2013 films

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: GREED - FOR LACK OF A BETTER WORD - IS CRUDE (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET)

 

By Brian Lafferty

December 25, 2013 (San Diego) – Marin Scorsese’s few forays into comedy thus far have been The King of Comedy (1983) and After Hours (1985).  Both are delightful dark comedies.  The former starred Robert De Niro as a delusional fan and stalker of a TV talk show host (Jerry Lewis).  The latter was written by then-Columbia University student Joseph Minion for his thesis.  It was a simple, yet uncommonly clever, a word processor’s (Griffin Dunne) crazy night.

Neither film, however, is as pitch black as The Wolf of Wall Street, not only the funniest film of the year, but the best period.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: A SPOONFUL OF TREACLE (SAVING MR. BANKS)

 

By Brian Lafferty

December 20, 2013 (San Diego) – What in the world were screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith thinking as they wrote Saving Mr. Banks, a colossal misfire in tone?  And director John Lee Hanchock (The Blind Side), who thought the script was good enough to film?  The upbeat, sunshiny trailers constitute fraud as far as I’m concerned.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO NOWHERE (INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS)

 

By Brian Lafferty

December 20, 2013 (San Diego) – The year is 1961, and the setting is Greenwich Village in New York City.  Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is an aspiring folk singer – and a darn good one – just trying to earn a living.  As gifted as he is, it’s too bad nobody wants to hire him.  The film takes place during one week in which he finds his career – and himself – going nowhere at every turn.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: DUELING AVENGERS (OLDBOY)

 

November 27, 2013 (San Diego) – Justice is relative in Oldboy.  The latest film from director Spike Lee is complex in many areas.  Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) and Adrian Pryce (Sharlto Copley) would feel right at home in an Anthony Mann western; Joe is a good guy who is hard to root for while Adrian is a villain who is hard to root against.  Writer Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend, Thor), adapting from both the manga and the 2003 Park Chan-wook film starring Choi Min-sik (I Saw the Devil), puts together a maddeningly tantalizing script that protects its secrets to the last few minutes the same way Cerberus guards the gates of Hades.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: THE LYING GAME (THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE)

 

By Brian Lafferty

November 22, 2013 (San Diego) – A few months ago I watched for the first time the infamous episode of the 1950s quiz show Twenty-One in which contestant Charles Van Doren “defeated” Herb Stempel.  A few years later it was revealed that many of the prime time network quiz shows were rigged at the behest of the sponsors.  What millions of viewers thought was actual suspenseful game playing was really a series of scripted performances for the sake of “good television” and high ratings.  (If you watch that episode of Twenty-One, it’s so obvious Van Doren is acting, and doing a bad job of it.)

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: THUNDERSTRUCK (THOR: THE DARK WORLD)

 

By Brian Lafferty

November 8, 2013 (San Diego) – For all the gripes I hear about Hollywood’s glut of sequels – particularly about its apparent unwilling to try something new – there exists an upside that frequently gets lost in all the grousing: whereas the first film acts the set-up, the second can just get right down to business.  Such is the case with Thor: The Dark World.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: SOUTHERN INHOSPITALITY (12 YEARS A SLAVE)

 

By Brian Lafferty

November 1, 2013 (San Diego) -- If there are any contemporary filmmakers more daring than Steve McQueen, I'm hard pressed to name one.  His first film, Hunger (2008), starred Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican Army Volunteer who led a hunger strike in a British prison and died in 1981.  He followed it up with Shame (2011), which also starred Fassbender, this time as a yuppie with a grossly unhealthy sex addiction.  The MPAA gave it an NC-17 rating for its frank and explicit depiction of sexual acts, and rightfully so, but Fox Searchlight left it as is.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: AFTER COMMAND SCHOOL SPECIAL (ENDER'S GAME)

 

By Brian Lafferty

November 1, 2013 (San Diego) – Ender’s Game views warfare, military training, and combat from a unique perspective: a child’s.  The air is filled with an aura of childhood innocence.  The very real threat of humanity’s annihilation is hard for these young recruits to completely comprehend because they haven’t experienced life and the world as much as grown-ups have.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: DRUNKS VS. ROBOTS (THE WORLD'S END)

 

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 23, 2013 (San Diego) – Up until The World’s End, Edgar Wright had only three feature films to his directorial credit:  Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010).  However small his output, those films – Shaun of the Dead in particular – have spawned a huge cult following like few I’ve encountered in recent years.  To those outside this circle, he’s an acquired taste.  Shaun of the Dead, for example, was a dry take on the zombie apocalypse in fine British fashion.  It’s laugh out loud funny if you get the sophisticated humor.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: SERVE AND REFLECT (LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER)

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 15, 2013 (San Diego) – Like Forrest Gump, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) views American history from a distance, a bystander swept up in a relentless flurry of major historical events that came to dominate and define the latter 20th century.  Like Forrest Gump, Danny Strong's screenplay - based on the Washington Post article by Wil Haywood - mystifies the civil rights movement, the Kennedy assassination, and the Vietnam War.  As major political figures appear, and landmark events transpire or are referenced, the joy of discovery and realization kicks in at full stop.  And like Forrest Gump, it's full of "easter eggs" masterfully hidden that become uncovered with repeat viewings. 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: TECHNOBABBLE (JOBS)

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 16, 2013 (San Diego) – After Steve Jobs passed away in October 2011, Steve Breen - whose political cartoons are always as funny as they are spot-on - paid a more respectful and touching tribute to him.  It showed him, presumably having arrived in Heaven, being welcomed by Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: THE LEAGUE OF ORDINARY SUPERMEN (KICK-ASS 2)

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 16, 2013 (San Diego) – Scattered throughout Kick-Ass 2 are the same high-caliber flashes of genius of its predecessor.  Only thing is Kick-Ass had a rich, fully developed screenplay by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn from which to hang them.  Jeff Wadlow's screenplay is otherwise a messy concoction of underdeveloped subplots and gratuitous nasty violence.