Months in Review: May, June & July films (part 2)

This is a continuation on the previous post. For all the reviews of the films watched in May read Part 1.


WONDER WOMAN (2017) [ 4/5 ]

A beautifully crafted big-budget Hollywood blockbuster that manages to excel at the little things. Surely some of the source material seems at odds with the more mature theme of female empowerment but, at its conclusion, the latest DC Comics venture comes off as more than the sum of its parts. It helps that Gal Gadot is an excellent choice to play Wonder Woman.

DON'T BREATHE (2017) [ 4/5 ]

A surprisingly frightening film about what happens when the person you are trying to rob is far more sinister than you could ever hope to be. At times, Don't Breathe resorts to horror movie clichés but, for the most part, it keeps us engaged with a simple yet cleverly executed premise. This is edge-of-your-seat suspense led by the physically imposing performance of Stephen Lang.

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (2016) [ 4/5 ]

More than any other modern example I can think about, the success of this documentary hinges entirely on the power and conviction of its narrator's words. The pity is that the archival footage of James Baldwin's interventions in American culture is finite. The tragedy is that his words resonate today almost as loudly as they did then.
We have much more work to do.


If you ask me twenty years from now when I discovered Will Smith's true value as an actor, I will undoubtedly trace it back to this franchise. The first of the 'Independence' films was a blockbuster juggernaut that reshaped the American blockbuster and reintroduced Will Smith to the public as a lead actor in the big screen after his much remembered stint as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The second entry in the franchise is likely to be the last. It started with a handicap, terribly missing Smith's unique brand of charisma. Then it moved forward with a script that felt like more of the same, rehashing old characters, but stripping away what had made them fun the first time around.

SHAFT (2000) [ 3/5 ]

The remake released in 2000 has become a cult favorite due to its unapologetic brand of violent justice delivered by the incomparable bad-assery of Samuel L. Jackson. Far from being a good film, Shaft is simply entertaining and cool, owing much of its success to its great lead actor.

GET OUT (2017) [ 4.5/5 ]

In the history of cinema there have been very few directorial debuts as confident and impressive as Jordan Peele's much-talked about Get Out; a modern horror/thriller with the kind of subversive and timely social commentary that can advance the racial conversation in the U.S. and the world.
For being his first time as the director of a feature film, Jordan Peele's work impressively feels like that of a careful student of cinema, creating something new out of old sources.
The best way to encapsulate the success of Get Out is by watching the early scene between Daniel Kaluuya (in a career-defining performance) and Catherine Keener (in her best ever role). This scene, above all those that come after, is a pivotal moment for the film and its director, laying the ground work for the feel and the style of the film, while showcasing the inventiveness of his script.
A truly original piece of work.


Apart from the teenager at its center playing the part of a half zombie, half human; the characters that surround her display the kind of moral inconsistency that is typical in mediocre horror movies.
The film does offer something new to the zombie sub-genre and it has a few interesting ideas and scenes scattered throughout. Beyond that, it's a mild and unremarkable watch.


BABY DRIVER (2017) [ 4/5 ]

Pulsating and fun; those are the words that first come to mind to describe Gareth Edwards' latest romp.
Unlike Winding Refn's meditative and violent driver for hire (famously played by Ryan Gosling in Drive), Edwards' film is a far more casual, visceral and, at times, sappy rubber-meets-road soap opera that bears only superficial similarities to the film it is inevitably compared to.
Baby Driver is malevolently funny and it features some of the most over-the-top yet endlessly satisfying performances from the likes of Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, the newcomer Eiza Gonzalez, and from that old devil who ages like a good wine: Kevin Spacey.

THE ACCOUNTANT (2017) [ 2.5/5 ]

For every success in the career of Ben Affleck there are at least 2 or more misses. It's hard to explain how someone can do Good Will Hunting and Argo but also be involved in disasters like Gigli and The Accountant, a messy and unimaginative action flick.
Affleck is at its most subdued self here, reinforcing my belief that he can only play two types: the Boston gangster or the monotone and unemotional loner. The Accountant is a film that in its effort to be as cool as John Wick ends up being as "uncool" as its title suggests.

MOANA (2016) [ 3.5/5 ]

Like Frozen and Tangled before it, Moana has the old-school Disney aura that can be both endearing and evocative of a time when animated films did not dare to be much more than stories made for children.
As well crafted as Moana is, the film's message and storyline is one we have seen before, but having gone through a societal update that makes it palatable to demographics that were either underrepresented or misrepresented.
Its music could have used a bit more development.

DUNKIRK (2017) [ 4.5/5 ]

A remarkable achievement for the widely acclaimed director Christopher Nolan that retells the tale of the very important campaign to evacuate Allied forces out of France at the height of Nazi aggression. Unlike other films interested in war, Dunkirk remains intimate despite its largesse, finding human stories that are engaging and moving.
In true Nolan fashion, the film is also a work of the highest craftmanship and precision, cleverly juggling different time lines and points of view with ease. Dunkirk is a tour-de-force by a director who is used to delighting us. As such, the film deserves a full review, which I can hopefully complete soon.


While it can't be faulted for a lack of world-building ambition, Valerian is a film that wastes most of the good ideas and characters it explores. More importantly, this is a film with a lackluster script that spends a significant amount of running time trying to sell us a non-existing chemistry between its leads. This is the first misstep in the young career of Dane Deehan, and a considerable fumble for Luc Besson.

THE LOST CITY OF Z (2017) [ 3.5/5 ]

I would have perhaps appreciated The Lost City of Z a bit more had I not seen Werner Herzog's seminal film: Aguirre, The Wrath of God. As good as Charlie Hunnam is in this movie, he is not Klaus Kinski. As convincing and atmospheric as James Gray's Amazon Jungle is here, it is not nearly as beautifully oppressive and frightening as Herzog's rendition. As dizzyingly poetic as the ending managed to be, very few movies can compare to the despair and insanity that defines the ending of Aguirre.
I know it's not entirely fair to judge a movie based on the merit of a predecessor, but in the arts, nothing is more informative than our references and our shared human history.
A full review coming soon…hopefully!

HAIL CAESAR! (2016) [ 3.5/5 ]

As ludicrously funny as the latest Coen brothers' film is, there is nothing in this mixture of satire and homage to Old Hollywood that feels transcendental. As much as the trailers would have you believe this is a film with George Clooney front and center, I was pleasantly surprised to watch Josh Brolin as the lead in one of his best roles yet. A hoot from beginning to end, but not up to the level of other Coen classics.

Months in Review: May, June & July films (part I)

It's been a while once again. Between family visits, test studying, work demands and a new romance in the air; life gets the best of this blog of mine.
Apart from my writing, my film watching has also decreased, but not as sharply as my visits to the blogosphere. In the last three months of  online inactivity, I managed to watch 25 films, with an average score of 3.2. There were, per usual, highlights and disappointments. On the one hand I marveled at Jordan Peele's confident directorial debut with  Get Out and Christopher Nolan's breathtaking Dunkirk, while on the other I watched in confusion how Luc Besson managed to waste over 150 million dollars making his latest passion project, or how Brad Pitt continued his bad streak with the ill-conceived War Machine, which he produced and starred in.
Without further ado, I share with you a list of quick reviews for all the films that were watched in the order in which they were seen. Being that it is quite a number of them for one single post, I will be splitting these up into two parts. 


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017) [ 3.5/5 ]

The sequel is a very satisfying reunion with Starlord (Chris Pratt) and his crew of unlikely heroes. Years after it was first introduced to audiences around the world, Guardians of the Galaxy still feels fresher and funnier than most other superhero films, propelled forward by the writing and playful direction of James Gunn.
With a decisively bigger budget, the movie is a bit overstuffed with very colorful worlds and enemies that are both evil and hilariously ill-prepared. Volume 2 has plenty of highs and packs a lot of fun in two hours of film. The film was at its best when it focused on the interactions between these wild characters. My biggest complaint is with Starlord's origin story, which was no more than traditional and predictable Hollywood fare.

ESTEROS (2016) [ 3/5 ]

A love story between two kids whose families pulled them apart at a young age just when they were starting to find romance in their friendship.
Many years later they find each other again and the romance is rekindled despite girlfriends. Though there is a element of nostalgia and sadness over time wasted that is well executed , the film struggles to get any traction and the adult actors were not convicing enough to sell their chemistry.

SPLIT (2017) [ 3.5/5 ]

The first film in many years to deliver on the promise of M. Night Shaymalan's skills as a director and storyteller. Split soars for long stretches due to the nearly perfect chameleonic performance of James McCavoy as a man with multiple personalities. Like some of the better Shaymalan's creations, Split is also effective in holding and building suspense but, once again, falling just short of finding consistent emotional resonance all the way to the end.
The best scenes happened early between McCavoy and his psychiatrist, played expertly by Betty Buckley.

CASTING JON BENET (2017) [ 2.5/5 ]

Yet another exploitative film about America's bizarre obsession with the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey. The Netflix Original documentary is a cleverly constructed if unevenly executed piece that feels as if we're watching a random focus group of Americans give their thoughts on the case. At the end the question remains as to whether we need to keep rehashing this tragic and unfortunate story. The answer is no. 

THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE (2016) [ 3.5/5 ]

As odd as it was to even conceive of an animated film based on a game with such a narrow and mindless purpose; The Angry Birds Movie delivers a playful and charming story about channeling anger through selflessness and friendship. For the most part, the characters are well conceived and the story moves in deliberate and well structured ways. Its problems lie, for the most part, with its source material and how it informs the struggle between birds that don't fly and green pigs who love eggs. (??)
ALIEN: COVENANT (2017) [ 3.5/5 ]

Entertaining and beautifully directed (except for the ad-hoc ending), the latest film in the Alien franchise I have cherished since I was a kid was a bit of a disappointment, if only for the quality of some of its predecessors. My full review here.

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (2016) [ 4/5 ]

Every few years, one of America's most talented and underrated storytellers releases a movie that makes you reconsider how movies like it were made. Richard Linklater crafted THE American college film with all of the typical debauchery we come to expect while giving a plethora of characters tangible personalities that never become stereotypical caricatures. For a film to be able to juggle so many small stories and turn it into a cohesive and satisfying whole requires the kind of talent that only a few directors have. We can thank Richard Linklater for showing us that even the immature college films can also be wonderful pieces of cinema.
HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER (2017) [ 3/5 ]

The comedic gifts of Eugenio Derbez help the film come off better than on the page. With the help of a charming kid and a convincing motherly turn by Salma Hayek, How to be a Latin Lover is a satisfying enough comedy that should not be taken more seriously than the silly lighthearted humor it aims at.

QUÉ CULPA TIENE EL NIÑO? (2016) [ 2.5/5 ]

For a film that has the trappings of a silly comedy about young adults making mistakes, there are long stretches that offer no moments of laughter beyond a chuckle or two. As it gets going and the story unfolds the film improves, but it does so rather unevenly, sometimes resorting to the kind of poorly written situational comedy one can expect to find in a hispanic soap opera.

WAR MACHINE (2017) [ 2/5 ]

One of Netflix most bold attemps yet at charting a new course towards original filmmaking suffers the faith of an unprepared amateur. Brad Pitt offers star power but little else in one of the most unfortunate performances of his long career. The script is a jumbled mess that touches upon many cliches of war-themed movies without ever sustaining a point of view in a coherent and consistent manner.

HANDS OF STONE (2016) [ 3/5 ]

There is something about boxing that lends itself to cinematic treatments. We can cite many great films like Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby and the original Rocky just to name a few. This boxing biopic has many familiar elements, without it ever rising to the emotional struggle of souls fighting their demons on a stage made for violence and blood. Its saving grace are the very apt performances from the cast, starting with my fellow Venezuelan Edgar Ramirez alongside a vintage Robert De Niro. More importantly for me, the film is directed by another rising Venezuelan talent: Jonathan Jakubowicz.


I know Macon Blair from his convincing acting turns in indie films like The Green Room (which disappointed me) and Blue Ruin (one of my favorite films of the last few years). In his first attempt at the director's chair, Blair gives us an entertaining and weirdly funny film that bears a resemblance to the kind of projects he has been involved with. Even though the film is silly and feels rather pointless once it is over, its characters are oddball charmers that you eventually warm up to. Definitely worth watching.

I will be posting Part 2 within the next few days with the films I watched in June and July. 

A fan reviews Alien: Covenant

Covenant 1

As a big fan of the Alien franchise, it has always been difficult for me to write or even think about reviews of the films and remain unbiased. As a child, I played with a six inch tall action figure (that I still have) of the Xenomorph, the frightening and brilliant monster at the center of the franchise. It was, as everyone that knew me would tell you, my favorite toy, by a long shot.

I watched the original 1979 film sometime between 1990 and 1992, when I was between 6 to 8 years old. Soon after, I also managed to watch Aliens, James Cameron’s fantastic action packed sequel, and I was forever captivated.

What started from a simple script that had the makings of a silly B-movie was turned by a young Ridley Scott into a horror sci-fi of a quality and thoughtfulness that had not been seen before. With an ensemble of very good actors which included Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt and Ian Holm, Scott hired the services of a relatively unknown Swiss artist, H.R. Giger, to manufacture a credible alien universe that would be convincing enough to elicit fear and dread in audiences. With the invaluable help of Giger’s twisted and unique vision, Scott would introduce us to an exosqueletal U-shaped alien ship sitting in isolation in the midst of a stormy unexplored planet. Inside, there were tunnels made out of what seemed to be organic material that led to one great chamber, where something that looked like a super weapon, or perhaps a giant cockpit, held the remains of a fossilized giant that had been torn open from its insides (popularly refered to as the Engineer). Soon, we would meet the gruesome eggs, the nightmarish “facehugger” and the xenomorph bursting out of John Hurt’s chest in one of cinema’s most unforgettable scenes.

In an act that would later prove to be extremely wise, Scott declined the chance to work on a sequel, giving the keys of a promising franchise to the up-and-coming James Cameron who, with a bigger budget and studio backing, made a thrilling sequel that felt like the first film but on steroids. Once again, our heroes were led by a toughened yet relunctant Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) against an entire colony of the deadly creatures.

Though one can argue the merits of the third entry directed by David Fincher (many point to the less than amicable relationship between 20th Century Fox and the director as a cause for some of the dissappointment), there is no denying that the sequels that came after Alien 3 followed the law of diminishing returns. It seemed the franchise was headed to an inglorious end.

In 2012 and with the very real prospect of irrelevance looming nearby, Ridley Scott resurected its acclaimed creation with Prometheus. The film, which took us to the very beginnings of the Alien universe (and of the Weyland corporation), had a surprisingly philosophical and existential vibe that seemed to be entirely disconnected to the older films.

Even though Prometheus ends on a high note by promising an exploration through the Universe in search for the “Engineers”; Alien: Covenant is both a continuation and a rejection of the path that was hinted at by its predecessor. As crafty and stylish as Scott’s direction is and remains throughout the film, there is a designed attempt to please the fans whose nostalgia for horror, dark smokey tunnels and death had been less than satisfied with Prometheus.

Covenant 2

Halfway through the film, Covenant abandons any hope to give us answers about any of the questions posed by Prometheus, entirely dismissing the journey of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), and giving David (Michael Fassbender) a far more protagonical role than most of us expected. In it, I saw similarities to the abrupt and unceremonious divide between Aliens and Fincher’s Alien 3, where two of the four survivors had been killed off before the first scene.

The latest part of the franchise is a conscious return to its roots, bringing back the beloved xenomorph, the gory horror, and the occasional bit of dark humor and eroticism that distinguished the 1979 film.

Covenant also has the makings of a blockbuster summer film, giving us moments of genuine thrill and edge-of-your-seat suspense that feel, however, far less distinctive than its stylish and more introspective predecessor. At times, Covenant played as a film that is clearly self-aware of its place in popular culture, hoping not to betray the lust for “xeno violence” that many had waited years for.

To add insult to injury, Covenant suffers in the details, much like Prometheus did. Even though it clocks in at 2 hours, the film struggles for pace in the first half hour to then feel hurried and messy. The crew of explorers that confronts an unimaginable danger in a yet unexplored and unknown planet follows a pattern of decision-making that reveals either their low IQs, or their complete lack of training and preparation. Once again, the first creatures that appear in Covenant are a close relative of the original, until they eventually give way to our long lost trifecta: egg, facehugger and Giger’s xenomorph. Sadly, by the time our violent guest comes into the film, its presence is more thrilling than scary, and perhaps shorter and less remarkable than I had expected. The monster’s prey isn’t a group of navy seals (Aliens) or violent criminals (Alien 3), but a diminished space expedition crew that was already on the run. The monster’s thirst for violence and death not as horrific as it once felt back in 1979.

Covenant’s greatest pleasures come from its striking visuals in the way of stylish spaceships, convincing creatures, and a deserted hellish planet whose dreamy exterior holds many deadly secrets within. More significantly, the cast of Covenant is as great as the ones from the first two movies of the franchise. Katherine Waterson fills the void left by Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw in convincing fashion as Daniels, while Michael Fassbender’s double take as androids David and Walter is at the level of the chameleonic actor’s best work. Each a distinct personality, each with a different accent, standing at opposite ends of a philosophical question: to serve your master, or to upend the status quo by killing everyone in sight.

Rating: 3.5/5

Covenant 3

20th Anniversary Film Review: The Fifth Element

Author’s note: I rewatched the 4k restauration of the original 1997 film “The Fifth Element” in a local theater. This review is meant as a revision and appreciation of the film, having had the benefit of time to inform the impact and cultural significance of the piece in the cinematic landscape. 

Very few films in the history of Hollywood offer as much popcorn-friendly entertainment with as much artistic flamboyance as The Fifth Element. Written and directed by Luc Besson, the film is, per the director’s own analysis, an European interpretation of an American sci-fi blockbuster: colorful, playful, effortlessly cool, and sometimes nonsensical yet always fun to watch.

Continue reading 20th Anniversary Film Review: The Fifth Element

Months in Review: February, March & April

The tail end of winter seems to have left us and, with it, the start of a new romance in my life. For that and other professional reasons, I have, once again, neglected this blog of mine. Even so, my appetite for movies remains unchanged even if life has a way of sneaking up on the time you thought you had.
In the last three months (February, March and April) I have watched a total of 24 films. The average rating for these has been a solid 3.34 out of 5. There have been a handful of highlights courtesy of a group of films from 2016 that sit among the best reviewed of the year. Such are Fences, Edge of Seventeen, Hidden Figures and Lion. However, I have also been disappointed with cinematic efforts that I was genuinely excited to see. Such are Florence Foster Jenkins, Ghost in the Shell and, to some extent, Hacksaw Ridge.

Below is a list of short reviews for all of these films in the order in which they were seen:


There are few things as dull in the cinematic landscape than live-action superhero films that cannot give a human dimension to the comic or cartoon they are based on. The first in the Captain America series adapted to the big screen attempts to create tangible and believable humans out of its heroes until it introduces its main villain and offers up a rather simplistic and comical world-spanning conflict that lacks detail and depth. Dare I say that while Chris Evans is a great casting choice from a physical point of view, I think the actor’s performance was a bit of a disappointment. His more recent efforts as Captain America show he could have done better here.

THE INNOCENTS (2016) [ 3.5/5 ]

A touching drama that deals with yet another dark story of oppression and injustice in times of war and violent foreign occupation.  What I found especially notorious was the film’s careful depiction of piety and religious devotion because it carefully challenges its value to society without preaching a more liberal point of view. The Innocents is a modest yet effective piece of film making well worth watching.


At its best, Florence Foster Jenkins is a moving portrayal of a larger-than-life personality whose love and devotion to music could conquer all. At its worst, the film is a silly comedy that dares not to rise above watching a talentless songstress (Merryl Streep) take the stage gleefully unaware of her obvious limitations. Hugh Grant was a nice surprise in his role as Ms. Jenkins’ devoted husband.

WOMAN IN GOLD (2015) [ 3/5 ]

A miscast Ryan Reynolds is completely out of his depth next to an ever convincing Hellen Mirren playing a Jewish lady who having escaped Nazism in her youth, decides to fight for her family’s lost inheritance: a priceless painting. Unsurprisingly, I found her personal story the most compelling bit of film even if the director and cinematographer did little to make it more visceral.

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO… (2014) [ 3/5 ]

A largely self-promoting short documentary about the most coveted award in cinema. It is neither a valuable historical document, nor a moving reminder of some of its best pop culture moments. Instead, it is a documentary that attempts to give meaning to the Oscars, offering some interesting insights along the way.

JULIETA (2016) [ 3.5/5 ]

Another nearly masterful pulp from the inimitable mind of Pedro Almodovar. Though Julieta is as well-crafted and stylized as any other film Almodovar has made, the layers of suspense and intrigue don’t quite add up to a satisfying payoff. At the end, the story felt too loose and unresolved and I left the theater wanting more.

LOVING (2016) [ 3.5/5 ]

A small and timely film that pushes a tragically little known love story that, despite its very humble beginnings, managed to change the rule of law in the United States. Both Joel Edgerton and Ruth Nega were stupendous in roles that demanded a great deal of nuance, silence and introspection. Perhaps the film’s commitment to match the modesty and pace of the leading characters was its greatest flaw, never daring to loosen its strings to the source material.

HIDDEN FIGURES (2016) [ 4/5 ]

An effective and purposeful bit of cinema that excels in the retelling of a great story with the use of an apt and charismatic ensemble cast that manage to marry drama and comedy effortlesly. Hidden Figures is the kind of feel-good film that ticks all of the boxes of good ol’ Hollywood entertainment whilst falling short of cinematic artistry.

HACKSAW RIDGE (2016) [ 3/5 ]

The truly surprising thing about the film is that it is the kind of bland and slightly sugar-coated retelling one would expect from a director who hasn’t made some of the most violent films of the last 10-15 years. When Mel Gibson directs a war-themed movie, one could have frankly expected borderline cringe-worthy violence, larger-than-life performances and non-stop action. Perhaps Hacksaw Ridge is Mel Gibson’s way of telling his many detractors that after movies like Apocalypto and The Passion of the Christ, he is also able to make an audience-friendly Hollywoodesque film that ticks all of the right boxes without ever truly exceling at any particular thing.

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (2016) [ 4/5 ]

Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 films

The kind of teen dramedy that I have been waiting for. Hailee Steinfeld is nothing short of superb in a role that fit her like a glove. This is a film that, despite its intrinsic lack of maturity, manages to be both funny and, at times, profound. The Edge of Seventeen is one of the best coming-of-age American stories of the last few years. Extremely re-watchable.

MISS SLOANE (2016) [ 3/5 ]

A severely tacky and misguided attempt at liberalism masked by Hollywood flair and very adept acting courtesy of Jessica Chastain. Though Miss Sloane seems like a film concerned with its story and its characters, the end reveals it was actually more concerned with surprising us and making a political statement. Though I believe there is certainly a place for films with a clear political agenda; this is a project that was so eager to drive its anti-gun and anti-corruption statement across, that it forgot to give these characters a human dimension that went beyond archetypes.

FENCES (2016) [ 4/5 ]

I have always had my reservations when it comes to adapting plays and theater to the big screen. Though Fences is every bit as moving and complex a character and social study as you are likely to see, it never ceases to feel like a play that is best suited to the stage.
Having said that, there is much to appreciate and consider in Fences such as its still relevant source material and the extraordinary pairing of Viola Davis and Denzel Washington.

GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017) [ 3/5 ]

A visual spectacle that successfully creates a futuristic world that is both compelling and beautiful. Fans of the anime have been divided in their praise even if the film clearly attempts to cater to them by staying faithful to some of the most notorious elements of the series. Beyond that, the film lacks the depth and invention to create fully fleshed out characters, leaving many plot opportunities largely unexplored.

COLLATERAL BEAUTY (2016) [ 2.5/5 ]

An awesome cast whose talents were largely wasted in a film that touches on typical holiday movie themes and sentiments, but without it ever feeling effortless. The twist in the last act is not entirely surprising and even though there are some truly heart-touching moments, most of these are diluted by a tacky and uninspiring script.

THE SEA OF TREES (2016) [ 3/5 ]

When The Sea of Trees abandons the weird metaphysical vibe that seems to hang over almost every bit of dialogue and plot device, there are moments in the latest Gus Van Sant project that hint at a kind of introspective depth that belongs in a better film. Matthew McConaughey was not in his A game, even if he had at least a couple of scene-stealing moments. Aside from his sometimes stupendous performance, the talents of Naomi Watts and Ken Watanabe are criminally underused.

20TH CENTURY WOMEN (2016) [ 3.5/5 ]

Every bit of 20th Century Women takes us back to the 1970s, in the midst of the Vietnam War, where Comunism was seen as a threat to American life, and where there were women who after having joined the workforce during WWII, could not simply go back to the status quo. The film is about the women who grew up in this time period, and the women who came after, both young and old. The film is also about their relationships to men but, more importantly, to a teenage boy who may, after all, need less guidance and help in growing up than they all think.
I wish the film had focused a bit more on the relationships between these characters and spent less time attempting to be offbeat. I’m also not sure if the repetitive flashbacks helped the pace of the film which, at times, felt a bit fluffy and empty.


 Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films

The Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a funny and charming New Zealander adventure film about a rebellious boy stranded in a forest with his foster uncle that, due to some miscommunication and misfortune, quickly develops into a national manhunt of hilarious proportions. Both Sam Neill and teenager Julian Dennison are perfectly cast and have enough chemistry to make a franchise out of this. The film is thoroughly entertaining, in the way that the Goonies or the Sandlot were.

PATERSON (2016) [ 3.5/5 ]

A character study of great introspection and nuance. Paterson zeroes in on the rather unremarkable life of a bus driver (also bearing the name Paterson) whose gifts as a poet are only lower than what we imagine to be his overbearing humility. I saw Paterson as a typical American male type, taught to keep his feelings within and avoid confrontation at all costs. Even though he loves his girlfriend and finds himself liking his job at times, there is an undeniable air of deep frustration and anger that flirts to be exposed. It is precisely that flirtation with a blowout that makes Jim Jarmusch’ latest film an equally frustrating and engaging viewing experience.

THE DISCOVERY (2017) [ 3/5 ]

With elements of science fiction, horror, drama and some dark comedy, The Discovery is a film with many interests, but in doing so it lacks focus and purpose. Stars Rooney Mara and Jason Segel are perfect for the roles of troubled offbeat outcasts. Unfortunately while each one works on their own, together they lack chemistry. In its last act, the film also becomes hostage to its desire to surprise, giving us an ending that seems at odds with the pace and character of the rest of the movie.

ASSASSIN’S CREED (2016) [ 3/5 ]

Having played the game, it is remarkable that the film adaptation chose to focus on all the aspects of the game that were least enthralling. After all, we saw very few of the acrobatics and lethal killings that came to define the series and, instead, remained held up by a lackluster story that seemed to be strewn together from The Da Vinci Code franchise and National Treasure. The film is only saved by a surprisingly strong cast with the likes of Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson and Jeremy Irons.

LION (2016) [ 4/5 ]

Lion is a fine film in that it tells the extraordinary true story of Saroo Brierley with a lot of heart and empathy. In what should be a career-defining performance for young Dev Patel, Lion pulls at the heartstrings of anyone human enough to relate to the feeling of being a son and/or a parent. The ending alone is emotionally wrecking.
Beyond the strength of the central story, the film is a bit light in both content and cinematic value.

THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES (2012) [ 3.5/5 ]

In a world that is increasingly more divided between rich and poor, The Queen of Versailles is a timely documentary about excess and greed that is told with surprising compassion. Though there is a clear intent to criticize a society that equates success to wealth, the film avoids lecturing us by letting the actions of the family it focuses on to speak for themselves.

DIOR AND I (2015) [ 3/5 ]

For the fashion connoisseurs, few documentaries will be as gratifying as Dior and I. The film is both a celebration of one of the last “great houses” of haut couture, and an inside look at the process of crafting a fashion line from scratch. To those interested in the artistry and validity of documentaries, Dior and I will play as a long television episode rather than a feature film focused on the ascension of a bright new designer (Raf Simmons) to a very old and respected house of fashion. Nothing more, nothing less.


Of all of Wes Anderson films this one is perhaps his most quirky, but lacking the charm of Fantastic Mr. Fox, the pulpy quality of The Grand Budapest Hotel and the childlike spirit of Moonrise Kingdom. It doesn’t help that every character in the film is terribly unlikeable, with a Bill Murray at his most drab and mellow.

Preview to the Academy Awards. Best Films of 2016

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

In anticipation to the 89th Academy Awards, I have decided, unlike years prior, to post a list of my favorite films released in 2016. As it were, this is an ever-changing list which will shift and evolve as years pass, as both my tastes and my impressions on filmmaking continue to change. This is also, I presume, an incomplete list missing some highly praised bits of cinema like: The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Toni Erdmann, The Salesman, 20th Century Women, Paterson, Elle, Fences, Lion, and some others. With that in mind, I’m satisfied with the collection of more than 60 films I did manage to watch that were released in the US in 2016. The list of “favorites” adds up to 15 films, which represents the amount of movies that I gave at least a 4 out of 5 rating. 
At the end of the post I will also offer some thoughts on the top categories for the Oscars, regarding who should win and who will likely be taking an statuette back home.

Continue reading Preview to the Academy Awards. Best Films of 2016

Month in Review: January films and tv


January is a month of cold weather, new year resolutions and catching up with films released in the latter part of the bygone year. It is also the month of the much-anticipated Academy Awards nominations, and a sleuth of other award shows where Hollywood practices a yearly ritual of congratulating itself.

January was a good and productive month in every respect for me. In terms of film, I managed to watch a total of 14 (more than my usual of 10 or 11) with a very high average score of 3.61 out of 5. January was also the first time in about two years that I felt compelled to give a film a perfect score (La La Land), while a couple of others received 4 out 5. This month came my discovery of SyFy’s series “The Expanse“, which is easily the best first season to a science fiction show since Battlestar Galactica.

Without further ado, below is the compendium of short reviews for films in the order in which they were watched. At the bottom you will find my impressions on The Expanse.

Continue reading Month in Review: January films and tv

Film Review: La La Land


La La Land reminds me of an old passage I once read: many great artists in history did not excel at being true originals, but at being exceptional in their craft. Such is the case of a film that without being groundbreaking manages to excel at every step, delivering a cinematic spectacle unlike any I have seen in years. Continue reading Film Review: La La Land

A return to blogging. Best films watched in 2016. 


There is much I could tell you and share about the past year. About 10 months have passed since my last contribution to this tiny creation of mine. Fortunately for those who may still stumble upon this blog of mine, I will not bore you with the details of what happened or did not happen between then and now. Instead, I will attempt to give you my very succinct impressions about the best films I watched this year (released in 2016 or prior) despite my almost complete absence from the blogosphere.

In total, I watched 111 films in the last calendar year (7 more than I watched in 2015). The average score was a very decent 3.28 out of 5, which tells me I’ve managed to avoid a lot of duds. Notwithstanding the relatively high average, I only scored 4 movies at 4.5 out of 5, and none managed a 5 out of 5.

Without further ado, below is a list of the best films I watched in 2016 grouped by rating, but in no discernible order beyond that.

Continue reading A return to blogging. Best films watched in 2016. 

Film Review: The Witch (2016), a horrific masterpiece


We have built houses, bridges and caves to shelter our soft bodies from nature’s unforgiving nastiness. Whereas a bad farmer dies of starvation but a good farmer sells what he cannot eat.
Robert Eggers’ The Witch is as much about men and their faith, as it is about the never ending struggle of men in Nature.

Continue reading Film Review: The Witch (2016), a horrific masterpiece