Months in review: May & June films

May and June have now passed. The summer seems to be already on its way out and The Blog of Big Ideas is ready to post a bi-monthly recap of all of the films covered since May 1st. 23 films in total but only three are in the running to the shortlist of the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Best Films Ever.

Here they are in the order in which they were watched:

LA Confidential

IMDB TOP 250: LA CONFIDENTIAL (1997)

One of the most celebrated films of the 1990s is a sophisticated crime thriller reminiscent of the film noir era.

With the help of an excellent cast led by the stand-out performance of Kim Bassinger, LA Confidential is a film about deception, corruption, greed, love and the advent of the sensationalist press that still feels relevant today.

Full of twists and surprises, the film is a lot of fun to watch, inviting for repeat viewing. Perhaps not deserving of such high marks on IMDB, but highly recommended nonetheless.

♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦

4/5

La Vie en Rose 3

LA VIE EN ROSE (2007)

A great biopic with a wonderful lead performance by Marion Cotillard. Find my full review here

♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦

Glengarry

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992)

A one-of-a-kind script brought to life by one hell of a cast. Find my full review here

Smokin Aces

SMOKIN’ ACES (2006)

There is something about the charicaturesque ensemble of characters and the often ridiculous proportions of the action that make Smoking Aces a satisfying experience, especially if it is seen on a big screen and with the volume turned up.

Occasionally it takes itself a bit too seriously, pausing for dramatic effect to disappointing results. The film does best when it sticks to its over-the-top antics and improbable set of circumstances. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.

3/5

Guilt Trip

THE GUILT TRIP (2012)

I watched this on mother’s day with my roommate’s mom and it was perfect. The Guilt Trip is a surprisingly heartwarming tale of a mother and a son rediscovering themselves and the bond they share.

While it tends to succumb to the temptation of cliche more often than not, the film does so graciously: by using humor and charm. Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen are a believable duo, though Babs clearly steals the show.
Watch for a very sweet and surprising ending.

3.5/5

Dead Silence

DEAD SILENCE (2007)

A truly terrible horror film with a weak and unoriginal premise, an under-performing set of actors and sequences that are tacky and hardly believable (a downgraded copy of Child’s Play).
One of the worst films I have seen lately.

1.5/5

For Ellen

FOR ELLEN (2012)

Away from the limelight, Paul Dano has somehow managed to carve a path for himself in Hollywood by choosing his roles wisely.
For Ellen might not be the best film Dano has been a part of (that would be There Will be Blood), but his performance alone elevates the flick, displaying remarkable depth and maturity.

Occasionally punctuated by moments of poignant realism and personal tragedy, For Ellen fails to garner any kind of momentum in favor of banalities and a whole lot of wasted film reel. In there somewhere is a message, but the film moves so slow and says so little that we stop caring what that message might be about halfway through.

2.5/5

Why Stop Now

WHY STOP NOW (2012)

Campy and wild, the latest dramedy starring Jesse Eissenberg is a one-time watch.

The comedic moments are not that funny and the drama is unconvincing and inconsistent.

2.5/5

21 & Over

21 & OVER (2013)

Lots of booze, crazy parties, tons of chicks, make out sessions and romantic tales all combine in 21& Over.

As the lines above suggest, there is nothing new under the sun here. It is your typical bro-catered movie that rallies on the stereotypes of the American college experience.
Sadly, it is also one of the lesser attempts in the sub-genre, lacking in genuinely funny or surprising moments.

2/5

Affleck

ARGO (2012)

Smartly directed by Ben Affleck, Argo is a film about the covert operation that managed to rescue six American citizens from Iran after the violent take over of the American embassy during Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

In only his third attempt at the director’s chair, Affleck carefully balances suspense, drama and comedy to create a thoroughly entertaining film that moves forward with confidence with the help of an excellent cast.

4/5

Rust and Bone

RUST AND BONE (2012)

Driven by two solid lead performances, Rust and Bone is a nontraditional romantic tale about two souls that gravitate toward each other after an unfortunate accident.
There are a few truly touching moments and a couple of memorable scenes but, generally, the characters are a bit too ambiguous and distant, almost ambivalent about their relationship, making us care little about their future together.

3/5

Gatsby

THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)

After we get past the over elaborate cinematography, costume and set design, the latest adaptation of The Great Gatsby feels a bit stale. Despite the efforts of Leonardo Di Caprio in another truly accomplished performance, every actor around him comes up short, hostage to a script that chooses to focus on the wrong things.

Instead of fixating on the blinking light across the bay, why does the film spend so little time exploring the depth of the love story or developing the secondary characters beyond archetypes of New York’s elite at the turn of the 19th century?

Great production value that fails to reach the heights of the acclaimed novel it is based on.

3.5/5

Mr Smith

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939)

A classic by Frank Capra. A film that captures the already vicious and corrupt side of politics in Washington DC in the first half of the 20th century.

The film is convincing and appealing in large part due to a very charming James Stewart, whose child-like optimism is infectious, capturing the full honesty and good will of an ordinary man thrown into the lions’ den that was (and still is) the United States Senate.

♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦

4/5

Jack Nicholson

FIVE EASY PIECES (1970)

A tale about wasted talent, about a man living life without care or feeling for anyone but himself. Ultimately it becomes a story about self-realization and self-deprecation. There’s a latent wish for love and redemption that shines trough the eyes of Jack Nicholson, who delivered one of the best performances of his career as early as 1970.

3.5/5

The Killing

IMDB TOP 250: THE KILLING (1956)

An early film by Stanley Kubrick.

The Killing unfolds in the same exacting and meticulous way that defined the rest of the director’s illustrious career, challenging audiences with very cold films that almost transcend their human grounding.

The film is a useful look at Kubrick’s early steps into movie-making, shedding light into what would become a transcendent career in the history of cinema. There are, however, certain aspects of the film that have lost their edge over the years, now feeling a bit gimmicky. On the most part, an interesting and entertaining thriller.

3.5/5

Blow Out

BLOW OUT (1981)

An underrated thriller by Brian De Palma about a sound engineer for adult films that somehow gets involved as a key witness in the assassination of a political figure.
The film is interesting in many levels. In the first place, it offers an engrossing story with characters we can relate to. Secondly, it is a film that is uniquely interested in sound as part of the human experience. Last but not least, it is smartly directed, with a vibrant cinematography that still feels relevant and cool.
Besides the couple of theatrical performances that seem to be out of place, Blow Out is a satisfying film that I highly recommend.

3.5/5

Notorious

NOTORIOUS (1946)

Will be reviewed as part of my Alfred Hitchcock marathon.

Lincoln Lawyer

THE LINCOLN LAWYER (2011)

Mick Haller (Mathew McConaughey) is as suave a lawyer as they come. Unlike most of his peers, he relishes the system, taking on cases as if they were a game, always finding ways to turn the table in his favor.
This is, of course, until he runs into a moral conundrum by taking on a client (Ryan Phillipe) that could be guilty of atrocious crimes.
Soon, the case takes over his life, decisevily altering his feelings towards the law and what he does for a living. As much as it is a film about the case and all of its twists and turns, it is also about a guy who must go through a journey of self discovery to reconnect with his past and find new purpose in his vocation.
The Lincoln Lawyer is cool and entertaining, even though it often falls for cliches and tacky comedy.

3.5/5

Make a Porno

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO (2008)

The whole film seems to be structured in the same laid back and unpolished manner of the porno the main characters are trying to make.
There is nothing wrong with unpolished films, but if you add stale performances, lack of laughs and an unconvincing romantic tale, then you end up with one hell of a bad flick.

1.5/5

Warm Bodies

WARM BODIES (2013)

If we compare Warm Bodies to other films about young people falling in love in the most of unlikely of circumstances, then it would become apparent it is one of the least corny and generic of the bunch.
Warm Bodies throws a twist to the zombie apocalypse suggesting that the flesh eating walking corpses can be returned to human form with alot of love. The premise predictably charmed tweens of all shapes and sizes, while alienating zombie geeks around the world.

2.5/5

Margin Call

MARGIN CALL (2011)

There is something inherently despicable about people who have amassed great wealth by playing with other people’s money. Even more so when they still walk away with millions after consciously destroying the American and global economy.

Margin Call is an indictment on the ruthless and careless capitalism that brought on the economic downturn that derailed entire nations over a few week’s time.

Loosely based on the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Margin Call is a film that can easily destroy our faith in humanity. The script relies on archetypes, making assumptions based on what we know as outsiders, turning these financial players into heartless monsters without scruples. For this reason, Margin Call is, at times, inaccessible and cold, with characters so self-involved it is difficult not to root against.

3.5/5

Cavill

MAN OF STEEL (2013)

A decent attempt but not anywhere near greatness. Find my full review here

the-big-chill

THE BIG CHILL (1983)

The Big Chill is a film full of nostalgia. By the way it is constructed and written, the film could not have been released in any other decade.

The story follows a group of best friends from college who reunite after the tragic suicide of one of them. They spend the weekend in a big house, rekindling old bonds, reigniting old flames and exploring new paths. In most cases, the situations that bring these friends together again seem genuine while others seem a bit forced, coming across as a Real World (the MTV show) type of experience where every personality plays a role and caters to a specific demographic.

There are some genuinely touching moments accompanied by a solid script that rarely lingers on. Of all of the films dealing with nostalgia for youth, these might be one of the better ones stemming from the 1980s.

3/5

– N

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3 thoughts on “Months in review: May & June films

  1. Looks like you’ve had a busy month of viewing!

    LA CONFIDENTIAL (1997) often talked of as one of the best of the 90s, it does have surprises, but I never connected emotionally with characters.

    GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992) it has a lot of profanity, but terrific acting and writing, no doubt.

    ARGO (2012) You might want to add a spoiler warning, for those who haven’t watched it yet?

    THE GREAT GATSBY (2013) We are in agreement

    FIVE EASY PIECES (1970) Uneven, but has some truly amazing scenes, his talk with his silent father, the restaurant, and the ending.

    THE KILLING (1956) the last scenes at the airport are memorable, the rest of the film didn’t stay with me.

    BLOW OUT (1981) I saw it recently and loved it. 4.5/5 for me.

    THE BIG CHILL (1983) Sorry you didn’t like it more. Just missed out for my top 100. I love the friendships and camaraderie. A film I can go back to every few years.

  2. Nice wrapup! A few random thoughts:

    LA Confidential blew me away when I saw it for the first time a couple years ago. Been wanting to revisit it ever since.

    I have seen Why Stop Now pop up a couple times recently, and I always wondered how a film with that cast managed to slip through the cracks. Guess I know now — it sounds like it’s pretty mediocre.

    I have Rust and Bone arriving next from Netflix. Looking forward to finally checking it out.

    I didn’t like Zack & Miri Make a Porno either. Never understood how that got a bit of a following.

  3. Busy months Niels! Glad you caught up w/ L.A. Confidential, such a great film. I’m not into Seth Rogen so will skip those your rated here. Oh man, seeing Mr Smith Goes to Washington reminds me I need to get around to my planned Jimmy Stewart blogathon soon, been wanting to do that for ages.

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