Short Term 12

Brie Larson in Short Term 12

Another month, another batch of recommendations for everyone out there who’s currently adrift in the sea that is the Netflix Watch Instantly menu without a good flick to float on. Click on the films’ titles in order to be taken to their Netflix page and to add them to your queue. Or—sorry—to your “My List.” Pick of the Month:  Short Term 12 (2013) Critics have been talking about Short Term 12 pretty incessantly ever since it started making the festival rounds last year. To the point where some of you who read about movies a lot may be getting sick of hearing about it. There’s a reason why the film keeps getting brought up, though, and that’s because it’s really that good. It’s also the kind of micro-budget movie that absolutely depends on word of mouth in order to get seen. This is the sort of small release that couldn’t even afford to launch an Oscar campaign that would have brought it to the attention of Academy voters, so it wasn’t able to earn buzz through the winning of little golden men, which it arguably deserved a handful of.  The movie, which is from a relatively new filmmaker named Destin Cretton, is set in the world of a residential treatment facility for troubled youth, which means that it’s full of characters whose lives can be mined for quite a bit of drama—and mine them Cretton does. This is one of the rare films that manages to dig way deep into themes […]

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Short Term 12

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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discs header short term 12

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Short Term 12 Grace (Brie Larson) works at a home for troubled teens, but while she’s fantastic at her job, her empathy for the kids sees her bringing home their pains far too often. Her boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.) works there too and hopes the two of them can grow as a couple, but he knows her past has led to too much of her heart being cordoned off for the kids. Their situation grows even more untenable when a new girl arrives at the facility. Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s film is a small wonder. It’s essentially a character piece, a glimpse into the life and love of one woman and the people around her, but it’s crafted and performed so effortlessly that it feels like emotionally rich time spent laughing and crying with friends. There’s a slight misstep in the third act where the film loses sight of its characters in deference to a more conventional narrative, but it’s a minor trespass. Check out Allison’s full review here. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, behind the scenes, featurettes, original short film]

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film-philomena-e1385664855549

I was disappointed this week when Philomena was not named among the WGA Award nominees. It turns out that it wasn’t eligible (Steve Coogan and/or Jeff Pope must not be in the Writers Guild of America), nor were a number of other noteworthy films (including 12 Years a Slave and Short Term 12), which hopefully followers of the Oscar race are both aware of and share if they’re also entertainment writers. I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and think Philomena is falling behind. After all, it might just be the most original adapted screenplay of the year, and if originality were the primary quality for that category then Philomena would deserve to take home the Academy Award on March 2nd. How exactly adapted works are judged has never been clear, and it doesn’t help when the nominees may include sequels with purely original stories and dialogue, such as this year’s strong contender Before Midnight, as well as any films based on books, TV shows, plays and other films, including shorts by the same filmmakers that were basically like practice runs for the features. When it comes to those based on books, do the voters merit faithfulness or interpretation or clever strays from the source material? It probably isn’t the last, because otherwise past nominees like Adaptation, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and There Will Be Blood would have won for their looseness as adaptations to the point that they almost ought to have been in the original […]

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Captain Phillips

It started in January, like many movie-related things do, in a small movie theater in Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival is the traditional kick-off point for new movies, artfully positioned during the first month of the year (which is a damn fine starting point for just about anything), approximately when movie lovers are starting to shake off the stupor of an awards season that’s still not quite done and exactly when the regular box office is flooded with some not-so-good stuff (I’ll be returning to non-Sundance life just as I, Frankenstein opens in theaters, and that does not please me in the slightest). To me, Sundance is the perfect film festival, with a slate that combines known talent, emerging names, and wholly unpredictable new quantities. It’s the place to go to find something new that you can talk about all year, even if it finding the latest diamond in the rough involves plenty of guesswork and keeping your eyes and ears open for good buzz. Which is all a very long way of saying that this year’s big Sundance hit, Fruitvale Station (back then, it was simply known as Fruitvale), was a last minute addition to my schedule, a shoehorned-in selection that I made time for simply because everyone told me I had to make time for it. And that’s why I found myself, in January, in a small movie theater in Park City, Utah, crying my eyes out. It was a new thing, and one that set […]

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2013review_missed (1)

The 13 movies below range from the very good to the great (while the 6.5 that follow are just mostly bad), but the one thing they all share is that they each failed to find an audience during their theatrical run for one reason or another. At least one of those reasons is you of course, but instead of berating you for failing to support the films while they were in theaters and needed your help, we’re hoping to point you in their direction now to atone for your sins. But first, a few qualifications. I’ve excluded movies that played in fewer than 75 theaters since that’s the distributor’s fault, I’m not featuring films that made over $30m, and I’m not including subtitled foreign releases which the masses avoid in general. These are only films that could have had a real chance of making a lot more money than they did, so while I wish more people saw the Jared Leto-led Mr. Nobody, I’m not surprised that it only made $3,600. Finally, I’m also sharing the wealth a bit by skipping movies that will be making our Best Films of the Year list next week. So here are 13 great movies that failed to catch on at the box office but should be sought out immediately on Blu-ray/DVD, streaming, whatever… and 6.5 relatively terrible flicks that you were right to avoid.

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crettin:lawrence

Pretty much as soon as it was announced that Jeannette Walls’ memoir, “The Glass Castle,” was going to be adapted into a feature film, it was also announced that Jennifer Lawrence was attached to star in the prospective project, and the pairing of performer with material made perfect sense. Walls had a strange childhood, consisting of constant moving, dealing with poverty, and having to take care of her siblings due to the extreme irresponsibility of her parents, which basically makes her just the sort of strong-willed, self-reliant character that Lawrence has already been believable playing in things like Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games. It’s been over a year since this project first started to get put together though, and we’ve heard bupkis about it since, so what gives? Is Jennifer Lawrence going to be the new Jeannette Walls or what? Take a deep breath, there’s no need to panic, because Variety is reporting that a director for the film is currently being locked down, and the guy they’ve got in negotiations to helm could be just as good a fit for the material as Lawrence. Word is that Short Term 12 director Destin Cretton is in talks to not only come on board to direct the film, but also to give the screenplay—which was originally adapted by Joss Whedon disciple Marti Noxon—a rewrite alongside Andrew Lanham.

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The Movies of August 23

We aren’t the only ones beating this particular drum. It very well could be the best weekend for movie releases all year. From indie darlings to the final event movies of the summer, in every genre, this weekend features some of the most interesting, engaging, thrilling and downright entertaining releases we’ve seen in all of 2013. To further explore this point, allow us to run you down the list of releases (in varying degrees of wide and limited engagements) with some comments to help fuel the fire.

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trailer short term 12

Editor’s note: Allison’s review of Short Term 12 originally ran during this year’s LAFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release. What kind of parent do you think you will be? That’s a big question, and one that usually doesn’t come up until you are actually face-to-face with the prospect. Grace (Brie Larson) works at a foster care facility, the eponymous Short Term 12, and is clearly in a loving (albeit not very well hidden) relationship with her boyfriend and fellow facility staff member, Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) But even though she works with kids all day, the idea of having one of her own has Grace completely spooked. This fear is not completely unsurprising considering the first few moments we spend in Short Term 12 see Mason telling a new hire, Nate (Rami Malek), a ridiculous story about his first day and a kid who tried to run away, only to then have one of the current kids burst through the front doors, hightailing it to the gates. Grace and Mason do not miss a beat in chasing down Sammy (Alex Calloway) and calming him down, but it becomes very clear in that moment that the residents of Short Term 12 are dealing with big issues of their own.

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Short Term 12

A foster care facility filled with various at-risk teens may sound like an intimidating place, and it certainly can be, but the realistic and sensitive way director Destin Cretton approaches the material makes audiences want to go behind the walls of Short Term 12, and what they find there may be surprising. The innocence conveyed through composer Joel P. West’s simple guitar plucks suggest things are not as scary at Short Term 12 as it may first seem. Sure, some kids try to break free from the facility by running at breakneck speed towards the front gates, but there is a comfort and true sense of security perfectly reflected in West’s score that suggests a different reality. The key for music in a film like Short Term 12, which features many moving elements — stunning performances, beautiful cinematography from Brett Pawlak, strong writing — is to add to the narrative without overwhelming it. As we get to know the residents of Short Term 12 better, the music follows suit, filling out tracks like “Wiffle Ball” and “Birthday Cards” with rich violins and piano refrains. However West’s score is wise to never overpower pivotal character moments as proven in the more restrained tracks like “I’ll Be Fine” and “This Is Home.” West creates a beautiful soundscape that successfully accents the character driven Short Term 12, but music also plays a strong role within the film with Marcus (Keith Stanfield) opening up to Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) through his song lyrics featured […]

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ST12-25

Brie Larson takes a sip of a seemingly diet-geared beverage while installed at a back table at an actually swanky midtown Manhattan workspace (like an office, except for people who don’t want to work in “an office”) – it’s a spicy lemonade, a prepackaged version of the very Los Angeles “master cleanse,” but Larson drinks it because she likes the taste. She likes it so much that she encourages me to take a sip straight from her own bottle, and it’s as delicious and refreshing as she promised it would be. Then she says that she thinks that cleanses are “really bad for you” and that, when it comes to those oft-buzzed-about toxins supposedly ruining our bodies, it’s just “an actual scam.” Brie Larson is the type of Hollywood “it girl” who drinks spicy lemonade because she likes the taste, not because pop culture tells her it’s good for her. This is the exact moment I stop trying to pigeonhole rising stars by what they do or do not drink, and instead focus on what they say and do not say – and Larson has a lot to say.

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trailer short term 12

Summertime at the movie theater is traditionally thought of as a collection of explosions, CGI effects and dumbed-down scripts, but smart studios (usually the indies) know it’s also a great time to counter-program with their unexpected gems. One of the most critically acclaimed films to come out of this year’s SXSW film festival was writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s second feature, Short Term 12. Brie Larson stars as a young woman who works at a home for at-risk teens while trying to balance the limits and love in her own life too. The film itself received immense praise, but much of the focus has been on Larson’s performance. Enjoy this delightful first trailer for Short Term 12. Then go see the movie later this summer.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B


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