Tuesday Releases: Gravity & Thor: The Dark World

FEBRUARY 25TH, 2014

GRAVITY// “Gravity” is many things, all of which are outstanding, to say the least. “Gravity” is the best use of 3D to date, dealing on a layer of superb cinematography and directorial forethought to allow for things such as an extremely long take to open the film. “Gravity” produces the best performance of Sandra Bullock’s career, as Dr. Ryan Stone, a doctor and astronaut brought along to help fix the communication board of the Hubble telescope. You may think of the structure of “Gravity” as “Open Water” in space, where Dr. Stone and fellow experienced astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are eventually stranded in orbit around the Earth with nothing but their suits, ship and telescope wreckage, each others’ company, and amazing views. “Gravity” leaves you breathless, with stunning visual effects and an eye for shot composition that is truly exquisite, not to mention the tireless situations Dr. Stone faces, which eventually might as well be called “Everything That Could Possibly Go Wrong In Space”. “Gravity” must be seen on the big screen to be believed, as it will lose a layer of grandeur when released on home video, with elements of the awe-inspiring views and utterly perfect sound design being lost in the theater atmosphere. Long takes and close-ups are my bread and butter, bringing unbeatable delight when used often and effectively and “Gravity” holds on even until the very end, capturing as essence to film-making that is very rarely seen. Alfonso Cuarón proves to be an auteur when it comes to cinema, bringing to life worlds that leave lasting impacts on the viewers and hopefully with “Gravity” he will be rightfully rewarded.

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BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR // Brimming with raw emotion, the winner of this year’s Palme D’Or, “Blue Is The Warmest Color”, takes the viewer inside a living, breathing relationship between young Adele (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and an older, artistic spirit, Emma (Léa Seydoux). With strong tones in discovering one’s sexuality and the great human connection, this is a sexual coming of age film, where kissing turns to touching and touching turns to unadulterated intimacy. With love at first sight being discussed in literature class and a failed attempt at being sexual with a boy from school, Adele follows her desire for a blue haired free spirited beauty to a local lesbian bar. A normal relationship begins involving a lengthy open window to the world of female-on-female sex. In a natural relationship’s course, we are privy to the strains this relationship acquires over time and the risks at staking all of your emotional happiness on one relationship. Director Abdel Kechiche delivers one of the most sensual, erotic art-house films I have ever witnessed, containing the infamous ten minute long love scene between the two female leads, showing every inch of their eroticism and removing the line between reality and acting. Exarchopoulos, only 19 years old, has an innocence about her that you cannot teach, bringing vulnerability to a new level. On the opposite, Seydoux has a control that radiates from her performance, giving this story the ying and yang it needs to remain an emotional powerhouse. One of the best and most realistic love stories ever portrayed on screen, there’s an art to immersing an audience into a three hour long emotional roller coaster and having them come out appreciative following the credits. These women are enigmatic, bringing a power to a film led by females that is lacking in most films. Earning it’s NC-17 rating, this will be the most erotic film you ever witness, outside of pornography, but carries the emotional weight to balance and steady this film into one of the best of the year.

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NEBRASKA // Several questions occurred to me during “Nebraska” that both attribute to the positives of Alexander Payne’s vision and the negatives or shortcomings of the material. The first question, why black-and-white? Researching this, Rotten Tomatoes brought me to an interview with the cast, and their thoughts, with someone stating that Payne’s mother had replied “it would look stupid in color”. My thoughts were of the contrary. With the wide, expansive shots of the country, I was wanting color, even if grainy or drained, to experience either the coldness or the drab. I get that black-and-white is the extreme of these desires, but it often felt out of place and unwarranted to a degree, begging for a chance to see the colors.

The next question that came to mind were the performances from Bruce Dern and June Squibb and why they have been so acclaimed. Seeing Bruce Dern in an interview, my question was somewhat answered, as you see how coherent and sharp he is, while his character Woody Grant is often silent or short spoken. And the last thought that occurred to be prevalent throughout the film was how spot on some of these characters were to people in my life, including my father and my mother, in comparison to the leads. This can both be a testament to the great writing and directing from Alexander Payne, that provides little idiosyncrasies like the stumbling drunk that loses things or the reactions to certain people. Payne nails the dynamic of the small town and those living within it, especially when returning to a small town after being away for quite sometime.

“Nebraska” opens with Woody (Dern) attempting to walk to Lincoln, Nebraska from Billings, Montana, which is close to 900 miles, to collect $1 million that was “promised” to him in a sweepstakes clearinghouse letter. With his wife Kate (Squibb) and sons, David (Will Forte) and Ross (Bob Odenkirk) trying to establish that this letter is a total scam, Woody responds by taking off again. Coaxed by the sincerity of his normally cold father, David decides to drive his father to Nebraska, with the hopes of the clearing the air and getting to spend some last moments with his drifting father. With a pit stop in Woody’s home town where most of his family still lives as well as his enemies, the film is a comedic and sometimes touching look at family in the most raw and natural of states. These performances, especially from Bruce Dern and Will Forte are understated at best. There’s a subtlety in these roles that take away the thought of acting. The actors disappear into their roles and you wonder whether they’re acting at all. Also, there’s a cinematic hope that the $1 million will be waiting for them at the end of the rainbow and you’ll have to see the film to find out if there is. “Nebraska” first and foremost is a touching drama, with comedic elements mixed in. Much like Payne’s previous work, it grasps on to certain emotional ideas and runs with them. Although I’ll debate whether black-and-white was necessary, overall I trust the film-maker and believe this to be one of his best works yet.

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THOR: THE DARK WORLD // Progressing along wonderfully is the Marvel Universe with its latest success for “The Avengers” in “Thor: The Dark World”. Building perfectly off the previous films and adding an entirely new level of character development, the sequel delivers in all the right ways, bringing fantasy, action, and comedy together in a gorgeous kaleidoscope. Chris Hemsworth returns triumphantly as Thor, much bulkier than we last left him and still wielding the Hammer as he serves and protects the nine realms, having not returned to Earth since “The Avengers”. Natalie Portman once again enters the scene, bringing a high caliber presence to the film, despite her somewhat strange story-line of inhabiting the world ending matter known as aether. Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba also reprise their Asgardian roles but failing to really add anything to these supporting characters.

The star of the show becomes Tom Hiddleston, returning as the trickster god, Loki, whose character is much more three-dimensional than those surrounding him, with so much in Hiddleston’s performance even with the small screen-time. With a fantastic story-line of being locked in the Asgard dungeons and later having to help his brother Thor, despite the complete lack of trust, there’s still an innocence to Loki’s character, brought out by his mother, played by the exquisite Rene Russo. Loki’s scenes steal the spotlight and make his involvement the best portions of the film. What Marvel is now relying too heavily on is the comedic element introduced by Whedon in “The Avengers”. Much of the comedy in his film is timed perfectly, with moments like the subtle bet between Fury and Captain America or the mention of shawarma by Tony Stark, to be later followed up by an after credits sequence of the team eating said meal in silence.

The comedy in “Thor: The Dark World”, sees moments like Darcy’s (Kat Dennings) intern and their strange relationship or Erik Selvig and his fragile state-of-mind, leading him running around naked or in his underwear for most of the film. Most of these moments feel out of place or unneeded and reveal a growing problem in trying to recreate gold and too often, instead of keeping the material fresh and interesting. Thor’s villain, Malekith is completely one-dimensional, with nothing but homicidal rage towards the nine realms. With superhero films being only as good as their villain, the “Thor” sequel falters slightly, despite the villain having an interesting look, he’s really nothing more than the villain of the week. Overall, “Thor: The Dark World” has enough going for it to rise above some weak plot points, characters, and an overabundance of humor and produces yet another great notch in the Marvel annals. And once again, with an inventive after credits sequence, the hype for the future Marvel films continues.

New Releases
Blue is the Warmest Color: Criterion
Gravity
Mr. Nobody
Muscle Shoals 2-denied2
Nebraska
Thor: The Dark World
Twice Born

TV Box Set

  • Above Suspicion: Set Three
  • Adventure Time: Season Three
  • Here Comes Honey Boo Boo: Season One
  • LA Law: Season One
  • Law & Order: The Fourteenth Year
  • Legit: Season One
  • The Middle: Season Four
  • Monsters: Complete Series
Special Editions/Other Releases
  • Adventures of the Penguin King   2-denied2
  • An Evening in the Zone
  • Atomic Hotel Erotica
  • Breathless: Criterion
  • Bullet (2013)
  • Edge of Salvation
  • The Guide (2014)
  • Hank: Five Years from the Brink
  • Ice Soldiers
  • Irish: The Musical
  • Jamesy Boy   2-denied2
  • King of the Hill: Criterion
  • The Last Elvis
  • Lesson Before Love
  • Lost in Thailand
  • Margarine Wars
  • Narco Cultura   
  • People of a Feather
  • Pulling Strings   2-denied2
  • Stacked Racks from Mars
  • Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale
  • Sword of the Assassin
  • Technique of the Asian Saber Sword
  • Tess: Criterion
  • Transformers Prime: Ultimate Bumblebee
  • Under Capricorn
  • The Wait   
  • The Wiggles: Furry Tales
  • Yesterday Is Still Gone
  • You Will Be My Son   

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