"Style is a simple way of saying complicated things."
Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey

Do you think I’m pretty?

I saw Under the Skin a week ago in an empty theater late at night.  Needless to say, this was one of the more unique viewing experiences I’ve ever had.  Over the course of the last week, the film has weighed heavily on my mind.

Many reviewers have stated that this was unlike anything they had ever seen before, and I can definitely agree with that statement.  But Under the Skin is also a film that wears its influences on its sleeve.  Clearly, the marketing team behind this film wants to evoke the similarities between Glazer’s film and the inimitable genius of Stanley Kubrick, and they’re not wrong.  The abstract visuals and complex themes are reminiscent of 2001, but this is really just one of Glazer’s many influences and only a small piece of what makes this film so great.

The minimalism of this film are what make it so complex.  As someone who hadn’t read or even heard of the novel upon which the film is based, I was almost completely in the dark about the intersecting plot lines and themes that Faber intended.  If I had not read that Scarlett Johansson’s character was an alien in the synopsis of the film, I would have no idea until the film was over (and even those results would be inconclusive).

With the story stripped of its background and without any sort of explicit clues transitioned from page to screen by Glazer, Under the Skin becomes more than a Sci-Fi or thriller film.  It’s neither of those things, obviously.  What it becomes is something very few filmmakers have ever been able to accomplish:  a one of a kind, out of body experience for his audience.  This is a shocking and beautiful piece of art that will continue to be analyzed on many different levels for years to come.  

Under the Skin (2014)

9/10

It’s a beautiful game.

Disney films are known the world over for their heart-warming and inspirational messages.  It’s the reason thousands of people flock to their theme parks every day, but it’s also the reason why so many fanboys are still upset about the corporation’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise.  The newest drama from the house of mouse tells the story of a sports agent searching for his next big break.

Million Dollar Arm is typical Disney fare.  Like Remember the Titans, The Rookie and so many films they’ve made it feels familiar.  This isn’t always a bad thing.  These films admirably tell true stories and when they’re as well done as this Jon Hamm starring effort, they can be a lot of fun.

Alan Arkin, Lake Bell and Suraj Sharma are all on board and provide admirable performances in what amounts to a very good family flick.  The tale at the heart of this production is indeed based on fact and it is quite interesting.  The globalization of baseball is a very interesting prospect, even if this film sometimes makes it feel like a “white savior” story.  For all its predictability and familiarity, Million Dollar Arm proves to be a fun and altogether enjoyable time at the movies.

Million Dollar Arm (2014)

6/10

The Immigrant

It was at a party or a dance. We had a long conversation. You can’t remember that?

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More so than any other period in the Martin Scorsese’s career, the 1970’s were marked by a sharp contrast of massive success and miserable failure. After the failure of Boxcar Bertha, he returned to his roots and made his first masterpiece with Mean Streets.  Conversely, after winning the Palme D’Or at the Cannes film festival, Scorsese made New York, New York.  Needless to say, the results weren’t so great.

New York, New York casts Liza Minelli and Robert De Niro as a couple who meet in the city that never sleeps on V-J Day at the end of World War II.  The pair of musicians embark on a grand adventure of sorts, in search of fame and happiness.

Scorsese made this film both as a tribute to the great Hollywood musicals of his youth and to the Archers’ inimitable classic The Red Shoes.  From this angle, New York, New York can perhaps be seen as something of a success.  The tone is pitch perfect throughout and the spirit of the films Scorsese was trying to capture was certainly on display.  When it’s all said and done however, the magic of those films is nowhere to be found and so many of the ingredients that make Marty such a fantastic director are barely present.  It was a valiant effort, but this musical will always be remembered as one of Scorsese’s biggest failures.

New York, New York (1977)

4/10

Gone Girl

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