Drawing inspiration from Niccolò Machiavelli's "The Prince" and "Sun Tzu's The Art of War", THE classic, go-to books for strategists, be they salespeople, stockbrokers or sports coaches, "Changing the Game" finds the connection between the mean streets of Philly and the cutthroat world of Wall Street and spins a tale of a smart man's rise to the top of the ladder, achieving financial success with its share of intrigue, deception and danger, and tells it with a little bit of 80's flair. The acting's not going to set the world of fire, but the work of this certainly talented cast of unknowns is good and well-suited to the material. Tighter, seamless editing would've helped, as well as a more polished script, but all in all, "Changing the Game" is an interesting analogy between two worlds that seem different but are more alike than you might think.
Fascinating documentary about a field that, at first glance, doesn't seem very interesting (it is). The Cutting Edge demonstrates the importance of an editor, the unsung hero of the film industry, without overly glorifying the profession. Kathy Bates narrates and movie icons such as Spielberg, Scorsese, Tarantino, Jodie Foster and Sean Penn share their point of view. Goes to show that a documentary that's, in a very big way, educational, can also be very entertaining.
Even though the narrative builds momentum and the discoveries pop up slowly, the story is told in a very straightforward way, so it feels closer to journalism than to cinema. Director and "star" Renate Costa is not a particularly gifted filmmaker, but her take on the oppressive Stroessner regime in Paraguay and the way its witch-hunt for homosexuals affected (and continues to affect) her conservative family is engrossing enough.
Moneyball starts off a little rough but (and I never thought I'd say this) it improves significantly once Jonah Hill steps into the picture. From that point on, it's a fun, profoundly entertaining film that escapes the restraints of a "sports movie". I found it funny and moving and surprisingly engrossing, especially since I don't know the first thing about baseball (nor I care). Brad Pitt gives another winning performance (I dare you not to be touched as he listens to his daughter's singing), with extraordinary supporting work by Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman (another of the year's omnipresent thespians). The ending is as anticlimactic as they come, though.
Proof that you don't need dialog when your characters and their actions are interesting enough. Of course, there is pleasure in talky scenes à la Tarantino, but this Korean film, directed by Kim Ki-Duk, driven by body language and nuance, does so well without them. There are a few plot inconsistencies, but this near-silent drama (which surprisingly enough doesn't shy away from some light comedy) is still effective, thanks in part to Lee Seung-yeon's fierce performance.
Attack the Block is electric, youthful and brimming with energy. The alien design is a particular triumph. Sadly, its teen protagonists are obnoxious, dimwitted thugs, an unshakable fact that makes it hard to root for these kids and even harder to like this modern British offering. Jodie Whitaker plays Sam, the sole sympathetic character in the film. Continuing the 2010-2011 trend of predominantly electronic scores (The Social Network, Hanna, Drive, Contagion, among others), duo Basement Jaxx supplies the music for this action comedy. This, along with the quick pace and swift camerawork, makes Attack the Block sufficiently fun, but it would've been much more engrossing if we actually cared whether these idiots die or not.
An engrossing and powerful thriller, far scarier than the average horror flick, Contagion inspires real terror with a worldwide pandemic that's not too far from reality. The all-star cast is solid, with Jude Law, Matt Damon and Jennifer Ehle standing out. The electronic score by Cliff Martinez (Drive) goes perfectly with the somber tone and austere look of the movie. My only issue with the film is the pace. It flows at breakneck speed (for me at least; I've read comments saying it's unbearably slow) and it's nearly impossible to identify with the characters, especially those who drop like flies.
Howards End is so stunningly beautiful it's like looking at a 140-minute long postcard. It's also just as slow-paced, though. And quite talky. But watching these incredible characters talk, quarrel and love is what makes this film a pleasure. The cast is impeccable: Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, Vanessa Redgrave, Samuel West, Nicola Duffett and Anthony Hopkins deliver top-notch performances.
A Better Life is director Chris Weitz's (Twilight: New Moon; About a Boy) and writer Eric Eason's take on the life of illegal immigrants in Los Angeles, their work and the upbringing of their bicultural offspring. Weitz, an American with the smallest hint of Hispanic heritage (his grandmother was film actress Lupita Tovar), should be commended for turning in a realistic portrayal of Mexican people. The film's best asset, though, is DemiÃ¡n Bichir, a star in Mexico and part of an established acting dynasty. His slow-burning, understated, heart wrenching performance is already generating Oscar buzz. Breakthrough actor JosÃ (C) JuliÃ¡n provides great support as his volatile son.
A deserving preview to the massive amount of talent Christopher Nolan would display in the following years to this 1998 first work. Memento was his breakthrough and Following resembles that film's structure but in a simpler, much more modest way. Shot in 16mm and on a $6,000 budget, Following is tense, exciting and unpredictable, albeit a little short at just 69 minutes. Alex Haw and Lucy Russell are devilishly good in this neo-noir.
Everyone Says I Love You is one of those movies you can't help but fall in love with. This slightly farcical throwback to the old time musicals is impossibly charming. Everyone...is my favorite type of Allen movie: light, funny and warm. The Woody Allen we know and love plays the Woody Allen we know and love. Other standouts are the devilish Tim Roth, the sultry Drew Barrymore and the elegant Goldie Hawn. This film is the very definition of star-studded (the cast also features Natalie Portman, Edward Norton and Julia Roberts) and features some impressive cinematography, particularly in the breathtaking Parisian sequences. Everyone Says I Love You's main selling point are musical numbers by non-singing actors, which give the proceedings more of a down-to-earth feel.
As it says in the movie, "Ziegfeld never cared so much about villains, plot, stories. The Ziegfeld Follies was itself a story of an era". So, while it doesn't offer anything in terms of narrative, this is a priceless document that gathers some of the biggest stars of the 40's, luminaries who have become celluloid icons. Sadly, the real star power (Judy Garland, Gene Kelly) appears too late into the picture, after an hour and a half of random musical numbers, dance sequences and comedic skits. So much style and so little substance does get tiresome after a while and, while the film's visually dazzling, it's also unbearably campy and over-the-top. Of course it didn't seem that way 60 years ago, but some bits are incredibly racist and/or offensive. See only for Garland's "The Great Lady Has An Interview" number and the amazing pairing of two of dance's biggest legends, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire in "The Babbitt And The Bromide". Then again, you could watch those two clips on YouTube and save yourself the boredom.