Tag Archives: Seth Rogen

Donnie Darko: A Review by Nate Hill

  

The director’s cut of Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko is one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had watching a film. It transports you to its many layered dimension with unforced ease and tells it’s story in chapters that feel both fluid and episodic in the same stroke. It has such unattainable truths to say with its story, events that feel simultaneously impossible to grasp yet seem to make sense intangibly, like the logic one finds within a dream. These qualities are probably what lead to such polarized, controversial reactions from the masses, and eventual yearning to dissect the hidden meaning which at the time of its release, didn’t yet have the blessing of the extended cut and it’s many changes. A whole lot of people hate this movie, and just as many are in love with it as I am. I think the hate is just frustration that has boiled over and caused those without the capacity for abstract thought to jump ship on the beautiful nightmare this one soaks you in. Movies that explore the mind, the unexplainable, and the unknowable are my bread and butter, with this one taking one of the premier spots in my heart. Kelly has spun dark magic here, which he has never been able to fully recreate elsewhere (The Box is haunting, if ultimately a dud, but his cacophonic mess Southland Tales really failed to resonate with me in the slightest). Jake Gyllenhaal shines in one of his earliest roles as Donnie, a severely disturbed young man suffering through adolescence in the 1980’s, which is bad enough on its own. He’s also got some dark metaphysical forces on his back. Or does he? Donnie has visions of an eerie humanoid rabbit named Frank (James Duval) who gives him self destructive commands and makes prophetic statements about the end of the world. His home life should be idyllic, if it weren’t for the black sheep he represents in their midst, displaying behaviour outside their comprehension. Holmes Osborne subtly walks away with every scene he’s in as his father, a blueprint of everyone’s dream dad right down to a sense of humour that shows he hasn’t himself lost his innocence. Mary McDonnell alternates between stern and sympathetic as his mother, and he has two sisters: smart ass Maggie Gyllenhaal (art imitating life!) and precocious young Daveigh Chase (also Lilo and Samara from The Ring, funnily enough). The film also shows us what a showstopper high school must have been in the 80’s, with a script so funny it stings, and attention paid to each character until we realize that none are under written, and each on feels like a fully rounded human being, despite showing signs of cliche. Drew Barrymore stirs things up as an unconventional English teacher, Beth Grant is the classic old school prude who is touting the teachings of a slick local motivational speaker (Patrick Swayze). The plot is a vague string of pearls held together by tone and atmosphere, as well as Donnie’s fractured psyche. Is he insane? Are there actually otherworldly forces at work? Probably both. It’s partly left up to the viewer to discern, but does have a concrete ending which suggests… well, a lot of things, most of which are too complex to go into here. Any understanding of the physics on display here starts with a willingness to surrender your emotions and subconscious to the auditory, visual blanket of disorientation that’s thrown over you. Just like for Donnie, sometimes our answers lies just outside what is taught and perceived, in a realm that has jumped the track and exists independently of reality and in a period of time wrapped in itself, like a snake eating it’s own tail. Sound like epic implications? They are, but for the fact that they’re rooted in several characters who live in a small and isolated community, contrasting macro with micro in ways that would give David Lynch goosebumps. None of this malarkey would feel complete without a little romanticism, especially when the protagonist is in high school. Jena Malone is his star crossed lover in an arc that finds them spending little time together, yet forming a bond that that feels transcendant. Soundtrack too must be noted, from an effective opener set to INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart to the single most affecting use of Gary Jules’s Mad World I’ve ever heard. It’s important that you see the director’s cut though, wherein you can find the most complete and well paced version of the story. There’s nothing quite like Donnie Darko, to the point where even I feel like my lengthy review is stuff and nonsense, and you just have to watch the thing and see to truly experience it.

Donnie Darko: A Review by Nate Hill

  

The director’s cut of Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko is one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had watching a film. It transports you to its many layered dimension with unforced ease and tells it’s story in chapters that feel both fluid and episodic in the same stroke. It has such unattainable truths to say with its story, events that feel simultaneously impossible to grasp yet seem to make sense intangibly, like the logic one finds within a dream. These qualities are probably what lead to such polarized, controversial reactions from the masses, and eventual yearning to dissect the hidden meaning which at the time of its release, didn’t yet have the blessing of the extended cut and it’s many changes. A whole lot of people hate this movie, and just as many are in love with it as I am. I think the hate is just frustration that has boiled over and caused those without the capacity for abstract thought to jump ship on the beautiful nightmare this one soaks you in. Movies that explore the mind, the unexplainable, and the unknowable are my bread and butter, with this one taking one of the premier spots in my heart. Kelly has spun dark magic here, which he has never been able to fully recreate elsewhere (The Box is haunting, if ultimately a dud, but his cacophonic mess Southland Tales really failed to resonate with me in the slightest). Jake Gyllenhaal shines in one of his earliest roles as Donnie, a severely disturbed young man suffering through adolescence in the 1980’s, which is bad enough on its own. He’s also got some dark metaphysical forces on his back. Or does he? Donnie has visions of an eerie humanoid rabbit named Frank (James Duval) who gives him self destructive commands and makes prophetic statements about the end of the world. His home life should be idyllic, if it weren’t for the black sheep he represents in their midst, displaying behaviour outside their comprehension. Holmes Osborne subtly walks away with every scene he’s in as his father, a blueprint of everyone’s dream dad right down to a sense of humour that shows he hasn’t himself lost his innocence. Mary McDonnell alternates between stern and sympathetic as his mother, and he has two sisters: smart ass Maggie Gyllenhaal (art imitating life!) and precocious young Daveigh Chase (also Lilo and Samara from The Ring, funnily enough). The film also shows us what a showstopper high school must have been in the 80’s, with a script so funny it stings, and attention paid to each character until we realize that none are under written, and each on feels like a fully rounded human being, despite showing signs of cliche. Drew Barrymore stirs things up as an unconventional English teacher, Beth Grant is the classic old school prude who is touting the teachings of a slick local motivational speaker (Patrick Swayze). The plot is a vague string of pearls held together by tone and atmosphere, as well as Donnie’s fractured psyche. Is he insane? Are there actually otherworldly forces at work? Probably both. It’s partly left up to the viewer to discern, but does have a concrete ending which suggests… well, a lot of things, most of which are too complex to go into here. Any understanding of the physics on display here starts with a willingness to surrender your emotions and subconscious to the auditory, visual blanket of disorientation that’s thrown over you. Just like for Donnie, sometimes our answers lies just outside what is taught and perceived, in a realm that has jumped the track and exists independently of reality and in a period of time wrapped in itself, like a snake eating it’s own tail. Sound like epic implications? They are, but for the fact that they’re rooted in several characters who live in a small and isolated community, contrasting macro with micro in ways that would give David Lynch goosebumps. None of this malarkey would feel complete without a little romanticism, especially when the protagonist is in high school. Jena Malone is his star crossed lover in an arc that finds them spending little time together, yet forming a bond that that feels transcendant. Soundtrack too must be noted, from an effective opener set to INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart to the single most affecting use of Gary Jules’s Mad World I’ve ever heard. It’s important that you see the director’s cut though, wherein you can find the most complete and well paced version of the story. There’s nothing quite like Donnie Darko, to the point where even I feel like my lengthy review is stuff and nonsense, and you just have to watch the thing and see to truly experience it.

DANNY BOYLE’S STEVE JOBS — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Danny Boyle’s riveting and unconventional biopic Steve Jobs is a complete knock-out from start to finish, and as bracingly un-Hollywood as this sort of material is going to get. This is laser-precise filmmaking, acted with extreme gusto, written with absurd skill, and shot and cut in a manner that suggests erudite style without ever feeling ostentatious. Aaron Sorkin’s classic rat-a-tat-tat dialogue is on full display from the opening scene, never relenting for two crisp and clean hours of storytelling; it’s an audacious screenplay in terms of structure, and overall, the film feels like a concert or a three act play, with maestro Boyle handling the glorious conducting. Some people are going to say that the film has been designed to never have any payoff – this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just that Boyle and Sorkin upend our expectations (especially for the genre) and give us something we haven’t seen before. By framing the picture in three acts and showing the final 40 minutes leading up to three iconic product launches — the original Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT in ’90, and the iMac in ’98 – there’s a purposefully restrictive quality to the storytelling and filmmaking that might have been detrimental to the overall finished product had the endeavor not been in control by shrewdly talented filmmakers.

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The hectic, emotionally turbulent, sometimes painful, and always awkward interactions that Jobs had with his creative/business team and family members make up the bulk of the picture, with a remarkable supporting cast all getting their chance to shine (Kate Winslet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Seth Rogen, Katherine Waterston, and Jeff Daniels are all fantastic). But it’s the Michael Fassbender show all the way, with this marvelous actor appearing in almost every single scene, giving a tour de force performance as a man driven to greatness by something I’m not sure he could ever fully explain or understand. Alwin Kuchler’s intensely stylish yet never ostentatious cinematography still gets to show off some trademark Boyle visual flourishes (Dutch angles, sped-up film speeds, saturated color, projected images that give off a trippy vibe), but this is a decidedly tamped down Boyle in comparison to his Tony Scott-esque aesthetics that were on display in Slumdog Millionaire, Trance, and 127 Hours. The decision to shoot each act in a different medium (16mm for Macintosh, 35mm for NeXT, high-def digital for iMac) is nothing less than a sensational aesthetic conceit which heightens the already slightly surreal quality to the narrative.

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And most crucially, the filmmakers, never at any point, try to soften their lead character’s dick-ish-ness, and it must be said that Fassbender is absolutely remarkable as Jobs, crafting a portrait of extremely flawed yet obscenely brilliant human being who likely learned too late (if this film is to be believed) in life that sometimes you should be a bit nicer to others. You sort of have to wonder why so many people stuck with him for so long, to go off what’s presented in this film. Yes, he was a genius, a true iconoclast who revolutionized the world we currently inhabit. But he did so at an intense personal cost to his own personal well-being, creating just as many enemies as friends, with many people likely realizing that they had no choice but to stick it out with working for Jobs, because no matter how egomaniacal he was, you could pretty much bet that he’d come out on top at the end. And make no mistake about it – the line of the year so far is: “I’m poorly made.” This is a film that I’m already jazzed to revisit, and it represents everything I want to see in a film.

DAVID GORDON GREEN’S PINEAPPLE EXPRESS — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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David Gordon Green, the indie specialist of such films such as George Washington, All the Real Girls, Undertow, and Snow Angels, was just about the last person I’d ever expect to get the directing job on a Cheech & Chong inspired stoner-action-comedy like Pineapple Express. Up until right before Pineapple Express, his style would have been considered much more in the vein of Terrence Malick than Judd Apatow (who produced Pineapple Express). But almost to prove a point that he could change it up and play in the big leagues of studio financed product, Green stepped out of his comfort zone and crafted, along with screenwriters Seth Rogen (who also stars) and Evan Goldberg, the ultimate bromance marijuana movie, a film that playfully mixes genres, blending simple yet extremely effective pot humor with the sensibilities of John Woo’s ultra-violent action movie period of The Killer and Hard Boiled and Face/Off. The results are a bizarrely awesome, hard to define piece of work, a movie that has big laughs, a surprising and almost giddy amount of blood, a never ending stream of creative profanity being uttered from the stacked cast, and a huge supply of generous heart and friendship born from the two perfectly matched leads (Rogen and a scene-stealing James Franco, playing everyone’s friendly neighborhood weed dealer). I’ve been a fan of this film from day one, and I’ve watched it repeatedly over the last seven years, and it’s proven to be a comedy that just won’t die for me. The summer of 2008 will always be remembered for Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, two blockbuster comedies that grabbed their R-ratings by the balls and embraced the hell out of their crazy ideas.

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The set-up is simple in Pineapple Express. Rogen, playing a ganja-loving process server named Dale Denton, stops over at his dealer’s apartment to grab some little green trees. His dealer, Saul Silver (an utterly priceless Franco, looking beyond glazed-over), has the best stuff in town: Pineapple Express. Oh yeah – notice their initials? SS and DD? Same Shit Different Day. Ha! After getting his fresh new stash, Dale heads over to serve someone with their papers, only this someone happens to be the city’s main importer of the fabulous Mary-Jane. What Dale also doesn’t expect to see is Ted Jones (a disheveled and drugged-out Gary Cole, reliably funny as always) murder his rival, shooting him in the back of the head in the living room of his glass-walled house. Fleeing the scene, but not before throwing his roach of Pineapple Express out the window, Dale high-tails it back to Saul’s to tell him what he’s witnessed. Ted observes Dale making his escape, heads out to the street, sniffs the roach, and because Saul is the only one that he’s given the Pineapple too, he knows immediately where to start looking. The film speeds along with Dale and Saul on the run from Ted and his goons, getting stoned every chance they get, and finally culminating in a wonderfully graphic shoot-out that would make Woo and Michael Bay blush.

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What’s so fun and unique about this wild and sometimes out of control movie is the irreverent tone and blissful disregard for logic. The first portion of the film is an easy-going, herb-scented comedy, with Franco’s Saul tossing out one incredible zinger after another. Franco seemed utterly baked in this film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was, though he’s repeatedly claimed that he wasn’t. Either way, he looks incredibly at ease in the role, laughing and snorting and having a blast with his absurdly lovable character. Rogen, who can do no wrong at this point for me, plays the guy we’ve come to love from films such as Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin, but here, he’s in action-hero mode towards the second half, and it was a blast to see Rogen clearly going wild during the raucous action scenes. One of the film’s highlights is a ridiculous, apartment-destroying brawl between Rogen, Franco, and the hilarious Danny McBride playing the world’s worst best-friend/middle man, who gets tons of laughs with his dead-pan line delivery and vulgar idiocies. Cinematographer Tim Orr, who has shot all of Green’s features, opted for 2.40:1 widescreen, and he was able to mix an anything-goes-atmosphere with creatively chosen angles that maximize the jokes and punchlines while heightening the action. Orr’s work is always visually interesting, and here, he was able to riff on the stylings of a studio action picture while still retaining his inherently organic qualities as a craftsman.

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Pineapple Express is, at its heart, a male weepie. Dale and Saul love each other, and like any lovers, they have some fun, they fight, they separate, and then they get back together. Whether it’s the two of them blowing clouds of smoke onto unsuspecting caterpillars or wielding double shotguns and blowing people away, they are a duo that can’t be separated. A great supporting cast is also along for the ride, including Bill Hader in the film’s hilarious 1930’s set prologue showcasing the sad prohibition of the magical plant, Craig Robinson and Kevin Corrigan as bickering, hysterically inept hitmen, Rosie Perez as a corrupt cop and Cole’s henchwoman, the sexy Amber Heard as Rogen’s high-school(!) girlfriend, and Nora Dunn and Ed Begley Jr. as Heard’s disapproving parents. And when the action-fireworks take place during the film’s final and extremely bloody act, you’re all the more invested in the characters because of the time spent with them watching their characters evolve. It’s a film that’s fairly layered and sort of dark when you cut down to the bone, and it’s easily the most subversive item in Apatow’s catalogue of cinematic craziness. Pineapple Express is the sort of stony movie gift that keeps getting you buzzed, even if you don’t partake in Item 9.