ArbitrageArbitrage stars Richard Gere as Robert Miller, a Madoff-esque investor on the precipice of financial ruin. Time is running out for the investment mogul before his family, or the press, uncover his secrets. His daughter, Brooke, played by Brit Marling, who is also his Chief Financial Officer, is unaware of his illegal activity even though his actions could land her in jail. He desperately wants to bury his dirty dealings and fix his problems before his family falls apart. But, his life is about to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.



Robot and FrankIn his prime, Frank lived his life as a conman, a cat burglar, a man who had a high-flying life and paid the price with two stints in jail.  During that time, he fell in love and had two children. Now, Frank (played by Frank Langella) is a crotchety old man, set in his ways, who suffers from dementia and lives alone in a modest home. His son Hunter (James Marsden) makes the five-hour drive back and forth each week to visit him, while daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) completes a humanitarian mission halfway across the world.  When his son visits, Frank often forgets tasks and cannot remember details from his past, and the burden becomes too great for Hunter to handle alone. In this realistic near-future story, Hunter does not have to place his father in a home. Instead, he buys him a robot, and the unexpected buddy film of 2012 is born.

 

Bachelorette-2012Leslye Headland wrote and directed Bachelorette, a film adaptation of a play that she also penned. The play of the same name is one part of a series based on the seven deadly sins, with Bachelorette assigned Gluttony. The film unapologetically dives into its characters’ vices: meanness, drug abuse, casual sex, and self-loathing, to name a few. Bachelorette, however, manages to entertain and indulge its audience while presenting characters in crisis. This dark comedy is razor sharp both in wit and pain; although, Headland’s desensitized characters may not feel the full sting of their words or actions, by the end, the audience sure does.

 

Sundance2012I managed to see 13 screenings during my trip to Sundance this year. Here’s how my list ended up:

Hello I Must Be Going
Wish You Were Here
Simon Killer
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Shorts Program 1
Robot and Frank
Arbitrage
Lay the Favorite
Save the Date (with screening of the short film Bear)
Safety Not Guaranteed
Bachelorette
Filly Brown
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Some films failed to make much of an impression; however, a few managed to really stand out. The festival still has a week left, but a couple buzzworthy films have already taken center stage. I can’t wait to write full reviews!

Here is a little bit about two buzzworthy films that I saw but did not have on my original list:

Sundance2012Sundance 2012 is just around the corner, and I am gearing up for my third trip to Park City, Utah. While visiting Park City each year, I have run into friends and colleagues. Some of these Sundance attendees work for the festival, some volunteer for the festival, and some support the festival. No matter what the reason, if you have a chance to attend the Sundance Film Festival, it is a great opportunity to observe passionate and thoughtful entertainment professionals debut their work. It truly is an unforgettable experience.

In this special holiday blog, Fanboy Comics Contributor Ellen Tremiti shares her Top 10 Perfect (Offbeat) Holiday Movies.

 

10.) Reindeer Games: A guilty-pleasure holiday movie. Need I say more? There’s a bit of a convoluted plot mixed into this sensual thriller, but, honestly, who cares? Bundle up under the covers and check out the acting talents of Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron this holiday season.

9.) Die Hard 2: Christmas Eve + an airport + a blizzard + terrorists who have taken control of said airport’s communication system X Bruce Willis = an action-packed holiday film with lots of thrills and holiday spirit! Don’t forget the fight scenes on a moving airplane wing and, of course, an explosive, fiery finish to cap off this second enjoyable installment in the Die Hard series.

The Dish and the Spoon played at AFI Fest 2011. It is a wonderfully indie film with characteristics similar to the “Mumblecore” movement. Mumblecore is an indie film genre that came about at the turn of the century. Its defining characteristics include low production value, character-driven stories, unconventional plots, middle class/twenty-something characters, naturalism in performances, and improvisation. All of these attributes are found in The Dish and the Spoon, and its star, Greta Gerwig, is no stranger to the genre. Although written and directed by Alison Bagnall, both Gerwig and English co-star Olly Alexander have “additional material” credits, thanks to the improvisational nature of the film.

For the second year, I was fortunate to attend a world premiere gala at AFI. Last year I saw Black Swan, and this year I saw J. Edgar, a film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2009 (Milk). J. Edgar boasts a huge cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, and Armie Hammer (The Social Network). The film follows the life of J. Edgar Hoover, the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hoover sought a war against gangsters, he influenced the implementation of forensics in criminal cases, his achievements in forensics affected the Lindbergh trial-of-the-century, and his warped views on Communism affected a generation. Also, he very well may have lived his entire life as a closeted gay man. A life this controversial and important to American history begs to be told on the big screen; yet, this is precisely why it is so very disappointing and surprising just how amateur, monotonous, and sluggish this film turned out to be.  

I was first introduced to The Hammer, previously titled Hamill, at AFI Fest 2010, where the film took the Audience Award. I met some of the crew and cast at an AFI reception honoring their win, and I was instantly struck by the passion the filmmakers and actors had for this film. The Hammer is a family-friendly, based-on-a-true-story, underdog-sports-story, and it opened last Thursday in limited theatrical release.

Coming-of-age films have a tendency to skirt clichés and follow predictable character and plot arcs; however, if done right, a bildungsroman can still feel new, and it can evoke empathy from its audience. Unfortunately, The Art of Getting By (previously titled Homework) does none of these things. The select redeeming scenes and character performances are vastly overshadowed by the underwhelming plot. Sadly, the story gets caught up in cliché after cliché which builds to a predictable and unsatisfying outcome.  

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