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Punch-Drunk Love is an awkward romantic comedy

10 Apr


Paul Thomas Anderson has established himself as one of the most innovative directors of his generation. His film is a departure from his previous projects because it focuses on one character as opposed to an ensemble cast. Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) is a socially awkward character with anger management issues. His loneliness leads him to call a phone sex agency for comfort, but all this will change when a woman named Lena (Emily Watson) enters his life and helps him to open up to the world. The chemistry between Sandler and Watson is wonderful, with Sandler finally shedding his comedic roots for a more serious role. The phone sex storyline is difficult at times to accept, but I can forgive this diversion to appreciate an experimental romantic comedy. Anderson direction is unique and his use of silences in Punch-Drunk Love reinforces the socially awkwardness of his lead character and his film.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B

Hunger feasts on a powerful story

4 Mar


Writer/Director Steve McQueen’s film is about the 1981 Irish hunger strike at the H.M. Prison Maze. It is divided into three parts, the first involving the daily routines of a prison guard, who is emotionally damaged by his job. The second involves two prisoners who participate in the IRA prisoners’ no wash protest. Finally, the third part involves the hunger strike, led by Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender).

McQueen doesn’t shy away from the brutal conditions endured by Sands and his fellow inmates, and also shows the emotion felt by those involved with minimal dialogue. In this case, silence is not neutral. Fassbender is mesmerizing as Sands, his transformation in the film is raw and brave. There is a twenty minute scene featuring Sands and a priest. It is one of the most impressive pieces of filmmaking I have seen because of its seamless performance. Hunger feasts on a powerful story that leave audiences satisfied with the dramatization of these real-life events.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The Red Balloon

30 Jan


Recently, I read an article that provided a list of films a young person should watch by the time they are 14-years old.  Le Ballon Rouge meaning The Red Balloon was one of them. I missed the article’s prescribed deadline, but I did finally get around to watching the short film. On his way to school, Pascal, finds a red balloon and takes it with him. Soon afterward, the balloon begins to have a mind of its own, and follows Pascal around Paris. The film brought me back to being a kid again. At least for the film’s 35 minute duration. The Red Balloon reminds audiences the adventures a child experiences and the meaning of friendship. The dialogue is sparse, but the simple device of a balloon and special effect help tell a magical story of imagination.  In 1956, it won the Palme d’Or for short film and an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A

Down by Law is a rare film that belongs in everyone’s collection

30 Dec


There is something special about Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law that is difficult to put your finger on, but for some reason this black and white film about three strangers ending up in the same New Orleans jail cell is mesmerizing.  Zack (Tom Waits) is an unemployed deejay that ends up driving the wrong car across town one night, Jack (John Lurie) is a low-level pimp that doesn’t have the stomach for violence, and Roberto (Roberto Benigni) is the most unlikely murderer in the French Quarter. The three of them could not be more different and Jarmusch’s story does allow audiences to take a familiar path because there is this awkward tension throughout the film that remains until the very end. Robby Muller’s cinematography is amazing and his ability to capture the confinement of New Orleans during the 1980s is a testament to his craft and vision. Down by Law is a rare independent film that belongs in everyone’s collection.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: N/A