Film Review

Posted in Uncategorized on July 8, 2010 by mattcronin

CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS

Andrew Jarecki’s opus may have come well before he had any experience at the helm of a movie. His directorial debut, Capturing the Friedmans is a documentary, which on the surface is about a child molestation case, but under its skin is about a family’s struggle to cope.

Arnold Friedman, a well-respected teacher in the Nassau County area of Long Island, NY, is charged with obscene counts of child molestation, and as an accomplice, his then 18-year-old son, Jesse, is also faced with molestation charges. These allegations were brought to attention during the 1980s sex abuse hysteria, where communities were panicking at the idea that an adult in their neighborhood could be a potential pedophile.

It seems uncanny that this family happened to film almost everything they did together, and preserved the footage for as long as they had. Jarecki’s “neutral” approach simply gave the audience the ability to see a family unfold before their eyes. Capturing the Friedmans utilized many interviews from personnel that were on the case, be it an alleged victim, or people from the sex crime unit that dealt with this case. However, the most important aspect of the film was the footage that either one of the three Friedman sons, or Arnold himself recorded. The candid footage of family dinners and fights gave the audience an idea of what a family becomes after such heinous allegations. Personally, what struck me the most, was the mother’s relationship with her children. Elaine Friedman had always felt on the outside of what she referred to as the “Friedman gang”, because of her strict ways. But never have I seen a person so excluded and isolated from his or her own family.

Recounts of the trial, current-day interviews with significant players and family members, and the presentation of facts make for an unnerving and ambiguous documentary that left me questioning if the verdict was the right one.

If you can stomach the shocking subject matter, this film is one of the most important documentaries you will ever see. It will make you realize the importance of family as well as how easily people can turn their back on someone.

SCORE: 91

Film Review

Posted in Film, Review on May 18, 2009 by mattcronin

Tyson

Tyson, is James Toback’s magnum opus. The screenwriter of the Barry Levinson’s 90’s gangster drama, Bugsy, revives himself in this freewheeling documentary about the life of a heavyweight champion.

Everyone thinks they know the story behind Mike Tyson; a thug who just happened to get his way into boxing, have a high-profile marriage (and consequently, divorce), go ballistic against Evander Holyfield’s ear, and go bankrupt. While all of those things may be true, Tyson, a simple a man as he is, has a much more complex story.

Growing up in a hard-nosed area of Brooklyn, New York, Tyson was constantly bullied for the way he talked and the way he dressed. Suppressing his want for recourse, Tyson never fought until a fated day when the teasing became tangible, which lef to his first fight, and his first victory. Tyson was in and out of juvenile detention centers for the next couple years of his life, and by the time he was 13 had been arrested 38 times.

The first half of Toback’s documentary is portraying the bond between Tyson and his trainer, Cus D’Amato. This is a very surreal and grounded perspective of how Tyson can be human. Tyson was brought to tears a couple of times throughout the film, and mostly when discussing his trainer, and how important D’Amato was to Tyson’s life.

This is a great documentary, and ranks up there with last year’s Man on Wire and 2003’s Capturing the Friedmans as one of the best ever made. Definitely See this film.

SCORE: 81

Film Review

Posted in Film, Review on May 12, 2009 by mattcronin

The Wrestler

This is long overdue.

Darren Aronofksy is known for directing rather ethereal subject matter in his films. However, The Wrestler, is one of the most touching and relevant dramas in the last decade. Mickey Rourke (Sin City, Diner), rediscovers himself and what he means to the acting world with his portrayal of Randy “The Ram” Robinson. The Wrestler  had been in Aronofsky’s radar for years, but he had to establish himself as a filmmaker (Requiem For a Dream, The Fountain), in order to get independent investors to take interest. With only a budget of $6 million, The Wrestler has been able to secure almost $30 million in total gross; the majority of that coming after Rourke’s Oscar® nomination for Best Actor.

The storyline follows “The Ram” as he learns what’s important, after a life-changing moment following an amateur wrestling match. Throughout the film, Randy, whose real name is Robin Ramzinski, realizes that he’s gone through life a way he wouldn’t have, had he been more careful about keeping the ones he loved. He tries to reconnect with his daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood, Across the Universe, Thirteen), after he left his family years prior.

With a realistic love interest in a stripper, Pam (Academy Award®-nominated, Marisa Tomei), who parallels “The Ram” with a stage name of her own, Cassidy, The Wrestler strikes another thread that feels just as genuine as his longing for his daughter’s approval.

Definitely see this film.

SCORE: 84

Film Review

Posted in Film, Review on April 27, 2009 by mattcronin

28 Weeks Later

As a film on its own, 28 Weeks Later is very well done. However, as a sequel to 2002’s 28 Days Later…, it lacks.

Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes the reins from Danny Boyle to direct this more stylized, action-laden sequel, and he does a fine job. Robert Carlyle, who was sought after for Cillian Murphy’s role in 28 Days Later…, starts as the seemingly well-kept protagonist. Yet, after about four minutes, it’s easy to see that he will not be the protagonist for long. This chapter in the “Rage Virus” saga, is a film about a family, and how love can triumph in even the darkest of circumstances.

For me, this film missed the mark. I didn’t care much for any of the characters, except for Doyle (Jeremy Renner, North Country, Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), who is an American soldier who is helping to restructure England after the virus was supposedly wiped-out. It was definitely a more fright-filled movie than its predecessor, but only in that every turn felt like there would be someone looking to scare the protagonists. Weeks didn’t feel as real as Days did. Cillian Murphy goes ten minutes before seeing a soul, and 28 Weeks Later is all about people being at your side throughout.

A few unjustified and unanswered events in 28 Weeks Later crippled the movie a bit, and the average acting kept this sequel below the standard set by the first. But still, it is necessary to see this film if you are a fan of Boyle’s breakthrough apocalyptic tale.

SCORE: 71

Film Review

Posted in Film, Review on April 16, 2009 by mattcronin

The Band’s Visit

This is a serene movie about a traveling Egyptian police band, which plays music that its director feels is becoming obsolete. Well acted, and well directed, but somewhat empty and unresolved.

The Band’s Visit is Eran Kolirin’s debut feature film, and was also Israel’s submission to the Academy Awards® for Best Foreign Language Film. However, the Academy did not feel that this was, I guess, “foreign enough”, as both the Egyptians and the Israelis speak a good amount of English, which is their only way to communicate with each other. This is unfortunate, because it was a good film and to be hindered by a language spoken, rather than the people involved is disappointing.

The story’s main character, Tewfiq Zacharya, is aware that his police band isn’t as popular as it once had been, but his love for music is unwavering, and leads the troupe to a small Israeli town where they are scheduled to play at an Arab cultural center opening. The center is in Petah Tiqva, but because of a disconnect between the languages, their driver thinks they say Beit Hatikva, which lends them an even more enlightening cultural experience.

A very uneventful film, with many realistic traits that aren’t normally seen in film these days. This character study is worth a visit.

SCORE: 79

Film Review

Posted in Film, Review on April 14, 2009 by mattcronin

Happy-Go-Lucky

This undeniable charm of a film was one of the most believable, unbelievable, and haunting films I’ve seen in a long time. Mike Leigh (Vera Drake, Topsy-Turvy) is at the helm and behind the pen for his sixth Oscar®-nominated film. Happy-Go-Lucky is a story about human compassion, as well as what’s left of it.

Happy-Go-Lucky follows a 30 year-old school teacher, Poppy (Sally Hawkins), and her journey through what’s seemingly a mundane life. The only difference between Poppy and most other characters in film and in reality, is her ability to be happy. Throughout her story, we see her experience small misfortunes that should affect her well-being, but she brushes them off with witty and relevant excuses.  She strives to make everyone happy, and in her quest, she comes across a couple of very unsettling situations. At certain points in this movie I was truly nervous for not only Poppy, but for anyone who has ever gotten themselves in similar scenarios.

On a lighter note, this film was wonderfully written, acted, directed, and filmed, leaving me to believe that Sally Hawkins was truly snubbed by not even receiving an Oscar® nod, despite winning a Golden Globe® for her performance. This is another beautiful film from the UK Film Council, who have not let me down in any of the films they’ve produced (Man on Wire, 28 Days Later). Definitely add Happy-Go-Lucky to your list.

SCORE: 86

Film Review

Posted in Film, Review on April 13, 2009 by mattcronin

28 Days Later…

Danny Boyle is one of the most diverse directors in film today. Many people have just been turned on to him after the critical and financial success of Slumdog Millionaire, which was released in 2008, but Boyle’s been at it for over a decade. He’s directed astronauts in Sunshine, heroin addicts in Trainspotting, and a 7 year-old who discovers the meaning of human ethics in 2004’s Millions. But it was 28 Days Later… that gave Boyle the U.S. box office success that had been eluding him through his first four feature films. With a budget of only $8 million, 28 Days Later… turned a $45 million dollar domestic box office revenue. Through the film’s life, it’d always eluded me until I was fortunate enough to see this gem this weekend.

The story begins in a testing facility, where three activists try to free monkeys that are being experimented on. Unfortunately, they accomplish this task. 28 days later, we are in an abandoned hospital when when see a lone patient, Jim (Cillian Murphy), wake in an untterly confused stupor. He wanders through a completely empty London for a few minutes, before he encounters a church filled with, not so blessed, patrons. The shots of him walking through a lonely London are mesmerising, and very authentic. Boyle states in an interview that he would like to thank the London police marshals for shutting down London for him. And I’m glad they did, because it was one of the most realistic apocalypse scenes ever captured on film.

Jim’s travels lead him to find Selena, who is one of the few remaining non-zombies in London. She explains to Jim, who has no idea what has happened since he was sent into a coma by a car accident, that a virus called “Rage” had originated in primates and spread to humans, causing them to inflict harm upon the uninfected. Jim’s skeptical, but a few choice encounters settle his doubts.

Wonderfully shot, as every angle and color was carefully chosen to imply both apocalypse and disarray. If you’re looking for a scare as well as something to provoke your thoughts, 28 Days Later… is the perfect film.

SCORE: 85