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Art is extremely hard to create if you are trying to tell something extremely specific to current times, people, and places, if you succeed and people seem to see the same vision, you have achieved something, if they find something you did not expect, you have achieved something greater. However Killing Them Softly does not reach the certain heights it set to, instead it lies somewhere near a heavy-beating message without any subtlety, yet it still manages to tell an interesting story with even more interesting characters, however they are never fleshed out enough for us to fully care and understand them.
An intricate set up starts our film, a mobster knows about a high stake poker game run and played by members of the mob, and hires two men to rob the game. He knows someone within the mob who can easily be set up for the heist. After the game is robbed, the mob brings in enforcer type Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to find and kill the guys who pulled off the heist.
Now Killing Them Softly has a lot more going for it and it is apparent from the opening sequence, where an image of a man walking over derelict and broken down streets intersected with Obama speech cues promising for a new and better day. It's apparent what Andrew Dominik (Chopper; Assassination of Jesse James...) is trying to get across, you see what he sees, you understand what he is trying to tell, yet he feels like he needs the idea to keep on running throughout the film, which often hurts it's stronger elements, brilliant character(s) and their stories. Yet his idea of the financial breakdown being told through the eyes of a mob breaking down is never fully realized.
Dominik knows exactly what he is doing behind the camera, he uses stylistic choices to express not only political views but also character's state of mind, and just like the political emphasis, the state of mind is dragged down to a level that makes it seem cheap. For example a scene with a heroin junkie going in and out of conscious state feels forced and dragged out. However Dominik does balance that with incredible moments of subtly and finesse behind the camera, including a hit on a mobster in slow motion looks nothing less than brilliant.
Dominik also fails to use some great performances by his supporting cast including James Gandolfini's broken and vulnerable Mickey, who drinks and sleeps his way his life, whose role seems useless and unnecessary. Again Dominik does balance it with some incredible moments with Brad Pitt's Cogan, the main character, whose ending speech is substantial and fundamental to the message of the film.
Dominik manages to tell his story and take on America's financial crisis and the destruction of American society, but does it in such a way that it feels regurgitated and unnatural, while showing no nuance, which often breaks down the film's strong points including the stylistic moments, characterization, and under usage of great acting.
Known for their imaginative storytelling Disney brings us their latest endeavour, replacing toys and cars with digital video game characters, Disney never leaves good characters and story behind for cheap gimmicks instead use it to further enhance its story. Although at times cheap characterization and less then mediocre jokes take you out of the experience, excellent design, good characters, and good, to bring us back to make it a whole-hearted Disney flick. Sub-par to the classic Pixar other entries; Wreck It Ralph is able to stand on his own two feet to give us a whole-hearted wonderful experience.
Wreck It Ralph (John C Reilly) begins to ponder about his own existence and his role in his own video game. Wondering why he can never win a gold medal or baked pie like his video game's hero, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), Ralph sets out to win his own medal by jumping into different games. After winning his medal in Hero's Duty Ralph accidentally jumps into Sugar Rush, a racing game with candy based design where he meets Penelope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a glitch within her own game who uses Ralph's medal to enter a race which she has to win in order to be accepted. They both join forces to win the race so Ralph and win his medal back and Penelope can gain her freedom.
Wreck It Ralph stays true to its form by using cameos by video game character such as Sonic, Bowser, Pac-Man, to further enhance our understanding of this world, it cleverly uses Easter Eggs only the hardest of gamers will laugh and praise. Masterfully designed each video game Ralph jumps into never seems to be the same design but seems to an entire different map with different colour schemes and characters that fit it. Hero's Duty is designed as Halo styled FPS, Fix It Felix Jr. is designed as a Donkey Kong styles plat-former, and Sugar Rush is a candy coloured Mario Kart game, each having its own level of particular and intricate design, the movie never seems dull or boring. Each actor brings their own style of comedy into each of their characters and make them seem believable enough to make us love or hate them, Silverman and McBrayer bring their child-like innocence to their characters, Alan Tudyk does a fantastic job as an overzealous pun filled king of Sugar Rush, Jane lynch does her best as Hero Duty's commander, and John C Reilly brings his A-Game to make Ralph the lovable villain. Although certain character development seems forced and clichéd within Disney's standards, Wreck it Ralph is humanized by its characters, story and beautiful designs, to teach us the lessons of being ourselves.
An eccentric wife who's husband is on her death bed being helped by his nurse. A sex-self-help orator giving an interview and holding a seminar. A prodigy boy genius pushed by his father; a former prodigy genius, and a quiz show. A woman addicted to cocaine and one night stands, all trying to live their lives on a partly cloudy days in the San Fernando Valley and are all somehow connected to each other.
Magnolia has some of the best characters, with that some of the best acting, ever been put to film in history. The way that director/writer, Paul Thomas Anderson, guides them through a particular day, lets us understand the pain, joy, isolation and regret they are going through. Each character seems to have been layered so well and so mathematically, it is not hard love or hate them. A few stand out than others, but it all depends on the taste of the viewer and his or her personal problems get reflected by these characters.
Paul Thomas Anderson does an amazing job in keeping the movie lively, by using bright visuals and jazzy scores, he keeps the characters and story running through out even when it approaches the end, where what's happening on screen may not make sense, however due to the reassurance by the narrator, it does and it has a particular meaning. Characters who are constantly moving in and out of other's lives try to make sense of it all. Filled with loneliness, regret and general sadness, they manage to find some vague form, however much needed redemption
Often films like Take Shelter, which have a main character with visions of doom and disaster, give us the notion that the character is right and people around him are wrong. However Take Shelter does not take the route instead it leaves us to ponder and question the character and their intentions. Jeff Nichols knows just how to do that and uses Michael Shannon's amazing performance as a driving tool to look at a man's battle with himself.
Shannon plays Curtis who is suddenly plagued with visions of, gasoline like liquid falling from the sky and giant hurricanes approaching his small home and family. He soon believes the hallucinations and dreams to be visions, so he begins construction on an unfinished tornado shelter in his backyard for his family, who begin to question his intentions.
Take Shelter is a very well crafted film which is well carved by Jeff Nichols who uses beautiful imagery for Curtis's dreams, a haunting melodic score to accompany Michael Shannon's amazing central performance. A lot of the time you trust Curtis, you believe that these visions are more than just nightmare and panic endured visions, rather they could be his insecurities of losing his family or just his mother's schizophrenia creeping into his brain. Jeff Nichol also uses a clever trick of holding our suspension of disbelief of Michael's visions until the very end of them, giving us the time to re-evaluate the scenarios and the hidden meanings to each vision. A lot of the visions involve Curtis and his family more than anybody else which leaves us to wonder whether there's more to the visions than just the apocalypse.
Stunningly directed and well performed Shelter is a film that shows less but tells more about characters and leaves you on the edge of your seat.
Playing more with style rather than substance, Sexy Beast, plummets itself into mediocrity-at-best from beginning to end. Jonathan Glazer known for his work in music videos from bands such as Massive Attack, Radiohead, UNKLE, etc brings his hyper kinetic visual style, while putting plot, story, and interesting characters on the sidelines. Beast seems to drag on towards the end and is too busy looking in the mirror to realize that it's a non-coherent story muddled with bland, beside Don Logan, one dimensional characters. However Ben Kingsley shines as the borderline sociopath wreck of a human named Don Logan, but the shine only comes from being a diamond in the rut.
Out of the business for good Gary "Gal" Dove (Ray Winstone) enjoys sun baths beside by his swimming pool in his villa in Spain. His life is a happy one; he hangs out with his best buddies Aitch and Jackie spending time with them during barbeques, dinners, and hunting while his beloved wife DeeDee stands and smiles beside him. Soon Gal is pulled out of retirement by the ruthless psychopath Don Logan, who from a guy, who knows a guy, who knows another guy, scores a job only worthy enough for a criminal master such as Gal and himself.
Beast being a caper has one of the most original robberies ever put to film, however due to weak characters you never really care for what's happening on screen or whether or not the heist goes wrong or right. Ben Kingsley portrays Don Logan, the foul mouthed underworld recruiter, and he is the one of the two reason to actually watch this movie. He plays Logan with such tenacity and fiery rage it's hard not to hate him yet look away at the same time; it was shocking to see Gandhi break character and spew f-bomb after f-bomb. The second reason you (maybe) want to check out Beast is Jonathan Glazer's direction. He clearly knows what he is doing behind the camera, he knows what kind of film it deserves to be and it shows off, whether it be Gal's nightmares or the caper involving hazy blues, Glazer knows how to keep your attention.
Since Glazer's style and Kingsley's performance are the only features to watch Beast, they only show up in sudden and sporadic moments. Pacing and timing axe the film for growing organically or being a better film, at eighty nine minutes the film drags itself to the end line with absolutely zero pay off, the heist scene stays with the film for about a mere five minutes, while Kingsley stays on screen for twenty minutes. Glazer mishaps the pacing as it moves from slow to fast in an abrupt manner which hinders the flow and makes it noticeable, the rest of the cast (Winstone and Ian McShane) never seem to show more than the one side of their respective character and Glazer never makes the effort at even hinting subtlety. Indebted to it's, feel and look, and single performance Sexy Beast raises itself slightly above mediocre.