Mr. Smith, Mockumentaries, Melissa McCarthy and the Best of 2013 So Far Star in the 10 Best Movie Stories of the Week
This week was shortened, business-wise, by the holiday honoring America’s birthday and independence, but that didn’t stop us. We’re not the lazy side of this nation. We’re the part that truly represents what the Founding Fathers wished for 237 years ago. We were the best we could be. And we gave you readers as much great original content as we might have had it been a full work week.
It helped that this was the beginning of the month, so we have Jack’s usual preview of the weeks ahead in recommended releases, and it was also the close of the first half of the year, so we had a couple features looking at the past six months in movies. We’re so positive! We also saw the box office branding of a new movie star, the return of a genre, the false return of another genre, the inauguration of a new column on movie truth and a look at recent music documentaries and a new fake reality series. And it’s all highlighted below for your recapping, catching up enjoyment.
Start your weekend right after the jump.
“James Wan is really developing as a filmmaker. It seems that with each film he advances in one way or another. As a result, The Conjuring feels like his most accomplished picture yet, where all his strengths come together in the right way. There’s a reason why Warner Bros. moved this film to the summer, and that decision is going to payoff. Wan’s movie is eerie as hell, almost relentlessly so at times. He lets each scare play out, with a nice emotional backbone to make those scares more frightening.” – Jack Giroux
“McCarthy’s latest starring film, The Heat, is currently estimated to have pulled in a tidy $40m at the weekend box office, which brings McCarthy’s domestic box office haul since her breakout role in Bridesmaids to a cool $521m (including Bridesmaids, This is 40, Identity Thief, The Hangover Part III, and The Heat)…Yes, she’s bankable, and she’s especially bankable when she gets to flex her comedic chops alongside other funny ladies (like Bridesmaids’ Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph or her excellent cohort in The Heat, the also-notoriously-bankable Sandra Bullock). Women are funny. People want to watch them be funny. Isn’t the box office amusing (sometimes)?” – Kate Erbland
“Murder mysteries are often lumped into genre groupings that unintentionally act to diminish the film’s dramatic merits, but once in a while one of these thrillers stands out with its portrayal of evil and good in the real world. David Fincher’s Zodiac and Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder are the best of the best in that regard, but this little German thriller from 2010 comes pretty damn close. A teenage girl is murdered, and her killer is never caught, but when a similar crime presents itself two decades later the truth about the earlier crime begins to work its way up into the open. We meet and spend time with all the players, from family and detectives to strangers and the killer, and all the while the loss, sadness and obsession worm their way into our brains. The film is beautifully shot, and even as we’re given the answers we’re disturbed with both realizations and new doubts.” – Rob Hunter
“The top prize category is packed with entries from previous nominees. Sofia Coppola, Richard Linklater, Baz Luhrmann and Terence Malick are joined by rising talents like Jeff Nichols and Derek Cianfrance. Already a winner, Brian Helgeland is trying for a statue with a different job inscription on it, and 42‘s nomination here certainly buoys his chances for Best Director. It looked like a tight race that hit all the right notes – historical, biopic, lavish, vulgar auterism and deeply-affecting character work – but the massive critical and nostalgic love of Before Midnight made it triumphant in the end.” – Scott Beggs
“Yes, it sounds typical to the point of laughability – a high school party boy (Teller) somewhat accidentally strikes up a friendship with wallflower (Woodley) who doesn’t seem to mind that she’s never been included in any of the kind of fun her new pal has on a daily basis. They sort of fall in love. And then, maybe, they really fall in love. The twist? No one gets a goddamn makeover, and the boy isn’t just a party guy – he’s an alcoholic. No, no, he’s really an alcoholic. Instant authenticity and an immediate divorce from any She’s All That comparisons.” – Kate Erbland
“Younger mainstream audiences raised on the Pirates of the Caribbean films can’t help but be convinced that, yes, this is what a Western is supposed to be! But it isn’t. Audiences may find The Lone Ranger to be a rip-roaring good time, as is their right, but it’s less a Western than it is just another Gore Verbinski action flick. The same goes for Django Unchained, which – great though it may be – no one who knows the work of the man who wrote and directed it could ever see as anything other than his exploration of one of his favorite genres, a la his loving tribute to Blaxploitation films with Jackie Brown. There’s no question that the end result is a loving tribute to Westerns, but Django Unchained is first and foremost a Quentin Tarantino film, and that’s just not the same thing.” – Will Harris
More on The Lone Ranger:
Hi-yo, Silver! A Brief History of The Lone Ranger and His Loyal Steed
Review: The Lone Ranger May Be the Most Bizarre Blockbuster Yet
Interview: Armie Hammer Gets Comfortable Behind the Mask of The Lone Ranger
Intrerview: Producer Jerry Bruckheimer Brings The Lone Ranger Back to Life
Interview: William Fichtner Refused to Twirl His Mustache For The Lone Ranger
Short Starts: Watch The Lone Ranger Star Armie Hammer in the Vonnegut Adaptation 2081
“Despite its arrival two years after the surprise success of ‘Crocodile’ Dundee, the similarly premised Coming to America hardly seemed like a knockoff…It remains a rather timeless metropolitan fairy tale. It’s still one of the top three Murphy comedies (the other two being Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop, of course), features some amazing make-up work by Rick Baker that would be still be worthy of its Oscar nomination if done today, excellent African dance choreography from little known Paula Abdul and in recent years it provided tons more laughs via the meme in which any dialogue spoken by James Earl Jones is dubbed over scenes of Darth Vader.” – Christopher Campbell
“In today’s world, Jefferson Smith could launch into a 24-hour filibuster, and with the modern tools of the Internet, Twitter, live-streaming, and round-the-clock cable news, it would be easier for him to get his message disseminated throughout his home state. One advantage of our modern age over the world of 1939 is that a man like Jim Taylor wouldn’t be able to hold the media hostage (something all but proven by the outpouring of online support for Wendy Davis). Smith wouldn’t have to rely on his trusty and dedicated army of boy rangers and a do-it-yourself printing press to get the word out. Heck, a Smith-like stunt would likely set the blogosphere on fire and result in hundreds of Facebook shares and lazy articles on what celebrities Tweeted about the event. In the end, Mr. Smith could go to Washington in 1939 or 2013 and could get his message heard. #StandWithSmith” – Kevin Carr
“I’m fascinated by serious faux docs and their impact, which is why I tuned in to Siberia (I don’t even know where I’d heard about it, but I was always informed that it was a doc-style drama series). It’s why I really wanted Daniel Stamm’s suicide film A Necessary Death to become a provocative phenomenon where people talked about the ethics of death and documentary, and if some of them were angry because they thought it was all real, all the better. One thing about serious faux docs is they don’t hold on to public interest for long. Once Peter Jackson‘s Forgotten Silver and the Joaquin Phoenix film I’m Still Here are revealed to be a “hoax” (or just fiction), for two famous examples, they lose a lot of their intrigue.” – Christopher Campbell
“It makes sense that these films are happening now. Our consumption of music today contains few ties to the Top 40 radio formula that dominated the heyday of Anvil, Rodriguez, and Death. Artisanal record companies, DIY production processes, and high-profile taste-forming ‘alternative’ presses (Pitchfork was preparing to be so over Death back in ’09) make for a music business that is incredibly decentralized, reliant more on touring than record sales but also not beholden to the oligarchic model that owned American rock n’ roll for decades…Documentaries like Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Searching for Sugar Man, and A Band Called Death essentially read music’s past through the omnivorous consumption practices of music’s present: not as a story of its greatest hits, but of its many B-sides and deep cuts. This can only be a good move towards of enriching our understanding of popular music’s history.” – Landon Palmer
More on music documentaries:
The Best Scene From the Best Music Doc You Probably Already Forgot About