Movie Reviews 4/13

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The Place Beyond
the Pines
Focus Features
In Theaters: 03.29
At first glance, it appears Ryan Gosling is continuing the adventures of his character from 2011’s Drive, but such is not the case in Derek Cianfrance’s generational drama that follows the life and crimes of an ensemble cast set in Schenectady, N.Y. As a stunt motorcyclist for a dumpy traveling carnival, Luke (Gosling) never had too much responsibility on his plate, but once he learns of his child with Romina (Eva Mendes), everything changes. In order to provide for his family, Luke turns to robbing banks, but is soon on the run from an eager rookie police officer (Bradley Cooper). Cianfrance’s three-course drama loses all of his greatness as soon as the curtains close on the first storyline. From there, we are submerged in a been-there-done-that corrupt police scandal plot with Ray Liotta and then offered a high school drug scenario with teenagers for dessert. The initial 45-minutes are so engaging, character-driven and suspenseful, that it completely overshadows the majority of the 140-minute running time, which is entirely too long on its own for this type of endeavor. It appears Cianfrance is focusing on how our sins carry weight beyond our own life expectancy, but, in this case, the greatest sin of all is not focusing the entire film on Gosling and company, since it’s the meatiest part of the tale. –Jimmy Martin

Room 237
IFC Films
In Theaters: 03.29
In preparation for my screening of Rodney Ascher’s experimental cinematic exploration into the mysterious theories and underlying messages within the 1980 horror film The Shining, I re-watched Stanley Kubrick’s classic only hours before and kept my eyelids peeled for anything abnormal. There are definitely many bizarre occurrences within Kubrick’s film, but what could Ascher and his friends clue me in on that I hadn’t already seen for myself? It turns out they revealed a lot and nothing all at once. Ascher combines five extremely different points of views surrounding the Jack Nicholson cult phenomenon, and what is unleashed are multiple speculations that propose Kubrick’s supposed views on the Native American massacres, his involvement with NASA’s fake moon landing and a barrage of wild proclamations that are too weird to give a second thought. While Ascher does document some credible discoveries with his presumptions, the primary force of entertainment comes from an assembly of film aficionados who clearly have too much time on their hands and turn insignificant continuity errors (i.e. a chair disappearing in a scene) into an end-of the-world assertion. For the number of times you’ll be fascinated with the probable theories presented, you’ll also wonder just how long the ghost of Stanley Kubrick will wait to materialize in order to slap some sense into these meandering movie message molesters. –Jimmy Martin

Rules for School
Kino Classics International
On DVD: 01.15
Rules for School is a series of 15 orphaned short films with surprisingly good sound and video quality from the early to mid ’50s. Originally used in classrooms to teach discipline and manners to kids, these shorts can provide at least two hours of entertainment—ranging from silly to hilarious to frustrating, depending upon different levels of sobriety. The three most prominent—“Take Your Choice,” “Mike Makes His Mark,” and “Noontime Nonsense”––feature some of the worst teenage actors and raddest hair I’ve ever seen. In “Take Your Choice,” Jeff and his pompadour are taught that “acting as if you own a charmed life,” i.e. flirting with a brunette while warming up a nondescript liquid in chemistry class without wearing safety goggles, will make you go almost blind. Mike literally makes his mark in “Mike Makes His Mark” by drawing a black mark on the entrance of the school. The black mark torments Mike’s conscience as he gets help from his mildly hot teacher, Mrs. Dewey, and he finally confesses to the vandalism. What’s awesome is that the entire faculty meets to decide Mike’s fate over cigarettes in the teachers’ lounge. “Noontime Nonsense” is disappointingly not what the name implies at all. The greased up Jerry Lindsey gets real mad when his girl is almost struck by a “side-street sharp-shooter” in a sled. He confronts Bob, the joy rider, and the student council about it in the parking lot and everyone miraculously decides to stop driving like idiots. I highly recommend watching these shorts under the influence of whatever’s clever. You may even learn some manners or something. –Darcy Wouters-Russell

Spring Breakers
Annapurna Pictures
In Theaters: 03.22
If you’ve ever had the pleasure or annoyance (however you see it) of experiencing Trash Humpers, Julien Donkey-Boy or Gummo, you are already well aware of the peculiar style of filmmaking that comes from the eccentric Harmony Korine. His latest project, Spring Breakers, is the twisted tale of four small-town girls (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) looking to escape their monotonous lives by vacationing in Florida with copious amounts of alcohol and drugs. After being arrested, the group is bailed out by an egotistical drug dealer (James Franco) who’s looking to expand his operations and grow his empire. Korine reiterates, repeats and reuses his footage and dialogue to a point of absolute absurdity. It’s as though he shot 30 minutes of usable footage, then stretched it into 90 minutes, and made it feel like 120 minutes. It’s clear Gomez and Hudgens are attempting to shed their Disney-clad coating in order to move on with their acting careers, but neither deliver a performance worthy of advancement to the next level. The only excuse to watch this excruciating undertaking is Franco’s portrayal of a rapping predator, but it’s still not worth the price of your local theater’s admission. Korine certainly has a cult following that supports everything he delivers, but, even utilizing his most notable cast to date, he won’t be converting the masses to drink his Kool-Aid anytime soon. –Jimmy Martin

Upstream Color
ERBP
In Theaters: 04.05
It’s going to take me a few more viewings of this film to fully grasp what the hell is going on and what it all means, but let’s try this: Larvae infect a plant, kids harvest and process the blue dust on the infected plant and they make a drink out of it, which gives them mental, physical and spiritual connection. A film-industry woman (Amy Seimetz) is kidnapped and force-fed a larva. It allows the kidnapper to control her by making her copy Walden page for page—he makes her transfer all her money to his bank account. He releases her and she wakes up in her car on the side of the road with no memory of the past few days (or weeks?) and drives home, only to find evidence of the kidnapping in her house. The woman meets a man (Shane Carruth) on the subway—he knows they have some sort of connection and they strike up a relationship. A pig farmer notices that two of his pigs are behaving strangely. With his hands to the pigs, he walks in a parallel world. He records the sounds of nature, composes a symphony and throws its pages in the river—the same fate that awaits the burlap sack of screaming piglets. The acting, cinematography and sound design are exceptional. Though there is an obvious god metaphor going on, much of the film remains open for deciphering. My brow was furrowed with confusion as I worked to make sense of the connections between everyone and everything but, in the end, it was worth it. It was exhilarating. ­–Cody Kirkland