DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: January 2014

Friday, 31 January 2014

The Long Day Closes

Though having only five dramatic feature films under his belt Terence Davies has been dubbed the greatest living British filmmaker. And there’s little argument here. The Long Day Closes, his second film exemplifies the dreamy beauty of his films, a symphony of cinematic elegance whose sole purpose is to bask in the beauty of his inspired marriage of imagery and sound.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Sundance 2014 - Day Four Wrap Up

Boyhood (dir. Richard Linklater)

A phenomenal achievement, shooting a film over 12 years charting the course of a child's life from from age 6 to 18. Unfortunately Linklater is not immune to the inherent problems with shooting kids, many awkward scenes early on threaten to douse the fire early but the film gains strength as goes along ultimately ending with the feeling of the film as greater than the sum of its parts. As customary to Richard Linklater the film is less about plot, drama or prefab conflict than the observing his main subject Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and giving the audience the cinematic equivalent to 'growing up'. As a dialogue driven movie it works best when the child actors Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater are older more mature and thus better actors. Thus there's a snowball effect which gains traction the longer we get to know the characters. It takes a long time get there, but it's a worthy journey to take.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sundance 2014 - Day Three Wrap Up

Skeleton Twins (dir. Craig Johnson)

This high wattage comedy asserts Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as a contemporary classic comic duo. The spark of comic timing from the classic SNL material is evident. May/Nichols might not be the right comparison but their careers have no sign of slowing down. Wiig and Hader as depressed adults both of whom stunted emotionally and who come together in their home town to mutually reconcile their demons might sound like conciuosly casting against type but director Johnson effectively moves the story between brooding drama involving suicide attempts and broad improv comedy and uproarious set pieces. Adding up the ample doses of 80's nostalgia, hilarious comic set pieces and the multi-pronged plotting Johnson packs a lot fit into its brisk 90min running time, but by hitting all the structural beats in their right places more than smoothes over any loose ends. 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Sundance 2014 - Day Two Wrap-Up

Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart (dir. Jeremiah Zagar)

Appropriately titled Jeremiah Zagar brings us back into the salacious case of Pamela Smart whose 1990 murder of her husband and three teenage killers convicted inspired massive pre-OJ media coverage as well as the Gus Van Zant film To Die For. Emulating the style and tone of Errol Morris' Thin Blue Line, Zagar crafts a masterful twisty story from the various narratives at play in this case. At core Zagar lasers in on the effect of the media on our collective opinions on the case as well as the jury which convicted her. Less partisan than Thin Blue Line and Paradise Lost, the triumph of Captivated is the open mystery surrounding all details of the case, and let down a tad by an excessive running times which unnecessarily hits the nail on the head. Captivated is a production of HBO Documentary Films will air later this year.

Sundance 2014 - Day One Wrap-Up

The Kristen Stewart starrer Camp X-Ray highlights a light load on this first day. Also included below are capsules for two other fine films Liar's Dice and The Overnighters.

Camp X-Ray (dir . Peter Sattler)

How can a naive female private Guantanamo Bay guard find common ground with a suspected Al Quaida terrorist? Hollywood can make that happen. Well maybe this isn't a Hollywood picture but Peter Sattler vision steers the film in a Hollywood direction without losing its indie cred.  Payman Maadi (A Separation) and Kristen Stewart square off admirably and make equal adversaries and partners. Sattler moves naturally from tension, humour, and genuine heartwarming fraternal emotion ultimately arriving at a controversy free prison film about the most controversial prison in the world. Sattler might just get slapped on the wrist for not taking enough of a stance on the injustices or immorality of detaining these prisoners, but he's able to make a prison film accessible and commercial which aids in any kind of cause. Handsome cinematography, intelligent and expertly crafted dialogue are juicey material for Maadi and Stewart. The fact is, a naive wide eyed but introspective soldier is the ideal role for Stewart's staid acting style. And Maadi riding two lauded Asghar Farhardi roles is a natural playing an intellectual but manipulative Muslim prisoner. Unique musical accompaniment and handsome cinematography create an impressive total package.

Monday, 13 January 2014


Some filmmakers take years to hone their style and aesthetic tastes. Others announce their vision right out of the gate. Such is the case with Thief, which instantly established Michael Mann’s unique, unmistakable viewpoint on the world and which features one of James Caan’s best roles as a professional thief who yearns to establish a legitimate domestic life with a wife and child, but who instinctively gets pulled back into the world of crime.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Public Enemies

Nobody plays cops and robbers better than Michael Mann, and in 2009 his then highly-anticipated Dillinger picture allowed the director to venture back to the golden era of sensationalized crime — the Depression Era of John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson et al. But after the disaster of Miami Vice, it was  a double-shot of disappointment. While Mann set the same unique tone of stone cold procedural action mixed with elegant melodramatic melancholy, it was the technical elements in the early days of HD that let him down.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

King Kong

Arguably the spectacle of all spectacle films, an enormous achievement of special effects, drama and romance. Merian C. Cooper's story of an ambitious filmmaker looking to capture on-location cinema reality in a remote lost world-type island whose crew encounters a giant vicious ape who has a soft spot for young blondes not only showed us a huge monster battling dinosaurs and climbing the skyscrapers of New York City, but an undeniably sincere romance of beast to woman, and the heartbreaking tragedy of human folly.