Tag Archives: Paul Dano

[Review] – Looper

11 Oct

Title: Looper
Year: 2012
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Garret Dillahunt, Pierce Gagnon
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content
Runtime: 118 min
IMDb Rating: 8.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metacritic: 84

These are the signs that the end of the year is here. During the first nine months of 2012 I had seen six films worthy of an A+ out of the 187 movies I had watched; now that October is here and the really good movies are being released to vie for some Oscar attention I’ve seen two in just three days. That’s because Looper is just mind-blowingly good and really proves that Rian Johnson is the kind of infinitely talented and original American filmmaker that will always do things his way. It also confirms that, after The Dark Knight Rises (another A+) and Premium Rush (a surprising B+), Joseph Gordon-Levitt has really made it now, and he even has a role in Lincoln next month to back that all up.

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[Review] – For Ellen

28 Sep

Title: For Ellen
Year: 2012
Director: So Yong Kim
Writer: So Yong Kim
Starring: Paul Dano, Jena Malone, Margarita Levieva, Jon Heder, Dakota Johnson, Shaylena Mandigo
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 94 min
IMDb Rating: 5.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Metacritic: 55

Paul Dano is a very talented actor, someone who I really feel should be a bigger name by now and someone I feel will most certainly be regarded as one of the best actors of his generation once it’s all said and done. It actually took me a while to get used to that idea, mostly because I still associated him with Klitz, the character he played in the teen comedy The Girl Next Door, but the performances he’s delivered in the year since, in films like Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood, Meek’s Cutoff and this year’s great Ruby Sparks have all been something special. Not to mention that they’ve come in great films from talented filmmakers, so he knows who to pair up with and great people want to pair up with him.

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[Review] – Ruby Sparks

18 Aug

Title: Ruby Sparks
Year: 2012
Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Writer: Zoe Kazan
Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould, Chris Messina, Alia Shawkat, Deborah Ann Woll
MPAA Rating: R, language including some sexual references, and for some drug use
Runtime: 104 min
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Metacritic: 66

Man, was I excited to get to watch Ruby Sparks. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are the husband and wife directing team that made their names in the industry directing music videos for the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Smashing Pumpkins, something that eventually got them to make their first feature back in 2006. That film ended up being the sublime Little Miss Sunshine, which won a couple of Oscars and became that year’s indie darling, and a film that I personally truly love.

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[Trailer] – Looper

12 Apr

Finally, after giving us short teasers for the trailer, we’ve not gotten the first proper trailer for Rian Johnson‘s Looper, one of my most eagerly anticipated films of 2012. And you can watch it after the cut.

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[Review] – Being Flynn

25 Mar

Title: Being Flynn
Year: 2012
Director: Paul Weitz
Writer: Paul Weitz, based on the book by Nick Flynn
Starring: Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, Julianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby, Lili Taylor, Dale Dickey, Victor Rasuk
MPAA Rating: R, language throughout, some sexual content, drug use, and brief nudity
Runtime: 102 min
IMDb Rating: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
Metacritic: 53

Paul Weitz has directed such films like In Good Company and About A Boy (the latter with his brother Chris), both of those are seriously splendid little films that I happen to adore; Paul Weitz, however, has also directed Little Fockers, and that film I gave a measly C- to. Robert De Niro has given some of the most iconic performances in the history of film with his roles in movies such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II; Robert De Niro, however, hasn’t delivered one of those great performances in far too long, and he also was in Little Fockers. Though their partnership in the third installment of that particular franchise was pretty bad, this time around they’ve delivered Being Flynn, a film that, while far from perfect, does deliver on some of its promises. The film even has a shot of Robert De Niro driving a New York City Yellow Cab, and that alone kind of gets your hopes up.

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Cowboys & Aliens

28 Aug

Title: Cowboys & Aliens
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Jon Favreau
Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, based on a screen story by Mr. Fergus, Mr. Ostby and Steve Oedekerk, based on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg
Starring: 
Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown, Keith Carradine, Noah Ringer, Adam Beach, Abigail Spencer, Ana de la Reguera, Walton Goggins
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference
Runtime: 
118 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 
45%

You can go right ahead and write down Cowboys & Aliens as one of the biggest disappointments of the 2011 movie year. To be perfectly honest it wasn’t a bad film, I liked parts of it a fair bit, but the truth is that I was majorly excited for this film, I thought it would be one of the funnest two hours spent in the theater, and I had been thinking that for a while now, so to finally get to see it and get this was a huge let down. I mean, look at it on paper and it’s just a geek dream-team made in heaven. You have a self-explanatory title that promises to marry the western and sci-fi genres in one insanely nifty adventure. You have Jon Favreau, he who directed the first two Iron Man films, calling the shots. You have a script by the two guys who wrote the latest Star Trek, the guy who spearheaded Lost, and another two-guy team that were the ones that did the screenplay for the first, and best, Iron Man film and the Oscar-nominated one of the masterpiece that was Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. And then you have all of that on-screen talent as well: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Walton Goggins… this seemed too good to be true, and ultimately, it was.

Seriously, I was ridiculously excited about this film, the whole concept, the whole team assembled to make it, that awesome first trailer. And then we get this, a truly uneven film that while certainly not all bad, certainly didn’t live up to its potential. I don’t really know what it was, maybe it was the fact that even though all five screenwriters are pretty genius, they were still five different people collaborating on a single project (and regular readers may be aware of how much I dislike films with that many writers), maybe it was the fact that Mr. Favreau, no matter how wicked cool he is, apparently wasn’t ready to really handle the tonality changes that were such a big part of this movie and was brought down by his own ambition. I don’t know, really, all I know is that Cowboys & Aliens wasn’t the geek dream I was looking forward to watching multiple times on the theater and then getting my hands on the blu-ray the minute it was released.

The whole thing just lacked the incredible pacing that would be really necessary to accomplish a successful mesh of these two disparate genres, because the way it was done, Cowboys & Aliens was just a mash-up of two genres, but not a very smart one, because for all of its ambitions of envelope-pushing concepts, it was still too tied down to the formula of today’s blockbusters, which in turned meant that it could really give us not much of a cool western and not much of a cool sci-fi, either. And again, I’m pained to say that this really falls mostly on Mr. Favreau, I mean, sure, the script probably could have been better considering the talent assembled to pen it, but as a director it was his job to really achieve a neat balance of these two genres, and for the vast majority of this film it seemed as though he was just a fanboy interested in filming some guys with pistols on horses next to a CGI-created spaceship and having things blow up. And, don’t get me wrong, that’s all good and fun, but it’s really not much else, and it’s only good and fun for a limited amount of time.

The acting I thought pretty awesome, though, and it’s what made me like Cowboys & Aliens to whatever level I ultimately did. I mean, Mr. Craig and Mr. Ford were pretty much meant to play their roles, even though they don’t bring much other than their natural predisposition to play them to the film, and the supporting cast features Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, Paul Dano and Walton Goggins, who are all outstanding actors who always rock supporting roles and that, if you get to think about it, are the sort of actors who would actually be incredible in actual westerns if anyone actually still made those films today. And, to be honest, as much a sci-fi geek as I may be, and as much as I loved the idea of marrying these two when I first heard of it, I now fully believe that Cowboys & Aliens would have been a much better film without the alien part of the title, and instead as a straight-up western with all of the same players involved.

I won’t really get into the plot at all, if you’ve seen the trailers you actually get all you need to know from them no matter how mysterious they’re made out to play as. If you see this film you may have your fair bit of fun, it warrants it to be honest, but you’ll also feel as though you should have gotten something better, and not just an exercise by Mr. Favreau with a humongous budget in taking his time to get to a predictable cowboys vs. aliens climax, that once it arrives will be pretty well-made and loud, but will offer essentially no thrills. Maybe I would have like this film a bit better had I seen it on a different day, but today was also the day I saw the outstanding Attack the Block, which was a tremendously well-done alien movie with a low budget but that succeeded in all the places this one failed because it knew how to execute its formula. Perhaps if this one would have been smart enough to just stick to the western bits, it would have fared the same way, instead it’s just a so-so movie when it should have been a pretty awesome one.

Grade: B-

Meek’s Cutoff

12 Jun

Title: Meek’s Cutoff
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Kelly Reichardt
Writer: Jonathan Raymond
Starring: 
Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson, Neal Huff, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Tommy Nelson, Will Patton
MPAA Rating: 
PG, mild violent content, brief language and smoking
Runtime: 
104 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
85%

I’m a big big fan of director Kelly Reichardt. Her debut film, River of Glass, is pretty excellent. 2006’s Old Joy, starring musician Will Oldham, is absolutely incredible and I have it ranked as my 28th favorite film of that year. And then there’s 2008’s Wendy and Lucy, which saw her working with Michelle Williams and which I have ranked as my 24th favorite film of that year, that film is pretty spectacular on so many levels. So yeah, when you are a director that has a style that’s so personal and minimalistic, one that resonates a lot with my tastes, and you see her track record being as impeccable as Ms. Reichardt’s is, then you can sure as hell be impressed.

And then there’s the matter of Michelle Williams. If I had to name my five favorite living actresses, I wouldn’t hesitate to put her name in the conversation, next to Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Diane Keaton. I seriously love her, and every performance she gives I find to be pretty much perfect. Hell, even her breakout turn as Jen Lindley on TV’s Dawson’s Creek was seriously well acted, and her film work since, in films like The Station Agent, Brokeback Mountain, Wendy and Lucy, Synecdoche, New York and, especially, last year’s sublime Blue Valentine, has been a thing of beauty, a really thrilling journey to witness from film to film, the maturation of an actress, a woman who’s barely over thirty and yet I still have no doubt in my mind to proclaim her as one of the greatest, I just love her.

So, you see, if I liked Ms. Reichardt’s previous collaboration with Ms. Williams, you can be sure as hell about me being insanely excited for this one. And they didn’t disappoint, Meek’s Cutoff is another stellar addition to Ms. Reichardt’s body of work, and yet another spectacular performance from Ms. Williams, who you can tell is bound to get an Oscar sooner rather than later, she’s just delivering like crazy every single role she gets. I guess you could call this film a neo-western, and it’s a very unique take on that genre, because it’s probably the most slowly-paced western I’ve seen, focussing a lot on the day-to-day workings of just traveling from one place to another by foot, with wagons and oxen next to you for weeks at a time. And I think it’s tremendous how Ms. Reichardt never gives us a really huge event to take away from that monotony, instead just allowing us to immerse ourselves into this lonely and arduous journey.

Bruce Greenwood is the actor in charge of playing the title character, Stephen Meek, and the cutoff referred to in the title is this other route Meek was taking a group of settlers through instead of going through the main trail where Indian attacks were rumored to be happening. This is actually all based on a true story, but the film isn’t about a historical event, it’s just about what went on through the minds of these few people going on such a hugely demanding journey following a man who was extremely hard-headed in his views and opinions, even when it turned out he was totally wrong and had no idea of what he was doing.

And it’s all very hard-hatting stuff that these settlers have to go through after it becomes clearer and clearer that Meek didn’t really know this new path as well as he thought he did, and you really get the sense of just how hard an odyssey it might have been, fearing to run out of water, having to leave things behind just so that your burden might lessen, and this isn’t all done to create some sort of huge scene of desperation, but to allow Ms. Reichardt to do what she does best, to create her very minimalistic outlook at the psyches of her characters, not to show the desperation itself, but to show what the desperation does, it’s just seriously well done.

A member of this group of settlers is Emily Tetherow, the character played by the incomparable Ms. Williams. And she’s just pitch perfect for this role, and it’s terrific that Ms. Reichardt has her to work with here, because another thing that really sets Meek’s Cutoff from other westerns is that it focuses a lot on the women in this group of settlers, and Ms. Williams is front and center, delivering a performance that’s will most likely end up in my Top 5 given by a female lead actress this year, one of incredible restraint, saying so much just with her eyes that it’s stunning to watch. And it’s Emily who confronts Meek, who blames him for not admitting he didn’t knew where he was going, and the scenes between the two are really something to behold.

There is an indian watching them, you see, and we are to assume that he’s doing just that to guide an indian attack to their location. And even the portrayal of the indian is unlike what you see in your regular westerns, he’s not that fierce warrior dressed in a particular way, he’s an observing man, a mysterious figure throughout. And the settlers eventually catch him, and there’s a discussion about whether they should just kill him so that he can’t kill them while they sleep, which is what Meek proposes, or to try and get him to tell them which way to go to get water, which is what Emily proposes. And it’s all sensationally well told, with a huge sense of slow-burning tension through the story, with a slow paced designed to really show us the grim realities of the time.

This is just truly a spectacular film, shot in a screen ratio we haven’t seen for decades, but that was the one used in most of the great western classics, which only adds to its faithful look. Yes, the pacing may be slow, but the film is all the more perfect for that, because that way we really get to feel how long and hard their journey was, and it’s just such an impressively immersive film that you have to give all the props in the world to Ms. Reichardt, who gives a masterclass in how to handle this material, and to Ms. Williams, who between this one and the upcoming Take This Waltz and My Week with Marilyn is bound to have another terrific year, and we’re all very lucky because of that.

Grade: A-