Tag Archives: Robert De Niro

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. 

MAY FILMS

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 DON'T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE (2017) [ 3.5/5 ]

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. 

Months in review: October & November films

In the last two months I’ve seen 26 films, but only a handful of which I would consider watching again. It was a particularly poor couple of months in terms of quality and quantity that I will hopefully begin to fix with the swarm of great films that have come out to theaters or that will be coming before the year is out. I can’t remember the last time I was as excited as I am today with the group of films that are hitting theaters within the next few weeks.

For now, here is a recap of the 26 films I managed to watch between October & November (in the order in which they were seen), while a great deal of my time was devoted to countless hours of catching up with Breaking Bad (finally got to the last season).

RUSH

Continue reading Months in review: October & November films

Films watched: January & February mini reviews

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOKNow that we’ve arrived to the end of February, I thought it was as good time as any to share some of my thoughts on the films I’ve seen and haven’t had a chance to review since the turn of the year.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)

An emotional drama with a touch of comedy punctuated by a very strong cast. Silver Linings offers just enough to think about and some to laugh at. A bit less transcendental than the awards season have made it out to be, but powerful enough to merit some recognition.

Highlight: the performance by Jennifer Lawrence + the return to form of Robert De Niro

Downside: it has its share of cliches and some sequences feel forced.

Continue reading Films watched: January & February mini reviews

Film Round-up: May, June & July

During the past 3 slow months worth of blogging, I have seen many different films that have not enjoyed the benefit of a review. To try to catch up I offer a long collection of small reviews of most of the films I have watched in the last three months that did not get a review until now. A total of 24 films, a couple of which will get longer in-depth reviews. The highlights of the list are Weekend and Sunshine, both very different but very pleasant surprises.

I apologize in advance if this gets a little long. Enjoy:

The French Connection (1971)

Genre: Action/Thriller

Cast: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey

Director: William Friedkin

Writers: Ernest Tidyman, Robin Moore (original novel), Howard Hanks

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

Starring Gene Hackman in a now famous role as tough cop Jimmy Doyle, The French Connection is an intense thriller that takes place in the harsh New York winter of 1970.

Most of the success of the film is due to its intensity and realism, displaying some of the most exciting chase sequences ever put on film. These have surprisingly lost little of their power over time, feeling current even today (minus antiquated vehicles and fashion). The cast is also excellent, further enriching the well-crafted dynamic between cops, informants, low-lives and criminals. I just wish the film had focused less on the details and intricacies of case-solving and criminal chasing and more on character-building.

Continue reading Film Round-up: May, June & July

2011: a horrible year for movies and for my pocket (so far)


I have seen around 13 movies released in 2011 and the verdict is in: 2 in 13 movies are great, another 3 are good enough to satisfy and the other 8 are either okay, not good enough or god-damn awful.

These are statistics, for as poor as they may seem, that are probably too flattering for the movie industry. Once you consider the fact that I tend to avoid films that seem a complete waste of my time (for audiences and critics alike), then you realize that even after you try to be selective, Hollywood makes sure that you’ll end up regretting your decision to sit and watch a movie.

Due to the unstoppable decay in the quality of films Hollywood puts out and my limited movie-goer budget, I have only sat in front of a big theater screen 6 times this year, spending around 6$ every time (and that is after a 5$ discount I get). The rest of the films released in 2011 I have rented, mostly from RedBox, which is where I have found the true garbage of Hollywood due to the tempting 1$ per night deal.

For my IMDB challenge, I usually resort to Netflix in the form of their instant online offerings or the one-at-a-time USPS movie rental that costs me 8.99 $ a month.

All in all, I probably spend 17 to 20 dollars a month in movies (monthly Netflix at 8.99$ + RedBox at 1$ for 2 to 4 movies a month + Movie Theater at 6$ for one film per month). The number goes up to around 105 to 120 $ for the first six months of the year. However, these numbers tend to be considerably higher as the movie offerings in the summer (blockbuster season) and Christmas (Oscar-worthy season) seem more appetizing and I find myself in the theater a bit more often.

Here is a quick recount of the movies I have seen this year starting from the worst and leaving the best for last (I may be missing one or two forgettable films). This could get long, so bear with me.

Just Go With It (Redbox rental – 1$): out the window goes my so-called “selective” nature on a night of boredom. Mind you, I would never pay to go into a movie theater if I see the name “Adam Sandler” associated with a film at any level. His movies have gone from the somewhat bad (earlier in his career) to the disgraceful status as of late. That his films do well at the box office is yet another testament to the poor taste of the average movie-goer (who is not to be confused with the avid movie-connoisseur). In any case, Sandler and his co-star Jennifer Anniston match perfectly in making horrible cinema with dumb-down plots, unfunny jokes, poor acting and a complete lack in making works or art.

Rating: 1 out of 5 (horrible)

I am Number Four (Redbox rental – 1$): In this case I was searching for a guilty-pleasure type movie and what I found was yet another mediocre film filled with gorgeous young Hollywood characters (not to say actors). Number Four is mildly entertaining here and there, but the concept is poor (not to say stupid), the effects are not convincing (not to say stupid), the acting is flat (not to say awful), the dialogue is pedestrian (not to say stupid) and the plot is a bunch of stuff put together by the minds of one or two nerds without much imagination and nothing better do.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 (very bad)

The Roommate (Redbox rental – 1$): some of you might have started to notice a pattern. Most of the movies that seem to be falling in the bad category come directly from RedBox and its tempting 1$ rental scheme. The Roommate starring Minka Kelly and Gossip-girl turned movie star Leighton Meester is wildly uncreative. I mean, how many times do we have to see films of young women going psycho-stalker for love, for acceptance or for friendship? There are elements that are acceptable in this film, like the explosions of violence and sexuality convincingly displayed by Meester. Besides all that, the cast surrounding the famous Gossip girl is flat-out awful, only servicing the film with their pretty faces and youthful exuberance.

Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)

The Green Hornet (Redbox rental – 1$): Another comedy by a slimmed-down Seth Rogen on a remake of the tv series that famously starred Bruce Lee as Kato, now played by Jay Chou. The biggest pleasure we can find in this movie is not in the dumb-down storyline and lackluster performances of big names like Cameron Diaz, but rather on the larger-than life role of the fabulous Christoph Waltz as the evil Chudnofsky. Everything else about this film is subpar and it would also be a waste of time to tell you precisely why that is.

Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)

Little Fockers (Redbox – 1$): The third installment of the famous pairing of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. All of the joys of the first two are now reused in this one with a bit less of the disaster-prone quality of Stiller and more of the obnoxious paranoia of an increasingly unlikable Jack (De Niro’s character). What seemed like comedic before, now seems repetitive and not very funny. The script seems to have been put together in about 5 seconds in detriment of less screen time for the always entertaining Barbra Streissand and Dustin Hoffman.

Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)

Paul (Theater – 6$): It seemed like a risk to watch a movie about a rather common-looking Alien with human-like demeanor voiced by Seth Rogen. The risk proved true at times, but not at others. It is really not Rogen’s fault that he’s been so overexposed (although he should start saying no to scripts) instead it is a far too common problem in Hollywood to cash in on once cool and different actors/comedians and shove them down audiences throats so often that the effectiveness of films like Paul is significantly reduced. As for everything else, the movie resorted to the typical formula of road trip buddy type movie but with a slightly more nerdy, awkward and British pairing than we are used to seeing.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)

Insidious (Theather – 6$): Here is perhaps the best half hour to 45 minutes of film I have seen this year. Sadly, the movie didn’t know what to do with itself and it ended up ruining everything it had built so wonderfully at the beginning. The last half was as bad as the first half was suspenseful and incredibly terrifying. Once we begin to see what is truly happening and the film begins to take itself too seriously, we’re lost in a pointless and unsophisticated back-story that makes everything rather comical and unimpressive.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)

Thor (Theather – 6$): When it comes to superheros, Hollywood has been able to find ways, for years now, to profit from the inventive minds of the people at Marvel and other comic book publishers. Thor is yet another installment that follows the never-ending formula of the powerful brat that needs to learn within less than two hours of film how to become a great man and, in the process, fall in love with a girl he just met. Taking out the very unoriginal premise and the unconvincing twists that the story tries to provide, there are moments of humor and entertainment in Thor that make up for a good part of the absurdity.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)

Gnomeo & Juliet (RedBox – 1$): I had the feeling that this animated movie worked within all the expected parameters of a typical family film. It took a common story of the seemingly doomed and tragic romance and adapted it to a setting that we haven’t seen before: the garden gnome world. The film offers some clever humor and it manages to make fun of itself quite often, but it never tries to fully defy the expectations and go off the script to give us something truly original.

Rating: 3 out 5 (above average)

Kaboom (Theater – 6$): An indie film about a group of young students at a college where strange things happen. Kaboom is fresh, sexy and exciting for most of its running time, or until the mystery surrounding the group starts to take over the film. The cast was surprisingly apt and the stars were successful, for most of the time, to walk the fine line between characters that belong in comedic parodies and realism. As the movie progresses, so does the strange mystery and with that the movie loses its freshness and its grip, leaving me with the feeling they were trying to rush to an odd conclusion.

Rating: 3 out of 5 (above average)

Super 8 (Theater – 6$): The childish and innocent quality of Super 8 is the movie’s most interesting aspect. The young teenagers embodied their character with ability and talent. Their relationships are convincing, real and entertaining. A good part of the audience probably felt more identified than the rest as the movie tries to capture, rather successfully, the feel of suburban America in the late 70s to early 80s. As long as the movie focused on the talented Hollywood bunch it assembled, the film remained magical and untouchable. The movie loses its character as more stuff happens and we discover more and more about the mystery. Once again, director J.J. Abrams builds up our expectations too high to then be unable to match them with a rather tacky and expected ending.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (good)

Rango (Theater – 6$): Rango was a true piece of originality that is defined within the ancient formulas of Hollywood. We have a guy who does not know exactly what he is or where he belongs, faith has it that he is put in a very difficult situation, and when faced with adversity, our hero rises to the challenge unexpectedly and heroically. However, Rango gives us a richly detailed set of characters, an ever-formidable and complex central character voiced by Johnny Depp, and a context that feels familiar yet fresh and surprisingly beautiful. In many ways it is an animated Western that takes cues from all sorts of pop culture sources, which most of the time are effective comedic relief in a movie filled with adventure, political undertone and extremely detailed characterization.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (great)

Bridesmaids (Theater – 6$): I’ll keep it simple for what is the best movie I have seen this year. This is a incredibly hilarious film with jokes that feel modern, that don’t seem forced, and that stick every single time. There were entire scenes that had me laughing uncontrollably, and even after the movie had ended. The audience sitting with me in the theater applauded and seemed genuinely happier coming out than when they came in. This is what comedy is truly about. Bridesmaids sticks to the formula just enough to make it familiar, but it remains always clever and unpredictable in the direction and tone of its humor.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (excellent, a masterpiece of comedy, comfortably in my own personal TOP 250 films of all-time).

Niels