Matthew Slaughter's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Toni Erdmann
Toni Erdmann (2016)
5 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

5/5 What will ultimately be the difference between the original German film "Toni Erdmann" and its inevitable American remake - and the quality which makes it infinitely more satisfying - is its natural way of navigating that line between the mundane realities of human relationships and the exaggerated whimsy of your typical "feel good" comedic drama.

It is a remarkable feat that director Karen Ade has achieved in his film: Every note is played beautifully and honestly, and what could - and probably will in Hollywood hands - have become a predictably trite Dysfunctional Family Roadtrip Movie - is an emotionally engaging character and relationship study of profound depth and subtlety, despite (and because of) its effortlessly timed moments of absurdity. Its performers, each and every one of them, are magnificently natural, contributing to a sense of vérité.

Don't be concerned about your investment in the almost 3 hour runtime. It is worth each and every minute.

The Fits
The Fits (2016)
6 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

4/5. Visceral and joyful. At just 72 minutes, Anna Rose Holmer's excursion into the world of a young adolescent boxing student as she discovers dance is an ephemeral cinematic masterclass in just about everything that most modern films lack.

Southland Tales
8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

3.5/5
Far more ambitious than "Donnie Darko", Richard Kelly's "Southland Tales" is not as successful a film but is not deserving of its 36% Rotten Tomatoes score or its reputation as a mess. It's a freaking oddball of a movie, replete with amazing detail and populated by a mostly intriguing ensemble cast.

Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson is surprisingly funny, and Sarah Michelle Gellar reminds us how wasted her talents have been by hollywood.

Where this grand opera of apocalyptic chaos falls flat is with the casting of Sean William Scott as a central character. He's got no screen presence and he's kinda boring to watch, so the film, and its spidery narrative, lacks a keystone.

Still, it's an incredible film - something like a bastard child of Magnolia and Pulp Fiction, made with Kelly's stylish melding of cinematography and carefully considered soundtracking, literally breaking into a Justin Timberlake-led video clip at one point, and effectively so. It's worth watching.

Margaret
Margaret (2011)
8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

4/5

Around 100 minutes into Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" there is a long, slow pan across some of New York City's landscape which is followed by an unbroken shot of Lisa (played by Anna Paquin) walking through its indifferent crowds. The two shots run for several minutes and invite reflection as they breathe, complementing and solidifying the tone set in the opening of the film in which people move through the city in motion, set to Nico Muhly's evocative score.

There is an ache for connection and understanding at the heart of Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" which Anna Paquin brings to the screen with a vulnerability and depth not even hinted at during her 25 season slum as Sookie Stackhouse in "True Blood". Her incredible performance brings to mind Gena Rowlands when she worked with John Cassavetes. "Margaret" is not Cinéma vérité by any means - it is positively filmic. Yet, like a Cassavetes film, it invites the audience to participate in the life of its characters by showing them doing and talking about things in scene after scene which are not necessarily integral to its central or overarching narrative. These scenes serve to build a multidimensional portrait of its characters which, again, are allowed the space to breathe and develop.

There is music in the film but not everywhere, and when it's present it serves a purpose and creates a synergy with the cinematography which is rarely experienced in modern cinema.

It is unclear to this reviewer why this film, shot in 2005, was not released until 2011. Seen in its original theatrically released form (150 minutes), "Margaret" is an overwhelming experience, a film filled with beautiful, quiet moments and a near-magnificent character study. Smaller character parts as played Matt Damon, Jean Reno, Allison Janney and Mark Ruffalo are reminders of these actors talents as they fill their respective parts with nuance and complexity despite minimal screen time.

Reportedly, the director's preferred cut is three hours long. I haven't seen it, but I can say right here that the 150 minute cut is just incredible and works as a complete narrative, an exploration of the human condition and a character study in and of itself.

Arrival
Arrival (2016)
8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

An often mesmeric film of grand proportions and beautiful nuance, "Arrival" builds a compelling narrative without relying too heavily on SF cinema archetypes and succeeds in transcending them.

Themes both political and relational are explored thoughtfully and meaningfully, as lead performers Adams and Renner imbue their performances with great emotional depth and vulnerability. There is some of Spielberg's "Close Encounters" to be found (of course), with director Villeneuve also (very effectively) focusing more on character reaction to events rather than bombarding us with effects, and shades of Nolan's "Interstellar" and Zemeckis' "Contact".

Yet the overwhelming feeling is that of a singular vision as executed by a visionary film maker, one which although is not as immediately impactful as, say, Villeneuve's "Prisoners" or Nolan's "Interstellar", is one which slowly continues to seep in after viewing and provoke thought in the days which follow.