Rack Focus

Reviews and criticism of film, TV, music, and more

Game of Thrones Season 3 – Episode 4 Review “And Now His Watch is Ended” – Visually Memorable, Narratively Messy

danyI wonder what Game of Thrones would look like in an IMAX theatre…

The internet is abuzz with insane praise for this episode. The AV club gave it an A, and IGN called it “The Best Season 3 Episode So Far.” While I was never bored with the episode, and the final scene is shocking and fantastic, I thought the overall storytelling and pacing was the worst in the season yet.

It has gotten to the point that there are so many new minor characters (Locke, Brotherhood Without Banners, Jojen Reed, Theon Greyjoy’s helper, the many men of the Night’s watch), and so many storylines to develop (about a dozen), that I felt that many scenes were underdeveloped. What is Locke’s motivation? Who is he allied with? Why is he humiliating Jamie this extremely? Other stories progressed too quickly. Khaleesi’s wonderful, massive-scale finale, which moved her story forward faster than the entirety of season 2, still felt rushed to me.

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Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 3 Review: “Walk of Punishment”

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Punishment Indeed.

Now that much of the table setting is out of the way, ‘Thrones’ is ready for more character development and action…and rape? “Walk of Punishment” was in general quite rape-y; it played a part in four storylines, but thankfully no actual rape was shown. In that same vein, I found this week’s brothel scene to be tasteful and fun, a refreshing replacement to the gratuitous, overlong, objectifying sexposition scenes in seasons 1 and 2. Also refreshing were the brilliant first two scenes of the episode, showing how lapses in the show’s near-continuous dialogue can relay far more depth and humor.

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A Place Beyond the Pines Review – An Enthralling Crime Opera

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I highly recommend “The Place Beyond the Pines” … a lot of critics found it to be overdone and too self-serious, but I thought the story and performances warranted all of the stylistic and emotional excess. Others had the same complaint of Cianfrance’s 2010 feature “Blue Valentine,” another intense movie that I thought was completely earned in its brutality and cruel editing.

In “Pines,” Cooper, Gosling, and DeHaan are gripping as hell. The camera, editing, and music make the movie feel operatic and raw at the same time. The filmmakers do not insult the viewer with rote dialogue and overdone exposition, instead they let the story breathe and exude its subtext. The movie is long and has a sprawling three-act structure…”Pines” is three movies for the price of one. Though it wont resonate with everyone, if the themes, subtext, and connections work for you, you’ll be stunned.

“Trance” Review – at least it was only 90 minutes…

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An absolute mess of a screenplay; Danny Boyle deserves better than this cliche drivel. If you thought “Slumdog Millionaire” was trite (I didn’t), then you will hate “Trance.” Rosario Dawson is sort of a bad actress, right? I love her in “Death Proof” and “Sin City,” but those are both campy, so she works. There’s something about her voice and eyes that always reminds you that she’s acting, not a character.

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Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 2 Review – “Dark Wings, Dark Words”

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This week was also about exposition. Lots of exposition…this time without the sex! While these complicated conversations and character introductions dominated the episode, I felt that they were intensely fascinating and engaging. Showrunners Benioff and Weiss are master storytellers. I’ve organized this review by storyline, with the great one liner from each heading it off.

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A Bold Departure from Studio Conventions – Psychological Editing in the Climactic Massacre Sequence of “Bonnie and Clyde”

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Inspired by daring new approaches in Europe, the trend of New Hollywood arose in the late 1960s and recklessly abandoned many conventions of the studio system. More scenes were shot on location, outside, and with a dynamic, moving camera, including experimentation with handheld and long takes. Many of the iconic New Hollywood films like The Graduate, Easy Rider, and Bonnie and Clyde feature moments of bold editing, manipulating time, space, and continuity in avant-garde, cerebral, and surreal scenes and montages. Comparing the diner scene with the famous, climactic massacre sequence will reveal how the traditional shot-reverse-shot editing approach differs form the shocking, complex, and kinetic approach.

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“Upstream Color” – Pre-Screening Review with Shane Carruth!

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I was super lucky to get an opportunity to see a pre-screening of this film at the new Alamo Drafthouse in Denver, and I got to ask Carruth himself (writer, director, actor, cinematographer, composer, producer of the film) a question via skype in the theater afterwards. It was a great cinephile experience…the Drafthouse is awesome, and Carruth is very eloquent.

The film itself is stunningly shot and edited, using white, natural light, shallow depth of field, and crisp, loud, intimate sound. His score is fucking great too, it was posted on LWM a while ago. As an audiovisual experience it’s continually fascinating, surreal, and provocative…aesthetically pleasing in every way. It’s intensely lyrical and impressionistic, which is especially impressive on it’s low budget (shot on high quality DSLR??).

The narrative and themes of the film are much more obtuse, and potentially alienating and frustrating (perhaps intentionally so at times). There are these ‘subjective’ (in Carruth’s words) connections throughout the film between human characters, animals, insects, water, fauna, in consciousness and emotion that transcend time and space in a bold and abstract way. It’s WAY more WTF than “Primer,” with a narrative even looser and more vague than “Tree of Life” and “Spring Breakers”.

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