Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Two years ago, director Alexander Payne finished in the #2 spot for my favorite film of the year with The Descendants, but this year he took top prize with Nebraska, a father-son road movie that won me over in practically every way, including its story, its feel-good tone, the acting of Bruce Dern and (unbelievably for me) Will Forte, its black-and-white photography, and the overall filmmaking prowess of Payne. The final movie I saw of 2013, and without a doubt the best.
A sight to behold on the big screen, that I wish I’d seen in 3-D when I had the chance: never before have I watched a film set in outer space that made me feel like I was actually there. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts left stranded after their shuttle is destroyed by debris, and we spend the entirety of the film stranded alongside them…literally lost in space. What impressed me most, along with the cinematography and the work of Bullock, was the story, and how it could keep a movie about two people floating miles above Earth so tension-filled and full of surprises.
A small film that came and went without much hoopla, but to me deserved a lot more attention than it received. A single mom takes her introverted 14-year-old son to a Cape Cod beach house for summer vacation, where he gets a job at a local water park and soon, with the help of a cool and understanding staff, comes out of his shell. There’s obviously more to it than that, and if you’re like me and love independent comedy-dramas that are fun and sentimental (such as Away We Go and (500) Days of Summer), then this should be right up your alley.
I have no idea why so many people and critics disliked and disparaged this movie…I thought it was a whole mess of sci-fi fun, starring Tom Cruise as a high-tech security guard on an empty, war-ravaged Earth, who watches over gigantic fusion generators that supply power to human survivors transplanted to a Saturn moon. I know that sounds kinda dull, but it’s not; I thought it had a great apocalyptic story and look, some truly unexpected twists, and solid work again from Cruise. Strangely enough, this is the only one of these five films that I’ve seen more than once (at the time I wrote this, at least).
To me, a lot of baseball films I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot) seem to come up short when it comes to game realism, whether it’s on the field or off. 42 had all its bases covered in that regard, and did a wonderful job of re-creating the look and feel of baseball in the 1940s. The story centered on Jackie Robinson’s first year playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and how he and team owner Branch Rickey (well-played by Harrison Ford) handle the abuse and backlash from players and fans when Robinson becomes the first African-American player in the major leagues. An interesting and well-presented look at an important chapter from baseball’s past.