I know I wasn’t the only cinephile disappointed that the Philadelphia Film Festival didn’t make IndieWire’s inaugural list of the 50 leading film festivals back in 2010. They haven’t released a new installment of the list since then, so you’d have to imagine that the PFF – under the stalwart leadership of executive director J. Andrew Greenblatt and artistic director Michael Lerman, who took the reigns back in 2008 – would most definitely make the cut now. Especially with the wealth of films they’ve amassed for this year’s edition, which begins this Thursday and runs through October 27th, and promises some 90-plus features for our viewing consumption. Forthwith, one critic’s picks for some of the most anticipated, must-see entries over the next 10 days, in alphabetical order.
It has been a disastrous summer for movies. Compared to last year, box office was down over 17 percent. (Much of this has been attributed to woefully under-performing clunkers The Lone Ranger, White House Down and After Earth.) But even of those films that did make money, few were actually any good. Instead, you had to go to a small theater to see most of the quality movies, like: The Way, Way Back, Fruitvale Station, Frances Ha, Before Midnight and Much Ado About Nothing. So here are my picks for the best and worst of 2013 … so far.
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The Conjuring — opening today — is based on the “true” story of two families: the Perrons who are being terrorized by the evil spirits in their new country house, and the Warrens, paranormal experts that the Perrons turned to for help. With great acting (especially Vera Farmiga as the clairvoyant Lorraine Warren), homages to class horror movies, and old-fashioned, door-slamming scares, Conjuring is one of the most enjoyable horror movies to be released in a long time. [My grade: B+]
Perhaps the tepid, if not vicious, reviews have not yet swayed you from seeing The Lone Ranger this weekend. Perhaps your sincere, stalkerish love of Johnny Depp makes you think that anything he is in is worth seeing. Perhaps you think that since it’s directed by Gore Verbinski (who helmed Rango and The Pirates of the Caribbean), this too will be fun and enjoyable. Well, you would be mistaken. The Lone Ranger is a bloated, random, weird, violent mess of a movie that would be best viewed as a rental (if at all). Here’s why:
For the most part, I am excited to see new movies (save for those in the Twilight series or anything starring Julia Stiles). But the movie that I have anticipated the most this year is Star Trek into Darkness. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a household where my dad and I watched The Next Generation every Monday night. (The best was when Captain Picard and the Enterprise had to fight the Borg or deal with Q. The holodeck episodes? Not so much.) Or perhaps it was due to J. J. Abrams’ killer 2009 reboot that was perfectly cast and perfectly fun. Either way, I’m pleased to say that Darkness lived up to my anticipation.
As I was reading through old reviews and writings of Roger Ebert last week, I stumbled across an interview he did for the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television. In it he talks about the importance of film criticism and his infamous disagreements with fellow critic and co-host of At the Movies, Gene Siskel. “As mad I was about him not liking Apocalypse Now, he couldn’t believe I could find fault with Full Metal Jacket by Kubrick.”
One of America’s most beloved and respected film critics, Roger Ebert, has died. Since losing part of his lower jaw to cancer in 2006–rendering him unable to eat and speak–Ebert launched a web-fueled final chapter to his career, in which the writings of the longtime television and newspaper critic came into view for a new generation of fans. A long, moving obituary has been published in the Chicago Sun-Times, where he wrote a regular column for nearly half a century. Two days ago, Ebert wrote a goodbye blog post, announcing a temporary leave, due to his failing health. His final words were: “I’ll see you at the movies.” [Sun-Times]
This year’s best actor Oscar category is going to be one to watch. Not so much for who will win (which, in my opinion, will be Daniel Day-Lewis for his breathtaking Lincoln), but who will grab the other four slots. In theaters now are extraordinary performances from previous winners/nominees Denzel Washington (Flight), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and John Hawkes (The Sessions). Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock) and Matt Damon (Promised Land) are getting a lot of buzz. Richard Gere could get his first acting nomination (surprising, right?) for his perfect work in Arbitrage. Same for Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables). But after seeing David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, (“Philly’s Own”) Bradley Cooper deserves a nomination. Read more »
Every once in a while, there comes a movie that transcends its genre, like The Lord of the Rings and The Dark Knight. So it’s not an overestimation to say that the newest James Bond film Skyfall is one of the best of the series—and certainly the best of Daniel Craig’s three. Much of this is due to the reverence director Sam Mendes and the writers show for the original films and its extraordinary cast. But mostly it’s because it has Dame Judi Dench in a gunfight. Yes, you read that right: Judi Dench, gunfight. Read more »
For fans of the Bourne series, this must seem implausible: That, exiting the theater, at least three people were overheard talking about how they had fallen asleep during The Bourne Legacy. After all, the original trilogy—Bourne Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum—were high-adrenaline films. With breakneck chases and a high caliber cast, they weren’t simple action flicks. And though Legacy shares some DNA with the other films—writer Tony Gilroy (who also directs Legacy), a great cast, intense sequences, the word “Bourne” in the title—that is where the similarities end. The Bourne Legacy has (few) moments of excitement that are connected by stretches of utter dullness. Read more »