Guest Reviews from fellow TCFF Bloggers: Frankenweenie and The Master

I was away at an interactive design conference all day today, folks, but I wanted to introduce you to two fellow TCFF bloggers who’ll be covering the film fest with me. June actually covered TCFF last year for her Girl Producer blog, but this will be the first time Emery will be covering the film fest. She’s currently studying film at the U of M Film.

Thanks June and Emery for your reviews!


FRANKENWEENIE 

Ah a beloved story of a child and his dog mixed with Ghoulish looking people, black and white theatrics, and animal zombies. Wait… what?

Frankenweenie started at a short film that got Director Tim Burton fired from Disney. Yep, fired. So it is only fitting that years later he is hired back and given a chance to revisit his old tale now embraced by Disney.

So what to say about the film? It is definitely true to the Burtonesque nature of things with it’s dark theatrics and beloved stop motion claymation and snappy humor that you have to be quick to catch. And in old Disney fashion there is something for both kids and adults to enjoy. Having seen the short years ago I was excited to see how things played out in the feature version. The thing about Burton is that he always creates fascinating abstract characters and that remains true in this film.

This is a great Halloween film that the whole family can enjoy, just be aware that there are some darker moments in the film that may be unsuitable for those really young.

– review by June Neely

…..

3 out of 5 reels


THE MASTER

The Master is a period piece, set directly after WWII, it focuses on a veteran named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), who is returning home. Either the war wreaked havoc on his mental state (a victim of PTSD) or he is inherently a troubled person. Whatever the reasoning is for his behavior/personality there isn’t a place for him in this post-war environment. This is the case until he meets Lancaster Dodd (the always lovely Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his wife Peggy (Amy Adams), who are the founders and leaders of The Cause; the Cause is a theologically-based group that exhibits traits of a sophisticated cult.

Lancaster recognizes that Freddie needs help and takes him in, believing that he can fix him. The two men’s personalities are dissimilar to such an extent that all of their interactions put you on pins and needles. Each character brings their own tension, and each interaction creates new discomfort – laughter seems to be the most appropriate reaction. Considering Paul Thomas Anderson’s past work, if it wasn’t unsettling and confusing, many viewers would be disappointed.

Over the course of the film, The Cause becomes more and more questionable. Before the release of this film, there were rumors that this was going to be a Scientology movie– P. T. A. based The Cause and Dodd’s character loosely off of L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology) and his original group of followers. Despite resemblances, any connection with the current religion has been denied.

Paul Thomas Anderson is a highly acclaimed writer-director; he is responsible for a mere six feature films, yet all of them have numerous accolades. The acting is award-worthy, but I doubt that this will rake in the awards like 2007’s There Will Be Blood, but fans of PTA will be far from disappointed.

This is not a movie – as in something you would want to see in your leisure for quick (mindless) entertainment – this is a film. The cinematography is breathtaking (I saw it in 70mm – every shot looks like a photograph); this film is driven by its characters, which are genuine and memorable, and though the narrative takes a back seat, it is far from dull.

One of the quirks of Freddie Quell’s PTSD is that he’s a raving alcoholic, and there are a few points during the film where Freddie is shown making his own product. I have found an interview from the Vulture website that discusses the plausibility of distilling and getting intoxicated with household chemicals (worth a read after you go see The Master).

The R rating is deserved; Freddie has bad habits and the audience is given a full serving of his mature lifestyle. I walked out of the theater with my faith in today’s film industry totally restored. I am trying to give away as few plot spoilers as possible, while whole-heatedly advocating everyone to go see this. Waiting for it to come out on DVD is fine and dandy, but missing an opportunity to see this on the silver screen would be foolish.

Fun fact about the film: The Master grossed an average of $146,000 per theater during its limited release (sep. 15 and 16)– the second-highest total for a limited-release live-action film.

– review by Emery Thoresen

4 out of 5 reels


Thoughts about either one of these films? Let’s hear it in the comments!