Living overseas has limited my ability to see certain movies (and the opportunity to catch stuff like Oblivion early has its downsides), which is why I’m thankful for blockbusters that deliver. There’s a reason this stunning piece of cinema was chosen as our film of the year: it was a powerful conversation starter that also felt deeply, personally experiential. I can never thank Alfonso Cuaron enough for taking me to space or for giving me a coronary with that final breath-holder.
If you’d told me five years ago that Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon were working together, I’d have bet money it was Sweet Home Alabama 2. Instead, they’ve bolstered a heartfelt and often difficult piece of summer heat. A sucker for Jeff Nichols’ films who still thinks Take Shelter was criminally underwatched, I was overjoyed to see him tackle of coming-of-age story that felt like Stand By Me with a southern mafia taking over Kiefer Sutherland’s role. Nichols has reached a stride, and with McConaughey in the middle of his career redesign, they’ve made something sweaty and magical. No surprise from one of the American masters of interpersonal drama.
It seems like cinema needs to be injected with a Shane Carruth movie every once in a while to rattle our veins and confuse us into poetic submission. Hopefully we’ll be able to get that treatment more than once a decade from now on. This gorgeous, painful romance is a perfect example of a slightly difficult puzzle being endlessly rewarding. Carruth and Amy Seimetz share a cold chemistry as two people formerly (and unknown to them) destroyed by conspiracy, and while mainstream flicks push more and more toward a spoonfed diet, Carruth delivers all the pieces while delightfully omitting the rules of the game. Few films are interested in the audience actively discovering as an act of watching, but if Carruth (as writer/director/producer/actor/etc.) can maintain the quality level, we’ll all do better to take our medicine more often.
The World’s End
Oh fuck off, ya big lamp! Everyone in Edgar Wright’s Cornetto closer was a walking gag until we got to share a pint with them. The storytelling patience here is beyond impressive, and the jokes are even bigger. Instead of relying on old familiarity, Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were ambitious enough to build something new that pushes the emotion of nostalgia against scenes where Pegg slams into a fence. A tricky balance that few could pull off, there are even fewer who would have had the guts to stick with that ending. The don’t call him The King for nothin’.
Steven Soderbergh created something suspicious and tantalizing with this thriller about psychiatry and pill popping. A Hitchcock for the 21st century. Rooney Mara is a magnet as usual and Jude Law sinks into a vulnerable heroic role without getting aggro, but the real star is the unraveling thread that leads to the dark heart of this fantastic, level-headed piece of insanity. As devastating a popcorn-inhaling experience as we’ve had in years.