Tag Archives: Scarlett Johansson

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:

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) [ 2.5/5 ]

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.

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (2016) [ 3/5 ]

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.

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (2016) [ 4/5 ]

 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.

THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004) [ 3/5 ]

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.

Months in review: March, April & May

Mad Max Fury

Sometimes it takes moving from one place to another, being extremely busy with work, renovating a new condo, dealing with some family matters and trying to sell the place you’ve been living in for the past year to realize that whatever you thought “busy” meant; it is probably nothing compared to how it has been lately.

Even though my blogging has continued to suffer, I still try to make time for movies. In the last three months I have managed to watch 25 films (11, 10 and 4 respectively). The average score in March was a decent 2.95/5, while April passed with a slightly better 3.1 and May was pretty great with an average of 3.875/5. Of the 25 films, four cracked the 4/5. First, it was the very bleak yet very powerful Oslo, August 31st, followed up by the very well-made documentary Life Itself that touches on the life of the late and great Roger Ebert., the moving doc Dear Zachary and the sensational Mad Max: Fury Road.

Below a summary, in order of viewing, with short reviews of each film I saw in the last 3 months. You might also notice quite a number of sci-fi films, especially those interested in robots and artificial intelligence:

Continue reading Months in review: March, April & May

The Best Moments in Film: A family drowns at a beach in Under the Skin

Under The Skin

I came out of the theater in a mix of frustration and puzzlement back in the summer of 2014. Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin was, and still is, many moons later, a difficult film to embrace. Every shot seemed to stretch out into infinity, relentlessly demanding that we observe, analyze and break apart every moment and every bit of dialogue. For every thrilling bit of film reel that was full of mystery and suspense, there were equally frustrating shots that seemed void of substance.

Continue reading The Best Moments in Film: A family drowns at a beach in Under the Skin

A preview to the Academy Awards

 

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

There is something mystical about the Academy Awards. Even when actors and directors and cinematographers try to deny it, the Oscar remains Hollywood’s grandest and most cherished prize. Despite the glaring omissions that plague the list of winners and nominations every year, The Academy gets it right sometimes, which is more than many awards shows can say. It helps, of course, that the Academy is favored by a 87th year long history that when compared to the 72 years of the Golden Globes, or the 67 years of the Bafta, it makes the accolade all the more respectable and appreciated, if only for its accumulated wisdom over rivals.

Continue reading A preview to the Academy Awards

Reminiscing about the best & worst of 2014

Robin Williams

It’s been nearly a week since 2015 has begun to test our mettle. 2014 is now in the past and with it, a year filled with personal success that did not translate well into a lot of film watching and reviewing. It was, for me, an excellent year nonetheless, in which I was able to purchase my first property, finish my first marathon, visit Paris for the first time, and receive approval for a work visa to stay in the United States.

My blog suffered greatly in 2014 in part due to all of these activities and important “distractions”. I managed to post only 15 times in 12 months, and I watched 94 films that, when compared to 2013’s sum of 143 films, leaves a lot to be desired. With that in mind and with the resolve to improve greatly on these numbers, I look back at some of the best and worst experiences with film in the past year (following post to focus on TV and videogames). The following is not meant as a post about the “best films of 2014” (that will come in a later post when I begin to catch up), but rather as a summary of my own experiences with new and old releases.

Continue reading Reminiscing about the best & worst of 2014

Best films of any year watched in 2014

July was a good and busy month. I’ve been preparing to run the Chicago Marathon this coming October, and running has now taken a significant chunk of my time, especially as the date gets closer and closer. Despite a hectic couple of weeks at work, I was finally able to dedicate a little bit more time to this blog of mine, and watch a few more films than I have recently. In lieu of my “best 2014 films of the first half of the year”, I offer my thoughts on the best films of ANY YEAR that I have managed to watch since January.

12-years-a-slave

Continue reading Best films of any year watched in 2014

Catching up after the World Cup. 2014 in review

 

Christ_the redeemer

It’s been just over a month since my last post on this blog of mine. Though my attempt was to continue to keep it flowing with new reviews and monthly round-ups, there was this mammoth-size event looming on the horizon: the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Continue reading Catching up after the World Cup. 2014 in review

Months in review: March, April & May (part II)

Continued from last post.
Below a list of short reviews of films, books and videogames watched, read or played in the last couple of months. Due to unexpected delays, I had to add films that I’ve watched in May. Hopefully I can catch up by next month.

FILM: (cont.)

AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013) [4/5]

American Hustle

 

Probably the wildest and funniest film by director David O. Russell up to this point. Find my full review here.

Continue reading Months in review: March, April & May (part II)

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.

Continue reading Months in Review: March & April (part I)