Weekly Mini Reviews: “Carrie,” “Enough Said,” “Gravity” & More

I’m now going to try to write a few sentences on every film I watch during the week. I know for a fact it’s not going to be possible each week, but I’ll try, even if all I do is copy and paste my tweets.

October 6-12, 2013

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Carrie | Brian DePalma | 1976 | ★★★

I’m not too educated on Brian DePalma’s work, but I’ve seen enough of it to be familiar with his very stylish approach to just about every subject. As I recently saw with Passion, he is able to elevate bad material and make it into some thing worthwhile. In Passion’s case, two memorable hours of fun sleaze. With Carrie, his style turns the third act into one of the most intense things I’ve ever seen in any horror film as his use of flooding red lights, split screens, slow motion, and isolated sounds help highlight the terror she unleashes on her classmates and makes you feel as if you are there. However, in the first two acts, his works overwhelms the material rather than make it tense. But overall, it’s a fine film that is worth watching for that third act and for Piper Laurie’s glorious scenery chewing. This Halloween season, you could do much worse than watching this.

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Computer Chess | Andrew Bujalski | 2013 | ★★★

Computer Chess is a Christopher Guest-ish look at the small but competitive world of computer programming in the 1980s. The script is filled with memorable characters and the kind of humor that makes you smile constantly rather than laugh. It can be very tedious at times, but because of the characters and the adequate performances that bring them to life as well as the inventive 1980s video aesthetic, it has enough charm to overcome the tediousness.

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Enough Said | Nicole Holofcener | 2013 | ★★★½

Enough Said is the type of movie that’s so small and doesn’t try to break any new ground but still manages to sneak up on you and rock your world. At first it may seem like it is First World Problems: The Movie, but it’s told with such warmth and honesty by Nicole Holofcener that you can’t help but get caught up in this world she has created. It’s all perfectly anchored by two of the best performances of the year, from Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini. It’s just lovely and everyone should give it a chance.

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Epic | Chris Wedge | 2013 | ★★½

Epic opens with a fantastic flying battle sequence set in a gorgeous-looking CG forest. Then the characters had to go and open their mouths and the formulaic plot about finding yourself and keeping the balance in nature kicked in. At least Christoph Waltz put some effort into his work. I guess it’s worth watching if you want to see some great animation, besides that, it’s not worth it.

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Gravity | Alfonso Cuarón | 2013 | ★★★★

Everything you’ve heard about Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is true and since this has all been stated by much much much better writers than me I won’t dwell too much on it.

It is indeed a fantastic achievement of visual effects and virtual cinematography. Sandra Bullock does indeed give her best dramatic performance and gives the films a much-needed dose of humanity. And best of all, it’s an amazing thrill ride. It’s one of those rare few that actually make you hold on to your arm rests and brace for impact. In terms of narrative it is far from perfect, but it doesn’t really matter with all that’s going on visually. And as many have said, it is indeed one of the best films of the year.

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The Guilt Trip | Anne Fletcher | 2013 | ★★★½

I initially skipped this film based on the fact that the critics disliked it and I thought it was going to be yet another film about a nagging Jewish mom. While this is essentially true, it does something rather unique: it’s doesn’t base it’s comedy around awkward humor. While most movies of this kind thrive on the mothers embarrassing their children with terrible anecdotes of their youth this movie doesn’t have much of that, and the little it does have seem justified. Because of this there’s plenty of time left to explore mother-son dynamics, and it does so in a touching and lightly funny manner. In the end my eyes were tearing up. Perhaps it just caught me on an off day, but it worked for me.

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Hocus Pocus | Kenny Ortega | 1993 | ★★★

Upon it’s initial release Hocus Pocus was a flop. However, over time it has developed a cult, and it is now one of the most beloved live action films from Disney. This is due to great sales on video as well as yearly showings on the Disney Channel. It was during one of these television showings over ten years ago that I first saw it and fell in love with it because it was the funniest things I had ever seen. Since then I had been craving a rewatch and this year I finally caved in and bought the Blu-ray.

I tried to watch it with a nostalgic filter and that worked to an extent because I had as much fun with it as that first time many years go, with the image of Kathy Najimy flying on a vacuum cleaner getting a huge laugh out of me. But at the same time I could not help but focus on the rather poor filmmaking. Now, I can forgive the generally cheap look of the film because it’s part of its charm along with the over-the-top performances from Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and the aforementioned Najimy. But there is one that thing that can’t be forgiven: the dreadful editing. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but the editing makes the comedic timing seem off as some scenes are too long and the jokes land with a thud or too short that the audience doesn’t have enough time to process the jokes. But like I said, it’s still charming and if Hocus Pocus holds any nostalgic value for you, you’ll likely enjoy it whenever you watch it.

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Iron Man 3 | Shane Black | 2013 | ★★★

I guess this is the best of the Marvel films so far, but at this point they all look the same to me. They are just a bunch of unimaginative action sequence strung together by the lamest of plots (seriously, all three Iron Man films have the same basic plot). You may wonder why I’m not very fond of this one but love Man of Steel. Well, as overwhelming as they are, the action sequences look wonderful and are imaginative and the human element of it is wonderful. Iron Man 3 has neither of those things.

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World War Z | Marc Forster | 2013 | ★

I don’t have much to say about this one. It’s too long, boring, pointless, stupid, and worst of all, it has almost no art to it. Pretty much everything about it, from the performances to the makeup and visual effects are as vanilla as they come. The only positive thing I can say about it is that the airplane sequence is okay. Marc Forster just needs to go away.

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2 thoughts on “Weekly Mini Reviews: “Carrie,” “Enough Said,” “Gravity” & More

  1. Are all these out of 4 stars?

    “Epic” surprised me because I was going in with NO expectations whatsoever. I don’t think it’s a good film, but I liked it better than films such as “The Croods”.

    “Iron Man 3” was…ok, better than the 2nd one.

    “Computer Chess” seems interesting.

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