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The Tree of Life (2011)
A sad achievement first time I walked out of a movie
*** This review definitely contains spoilers ***
Wow, just scrolling over the user reviews here shows that the opinions are very much mixed on this film. I am sorry to say that I am with the ones that are negative about this film.
Yesterday I went to see "The Tree Of Life" with high expectations. I am not familiar with Terrence Malick's movies but I was drawn by the names of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Quality stuff or so I thought. This is now the first time EVER that I walked out of a movie and - mind you - I have seen quite a few, ranging from very very good to very very dull. This one I found unbearable.
I am a sucker for slow storytelling and it takes a lot for me to find a movie too slow, but something is not right when I start thinking to myself while I am watching the beginning: "OK, they could have left this out". At the BEGINNING of a movie! All the way through the first half hour I was thinking: "when is this movie actually going to start?" To me, that first half hour did not contain any storytelling. After endless images of beautiful landscapes (very befitting a BBC-documentary) with a very odd short bit about dinosaur-like creatures in there I thought there was finally going to be some sort of story. And there was, to my relief, albeit not a real story in my view but more a collection of short scenes. However it clearly depicted the family dynamics and gave a good impression of the tyranny of the Brad Pitt character.
And then, without rhyme or reason, the family moves house and a sequence of incomprehensible scenes (for example the one in which characters of past and present mingle on the beach) begins all over again. This, combined with the whispered comments (those really got on my nerves) all through the movie were too much for me and I decided to call it a night. I am not proud of walking out but I really couldn't take it any longer, especially since I knew I was only about two thirds in. I was not the first one to leave the cinema by the way.
It has to be said that the imagery and photography of this movie were flawless, but that is really all the praise I can give. I just did not understand it, obviously I am too thick for this kind of movie.
A loose thing that bothered me is that the son who dies is 19 years old, but the actress playing his mother (Jessica Chastain) does not look a day older than 25 when she receives the telegram about his death right at the beginning of the movie. I was irritated by that right away and that stayed with me all the way through. Changing a woman's hair from 'down' to 'up' does not necessarily make her look older, Terrence. A little bit more effort in that respect would have been good.
I am happy that there are reviews here giving this movie 10 out of 10, because that only shows that movie-goers are a diverse audience. A chacun son goût! It was just not mon goût.
Les petits mouchoirs (2010)
Laughter and tears and good actors what more do you want?
I went to see Les Petits Mouchoirs yesterday and loved every minute of it. And since there are 154 minutes of it, there is a whole lot to love! Yes, this movie lasts for two and a half hours but it certainly did not feel long to me at all.
I thought that the acting was very natural and the people were very real: wow, they even looked like normal people (except for Marion Cotillard who is out-of-this-world-beautiful); a feeling that I feel oftentimes is missing in Hollywood movies where only the dork is normal (= ugly) and the rest of the actors are nothing but overly gorgeous. Obviously some out of the ordinary circumstances occur - otherwise there would be no movie, would there? nobody wants to watch me go to work and do my groceries for two and a half hours - but the way the situations were dealt with made me feel like Les Petit Mouchoirs was a depiction of a slice of life. I laughed out loud on several occasions, but at the end also had a wet sleeve from drying my tears. And in that respect I feel very differently from one previous poster who feels that the acting was weak in the dramatic parts of the movie; I thought the acting was superb.
I definitely recommend this movie, I thought it was highly entertaining and an evening well-spent.
Mediocre at best
I had pretty high expectations of this movie after reading a very short synopsis; I really like ensemble movies and 'Antarctica' being a gay movie and from Israel added to the attraction (I see a lot of Hollywood movies as well). I came out pretty disappointed.
There was very little story in this and hardly any substance. I found it rather shallow while the premise was full of possibilities for an engrossing film. There is great potential in ensemble movies but only when a director and/or a writer know what to do with it clearly in this case there could have been much more of a plot if the writer had left out a couple of characters and had focused on the remaining ones for some depth and background.
I am somebody who enjoys striking images - by which I do not mean pictures of sunsets and lavish homes, but images that, whether they are pretty of ugly, enhance the story - but there was no beauty at all to be found in this movie. I am not referring to the cast because some of them were actually rather handsome, but the sets: apartments, kitchens, streets, surroundings nothing spoke to me. It looked like nobody had been hired for cinematography. Now I am aware of the budget factor but there is a big gap between lush Hollywood sets and cramped TL-lit spaces. From where I was sitting a little more attention to imagery would not have distracted from the story; it would probably have enhanced it.
But the one thing I could not get over was the casting of the character 'Omer's Mother'. This person was so ridiculously out of place that it hurt. I sincerely wonder what the deal was here because I cannot believe that any casting director who takes themselves seriously would voluntarily cast this character the way it was done, destroying any credibility the movie had to begin with.
'Antarctica' in my view is mediocre at best, I give it 5 out of 10.
Good fun, even for non-fans of the genre
OK, let me start by saying that I am not a person who likes fantasy movies, I am not a person who likes action movies and I have never in my life played a computer game (not counting Patience and Spider Solitaire). I do however like me some Jake Gyllenhaal and when I read that for this movie he had trained an additional 5 pounds of muscle onto his body AND that he speaks with an English accent, I knew I had to see it, if only to swoon for two hours. So I admit I went in for completely shallow reasons.
As for the shallowness, I was amply rewarded. My oh my that Jake looks good!! And I really loved him with his English accent - I certainly hope he will do that more often. For those leaning more towards enjoying female beauty there is Gemma Arterton who is a stunning beauty so they were quite the handsome couple.
But all in all I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. It had a good story to it, the acting was steady, the tone was humorous and the CGI people went all out for the lush scenery and the crowd scenes. Two additional reasons that I thoroughly enjoyed it were: (1) Alfred Molina who provided the humour bits in his role of Sheik Amar (I sat through the end credits because he was unrecognizable to me and I wanted to know who played the part. What a 180 degree turn from his part in An Education where I saw him last!), and (2) the use of parkour/freerunning we see Jake do in his role of Prince Dastan. Obviously he must have had a stunt double for this and some parts of it must have been enhanced by CGI but still it was a welcome change to the standard (to this genre of movie) chasing scenes which I am not particularly a fan of.
If - contrary to me - you are a fan of fantasy and action, you will enjoy this even more than I did, and I already enjoyed it very much. A couple of hours of unpretentious fun of the kind that Jerry Bruckheimer has such a knack for. Well done.
It's Complicated (2009)
It's uncomplicated fun!
I went to see this film on a Sunday afternoon, 4 o'clock. I walked into the theatre expecting only a few scattered seats to be occupied by ladies of a certain age, but to my surprise ànd contentment the theatre was filled for about 90% with both genders and all ages. And why not? I have read some article in some movie magazine saying that this is supposedly a film with a relatively small budget aimed at a relatively small audience (aforementioned ladies) but why would that be? I could not have been the only one in the audience who has no similarities with the film's characters: I am not nearing 60 years of age, I am not divorced, I have no children, I am not having an affair. Yet I do have a sense of humour and that is really all that is required when watching "It's Complicated".
Because boy, this movie is funny as hell. And I was not the only one to think so: both genders and all ages were bursting with laughter throughout the movie. The jokes were really good, the actors even better. Meryl Streep was excellent (but hey, has anybody ever seen less than excellence of this lady?), Alec Baldwin was solid, Steve Martin should really take on more serious roles because he's pretty good at it and let's not forget John Krasinski who has a small but very cute and very funny part in this movie.
This is definitely one to watch. Perfect if you are in a good mood and perhaps even better if you are in a bad one -- you will leave the theatre with a huge smile on your face.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009)
A very enjoyable light snack
Sandra Bullock recently said in a talk show about her movie The Proposal: "Nobody ever goes to see a romantic comedy for the plot: you know they are going to end up together. You want to see the way how things are played out" or something of that nature. She is right of course.
You know what you are in for when going to see 'Ghosts of Girlfriends Past', especially since this movie follows the storyline of Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' which everybody knows. You could argue therefore that there is nothing at all to see here since one already knows exactly what is going to happen. Yet despite that obvious notion I really enjoyed this one very much.
This is not a movie I will see again or buy on DVD but it was definitely a very enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half, especially with a drink and some popcorn at hand. The story has a good pace, the main characters are well played with good chemistry and I like Michael Douglas in funny roles very much: he really should do that more often.
On the message board for 'Genova' I had read commentaries ranging from "mindnumbingly dull" to "exquisite and poignant" so I really was not sure what to expect when I went to see it. Back from the cinema after just having seen it I have to say I am somewhere in the middle and leaning towards the latter.
I can see why some feel it is plot less but it did not feel that way to me. This is not a movie that has a specific beginning and ending, it is more a "chapter in the life of..." movie which I can handle quite well from time to time. But if you are not a fan of that Mediterranean movie tradition then you should stay away from this one.
It has to be said that the acting in 'Genova' was absolutely spot on - so much so that it felt to me like Michael Winterbottom, accidentally equipped with a camera, somehow landed near this bereaved family and decided to film what he saw happening around him. It is all so natural - real persons with real emotions. I take my hat off to the youngest girl who really nailed her role. Coming from me that is praise indeed since generally I find (American) child actors annoying and fake. Colin Firth is great and I also absolutely loved Catherine Keener who never seems to have to make an effort; she is always terrific.
Having said this I have to admit that I did not shed any tears, although usually I am quite the cry-baby when watching movies. I contribute this however to the fact that A) I am not a parent and B) I did not recently lose somebody very close to my heart. There is no doubt in my mind that had either one been the case, 'Genova' would have me sobbing uncontrollably for being so emotionally real.
Powerful film with great impact
When I looked up some information on this film on the internet, I came across a statement from director Roberto Caston: "The film was born out of necessity. GLBT films slowly start to be produced in Spain, but none of them take place outside an urban context." I don't know much about Spanish film but I am inclined to believe that he is right about gay movies in general. I (female, no gay experiences
yet) am not an expert but I have seen my share of gay movies and they were mostly about pretty muscular boys or lovely model like ladies in their apartments in the city. "Ander" is definitely not. It is a story about a not handsome, not muscular, balding, smoking peasant who is slightly on the heavy side. It makes the film all the more interesting, especially since the rural life depicted here is - I would think - unfamiliar territory for the average (gay)cinema visitor.
Ander lives a monotonous life as a farmer who also works in a factory to have some extra income. His social circle is very small: he lives with an uptight widowed mother (who is in love again but dare not show this because people might see this as disrespectful to her dead husband) and a down to earth sister who will soon marry and leave the house. His only form of entertainment is drinking with sort-of-friend Peio and every now and then having sex with hooker by necessity Reme, a woman whose husband walked out on her a few years ago, leaving her to raise a baby son.
When Ander breaks his leg and can't use it for two months, his soon to be brother-in-law recommends a Peruvian laborer, who will work for a small fee plus food and board. Enter Jose. It is clear that Ander enjoys Jose's company - it is a welcome change in his dull life and he takes him to all facets of it: he looks him up when Jose is working the land or looking after the animals, and he takes him to Peio, booze and hooker - but there are no secret glances at the dinner table, no forbidden frolicking in the fields; I think simply because Ander does not know gay. He has never seen it, it does not exist in his world. The only clue we get about Jose is that he has a picture on his nightstand of him and another man on a cycling holiday; however this picture is an ordinary holiday snap - no giveaway. If anyone asks it might be one of his three brothers.
Only after an unexpected sexual encounter between Ander and Jose does Ander realize what this means, what he is. He needs a while to let it sink in and the process is complicated by the sudden death of his mother. Reme has seen what is the matter, as she tells Jose: "I suspected as much... Ander could not take his eyes off you when you were having sex with me the other day." After a quiet but at the same time eye-opening conversation with the man his mother was in love with, it is Reme who convinces Ander to be himself, simply by asking him what he will have left after his leg will have healed and Jose will no longer be required to help out.
This film stuck in my head for quite a few days - it is powerful stuff because the story is told with few words and small gestures from unknown actors (unknown to me that is) who do a terrific job. I love over-the-top pretty boys in urban gay movies but Ander occupies a very welcome spot at the other end of the gay movie spectrum. Highly recommended!