Reviews written by registered user
|1824 reviews in total|
As a screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman wrote some of the most subversive and ingenious films from the last decades, such as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. However, when he debuted as a director with Synecdoche, New York, he didn't leave me completely satisfied, because even though its concept was provocative, it was confusedly implemented, even though the film certainly offered various pros, such as its eccentric style and solid performances. And in his second film, Anomalisa (which he co- directed with Duke Johnson), something similar happens: despite including interesting elements, the final result feels obtuse and not totally satisfactory. The characters of Anomalisa are well built, immediately transmitting their nature and personality through subtle details which express very much with the slightest effort. The main character, Michael Stone, is a successful man in his career, but he's empty in the inside, something which is represented with the trick of assigning the same voice (from actor Tom Noonan) to all the people around him. It doesn't matter whether they are men, women or children... Michael listens to everything exactly the same, something which I found a powerful and very precise metaphor of depression. The screenplay displays the details of a grey and humdrum life, which crush the main character's spirit, until chance offers him a glimpse of hope. Unfortunately, that establishment of a situation with big potential gets gradually diluted until concluding on an insipid and excessively simple note, which left me thinking "such a preparation for this?" And that was twice as notorious after certain intriguing scenes which suggest an abrupt change in the narrative. After one hour of frugal realism, something happens which could fundamentally alter the nature of the movie, taking us to the kind of "weird" story which characterizes Kaufman. But no... false alarm. Oh, and I can't forget to mention the fact that Anomalisa was made in stop motion, probably making it the first film of this kind specifically made to adults (by the way, I have to stress the fact that Anomalisa is definitely NOT a movie for kids); however, the attention to the detail and excellent voice performances made me forget about the technique in order to focus on the characters' emotions. Besides, some elements inherent to the stop motion subtly incorporate themselves to the story, suggesting something much more ambitious and reflexive... which is also ignored. In conclusion, I have mixed opinions about Anomalisa, because even though it includes fascinating ideas of a huge potential, it doesn't bother to develop them. Nevertheless, I think I can give a moderate recommendation to Anomalisa as an unusual experiment which deserves more respect due to its mere existence than its dramatic impact.
The literary trend of fusing a classic material with the modern formulas of horror probably started in 2009 with the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, written by Seth Grahame-Smith; but in cinema, ironically, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (based on a book by the same author) was released first, and the result was boring and insipid. But I'm glad to say that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies had better luck in its film adaptation thanks to the solid performances and adequate balance between Jane Austen's original book and the horror sequences. Nevertheless (I can't believe I'm going to say this), I ended up liking the romance aspect more than the horror one. The characters created by Austen in Pride and Prejudice preserve their endearing personalities, as well as the sparkling dialogs which reveal the customs and concerns of British Regency in 19th century. The social intrigue also keeps being present, as well as the female manipulations to "catch" the most desirable bachelors, checking their economic condition first, and then, authentic love. Naturally, things get complicated with the presence of zombies, who have filtered themselves into society thanks to the new rules added by Grahame-Smith to this mythology. The zombies of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies don't immediately become aggressive cannibals guided by a blind animal instinct. The transformation is gradual, and they only degenerate when they consume human brains. This allows them to hide into their mansions, keeping enough mental lucidity to conspire against "the living". This addition might bother the purist audience, but I found it a valid alternative which enriches the genre with some interesting ideas (such as the "zombie aristocracy"). Unfortunately, the ambition of the movie ends up getting very limited by the feared PG-13 rating, denying any opportunity of wallowing into the blood and violence many people would expect in a zombie film. Yes, director Burr Steers stretches the rating to the maximum, offering us some grotesque make-ups and a few head explosions... but without a single drop of blood. And when the Bennett sisters display their martial arts during fights of an excellent choreography, we never see the contact of swords, knives and axes with dead meat... only many gesticulations and sounds, but none of the "gore" which would have elevated this film to a more satisfactory level. On the positive side, we have the previously mentioned romance. The fans of Austen's will recognize the most basic features of the story: Jane Bennett trying to attract the wealthy Mr. Bingley in order to rescue the family from a bad economic situation; Eliza Bennett and Mr. Darcy in a constant verbal conflict due to very different ideologies; and the pedantic Parson Collins as a "comic relief" at the expense of the affectations and arrogance of English aristocracy. And, of course, all that is splashed by the proto- feminist ideas expressed by Austen as a challenge to that archaic society (even though the film doesn't take said ideas to their last consequences, betraying the ideals of the heroines in order to reach a more conventional ending). And as I previously mentioned, the whole cast makes a good work in their roles, highlighting Lily James and Sam Riley. In conclusion, the film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ended up being better than I expected, and I can give it a moderate recommendation as a curious experiment whose occasional cons and frequent inconsistencies didn't avoid me from having a good time with this comedy of manners interrupted by zombie attacks. The film needed more blood and impact to enhance the horror, but I was left satisfied with the romance. And I wouldn't be bothered to eventually watch Sense and Sensibility and Werewolves, or maybe Emma in Space, or whatever Grahame-Smith is planning for the future.
Creed found a solid and interesting premise to resurrect the Rocky franchise, with a minimum ret-con and a modern sensibility which doesn't alter the spirit of its predecessors. Well, "resurrect" might not be the correct word. Strictly speaking, Creed is more like a spin-off in which the legendary Rocky Balboa limits himself to train a boxer with talent with few experience. Basically, Sylvester Stallone inherits the role played by Burgess Meredith in the original Rocky back in 1976 (in fact, Stallone is the same age in Creed as Meredith was back then... and there's no need to say how much that little coincidence surprised me). However, Rocky makes an influence on every scene, enriching the tale without imposing himself and generally avoiding manifestations of excessive nostalgia. I say "generally" because, among the cons of Creed, I have to mention some forced recreations of some iconic elements in the Rocky saga; for example, that famous race on the streets, and the use of the majestic music we all remember. I'm not saying they are badly used... I simply found them arbitrary nostalgic whims. But well, that complaint didn't affect the emotive and very satisfactory experience offered by Creed. Michael B. Jordan occupies the leading role with credibility and huge charisma (not to mention discipline... I can barely imagine the effort required to shoot a whole fight without any camera cuts), while Stallone carries his age with dignity and doesn't try to hide it; on the opposite, he takes advantage of his age in order to portray Rocky's evolution, always consistent with his nature and the established facts the last time we had seen him in the film Rocky Balboa in 2006, without forgetting the small humorous details which enhance his humanity. On the negative side, the romantic sub-plot feels unnecessary. Tessa Thompson brings a good performance and she's undoubtedly attractive, but the connection her character has with the main one feels obligatory and not very natural. And the adversary isn't very well developed either; actor Tony Bellew brings quite a personality to "Pretty" Ricky Conlan, the arrogant boxing champion who needs an important fight as a public relations strategy after some legal slips; unfortunately, the movie dedicates him very little time, and the exciting final fight might have had some more impact if we had known the opponent better. On the other hand, I know that the point of Creed doesn't exclusively lie on reaching the "big fight", but also creating a touching relationship between Adonis and Rocky, each one of them filling the holes in the life of the other one on some way. And on that aspect, I found Creed recommended, very entertaining and worthy as a continuation/tangent of a franchise with such many followers. I don't think it's as good as the original Rocky, but I consider it superior to any of the other sequels (specially Rocky III, IV and V). I would like to finish this review with a boxing analogy, but I'm afraid I don't know too much about that sport. Oh, there's one which just came to my mind: Creed is a knockout! Start the count to twelve, please.
In The Hateful Eight, director and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino returns to the western genre he handled so well in Django Unchained (even though many people say that was a "southern"). And even though I liked that one a bit more, The Hateful Eight is still an excellent film full of amazing pros, such as the exuberant style, both visual and narrative. In summary, another tribute to the cinema of yesterday with the techniques of today... and that unique Tarantino-esque magic which makes every scene feel "cool". I liked The Hateful Eight very much, but that doesn't mean it's perfect; some scenes extend themselves beyond their dramatic function. However, that small complaint doesn't darken the fascinating screenplay or its emotional impact. And we also have the brilliant performances from Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern and the great Jennifer Jason Leigh; each one of them is given the opportunity to stand out, and they all contribute to the fascinating texture of The Hateful Eight. What takes me to Ennio Morricone, who probably composed the best soundtrack from last year, or at least, the one I will remember the most. Two months ago, when I came back home after watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I immediately searched for the soundtrack on Google Play, and I was a bit disappointed to listen to it without the support of the images which made it so outstanding at the cinema. But the music of The Hateful Eight is enjoyed by itself as much as the movie. As I previously said, I liked Django Unchained a bit more, but The Hateful Eight deserves an enthusiastic recommendation as one of the best modern westerns, which doesn't need to reinvent the genre in order to capture contemporary audiences... it simply employs the existing tools with an admirable expertise, and it believes that the old values of honor and justice are still in force (at least inside our collective imagination), like when Clint Eastwood or John Wayne chased the outlaw, with or without the protection of the law. Because in the old border, the personal code was more important than the sheriff star.
Director Scott Mann impressed me very much with his first movie, The Tournament, an action film made with few money, but much more ingenuity and energy than many Hollywood blockbusters. I thought that Mann was going to have an excellent future in cinematographic industry, but for some reasons, he let 6 years go by before making Heist, his second film. However, the screenplay he had to work with this time is full of holes and absolutely improbable situations which darken the competent performances and the adequate direction. Even though Robert De Niro prominently appears in the credits and publicity of Heist, he plays a supporting role, occupying a limited screen-time. However, De Niro doesn't need more time than that in order to efficiently portray Mr. Pope, an "old school" gangster who puts more emphasis on his (criminal) principles than the money raised by his floating casino. Thinking about it well, Mr. Pope's inflexible ideology might explain some ridiculous decisions he makes during the most critical moments of the film... but that doesn't explain the incongruent changes of attitude screenwriter Stephen Cyrus Sepher assigns to him whenever he doesn't find any other way out from the narrative labyrinth he got into. The same can be said about Agent Kris Bajos, played by Gina Carano; her physical ability perfectly fits into the role of a tough policewoman ready to catch the thieves, but there's nothing which guarantees the immediate trust she feels for the main character, or explains her risky actions in a direct opposition to her superiors' orders. One thing is "rebel policewoman who doesn't obey rules", and another thing is "criminal negligence in the fulfillment of duty". As for Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Dave Bautista, they also make a good work in their roles, but there are some problems in the way in which their characters were written. As I previously mentioned, the performances and the direction are what make Heist moderately entertaining, but there are various cons in the screenplay, such as the fact that I found the execution of the "big hit" absolutely absurd and lacking of logic and realism. For example: a casino which closes at night? And which doesn't have any security cameras? That's just the beginning of the problems; we will eventually find the sudden changes of conduct and questionable decisions I already mentioned. And the least I say about the "deus-ex- machina" from the ending, the better. Nevertheless, I think I can give a slight recommendation to Heist, because despite my complaints, it didn't bore me. I keep having faith in Mann as a director, but I hope that he will work with better screenplays than the one from Heist in his future projects.
I guess that the "evil doll" sub-genre surged due to the natural aversion many people have against toys with a human shape, which are supposedly designed for children, even though they end up being more sinister than amusing. And, in horror cinema, this concept covers a wide range of situation, including the classic doll which comes to life and terrifies its owners (Child's Play, Dolls), the inert doll which works as a catalyst of supernatural phenomena (Annabelle, The Conjuring), or the doll which represents some way of psychological or emotional dysfunction (Magic, May). The Boy is a combination of all those variants, and even though the quality of the mixture occasionally fluctuates, I found it entertaining thanks to William Brent Bell's efficient direction and the competent performances from the whole cast, starting by Lauren Cohan in the leading role; her character isn't very very well written, and she's assigned a turbulent past which will unavoidably come back in order to terrify her in the most absurd way. However, Cohan shows conviction and enthusiasm in her role, and she credibly transmits her character's initial skepticism in order to later voluntarily submit herself to the bizarre rules required by the care of the doll. And even though Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle have a limited screen-time, they bring an appropriately arrogant attitude to their characters. Regarding the "horror", The Boy achieves good moments of tension, but the final twist is too predictable, something which decreases the impact of the whole story. Nevertheless, The Boy kept me entertained, and it creates an appropriate atmosphere of tension and uneasiness. In conclusion, The Boy has enough pros to deserve a moderate recommendation... even though it's not a particularly memorable experience. In other words, it's decent enough to spend some time, but it's quickly forgettable because it's nothing exceptional.
I knew beforehand that The 5th Wave was based on a juvenile novel, and therefore, I supposed that it was going to put more emphasis on the romance and the "feelings" than the science fiction aspects. Nevertheless, I decided to watch it because I have always had a particular affinity for the extraterrestrial invasion tales. Considering all that, I can't blame anyone; having had to suffer this piece of junk is exclusively my fault. The mentioned invasion approximately occupies the first 15 minutes of the film, when the obligatory huge spaceships occupy the heaven of Earth and unleash four destructive "waves", starting by a magnetic pulse which leaves humanity without electricity; then, there are earthquakes and swells which destruct coastal areas; and finally, the bird flu which to infect the rest of the population. So, the few survivors get organized into improvised militias waiting for the feared "fifth wave"... but all that will have to wait while we follow the girl Callie in the search of her brother Sam, in which she will experience (tedious) adventures and find (insipid) romance with a survivor hiding a dangerous secret. Meanwhile, we watch Sam and Ben, a school partner of Callie's, initiating their training as soldiers in order to fight against "the others" (like the aliens call them), destructing their innocence while acquiring the ruthless aptitude to kill other people. In summary, we basically have The Road for teenagers on the one hand, and on the other hand, Full Metal Jacket also for teenagers. The result: incredibly boring and absolutely inert. That was exactly what I expected from the romantic sub-plot; but I also found the rest (formed by apocalyptic drama, action scenes and the general tone of the movie) soporific. We never feel any suspense of the desperation of human species in danger of extinction. The scale of the unimaginable tragedy witnessed by the survivors is immediately forgotten, in order to give way to the trite juvenile drama. I think I have seen films in the SyFy channel with a bigger emotional impact and more endearing characters. After all, The 5th Wave ends up ignoring the extraterrestrial invasion because its mercenary purpose was employing the end of the world as a simple background to the usual romantic triangle between a girl, her mysterious savior and the school partner she has always been fond of. The 5th Wave is an absolute waste of time, and I really struggle to find a single positive element to mention about it (I didn't even like the performance from Chlöe Grace Moretz, who I consider as one of the best contemporary actresses). I think that any episode of the series Colony has better ideas and more interesting drama about the extraterrestrial invasion. As usual, the TV saves the day.
Director Alfonso Gómez-Rejón's first film was The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014), a film with a much better visual and narrative quality than many other horror remakes. In his second movie, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Gómez-Rejón made an abrupt genre switch in order to bring us a very interesting juvenile drama of an unusual freshness and honesty which never employs cheap sentimentality in order to create an empathy with the the audience. Honestly, I wasn't thinking that in the beginning. During its initial five minutes, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl uses various of the most dreaded resources of independent cinema: "cute" stop-motion animation, a meta-ironic narrator and abundant polymath references in order to validate the "intellectuality" hidden in its relaxed tone. Fortunately, after those first five minutes, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl quickly evolves in order to become a very satisfactory experience. The characters earn dimension as we know them, and the affair of the dying girl ends up being an important part of a more ambitious story, instead of a cheap "mcguffin" to make the audience cry. One of the things I most liked in this film is the fact that screenwriter Jesse Andrews (who adapted his own novel) didn't focus on a tragic romance, but on the sincere friendship between various young misfits with diverse reasons to reject human relationships, preferring isolation as a defense mechanism against their fears and personal traumas. That might not be a very original premise, but it's pretty well handled, combining humor and drama with sharp observations about human nature which don't feel like "life lessons", but as a natural part of the alliance forged between the characters... even when they resist themselves to that. Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke and R.J. Cyler bring excellent performances in the leading roles, and the supporting cast also makes a perfect work, highlighting Connie Britton, Molly Shannon and Nick Offerman. On the visual aspects, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl displays an attractive cinematography, adopting eccentric framings and movements in order to make even the most trivial scenes look richer; and what makes that display of style even better is the fact that it doesn't feel like an affectation, but an organic property of the bizarre universe we are visiting. As I previously said, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl isn't lacking of clichés, but it generally employs them to its favour. For example: the local bully/dealer is a "wigger" with rapping aspirations who can't stop rhyming not even when he's (badly) fighting against his victims; it's a grotesque exaggeration, but the character possesses an intuitive realism which makes him simultaneously credible and funny. I wouldn't place Me and Earl and the Dying Girl among my favorite juvenile films (I liked it pretty much, but I'm not particularly interested in watching it again), but it definitely offers quite an interesting experience, and I recommend it with confidence.
Just a few months ago, I could watch the excellent film While We're Young, directed by Noah Baumbach, and I now discovered that Mistress America, his most recent film, was available on a Video On Demand platform. I'm glad it was like that, because even though I wouldn't consider Mistress America as good as While We're Young (my favorite one in Baumbach's filmography as a director so far), it definitely ended up being quite an interesting movie which combines a solid story, a well defined structure and a cunning sense of humor which naturally flows from the situations and the eccentric personality of the characters. In this regard, I have to make the obligatory warning about the themes frequently handled in this particular facet of "indie" cinema: yes, it's another look to "pretty people's problems" which might seem ridiculous in any other context. In order to appreciate this kind of films, it's necessary to become an accomplice of the characters and accept their frivo... I'm sorry, "complicated" lives as something worthy to be contemplated. Some spectators might be incapable to take that leap, something which is perfectly valid. But when the narrative transcends those obstacles and expresses genuine substance, the experience can be interesting and very entertaining, like Mistress America. The nucleus of Mistress America lies on the relationship between the characters Tracy and Brooke, whose organic evolution depends on the solid performances from Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig (respectively). Besides, they are accompanied by the good work from the supporting cast, including Heather Lind, Michael Chernus, Matthew Shear and Jasmien Cephas Jones; they are all unknown actors, but they feel absolutely credible and spontaneous in their roles. On the negative side of Mistress America, I have to mention a late revelation, which feels simultaneously predictable and artificial, whose purpose was introducing the classic last- minute conflict to create some drama and suspense about its resolution. Comparing Mistress America to other "indie" films, I liked it more than Frances Ha (which was also directed by Baumbach) and less than Drinking Buddies. But whatever the way it is, I think it deserves a recommendation, not only to those who are into "indie" cinema, but also the people disappointed by the bland and repetitive "studio" comedies. I don't know whether Baumach will someday play for the "big leagues", but I think it might end up being interesting... or maybe, his style might get ruined. It's better not to find that out; I prefer more modest movies instead of an expensive disappointment.
The Revenant is a very competent fusion of cinematographic technique and artistic vision, whose stylistic attributes transcend a simultaneously dense and empty and screenplay. For some reason, the general effect it leaves is lesser to the experience offered by the individual scenes. Its narrative basis exclusively lies on the traditional ideals of the western genre (self-sufficiency, honor, revenge and the unavoidable challenge of natural forces, while they are paid the respect they deserve). And sure, all that is spiced by wide doses of pseudo-philosophy in order to prove that the main character's physical torture has a cosmic meaning we can barely understand ("God is a squirrel"). In summary: much ado about nothing. Having said that... what a good ado. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and the brilliant cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki repeated the amazing visual ballet of Birdman, with the graceful camera floating without any difficulty over complicated sequences in order to display the most dramatic details of the action and the performances in a simultaneously casual and precise way, sometimes with open shots which illustrate the geography of the locations, and sometimes, with those eloquent extreme close-ups which never feel confined. Unfortunately, what The Revenant couldn't preserve from Birdman are the deliciously intricate screenplay and its rich tapestry of character and emotion, which, after all, ended up being more important than any tracking shot or invisible integration of special effects. On the opposite, The Revenant is a simplistic linear tale with unidimensional characters who suffer a lot... but express little beyond of what is evident. Hugh Glass is the hero with a strong volition and a very clear motivation; Fitzgerald is the devious, treacherous and intolerant villain. And that's it. Two hours and a half of a slow chase, extraordinarily shot but without a bigger dramatic ambition. Sure, besides of the hero and the villain, we also have another faction of persecutors to complicate things a bit and bring us a lesson about the evilness of "white man"; but leaving that aside, they don't have much relevance, at least until the screenplay needs them as a predictable deus-ex-machina. On the positive side, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy received deserved recognition for their excellent performances, and I would also like to mention Domhnall Gleeson's unfairly ignored work, in which he credibly displays a good range of emotions. This is undoubtedly a "style over substance" case, but in spite of that, The Revenant was a very interesting experience, and it definitely deserves to be watched on a big screen in order to appreciate its technical triumphs better.
|Page 1 of 183:||          |