A romance broken down to its basic elements, rebuilt with the utmost conviction, and then given a much more forward-thinking ending than you might expect: this is Once, a modern musical set in Dublin where intimacy is expressed through devotion and attention, not through shed clothes. Two people become acquainted, spend time with one another, work hard to create something greater than what either could have done alone, and respect and appreciate one another no matter where their lives happen to lead. And sometimes that’s all a movie needs to be an utter success.
If you love foreign animated films like Studio Ghibli’s fare, Persepolis will be right up your alley. An adaptation of co-writer/director Marjane Satrapi’s biography, this hilarious, heartbreaking, and wonderful film tells the story of the young ‘Marji’ as she grows up during Iran’s Islamic Revolution and its aftermath.
On tonight’s very special edition of Projected Realities, we salute the passing of Leonard Nimoy, an entertainment icon whose many roles spanned the likes of Dragnet, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, and of course Gene Roddenberry’s magnum opus.
Director J.J. Abrams’ take on Star Trek is a relentlessly exciting and accessible work that despite a few inside jokes requires no advance knowledge of the series or its ten earlier movies to enjoy. The simple story is given the finest presentation and its own continuity, thoroughly invigorating this long-standing franchise and making for a wonderfully engrossing watch.
Six simple letters with devastating implications, “loopers” are time-traveling assassins who come from a future where such abilities and technology have been outlawed. The film that shares their name features the talents of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt, and while all of the performances are very strong, the film’s production values are rather hit-or-miss, and the story feels like a waste of its intriguing if unsettling ideas.
Happy Valentine’s Day! (?)
Brokeback Mountain is a story of two sheepherders, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, who develop a relationship that endures through decades, marriages, work issues, children, and other “obstacles.” Overflowing with cinematic wonders as well as glaring narrative issues, the movie feels divided against itself and is ultimately more underwhelming than any amount of controversy set against it would really warrant.
Someone you dearly love has a tremendous burden they can’t bring themselves to tell anyone about. Do you know how to help?
Take Shelter narrates a man’s terrifying visions of a forthcoming storm while showing how his well-meaning but irresponsible “preparations” threaten to tear apart his life and his loving family. It is a difficult movie to watch, but it is every bit as necessary and valuable as it is disturbing.
It’s probably been a decade since I last watched director Hayao Miyazaki’s classic, but the film’s at-long-last release on Blu-ray is more than enough excuse to revisit this grand story. Set in a Japan taking its first violent, polluted, and uncertain steps toward industry, Princess Mononoke is a complex and ambitious story of humans, beasts, and nature that avoids easy answers and straightforward moral dichotomies, making it an important milestone in animation history.
Phil Connors is a jaded, sarcastic weather “personality” who finds joy in nothing. He doesn’t delight in his work, or his coworkers, or especially in the idea of heading up to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania just to cover a yearly ritual he thinks is ridiculous. How can a groundhog tell the weather? Groundhog Day, however, isn’t about the rodent, or the weather, or really about Phil the human. If you had a chance to live as long as you could possibly want, and for much longer, what would you do to put purpose into your days?
(Happy new year! I had to get around to writing this eventually. I had planned to open 2015 with this film right away, but since I wound up being busy, I decided to dedicate this review to a friend who loved the movie and to post my own thoughts as close to his anniversary as possible. Enjoy!)
Frozen is foremost a love story, but not so much of the romantic sort; the truer and more skillfully written centerpiece is the sisterly relationship that lead characters Elsa and Anna share. While the former primarily sets the plot’s events into motion, the movie largely emphasizes the latter’s selfless attempts to provide physical and emotional support for her sibling, regardless of what happens to be in the way (which sometimes includes Anna’s own behavior). Regardless of Frozen’s few issues with structure and focus, it is a compelling and fun story from start to finish that is well worth checking out no matter the season.
What better way to end the year than with an ‘end-of-the-world’ film?
The single biggest question I think worth asking about director Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is whether the viewer is willing to appraise the movie in terms of the story it wants to tell, or if its rather wayward treatment of the Biblical inspiration invalidates the whole production out of hand. It’s worked well before. One of the first stories recorded in the ancient text is also one of its most bittersweet, where man and beast alike are wiped from the earth because of the extreme evil filling it, as shown in Genesis 6. The Lord God in his grace is willing to give a few last souls and the animals another chance, but first come the rains …