Reviews written by registered user
|875 reviews in total|
Amazing effects and stunts, along with and solid performances balance
out some artistic lapses and ethical questions in this true story of
one family's experiences of the horrendous Tsunami that killed 300,000.
The downsides; there's something a little off-putting about choosing a white, privileged family as a focus, while at the same time showing almost exclusively other white people as suffering and afraid in a disaster that killed far more local people than tourists. The Thai's are certainly shown in a good light, kindly helping all these suffering whites, but even in the hospital, almost every face we see in a bed is a white one. That hint of odd racial insensitivity is also underlined by replacing the original family, who were Spanish and dark, and making them into a gorgeous blond English family, a telling choice in a 'true' story.
On a more general level, the film can feel manipulative, from the tear jerking score, to the multiple carefully framed "will they spot each other?" shots that feel like a horror film's self-conscious suspense fames, but that cinematic technique feels distractingly artificial in this more naturalistic setting.
There's no question it's exciting and at times quite moving, but I couldn't help thinking I might have felt even more deeply if it wasn't pushing so hard to control my emotions.
An odd film for Allen, neither an overt comedy or one of his dark serious films (e.g. 'Crimes and Misdemeanors'). This is a 'light' drama, something he hasn't done much. While far from Allen's best work, I felt more warmly towards it than most of the press, especially after a second viewing. Some of the criticisms are valid; the voice over narration feels out of tone with the film, and at times tells us too literally what we already know. Yet, in the current American cinema, how many film-makers are getting to even and try and address the complex subtle questions of grown-up relationships, aging and the fear of death, and the lies we tell ourselves to get through it all? Or deal with the paradox that humans seem to need something to believe in, and yet that same belief can also lead us astray? Or give great older actors like Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones really meaty roles? As long as Allen keeps asking questions, he'll remain a voice worth listening to.
A fascinating and powerful departure for Almodovar, or perhaps more
accurately more an terrific hybrid of the best of his old and new. This
has the darker, more actively perversely disturbing and violent themes
of some of his early work like 'Matador' but shot and directed with the
far smoother and more mature hand he has developed over the years. It
also uses the more complex and fractured time structure style of
Almodovar's more recent work, to great effect.
In the end its a gorgeous looking, philosophically complex mystery and horror film. Although not gory, this is a disturbing work, both on a literal story level, and also for the questions it raises about identity, love, sado-masochism, and passion run amok.
These themes are all Almodovar touchstones, but delivered here with a visually stunning icy touch, and with much more complete logic than in his early works, which often felt less fully thought through, and had more frustrating plot holes and character leaps.
Not a 'scary' film, but a creepy, moody and highly effective one. A dark fairy tale as told by, say Stanley Kubrick.
It's good to see Antonio Banderas reunited with Almodovar, and he delivers a wonderfully complex and quirky modern day Dr. Frankenstein.
Less emotional than my two very favorite Almodovar films (Talk to Her, All About My Mother), but its exciting to see this extremely talented film maker continue to evolve and grow, and I think this represents work that can stand among his best.
While the story of the West Memphis Three, their awful flawed trial and
subsequent efforts to obtain freedom were well covered in the "Paradise
Lost" trilogy of films, this single film overview has a lot of value.
Perhaps because the case can now be looked back on in total, it feels like there is a clearer focus here than in the excellent "Paradise Lost" series. There also seems to be more of an emphasis on the emotion and humanity of all the victims the three falsely convicted young men, but also the families that lost children.
Last, the film makes some of the awful holes in the prosecution case more simple and clear than earlier accounts, as well as putting a chilling spotlight on the possible real perpetrator, but without the theatrics that harmed 'Paradise Lost 2', which seemed guilty of what the trial did to the three boys; throw suspicion on a subject largely because he 'acted weird'.
Here the investigation into another possibility feels more dispassionate and scientific, and less manipulated, leaving one with questions rather than forcing conclusions.
The world might not have 'needed' another film on the subject, but personally, I feel the more injustice can be intelligently examined and exposed the better off we are as a society.
I was sad to see this deeply moving, complex and intelligent story of
the love between the award winning American poet Elizabeth Bishop and
Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares. so overlooked by U.S,
audiences and critics. There are two outstanding performances by
Miranda Otto as the outwardly shy and repressed alcoholic Bishop, and
Gloria Pires as her opposite, an extroverted, highly emotional woman
who coaxes Bishop out of her shell.
Very nicely photographed, this reminded me of the best of the Merchant-Ivory films. It's not flashy. Indeed there's a quiet to it that is needed to off-set the melodramatic (even if based in truths) elements of these women's lives. But that doesn't keep it from packing a hell of an emotional punch, and in being bold enough to create characters we care for, but who are also deeply troubled and capable of making bad choices just like in the real world of relationships we rarely see on screen. It was also nice to see a gay-themed love story that both acknowledged how difficult being homosexual was in the 1950s, while not becoming a film about that only. This is a film about a complex relationship between two highly creative and wounded souls who both save and damage each other. The fact that both are women is only a small part of the larger story. It's also one of the only films I've seen capture at least a taste of the struggle and loneliness of the act of writing.
One of those little gems that deserves to be discovered by more people.
While not great Woody Allen it's neither profound, moving nor funny
enough for that title, it is quite enjoyable.
The film is made up of four intercut short stories, that share little other than the fact they're set in Rome. Some have fantasy elements, some are more absurdist, others more straightforward character farce.
But somehow, though they don't make much of a logical grouping, the whole thing is lighthearted and fun enough that it seems grumpy to pick on it.
Sure some jokes fall flat and some ideas seem unfulfilled, but a lot of it is wonderfully acted and cleverly written. And at a time when so many comedies are aimed only at 15 year olds, even 2nd tier Woody, simply telling playfully comic tales, is a welcome sight.
Once again the performing/writing and directing team of Abel, Gordon,
and Romy deliver a sweet, gentle, charming comedy, that while having
dialogue, is most akin to the silent comedy classics.
As with their earlier films "L'iceberg" and "Rumba", the film is a hit and miss affair - but with many more hits than misses. A long string of silly sight gags, dances, absurd and surreal moments with a slim thread of a plot tying them together; A sad-sack hotel manager falls for a woman who may be an actual fairy. Or just a crazy person. Or maybe both.
Along their way they encounter a host of mostly very funny characters, like the nearly blind-owner of their favorite café, who is always right at the edge of spilling everything. (One of those jokes that could fail badly, or get old quickly if it wasn't pulled off with such deft precision, and big heartedness.)
There are a few inspired, laugh out loud comedy bits, many others that are sweetly enjoyable, and a few that just fall flat.
But while this may be a bit inconsistent, how lovely to see a comedy that aspires to Chaplin and Keaton and not American Pie 5.
Fascinating, unexpectedly deeply moving portrait of Marina Abromovic,
who is sometimes called 'the grandmother of performance art" and her
hugely successful retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art'.
While her past history is never less then tremendously engrossing, the most powerful moments of the film are those showing her new work, unveiled for the retrospective called 'The Artist is Present'. For 3 months, Ms. Abromovic simply sat in a chair all day, taking no breaks, looking into the eyes of any museum guest who sat down opposite her. No talk, and very little movement.
Yet these encounters are tremendously powerful, often moving both participants to tears (and some of us watching the film as well). This is 'art' taken to it's most simple, naked level. Connection between two strangers, each coming away different for the encounter.
While all this may sound dry and theoretic, the pure honest emotion and presence the 63 year old artist brings to her Herculean task make watching the film anything but.
Fascinating, powerful, hyper-controlled, super-subtle study of woman slowly coming unglued. Uses its 3 hour+ running time to put you inside the stultifying boredom and ennui of her life, and lets you see the tiny changes in her repetitive days that are powerful and meaningful barometers of the titanic emotions going on behind her blank masque. Not easy or 'fun' to watch. By definition (and intention?) it gets slow to the point of boredom at times. (Indeed NY Times critic Vincent Canby, who loved the film, jokingly warned that watching it 'could be fatal' if one was in the wrong mood.) But everything interconnects in an amazingly thought-out way. Every bit of dialogue (of which there's almost none) leaves a clue, or at least a trace. Fascinating camera-work; almost always static images. with every cut at 90 degree angles. And again, when that rule is broken there are specific thematic and storytelling reasons. A challenging, 'difficult' film, but one not to be missed.
I've now seen two films by the talented Ayodade the other being his
coming of age 'Submarine" - and had a very similar reaction though they
are miles apart in style, story and theme.
First, this is a gifted film-maker, who doesn't want to play by the usual rules. Next, he knows how to get off to a great start, build a fascinating world, get you involved with his people, but third, he doesn't quite find ways to make his third acts pay off as interestingly (or powerfully or emotionally) as the first two-thirds of the film promise. In both films the focus drifts to less interesting elements or variations on the stories he's telling.
And last, he needs to lighten up on the too-obvious 'homage's to his cinematic touchstones. In "Submarine" it was (among others) Wes Anderson and "Rushmore". Here the overbearing influences (there are many) are led by Terry Gilliam's "Brazil". There were a large number of design and character choices while effective - that came close enough that I couldn't help but sit there making comparisons ('Hey, there's Wallace Shawn doing Ian Holm'). And it starts to approach that fine line between inspiration and plagiarism.
That said, there's a lot to like here. The photography is often gorgeous. Jessie Eisenberg does a terrific job in a tough double role a meek office worker who is suddenly faced with another employee who looks exactly like him. But the new guy has a brash, self-confident personality, everyone loves him, and no one else seems to notice the two are physically exactly alike, right down to their clothes.
This raises interesting questions about personality, perception and reality. Is "James Simon" (the cool one) merely a psychological projection of the nerd, "Simon James"? But if that's the case, why does everyone else interact with both, together and separately? Is it that Simon is the only one who thinks they look alike? i.e. is Simon projecting himself onto someone who if we saw objectively wouldn't even really look like him? Well, that would be an interesting idea, and a promising road for the film to explore, and it hints heavily at that possibility, only to simply drop and contradict it.
And that's part of why this is two-thirds of a great film, not a whole one. In the end things play out in a way that has been foreshadowed from early on, and suddenly the film feels less deep, less challenging, more an exercise in cinematic playfulness than an exploration of deeper themes both personal and societal. The head trip becomes too literal, the conclusions too simple for the complex surreal reality we've come to accept
On the plus side, the effects are terrific, and many of the best scenes in the film are Eisenberg talking to himself in one shot. (A hell of an acting challenge as well). And the film has a dark sense of humor that keeps the Kafkaesque world and 'big themes' from becoming ponderous, (Again, I just wish I had less often chuckled, but then thought 'hey, that just like the scene in 'Barton Fink ', or whatever).
In any case I look forward to whatever Ayoade does next, but I hope he will find a way to finish as strong as he starts, and to be brave enough to trust his own very good sense of style, and not borrow quite so much from others.
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