Screened In Sundays: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Posted in Drama, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

Based on the remarkable true story of former Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby’s life after suffering a major stroke, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever laid my eyes on. After Bauby’s stroke, he entered into a physical state called “locked-in syndrome,” which left him completely paralyzed. The only parts of his body that he could control were his eyes. The doctors decide to sew up his right eye to avoid infection, so Bauby is left with only his left eye to  communicate with the world.

The subject matter of this film can quickly turn depressing, but the cinematography, acting, and Bauby’s determination make it surprisingly invigorating. Shot entirely in French by an American director, much of the film is shown through Bauby’s perspective, as if we are seeing the world through his one eye. His eyelid even closes upon the camera from time to time in a blink. Besides tackling the immensely difficult feats that Bauby must accomplish to communicate – speech therapists use alphabet cards, in which he blinks on the letter he desires – the film also shows us deep, complex relationships Bauby has with his family.

I guarantee that this is a movie unlike any you’ve ever seen before.


Screened In Sundays: Moon

Posted in Drama, Sci-Fi, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

Not every actor can successfully carry a movie by his or herself. Sam Rockwell does this to the extreme in Moon, being essentially the only human to appear on screen during the entire film. Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a man alone on the moon finishing his 3 year mission with Lunar Industries to send back to Earth supplies of a resource our planet desperately needs.

He’s actually not really “alone”, as his sole companion is a robot-like computer named GERTY (voiced excellently by Kevin Spacey). As Bell’s mission is about to be complete, he gets into an accident while harvesting resources. I don’t want to spoil what happens next (even though the trailers did), but let’s just say things get weird – fast.

Moon was shot on a relatively cheap (by today’s standards) budget of $5 million, but the movie looks gorgeous. Many scenes in the film will hearken back memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey among other sci-fi classics. It’s worth a watch, if only for Rockwell’s powerhouse performance and the film’s instantly classic score.

Screened In Sundays: Capturing The Friedmans

Posted in Documentary, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , on July 22, 2012 by judsonw


One underseen gem every Sunday.

There’s nothing better than a good documentary that sucks you into a world/story and won’t let you go for 90 minutes-2 hours. Capturing The Friedmans fits this description easily. The film is about the true story of a father and his 16 year old son who are accused of molesting young boys who took part of the computer class they taught at their home. Whether they are guilty or innocent is not entirely clear.
What makes this documentary so much more notable than others is the fact that most of the footage was shot by the accused’s family member – son and brother David Freedman. We get a rare inside look into the destruction of a family as they struggle to come to terms with the horrific allegations. Capturing The Friedmans is a documentary that you’ll have a hard time forgetting.

Screened In Sundays: Hard Candy

Posted in Screened In Sundays, Thriller with tags , , , , on July 15, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

I’m a huge fan of films that take place almost entirely in one location. It raises the tension level and (usually) makes for a pretty damn exciting film. Hard Candy is mainly known for Ellen Page’s breakout performance, but the film itself is a nearly perfect thriller.

Ellen Page plays a young teenage girl who meets an older man (Patrick Wilson) on the Internet. They meet at a coffee shop and things quickly get awkward and creepy for the viewer. How far is the movie going to go? Surely, they won’t show anything! Well, the film does show something, but just not what you were expecting.

There’s a major plot twist that occurs about 20 minutes into the film that greatly changes the course of the story. Saying anything about it would be spoilerific. Seeing these two actors, particularly Page, going mano-a-mano in a cat and mouse game is both a joy and burden to watch. You may not have everything figured once the credits roll, but you will definitely have something to talk about.

Screened In Sundays: Waitress

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

I can’t think of any other film that makes me as happy as Waitress. Maybe it has to do with all the pie-making going on throughout the film. Keri Russell is fantastic as Jenna, a pregnant pie diner waitress in a very unhappy, verging on abusive, marriage. There’s so much heart on display here that it’s hard not to root for Jenna to succeed and find happiness.

The supporting characters/actors are just as great, with Jeremy Sisto doing what he does best (acting crazy) as Jenna’s husband. Nathan Fillion plays the straight man pretty well as Jenna’s doctor/love interest, and the late Andy Griffith is pretty amusing as the diner’s cranky regular who ends up playing a big role in Jenna’s life.

Waitress is a perfect swan song for director Adrienne Shelly, who was tragically murdered before the film was released. She, along with Cheryl Hines, complement Russell as Jenna’s best friends. I couldn’t imagine the movie being this good without Shelly’s irresistible charm on and off the screen.

Now…where is my pie?

Screened In Sundays: Eden Lake

Posted in Horror, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

There are many movies that have been made about damsels in distress being hunted by something/someone in the forest. Why do people find this plot so appealing? Maybe it’s the human will to survive on display, or maybe horny guys just want to see busty women in distress. Well, the former is what attracts me to horror films in general, and Eden Lake ends up being much more than a horror film.

The story follows a couple (Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender) who try to spend a romantic weekend on, you guessed it, Eden Lake. Their plans go awry, however, when they encounter a gang of obnoxious and sadistic kids who won’t leave them alone.

There are a few moments in the film that have literally haunted me since I first saw the movie 4 years ago. While the film is brutal, violent, and hard to watch at times, writer/director James Watkins is always hinting at something beneath the surface. Once the final shot closes the film, you realize that the film doubles as a social commentary on the poor state of youth in this day and age.

Screened In Sundays: Buried

Posted in Screened In Sundays, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , on June 24, 2012 by judsonw

1 underseen gem every Sunday.

Remember that amazing scene in Kill Bill Volume 2 when Uma Thurman gets buried alive? The scene is incredibly tense, claustrophobic, and terrifying. Well, imagine that for 80 minutes.

Yes, this Ryan Reynolds vehicle takes place entirely in a coffin. No outside shots AT ALL. In fact, besides a few voices on a cell phone, Reynolds is the only person to appear (physically or vocally) on screen throughout the film.

Reynolds plays a U.S. truck driver who is working in Iraq. After he is attacked, he awakes to find himself buried alive underground in a coffin. Equipped with only a lighter and a cell phone (that somehow manages to get a signal), he must find out what’s going on before his oxygen runs out.

I love ambitious films like Buried. The plot itself is a risk, and there are so many camera shots that make you double take and wonder how it was pulled off. I usually find Reynolds extremely grating in movies, but he’s actually easy to root for here. And I’ll be a man enough to admit that I shed a tear or two at the climax of the story.