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What's with all the slow paced movies lately? Foxcatcher, Ex Machina etc. Not complaining as such, I mean when they're done well you get a film like Zodiac or TV show like The Americans. Of course those sky quality examples and two of my favourite piece of entertainment. But like those two recent movies I named 'A Most Violent Year' utilises it's pacing well - to create a good but not great film.
There's something I'd like to put out their straight away that I found as I was watching this interesting. 'A Most Violent Year' isn't a gangster movie, I know it sounds like one it has the name even the trailer suggested so. But it does cleverly lull you into the thought of it. Set during the winter of 1981 'Abel' and wife 'Anna' have built an empire based on delivery of fuel, but things start to fall apart when their drivers become targets while the DA hits him with a legal case. It's a everything to shit for the immigrant wanting the American dream.
It's a calculating movie, It never really lets on Abel's dealings with the company to the full extent. There's a disconnection between him and the work with a gnawing feeling that he's been up to something - even if it isn't true. The problem is at times It holds too much back and the fact that we never learn about the guys taking the trucks is annoying. It's not as interesting as it thinks it is, the longer the film goes on the less the intrigue there is - until the end where it finishes on an open ended note.
Anne is a surprisingly refreshing wife character - when the usual would be the "I hate my husband and I yell' character. She has a voice and for once the male lead listens to her. I was expecting their marriage to disintegrate towards the end - a la Goodfellas.
Ultimately 'A Most Violent Year' is an interesting film that has a lot going for. It's paced well, well acted and dishes out it's info in a calculating way. The story of Abel and Anne feel like a real marriage which is more than can be said for likewise films. Unfortunately it feels a little more hollow the longer the film continues and some questions being left unanswered irked me a little, but it all pales as there's more than enough to like.
It's refreshing when a film leaves you at the perfect time, ending with no thoughts of it being too long or too short. Leaving the viewer at the right time isn't an easy task but 'Ex Machina' does that. Questions may have been raised but with the subject of the film that was to be expected. Tackling the idea of A.I in a realistic manner and with a simple calculative pacing 'Ex Machina' is a resounding success.
Right from the bat we're into the crux of the film, giving a small amount of back-story to 'Caleb' - we know he's won a competition and it has something to do with computing. But that's all we need to know, I feared the film would spend too much of the before rather than the main part. No such problem, Caleb is flown in to meet his elusive and genius employer and learns of his reasons for arrival - testing an A.I and to go beyond the Turing test. It's deftly paced and only hints at where it's going with constantly manipulative undertone. There's a constant feeling of unease and as the film unwinds the unease only continues while the mystery ramps up.
There's also a very clever moment (for me at least) involving something that thought would be the outcome. It teases it as a reveal but then quickly dashes it - eliciting a smile from me. It's almost as if they knew that would be a direction people would see it going and had the confidence to say no well before the end. The visuals are strikingly beautiful, sterile and bleak thanks to the cold look of the buildings and the oddly bleak surroundings in the middle of nowhere. Ava the A.I ,'Alicia Vikander', her genius creator 'Nathan', 'Oscar Issacs' and the nervy 'Caleb', 'Domhall Gleeson' are practically the only players here and are all in great form - leading to never know where the film is going.
'Ex Machina' can joining the privileged few of smart and thoughtful sci-fi films. One of only a handful of films in the last 5 years that doesn't end to soon or go on too long. Its characters allude the possibility that creating an A.I may be the end of the humans - and we'd appear as Neanderthals to them. Wonderfully acted by all, focused and tense throughout and ends on a ever so slightly scary note that is all too expected. Surely one of the best films of 2015 already, in the so far short year.
I think saying this film has been badly reviewed is an understatement. Described often as unfunny, overly strange and strange...again. And while I wouldn't be adverse to those descriptions as they're mostly accurate, Iv'e got say I sort of enjoyed 'Mortdecai' - I by no means loved it nor would I say I 'liked' it. However I think in its currently short lived infamy that infamy is a little unwarranted.
'Mortdecai' is an art dealer slash con artist whose large estate and contained family riches are under threat when he owes $8 million in taxes. He ends up involved with an Mi5 operation to get back a painting rumoured to have a bank code on the back to millions. I think quirky wouldn't quite cut it, cartoonish and wacky are more accurate. And that's what I enjoyed about it. The cartoonish altercations ridiculous dialogue and over the top globe trotting as well as Depp's over acting made it a worthwhile watch. Mortdecai takes us from the UK to Russia, America and Hong Kong - it tries to be a caper with a funny edge but it doesn't quite come off. Mortdecai being a rich Englishman talks with an authoritative accuracy of the English language, Depp's exuberance is what makes the characters caricature like personality work for me.
I can't work out whether I liked Depp's performance because he's good or because it's a cartoon-like overacting. He's incapable of doing anything himself and relies entirely on his man servant, his wife is as expected the 'all together' one and teh least interesting thing in the entire film. It's its colour and stupidity that kept my attention. The humour or should I said attempted humour is largely wanting and the story is a constant flat-line that is never rescued. Which is irritating because the characters and premise has massive potential for consistent laughs and should be described as a globe trotting romp rather what it actually is.
Sure I can see the reason 'Mortdecai' was a failure but part of that is the reason why I enjoyed some of it. It's stupid and over the top central character is either going to annoy or interest - and for me it was the later. With a few more changes and a better grasp on what it thinks is funnier and it's a great film. But ifs and maybes aren't of any use when it's already out there. Chalk my like of this too one of those universe mysteries if you like as I suspect most will be confused.
Having a true story doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to personally connect with it, however, shall we say real and as close to normal as it is. 'Wild' is an interesting true story in that it's not out of the realms of possibility that this could happen to someone - or something similar. Neither does the lack of shock and awe that true stories tend to grab audiences with make it any less interesting. Sometimes a story with normal things (well relatively) happening to normal things resulting in something normal makes for good stories.
Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl a women who's marriage fell apart and mother has died. Sick of her own reckless and selfish behaviour she decides to walk the pacific crest trail alone to get her self back to the women her mother raised. The film follows Cheryl on the trail with flashbacks dispersed throughout as she remembers why she's doing the walk. I wasn't at first sure whether the flashbacks were in chronological order they seemed a little erratic to beginning with but they settle after some time. I didn't care much for the flashbacks as at around the halfway point they become a nuance when it was obvious a while ago what had happened and her reason for doing the trail.
No what grabbed my attention was the landscape and the people Cheryl encounters on the way. No one stays too long and the writer knows when to inject some humour to prevent it from being a bleak affair at times. All helped by a great performance from 'Reese Witherspoon', shining even more in the awkward and sad encounters. At times it may have lost my interest but it wasn't long before it brought it back.
I think I'll have to see it again at some point as I get the feeling my initial reaction my be a tad unkind. But that's what it is right now. Wild is a good film with an excellent central performance from Reese. Cheryl no only has a interesting life she also meets interesting people. But that's the story it was interesting to me not captivating, not fully engrossing. There a touch too many flashbacks for me creating a stutter in the pacing as well as an ending that's a little too brief for my liking. Still there's a lot to like and the trail she hikes is beautiful, I highly recommend this despite the score, the personal story didn't grab me but It might you.
Adapting a classic (in this case musical) is always going to be a tall order, even with an excellent foundation that doesn't mean anything. (Look at the long line of mostly horrible Great Gatsby film adaptation over the years). Also me having a generally unenthusiastic view point on musicals also doesn't help either. But I was unusually optimistic about this one. A great cast, a series of classic fairy-tales from the Brothers Grimm and all intertwined together too boot. Unfortunately I did not enjoy this all that much - however much I want to like a film doesn't matter. if, well I don't like it.
'Into the Woods' is a musical that weaves 'Little Red Riding Hood', 'Cinderella', 'Jack and The Beanstalk' and a number of others together - centring on the woods. All are tied by the original story of a baker and his wife's attempt to lift a curse and have a child of their own. It's a great idea visually looks wonderful and backed up a set of great performances. It's just all too much of a slog. The final third really drags the film down and the whole film lacks a 'Let It Go' level song. And for a musical that's not good, beyond 2 songs they were all forgettable. There was to many times I wanted a song to just end, overstaying it's welcome whether or not the singing in itself is good makes no difference - they felt monotonous.
The set design and costume design are rightfully been lauded and so are most of performances. And it's certainly a film that begs to be liked but I just can't, hearing about 'Jack' going up the beanstalk as oppose to seeing isn't the same. The story and characters do things and say things that was pleasantly surprising at times and after a mostly rocky start it started to pick up, but there was a point when it should of stopped - before the giant came as beyond a solid song where they blame each other it's all down hill from there.
As I said this film does so much right, it looks great, it has a great balance in the bleakness of the story and the way everything is centred on the woods is good. But there's just too much of it and no amount of likeability is going to save it. The songs are a slog and there's a final part that appears to be taped on rather than feeling apart of the rest of the film. At times I was enjoying it, sometimes I wasn't in the end the bad won out - and that's disappointing.