jess kroll

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Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

Posted by jesskroll on November 18, 2012 at 3:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, 2011

3.5 / 5


It’s impossible to watch Being Elmo without remembering the false accusations against Kevin Clash and the true admission which resulted. Of course, none of that is addressed here, and it’s not necessary, yet the documentary feels superficial. We learn of Clash’s journey to stardom, how he turned a childhood passion into deserved success, but we still don’t know the person behind the profession. Clash’s story is an inspiring one, from idolizing Jim Henson, to working with him, to singing for his memorial (a truly moving scene), yet he is barely defined beyond his work. Clash the puppeteer is highlighted, Clash the man is not. But maybe that’s how he is. While inspiring in his journey, there is sadness in its completion. The job he loves keeps him from the daughter he also loves. For all his success, he’s still merely the man working the puppet. The puppet gets the attention, the man is forgotten.


150 Reviews

Looper

Posted by jesskroll on November 16, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Looper, 2012

4.5 / 5


Early in Looper a character watches his own extremities disappear. The scene is intense, shocking, among the most horrifying in recent cinema, and undeniably amazing. Looper has a sense of innovation and inventiveness that makes every new revelation pure enjoyment. It’s rare that an American filmmaker would be so assured or brave but Rian Johnson’s true achievement here, as ugly, brutal and vicious as it is, is twisting the heroes so drastically that, for once, the two sides of the same coin face each other. Granted the film goes a little action crazy and plot holes appear, as they do in any time travel story, but there is so much to love that these slight miscues are acceptable. Although predictable, the movie isn’t about the future so much as the path which takes us there. And that path, like those of Moon and Children of Men, is what all 21st century sci-fi should follow.


150 Reviews

 

Skyfall

Posted by jesskroll on November 10, 2012 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Skyfall, 2012

4 / 5


Since their reboot in Casino Royale, the Bond movies have added some much need toughness. This time there’s a bit of heart as well. Daniel Craig is typically stone-faced, but Judy Dench finally receives screen time befitting her. Similarly, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a great Bond villain and Javier Bardem is it: dangerous, intelligent, driven, believable, in some ways admirable, and with two very memorable scenes including a long introductory shot displaying a cinematic artistry not commonly found in the franchise. That’s where Sam Mendes deserves credit. While Skyfall would never be American Beauty or Jarhead, this is likely the best looking Bond film ever, from the chiaroscuro-like silhouetted action of Shanghai to the incredible finale, Mendes works light and composition to the fullest. Although, as with many Bonds, the globe-trotting middle portion drags, Skyfall is all the expected fun of the best Bonds, with a surprising amount of depth.

 


150 Reviews

Magic Mike

Posted by jesskroll on October 19, 2012 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Magic Mike, 2012

2 / 5


I am secure enough as a heterosexual male to watch Soderbergh’s male stripper movie, open-minded enough to try to appreciate it as art and honest enough to say, as with subject, I am perhaps not in the film’s target audience. The focus is on Channing Tatum, who proves again that he’s unlikely to take first place in a Channing Tatum impersonation contest, leaving the rest of the cast to pick up the considerable heft which remains. While there are a handful of lively exchanges, and a few token stabs at the state of the American dream, aligning Magic Mike with Soderbergh’s other economics of flesh film The Girlfriend Experience, the characters lack any pull and the story inevitably spirals into a series of wild life clichés so dull that even Soderbergh’s gift for composition and artful lens flares can’t make it any more than tedious. But then perhaps I am not the target audience.


150 Reviews

 

Prometheus

Posted by jesskroll on October 6, 2012 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Prometheus, 2012

3.5 / 5


The difference between (most) literary science fiction and (most) cinematic sci-fi is the depth of ideas portrayed in the material, as well as the use of specific visuals and not the audience’s imagination. Prometheus begins with a standard but solid literary SF premise, scientists searching for the origin of life, but ends in a typically sci-fi fashion. Between these are some of the most stunning visuals yet in scifi. Computer generated imagery has finally allowed movie effects to mimic the realism and detail of the human imagination, save for Guy Pearce’s horrible old man makeup. Unfortunately once the opening and thematic question is abandoned the film becomes, essentially, (spoiler) a retread of Alien. Certain setpieces are tremendous, the surgery is unrealistic but intense and innovative, but too much of the plot is intentionally held back for the obvious sequel. While the visuals may approximate the depth of human imagination, the ideas remain millennia behind.


150 Reviews

 

Cabin in the Woods

Posted by jesskroll on October 1, 2012 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Cabin in the Wood, 2011

3 / 5


Caution, may contain spoilers. There are two potential ways to view Cabin in the Woods, and two ways in which it may have been constructed, as entertainment or as criticism. Cabin in the Woods attempts to make the most of both and, unfortunately, is less for it. The concept of the film, established in the opening scene, makes the first half feel pointless as characters stereotyped by other characters play out a pattern called predictable by those same characters. While this is clever as criticism it’s not entertaining. Meanwhile knowing that such characters exist as criticism, which is the only interesting element of the first half, makes the second half, which is more interesting, less entertaining by ruining the reveal. Instead of becoming a clever, unexpected twist on the horror genre, Cabin begins with a clever twist and then follows a predictable pattern. Granted, a pattern of its own choosing, but a pattern nonetheless.


150 Reviews

 

Visioneers

Posted by jesskroll on September 2, 2012 at 5:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Visioneers, 2008

4 / 5


Visioneers establishes its bizarre world from the first scene: single-finger salutes, minute-by-minute workweek countdowns, and a co-worker who plays Russian roulette to keep from exploding. This is fortunate as dispensing the silliness as quickly as possible allows the rest of its quirks to be seen dark satire and not pure ridiculousness. Of the two central conceits – that a monolithic corporation has become so powerful it’s taken over the government, and that a plague of human explosions has petrified the populous – one feels startlingly relevant (especially considering recent American court decisions and one party’s obsession with privatization) while the other appears farfetched. Yet once examined, both are equally pertinent. Within this Brazil-like crushing bureaucracy is George Washington’s direct descendant, whom Galifianakis  plays with the deadpan earnestness, highlighted by hilarious yet emotive breakdowns. It’s a shame he’ll always be more famous as the chubby doofus from Hangover. Visioneers is odd, yet oddly relevant and thoroughly enjoyable.


150 Reviews

 

Robocop

Posted by jesskroll on August 30, 2012 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Robocop, 1987

4 / 5


A lot has changed since Robocop’s debut in 1987, what was once an extreme level of gore, to the point of morbid humor, is actually pretty tame. Similarly, its effects and action pacing are badly dated. Nonetheless, the inclusion of social satire, in the form of bizarre commercials for nuclear board games, comments on gentrification and capitalism and the still-prescient idea of corporations privatizing city police (which is presently happening with some fire departments, to the detriment of the area), allow Robocop to remain a compelling piece of speculative science fiction instead of an outdated action movie. The action and story are quite slow in comparison to modern standards, but there is still a certain sick humor and Robo’s gradual re-transformation into Murphy makes for great, emotive viewing. Like its namesake, Robocop has a sleek and tough exterior, masking a deeper, more humane core. While its surface has weakened what’s inside remains solid.


150 Reviews

 

The Raid: Redemption

Posted by jesskroll on July 30, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

The Raid: Redemption, 2011

2.5 / 5


In an action movie, the quiet moments are just as important as the loud ones. The Raid: Redemption often excels during its visceral, lightning-quick action sequences, but seldom pauses long enough to let the adrenaline slow or, on the rare occasion it does, include the heart needed to fuel its bloody surface. As a result the entire experience becomes numbing after around fifteen fight scenes. For pure, guilty-pleasure action the film definitely delivers, stocking all the brutality American films of its genre are too cowardly to include, yet the length and proximity of these scene makes them blur  into one, long, messy, bare knuckle rumble. Characters barely have names beyond “Old guy,” Lieutenant” and “Rookie cop with pregnant wife” destroying any suspense or sympathy with the various, screaming meat sacks that roam the halls. But hey, at least the fight scenes are cool, because there sure are a hell of a lot of them.


150 Reviews

Black Dynamite

Posted by jesskroll on July 28, 2012 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Black Dynamite, 2009

4 / 5


It takes a lot of skill to disguise careful planning as flaw. Although not flawless, Black Dynamite is a rare film that is obviously precise but appears completely slapdash. Black Dynamite makes its parody clear, even to inexperienced blaxploitation viewers, and hilarious. Michael Jai White is perfect, delivering solid fight scenes, subtle stabs at stray boom mics and nunchucks, and cool, righteous readings of even the most absurd lines, making each of these moments laugh-out-loud funny.  From the saturated film stock, to the costumes, sets, dialogue, music (which is awesome), stock footage and period details, Black Dynamite looks more like a found film than any grainy black-and-white horror movie; as though it was buried in some studio backlot in 1972. The survey of blaxploitation clichés is so deep that right when tedium sets in, the scene shifts to a new location, while the ending is crazily over-the-top, in the best way. Dy-na-mite! Dy-na-mite!


150 Reviews