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Like Crazy (2011)
Like Crazy was like Crazy Bad
Like Crazy, a Sundance sweet-heart (awarded the Grand Jury Prize in "Dramatic Picture" and "Dramatic Actress: Felicity Jones"), written and directed by Drake Doremus, currently has a limited release in major U.S. cities and, if it were up to me, the film would never make it to wide release.
When one watches the Like Crazy trailer there are complex emotional sequences and simple yet lovely images that lure the unsuspecting audience into what could be an astounding and realistic romance film. In reality, the most interesting part of this film was the end credits, and that was due completely to the only song on the soundtrack that had any resonance, Dead Hearts by Stars. Now I sit here wishing I had saved those 11 dollars to do something more productive, like buy seven hundred rubber bands at an Office Max and fling them off a bridge.
This may be Anton Yelchin's least inspired performance to date, and he cannot blame it on the writing like Felicity Jones, his co-star, can. His demeanor was off-putting, he lacked any (I seriously mean any) charisma and had no chemistry with Jones, his so called "love interest". Jones created what was written on the page extraordinarily well, and this may have been the only reason she bagged the Sundance best Actress lord knows it wasn't her character's likability that clinched it. In fact there was not one second in the entire eighty-nine minute relationship-flick when I liked either Jacob (Yelchin) or Anna (Jones) or their relationship as a wholewhich was so unconvincing it hurt to watch. Still, my sympathy, at least what sympathy I have for the film, is lent to Jennifer Lawrence who has too much talent to squander her time on an indie with no substance.
Doremus directs as though he is a Film I student at a high school lacking both conventional teachers and supply budget. Who here has heard of a tripod? Obviously not Doremus (or the honky-tonk school he currently attends). And before you get all up in knots about the legitimacy of the "shaky cam" technique (which I personally have a soft- spot for) I'm going to tell you that this is not shaky cam, this is "I'm-sneezing-and-have-no-friends-whose-hands-do-not-shake-like-they- are-currently-in-the-Northridge-earthquake-of-94 ". Yes, it most certainly is that bad.
When I left the theatre after Martha Marcy May Marlene, another awards season indie darling, I heard an audience member claim that "the writer obviously didn't know what he was doing! (That) he didn't even bother writing an ending!" I scoffed at that comment and continued loving Martha to all ends. I cannot imagine what horrid things that same man would have said after leaving this film. Written with absolutely no flair or understanding of character, Doremus left the ending completely openambiguous so that he did not have to put any effort into making a decision. Several scenes fade in and out: perfectly edited so Doremus does not have to write any conflict (the most important element in any well made film). The dialogue may be the most awkward stream of words I've ever heard uttered on screen or off. If that is what love looks like, I would prefer skipping it.
If I had to make a list of my least favorite movies of the year (or the movies I wasted my money on stupidly) this would be near the top spot for both. Congratulations Like Crazy!
(I'll still be looking out for Felicity Jones in future roles because she did leave me assured of her ability to act what has been given to her.)
Black Swan (2010)
You Were Perfect
The preternaturally graceful weaving of themes, acting talent, and striking camera-work made Black Swan one of the most beautiful and preeminent films I've ever seen, and perhaps the best film of 2010.
Darren Aronofsky, a revolutionary of directing and film-crafting, effortlessly combined all of the ideas and thoughts seamlessly, and with such cinematic flair that it is almost impossible to ignore this marvel of cinema. His camera is our Black Swan, taking us through lives with Aronofsky's jolty ease, and screen-enveloping passion. Moments of the movie burst with life, and emotion, while others are so subdued it is physically painful to watch without fidgeting.
Credit must be given where credit is due, and credit is due to Natalie Portman, the phenomenal back-bone of the film. She captured both the physical and emotional facets of her complex character, and this unfathomable feet is the sole reason she was handed an Oscar.
Mila Kunis, in her first break-out role, stupefied me with her refined control of character. Her deliciously and irresistibly seductive, almost siren-like, feats in the film are what supporting actresses only dream they can do. She was the epitome of the idea of Black Swan.
Vincent Cassel, an actor who can perfect any ideal or number of passions, managed the task of main catalysts without a. overacting or b. getting any critical acclaim. I believe that he lost out on the critical appeal because he managed to subdue his character in favor of the female leads. He relinquished the spotlight, and a humility of that nature radiates through the film.
Winona Ryder, not seen often enough as of late, managed to crown the film with a short exhibition of her many talents, and remind us why we all subscribed to her so easily in past years (and will in future ones).
To write about Black Swan without mentioning Clint Mansell's harrowing, and enthralling score would not be tolerated, so I must mention the score that drew me into the moment, and set the mood so perfectly. To be sitting in a chair, in a theater, and to not realize where you are because you are so engulfed in a movie is the product of direction, acting, and of course SCORE. To take the classic score and revamp it beyond all reasonable similarity (yet still leave it primarily the same notes) is a talent only Mansell can claim to have mastered.
"Black Swan" was simply immaculate.
My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Highlighted by a sensational performance from one of the most up-and- coming actresses of the decade, Michelle Williams, "My Week with Marilyn" was a majesty of a film and a strong boat for Eddie Redmayne to ride in on-- don't be surprised if you see his name gracing marquees within the next few years.
Simon Curtis directed this bafflingly great film with an elegance that can only be described as "Monroe-esque"; hints of shyness or, for lack of better wording, crippling-fear, wisp on the edges of the film's power and presence. Colin Clark and Adrian Hodges rooted Marilyn Monroe into a film and kept her from becoming an object of pity-- which, under the film's circumstances, was a hard feet to manage. Williams herself was a headlining reason that the film was successful: it was her tragic naivety and vivacious sex-appeal that made this film the slam-dunk it was.
Only the misuse of Emma Watson, the whisking over of Judi Dench, and the somehow disconcerting ending left this film out of the top-ten for 2011, and out of the 10 star range. Still, I would like to make sure that every movie-lover is aware that this film is still superbly made and the elegant facility in which tens of epic performances are held. A must-see of both female, and up-and-coming male, performances.
War Horse (2011)
A film that's only descriptor is "Spielberg-esque".
There is nothing inherently wrong with being a film so heart-warmingly predictable that the lovey-dovey moments practically ooze out of the audience's preconceived notions of "Christmas miracle" and onto the peculiarly blue-eyed lead actor. Still, while watching War Horse something feels uncomfortably wrong. Whether this feeling is rooted within the several leads-- all of whom are more emotionally charged and, regrettably, more talented than Jeremy Irvine-- or in the fact that there is something very "Hallmark" about a Spielberg film at this point, I shall never know. Perhaps its the fact that Tom Hiddleston was on for hardly an eighteenth of the film. I don't think I'll be getting an answer very soon.
None-the-less, as a whole the film was entertaining and a decent Christmas-feel-good. Worth a watch.
Why was this made?
Going into the "Colombiana" showing I thought to myself how I needed to be more open minded. Every time a trailer had come on I'd said, "Why did the writer of The Professional doe this? This looks like The Professional if Jean Reno had taught Natalie Portman more about killing- - which is exactly THE OPPOSITE of what the Professional was for", well lo and behold that is exactly what Colombiana tried to be. The film is simply a montage of what an action film should be, and still, it managed to be disappointing in every sense of the word.
Zoe Saldana, who is unquestionably sexy, over-acted and under-projected; there was no heart in the character-- a 12 year old Natalie Portman (yes I will keep making Professional references) was several times more intriguing and talented. The rest of the cast should also be judged and condemned for their horribly pompous over-acting, but they aren't the ones on every poster in LA right now.
Olivier Megaton put together interesting action sequences and officially epic sequences, but none of them fit with the tone of the film, and would have been better suited as a simple action short. But action shorts generally have great soundtracks, and this had bullsh*t. Improbable and over-the-top, not once does the film have the gritty and raw quality Megaton is obviously aiming for.
With the glass of milk (from The Professional), scenes almost completely copied (the apartment shaft sequence) and non-stop references to what an assassin film should be (but never actually reaching the standards), "Colombiana" was not worth the $12.50 for theaters or worth the 4 dollars it will take to rent it. Just skip it. Overall, NOT WORTH IT and NEVER WILL BE.
The Help (2011)
Well Rounded and Enjoyable
"The Help", critically and commercially praised as "extraordinary" and "sensational", was a film that I felt must be overrated. What a surprise to find that "The Help", written and directed by new-comer Tate Taylor, is hardly exaggerated, and happens to be THAT funny and THAT feel-good.
Emma Stone brings her classic heart and spunky pizazz to a character that, without an actors touch, could have been overtly dull. And though it is Viola Davis who appears to be getting all of the critic's love, I think that it is Octavia Spencer who really pulls her weight in the film. Not only does she consistently remain side-splitting hilarious, but she captures a passion the film is lacking in the help department. (This is no way means Davis didn't use her acting-chops with elegance, simply that she was not the break-out maid).
As Jessica Chastain's second (of many) film in 2011, she manages to still be youthfully tender and jubilant; who could have predicted this same time last year that Chastain would hypnotize audiences and command the screen? Who could have guessed that Bryce Dallas Howard would continually make a splash as the "bad" one? Certainly not me, and I'm sure not many of you either. But here I sit, and here you read: unable to help but smile thinking about "The Help" and all of the subtle and vibrant performances that litter this years only film with a predominantly female cast. A film that makes women proud to be where they are, who they are and gives us all that little bit of courage we were missing previously.
The only facet of this deliciously well-composed film that fell-flat was the "romantic-interest" of Stone's character Skeeter. It's always nice to have a good man for a strong leading-woman, but one who is so unnecessary and, frankly, boring has no place in a film as flamboyant and thought-provoking as "The Help". A fatal writing flaw that ruined the film's masterful quality and intense shining excellence.
A must see of 2011, and surefire Oscar bait.
Mystic River (2003)
Clint Eastwood hits the mark, again
Crafted with the passion of a true filmmaker, Clint Eastwood has, yet again, brought out the best in his actors and the deepest emotion from the audience.
The sincerity of Sean Penn is unrivaled and his performance was probably one of the best of any actor's career. Then, after viewing this masterful performance, I was knocked out by the unadulterated raw-force of Tim Robbins. Kevin Bacon was muted and subtle, but with the hints and tells of a true actor.
A work of prime first-class cinema that not only speaks for itself, but is nearly impossible to describe in depth. A must see.
More than I'd Ever Hoped For
An unequivocally masterful film that holds on its shoulders the most well rounded ensemble cast, a rising star director, and pure writing genius. "Drive" is by far the coolest, most disturbing, retro-iest, out- of-this-world, down-to-earth, heart-breaking, something-to-believe in film I've ever seen. From the strategic and precise composition of every shot to the ambiguity of all that is said or done, each moment drips with intensity and the burden of pointed meaning.
Nicolas Winding Refn WILL BE the next tour-de-force name in cinema directing; his indie-quirks juxtaposed with exploitation conventions and oddly subtle and over-the-top choice in scoring, leaves an unsettling reality in its wake. Though it may make audiences squirm uncomfortably in their seats, we are voyeurs in this plot-- silently being wrenched back and forth, and often just watching, like their lives are our sick- documentary. Refn is in command of not only his film, but his audiences' sanity.
Paired with Refn, Gosling is at the height of his big-screen brilliance. Where many thought Blue Valentine, or Ides of March fully expressed the range of his talent, "Drive" shows us more than simply his talent. First hand viewings of Ryan Gosling's heart and soul and beauty are bought for only $12 at a theater; and believe me, it's worth every penny. The utter magnificence of his performance leaves every viewer with a tender smile, or a soft-spot for redemption. His gritty moments and his vulnerability are equally as wrenching. But it was his sincere chemistry with Carey Mulligan that sold the film.
Mulligan, always the delicate flower of her films, is firm without falsity, and truthfully gracious. Her subtle and quiet performance stole several moments of the film, and left the audience wondering what they had just witnessed. The new-found passion of Mulligan as a performer is simply breath-taking.
Cranston, Brooks and Perlman-- all the underscores of evil-- sold themselves with poise and ease; their performances complemented the film's intent flawlessly. In fact, the only actress I was disappointed in was Christina Hendricks, who let her body do the acting, and left her face almost plastic at several points in the adventurous plot.
As successful as the faux-80's, name-dropping, subtly-elegant screenplay was the original score by Cliff Martinez (inspired by '80s- style synth pop) was almost better. If this score doesn't find its way into your head on repeat, then nothing will. All in all, the film can attribute much of its success to the minimalist dialogue, and the packed-script. Each moment was written to fall off the screen and stomp on the audience.
Colors and cars and women and blood. Not a moment was for show, and each word was delicately chosen to the full extent of its meaning. I can hardly imagine this having ever been a novel-- no words could capture what happened between the lines, and in the lead's eyes. Overall, a must-see-- A MUST-see. If you haven't seen you are not a movie-fan or even appreciator. You must-see this film.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
If you are reading my review it means you were curious or considered watching Brokeback Mountain. I understand that the first phrase that comes to mind when you hear the title is "Gay-Cowboy Movie." Don't worry I thought that, too. At one point in your life you have to give up all pretenses and enjoy what you want to.
I saw this because I knew that Heath Ledger wouldn't do something unless it had depth too it, no matter how deep or shallow the depth was. Don't turn away now. You have taken the time to find out about this movie, and you should. This movie is one of the most inspirational love stories I've ever seen. To tell the truth, it is the best love story I have ever watched, ever.
Ang Lee has a special technique that adds to the focus of a film. In "Brokeback Mountain" his visionary method takes the movie to outstanding places. Through the mountains, and terrain he includes in almost every shot he shows how vast the love is, how vast the hatred is, and how vast every humans emotion can be. I like to look at the shots one by one and immense myself in the fact that there is so much to everything, there is almost too much. Lee takes every shot of the movie and makes it full to the brim, you have to look fast because each shot is gone so quickly, but is worth the look. Lee does a tasteful job filming the scenes that have branded this movie "Gay". If you think this is the "gay-cowboy movie" then watch what he does, and you will realize how he shows just enough, and not too much.He allows the relations to be seen, but not to force them down your throat.
Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar was my absolute favorite part of "Brokeback Mountain". Some actors have a specific way about them, you can feel their soul. Ledger has a tangible soul and every moment that he is on screen you are feeling his pain, his love, his anger, and it allows you to BE him, not just see him. The character is silent, therefore must speak with is body and facial expressions, and I can't imagine anyone could do it better than Heath Ledger. His eyes themselves express every bit of passion Ennis Del Mar has. If for nothing else, watch Brokeback Mountain for Heath Ledger's stunning and beautiful performance that will surely go down in history.
Jake Gyllenhaal left me speechless. I've never really liked him as an actor outside of Donnie Darko and Zodiac, but he surprised me by being so amazing. Jake had a love and a heart that was wide open. There are certain actors that fit the role, even if they are nothing like the character, they just fit. Jake Gyllenhaal fits Jack Twist like they'd known each other for years, and were old friends who knew each other inside and out. To understand what sacrifice is, you have to watch the tortured expressions Gyllenhaal is capable of. Bravo, and thank you Jake for surprising me.
Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams served very similar purposes in the movie, and both served them well. I'm not going to rave on and on about how fabulous both actresses were, because in comparison to the male leads, they weren't. But, both had their own spark and their own stage presence that added to the film. Watching women struggle with a realization like the one in this film is fascinating. Don't take my comments on them as the two being bad, they just couldn't compare to the excellence and pure perfection of Ledger and Gyllenhaal.
I've read the short story that this movie was adapted from. The short story is of the same name and carries the same power. When I read I see a movie going through my head following, so it is important that the author gives character and place description. Wow. Brokeback Mountain was truly an amazing read. it barely took thirty minutes and I had read it twice. Once you begin the journey of reading it, you can't stop. Every character, moment and feeling enveloped me. I can't stop thinking about everything and how amazingly adapted this film was. Reading then watching, watching then reading, either way you know the story inside and out. The short story and the movie almost mirrored each other. The only major difference was Michelle Williams' role. In the story it was featured less, but in the movie you got a chance to understand how the women fit in. Perfectly adapted.
There isn't much else to say, besides this: Every once and a while you find a movie that touches you in a way that is unimaginable. Brokeback Mountain touched me so powerfully that I couldn't control my crying for twenty minutes after it ended. I cry every time I watch it, and every time I think about it, but after I cry I can feel something new and momentous. Something about love and about people. There is nothing more moving and powerful than the entirety of this heart-felt and soul- wrenching film.
Fight Club (1999)
Beyond all Belief
I rarely start off with a quote but here we go, "It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything." In my opinion this is one of the most powerful quotes ever uttered in a movie, and luckily for Fightclub, most of the other powerful quotes take their residence in the movie as well. " People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden." And so starts the phenomenally acted, breath taking action movie Fight Club. Once you begin the movie you are on the edge of your seat taking in every shot, every line, every movement of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Fightclub inhabits your body, it becomes an addiction, a need. WIthout Fightclubs presence you feel empty. After watching Fightclub I felt empty, but most important I felt full. I had to watch the movie again to relieve the emptiness, and once it was over the second time I began to take the fullness and think.
Fightclub is a movie that makes you think about what you've done with your life, about everything, and especially society and mediocrity. Be prepared to realize that, as Tyler Durden says, "We are all part of the same compost heap." Firstly there is no actor that can ever compare to Edward Norton. Norton has a calm intensity that is riveting. Edward Nortons narration of the film made it at least ninety times better than any other movie I've ever seen. Listening to his voice is soothing and it adds a stage presence to anything he is speaking of. Edward Norton's character was like his other half, it felt natural, even Norton's body suggested his character traits. Without Edward Norton their would be no Fightclub. If anyone tells you that FightClub stars Brad Pitt, you can just look at them and inform them that they obviously haven't seen Fightclub.
Brad Pitt, though not the star of FightClub, adds so much character to the movie through his role of Tyler Durden. Brad Pitt's laugh was one of the most intense and maniacal laughs I've ever heard in any movie, no matter what genre. Tyler Durden was a character that was vital to the film that if he had been cast wrong the movie wouldn't be half of what it is today, and it's IMDb's 14th Most Popular Movie Ever Made. Luckily for Brad PItt he has a tendency to be perfect at these types of films. "We just had a near life experience", as Tyler would say.
Helena Bonham Carter has a darkness about her, it's extremely eye catching and well-done, it's almost an art-form. She continues to amaze me through her depressed, but loving characters who have such a violent range of emotions that you can barely follow her, but you have fun trying too. I love Marla and her role in the movie. Meat Loaf, and Jared Leto add to the story through their humorous interpretations of what could be heart-breaking characters. Both perform amazingly and add relativity to the film in their own special-little ways.
The story was written so perfectly that I couldn't find a single flaw in it. Every moment of the movie made me more attentive to the plot. The ending, and twists were constructed so effortlessly that you barely realized they were happening. Every moment, and every cut of the movie to a different moment in Tyler or The Narrartor's life added infinitely to the film. It was well made off of the novel and in the moments of deviation from Palahnuick's work it was only an addition to the watchability, or the possibilities of movies. It was a great shrine to the novel's excellence. David Fincher was fifty percent of what the film is. Every time the camera angle, or scene changes he adds something that surprises or informs the plot. Adding in the intricate detailed moments and flashes of image or sound controlled the movie's knowledge of anarchy, and Tyler. Fincher's shots made the movie first-rate, insightful, original, clever, and thought-provoking, not to mention kick-ass. Fightclub is power, and makes you think twice about life and society, definitely worth a watch no matter who you are, or what your beliefs are. Remember the first and second rules of Fightclub "do not talk about Fightclub." (It'll definitely be hard for you to follow those rules)