The Week in Movies: The Canyons, Spectacular Now, 2 Guns and Smurfs 2
Welcome to Annotate This, where we gather reviews, trailers, and annotate the posters for movies coming out this week. It will help you decide what to avoid, what to see, and what to pretend to see. Click on the image above to add your comments to the mix.
The Canyons (New York, LA)
From writer Bret Easton Ellis and director Paul Schrader, The Canyons was called "the most notorious cultural event of the year" by Ellis himself in Michael Musto's interview for Gawker. The movie stars Lindsay Lohan (in moments of brilliance, genius, and then failure) as well as James Deen, whose interview with Gawker's Rich Juzwiak is here. The plot revolves around twisted relationships and pretty people posing about California. This movie is difficult to watch, but not necessarily for the reason that it also difficult to watch—it's oddly paced, pauses strangely, and also it plays with paranoia, violence, and exploitative sex, because B. E. E. is in his wheelhouse. Re-reading that New York Times magazine feature is probably more worth your while.
ALL YOU NEED FOR A MOVIE IS 2 GUYS, 2 GUNS, thanks Godard. Basically, that's what this is with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, who both deliver to some extent. They play a DEA agent and undercover Naval intelligence officer, and they're fighting the mob. From director Baltasar Kormakur, apparently the plot manages to be convoluted.
The Spectacular Now
The movie matches its titular adjective because of the performances from the two protagonists: the magnetic Shailene Woodley (as Aimee Finicky) and the ineffably charming Miles Teller (playing cool kid Sutter Keely—I know, it gets a little John Hughes-y). Though it covers the course of a relationship between two teenagers just before they graduate high school, the depth and complexity of their interactions in The Spectacular Now is astounding. James Ponsoldt is following up to last year's Smashed, which similarly tackled the role of boozing in life and relationships. From Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer), based on Tim Tharp's novel, it's aiming for timelessness, with none of the pop-centric references or pop-heavy soundtracks common to teen movies. Both Woodley and Teller won acting awards at Sundance this year; Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Jason Leigh co-star as Sutter's parents, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead appears as his sister.
The Smurfs 2 (July 31)
What is this unfresh hell? Why is it? Well, Smurfs made lots of money in 2011 ($580 million), so this exists. Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, and Katy Perry are all back in this nonsense. Hank Azaria makes an effort as Gargamel. One reviewer writes your kids deserve better, another writes: "If you can read this, The Smurfs 2 wasn't really made for you." Shall we move on, now?
The Artist and the Model
This languorous, anachronistic black and white beauty from director Fernando Trueba takes place in 1943, in occupied France close to the Spanish border, and focuses on a young refugee's relationship with an aging sculptor.
Smash and Grab: The Story of the Pink Panther
This documentary traces the eastern European jewel thieves nicknamed after the Pink Panther, who have stolen an estimated $300 million worth of goods. Featuring interviews with two of the real Panthers, director Havana Marking pushes the interplay between art and life, and how the public audience imagines the glamour of the heist.
Rising from the Ashes (Limited)
Rising from the Ashes is a documentary about the first Rwandan National Cycling Team, many of whom grew up during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and their path to compete in London's Olympic games. The documentary focuses on Jock Boyer, one of the best cyclists in the world, who established this team in Rwanda. Narrated by Forest Whitaker, while it transcends the subject of cycling, it doesn't challenge the cliché of uplifting sports docs.
This is a surfing story, based on a true surfing story, about the Kelly brothers in Australia in the 1970s. They want to make surfing into a business by crafting awesome boards, but then some drug dealers get into the mix (heya, POINT BREAK). It manages to have a loosely explained conflict and takes a cue from its title by veering around plot lines. On a side note, look at these great vintage photos of surfers!
Joachim Lafosse’s study of dysfunction is a claustrophobic and ultimately gruesome film that focuses on the family tensions between a young couple, their parents, and children.
When Comedy Went to School
This doc is a tribute to the Catskills hotel scene and its role as a breeding ground for modern stand-up comedy, from directors Ron Frank and Mevlut Akkaya. It features interviews and clips from Woody Allen, Mort Sahl, Joan Rivers, Don Rickles, Jerry Lewis, Sid Ceasar, Jerry Seinfeld, Rodney Dangerfield, Billy Crystal, etc. The whole thing has an idealized memory, fairy tale vibe to it.
From director Sebastián Cordero, Europa Report blends the found footage trend with a low budget sci-fi look. While providing an impressively rendered aesthetic, with a Kubrick influence throughout, it ultimately raises provocative questions about our place in the universe.
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