Posts Tagged ‘ movies ’

A Quiet Place (2018)

a-quiet-place-john-krasinski-noah-jupe-millicent-simmonds

Pretty good film. Very suspenseful and tense, and Spielberg-lite at times, channeling the original Jurassic Park quite directly in certain scenes, especially (**SPOILERS**) near the end in the grain silo, and with the kids hiding in the car as the monster alien thing tries to get them. Wasn’t expecting Krasinski would sacrifice himself, though, which was a very nice touch and just about assures he won’t have to pull double duty if he decides to direct the sequel, probably. It was also quite an emotional scene without being corny, wrapping that story element up in a perfect little bow. Well done.

The monsters, though, seemed pretty stupid, and I had a hard time believing humans wouldn’t have figured out a way to kill them before all this. It’s kind of obvious; the monsters have ultrasonic hearing, so maybe turning up the volume to a frequency that would irritate them might be the way to go. It’s not rocket surgery. (**END SPOILERS**)

Anyway, a good film overall. They probably could have milked the suspense a bit more, or done more with the monsters, and some scenes were a bit stupid or didn’t make much sense, like the (**SPOILERS**) water cascading into the sound proof underground booth thing. What the heck was going on there, exactly? All that water came from Blunt’s character leaving the faucet on? Really? And this is the end of the world, you’d think they’d be more careful to not leave potentially valuable water running like that for so long in the first place. (**END SPOILERS**) A really out-of-place moment in an otherwise pretty logically sound film.

But as a film that’s almost entirely silent, and made up of only a handful of characters, it’s incredibly effective, especially thanks to the acting, which is across the board excellent. An effective, entertaining, highly suspenseful little film.

Les Misérables (1998) – 4/5

Surprisingly good film despite its shoddy production values, mostly thanks to a well adapted story and some great performances, especially from Geoffrey Rush who I’ve come to realize after watching this is one of the finest, most underrated actors of his generation. And Uma Thurman’s pretty good in this too, and sexy for a poor, sickly prostitute. But a fine, fine adaptation, even if you’re familiar with the story and/or read the book.

The look of the film isn’t anything remarkable, though. It’s quite cheap looking at times, frankly, which is especially grievous given the visual possibilities the historical and geographical context of the story present. I had a feeling watching this that the director has a strong theater background; the emphasis throughout is definitely much more on the acting than the visuals, and that usually implies theater training, for obvious reasons. A lot of scenes are staged or otherwise unfold in a very theatrical manner, with characters giving it their all and being pretty damn convincing despite being in locations that look like little more than dressed up sound stages, which they most likely were.

That isn’t to say it isn’t good visually. It has its moments, and it’s certainly not shot in a pedestrian manner by any means, it just feels fake at times. The characters’ clothes are a little too clean, the props a little too fake. Things are just slightly off. It’s hard to say how exactly unless you watch it, but, again, I think it has to do with the director’s theatrical background, (assuming he has one), and his emphasis on performance over realism. Eh, whatever, it works, mostly.

Overall, I enjoyed this film. It’s tense and well made, excellently acted by just about everyone, and actually well written, with changes to the book actually adding to the story rather than taking away from it like many other adaptations tend to do. ::Ahem:: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo::Ahem::

This movie constantly teetered on the edge of being terrible, though. If the direction were just a bit weaker, or the performances not as powerful, it could have been a real disaster. On the other hand, had the direction been stronger visually, it could have really been something. A masterpiece maybe, or, at least, one of the finest adaptations of a novel ever made. As it stands, though, it’s just a good movie, which is all you can ask for, really. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Recommended.

Open Range (2003) – 3/5

Eh. A movie of questionable quality. Well written, but terribly directed. The acting is stiff, and line readings are occasionally dull or downright silly.

Strangely enough, the only actor who is actually convincing in this film is Kevin Costner, who was also the director. Coincidence? I think not. It takes a certain kind of purposeful ineptitude to bring about bad performances from both Robert Duvall and Annette Bening. How Costner did it, though, is beyond me. A shame.

And, although the script is strong, it could have used a few more passes. There were a lot of filler scenes; lots of fat that could have been trimmed.

But some of it was interesting and entertaining. The end shoot out was well done. And some of it is actually quite funny for a serious Western. But it could have been better. Stick to baseball flicks, Costner.

Donnie Brasco (1997) – 4/5

Mediocre film made good thanks to a decently written script, a handful of great scenes, and a brilliant performance from Johnny Depp. Man could that guy act. I wish people would start ignoring him again so he could get back to actually putting effort into his performances like he used to before “Pirates.” Damn public finally recognizing his genius and showering him with attention and well deserved praise. You ruined a brilliant actor! All of you!

The film is decent. Not the best directed or shot, and Pacino is kind of weird in it, but Depp is so strong you almost don’t care. His transformation during the course of the film from naïve police officer to hardened mobster is great, from the mannerisms to the speech patterns to just that arrogant look in his eyes. Truly Depp at his finest.  What an actor the guy used to be. And he makes it all look so effortless.

The story is okay, nothing special, and the various twists and turns are engaging. It’s just a decently made mobster film that doesn’t really add anything new to the genre, other than Depp’s performance as I’ve gone on and on about already, but that’s more luck in casting than anything storytelling related. The ending was a bit sad, unexpectedly so, and it’s also extremely violent at times, and graphic, especially near the end. Yikes.

Overall, yeah, decent film. Watch it for Depp’s performance alone. See how good he used to be before he let his worldwide fame rob him of his brilliance. Most of it, anyway.

 

Serpico (1973) – 4.5/5

They don’t make ’em like this anymore. And that’s a shame. This is a great film from start to finish. And Al Pacino gives an interesting performance doing an accent I never heard from him before.

The opening sequence is brilliant. As are a few other scenes sprinkled in here and there. The story is captivating and epic, yet simple and realistic. And gritty. This is a tough film.

A great film. Really different from the stuff you see today. I hope filmmaking like this will come back into fashion some day.

Tyson (2008) – 3.5/5

A decent, entertaining documentary that skims over Mike Tyson’s more “controversial” behavior in order to paint him as a misunderstood softy with a heart of gold. I didn’t buy it.

The film uses some weird techniques I had never seen in a documentary before, namely, superimposing scenes all over the screen ala “24” with overlapping dialogue and weird dissolve effects. It was distracting, if anything. Creative, but unnecessary.

It’s entertaining, though. I didn’t know much about Tyson going in, but now feel as though I know a little bit more; he was a great boxer, on par with Muhammad Ali and his ilk. But he was also an egomaniac, and a touch crazy, and his career, along with his credibility, quickly went to hell. He’s still filthy rich, though, so he probably doesn’t mind.

Still, the film glosses over a lot of Tyson’s more violent criminal behavior. A rape sentence is dismissed with an “oh, the woman was probably lying.” His biting of Holyfield twice during a match is given an “eh, he had it coming.” And countless other similar offenses are either ignored or shrugged off as misinterpretations of “what really happened.”

I understand that the filmmaker is Tyson’s friend, and wants to paint him as a hero rather than a violent, unstable criminal, but it’s not reality. Tyson, for all his talent in the ring, is a violent individual; quick to anger, aggressive, compulsive, irrational. He even says so on a few occasions throughout the film. Dismissing these facts and emphasizing only the good, though noble, is little more than manipulation on the part of the filmmakers.

Still, it’s an entertaining movie, worth a watch. Just don’t assume it’s an accurate portrayal of the man.

The Brothers Bloom (2008) – 3.5/5

I can’t quite put my finger on what I didn’t like about this film. It’s not the acting or the story per se, though I did have some issue with those. It’s definitely not the writing. I guess it’s its overly cutesy tone that does this film in. Still, it’s an entertaining movie for the most part.

The beginning starts out well, with a fairytale like introduction to the brothers full of rhyming and wackiness. The film keeps teetering on the edge of fantasy and grim reality, and it’s these two opposing tones that take the most away from it in the end. Though it’s a very bold, ambitious film that mostly works, and the cinematography is outstanding and full of excellent symbolism.

The performances are also a bit odd, though the two female leads are adorable, especially Rachel Weisz as the wacky yet beautiful shut in. The silent Asian is also cute as hell, and stylish and so gosh darn cool during some scenes. But Adrien Brody seems out-of-place. He’s good, but his character is much too dark given the tone of the film. And the main “villain” character, the one-eyed guy, is like something out of a completely different film. But that’s just a minor nitpick.

The ending is quite brilliant. Rarely are there films that end as brilliantly, and cleverly, as this does. The various twists and turns were also a nice touch, as I had no idea where it would go next. There were maybe too many twists, and after a while, it became a bit tedious.

Overall, a wacky, enjoyable film with plenty of pretty women doing cute/super cool things for two hours, and Adrien Brody brooding to provide some contrast. Worth watching.

Ponyo (2008) – 4/5

Cool film. Didn’t really understand all of it, but that’s to be expected with these kinds of films. The point of films like this is to look at the pretty animation and go “oooh, ahh” and be amazed by it all, and I was, story be damned.

Though compared to Miyazaki’s other films, this is about as straight and coherent a narrative as you’re going to get. And it is very enjoyable, and pretty. I especially liked the scene where the waves are chasing the car up the mountain and the little girl is hopping from wave to wave to keep up with it; very well done.

It’s also charming and cute in its own way. The little fish girl thing is adorable, though the notion of her turning human to be with the little boy is a bit odd. Wasn’t she his pet? What’s going on there? And what was with the supposed “villain” at the end? Didn’t he initially have a plan to wipe out all of mankind or something at the beginning of the movie? What happened with all that?

So, yeah, it’s unconventional and doesn’t really make sense, but it’s entertaining and very well animated. Worth seeing.

The Princess and the Frog (2009) – 4/5

Hmm. Yeah, a good movie, though somewhat forgettable looking back on it. Not as good as Disney’s older stuff, but still entertaining and very nice to look at.

The story was interesting, but nothing you haven’t seen before. The villain was the best part; too bad there wasn’t more of him. He just never felt like a real threat. Even his motives were a bit hazy. But this is a Disney film, so I shouldn’t have expected anything too serious.

It accomplishes what it sets out to do. The songs are pretty good, the animation is great, there’s plenty of humor and heart. It’s just a good all around children’s film. Nothing more, nothing less.

Worth watching, sure.

The Way Back (2010) – 4/5

Pretty good travel/escape movie with some great performances and some beautiful scenes, though the odd, neck-breaking pace of the middle half is confusing and borderline annoying at times. Slow down, people. Geez.

I understand that they needed to cover thousands of miles of voyage in about 45 minutes, but when every scene lasts about a minute and every scene change is a new location with limited to no explanation as to what the heck happened to the characters in between, it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on. The escape from the prison itself takes about 10 seconds, with the characters talking about it one moment, then somehow having escaped and running into the forest while being chased by dogs the next. Huh? No planning? Is it really that easy to escape from prisons in Russia?

The film succeeds best when it takes its time. Again, I understand this is difficult given the nature of the story, but it could have been edited better, or at least more cohesively.

Still, it’s a pretty good movie overall, with some great performances from Ed Harris and, I’d never thought I’d see the day, Colin Farrell. This is arguably the first movie I’ve seen Farrell in where I actually enjoyed his presence on-screen and was saddened when he left. The guy has finally learned how to act, and act well. Congrats.

Overall, yeah, good film, worth watching. It’s an interesting story that will physically exhaust you by the end. Must have been a hell of a shoot, too. Worth watching.