Months in Review: March & April (part I)

Under The Skin

After a forced long hiatus, I’m back at blogging about some of my favorite things. In an effort to make this blog more representative of my interests, my monthly round-ups will now include short reviews of books read and videogames played (even if not completed) in addition to my usual run-down of films.
Below, the first part of a set of short reviews on anything I have had the pleasure to watch in the previous months.

FILM:

BLUE JASMINE (2013) [3/5]

The awesome performances of Cate Blanchet and the rest of the cast does not save this film from its lack of heart, and unfunny dry humor.
Aside from the main character’s story arc, all of the complimentary storylines are explored perfunctorily. Certainly not the best film Woody Allen has had to offer in recent years.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET [3.5/5]

The Wolf of Wall Street

Scorcesse’s latest film about Jordan Belfort’s meteoric and chaotic rise in Wall Street overflows with ridiculous scenes and larger-than-life characters in a 180-minute ode to utter debauchery. For Scorsese, the film had to go big and never stop.
Leonardo Di Caprio‘s Belfort is yet another fine performance by the thespian, while Jonah Hill manages to upstage everyone in his best role yet as Belfort’s deranged sidekick and best friend Donnie Azoff.
Some very good sequences have the staple of old Scorcesse and a couple made my stomach churn with laughter. I just wish the film had been a bit more heartfelt, and as consistent as its better sequences throughout a very healthy running time.

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN [2/5]

It is a bit ridiculous to think that an armed airplane with North Korean pilots could ever infiltrate into Washington D.C. However, this is not a film that is high on details and one could not expect it to be so.
Olympus Has Fallen is your typical tongue-in-cheek action movie without much food for thought and an array of one-dimensional characters that belong at a comedy rather than an action film.

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED [3/5]

An offbeat comedy with an interesting premise. Enjoyable if not remarkable. Nothing to write home about. The ending is sweet, though it did not surprise me all that much.

HER (2013) [4/5]

Her_2

Great film by the genial Spike Jonze. Find my full review here.

PASSION (2012) [2/5]

What happened to Brian De Palma? Very little is left of the film maker who was a trend-setter with films like The Untouchables and Scarface, and who directed little known gems like Blow Out.
Though beautifully shot, Passion is a mess of a motion picture. The sequencing is odd. The acting is off-putting even though it features two very good leading ladies. I would be surprised to find a cinema buff who finds ways to defend this film.

NO (2013) [3/5]

Highly political film about the campaign that managed to overthrow the ruthless Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The film goes for realism, even if it only offers a very narrow picture of the whole situation. Some very decent acting, mostly coming from the always solid Gael Garcia Bernal.
The story develops almost casually, without much of the kind of passion and tension that the circumstances likely inspired. Can’t see it being worthwhile for those without an interest in South American politics.

DON JON [3/5]

Don Jon

An uneven yet decent debut for Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a director. The film is a caricature of a section of New Jersey’s image-obsessed, sex-crazed and emotionally immature youth made infamous as of recent by reality television.
A bit repetitive and unimaginative. Expected more.

BLACKFISH [3.5/5]

A revealing documentary that opened my eyes to the despicable practice of having killer whales in captivity. Recommended to raise awareness about the issue. Not particularly remarkable as an art piece.

HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET [2/5]

A run-of-the-mill horror film with little imagination, a weak story and questionable acting. Jennifer Lawrence can and should do better.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY [3.5/5]

The Hobbit

The return to the Middle Ages dragged a bit, and certainly lacked the emotional punch of the original trilogy, but it was nowhere near as disappointing as some made it out to be. Peter Jackson is still one of the very few capable of creating such a convincing and beautiful fantasy world.

THE LAST STAND [2.5/5]

Despite his old age, Arnold Swarzenegger refuses to let go of his action hero persona. With The Last Stand he pokes fun at his aging body and less-than-perfect physique while delivering a rather campy action film without much to offer in terms of over-the-top action scenes. However, fans (like myself) will love the last showdown, which is yet another demonstration that Arnold still has some of the athletic swag that once turned him into the world’s favorite action hero.

JACK REACHER [3.5/5]

An understated Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher, a peculiarly talented man whose rebellious demeanor goes at odds with his crime-solving good-hearted nature that he consciously tries to conceal.
There’s a level of darkness and polished precision to the film that makes it more effective than its less than stellar storyline. One of the better films Tom Cruise has been a part of in recent years.

PRISONERS [4/5]

Prisoners

Though the story drags out a bit and stalls in a couple of ocassions, director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) delivers a powerful film that remains suspenseful from beginning to end. In a rare dramatic role Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a distraught father who will go to extremes to find his daughter after she was mysteriously kidnapped. Investigating the case is detective Loki, played by a convincing Jake Gyllenhaal in one of his better performances to date as a dedicated policeman who splits his efforts between controlling a vigilante father and searching for clues of the kidnapping.
The ending was a little dissappointing and a bit too contrived, but Prisoners was edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART II …

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4 thoughts on “Months in Review: March & April (part I)

  1. Interesting selection of films! Seems quite a few of these I gave a higher rating.
    Wolf of Wall Street was my favorite 2013 film, for me Scorsese’s best in years. Blackfish I also liked more than you-it was very impactful. Safety managed to charm me with its fun premise.
    No (2013) I agree was strong for performances, but maybe the story was a bit predictable.
    I am with you that Prisoners is suspenseful from beginning to end.

    1. I debated about Wolf of Wall Street for a long time and I considered giving it a 4/5. However, when it came to caring about the characters, I was not as involved and I did not particularly care whether they ended up in prison or not. Most of them showed hints of being real people with real concerns, but most of the time the film just concentrated on their larger-than-life personas.
      Blackfish was certainly very impactful and I wouldn’t dispute that at all. My only qualm was against its merits as an art piece, after all, it relied on one-on-one interviews, found footage, and a couple of video animations. In other words, nothing particularly remarkable about the way in which the story was delivered and very little of note in terms of its visual quality or sequencing.
      Glad we agree on Prisoners though.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Great to see so many mini-reviews!

    Agree with you 100% on Passion, though I think you may be generous with your 2/5 rating. 🙂 What an awful film.

    Also agree on Don Jon. It had its moments, but I didn’t really like the direction it went with Julianne Moore’s character. JGL shows some promise as a director, however.

    The Last Stand was better than I expected. Nothing great or anything, but good fun in the end.

    I thought Prisoners was one of last year’s most underrated films. Between that and Incendies, I am really excited to see Enemy.

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