in a great place in 2015

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of It Follows, the independent horror success story from earlier on in the year. At the same time though, I’m always on the lookout for other small films of that nature that I can champion, much like many others in the industry. Usually, I’m on board with the fright flick du jour of the moment, be it The Cabin in the Woods or You’re Next, only rarely breaking with the crowd, like in the case of last year’s The Babadook. Every so often though, I get the chance to talk about something small that might not get seen otherwise. This week, there’s a perfect example of that in John Stuart Wildman’s The Ladies of the House. Very few people know about it, but it’s the next really strong horror outing of 2015.
As a quick plot summation, The Ladies of the House surrounds a group of guys who follow a dancer home and come into contact with her roommates. Sounds like it could be the plot of any number of films, right? Well, the thing here is that the ladies of this house, as it were, are cannibals. As such, a fight for survival, as well as a nice comment on gender roles, ensues. It’s genre fare for sure, but it really works. Wildman co-writes here with Justina Walford and directs with aplomb, making them, much like with David Robert Mitchell and It Follows, filmmakers that I’m eager to see more from going forward.
Even though I do prefer It Follows to The Ladies of the House (mostly due to the lead performance of Maika Monroe in the former as well as some of its absolutely gorgeous cinematography), they’re both success stories and hopefully a sign of things to come in horror, not just this year, but going forward. While the studio scary movies are more and more turning out to be utter disappointments, the indie scene is blossoming. Mainstream horror is just looking for the next franchise or theme to run into the ground, while the small scale ones like the two I mentioned are giving us unique takes and strong female roles. Even if The Ladies of the House is a loving nod to exploitation and grindhouse, it’s still trafficking in originality. Ditto for It Follows, regardless of it technically being a cautionary tale about sex.
My hope is that the genre as […]

“5 to 7″ and “It Follows”: The Best of the First Quarter of 2015

Time flies. Believe it or not, we’re now three full months into the 2015 movie calendar, which means we’re literally a quarter of the way through the film slate. That got me thinking about what the best of the bunch so far this year has been. Since now is the time when the film slate begins to transition into summer flicks (cough, Furious 7, cough) and counter programming independent fare, I thought it was the perfect time to praise the best of 2015 so far. Basically, anything that hit screens between January 1st and March 31st will be up for grabs here for my personal honors. I do have one release from this weekend that I’ve included, but only because of how eager I am to talk about it. Other than that, there’s no cheating…I swear!
Below you’ll find my top ten of the year so far, along with my awards for the first quarter of 2015. Here you go, and enjoy:
10. The Rewrite – A charming and simple Hugh Grant film, it likely would have been a hit had it come out a decade ago. Grant is at his wittiest in a while, with J.K. Simmons turning in yet another solid supporting performance as well. It’s nothing to go crazy over, but it’s a quietly enjoyable movie that I’ve already revisited more than once since it hit Blu-Ray and DVD last week.
9. Black or White – Even though this got a qualifying run at the end of 2014, it’s officially a 2015 release, at least in terms of its wide bow, so it counts here in my book. Kevin Costner is fantastic, while Octavia Spencer is very good too in Mike Binder’s latest flick. It made a few bucks, but it definitely deserved a much bigger audience than it received. The film is hardly perfect, but its heart is most certainly in the right place.
8. While We’re Young – I first saw this as the New York Film Festival’s Secret Screening, but it’s just as appealing here in the first quarter of 2015. Noah Baumbach’s most mainstream outing to date, he really gave us a great quartet of characters, ones essayed by Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, and Amanda Seyfried. It’s not on the level of some of his best films, but I still really liked it.
7. Amira & Sam – One of the bigger surprises this year […]

“It Follows” is quickly becoming the first surprise indie hit of 2015

One of the best parts of my job is when I can watch a film or a performance that I’ve championed actually catch on with audiences. This year, a slightly unexpected one has occurred in the form of horror movie It Follows. Even though it had played the Cannes Film Festival last year and made a few other fest stops, it was always seemingly going to be just an independent fright flick that got good reviews and then faded. At best, it could duplicate what The Babadook (a film I think is far inferior to It Follows, by the by) did in 2014. Then, out of nowhere, it began to get some of 2015’s best reviews, followed by two weeks of lighting the indie/limited release box office on fire. Now, as it goes into theaters nationwide today on over 1200 screens, It Follows is a certified indie hit, one that’s as surprisingly as it is delightful to witness.
As I wrote on the site a few weeks ago when I raved about the film, “It Follows is a hybrid character study/coming of age tale/horror film. Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, it tells the story of a 19 year old girl named Jay (played wonderfully by Maika Monroe) who sees a sexual encounter lead to terror. After sleeping with her new boyfriend for the first time, he basically kidnaps her in order to safely inform her of what he’s passed on to her. Until they had sex, he was plagued by something monstrous following him slowly wherever he went. It started when he slept with someone on a one night stand, and now that he’s given it to her, he’s free from its clutches. Jay is warned that if it catches you, you die. Worse yet, it’ll take the form of people you know in order to get close to you. After he lets her go and runs off, she groups up with her friends, neighbor, and sister to figure out if there’s any way to survive. Monroe is the undisputed star, but the cast has some solid supporting players, including Keir Gilchrist. Besides Monroe, you’ll be blown away by Mitchell’s work, especially when it pairs with the cinematography by Mike Gioulakis and the score from Rich Vreeland.” I just wanted to make sure that I reiterated what the film was about…just in case you weren’t in the know yet.
Two […]

“It Follows” is the best horror film in years and the rare one worthy of awards

When it comes to the Academy, the genre the least seem to embrace (give or take animation, though that at least has its own category) is horror. With the exception of The Silence of the Lambs, no fright flick has been nominated for Best Picture, and while that’s not going to change, periodically we get such top notch entries into the genre that awards consideration is warranted. A few years back, it was The Cabin in the Woods that got a small Best Original Screenplay push, while more recently The Babadook and You’re Next drummed up a bit of buzz. This year though, we have the best of the bunch (or at least the best since The Cabin in the Woods) with It Follows. The film opens this weekend after playing at the Cannes Film Festival last year and is easily the best of 2015 to date…not just in terms of horror either. It’s the best release of the year so far, overall.
In case you don’t know, It Follows is a hybrid character study/coming of age tale/horror film. Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, it tells the story of a 19 year old girl named Jay (played wonderfully by Maika Monroe) who sees a sexual encounter lead to terror. After sleeping with her new boyfriend for the first time, he basically kidnaps her in order to safely inform her of what he’s passed on to her. Until they had sex, he was plagued by something monstrous following him slowly wherever he went. It started when he slept with someone on a one night stand, and now that he’s given it to her, he’s free from its clutches. Jay is warned that if it catches you, you die. Worse yet, it’ll take the form of people you know in order to get close to you. After he lets her go and runs off, she groups up with her friends, neighbor, and sister to figure out if there’s any way to survive. Monroe is the undisputed star, but the cast has some solid supporting players, including Keir Gilchrist. Besides Monroe, you’ll be blown away by Mitchell’s work, especially when it pairs with the cinematography by Mike Gioulakis and the score from Rich Vreeland.
While any Oscar attention is a long shot, I believe that this flick is truly worthy of consideration in a number of categories. Beyond the fruitless endeavor of pushing […]

MacGruber leads SXSW 2010 Features Lineup

BY STAFF
The South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival is thrilled to announce the complete features lineup for this year’s Festival, March 12 – 20, 2010 in Austin, Texas. Over the course of nine days, 119 features will screen at the festival, with 55 of those having their world premieres at SXSW 2010. These films were selected from a record 1,572 feature-length film submissions composed of 1,206 U.S. and 366 international feature-length films.
Among the major films added to the lineup are: Rogue’s MacGruber, from director Jorma Taccone; Mark Duplass’ Cyrus, Bernard Rose’s Mr. Nice, Tim Blake Nelson’s Leaves of Grass, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs, Michel Gondry’s The Thorn in the Heart, Alexandre O. Philippe’s The People vs. George Lucas, Shane Meadows’ Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee, Steven Soderbergh’s And Everything Is Going Fine, Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas’ American: The Bill Hicks Story, Mike Woolf’s Man on A Mission, Jacob Hatley’s Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm, Mark Landsman’s Thunder Soul, Daniel Stamm’s Cotton, Chris D’Arienzo’s BARRY MUNDAY, and Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways. They join previously announced films such as Opening Night film Kick-Ass, as well as narrative features Cold Weather and Elektra Luxx, and documentaries Hubble 3D, Lemmy, SATURDAY NIGHT and The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights.
“It was an incredibly competitive year with record submission numbers, and although we had to make really tough decisions, we are extremely excited about this lineup. I’m in awe of the talent on display throughout all the sections,” says Film Conference and Festival Producer Janet Pierson, “We feel we’ve achieved a great balance that continues our tradition of screening films across all budget lines and styles, and we take particular pride in witnessing the evolution of SXSW alumni as well as the vitality of fresh voices.”
The festival’s main competition categories once again find 8 Narrative Features and 8 Documentary Features, vying for their respective Grand Jury Prizes. The Narrative Feature Competition includes: Brotherhood, directed by Will Canon, Dance With The One, directed by Mike Dolan, Earthling, directed by Clay Liford, Helena from the Wedding, directed by Joseph Ifantolino, The Myth of the American Sleepover, directed by David Robert Mitchell, Phillip The Fossil, directed by Garth Donovan, Some Days are Better than Others, directed by Matt McCormick and Tiny Furniture, directed by Lena Dunham. The Documentary Feature Competition includes: Beijing Taxi, directed by Miao […]