Author: Matthew

As Above, So Below (2014)

An allegorical thrill ride that manages to subvert many of the clichés and pratfalls of the found footage genre, As Above, So Below will probably remind a lot of people of The Descent or, well, The Cave, but it’s a smarter movie than both of those — especially The Cave — and it probably generates a greater sense of sustained suspense, too. This is a tense movie, even when not a whole lot is happening. The setup is thus: Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is a brilliant — two PhDs and one Master’s degree, along with a black belt attest to this — alchemy scholar who is continuing on her late father’s work by trying to find the fabled philosophers’ stone. After a clue is discovered in Iran, during which time she’s almost buried alive, she heads to France along with a documentary filmmaker named Benji (Edwin Hodge), because that’s where it’s believed the stone is hidden. The only problem? It’s some 300+ feet below the surface of the Earth. But we’re in Paris, and the Catacombs are here. Enlisting the help of a former friend, George (Ben Feldman), and a trio of local explorers (François Civil, Marion Lambert, and Ali Marhyar), we’re going to find that stone if it kills us! And kill us it tries. Almost immediately, the Catacombs start playing tricks on our leads. A tunnel collapses, another...

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The Drop (2014)

If you’ve heard of The Drop and plan to see it, it’s probably for one of two people. The first is James Gandolfini, who makes his final film appearance in this film. He plays the boss of a bar that becomes the center of money drops, and gets to do a typical crime drama role. The second is Dennis Lehane, the man who wrote Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island — the novels, anyway. This is the first time he’s adapted his own work for a film. If these two draws aren’t enough, you’ve likely not heard of The Drop, and probably won’t seek it out unless you’re a big fan of crime dramas. Thankfully, it’s good enough that I’d recommend it anyway. The lead is Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy), a bartender working under Cousin Marv (Gandolfini). The bar is robbed, $5,000 is lost, and some mobsters want the money back. Oh, and there’s going to be a bigger drop of money — they pick random bars each time to keep the police off their track, bars at which large amounts of money from various gangster sectors are collected for the big boss — right on SuperBowl Sunday. The bar is right in the middle of some pretty big criminal activity. Meanwhile, Bob rescues an abused dog and with the help of a reclusive woman, Nadia (Noomi...

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Kite (2014)

In 1998, a controversial and often-censored anime called Kite was released. I don’t think it’s ever seen a fully uncensored release in America, and it’s really only known by those who seek out the most controversial of media. It has a cult following — Quentin Tarantino was inspired by it for parts of Kill Bill, for example — but most people won’t have heard of it and won’t be inclined to seek it out after seeing this live-action adaptation. From doing some basic reading about the anime — because, no, I’m not going to watch it — the adaptation changes a few things, keeps some basic visual moments intact, and … is nowhere even close to as controversial, mostly by omitting most of the scenes that you would only see in the uncensored version. That’s probably for the best. Some things don’t need to filmed, and judging from what I’ve read about the anime, it contains some of those things. I don’t mean to sound prudish, but … yeah, go read about the anime and if you’re someone who says “We need to see this in the film,” then please don’t tell me. Although I suppose that might give us a reason to care about Kite, which is something we don’t have much of right now. The film takes place in the near future, after a financial collapse, during...

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Frank (2014)

Frank is an unsettling little movie. It’s a little depressing, very quirky, and nothing ever feels quite right about it. As soon as its titular — but not leading — character shows up, you know something’s off. It takes a while to figure out exactly what, and when you do you’re not going to feel happy afterward. With that said, Frank is a very good movie, and if it sounds like something that will interest you, it’s worth checking out. Our lead is Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a wannabe musician who, after being in the right place at the right time is offered a chance to join an indie band, Soronprfbs, on-stage for a live performances. After the performance, he’s offered a full-time gig, as the member of the band he’s replacing kind of went off the deep end. Almost literally, in fact; he tried to drown himself in the ocean. The band heads to the country to record an album, and this is where the majority of the film takes place. Oh, and I should mention that the band’s leader and lead singer, Frank (Michael Fassbender), wears a Frank Sidebottom-esque papier-mâché head at all times. You can tell as soon as Frank shows up that the film is a little bit weird. The band’s sound is anything but conventional, each of the other actors in the band — Scoot...

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Palo Alto (2014)

In 2010 James Franco published a book of short stories titled Palo Alto. The stories were tangentially linked and contained teenagers in Palo Alto, California doing bad things and having a tough family life — often leading to those aforementioned bad things. Now, the book has been adapted into a feature film by Gia Coppola, making her feature-length directorial debut. And guess what? James Franco is in the movie, here playing a soccer coach who pines for one of his players. In high school. Ick. Franco isn’t our lead, though. He’s a major player in one of the stories, but, really, he’s just another person. In the story in which he’s involved, the lead is April (Emma Roberts), the soccer player he, well, I’ve already said. April is a decent enough person, not doing a whole lot wrong and just kind of finding herself in a less-than-ideal situation. She’s perhaps the least interesting of our main characters. The next story focuses on Teddy (Jack Kilmer), who has to learn that his best friend, Fred (Nat Wolff), might be more trouble than he’s worth. Fred kind of functions in his own story, during which he takes advantage of another girl, Emily (Zoe Levin), and does other unpleasant-to-watch things. You don’t sit and watch a movie like this one hoping to have a good time. The moral depravity has set in...

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