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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

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An old-fashioned tale of life, love, and loss set to the sunny and shadowy panoramic vistas of lovely Texas. This Terrence Malick flick…what’s that? It’s not a Terrence Malick film? But, I swear the imagery and structure are just like…okay, okay…but what about…okay! Never mind I believe you…why?…I just checked IMDB. Now, regardless of who directed it, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” although overly traditional, even conventional to a fault is a remarkable reinvigoration of a classic, timeless story with universal motivations and rewards. It might be a little too lackadaisical for some and paced like a leisurely stroll. Yet, whatever it lacks in pure thrills, it more than makes up for with stunning visuals, attractive characters, and mesmerizing dialogue. It’s acted with a ton of heart and has plenty of staying-power to offer. While it wasn’t directed by the master of art-house Terrence Malick, it has all his signature trademarks and signals a promising career for director David Lowery.

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How far would you be willing to go for a loved one? How much would you sacrifice for them? If any of these inquires and their periphery topics caught your attention, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” just might be for you. And if you know me, which you probably don’t, you’d know that the romance genre just happens to be my guilty pleasure. What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic. Plus, you know, I am an aspiring writer, which pretty much means loving love is a necessary trait…but I digress. Now, if you’re thinking that these questions of love and devotion have been asked and explored so many times over that they’ve practically lost all meaning and don’t apply to you, this flick will definitely change your perspective. One might be able to resist the intoxication of romance on other, lesser, weakly enthusiastic occasions. But when the performances are this convincing and the setting so beautiful, it makes even the heartless get weak in the knees.

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Director David Lowry’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” really is quite something. An original, heartfelt take on the outlaw romance. Baring some similarities with a few of the best in this sub-genre’s canon like “Bonnie and Clyde” and Terrence Malick’s “Badlands,” which just happens to be one of my all time favourite films. Lowry’s unflinching, authentic look at a couple’s long, arduous road to reuniting is nothing short of hypnotizing and easy on the eyes, do in large part to his youthful, inventive style and endless talent. But make no mistake, it isn’t always a breeze to watch.

While not overly violent, minus a few exchanges of gunfire. The premise, the film’s characters and their collaborative progression through it to the finale is infuriating and disheartening, making “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” difficult to stomach at times. In all honesty though, the complex emotions brought on by “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is astounding and very intriguing. And when it comes down to it, a small price to pay for such a thoroughly beautiful experience. Not to mention the original soundtrack, composed by Daniel Hart, which adds another transcendent layer to the delectable cinematic feast that is “Ain’t Them Bodies a Saints.”

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What’s even more captivating is the invested, towering performances of the film’s three stars, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Rooney Mara. If the staggering emotional depth and striking imagery doesn’t lure you in, this trio of underused and underrated talent is sure to do the trick. Mara and Affleck portray the couple who flee from the law until their introverted, romantic lifestyle is abruptly torn. Both do a phenomenal job exuding the love in their hearts and the pain it inevitably brings. Separately however, they are ruthless, strong independent sociopaths. As for Foster, who continues to stun in every role he chooses, gives another unprecedented portrayal. What’s quite perplexing and sort of ironic about the film is that Foster’s character is the most unprejudiced and passionate. Regardless though, the trio’s efforts here must be witnessed.

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The performances and imagery more than make up for any faults one can find with the story. Add in some strong direction and “Ain’t Them a Bodies Saints” is a modern day “Bonnie and Clyde.”

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: 8 out of 10.

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Top 10 Films of 2012

We might be a bit late to this particular list’s party, but better now than never. This was a difficult list to compile, lots of great pictures to chose from. But myself (monster1711) and my bud (cinema2033) think we’ve created a diverse and respectable list. If you feel that we overlooked a certain film or have any suggestions for future top 10’s, please comment below. Without further anticipation, let’s get started.

10. Looper. Easily the best science fiction film of the year. Featuring terrific performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, Looper is a brain scrambler that will leave you stunned.

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9. The Cabin in the Woods. Speaking of brain scramblers. The Cabin in the Woods is definitely the most bizarre film of the year. Mixing the hilarious and terrifying elements of horror and poking fun at them, it is sure to be a cult favourite.

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8. Skyfall. Quite possibly the best Bond film to ever grace the big screen. Skyfall is witty, charming, and one hell of a ride. With towering performances from Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem, Skyfall is not to be missed.

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7. Seven Psychopaths. Another entry into Martin McDonagh’s violent comedies. Seven Psychopaths is full of violence, hilarity, and outstanding performances from Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken.

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6. Argo. Winner of the 2012 Oscar for best picture, need we say more? Directed and starring Ben Affleck, Argo is history come alive.

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5. Silver Linings Playbook. Thought by many to be the best picture of 2012. Silver Linings Playbook is another solid outing from David O. Russell and features a return to form for Robert De Niro. Not to mention the emergence of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as real acting heavyweights.

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4. On The Road. Possibly the most controversial film on the list, On The Road left audiences divided. Based on Jack Kerouac’s generation defining novel. On The Road features entrancing performances from Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, and especially the lovely Kristen Stewart.

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3. Django Unchained. The second chapter in Tarantino’s yet to be finished history trilogy. Django Unchained landed Christoph Waltz another supporting actor Oscar. Also starring Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, and a deliciously evil performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained is violently hilarious.

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2. Zero Dark Thirty. Best picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty is brought to you by the creators of The Hurt Locker. There really isn’t anything else that needs to be said. Incredibly tense, monumental performances, and impeccably scripted. Zero Dark Thirty is an unstoppable force.

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1. The Dark Knight Rises. The conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy, directed by the brilliant Christopher Nolan. With Tom Hardy as Bane, The Dark Knight Rises has the best villain performance of the year. Including an unmatchable cast and an epic finale no one saw coming, The Dark Knight Rises might be the greatest comic book adapted film in the history of cinema.

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Honourable Mentions. Lincoln, Sightseers, Prometheus, The Avengers, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, End of Watch.

Argo (2012)

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Following up Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Ben Affleck’s Argo was released with seemingly insurmountable expectations. But the dark, satirical humour, unbearable tension, and outstanding performances by its entire cast is what separated Argo from a pack of dramatized history films in 2012. Argo further cements Ben Affleck as a force both on and off camera. A political thriller that had some tough competition in 2012, all heavily based on historic significance. However, despite this disadvantage, Argo was able to walk away with top honours at the Oscars. Featuring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and a slew of supporting stars, Argo is sound from top to bottom. The retro look and immersive story make Argo glow and full of intensity.

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The American embassy in Iran was invaded and lost to Iranian revolutionaries in 1979. Numerous Americans were taken hostage. However, during the carnage and chaos, six managed to escape. The six Americans took refuge at the Canadian Ambassador’s house and stayed, waiting for the CIA to work out a way to bring them home. Tony Mendez (Affleck) with the help of Lester (Arkin) and John (Goodman), devised a plan to extract the six using a fake movie as a cover. The six Americans were to be various crew members and producers from Canada on a location scout. With the revolutionaries slowly beginning to realize Americans missing and the White House getting cold feet, time begins to run out.

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Depending more on the source material than making it appeasing. Argo is rewarded for staying true to the past, investing in the audiences tolerance, and choosing intelligence over appearance. In the lead role, Ben Affleck’s work ethic and exterior are impenetrable, exactly what they should be. You’d want someone calm and composed holding your life in their hands. Affleck is immovable and should have earned an Oscar nomination for his performance. Cranston and Goodman are equally as impressive in their supporting roles, but are an afterthought to Arkin’s Oscar nominated performance. With its strong cast and durable, yet entrancing script. Argo is proof that quality over quantity is the best policy, deservedly winning best picture.

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Argo: 9 out of 10.

To the Wonder (2012)

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It just wouldn’t be a Terrence Malick premiere without a divided audience, one half cheering ecstatically while the other group claps a bit less enthused. At the Toronto International Film Festival this past year, To the Wonder was perceived by some of its viewers to be choppy and disengaging while others found it vibrant, full of artistry, and undeniably heartfelt. I was in attendance and was in the latter category. To the Wonder is a respectable follow up to The Tree of Life proving that Malick’s sudden splurge into rapid filmmaking hasn’t hampered his abilities. Starring Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Olga Kurylenko, and Javier Bardem, To the Wonder has plenty of talent to showcase both on and off screen. As with most Malick films, the sparse dialogue and his infatuation with letting the visuals do the talking might discourage even the most avid filmgoer.

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Upon visiting Mont Saint-Michel, Marina (Kurylenko) and Neil (Affleck) return to Oklahoma where Marina has trouble adapting to her new lifestyle. Marina confides in Father Quintana (Bardem) who is struggling with his religion and faith in humanity. While Neil and Marina continue to distance from one another, Jane (McAdams), a childhood friend of Neil’s enters the picture. As Neil and Jane become closer, Marina fades out of Neil’s life and he is left trying to recoup their relationship.

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A bit more structured than Malick’s past endeavours, the intertwining tales in To the Wonder much like The Tree of Life criss cross the limitations of faith, family, and fate. The themes and scenarios might be too diagnostic and preachy for some, but To the Wonder knows its message and subtly displays it in beauty and strength. After viewing To the Wonder at its TIFF premiere, I was taken back by Olga Kurylenko’s performance. She is weightless as she drifts in and out of her characters own importance as it clashes with her daughters, trying to live her life while still doing right by her child. Ben Affleck, Kurylenko’s other half is primal and compassionately segmented between love and reality. McAdams and Bardem, while scarcely used are scene stealers whenever they do hit the screen. Malick doesn’t miss a beat in directing To the Wonder even though it is the fastest consecutive film he has ever completed. To the Wonder is transcendent, illuminating, and bold, a must see for fans of Malick and cast.

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To the Wonder: 8.5 out of 10.