Review: Red State (2011)

Over the years, Kevin Smith has made a name for himself directing such provocative and riotous comedies as the infamous Clerks and last years miscalculated Cop Out. His latest directorial effort, Red State, is an entirely different ball game. Not only does it see Smith returning to the guerrilla filmmaking style that made him a household name, but it also sees him tackling subject matter outside his typical comfort zone. This is how freely he works when not having to deal with Hollywood studios and experienced actors – something that, despite its often incoherent execution, is very interesting to behold.

Travis (Michael Angarano), Jarod (Kyle Gallner) and Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun), respond to an online invitation Continue reading “Review: Red State (2011)”

Review: Ceremony (2010)

Ceremony is writer/director Max Winkler’s feature film debut, and stars Uma Thurman, Michael Angarano, Lee Pace, Jake Johnson, Rebecca Mader and Reece Thompson.

The film centers on a young guy (Angarano) who takes his best friend to crash the wedding of the thirty-something woman (Thurman) he wants back.

Traces of Wes Anderson are too frequent to note, but its clear director Max Winkler has developed his own style. He displays a much more brisk and confidently naturalistic technique, with his smooth camera movements and unobtrusive shots.

Winkler counterbalances this with a script comprised of complex, interesting and engrossing characters who speak with quick, snappy dialogue from the outset.

The trouble is, Winkler never takes the time to form believable backstories for his characters. It seems all too implausible that Zoe and Sam had a past relationship in the first place, much less one that’s worth trying to reclaim. At its heart, Ceremony is a character piece, but unfortunately one that constantly goes through the motions, as if trying to prove itself too much.

Saying that, there are some truly terrific performances to behold. Thurman forges a very real and tender Zoe, one who obviously has a deep understanding of Sam, but can’t quite justify the relationships future. Angarano is the true revelation, delivering a wholly adult performance – something with abundant personality and immeasurable depth.

The supporting performances, including turns from Thompson, Johnson, Pace and Mader provide much needed escapism from the throes of the central focus; Johnson and Mader especially throw themselves into their respective characters and make their screen-time worthwhile and a joy to watch.

Ceremony is an elegantly made, cajoling and well acted film that proves Winkler is just as capable, if not more so, than his peers – even if it isn’t the masterpiece it seems to believe it is.