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I love movies that take me to emotional familiar territories through paths I've never taken. "If..." "Apartment Zero" "Ed Wood" "King Of Hearts" "The Conformist" "Blue Velvet" for instance.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Blanche and Stella in Woodyland
What a treat! Cate Blanchett gives a stunning performance as a Blanche-like character written and directed by the most prolific American author of the last 40 years. Cate seems to be an actress without emotional borders. Jasmine walks a very tight rope, her sense of despair etched in her magnificent face vanishes ipso facto when she meets Peter Sarsgaard. She realizes in a sort of disbelief -extraordinary, heartbreaking and horribly funny moment - that he could be the rescue raft in her own personal tsunami. Sally Hawkins, another stroke of genius in the casting department, is a profoundly human creature very much the Stella of the situation. This two sisters, adopted both from different parents are also from different, if immediately recognizable, universes. I could go on and on but I'm not going to, I just wanted to urge you, in this times of 3D super extra loud marvel sequels, to run and see it.
Stars in Space
Visually stunning. A real first in the technical department and presumably that was the extent of its intent. None of the great themes of Kubrick's 1968 masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey", are present here. This is a superlative, 90 odd minutes of remarkable beauty but the 90 odd minutes become really long because, just like the heroine we have so little to cling on to, story wise. It seems petty to criticize a film of this kind for whatever it doesn't accomplish because what it means to accomplish, it does in spectacular fashion. I just felt that I was served a glorious appetizer without a main course. Two huge stars in space Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Why? If the idea was to dazzled us with something we had never seen before, great unknown actors would have added an extra something. Kubrick used Keir Dullea in "2001: A Space Odyssey", yes, Keir Dullea, or as Noel Coward put it, Keir Dullea, gone tomorrow. We know that if Sandra Bullock was in charge she, one way or another, will land safely. She's terrific, don't get me wrong, but I wasn't as worried about her as I should have been. The last problem was the score. Why? A standard horror/action flick musical score with cheap shots here and there. I think the purity of the work needed to be extended on every department. Now, putting all that aside, director Alfonso Cuaron must be applauded and I strongly recommend you to run and see it in the biggest screen you can find and in 3D.
The Watch (2012)
The nerve! I can't believe it look better on the page. Ben Stiller should know better by now. Or it's just a question of money. Not a moment of real comedy, not one. Vince Vaughn totally out of control in a non-character part. Oscar nominee Jonah Hill, lost. I felt hopeful when Billy Crudup makes his appearance, but the hope was very short lived. Random, inexplicable touches, that include explosions as a form of production value,I presume, but how embarrassing. The script is cheap and opportunistic but also misses its target, completely. Aliens in suburbia could have been a great idea. They needed writers and a director to execute it with some degree of oomph. Awful and depressing.
The Daniel Day Lewis Factor
I remember fondly, Henry Fonda and Raymond Massey as Lincolns in "Young Mr.Lincoln" and "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" They gave remarkable performances. But, here and now in this extraordinary Steven Spielberg/Tony Kushner version, the illusion is complete. I was watching the president and not for a moment thought of the actor. That in itself is close to unique. I left the theater with the feeling I've just had an out of body experience. Everything around the central performance - and I call it a performance because I don't know what else to call it - falls into place in a miraculous way. The photography, the production design, the wardrobe made it possible to actually smell the period. Congratulations and thank you.
The Master (2012)
Oh Master !
I don't remember when was the last time I got so engrossed in a film that the ending felt like snapping out of a trance. Remarkable in every detail but the detail I appreciate the most is the acting, if one can call it that. Joaquin Phoenix introduced us to a character I had never seen before on the screen. I was compelled, mesmerized. A sensation I hadn't experience since Colin Firth gave us Adrian LeDuc in 1989's "Apartment Zero". A total original but solidly planted in a reality that is undeniable. Shattering. Love him or hate him, he's not asking for sympathy on the contrary. He is defiant. Philip Seymour Hoffman adds another spellbinding character to his already extraordinary collection. And you, Mr. Anderson, who are you? Long Live The Cinema!
Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012)
Rashida and Andy For Ever
Oh, finally! A smart romantic comedy with great chemistry between it's charming protagonists. Rashida Jones is, not just beautiful, but unique. And what about Andy Samberg? Wonderful. With his enormous features, big nose, big mouth, lots of teeth in no particular order, he manages to be delicate and tender. I believed him, totally. Okay, well, that's the solid base in which you can build anything. To connect with the characters on the screen is a principal ingredient for a fulfilling tale of any kind. I left the theater feeling upbeat and optimistic. I worry a little for Rashida left to try her luck with Chris Messina. He's far too convincing in "The Newsroom". Joking aside, go see it.
Less Than Lawless
Wanting to be so many things, sometimes, leaves you with very little. "Lawless" is a blatant example of that. Everything feels so unauthentic no matter how much effort has been put into accomplishing the opposite. The script is rambling and sketchy as well as starchy and, at times, downright annoying. Tom Hardy is one of my favorites of late, but here, he seems to be impersonating someone. It felt like a self-conscious parody. And Shia LaBeouf? What's with this man? Why is he playing leads in films? He, I'm sure, must have acting coaches and he is, clearly, following instructions, but what about the truth? He acts up a storm but there is not a moment of truth, not one. Look at the moment when he's told his friend Cricket has been killed. I felt embarrassed for him. Jessica Chastain's character suffers a radical change in the middle of the story and I kept wondering, how? when? and more importantly, why? Gary Oldman is always a pleasure to watch and Mia Wasikowska is lovely and does the most with the little she was given. The lack of chemistry between her and LaBeouf is unavoidable. He is acting all the time. The only highlight, really, is Guy Pearce. His performance is fearless and enormously entertaining.
Magic Mike (2012)
Great buns, shame about the script
So many elements that could have made this a truly original movie. Instead it's confusing, meandering and ultimately pointless. Alex Pettyfer, the innocent entering the world of male strippers has a good face a great body but lacks life, yes, that's it, he's kind of lifeless. Channing Tatum, whose story, apparently, this is, has a body that seems to have been shaped by a genius, but a face that looks slightly unfinished. I didn't get his character at all. As an actor Channing tries far too hard. Matthew McConaughey is a hoot, Great chest and he seems to be relishing the spotlight. So, all in all, entertaining and little, very little else.
Hope Springs (2012)
Melancholic Comedy About Intimacy
Meryl Streep is a wonder, let's start right there. After her towering portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, an ordinary woman in real danger of disappearing all together. Real and enormously moving. Tommy Lee Jones gives us a face we hadn't seen before. Someone so settled in his ways that he doesn't notice what's happening around him. That's why, I though, his realization is so poignant. The film is based on a solid script but the direction is sluggish and uncertain to say the least. It feels as if the director didn't trust his material. The songs and the score, out of a Lifetime TV movie, doesn't allow us to connect with the real truths unfolding in the screen. That, I must confess, was very annoying. I recommend the film on the strength of the two central performances. Intimacy between two grown ups reflected on every look on every move until the score comes to interfere and derail our emotions.
To Rome with Love (2012)
A Half Cooked Italian Dish
Rome must be one of the most photogenic cities in the world, no matter how you look at it or who is looking. The Rome of Fellini with all its magic corners or Pasolini's Rome with its poetic darkness. Woody Allen's Rome is pure postcard glitter. What a let down. This is Allen's weakest script so far. Seems undecided and downright lazy. The tribute to Fellini's "The White Sheik" verges on theft and the Italian actors delivering their lines in Italian look and sound as participants of a provincial amateur hour. Even Oscar winner Roberto Benigni gives a pale and tired life to a thoroughly underwritten character. Allen himself is very good as is Judy Davis as his wife. But, I wonder what was in the writer/director's mind. I believe that in Allen's filmography from best to worst, To Rome With Love will appear very near the bottom. But, let's not despair, the master is already prepping his next flick.