Reviews written by registered user
|33 reviews in total|
"Under the Skin," the first film by Jonathan Glazer after a nine-year
hiatus following the release of "Birth" (2004), is a film certain to
alienate audiences. More concerned with mood and atmosphere than
conventional storytelling, "Skin" excises superfluous (or, for that
matter, most if not all) exposition and dialogue, as director Glazer is
more intent on visualizing the story rather than merely telling it
explicitly, passing the complexity of his tale to the audience to piece
Scarlett Johansson stares as an unnamed stranger in Scotland who utilizes her sensuality to lead dirty-minded young men to their doom. Aided by a mysterious man on a motorcycle, Johansson's character prowls the streets for potential prey. Blinded by lust or simply their own naivete, the victims swiftly begin to tally up, though their exact fates are unclear (as is apt with the rest of the narrative.)
Beautifully shot by cinematographer Daniel Landin and featuring a hauntingly beautiful score by Mica Levi, Glazer's "Under the Skin" is an abstract and disturbing film, deeply unsettling in many respects, and a rewarding experience for a patient audience.
The opening shot of James Gray's "The Immigrant" is, rather
befittingly, the Statue of Liberty, circa 1921. For Lady Liberty,
herself of foreign origins, exemplifies the ideals and ambitions
millions upon millions of immigrants have sacrificed and labored for in
the hopes of one day achieving. The camera then pulls back slowly and
the statue disappears into the background, for this is no grand tale of
success or prosperity, but of the hardships and struggles associated
with the vast majority of immigration experiences.
The title character refers to Ewa Cybulska (Marion Cotillard), a Polish immigrant freshly off the boat at Ellis Island alongside her sister , Magda (Angela Sarafyan). The sisters are hastily separated when Magda is unable to conceal her illness (later discovered to be tuberculosis), and is promptly quarantined. Faced with deportation, Ewa is recruited by Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), a shady theater promoter, who is able to furnish her with a bed and employment.
Ewa finds her situation anything but ideal, and it is not long before her body becomes her greatest commodity. Feeling exploited by Bruno, she manages to locate her aunt and uncle, earlier immigrants living in the city for some time now. This effort proves futile, and she is once again resigned to operate under Bruno.
Further complications ensue when Emil (Jeremy Renner), a magician and Bruno's cousin, enters the picture and is instantly enraptured by Ewa. Partly seeing it as an infringement of his turf and partly out of envy, Bruno reacts hostilely towards Emil's advances towards Ewa. Ewa, whose justification for her prostitution is a hopeful reunion with her sister, is torn between the two men. Not necessarily out of love, for something so trivial surely has no use in the world of struggles Ewa finds herself in, but she is divided as to whom can properly benefit her, as she has reason to doubt both men's claims.
Showcasing a handsome reproduction of early 1920's New York, Gray's film is a very sympathetic portrait of the burden of immigrant life. As depicted in the film, the processing system dehumanized the migrants, frighteningly close to the same degree as the slave processing in "Goodbye Uncle Tom." If one was lucky enough to make it through customs and into the country, "The Immigrant" pulls no punches in representing the strife of the urban environment at a time where work came cheap and arduous, as was human life.
As one would come to expect by now, Marion Cotillard, who has been nothing less than terrific in various foreign and domestic films in the last couple years, is well cast as Ewa. Able to channel the character's sympathy without falling victim to excessive sentiment, Cotillard's Ewa is a woman who has convinced herself to make the necessary sacrifices, yet cannot help but to bear the guilt. Though Cotillard's Ewa may doubt her methods, her zeal is never up for question. She is absolutely determined to see her sister again from whatever cash she can scrap together, and the end will surely justify the means.
Also notable is Phoenix, who continues his recent career renaissance following 2012's "The Master" and 2013's "Her." Bruno, as played by Phoenix, is undoubtedly taking advantage of Ewa and her situation, yet there is a sense of gentleness and care that Phoenix is able to bring to the character. Under Bruno's wing, Ewa may be compromised, but she is cared for and secure. Bruno never physically abuses her or coerces her into something she isn't prepared for, as her path into prostitution was clearly forged given the situation, whether she came across Bruno or not. Thus Bruno's recruitment was both a blessing and a curse for Ewa. Great credit should go to screenwriters Gray and Ric Menello and actor Phoenix for carving a well-structured and nuanced character out of what could have easily fallen into the ranks of cliché.
As her character states early on, Ewa's only ambition in coming to America is "to be happy," yet she finds her conditions to be anything but. Thus "The Immigrant" is a testament to the trials and tribulations that countless individuals and families have endeavored (and those who continue to do so) at the aspiration of forging a better lives for themselves.
'Argo' presents maybe the greatest, if not the most absurd, account of
American foreign policy espionage widely unbeknownst to the greater
majority. The story, which falls perfectly into the category of
you-can't-make-this-kind-of-thing-up, is based upon Tony Mendez's
rescue of six isolated US diplomats out of Iran, during the time of the
Iranian hostage crisis of 1980, through the means of creating a fake
film production as cover.
Director Ben Affleck proves here just how incredibly mature and restrained a filmmaker he's become, molding what is inherently a political story, yet wisely setting aside the politics. He masterfully handles the changes in tone very fluidly, from one moment being edge of your seat tension, to the next of inspired comic relief. It brings back memories of 70's thrillers, when craft and entertaining went together hand-in-hand.
The cast of veteran character-actors is worth the price of admission alone. Nearly every speaking role is occupied by a recognizable face, with the likes of Philip Baker Hall, Bob Gunton, Michael Parks, Kyle Chandler, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and more. This is easily the best cast of 2012 and, better yet, they all brought out there A game.
'Argo' is not a film to miss, its subject matter being more relevant than ever and will be a major contender come award season (and deservedly so.)
Before I get down-voted because I'm not giving 'The Dark Knight Rises'
a 10 (the trend most of the users on her seem to be following), I'll
list the numbers of things I really enjoyed about the film, and there
-The cast Nolan's able to put together to end his trilogy is really something to marvel at. From the veterans of the series (Bale, Freeman, Caine, Oldman) to the new faces (Gordon-Levitt, Cotillard, Hathway, Hardy) each bring their all to their characters, even if a few are somewhat undeveloped (more on that later).
-Action scenes. 'Batman Begins,' while I admire it for it's first look at the gritty take to the comic formula, had some incredible poor and incomprehensible fight scenes, where it was unclear how who punching what or what was happening. In 'The Dark Knight,' the scenes were much more clear, a big improvement. Here, the fighting scenes are at their best. When Baine and Batman throw down, it's some of the most intense fight scenes I've seen in a long time.
-Huge setpieces. I could say that about all of these movies, but in this film especially. Gotham City is beautifully recognized. It's always great to see a huge place like this down naturally, never been plagued by artificial CGI (Nolan uses as little as possible.) Not to mention the number of extras, which number in the thousands.
-The ending. Even if it jumps the shark, the ending to Nolan's epic trilogy is overall fulfilling. Fans of the series won't be disappointed, even if the casual might
Not that that's out of the way, the problems I had with the film. . .
-Bane's voice. When we first meet Bane, on a plane, his voice was nearly unbearable. It sounded like something a ten-year-old would do when playing with audio effects on his computer. The dialogue didn't help, as he spewed out clunky one-liners. Here was Bane, with his terrifying appearance,sounding like a cartoon. It did improve over the ocurse of the movie, but the first introduction to the character was something I almost couldn't shake off.
-Too many character introductions. Maybe this is a criticism of the whole trilogy, but I'll have to put the blame on this one. Too many characters are brought in, with their developments feeling rushed. It almost appears like Nolan adds these new additions to the script at the last minute.
For the most part, the good outweighs the bad. It's a very entertaining film and, as far as summer blockbusters, it's definitely worth the price of admission.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
VERY MINOR SPOILERS! NOTHING THAT WILL RUIN THE MOVIE!
'Pirates! Band of Misfits' is the most recent Aardman (Wallace and Gromit) production, showcasing beautiful stop motion animation, a few genuine chuckles, and a predictable story.
The story follows Pirate Captain (a running joke that wears itself out quickly), as he leads his inept crew over the Seven Seas. The first 10 minutes or so (before the story kicks in) is genuinely enjoyable.
But the story has to come in eventually, and when it does, we get the same set up we've seen a million times before. The hero starts out with his loyal crew, who treat him with nothing but the utmost admiration. The hero then makes a selfish move, involving greed, and the crew, disappointed, abandons him. This is when the 'sad' montage takes effect, which always involves sad music, the hero sulking as he backs through gutters. The hero then gets his chance to redeem himself and saves the day, and everyone lives happily ever after. This movie doesn't add anything to the formula, and that's how it comes off, formulaic.
But, as someone who's worked frequently with stop motion, I have s soft spot to see this type of animation still getting work in this day of computer-generated images. It's a fun film, easily forgettable, but should keep the kids satisfied and a smile on your face.
'Safe' is the latest vehicle to showcase Jason Statham's ability to
punch, kick, and shoot various henchmen. The plot here plays more of a
role than compared to past JS films, as this one involves a young
Chinese girl with a brilliant memory who's wanted by both the Russian
and Chinese mob, aided by corrupt cops, and it's just to a
down-on-his-luck Jason Statham to save the day.
When watching a film like this, suspending your disbelief is a must, which is just a given. Things happen in this movie that not only wouldn't be possible, but you wonder how some characters can escape out of situations not only alive, but untouched. But this was actually one of my favorite Stathom movies in a while. I despised his recents efforts in throwaway films like The Mechanic and Killer Elite. It hasn't been since Transporter 3, another mindless romp, that I've enjoyed one of films this much.
The film's worth seeing if you're an action movie fan with some time to kill, in sort of a Sunday afternoon stay at home type of way. You'll cringe at the acting and dialogue of the little Chinese girl, but you'll be entertained.
Thor was simple thrust out by the studio to make a quick buck and
establish the character before the release of The Avengers. And boy,
does it really show here! The first half of the movie, set on Planet
Asgard, was generally interesting, even if Anthony Hopkins was sleep
walking through his performance. The Frost Giants of Jotunheim
presented pretty scary villains and if the film had the courage to keep
the setting there, with the Frost Giants as the main antagonists, they
would of made the film all the better (I know the comic takes place on
Earth, but c'mon, we've seen the superhero comes to earth and saves the
day a million times! Try something new!)
Just like The Green Lantern (which is still much worse), my biggest criticism is that they don't spend enough time in the foreign landscape of Asgard (Oa in GL), and head to dull old planet Earth in no time. The first time this was done (on screen, of course) in 1978's Superman, it was a refreshing take on the fish-out-of-water story. Here it acts like a poorly done comedy, throwing the tone of the whole first act off. There is a few laughs to be had (as when he wanders into a pet shop), but really felt forced for the most part.
Then there's the love story. Look, I realize films like these aren't too concentrated on developing character bonds like a (much superior) film such as Before Sunrise would, but at least show us why the two are in love! I, of course, speak of Natalie Portman's character and Thor, and the inevitable attraction that grows between them. First off, and I know other reviewers have stated it before, but Natalie Portman is horribly miscast here. Either that, or she's giving one of the worst paycheck-performances I've seen in some time (there's one line reading in particular near the end that is so excruciating, it might as well of been nails on a chalkboard). But all the 'romance' consists of is Natale Portman giving Thor an awkward, teenage-crush like smile, for maybe a scene or two. In the climatic fight (no spoilers here), Thor takes a fall, and Portman's character rushes over to help him - in which I don't know how she doesn't get killed, but this movie's logic is not exactly present. They have a moment where we get those Natalie Portman tears and her eyebrows scrunch up (as they always do when she cries, in like EVERY single movie she's ever been in.) As the audience, we're suppose to feel an emotion connection to the two that just doesn't exist. They both could of been killed right then and there, the credits roll up, and I wouldn't of felt the least bit unsatisfied. Of course that doesn't happen, as you can surely guess what the outcome is, which only irritated me more.
Tom Hiddleston is an up-and-coming actor I have high hopes for. He was great as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris and one of the best parts in War Horse, but here is given nothing to do here in the role of Loki. It's no surprise he'll become the villain, as it's hinted at constantly in the film. But when he does become the main antagonist, his motivations are very askewed. Is he an outright villain? Is he a sympathetic villain? Is he even a villain at all? The film doesn't seem to know how to handle these questions. One scene he'll act one way, the next scene he'll be a completely new person. It'll be like if the Joker from the Dark Knight tries to kill Batman, then a minute later saves his life and buys him a beer. Is character continuity that difficult of a concept?
Stellan Skarsgard, one of the most unappreciated actors working today, also isn't given a chance to really make anything of his character. There's an assistant scientist, played by Kate Dennings, who doesn't really add anything to film and is only there for 'comedic' relief (I use the term very loosely.) Chris Hemsworth is a pretty good Thor, he comes off as very arrogant and strong-willed. But when he's asked to handle more dramatic scenes, well, I'll just says he's no Brando.
I'm sure this movie isn't directed at me (I usually prefer, you know, movies with a brain and pulse), so I'm sure this will make money and produce needless sequels. But, for my money, I think the material could of been handled a lot better.
'Trainspotting' is a bold and audacious film by British director Danny
Boyle which launched the career of then unknown actor Ewan McGregor.
The day-to-day struggle of a group pf heroin addicts in Edinburgh could
never be told so stylishly and clever, equipped with both big laughs
and horrific images. It doesn't judge it's characters and their
addictions, just portrays them as what they are: young people without a
clue as to what direction they're heading down in life. There's no good
guys and bag guys, it doesn't play out like a PSA, and each character
is well developed and multy-dimensional. I couldn't recommend this
title more - truly one of my favorites of all time.
Hal Ashby's 'Harold and Maude' fits into a genre of it's own. Too
serious to be a comedy, and too funny to be a drama. The story centers
around Harold (Bud Curt), a lonely and depressed teenager obsessed with
staging fake suicides. In his spare time, he gets his kicks out of
attending funerals, to people he has never seen or met. He befriends
another frequent funeral attendee, Maude (Ruth Gordon), nearly his
total opposite, an older woman who wants to get the most out of life.
The script here is great. Taking somewhat of a lubricious subject matter, and making it completely believable. Ashby, the film's director, should also be credited, as the film is very vibrant and full of life. But, mostly, the film is carried by Curt and Gordon, who play off one another to nearly perfection. Their relationship never comes off as simplistic, as these actors add another layer to make it an even deeper and more fulfilling experience.
The film's end, without giving it away, left me very disappointed. It's totally predictable, only to serve as melodrama and get an emotional reaction out of the audience. It really left a sour taste in my mouth when the film does wrap up, after the first hour and twenty-five minutes are very solid, then the last five minutes totally veers off the track.
That aside, 'Harold and Maude' is an extremely charming film that holds up to is cult following. Worth seeing.
Seeing this movie reverted me back to when I saw '(500) Days of
Summer,' and not just because Joesph Gordon-Leavitt headlines both.
When I went to see 'Days,' my expectations were inflated because of all
the buzz I had been hearing, which ultimately left mem a little
disappointed when it didn't meet them. Don't get me wrong, I really
liked the film, but I didn't fall in love with like everyone else. The
same thing happened with this film, I enjoyed it for the most part, but
still had my reservations.
I'll start with what I liked, mainly, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt. He really puts this film on his back and delivers a great performance. He's funny when he has to me, and believable when he's playing a dramatic role. The more I see him on screen, the more I'm convinced he's blossoming into one of the finest young actors of his generation. Anna Kendrick, who plays the naive therapist, really establishes great chemistry with JGL, and the two play off each other very well. Seth Rogen, while he really does just play Seth Rogen in every film, has his best role I've seen him in, meaning he is only he doses (one can only fathom so much Seth Rogen.) And the story, for the most part, is meaningful and realistic (the screenwriter based it on actual circumstances), never falling into Hollywood clichés and melodrama, which is refreshing.
As for my criticisms, I have a few. Too much of the film's humor relied on juvenile jokes. Maybe it has something to do with the film's serious material, but no one ever seems to have a problem with the constant sex-jokes, which grew old fast. Bryce Dallas Howard's character, the 'bad' girlfriend (what else?), didn't seem to move the story further and acted very one-dimensional. Her not being in the movie at all would of been a benefit, allowing more time for the growth between the otherwise interesting characters.
But the good outweighs the bad here, and it's an enjoyable, if not somewhat forgettable, little movie worth seeing if you have some free time.
|Page 1 of 4:||   |