Tag Archives: movies

HALFTIME REPORT: Attack the Block (2011)

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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With Halftime Report, your good friends at SportsAlcohol.com revisit some of their favorite films from the first half of this decade.

For monster fans, creature design in the 21st century has been something of a mixed bag. Digital animation has freed designers from the shackles of the human form, limitations in terms of textures and fur, and even the bounds of physics altogether. In order to provide a grounding in reality for all these pixels, designers and animators often talk about looking to real animals for physiognomic principles and behavior. Reality is the goal, and much effort is expended in simulating the way joints interact or how skin stretches across muscles. This is maybe best exemplified by Neville Page’s muscly multi-limbed creatures for movies like Cloverfield, Super 8, Avatar, and Star Trek. But these impressively realistic creatures often place an emphasis on the Real over the Iconic. It seems silly to use a word like mundane when discussing such weird and impressive creations, but these creatures (with the feelings of sameness they can sometimes inspire) can miss that special charge that a truly iconic monster design can carry. Obviously, creating an iconic monster is much easier said than done, but it’s still worth celebrating when somebody pulls it off. And the aliens in Attack the Block, with their uncanny movements and simple-but-clever silhouette-and-glowy-bits aesthetic, stand out as the best of the decade so far. Using an inspired blend of suit acting (with invaluable work by movement coach and performer Terry Notary) and animation (both to enhance the puppetry and to create the aliens’ inky black, almost two dimensional look), Attack the Block‘s monsters are still so great they’re nearly enough to make it one of the best films of the 2010s on their own.

But watching the film in 2015 America reveals greater relevance than even a few years ago. The film is set in south London and directly addresses the specific cultural ways that young, mostly black, kids who live in council estate tower blocks (Americans, think housing projects) are vilified, and the societal issues at play are startlingly universal. After the opening, a mugging that wouldn’t be out of place in any reactionary genre movie from decades past, with a gang of black kids menacing a pretty white woman, it’d be easy to imagine the version of the movie that kills off these thugs in a pre-title sequence to establish the threat. Instead, when Moses and his gang run into the building where they’ve cornered a mysterious creature, they aren’t just slaughtered off-screen but instead emerge victorious, establishing a very different dynamic for the rest of the film. Instead of just following the story of the gang’s victim, Jodie Whittaker’s Samantha (a nurse who lives in the same tower block as the kids), the kids emerge as the heroes of the film. Cornish and his actors do a wonderful job of humanizing these characters, making them funny and hugely lovable without ignoring or excusing their worst behavior. This simple extension of empathy and respect feels almost radical when viewed in an America where we’ve had a truly horrible number of opportunities to witness the awful spectacle of the American news media greeting each new police shooting of an unarmed black guy with attempts to determine just how much the deceased had it coming based on their thuggish appearance or potential criminal background. The understanding and mutual respect that develops between Samantha and Moses is even more moving in this context, as is the conversation the kids have speculating about the government having “bred those things to kill black boys.” It’s not the case, but getting to know these kids we can see why it would feel like a possibility to them.

While it feels a little frustrating watching Attack the Block now knowing that Joe Cornish hasn’t yet directed another feature, there’s some solace in seeing ads for Star Wars: The Force Awakens that feature John Boyega front and center. His performance as Moses, which has that movie star thing of combining real acting and seemingly effortless charisma even when he spends so much of the film not saying much, marked him as a young actor to watch for anybody who saw Attack the Block in 2011, so it’s gratifying to know that a much bigger audience is about to see what he’s got.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Tom Cruise has managed to maintain a career for over three decades while appearing in just one set of sequels (so far): the Mission: Impossible series, which began in 1996 and have become, against odds including but not limited to Mission: Impossible II, his signature movie-star films. In the latest installment of the SportsAlcohol.com podcast, Marisa, Jesse, Nathaniel, and Sara (making her podcast debut!) got together after a viewing of the new Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nationn to discuss the film, as well as the overall career of Tom Cruise. We discuss:

  • How Rogue Nation stacks up to its predecessors and how it brings to mind series nadir Mission: Impossible II
  • How Sara, not an action movie fan, reacted to Rogue Nation
  • Favorite Tom Cruise movies
  • Cruise’s early “being the best at pointless skills” trilogy
  • Far and Away, The Color of Money, Knight and Day, and other moments in Cruise history!
  • Whether Cruise’s offscreen antics inform how we watch his films

AND MORE!

So listen carefully and with great intensity! Just know that this podcast is full of spoilers for every Tom Cruise movie possible! Or impossible!

How To Listen

    We are now up to five different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • You can download the mp3 of this episode directly here.
  • You can listen in the player below.

TV on the Silver Screen

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

Latest posts by Nathaniel (see all)

With Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation arriving in theaters this weekend to great buzz, let’s talk about the best film adaptations of TV shows.

Continue reading TV on the Silver Screen

HALFTIME REPORT: Margaret (2011)

Sara

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.
Sara

Strictly speaking, Margaret was never supposed to be a film of this decade. Principal photography began back in 2005 but ballooning budgets, disagreements between the studio and director Kenneth Lonergan over cuts, and multiple lawsuits had many wondering if it would ever see the light of day at all. By the time it received an extremely limited theatrical release in 2011, lead Anna Paquin was three seasons into her True Blood reinvention as an actual adult, and what was intended as a more immediate exploration of the emotions roiled up by the tragedy of 9/11 became a cinematic curio, sampled by critics and rubberneckers alike and mostly discarded as the year drew to its close, apart from a few “#TeamMargaret” diehards on Movie Twitter. While the critics may have been looking for a masterpiece and the rubberneckers hoping for a disaster, Margaret didn’t quite turn out to be either. What it is is messy, in the best possible sense — and the cult around the film, in particular the director’s cut that adds a half hour to the already bloated 150-minute runtime, has grown.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: there is nobody named Margaret in the movie. The title is a reference to the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem “Spring and Fall” which opens with the line “Margaret, are you grieving?” and is read in the film by Matthew Broderick, who plays the teacher of the lead character, Lisa, a high schooler on the Upper West Side who is the inadvertent cause of a bus accident that kills a pedestrian. The poem and the film are about youth’s first reckoning with death and a realization of the world’s existence beyond themselves; when Lonergan wrote and conceived of the film, emotions over 9/11 were raw and even many years on it has a nervy energy, a sense that at any minute it might run off the rails. It unfolds in an operatic register in a way that risks turning off many viewers. But this is true to the film’s characters who may be “small” people but don’t live small lives, at least not to them. This is reflected in the film’s sound design, which is Altman-esque: the conversations of passersby are constantly muddying the main soundtrack, imbuing the city with a sense of liveliness that many other films would take as a given. And like Altman at his best, this is a generous film (perhaps to a fault), allowing every character, even the most minor ones, a voice and depth. The camera is constantly lingering on the New York City skyline, panning across gleaming buildings and slow motion citizens, as if to capture it all before any of the rest disappears. There’s something oddly refreshing about watching Lonergan spread his cinematic paint everywhere, even if it isn’t always conventionally satisfying.

It’s also refreshing to see a film grapple so fully with a young woman’s tumultuous coming of age. Lisa is a melodramatic, selfish person in the way most teenagers are melodramatic and selfish, and the realism of her character may be unpleasantly confrontational for some viewers; it can be difficult at times to watch how she manipulates and tortures those around her. The film’s true trajectory reveals itself as Lisa’s simultaneous wish to become a good person and realization of how often the world makes that challenging for adults. We never hear Lisa’s thoughts on the Hopkins poem; the camera cuts right after Broderick speaks her name. And anyway, how she feels about it will likely evolve. It’s part of growing up. Margaret, which experienced its own pains to get to the screen, knows that above all and is all the more rewarding for it.

Why I Love Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

Latest posts by Nathaniel (see all)

Quick, name your favorite “part four” in a movie series. For every Conquest of the Planet of the Apes or Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol or Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, there’s a Jaws: The Revenge or Batman and Robin or Terminator Salvation. It’s a tricky thing to pull off (maybe trickier still after the Star Wars trilogy created a template for shaping your movie series in sets of three), but studios still try it out with some regularity. Just this year, moviegoers can run out to see George Miller’s foray back to the Wasteland (with Tom Hardy filling in as Max Rockatansky in lieu of Mad Mel Gibson), followed weeks later by a fourth trip to Jurassic Park, and – at the end of the year – a return to that Galaxy Far, Far Away (the seventh Star Wars film, but the fourth to feature our old friends Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo). With those high profile (and much anticipated in the old SportsAlcohol.com offices) fourth movies due out this year, what better time to make a case for a much maligned Part Four that I happen to really like. Continue reading Why I Love Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Best of 2014

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

Latest posts by Nathaniel (see all)

Here it is, you’re one stop place to see all of SportsAlcohol.com’s Best of 2014 posts!

MOVIES

We wrote about 14 of our very favorites here, including not-so-usual suspects like We Are the Best! and Obvious Child.

Our very favorite movie of the year, The Grand Budapest Hotel, deserved its own write-up.

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies was never in contention for our Best Of list, but it does have the most variety in animals that are ridden, so we did a podcast about it.

TV

We counted down the top ten best TV shows. This year will be remembered as a year of comedy!

We provided alternatives for those who are so sick of hearing the rest of us gush about our No. 1 pic.

We noted that Comedy Central has really been living up to its name lately.

We lamented that no one else was watching Peaky Blinders (well, at least one of us complained about that).

We recorded a podcast about The Newsroom. How that show smarmed its way into a best-TV round-up is anyone’s guess.

MUSIC

We crowned St. Vincent’s St. Vincent as the best album of the year, doing a track-by-track analysis of her greatness (and also a quick study of her magnificent hair).

We also celebrated four other albums as the best of the yearTeeth Dreams by The Hold Steady, The Voyager by Jenny Lewis, Complete Surrender by Slow Club, and Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs.

We called out the best-of-the-best, our very favorite songs from our very favorite albums, including “Blue Moon” by Beck,  “Goshen ’97” by Strand of Oaks, “Nothing but Trouble” by Phantogram, “Lazerray” by TV on the Radio, “Seasons (Waiting on You)” by Future Islands, “Your Love Is Killing Me” by Sharon Van Etten, and “Lights Out” by Angel Olsen.

We stumped for our favorite songs that didn’t come from our favorite albums, including “I’m Not Part of Me” by Cloud Nothings, “Bury Our Friends” by Sleater-Kinney, “Water Fountain” by tUnE-yArDs, “Mr. Tembo” by Damon Albarn, “Lariat” by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, “Bright Eyes” by Allo Darlin’, “Backseat Shake Off” by The Hood Internet, and “Scapegoat” by The Faint.

Is there a Spotify playlist for all this?” you ask. Of course there’s a Spotify playlist.

SPORTSALCOHOL.COM

Rob picked out the best of ourselves, with his favorite contributions from the gang here at SportsAlcohol.com.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Avengers Age of Ultron

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is the latest megahit from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s full of fun stuff to nerd out about. Rob, Nathaniel, Jesse, and Marisa saw the movie together over the weekend and talked about their Avengers Age of Ultron experience, touching upon superhero special effects, character balancing, the qualities of a good robot villain, comic book origins, the future of nerdery, and frenzied suggestions for post-credit tags that should have been. The discussion has many spoilers for the film so it will probably be more fun if you see the movie before listening to it.

This also marks the one-year anniversary of our foray into podcasting, with an episode featuring the same four nerds who got into Amazing Spider-Man 2 this time last year. If you like our thoughts on Age of Ultron, check out our past year’s worth of podcasts on sci-fi movies, superheroes, rock and roll, TV shows we love and hate, and plenty more.

    We are up to five different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • You can download the mp3 of this episode directly here.
  • You can listen in the player below.

HALFTIME REPORT: Young Adult (2011)

Sara

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.
Sara

With Halftime Report, your good friends at SportsAlcohol.com revisit some of their favorite films from the first half of this decade.

Pop culture is both an immensely subjective and personal obsession. It can be difficult not to feel slighted when an artist whose work you’ve enjoyed goes in an unexpected direction. Perhaps no filmmaker experienced such an abrupt turnaround in the past few years as Jason Reitman, whose sardonic, satirical early work has recently given way to laughably out-of-touch melodrama, at least according to a lot of film critics, sometimes validating any lingering doubts they held over his earlier, snappier movies. I’ve yet to see either Labor Day or Men, Women and Children (and doubt I will anytime soon) but I remembered his 2011 feature Young Adult with great fondness and was curious to revisit it in light of Reitman’s sudden fall from grace.

Even in this age when unlikeable characters are popular thinkpiece subjects, Young Adult‘s Mavis Gary (played without an ounce of vanity by Charlize Theron) remains bracingly caustic. I was not popular in high school but the film was still primed to play on my greatest fears about myself as someone who moved away from a small town and still has the occasional bout of unwarranted contempt and pity for those who stayed behind. More often than I care to admit, I’ve flippantly told someone I can’t imagine what it’d be like if I still lived there, as Mavis does early in the film. “Yeah,” her friend says flatly, and unconvincingly. “We’re lucky we got out. We have lives.” In case the opening scenes didn’t make it clear, the credits drive the point home elegantly: Mavis keeps rewinding the high school mixtape her then-boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson) made her back in the day, to play “The Concept” by Teenage Fanclub over and over. This woman is stuck in a past she believes is still her present.

Mavis, who ghostwrites for a Sweet Valley High-style book series, is on a mission to get back Buddy, now married and a new father. Starting with waking up hungover and interpreting an invitation to a baby shower as a cry for help, Mavis proves herself a delusional wreck: alcoholic, depressed, interacting with the world through a thin veil of disdain, unaware, or uncaring, that everyone can see right through it. In scene after scene the script (by Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody) mines this disconnect for discomfort comedy of a kind not often seen in American film, particularly with a female character as the catalyst. For a movie with a protagonist so ostensibly shallow, Young Adult is surprisingly complex, especially when it comes to the behaviors and influences that trap us in destructive cycles. As the film goes on it becomes clear that Mavis is painfully conscious of her own shortcomings. “Stand up for yourself,” she upbraids her ex’s wife in the climactic scene. “Why are you covering for me?” And yet it only takes one conversation with a starry-eyed local to spur her back on her previous path — at least temporarily. “Life, here I come,” the closing narration says. But it’s the image of Mavis’s busted car fender that lingers. Even if Reitman is done with such damningly ironic comedies, at least Young Adult endures.

Halftime Report: Winter’s Bone (2010)

Sara

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.
Sara

This is our first installment of Halftime Report, in which your good friends at SportsAlcohol.com revisit some of their favorite films from the first half of this decade.

Sitting down to watch Winter’s Bone for the first time since its theatrical release, I was most curious to see how Jennifer Lawrence’s breakout turn held up. In the years since she’s become a perennial awards favorite, star of multiple franchises, and America’s favorite “cool girl,” but her performance here is still bracing, alive with the sense of a major discovery. Playing Ree Dolly, a teenaged girl in the Ozarks in search of her fugitive, meth-cooking father, she exudes a toughness and sensitivity that she’s glossed up considerably as her profile has risen. I came away surprised by her anew and confident she’ll surprise me again soon.

The film itself remains one of the strongest of the new decade for the light it shines on the dark pockets of America, places most people would probably rather forget exist let alone spend any time in. But director Debra Granik demonstrates a meticulous attention to detail, from the detritus scattered over everyone’s yards to the secondhand clothes to the proper technique for skinning a squirrel, not to mention an unsparing but compassionate eye when it comes to the poverty the characters endure.

That same meticulousness is there in the plotting, too. At a brisk hour-forty, Winter’s Bone wastes no time, with a lean structure that recalls both ’40s noir and classical mythology. Tasked with ensuring her bailed-out father makes his court date or lose the family land, Ree’s dilemma could have become a by-the-numbers quest but Granik, and author Daniel Woodrell who wrote the source material, are interested in much more than that. This is a place of codes, not only of criminals or families, but between men and women too, and as Ree starts to navigate the world around her, the film becomes a fascinating inquiry into the power dynamics of this very particular corner of humanity. The women may answer the doors and the men may profess to have knowledge they’re not sharing, but it quickly becomes clear which gender is actually running the show and the climax plays almost like a grotesque initiation ceremony for Ree. But for most of the film she’s a young woman alone in an inhospitable environment; it’s a premise with inherent danger but Granik’s stripped down style refrains from pushing this too hard, preferring to showcase the starkness of the landscape and the emotiveness of Lawrence’s face rather than flashy technique. This was only Granik’s second feature film and while she did recently secure a release for a documentary, she’s yet to make a narrative follow-up. It’s one of the most disappointing, and damning, developments of recent years, and I hope to see another project from her before the decade closes out.

Let’s Talk about (Movie) Sex, Baby

Sara

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.
Sara

Perhaps you heard that a little, grey-ish movie got America’s collective panties in a twist over the weekend. Fifty Shades of Grey is going to make well over $100 million by the end of its first week in release, which, depending on how interested you are in seeing stars get busy, could be a blessing or a curse. Will the success of Fifty Shades herald a new era of mainstream erotic film? It’s too soon to say but I’m not sure I’d throw away my handcuff key just yet. The reviews I’ve read indicate that the film version of Fifty Shades tones down some of the book’s most unpleasant aspects, by which I mean Christian Grey’s emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, not the elementary-level spanking and binding that passes for BDSM in this series. And yet this is still just the latest in a long history of supposedly erotic entertainment that take a prurient interest in sex while being squeamish about actually engaging in it, let alone depicting it in a positive light — particularly when it comes to female pleasure. So, rather than explore what Grey may be getting wrong (which is already pretty well-covered territory, and also involves paying money to see Fifty Shades of Grey), I thought I’d take a look back through film history to see what, if anything, has gotten sex-positivity right. (Please note: for the sake of simplicity, I’m sticking mostly to American cinema, since there’s a plethora of sex-positive films from foreign countries [France is nothing if not sex-positive you guys].)
Continue reading Let’s Talk about (Movie) Sex, Baby