VIDEO: 24hrs at SXSW

SXSW is over, but Brooklyn resident Jake Roper put together this nice video for those of us who couldn’t make it to the yearly Austin event. Watch it below and experience all the pedicab-taking, carousel-riding, maximum occupancy-violating fun that you may (or may not) have missed this month.

24hrs at SXSW from Jake Roper on Vimeo.

MOVIE REVIEW: Win Win

As a family drama whose most inspiring character is an outsider and a sports comedy where the most significant wins and losses occur outside the gymnasium, Tom McCarthy’s newest is a small treasure that tweaks the conventions of familiar stories just enough to make something that is entirely his own. Win Win is a funny, warmhearted movie filled with the ordinary, though richly drawn characters that have become McCarthy’s trademark.

Paul Giamatti is Mike, and he’s in a rut. His New Jersey law practice isn’t doing well, he’s hiding his bad financial situation from his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan), the wrestling team he coaches hasn’t won a match all season, and constant stress is wearing down his body. When the opportunity arises for him to assume guardianship for one of his clients, a wealthy old man in the early stages of dementia named Leo, he jumps at the opportunity that will net him $1500 a month. Though assuring the court that he will allow Leo to stay in his own house, Mike instead moves him to an assisted living facility, collecting the monthly checks without having to keep much of an eye on the confused old man who just wants to go home.

As the checks start coming in and bills can finally be paid, Mike’s life shows signs of improvement. That’s precisely the moment 16-year-old Kyle, the son of Leo’s estranged daughter, shows up in town. Kyle’s mother is in an Ohio rehab center and, instead of staying with her scummy boyfriend, he decides to catch a bus to New Jersey to stay with the grandfather he’s never met. Though Mike initially tries to treat the situation as a day-long interference, Kyle (in a nearly perfect debut performance by Alex Shaffer) is quickly discovered to be in need or more than a mere night away from home. And much to the delight of Mike and his two best friends/assistant coaches (Jeffrey Tambor and Bobby Cannavale), Kyle is a champion wrestler, but with his talent comes family issues that may disrupt Mike’s guardianship.

Win Win moves at just the right pace while balancing the stories of Mike’s home, work, and coaching lives – each becoming increasingly complicated and intertwined once Kyle arrives. His presence is a necessary disruption in everyone’s life, and the cast is uniformly excellent at conveying the humor and heartbreak in all of their new wins and losses. These are characters who, though not always making the right decisions, are so intricately developed and performed that we can’t help but root for them when they’re down.

McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) has now made three movies about adults who are down on their luck, only to find themselves settling back into a quiet happiness after the introduction and reluctantly formed friendship of a surprise visitor. His movies have a way of ending without stopping, fading to black in the middle of perfectly realized moments between people who will continue living, breathing, losing, and winning long after we’ve finished rooting for them.

CONTEST: Win tickets to Xavier Dolan’s new film – HEARTBEATS

Xavier Dolan’s wonderful new film, Heartbeats, chronicles a French Canadian hipster love triangle and FREEwilliamsburg has a pair of opening week tickets to give away. To enter, submit your most bizarre love triangle stories by email ([email protected]), or in super-condensed twitter form (@freedubya) by midnight this Friday. The winner (loser?) will receive two tickets in addition to having their story published at the top of Friday’s Heartbeats review.

Check out the trailer after the break.

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FILM REVIEW: The Housemaid

The screenplay for The Housemaid, a new thriller from South Korea, must have had audience reactions written in the margins. Because the narrative should be familiar to all of us, we react not because we don’t expect the film’s more violent and erotic moments, but because cues are being given to us. While watching the shirtless and well-toned husband leave his pregnant wife in their bed and creep downstairs to find his young new housemaid reading topless, our eyes don’t widen out of free will – we’re simply doing what we’re told.

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FILM REVIEW: Tiny Furniture

To put it simply, Tiny Furniture is a film about post-college malaise. After graduation and a break-up, 22-year-old Aura (writer/director Lena Dunham) comes home to New York intending to move in with her best friend who has yet to arrive from their Ohio college. In the meantime, she returns to her mother’s apartment/art studio in Tribeca with an irritatingly successful 17-year-old sister (who has re-purposed Aura’s old bedroom into a “special space”), her quietly loving artist-mom, a few old friends, and two guys who may or may not be boyfriend material. We’ve seen this story countless times, but rarely has it been this stark and honest.

Using a stationary camera, Dunham captures snapshots of of these situations and characters with a confident eye and dry sense of humor. We see her fight with her sister, sulk with her mother, barely stay conscious at a new day-hostess job, and awkwardly attempt to woo a couple of guys. Desperate for anything, she lays everything out on the table. Though it lacks any memorable narrative hook and is populated with characters whom we can relate to more in theory than in reality, it’s that emotional frankness that makes Aura’s story one worth watching. Though not much changes for Aura during the film, Tiny Furniture grabs you strongly enough that after it ends, you hope something will.

Dunham has made a quiet, honest film that understands well the desperation, loneliness, and uncertainty of that time before total independence and after your old bedroom has been re-purposed, so simply calling it a film about post-college malaise may seem reductive. But what Dunham also understands is that sometimes, perhaps most of the time, you just want to call it “post-college malaise,” tell everyone to shut up, and figure out how the hell you’re going to move on.

3/5

FILM REVIEW: Morning Glory

In the frustrating yet delightful new comedy, Morning Glory, the most important relationships are underdeveloped, romantic relationships aren’t developed at all, intelligence is treated as an irritating quirk, every storyline is wrapped up in a dialogue-free montage during the movie’s final moments, and Rachel McAdams is absolutely charming. She’s Becky Fuller, a clumsy, perky go-getter who’s just landed a job as Executive Producer for the lowest-rated and most ridiculed morning show on national television, “Daybreak.” The show can’t even manage the fluff, let alone any significant news, and has just hired a new co-anchor (Harrison Ford) for the perpetually unsatisfied and cynical Colleen (Diane Keaton). Rachel McAdams has 102 minutes to improve the show’s reputation, her own love life, and the attitude of her idol, Mike Pomeroy, Harrison Ford’s attempt at an alcoholic, loathsome Dan Rather. Don’t worry, I won’t let you know whether or not she succeeds. [Read more…]

FILM REVIEW, For Colored Girls

LOOK AT THIS CAST. JUST LOOK AT IT.

“We should be immune if we’re still alive. How are we still alive?”

For Colored Girls brings together some of the most talented actresses in Hollywood in an unprecedented ensemble drama about “being alive and being a woman.” To see Loretta Devine, Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, Kerry Washington, and Phylicia Rashad on screen together is a major event, regardless of the circumstances. It tells the story of a group of women, each struggling with their own personal drama stemming from the psychological and societal effects of being a “colored girl,” who are all living in or connected to a Harlem apartment building. The majority of For Colored Girls is either painfully dull or brutally over-the-top, but just admit it – the presence of these women is the reason you’ll be buying your ticket.

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Happy Hausuween

It’s been selling out midnight screenings for a few years now, but Criterion has finally released the previously hard-to-find-but-beyond-worth-it-once-you-finally-find-it Japanese horror classic, Hausu (House), on DVD and Blu-ray just in time for a nice Halloween cash-in. There’s really no better experimental horror-comedy (with cats) out there, so it’s definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. And even if you’ve seen it, cherish the opportunity to watch this again: