REVIEW: Higher Ground

4 10 2011

Anyone even willing to touch on the deep questions of religion that still loom large in life starts off a winner in my book.  The mere hint of discussing God on film sends people either hiding under a rock or complaining on the Internet, so it really takes someone with grace, eloquence, and poise to give their take in modern times.  Vera Farmiga, both acting on screen and directing behind the camera, lends a respectful voice to the conversation in “Higher Ground,” a movie about a woman truly wrestling with her faith.

As a first feature, it’s  impressive, yet there are some typical novice errors like uneven tone and inconsistent pacing that keep the film from being an impressive movie in its own right.  But Farmiga’s movie is still an effective in the sense that it asks – no, demands – its audience to ponder some incredibly deep questions.  She directs the film in such a way that it falls outside the normal pendulum of “religious” movies.  It definitely does not paint the best portrait of a Christian community, but it also doesn’t disparage them, either.  It doesn’t openly profess faith, but it doesn’t profess atheism.  Farmiga remains honest, neutral, and remarkably even-keeled so her movie can inspire conversation as opposed to complaints.

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WTLFT: August 2011

7 07 2011

Hard to believe we can see the light at the end of the tunnel that is summer 2011.  So, here’s what to look forward to – or not – in the month of August.

August 5

“The Change-Up” – it’s “Freaky Friday,” but rated R and starring two dudes.  We’ll see how this goes.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out why on earth James Franco is doing “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”  Between getting two doctorate degrees and just receiving an Oscar nomination, you would think he would have the smarts and the options to avoid making a movie like this for money or for résumé.  Then again, everyone nowadays has to go to drastic measures to pay for higher education in this country.

I feel like I have to embed the trailer for “Bellflower” rather than just link to it, simply because I can tell it isn’t trying to be like some other movie just to sell tickets.

Being a fan of both the novel and the film “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” I have to see “Magic Trip,” Alex Gibney’s latest documentary which spotlights the book’s author Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters in the 1960s.

August 10/12

Getting a head start on the weekend by opening on Wednesday is “The Help,” which looks to be a late-summer sleeper, hoping to please the oft-neglected female crowd by adapting a best-selling book.  But with this one looking to be less geared towards one gender and even a potential awards play, this could outgross “Green Lantern” or other summer flops.

The premise of “30 Minutes or Less” feels, quite frankly, a little recycled.  But since it boasts the comedic talents of Aziz Ansari (the funniest part of “Parks & Recreation”), Danny McBride (the best part of “Pineapple Express“), and Jesse Eisenberg being reteamed with the director of the hilariously awesome “Zombieland,” it may end up being pretty good.

And because “THE Final Destination” wasn’t final enough, there’s “Final Destination 5,” which is shot in 3D.  Too bad the title “the 3D event of the summer” was already taken – and I don’t think they could stretch it into 5 dimensions quite yet.  There’s also a “Glee” concert movie in 3D in case you haven’t spent enough buying their singles on iTunes.

August 19

Is it just me, or does “Fright Night” = “Disturbia” + zombies?  Also, Anton Yelchin is keeping crazy busy.  He beat unemployment.

As for a last big summer action movie, count me out for “Conan the Barbarian.”  You can even count me out for the inevitable Arnold Schwarzenegger classics marathon that will be running all weekend on Spike.  I think I’ll pass on the latest “Spy Kids” movie as well, which is a TOTAL sell-out of a series that I actually loved when I was 8.  Aroma-scope?  Gross.

August 26

I will see ANY movie with Paul Rudd, so “Our Idiot Brother” is a must-see for me.  It’s only made better by the fact that it played at Sundance to a great deal of acclaim.  Huzzah!

There is no trailer available yet for “Higher Ground” (grr!), but I think this may be my must-see movie of August … because I probably won’t get to see it until December.  Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut, a religious movie, just Vera Farmiga in general – sign me up!

In other indie news, the 2010 TIFF debut “Brighton Rock,” Rowan Joffe’s remake of the old British film, finally sees release in America.  “Chasing Madoff” looks like a sleek documentary, but I’m wondering what will distinguish it from the perfectly good “Frontline” special on PBS that unfurled his whole story.  “Circumstance” brings Iranian youth to the screen, and again I have to wonder what makes this any different than a live action version of “Persepolis” set in the present day.

I wasn’t the biggest “Pan’s Labyrinth” enthusiast, so Guillermo del Toro’s “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” isn’t necessarily high on my list for the weekend.  Nor is “Colombiana,” the Zoe Saldana-starrer which looks like a carbon copy of Luc Besson’s “The Professional.”  Oh, it’s also directed by him … coincidence?  I think NOT!

So, what do you think will please crowds in August?  Are you looking for one last bang from the summer – or for it to just end already?  Sound off in the comments AND take the poll!