Posts Tagged ‘Ezra Miller’

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Spotlight (2015)

If you still haven’t seen last year’s Best Picture winner, then you have no excuse now. Spotlight has arrived on Netflix, so it’s the perfect time for a first, second, or hundredth viewing of the film, which focuses on the dogged work of a team of reporters at The Boston Globe that exposed the widespread cover-up of child abuse  by Catholic priests. It’s heavy stuff, but not without its moments of levity, all of which are performed exquisitely by the talented cast (led by Michael Keaton). And as a fellow journalist, the newsroom scenes are on point.

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The Big Short (2015)

Another of last year’s Best Picture nominees, The Big Short is one of the two best movies ever made about the subprime mortgage crisis (the other being Margin Call, which unfortunately is not streaming on Netflix right now). The economy took a nosedive in 2008, taking  a lot of regular people down with it. A few Wall Street watchers saw the crash coming and bet against the markets, but the hard thing about foresight is being proved right. Watch this movie, and prepare to get angry.

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We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Do you have kids? Do you ever worry that they might grow up to be mass-murdering sociopaths? Don’t worry, they won’t.

Unless they do…

Tilda Swinton stars as a mother who struggles to bond with her son and, over time, is increasingly suspicious of his actions. The film squeezes a suffocating amount of tension out of the inevitability of Kevin’s evolution, and Ezra Miller (the future Flash) stars in a  breakout role that toes too many emotional lines to even describe.

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An Honest Liar (2014)

This biographical documentary looks at the life of  James “The Amazing” Randi, a magician and escape artist who retired from performing and devoted his life to debunking psychics and mystics as charlatans and frauds. He excelled in both careers, going from guest appearances in Happy Days as “The Amazing Randi” to exposing televangelist Peter Popoff, who relied on a hidden earpiece to receive diving inspiration about his flock.

The dual-track of Randi’s legacy is affectionately captured in An Honest Liar, as is the charm and charisma of Randi himself. He is, as they say, a character, and this documentary does him justice.

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Experimenter (2015)

Did you ever hear about that study where people were told to shock a man for giving wrong word-association answers? And they did, for the most part, despite the man’s pleas to stop?

Or perhaps you’ve heard about six degrees of separation, the idea that everyone can be connected through a chain of six people?

They both are the work of Stanley Milgram, a controversial social psychologist with a penchant for devising thought-provoking experimentation on human behavior. His work gets the biopic treatment in Experimenter, starring Peter Sarsgaard, Winona Ryder and a brief appearance by the late Anton Yelchin, who died last month.

 

 

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I don’t particularly care for teen movies. For one thing, I’m not a teen, and for another the writers tend to make mountains out of some pretty low stakes. Even the great Clueless, which I love and adore, comes down to whether or not Cher loves Josh, and he her. But even Clueless comes with an asterisk because it is a smart teen-movie satire, a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma and a tribute and time capsule to/of life in the 1990s.

I went into Perks expecting a certain thing that is hard to define. I knew from the promotional material and pre-release buzz that it wouldn’t be a typical “why doesn’t my 17-year-old boyfriend love me?” sobfest. I think I expected something along the lines of Juno, a smart-tongued nostalgia yarn with a killer soundtrack. Perks delivered that, but also something completely its own.

Perks tells the story of Charlie, an introverted freshman with an alluded-to history of mental illness who stumbles his way into friendship with a group of “Misfit” seniors, particularly a brotherly bond with Patrick (played with a masterful stroke by “We Need to Talk About Kevin”s Ezra Miller) and head-over-heels infatuation with Sam (Harry Potter’s Emma Watson, can you blame him?).

The movie is a bundle of fine performances, with each actor inhabiting a true human being with sincerity and personal demons. Patrick is a too-clever-for-his-own-good student who also struggles with the emotional distance of a closeted relationship with the popular high school quarterback. Sam is in recovery from a wild past, where in her younger years upperclassman would get her drunk at parties to take advantage of her “reputation” and all stemming from a much-too-young inappropriate encounter with her father’s boss.

Perks doesn’t revel in these demons, it doesn’t ask for your pity or even sympathy. If anything it opens a curtain on a group of high school students in Pittsburgh and invites you to simply observe as life goes on. There are themes about life, love and loyalty, but these are whispered in your ear to the backdrop of a superb blend of sight and sound instead of hung heavily over your head like an axe.

Director Steven Chbosky (who wrote the book upon which the film is based) also makes the wise decision of leaving the plot loosely oriented in time. The year in which the movie is set is never explicitly stated, instead leaving it up to the audience to derive the late-80s, early-90s mood from the mix tapes of David Bowie music, Rocky Horror performances and pre-Hipster use of vinyl records. In that way, Perks is not an attempt to define a generation but is, by design, a timeless tale of three friends in high school.

Its weakness is its length, running a full two hours and flirting with the cliff of viewer attention. The plot drags somewhat toward the end, but Chbosky steers it back and bookends his tale with a beautiful and satisfyingly open-ended finale. The casting is a revelation, and while both Miller and Watson do their best to steal the show, the understated honesty of Logan Lerman’s Charlie is remarkable and grounds the adolescent emotion. Hopefully, we’ll see much more of him in the future and in good projects like this. B+

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