Gravity

Thank you, movie gods, for Gravity.

But thank you even more, movie gods, for Alfonso Cuaron. Gravity is far and away the best movie of 2013. I don’t think we will ever see such an immersive, intense, technically challenging and effective movie for a long time. Cuaron has given the movie-going world an example of what a director can do when vision runs the show.

If you haven’t seen Gravity (the future Oscar winner of best movie for 2013), go see it. In 3D. This has been the only movie I’ve seen in 3D and it was extraordinary.

You will like Gravity. That said, you will love it if you enjoy/enjoyed the following:
Space and science
The Grey
Movies
Alien
Unstoppable
Life of Pi

Here’s a trailer (without 3D):

The deets:

Released October 4, 2013

Written by Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, and Phaldut Sharma

Rated: PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Gravity opens with one of the greatest establishing shots of all film. It is quiet. A total lack of sound ‘quiet’. We are in space. Everything is in three dimensions– front/back, side/side, up/down. But these are relative, because space is an alien thing and down means nothing when there is nothing to stop you from spinning out of control forever.

Then we meet the astronauts. Ryan Stone (Bullock– yes, her ‘strong’ female character has a typically male name and yes that’s deeply stupid) is not a professional astronaut. She is a research doctor/engineer and she is there to help install and implement an impressive new technology. That technology doesn’t matter. It’s not even a MacGuffin.

Guiding her through her work in space is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney). Kowalski is professional and chummy, and when catastrophe strikes, he takes charge.

And catastrophe strikes. A de-comissioned satellite’s debris field smashes into the shuttle and sends Kowalski and Stone in different directions. Now Stone has to get back to Kowalski.

But things just keep getting worse. With her air diminishing, her options very limited, and with very limited training, Stone has to find out just how deep she can dig to survive the seemingly un-survivable: being stranded in space.

Critique

Gravity is beautifully shot. This is because it is technically nearly perfect. The science might not be spot-on, but that is not important. This is a movie about a human being who doesn’t have a family or a life to return to, so she has to find out just exactly what she is living for. Her answers are inspiring.

It’s also a film about the man versus nature at her harshest and most alien. And at her most cruel– because she has no interest whatsoever in man, and can’t be bothered to notice man in his/her desperate state.

Everything that could go wrong, does. Every calamity that could realistically happen in the confines and vastness of space, does. The pacing is heart-stopping and the movie is intensity defined.

Since I can’t say enough about why this movie is so good, I’ll keep this brief. Here you have a smart, flawed character going on the most incredible of journeys. You can’t help but notice how magnificent is creation, even when she’s desperately holding onto a space station to not get swept away. Her journey is challenging, intense, and never lets up. She has to discover who she truly is, deep inside.

The acting is flawless. The story is flawless. The filming is astonishing.

This movie is as near perfect a movie as you will ever see.

Just go see it already.

Content warnings: Some salty language.

Writing: 5          Acting: 5           Overall: 5

Just go see the movie. For Pete’s sake.

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The Heat

The Heat is one of the funniest movies released by Hollywood in the last few years. Both Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock are at the top of their game and every thinking adult will laugh at this movie.

You will probably enjoy The Heat if you liked:
Beverly Hills Cop
48 Hours
Pitch Perfect
21 Jump Street
Bad Boys

If you avoid movies with raunchy language, you might want to skip this one, although you’ll be missing out.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released June 28, 2013

Written by Katie Dippold

Directed by Paul Feig

Starring Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock, Demian Bichir, Michael McDonald, Marlon Wayans, Jane Curtin, Spoken Reasons, and Thomas F. Wilson.

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) is solid FBI agent who is obnoxiously by the book. She is also hard-working and driven and is always the smartest person in the room. Which she very much enjoys. After closing yet another case, she is in line for a big promotion, but her boss, Hale (Bichir), wants her to go to Boston to track down a bad guy named Lassen who seems to be taking over the city’s drug trade, through his proxy Julian (McDonald). These guys leave their enemies brutally dismembered.

So Ashburn shows up and tracks down a small-time seller named Rojas (Reasons), who was just arrested by Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) in a very funny scene. Now Ashburn and Mullins are at odds, with Ashburn trying to invoke FBI jurisdiction and Mullins showing that she is easily as smart as Ashburn, despite her very unconventional approach to police work.

Now Ashburn has to work with Mullins in order to nail Julian and Lassen. Meanwhile, Mullins has to try to keep her recently released brother (Rapaport) both alive and out of jail as well as deal with a family who strongly disapproves of her job as a police detective. And it turns out that if Mullins can nail Julian and Lassen, maybe her brother will stay safe.

We are, of course, led to a showdown with a couple of twists along the way. The journey is punctuated and moved along with multiple scenes of characters acting in a way that is true to them and much hilarity ensuing.

Critique

The formula is tried and true: conventional cop and unconventional cop have to team up to bring down the baddies, with both cops having their own personal reasons for wanting the baddies out of the picture. The formula, of course, includes them butting heads, learning the true nature of their unwanted partner, gaining a respect and appreciation for their partner, a reason to suddenly distrust them, and a final coming together.

It’s a formula that works and it does not reflect badly on The Heat that it follows said formula. This is because the story still feels fresh and the characters are still compelling, because they are what is driving the story and their dialogue and interplay mine every possible joke as far as they can. McCarthy is given long seconds to deliver multiple punchlines, as is Bullock. Notice the scene in the FBI office, towards the end of the movie, where Bullock defends Mullins. It could have just been a scene for Ashburn to show her change of heart, but the burst of inane profanity and the awkward bird-flipping not only provide laughs but show more about Ashburn’s change of heart and personal transformation.

So The Heat delivers character arcs, some twists in the tried and true formula, and brilliantly written and executed dialogue. McCarthy and Bullock are experienced performers at the top of their game and they do a great job.

Now a jab at some of the idiot critics out there. No, The Heat isn’t two women doing man humor. It’s two women doing humor, and some of it is decidedly and pointedly female humor. Some of it is crass, some of it is tender, and most of it is wonderfully true to the characters.

Go see The Heat. You will laugh long and loud. Isn’t that the point?

Content warnings: Lots of salty and raunchy language and some serious violence.

Writing: 4.5          Acting: 5           Overall: 4.5

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