All Is Lost

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. All Is Lost Robert Redford stars as a man sailing solo who encounters trouble out at sea. He awakens to the impact of his sailboat colliding with a derelict shipping container and quickly sets about trying to fix the damage before catastrophe occurs. His experience grows increasingly precarious, and soon he’s fighting against nature and circumstance for his very life. Writer/director J.C. Chandor‘s follow-up to the excellent Wall Street drama Margin Call is even more engaging, but it accomplishes the feat through an opposite degree of dialogue. While that film was filled with fast-talk and lots of it, Redford’s character is the only one onscreen here leaving him no one to talk to but himself. (Sure, that didn’t stop Sandra Bullock from being a lonely chatterbox in Gravity, but this is a smarter movie.) The drama and suspense build naturally here as we work alongside the sailor in his efforts, and the script treats viewers as intelligent enough to follow along without needing every detail spelled out. This is a beautiful film about strength, resiliency, and the will to survive. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]

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2013review_critics

Before Midnight! Gravity! The Wolf of Wall Street! Fruitvale Station! The Great Beauty! Philomena! Frances Ha! Blue Jasmine! Spring Breakers! Nebraska! Dallas Buyers Club! The Wind Rises! Saving Mr. Banks! None of the thirteen critically acclaimed films above are on my list of the thirteen best films of 2013 below. Make of that what you will, but of the whopping 241 new releases I watched this year these are the thirteen that have stuck with me the strongest. That said, I did make a conscious effort to focus on U.S. releases for the list since I have a separate Top 13 for Best Foreign Language films. It’s been a fantastic year in cinema all around, and I could just as easily offered a list twice as long. Keep reading to see what I feel are the thirteen best movies of 2013.

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2013.moviedoppelgangers

Every year, there seem to be unintended themes emerging from movie releases. It’s almost as if the studios called each other to coordinate projects like friends in high school planning to wear matching outfits on a Friday. Sometimes this effect is unintentional, like when an emerging movie star manages to have multiple films comes out the same year (see Melissa McCarthy below); other times, it’s a result of executives switching studios and developing similar projects (like the infamous Disney and DreamWorks 1998 double-header grudge match of A Bug’s Life vs. Antz and Armageddon vs. Deep Impact). This year is no different, producing a slew of movie doppelgangers. For the sake of creativity, I left the painfully obvious off. Still, who can forget offerings like Olympus Has Fallen up against White House Down as well as This Is the End paired with The World’s End? And, if you really hate yourself, you can watch a terrible trippleganger of A Haunted House, Scary Movie 5 and 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Whether it’s similar themes, the same actor in noticeably similar roles, or parallel stand-out moments in two films, this list of 13 movie pairings can provide a nice selection of companion pieces for your viewing pleasure.

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goodfellastable

This week’s list of movies to watch is not inspired by a single new release, because there isn’t anything big enough out this weekend to warrant such a focus. Instead, I’ve got a year-end feature for you inspired by the entirety of 2013 in film. I can’t sum up every title released this year with only ten recommendations, but the movies I’ve selected are, I believe, the best representatives of the more notable titles and trends seen in the past dozen months. Most of the selections are familiar. Chances are you’ve seen more than a few. But obviously this edition has to involve more popular fare because they have to be influential movies to have informed so much of this year’s crop, even if unintentionally. Just take it as a call to watch them again, along with whatever you haven’t seen before, as a special sort of year in review of the most important movies of 2013 released before 2013.

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Into Silence Header

Captivity/survivor narratives are hardly unfamiliar to our movie screens, and such films tend to come in bunches. Three years ago, for instance, both Buried and 127 Hours boasted solo or near-solo performances from two rising Hollywood stars who spent the duration of their films as the solitary face we see. But last month brought a prominent and concentrated group of such films, all met with overwhelmingly good reviews, promising major performances from their leading survivor types, and coasting on significant awards buzz. While each film explores near misses, false moments of possible redemption, the necessary instance of despair, and ultimately an incredible optimism in the possibility for human beings to survive a conflagration of elements that work overwhelmingly against them, each of these films go about this differently. Yet the major factor connecting J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost, Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is that they all stage humans’ fraught relationship to nature through the problems and failures of human commerce and its attendant production of waste. Their respective fights with or on the landscape of nature, in other words, are inaugurated by the failure of humans to wield their own devices.

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review all is lost

Editor’s note: Our review of All Is Lost originally ran during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens today in theatrical release. J.C. Chandor follows up his sturdy 2011 debut Margin Call with a staggeringly ambitious if niche project that will appeal most to fans of its star – and, in fact, its only actor – Robert Redford. If the actor is better known for his iconography than his acting prowess these days – though is highly respected as a director and founder of the Sundance Film Festival – he delivers what is easily one of his all-time best performances as a lone man lost at sea. Much hype has followed the film considering the claim from Redford that the drama unfolds free of dialogue, and aside from a brief opening narration, a desperate plea to a fuzzy radio signal, and an enraged expletive, this is true. Chandor’s minimalist effort begins with the man discovering a hole in his boat, and finishes with the very end of his predicament – whether that is death or rescue will be the prime question occupying viewers’ minds.

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Carrie 2013

The characters of this week’s releases are at the end of their ropes. That might even be literal for Robert Redford’s character in All Is Lost unless sailors have a different word for “rope.” And they probably do. Some of the film figures of the week are covered in blood, some have been kidnapped into slavery, some have been falsely imprisoned, some are fighting the system, and some are losing the battle against it. Desperation seems like a common theme. Of course, it’s October, so “ghosts” are another big one. And who’s more desperate than they are? There’s also a lot more going on in a week with a massive amount of movies. Here’s your trailer-ized guide to what’s coming out:

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Gravity

It’s October, which means awards season has officially commenced. Last month gave us a taste with Ron Howard’s Rush, Hugh Jackman yelling in Prisoners, and, last but not least, Luc Besson’s The Family. Maybe not that last one so much, but the other two weren’t a shabby way to kick things off. This month has two movies in particular that should blow socks off while also causing a few tears to flow in the process. They’re the obvious suspects, but they both pack awfully heavy punches. There’s also a little talked about science-fiction-ish movie you may want to check out this weekend as well… But there’s more than three movies to see this month. So, without further ado, here are the ten must-see movies of October 2013:

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Gravity

Gravity, All is Lost and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty are all getting fall releases and all jockeying for some of that sweet, sweet Oscar goodness, so it’s only natural that we let the posters for all three films do the same. Of the three Gravity is the frontrunner here by far. George Clooney‘s nose is a thing of beauty, sure. But the other two are fairly cut-and-paste: start with the lead actor, then insert him into the film’s setting (whether that setting is the open sea or Ben Stiller‘s limitless imagination).

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The success of last year’s Life of Pi and the continued prevalence of people making “Wilson” jokes any time a volley ball happens to be lying around proves that movie audiences have an affection for a good lost at sea story. With this in mind, director J.C. Chandor has decided to follow up his head-turning debut feature, Margin Call, with a sinking ship survival tale starring screen legend Robert Redford. The film is called All is Lost, it sounds like it’s a pretty harrowing tale of sharks, storms, and sun exposure, and it has now released a trailer so that we can all get a glimpse at what exactly Chandor made Redford go through while they were out there filming.

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Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of this year’s awards circuit is just how many awards and nominations filmmaker J.C. Chandor has picked for his debut film, Margin Call. Chandor’s star-packed film debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and while that festival also featured a notable debut from Sean Durkin with his Martha Marcy May Marlene, one that seemed much more poised to rack up the awards, it has been Chandor and his tale of the Wall St. financial crisis that has earned some big accolades. Chandor has already picked up Best Debut Director from the National Board of Review, Best First Film from the New York Film Critics Circle, and Best Original Screenplay from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, along with nominations from the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and that’s likely only the beginning for Chandor and his Margin Call. So with so much promise and so much praise, it’s high time that Chandor unveiled his next project, one that apparently owes its own type of debt to Sundance. Chandor’s next is titled All Is Lost, and the filmmaker is looking to cast Robert Redford as its lead. Let’s hope that works out, as Chandor reportedly Chandor met Sundance founder Redford “at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and was so taken by him that he wrote the movie around him.”

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