Brit Marling Goes East

I’ve been fascinated with Brit Marling ever since I saw last year’s second-best picture, Sound of My Voice. Anyone who’s seen a movie in-theater in the last month or so has likely seen this compelling preview.  The East looks like it could be good, and a perfect follow-up to Sound of My Voice: both movies were directed by Zal Batmanglij and co-written by Batmanglij and Marling.  These two seem to have a their fingers on the pulse of the moment; Logan Hill of Indiewire writes:

Batmanglij has a particular talent for capturing that unmoored, twentysomething search for meaning, and the tight-knit allure of a group that offers a reason for living.

Get Yourself Sideways

Sideways posterSideways (2004) starts out poorly, with horrible background music interspersed among awkwardly developed scenes.  Soon enough those negative aspects dissolve away and we are left with a minor masterpiece; a thoroughly engaging, darkly humorous but also touching romantic story.  Think along the lines of an alternate-reality Woody Allen flick.  Or maybe Woody Allen crossed with a little of TV’s The Office and a dash of Louis C.K.

This movie received near-universal praise, and enjoys a 96% Tomatometer rating.  It also won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.  Roger Ebert offered his highest praise, stating:

Miles is the hero of Alexander Payne‘s “Sideways,” which is as lovable a movie as “Fargo,” although in a completely different way.

and:

…what happens during the next seven days adds up to the best human comedy of the year — comedy, because it is funny, and human, because it is surprisingly moving.

I learned today that a stage adaptation is coming to a local venue, the La Jolla Playhouse.  That’s appropriate since the main character’s home is a very average San Diego apartment.  I’ll update you if I see the play.

This is a great film.  It’s got some old-hat cheesy elements for sure, but that just adds to its charm.  9/10

Coming in August: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

This looks like it could be good; it’s getting a lot of advance praise.  First with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, then with Side Effects [prior post], and now with this trailer, I am liking Rooney Mara more and more.  And the trailer makes me think of another film I liked Casey Affleck in, The Killer Inside Me (2010, with Jessica Alba and recommended).

I like the poster, too, though I expect to see a more conventional version around its release time…

Bodies Saints-poster

Click below for trailer at Apple:

Bodies Saints - trailer img

Killer Inside Me Poster

Poison in his Veins

Living in L.A. in the mid-nineties, I was blessed to be able to see a good number of indies and foreign films that received little to no play outside tinseltown.  Reflecting back, I am surprised that such a high percentage of the films I saw were so good.  One little British film is a prime example: The Young Poisoner’s Handbook (1995).  Based on a true case, this is a delicious tale of smart young man who was one by one able to eliminate those who stood in his way.  With dark comic elements and expertly crafted high drama, I think of this movie as an English counterpart to Michael Caine’s A Shock To The System.

Young Poisoner's Handbook

Roger Ebert gave this film 3 1/2 of 4 stars:

“The Young Poisoner’s Handbook” is both funny and creepy, like an accident that is tragic and absurd at the same time (I am reminded of the famous Second City sketch in which mourners at a funeral discover that their friend drowned in a large can of pork and beans).

And Janet Maslin for the Times wrote:

“It seemed he’d finally reached the end of his tether,” Young observes at another point, about someone who hangs himself.

“The Young Poisoner’s Handbook” is sure to offend anyone who finds that an unreasonably cruel locution. Its assured style, malevolent wit and uncompromising intelligence should fascinate anyone else.

This movie is highly entertaining, and highly recommended.  Unfortunately, it is only available via DVD rental or purchase.

Ray Manzarek and The Doors

The Times has a nice piece on Ray Manzarek’s passing, which offers a good capsule history of his career and The Doors.

I have yet to do my ‘big post’ on the films of Oliver Stone, so for now I’ll offer my recommendation for The Doors (1991).  For years now I have praised it as “the definition of film.”  A great and beautiful movie on any level, but it does help if you have an appreciation of Morrison, the band and their music.  10/10The Doors still