31 de ene. de 2015

La Famille Belier (7/10): An emotional roller-coaster ride that connected with me in a personal level.

“I am not fleeing, I'm flying. Understand well, I'm flying”

There are times when a film can hit close to home making it hard to review objectively because it has spoken to you in a very personal manner. That is the case with Eric Lartigau’s French film, La Famille Belier, which centers on a family who are all deaf and mute except for their adolescent daughter who has become an important part of their life since she serves as their translator to the outside world. The family owns a farm and sells cheese at the local market. Despite of their disabilities, Gigi (Karin Viard) and Rodolphe (Francois Damiens), are very cheerful and caring parents. Their daughter, Paula (Louane Emera), is a talented singer, but of course her parents don’t understand what music means to people. When her choir director discovers her potential, he asks her to participate in an entrance exam for the Maitrise de Radio France, an elite school for musicians in Paris. This puts Paula in a very difficult position because she knows how much she is needed by her family, but she also realizes that this a great opportunity for her to do what she loves. She also has a smaller brother named Quentin (Luca Gelberg) with the same disabilities. The film connected with me on a personal level because my father had a stroke five years ago and hasn’t been able to speak since. He understands everything and communicates through signs and expressions, but he can’t speak. The right side of his body was affected as well and he has trouble moving his leg and has no movement in his arm. I’ve been his therapist and seen his improvements from day one. He’s also been very upbeat, cheerful and full of faith with regards to his disability. I connected with Paula’s character because I understood the sacrifice she makes everyday for her family, although I’m in no way talented with my singing. The reason I’m writing all this is because it is hard to review a film that touches you in such a personal way. The film doesn’t have any brilliant technical aspects to it, the story is melodramatic and cliched, the performances are sometimes over the top (but comedic nonetheless) and the music sometimes can play a key role into manipulating the mood of the audience. These are aspects of films that I usually criticize, but in this film none of that mattered because it was an emotional roller coaster for me personally. I was entertained from the very beginning and enjoyed the entire film despite its flaws. 

The lead role is played by Louane Emera who has a beautiful voice without a doubt. She was actually a participant in the French reality TV show, The Voice. This is her first film, but she really delivers a natural and touching performance. Speaking of reality shows, the film actually feels like one at times. You know how they usually try to engage the audience by introducing a participant who had a troubled past and is overcoming the obstacles to achieve his or her dreams. That is kind of what they do here with the character of Paula, they are using her difficult life story to touch the audience and make us care for her. I didn’t have a problem with that however because it worked here. It manages to be funny and sad at the same time and it balances out those moments throughout the entire film. There are many subplots that weren’t developed and should’ve been left out, but I think they were included mostly for comedic purposes and to take away our attention from the main theme of the film. Take for instance the moment where Rodolphe decides that he is going to run for mayor. There are a few funny moments but the film doesn’t go anywhere with that. There is also a subplot revolving around Quentin’s relationship with one of Paula’s best friends, but that also ends up going nowhere. Those subplots were included as a way to mix things up a bit and fool the audience as to which way the film was heading, because in the end it is a bit all too predictable and cliched. However, the music in this film works extremely well and I ended up caring for these characters and the decisions they had to make. Karin Viard and Francois Damiens had great chemistry together and provided most of the comedy in the film. Viard goes a bit overboard with her exaggerated stagey performance, but it worked. La Famille Belier is a very charming feel-good movie full of funny and sincerely touching moments.


30 de ene. de 2015

Tangerines (8/10): A small scaled anti-war film that delivers its message effectively.

“What is wrong with you, young men? All the time, I will kill, I will kill... Who gave you the right for that?"

I wasn’t familiar with Estonian cinema before Mandariinid (Tangerines), but I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for Zaza Urushadze’s upcoming projects because this was a fulfilling experience. I know the Academy doesn’t always get it right, but at least it gives me a chance to check out films that I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. Urushadze’s greatest strength as a director here comes from focusing on the story, which he also wrote. It is a simple anti-war film with a powerful narrative and strong performances that benefit from an interesting premise. Urushadze doesn’t try to astonish the audience with great visuals or overload us with gruesome action scenes like most war films, but rather focuses on the humanity of each character and does so by centering the story in a small local community where only two men remain. He reduces the Civil War taking place in the Apkhazian region and focuses it on how it affects two local Estonians who have decided to stay in their farmland instead of seeking safety back in Estonia. Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) and Margus (Elmo Nuganen) are neighbors who work together. Margus has a tangerine plantation (which explains the somewhat terrible title) and Ivo is a carpenter who makes the boxes for their transportation so they collaborate together. Since the war broke out, everyone in the land has returned to Estonia, but these two men have decided to stay. Ivo is a determined and wise old man who doesn’t take sides in the war. When a conflict breaks out in front of their home, two soldiers are seriously injured and Ivo takes them into his home. The soldiers (Giorgi Nakashidze and Misha Meskhi) are enemies and we are expecting the tension to break out once they fully recover. Ivo knows this, but he also believes he can teach them a lesson through his acts of kindness during this terrible time of war. The film is effective and accomplishes its purpose of delivering its anti-war message by focusing on the humanity of each one of the characters. 

Lembit Ulfsak delivers the best performance of the film. He gives a quiet and calmed performance. Despite all the hate and hurtful things the two soldiers say to each other, he is always the voice of reason reminding them that they all share the same land and have equal rights. Ulfsak expresses this inner peacefulness very well from the opening scene in which some local soldiers come searching for food. He is the kind of person that would help anyone, even those that consider him an enemy. Elmo Nuganen is also solid as Margus who has a strong relationship with Ivo and looks up to him. When the two injured soldiers appear at their doorsteps the balance is disrupted and the war comes knocking home. So we clearly see how war takes its toll on everyone, even those who have nothing to do with the fighting, affecting their business and their lifestyle. Giorgi Nakashidze and Misha Meskhi deliver solid roles as these enemies who call a truce out of respect for Ivo while they are in his home. I found the simple premise for this film as a strong way to carry out its message by reducing the big scale of the war to a small local village, but still portraying it as something terrible. Some might consider this too simple of a story or too  improbable, but I think it was a quite affecting way to deliver its message. I enjoyed how Zaza Urushadze decided to approach this material and would definitely recommend it. 


29 de ene. de 2015

Ida (6/10): A journey in search of our identity.

“What sort of sacrifice are these vows of yours?"

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Polish film has been piling up a lot of awards around the world and is one of the front runners at the Oscars for best foreign picture. It is a very short film that has transcended its historical significance in Poland and somehow captivated audiences throughout the world. It could be in large part thanks to the gorgeous black and white cinematography (which has also received a nod from the Academy) with equal aspects ratio. A lot of thought and detail was put into each frame of the picture. Another reason why it has been acclaimed by so many people in different parts of the world might be because of Agata Trzebuchowska’s outstanding performance as Ida and how well her character teams up with Agata Kulesza’s Wanda. Wanda plays Ida’s aunt who is her only living relative. Ida was raised in a convent as an orphan and before taking her vows, Mother Superior asks her to visit her aunt. This encounter is the central theme of the film because on one hand you have the innocence and naivety of Ida and on the other the liberal and stern Wanda who enjoys drinking and having one night stands with men she meets at bars. They take a journey together to try to find out where Ida’s parents were buried after being killed during the Second World War and discover some surprises along the way. This theme has been approached in the past many times before where  you get two apparently opposite characters coming together to discover new things about themselves, so I don’t think this is the reason why it has received so much attention. The main reason why this has captivated audiences is the underlying theme of the film and how subtly Pawlikowski delivers the message. It is a film about the search for identity, a universal theme we can all relate to. Ida is just now realizing things about her past while she tries to discover who she really is. She has spent all her life in a convent without any knowledge of the outside world or who her parents were. This search of self discovery is what audiences around the world can relate to.

I was surprised that Agata Trzebuchowska had no prior experience as an actor before this film because she gives an incredibly convincing performance as Ida. With each new revelation and discovery of things of her past the protagonist gives a subtle and mannered reaction. She is a spiritual woman and takes everything in a calm and inner manner, but somehow her facial expressions convey a lot of meaning to the viewer. Agata Kulesza on the other hand is a stern woman who played a key role during the early years of Poland after the war. She tries to find refuge in alcohol and classical music because she has obviously gone through a lot. She doesn’t understand how Ida could be so spiritual and encourages her to experience the world in order to discover who she is. Both actresses have great chemistry together despite the very short running time of the film. Pawlikowski isn’t interested in us getting to learn a lot more about the characters, but rather going through the search for their identity with them. The film is cold and distant, and the snow falling in the background is a constant reminder of that. It is one of the reasons why perhaps I wasn’t engaged with the film as much as I would’ve liked to even though it says a lot more through visuals than it does with words.


Hellion (5/10): Watchable despite lacking originality and subtlety.

“What are you troublemakers up to?

Based on Kat Candler’s own short film, Hellion is a movie that tries to explore the life of a thirteen year old boy named Jacob (Josh Wiggins) who has recently lost his mother, and to make things worse his father (Aaron Paul) has been emotionally absent while drowning himself in booze. It is no surprise that Jacob has been expressing his rebellion by participating in several acts of vandalism along with his neighborhood friends. When word gets out that his little brother, Wes (Deke Garner), is being dragged into this lifestyle, CPS places him in the care of their Aunt Pam (Juliette Lewis). Hollis loves his children, but he is still hurting for the loss of their mother and when he realizes that he is also losing his children he tries to change, but the focus of the film is on Jacob who thinks he can make things right by winning a local dirt bike competition. This is a coming of age film that tries to portray the family dynamics in an authentic way, but it never fully avoids the genre cliches. Hellion lacks some subtlety, but it benefits from a strong lead performance from Josh Wiggins. Besides directing, Candler wrote the screenplay for this film in which she has no intention of shining a light on the innocence of this kid, but rather portraying him as a victim of his circumstance due to the neglect of his father. Somehow the film failed to connect with me and I wouldn’t recommend it over other brilliant coming of age films. Clocking at just under 100 minutes the pacing of the film does seem to be a problem as well and many scenes could’ve been cut out of the movie. We are repeatedly batted over the head with Jacob’s rebellious behavior and it got a bit tiresome after a while. The soundtrack consists of mostly heavy metal tracks which both Jacob and his father like to indulge in while at home. The story takes place in a small southern Texas town which is gorgeously captured by Brett Pawlak’s shaky cameras. Unfortunately everything that Hellion tries to say has been said before in other better films.

What Hellion has going for it are the strong performances. Josh Wiggins is outstanding as the lead character in the film. It is hard to get a good performance from young teen actors at times, but Wiggins is a natural and he delivers an authentic portrayal of a troubled teen who is struggling to understand why the world has turned its back on him. Deke Garner plays his younger brother in a subtle manner. He is mostly a sponge that tries to absorb what the people around him say to him. Garner had worked with Candler in the short which this film is based on. Imagine if Aaron Paul’s character from Breaking Bad would’ve been rehabilitated after finding a lovely wife and having two children with her. Later he loses his wife and falls in despair all over again, but instead of drowning his sorrows in drugs he does so with booze. Paul is playing this character full of anger once again who doesn’t seem to know how to raise his children on his own. It was refreshing to see Juliette Lewis playing a normal role and trying to be a good role model for her nephews. This is Josh Wiggins movie and he elevates the material in such a way that he makes this a watchable experience despite lacking originality and subtlety.


28 de ene. de 2015

Leviathon (9/10): A stunning critique of Russian society and corruption that applies Universally

“All power comes from God. As long as it suits Him, fear not.”

After receiving an Oscar nomination for best foreign film, I finally decided to watch this 140 minute long movie. I was hopeful I was finally going to see Russians not having to play villains, but to my surprise this film attacks its own society and the corruption behind its government and official church. It takes a while to get into but after the slow opening twenty minutes the plot began to hook me and the next two hours flew by as the plot got better and better. Despite being a film that brilliantly attacks the corruption of its own government and society, it does so in a universal way so we can all relate to these issues. Loosely based on the biblical story of Job, we follow the main character go through one injustice after another. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev brilliantly captures the humanity of this working class family who are forced out of their own property by the corrupt local Mayor. It is the universal tale of an everyday man struggling against the injustices of an oppressive system (The Clash’s “I Fought the Law” song came to mind several times while watching this film). We get glimpses of hope when a friend of the family comes to their defense and tries to confront the big man by uncovering some dirt from his past, but some interesting twists take place and the family dynamics are shaken. The final fifteen minutes of this film were brilliant and I am glad Zvyaginstsev didn’t sell out for an easy or feel good ending. The cinematography is also gorgeous thanks to the beautiful location. The film takes place in a small coastal town near the Barents Sea and we get several amazing shots of the waves crashing into the rocks. The beautiful landscape is a huge contrast with the darkness of the corrupt characters. Leviathan is a brilliant film that works as a social satire. Leviathan is a monstrous sea creature mentioned in the Bible, and it is the perfect title for a film that focuses on a small man facing monstrous obstacles. I was surprised that I ended up enjoying this film as much as I did. I still have a lot of catching up with my foreign films, but so far this is my favorite and my frontrunner for the Oscars. 

The performances in this film were also great. Aleksey Serebryakov plays the lead character and he captures the essence and humanity of the hard working class. He has built his own home were he lives with his wife and child working as a mechanic. His wife works at a fish factory. He is desperate and angry for the injustice he is suffering knowing that he is about to lose his home and property. His good friend who is now a lawyer in Moscow has come to his rescue. He is also brilliantly played by Vladimir Vdovichenkov. He is the voice of reason in the film and is always trying to calm down Nikolay who has a strong temper. The corrupt lawyer is played by Roman Madyanov. He makes it easy for the audience to hate him because he represents all the injustice and corruption that we face. Nikolay’s wife is played by the beautiful Elena Lyadova and she does a great job of portraying this fragile character. However my favorite supporting performance came from Anna Ukolova who plays a friend of the family and also works with Nikolay’s wife. She always has some sarcastic comment about men or officials and she delivers most of the laughs in the movie. Her character helped lighten up the mood at times. The other thing that lightens the mood is the constant drinking in the movie (warning: you might get drunk just by watching them jug down those Vodka bottles). The harsh conditions that these people face force them to find refuge in their alcohol in order to suppress their pain (something many people can relate to as well). What really stands out in this film is that instead of portraying some of the key scenes Zvyaginstev decides to omit them and we are only exposed to the results and its consequences. 


26 de ene. de 2015

Taken 3 (4/10): A parody of The Fugitive more than an actual sequel

“If you go down this road, the LAPD, the FBI, the CIA... they're all gonna come for you. They'll find you. And they'll stop you.”

Taken 3 is less of a sequel and more of a parody of memorable action films such as The Fugitive and even the first Taken. I was a huge fan of the original which I even included among my favorite films the year it came out because I was blown away by Liam Neeson’s performance and the gripping action sequences. I also admit defending the sequel, although it is a decision I regret now that I have rewatched the film, because I just loved the character that Neeson plays. I thought the idea of a franchise for Bryan Mills would be an awesome one, but you just can’t continue making it revolve around his family. I mean his daughter should be in desperate need of a psychiatrist after everything that she has gone through. I don’t know how Maggie Grace pulls it off, but she looks even younger now than she did 10 years ago when she starred in the first season of Lost. This time the plot revolves around Bryan’s ex-wife getting murdered and him getting framed for her death. While being chased by the police, Bryan has to discover who was behind Lenny’s murder. We’ve seen this plot played out many times before, but no one has done it better than The Fugitive. You even have Forest Whitaker here playing the smart detective trying to solve the case while he is chasing Bryan (similar to what Tommy Lee Jones did in The Fugitive). The villains in this film are probably the weakest element and are often laughable which is why I felt this was sort of a parody instead of an action movie. The action scenes are difficult to watch because the camera is moving all the time and there are over 50 shots every minute or so. There are also many unbelievable scenes which Bryan walks out of without a scratch, and we don’t even see how he survives some of them. But somehow the climax outdoes them all in ridiculousness. Taken 3 is a huge letdown and hopefully the final film of the franchise as promised in the posters. 

Liam Neeson is an actor that I will always enjoy watching on screen, especially when making action scenes and threatening people over the phone. My only recommendation is that they don’t show him running because it isn’t one of his strengths. Unfortunately the film has so many shots and cuts that you can’t enjoy Neeson fighting off the villains. Forest Whitaker is a great actor, but you can tell that sometimes he is just cashing in a performance. He is basically playing the same character he did in The Last Stand although this time he pays with a rubber band around his wrist while trying to solve the case. At this point I guess I would rather watch a film where Liam Neeson is threatening villains over the phone than actually seeing director Megaton ruining the action by cutting one shot after another every second. Fake Janssen doesn’t get much screen time and I guess she bailed the franchise at the right moment. The villains have no personality whatsoever in this film (which I would argue is the case in the entire franchise, but at least they were threatening the first time around). The screenplay is full of plot holes and in the end you have to go through the tedious explanation of what we already know has happened just in case the audience was stupid and didn’t understand what they saw. But perhaps they did it for those of us who may have fallen asleep during the action scenes because this is by far the longest film in the franchise and you feel it.


25 de ene. de 2015

Foxcatcher (8/10): Combining elements from Capote and Moneyball, Miller delivers a chilling psychological character study

“You have a problem with me?”

If you thought Bennett Miller’s Capote was a cold and distant crime thriller wait till you watch Foxcatcher because it is a very silent and slow paced psychological character study that explores some pretty interesting relationship dynamics along the way. I was captivated by this film and the atmosphere that Miller sets during its 134 minute runtime.  I went into Foxcatcher completely unaware of the story it was based on, and I think that is why I may have enjoyed it a lot more than others who were already familiar with the story. This isn’t your typical inspirational sport film, it is more concerned on studying the characters and you get an eerie sense that it is building into something much more than simply winning or losing a wrestling match. Miller’s Capote was a crime thriller and he followed it with Moneyball which was a sports film centering on relationships, and in a way Foxcatcher is a combination of both those films. Miller is interested in telling real stories and exploring the characters behind them. Unlike Jolie’s Unbroken where we get a sense that she is simply narrating a story where one event unfolds after another; Miller seems to be focused on the characters and their motivations. A lot of people might get bored with the slow pacing and somber tone of the film, but I was engaged with these characters fifteen minutes into the movie. There was a moment during the opening in which I felt the performances were a bit too actory or stagey, but once I got past that I was really invested in the psychological drama behind each one of the relationships. Miller has now directed three impressive films although this is his least approachable one.

There are some outstanding and creepy performances in this film, but the way in which the characters related to one another is what worked best for me. First of all you have these two brothers who’ve each won Olympic gold medals. Mark (Channing Tatum) is the youngest brother who seems to be sort of a social outcast living in the shadow of his older brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo) who is the more likable one. Dave also understands wrestling better and knows how to coach, while Mark is more muscles than anything else. They have a solid and caring relationship with one another, but there is some resentment in Mark. Their relationship changes when a multi-millionaire named John Du Pont (Steve Carell) enters in the picture. He is a wrestling aficionado and offers Mark the opportunity to come stay with him in his ranch and train in the facility he has built there. There is something offbeat with du Pont who is desperately searching for acceptance and recognition. Vanessa Redgrave plays his mother and despite not having much screen time her presence seems to have an effect on John who is seeking for her approval. There is something true about what Miller said when he referred to comedic actors as having something dark about them because Steve Carell pulls off a chilling performance as this eccentric millionaire who tries to become a role model for Mark. The problem is that du Pont isn’t a coach, he is more of a sponsor, and without Dave Mark isn’t that good of a wrestler. Tatum, Ruffalo, and Carell each give strong performances, which doesn’t come as a surprise considering Miller directed each one of his lead actors to receive Oscar nominations in his previous films. The film relies heavily on their performances and they deliver. Carell receives most of the attention because he plays a creepy character who makes everyone around him feel uneasy at times (there is a homoerotic undertone to the film). The moments in which du Pont is trying to impress his mother by acting like he is guiding the wrestlers was the highlight of the film for me because no matter how much money this guy has you know he is desperate to be something he is not. Ruffalo is also outstanding and is given perhaps the most likable role in the movie, but Tatum is equally as good. Foxcatcher succeeds in most part due to those three strong lead performances and the way each one of these characters relates to one another.


Unbroken (7/10): The Passion of the Christ of War movies

“A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”

Directed by Angelina Jolie, Unbroken focuses on the inspiring true story of Olympic winning medalist, Louis Zamperini, who later went on to serve during World War II going through all kinds of hardships. Unbroken opens with an incredibly strong action scene (which might be the best in the movie) and as the story unfolds we get some flashbacks of Louis’s childhood and upbringing. It is a bit formulaic in the sense that it follows pretty much the same conventions as most biopics have done in the past. One of my favorite quotes in the film is when Louis’s brother tells him that “A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory,” but ironically after getting through this film the quote feels like it works better the other way around, “A moment of glory is worth a lifetime of pain” because Jolie makes sure we witness all the trials that he went through during the War. She focuses more on Louis’s lifetime of pain and only a moment of glory. Unbroken is The Passion of the Christ of war dramas because we experience the hardships that Louis has to go through in a very detailed manner. There is no doubt in my mind that this was an inspirational story, but Jolie spends most of her time going from one scene to the next without ever trying to develop the character or tell us who Louis really was. In other words she tells an inspiring story but doesn’t transmit anything about the man who went through it all. There are several reasons why I did enjoy this film despite its flaws and the first one is because of Roger Deakins’s cinematography which is always outstanding. I could see pretty much any movie that this man shoots. The second reason is because the Coen brothers were involved in the adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling novel. The Coen brothers aren’t as successful when they don’t direct their own screenplays, but this time they had strong material to work with. Hillenbrand is a great writer (Seabiscuit  and now Unbroken) and the story is inspirational so there is a lot to like. 

The film hooked me from the opening scene where we experience a great action scene from within a bomber aircraft overflying the Pacific Ocean. Then the generic flashbacks began and the film lost some of its potential. Jack O’Connell plays the lead character Louis Zamperini. After his solid performance in Starred Up, O’Connell, is definitely someone worth keeping your eyes on because he’s extremely talented. In Unbroken we see him enduring a great amount of suffering (thus the comparison with The Passion of the Christ) so the film focuses on that aspect instead of giving us any insight on O’Connell’s character. I still think the story is so inspirational that it manages to hook us and captivate us throughout the entire run time. Jolie is interested in simply telling the story so we go from one scene to the next without learning much of who the character’s really are. The opening was fantastic, the scene where the plane crashes into the Ocean and the survivors struggle to survive was also another highlight of the film, and finally the torture he endures as a prisoner of war was inspiring. The technical aspects of the film are fantastic and Deakins cinematography is gorgeous. The supporting performances from Domhnall Gleeson and Miyavi are also very solid. But by the time the end credits start rolling you kind of wish the film had focused on the later aspects of Louis’s life which were perhaps even more inspiring than the torture he endured.


23 de ene. de 2015

Cold in July (8/10): A pulpy thriller with surprising twists

“You know when a dog bites you... you can either chain him up... or shoot him.”

Cold in July was one of the most surprising films of 2014 for me considering I didn’t have much expectations for it. I had never heard of director Jim Mickle nor had I read Joe R. Lansdale’s novel so I was expecting a standard and by the books revenge thriller. I hadn’t even watched the trailer for this film, but I did want to see Michael C. Hall in a starring role considering I loved his work in Dexter. I got much more than I bargained for from this witty and entertaining thriller set in 1989 East Texas. It begins as a simple revenge tale after a family man (played by Michael C. Hall) kills a burglar in his home. It turns out that the victim was a wanted felon so he becomes sort of an overnight hero in his small town. However, the victim’s father (Sam Shepard) shows up and begins to threaten his family. Up to this point everything felt by the books, but I was still having a good time with it. From the opening scene I felt the tension and was enjoying the suspense, but when the twists began kicking in it simply elevated the film to a whole other level. With each twist and revelation the film grew on me more and more because it became unpredictable and grittier. It also has its touches of humor scattered throughout the film thanks to a strong supporting performance from Don Johnson. I had a great time with this film as it kept me at the edge of my seat. I absolutely recommend this well paced thriller which plays with its well known genre conventions.

The strong performances in this film are a big reason why the twists and thrills work. First of all, Michael C. Hall gives in my opinion the best performance in his career. He carries the film from beginning to end as we see the transformation he experiences after the fatal incident in his home with the burglar. The town may recognize him as a hero, but he feels uneasy about having killed a man even though he was defending his home. When Sam Shepard’s character shows up fear begins to creep in to his life and Hall portrays these feelings perfectly. Shepard is also outstanding in the supporting role as his presence is threatening. But Don Johnson is the one who steals the show from the moment he appears on screen driving a flashy red car and wearing a cowboy hat. He is comedic at times, but someone the audience trusts to help solve the mystery. Don Johnson himself helps give the film a more retro vibe than it already had (so does Hall’s mullet). I really enjoyed each one of the characters in this film along with the dark mood and surprising twists. The electric score also adds a lot to the overall atmosphere of the film. I’m really interested now in getting familiar with Jim Mickle’s work because he really surprised me with this film.


22 de ene. de 2015

The Interview (5/10): I guess Seth Rogen and James Franco aren't always hilarious together

“They hate us because they ain't us!”

After teaming up successfully in last year’s This is the End there were high expectations for Seth Rogen and Evan Golberg’s second film. They had the bro-buddy comedy elements entirely right in their apocalyptic film, but this time around I felt some of the jokes miss the target. The problem is that the first time around they basically made fun of themselves and the entire film industry, while now they tried to mix that bro-buddy humor with a political satire focusing on the North Korean government. There are also a few attacks at the way America has handled these interventions internationally which were witty, but for the most part the film felt like it missed on most of the jokes. There were some incredibly funny moments which you know you’ll get from Seth Rogen and James Franco because they have such great chemistry together. This is the sixth time they’ve collaborated together (but really only the third time they’ve both starred in a film together) and unfortunately this is my least favorite. I still think Pineapple Express is their best work and it was there where they first experimented with the bromantic comedy elements. They’ve pushed the boundaries over their next films making the bromance seem gayer. An important issue I had with this film revolved around the pacing which after awhile became a little tedious. I did enjoy some aspects of the film and found the segment where Seth Rogen’s character is looked down upon for not being a serious producer as a witty comment on his own acting, but he knows what he is good at and sticks with it. 

There were a lot of doubts whether or not this film would be released in theaters after the North Korean government threatened Sony, but ultimately freedom prevailed. Honestly, I really didn’t see what all the fuss was about. It ended up getting more publicity and more people watched the film because of it. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best collaboration between Rogen and Franco. I did enjoy some of their scenes together, but I think Randall Park stole the show as President Kim. His scenes with James Franco playing basketball and driving the tank were probably my favorite in the movie. At times the jokes felt repetitive, but the funniest scene of the film for me was the tiger incident with Seth Rogen. Even though I didn’t enjoy the film as a whole I did find sporadic scenes working really well for me, so I still had a decent time with this film. The female characters seem to be the weakest link for Rogen and Goldberg’s film as neither Diana Bang nor Lizzy Caplan get interesting things to say or do. There are some hilarious cameos however and a lot of pop cultural references (mostly from The Lord of the Rings and Katy Perry lyrics) that work half of the time.