Sean K. Cureton

Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

The Cinematic Majesty of Outer Space, Beautiful and Terrifying

In Movie Reviews: 2013 on October 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Theatrical Poster

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
3 out of 4 stars

Gravity is a science-fiction thriller from acclaimed Spanish director Alfonso Cuaron, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as an astronaut and a medical engineer stranded in outer space after an accident leaves their space shuttle damaged beyond immediate repair. Backed by a script which is filled with scientific factoids about the science behind space travel, Cuaron’s new film is an air tight thrill ride that is reminiscent of such sci-fi epics as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ridley Scott’s Alien, blending the cinematic majesty of Kubrick’s film with the tension and excitement of Scott’s. Using earth’s orbit as his canvas, Cuaron’s film is breathtakingly beautiful and a technological masterpiece, using state of the art 3D technology to add depth to the protagonists’ plight. Seen in IMAX, the film becomes even more impressive, replicating the experience of being in outer space better than any other sci-fi picture to date. Bottom line, Gravity is one of the best films of the year, and more than deservedly so.

Over the course of the film, the viewer is allowed to follow the experience of medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) from an almost entirely first-person point of view, which is really quiet something to behold from a visual standpoint. Time and time again, Cuaron’s camera follows the point of view of Stone as she hurtles through space, often tumbling a full 360 degrees again and again. While such a choice in cinematic point of view might feel like a gimmick in another director’s hands, Cuaron uses this visual effect with subtlety and an intricate understanding of visual aestheticism. In being able to view much of the film’s more action packed sequences from Stone’s point of view, Cuaron rattles the viewer’s sense of direction, causing them to become as disoriented as his protagonist. While the film might feel like an amusement park ride at times, Cuaron’s presence is nevertheless a palpable element of the film’s fabric, keeping even the most intense shots of space tumbling tethered to the larger cinematic experience.

Beyond the breathtaking cinematography and dizzying first person action sequences, Cuaron’s film is also dramatically affecting, allowing the viewer to become involved with its characters on a personal level, without falling prey to melodramatic characterization or stereotypical archetypes. While only a very little is revealed about Stone as an individual, the film sheds light on just enough of her back story as a grieving single mother to allow her character to develop a connection with the film’s viewers over the course of the film, making the film’s climactic conclusion all the more satisfying. Instead of focusing on the main plot of finding a way back to earth from earth’s orbit, Cuaron allows for multiple scenes where Sandra Bullock is able to find the character that she is portraying beyond the conventions of the thriller genre. In allowing these scenes to occur, Cuaron’s film feels more dramatic than many other Hollywood thrillers, as the protagonists become every bit as important as the action depicted. In this way, Cuaron’s film is much more interesting than the average action thriller, as its purpose becomes much broader than simply stimulating the viewer’s more instinctual reactions towards action centered theatrics.

Alfonso Cuaron’s new film might just be the most cinematically impressive film of the entire year. While working within an already established film genre, Cuaron’s Gravity explores new possibilities in film narrative, using IMAX 3D technology as a means to further cinematic expression. Where other more commercialized Hollywood films employ IMAX 3D as a gimmick, used strategically to generate a larger profit, Gravity uses the same technology to new and greater ends, at times creating sequences that are so minutely orchestrated that the use of the technology is forgotten entirely, allowing the film to be seen outside of the spectacle that is IMAX 3D. Gravity gives new meaning to the term thriller as film genre, invigorating the often laborious and top-heavy cinematic tradition with artistic integrity and thrilling vibrancy. Gravity is a marvel to behold, and might just go down as Alfonso Cuaron’s masterwork.


Review of the Week: Movie 43 (2013)

In Movies on VOD: Recommendation of the Week on October 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Theatrical Poster

Movie 43 (2013)
Produced by Peter Farrelly
Netflix Rating: Didn’t Like It

Based on the sketch comedy pastiche format of such infamous late night comedies as John Landis’ 1977 picture Kentucky Fried Movie, the Peter Farrelly produced Movie 43 is a film with a storied history of false starts, casting difficulties, and a lack of an attached movie studio willing to distribute the film based on its lurid script. Now that the film has finally been released, the movie going public can easily see why so many interested parties in Hollywood wouldn’t deign to touch the film with a ten-foot pole. Movie 43 is admittedly tasteless, but that’s not what makes it so offensively awful and bad. More precisely and to the point, Farrelly’s new film is pointlessly vulgar, offering neither sophomoric humor nor a pointed and clearly articulated narrative arc to follow. Instead, Movie 43 assaults your senses from the very start, making itself known emphatically and obtrusively, while never managing to go anywhere worthwhile, vaguely interesting, or funny. Movie 43 is one of those genuinely bad films that will be sure to capture an audience that, rather than being genuinely interested in the film, are simply astounded that such a film exists and is as bad as critics have claimed.

Sporting a list of sixteen different directors, and a cast of lead actors that includes such Academy darlings as Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, and Richard Gere, it’s hard to understand just how the film was made in the first place. For instance, how exactly did someone coerce the likes of Hugh Jackman into wearing a set of life-like testicles on his neck for the duration of a sketch that must have been tailored for the presumed amusement of 11-year-old boys? Or was that Brett Ratner’s (one of the sixteen associated directors) idea of a good time? Either way, be it the fault of the directors themselves, or the liberal use of low-brow comedic material suited to please only small children and immature adult males between the ages of 18 and 30, Movie 43 is a gross-out sketch comedy film in the very worst sense of the term. But then again, what can one expect from a sketch comedy film produced by one of the two Farrelly brothers, a comedy writing team most well known for their own special brand of potty humor?

Then again, isn’t such an outraged, vitriolic response to its vulgarity exactly the sort of reaction that such a film as Movie 43 is specifically tailored to elicit from its audience? There certainly isn’t a dearth of critics lamenting its lack of taste, so why then is such a resoundingly negative response to the film still warranted, nay, even anticipated and welcomed in excess? Movie 43 is bad without a doubt, but simply critiquing its poor taste for the sake of critique seems to be a shallow and useless exercise, puffing up the critic’s sense of self-worth and taste without truly conversing with the film itself. Farrelly’s film isn’t supposed to be taken seriously, mocking critics’ expectations of good cinema while following a specific tradition of late night comedies whose respective perversities and demented theatrics were the soul purpose and point. Popular critical opinion might be negative, and its easy to bash the film’s poor taste, but Movie 43 still stands in all its offensive, God-awful glory, amusing the more lurid fantasies that we all pretend not to have.

For all intents and purposes, Peter Farrelly’s Movie 43 is already a success. Despite its reputation among critics, it’s a film that now warrants at least one reluctant viewing from anyone intrigued by its cultural status as one-of-the-worst-movies-ever-made. More likely than not, Movie 43 may outlive some of the more critically acclaimed films of the year based on the place it will take among such dirty cinematic gems as Troll 2 and Plan 9 From Outer Space. While its cast has shown a more than willing desire to attempt to downplay their involvement with the project, with Richard Gere attempting to actually remove himself from the film entirely, the infamy the film has garnered since its release will ensure their involvement with the film into perpetuity, even if most of the actors involved declined to do any press coverage for the film’s release. Movie 43 is like an embarrassing video put on YouTube by your friends: no matter how much you try to forget or deny its having happened, everyone can watch it and see that it did. Again and again.

Movie 43 is available on Netflix Instant View, and is my Movies on Netflix: Review of the Week.