Reviews written by registered user
|435 reviews in total|
The fact that a beautiful film like No mires para abajo receives a
rating as low as this can only mean that most people simply cannot look
past the explicit depiction of sex and nudity on film. It's a shame,
because aside from being quite erotic, it's actually a beautiful and
sensitive film, a piece of magical realism in the finest tradition of
South American authors like Márquez and Borges, and it deals with the
organic and spiritual links between life, death and sexuality with no
attempt to create controversy or to arouse in the usual sense, but
rather to create an atmosphere of magical, dreamy bliss.
To be fair, No mires para abajo gives only a glimpse into the dreamworld it describes; the film is very short, very small in scope, and it probably wouldn't have worked had it been longer - it's an image, rather than a complete story. The two main characters are intriguing, lovable and mysterious, but neither one is a full and complex character. But for what it is, it works beautifully. It's not a story with a beginning, a middle and an end; there's no arc, or character development, or conflict. It's just a beautiful short glimpse into a more beautiful side of our reality, and if you can look past the sex and nudity and enjoy it for what it is, it's highly recommended. It won't be to everybody's taste, to be sure, but it should never be dismissed as softcore porn.
A misanthropic, depressed protagonist? Check. A pretty, non-conformist
love interest with baggage? Check. An older, cooler rival? Check. A
soundtrack filled with indie-rock semi-hits? Jittery camera work? Jump
cuts? Check, check, check. Eventually conforming completely to social
norms while making it seem like a divine epiphany? Check. The Art of
Getting By indulges in every possible cliché of the hipster's, outsider
teenager's romantic dramedy, and then some. There's absolutely nothing
about it that's in any way original, genuine and heartfelt; it's
designed especially to appeal to lonely, unpopular teens who may find
some solace in this unrealistic, dishonest and hollow fantasy.
The film is executed just well enough to be watchable, even entertaining at times; some scenes are well written and witty by themselves, and the short runtime definitely helps, but it's not enough. Even at 80 minutes it manages to use every familiar, well-trodden plot point it could come up with; the horrible, awkward performances of Freddie "Charlie Bucket" Highmore and Emma Roberts means that the film doesn't even have the benefit of likable characters, which is often the saving grace of movies like "(500) Days of Summer". Highmore and Roberts aren't really bad actors, but they're horribly miscast and their characters are unlikable and irritating. Unless you're a sixteen year old boy with no social life and no hope, stay far away from The Art of Getting By.
The Mindscape of Alan Moore can hardly be called a documentary. It's just what the title says - the mind-scape of a brilliant, unique but also pretentious writer. The film is Alan Moore himself talking constantly for 80 minutes, apparently with no real editing or direction. It starts pretty conservatively with Moore talking about his early life, about how he discovered comics and how he got into the business, as well as some insight about his most important works - Watchmen, V For Vendetta, Swamp Thing, From Hell and Lost Girls, and those segments hold a lot of interest for fans. But from there, in the second half, Moore derails into long philosophical and quasi-spiritual ramblings that give some interesting insight into his mind and creativity, but really drag on for too long and show very little original thought that hasn't been expressed before by philosophers, spiritualists and physicists. As a whole this is less a documentary and more a chance for Moore to talk about whatever he wants; the visuals aren't interesting enough to make it any more engaging. It holds some interests for fans of Moore but keep your expectations low.
50/50 falls very neatly into the very definition of "dramedy" - as the
title suggests, it's a 50/50 split between the two. That's not to say
that it isn't, in its heart, very much a drama; the poster and tagline
that suggest a buddy comedy starring Seth Rogen should not be trusted.
But it refuses to ever delve into kitsch or soap-operatic melodrama; it
tackles a difficult subject with maturity, subtlety and yes, a sense of
humor. It's lighthearted, but never tasteless. And it's this
combination that makes it so realistic, so lovable and so easy to
relate to. It's never too depressing or bleak, but it's also not
unrealistically optimistic; and being a positive, honest film about
terminal disease, it feels very refreshing indeed.
Cinematically there's nothing very special about it. The editing and cinematography are actually very good; but just in a way that makes the film easy on the eyes and easy to connect to. Just like Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance, which is naturalistic and very strong but also subtle and quiet - which is maybe why he was snubbed so badly during award season. The supporting cast, too, are all deserving of praise - Seth Rogen (clowning around as always, but also a surprisingly realistic and compelling character), Anjelica Huston, Serge Houde, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anna Kendrick, Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer all deliver beautifully - but all their performances are toned down, they don't deliver any poignant monologues or soliloquies. They're all just believable and real human beings with flaws as well as virtues.
All this makes 50/50 a film that may not leave a striking impression, but will stay with you in its spirit and its humanity - which may just be the point. It doesn't strive to be a great film, just a very good one, that diffuses some of the melodrama usually affiliated with a subject like cancer, and presents it much closer to what it would play like in reality - a part of life, one that hopefully one wouldn't have to experience, but a part of it nonetheless. It won't make any top 50 lists, nor should it, but it should be watched by everyone.
Return to Oz is the kind of film that was doomed to fall between the
cracks - too scary for kids (or rather, for parents), too childish for
adults; the promotional material made too much of an effort to
advertise it as a sequel to MGM's 1939 musical classic, doing it more
damage than good; many claimed, and still do, that it was nothing but a
trendy attempt to make The Wizard of Oz darker and edgier to appeal to
modern audiences, and destroyed our precious childhood memories. None
of them read the original books by L. Frank Baum, of course; if they
did, they'd know that Return to Oz, with its dark humor and wild,
nonsensical imagination, is much closer in tone to the books than the
1939 film ever was - which was, on the contrary, a much lighter and
cleaner take on them.
For any fan of the book, Return to Oz is a real joy. They'll easily recognize it as a combination of elements from the two first sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - The Marvelous Land of Oz (Jack Pumpkinhead, Mombi, The Gump) and Ozma of Oz (The Nome King, Tik-Tok, the Wheelers, Billina). These books aren't as globally famous as the first one, but they're just as good, some may say better; and the film did a fantastic job of adapting Baum's wittiness, imagination and knack for nonsensical dialog. The various creatures described in the text were transferred to the big screen with stop-motion, puppets and costume effects that may be out-of-date, but are so richly imaginative and stylish that it's impossible to imagine them replaced by CGI; they fit Baum's vision so well.
The film, of course, needs to be measured by its own merits and not just as an adaptation of the source material; as such, some flaws must be acknowledged. Some lines in it may seem silly or cheesy to most viewers, and some scenes are so wildly nonsensical that they may end up throwing the viewer right out of the story. It may also be difficult for it to find its right audience - it may indeed be too scary for very young children, and too silly for more uptight adults. But it's a wonderful film for the young at heart, and also for slightly older children or ones with an open mind and a sense of imagination - as long as they aren't turned off by the relatively slow pace and hand-made effects, which are radically different than what modern children's movies may have accustomed them to. Return to Oz may never be everybody's cup of tea, but after bombing in the box office it thankfully got the recognition it deserved as a beloved, if somewhat obscure, cult classic.
I find it funny that Tinto Brass - an Italian native - decided to place
his most colorful and cheerful movie in years, of all places, in gray
and rainy London. Even if we dismiss the fact that Brass apparently has
a rather poor control of English, and didn't bother to check his dialog
(what does the constable mean when he shouts "Who's in charge?" over
and over again?) Trasgredire really doesn't look like it's set in
London; but it looks better than Brass's silly, almost naive softcore
erotica did in years. It's beautifully shot and lush with color; the
opening sequence alone is worth the whole thing - it's sweet, sexy,
funny, fast-paced and very much sets a cheery, light-hearted tone for
the rest of the film. Tinto's work is always best when he doesn't take
himself seriously, and Trasgredire is a movie that demands to be taken
with as little seriousness as possible. It results in several scenes
that manage to be erotic, arousing and very funny at the same time -
other than the opening sequence, the phone scene also pops to mind.
Unfortunately, all of those scenes are in the first half of the film, and it falls apart in the second half, where - as he so often does - Tinto ruins it with a poorly conceived plot and a pretentious attempt to make some kind of point about human sexuality, which he has been pushing, in slight variations, over and over again at least since 1992's Cosi Fan Tutte. Even more irritating is a scene near the end which echoes the opening scene in the park, but rather than giving it any profound meaning, just spoils the harmless, naive fun of the first sequence. Nevertheless, it's still fun and very easy on the eyes, and one of Brass's best works in recent years.
Heathers isn't just a black comedy; it's blacker than black. It's like,
how much more black could this be? and the answer is none (Ten points
to whoever gets that reference). It's a comedy so dark that it's almost
impossible to enjoy it and not feel bad about it afterwords. It's a
film that looks so much like a run-of-the-mill high school comedy that
the very subtle satire may go over many viewers' heads. What's worse,
teenagers, who are likely to enjoy it more than anybody, may easily
misunderstand it completely and idolize the villain, talking it in a
very dangerous direction.
For all these reasons, Heathers was doomed from day one to fall between the cracks - the ones who would have appreciated it the most just didn't see it, and the ones who saw it didn't understand it. Today, in those post-Columbine times, it's more difficult than ever to appreciate its sharp satire without feeling a tinge of guilt. But it would be a real shame if it was forgotten; because it really is a unique film, one that deconstructed and pillaged the entire high-school comedy genre that was so popular in the 80's, and because it inspired Clueless, Mean Girls and so many other films that were so much tamer and more simplistic. It's a movie that stands out in a genre filled with mediocrity, and it's still very much worth watching, even if it's hard to enjoy it as a comedy anymore.
Une Liaison Pornographique (A Pornographic Affair - please disregard
the awful title 'An Affair of Love', which shows that the distributors
either didn't watch the movie or didn't pay attention) is one of the
most earnest, most naturalistic portrayals I've seen on film of a
sexual relationship, and in that respect it's much more successful than
English-speaking films (American and otherwise) that tried for
something similar - films like Better Than Sex and Strictly Sexual,
which attempted to shed Hollywood's romantic vision of sex, but ended
up adhering to it anyway. As the female lead in Une Liaison
Pornographique says in one of the film's key lines, sex in movies is
either heaven or hell, but in real life it's usually somewhere
in-between. The film shows that in-between with brutal honesty, neither
idealizing it nor demonizing it, and manages a touching, frustrating,
bleak portrayal of a subject that is at the heart of human nature and
yet so difficult to handle in film.
Unfortunately, the refreshing realism and honesty, and the naturalistic performance of the two leads, aren't quite enough to make for a great film; the script just isn't good enough. The film is too short, not taking enough time to fully explore the relationship between the two leads, and yet it also feels excruciatingly long - large chunks of it are just not interesting enough. In the end it turn out to be a pretty frustrating and unfulfilling experience - partly intentional, to be sure, but that isn't quite enough to help overcome that feeling of dissatisfaction. I can't help but recommend the film for its stronger aspects, despite the fact that I can't honestly say I enjoyed it; and I can't shake the feeling that it could have been much better than it is.
Woody Allen's produce during the 90's was a mixed bag - films like
Deconstructing Harry, Sweet & Lodown, Mighty Aphrodite, Shadows & Fog
and Everyone Says I Love You aren't as universally loved as most of his
films from the 80's and 70's, but they're all ambitious, unique and
considered masterpieces at least by some. With Small Time Crooks and
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, however, Allen entered the biggest
slump of his career, the only period in which his reputation was
seriously at stake, and he wouldn't recover from it until he began his
journeys to Europe, starting with 2005's Match Point.
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is, indeed, one of Allen's weakest films; not because it's a strict comedy (he made quite a few of those, many of them - even the latter ones - quite good; I'm one of the few people who actually enjoyed Scoop) but simply because it's not good. Allen doesn't feel at home with his role at all, more than ever playing not a character but himself stuck with a gig as an insurance investigator; it's impossible to buy him as the hard-boiled womanizer. Worse is his on-screen chemistry with Helen Hunt - there is none. We as viewers know there's sexual tension between them only because, in films, there always is between co-workers of opposite sexes who hate each other - but none of it shows up in their performances. There's also no chemistry between Hunt and Dan Aykroyd, whose character is a completely flat waste.
The film is not all bad, of course, it's Woody Allen and therefore has entertainment value. The script is smart and often funny, and whenever it gets self-conscious and turns into a film-noir parody it works pretty well, but it never goes far enough in that direction. The ending, for example, feels like a complete cop out; were it self aware and self mocking, like the ending to Shadows and Fog, it would have worked, but it just feels like Allen didn't know how to finish his film. All too often it feels like he just didn't know what he was doing, and that means that even the good scenes couldn't be enjoyed completely.
The plot summary for Gods and Monsters states that it follows the last
days of horror director James Whale, but it shouldn't be thought of as
a biopic; it manages to avoid almost every pitfall suffered by most
movies of that genre, except for one - predictability. The film is very
predictable every step of the way, even if you know absolutely nothing
about Whale's life or death, you can tell very early on exactly how
it's going to end. It doesn't matter, though, because Gods and Monsters
isn't about the story; it's an art-house piece and a character study,
an exploration of a complex personality and, above all, a remarkably
Like any biographical film, Gods and Monsters relies heavily on one powerful lead actor; Ian McKellen gives one of the best performances of his career as James Whale, with whom he clearly felt a certain bond. McKellen puts his whole into the film and creates real sympathy for Whale. Fantastic as he is, though, it's not a one man show; gorgeous editing that manages to organically combine flashbacks with loving references to Whale's own early films, creates a strong sense of atmosphere that Whale himself would have been proud of. Gods and Monsters is a natural companion piece to Ed Wood and Shadow of the Vampire, but it's by far the most brooding, subtle, thought-provoking one of the trio. As for supporting cast - Lynn Redgrave is fantastic in a small but memorable part as Whale's maid; Brendan Fraser, on the other hand, plays a very generic character, mostly there as an avatar for the viewer, and though his performance is decent, it's not by any means impressive, and he gets a little too much screen time, taking the film down just a notch from masterpiece status.
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