Bad Boys for Life
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An instant Disney classic, that represents the good, old fashioned Disney values everyone grew up with. As Scott Foundas, from Variety, said about Saving Mr. Banks, "Somewhere, Uncle Walt is smiling."
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directional debut, "Don Jon," proves to be an original, smart, funny film, filled with spectacular performances from JGL, along with his talented co-stars, Scarlett Johansson, and Julianne Moore. The film provides a refreshing twist on the classic "finding the right girl," story, one that has been relatively overdone. Not only does Gordon-Levitt establish himself as one of the greatest young actors of this generation, he establishes his position in the industry as a funny, offbeat, but espeically, ballsy filmmaker. He takes on a subject few other directors would dare to even touch. Scarlett Johansson gives the performance of her career, she has truly never been better. Sure, the New York accent is a bit odd on Johansson, but she plays her character so well that eventaully, that thought just fades away. It's not a perfect film, but it definitely distorts your view of Gordon-Levitt (view being that you developed over seeing his other films, such as 500 Days of Summer, and 50/50). The situations are hilarious, and thanks to a smart script, also written by Gordon-Levitt, "Don Jon" proves to be a worthy directional debut for the multi talented actor/director.
After White Reindeer, I had the pleasure of attending a sold out showing for this film. And wow, am I impressed. It's a rather simplistic story, and I mean simplistic, not cliche. Those are not synonyms, well at least to me. First off, the acting is amongst some of the best I've seen at CIFF. I have no idea how old Sitthiphon Disamoe is, but he gives a killing performance. One that was better, to me, than some Hollywood actors have done in their career (not going to name names, but *cough cough* Ashton Kutcher). If you want an idea on what the feel of the movie is like, see "Journey From the Fall." Although "The Rocket" is Australian made, it is set in the Southeast Asian country of Laos, and the film itself has the feel of a Southeast Asian film. The shots are beautiful to look at, sometimes resembling the ones that everybody loved in Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line." To what level is the film predictable ? Only the ending. Which is a very satisfying ending, in the sense that there was no other way to end the film. The characters are loveable, especially the two lead child actors.
More about the cinematography, Kim Mordaunt does a great job of establishing them. There are a few long shots that are a bit blurry, but other than that, she does a great job of creating mood by simply choosing the right cinematography options. A clear example for people who have seen the film is the bat cave scene, wherein the woman professes Ahlo is a bad spirit. The close up, and focus on the shots was phenomenal, really capturing the raw emotion from both the actors. Along with that, the choice of lighting was great. In the last scene, I'm not sure whether or not it was intended, but there is a clear example of pathetic fallacy. I can't say anymore about the ending, or I may ruin the film people who haven't seen it. The script is magnificent, and hilarious. Mordaunt, who also wrote the film, does an excellent job in capturing the traditions and diligence in which they pursue their native traditions. The film switches from tears to laughs, without having the audience question the scenes they're laughing at.
Overall, the film is really about an underdog, but rather than taking to the basketball court, or the football field, the director takes us into the mountains of Laos. It's a classic twist to a rather overdone story. The director is able to capture the cultural background of the Laos people, and make a realistic situation out of it. Jordan Hoffman of Film.com stated "If you aren't moved by the "The Rocket" your heart is defective," and I completely agree with that. Rather, I would change "your heart is defective" to "you have no heart." It is a compassionate movie for the protagonist, but by no means is it a cliche story. One of the best movies I saw at CIFF by far, this and "Blue is the Warmest Color."
Wow. What is there to say about this film. There's definitely competition between this, and Loveless Zoritsa for the worst film I've seen this week. I mean, what is going on in this film ? Her husband dies and she cries once, and seems to be okay with it. I wanted depression ! I wanted something out of this film that would touch me on an emotional level; explain the sorrows of losing someone. But instead, she starts hanging out with the stripper, Autumn (who later you find out is named Fantasia, which really, isn't much better), whom her husband cheated on her with. Why ? I have no idea. Then, she turns to burning all the money she has on clothes, and Christmas decorations, doing loads of cocaine with Autumn and her friends, and eventually, going to a sex party. The acting is horrid, even from the lead actress. Autumn, especially, was horribly acted. It was like a job done by a high school student. Don't see this film, it will frustrate you. There's no logical sense in the movie. Worst of all are the scenes in which the women do cocaine, and there are just white lights flashing. No idea what the effect is meant to symbolize, but it irritates your eyes to the point that you can't look at the screen anymore. It's funny that I'm criticizing the film, because it was one of my most anticipated at the festival. It didn't turn out the way it's synopsis described it, not at all. So my recommendation is to stay away from this one, because it's one of the most bland, boring, and worst films I've ever had to witness.
At CIFF, I was informed that Bernardo Bertolucci directed this film in a wheelchair. As if the direction job wasn't hard enough, he had to do it with limited mobility. After nine years of inactivity, Bertolucci comes back with an honest, gripping look into the complications of family, and really, the dangers of drug addiction. Although it's a rather short look (103 minutes), Bertolucci loads the runtime with plenty of scenarios, never losing the attention of the audience. Would I have wanted this film to be a bit longer ? I would've loved to see what happens after that semi-ambiguous ending. Made from a very small budget, Bertolucci keeps the film predominantly within one setting, a basement where a 14 year old boy, and his stepsister spend a week. Does it reach the grandiose level that Bertolucci reached with "The Last Emperor" or "Last Tango in Paris?" Not a chance, but the thing is, I wasn't expecting it to be nearly as big as those movies. It's a bittersweet drama about growing up, and change; the metamorphosis of teenagers into adults. It's not a perfect film, by far, that's for sure, but it dwells into the emotions of the characters enough to get the viewer attached, and hooked onto the story. I saw somewhere, where someone said the characters aren't engaging. I'd have to disagree with that statement, because I was involved with these characters. I felt the guilt, the pain, the anguish: everything. This film is a character piece, and without engaging characters, it would be a near disaster for Bertolucci. The acting is magnificent, from, really, only two actors/actresses. The plot is simplistic, but doesn't fail to keep you engaged.
Wow. What a film. Honestly, I went into this expecting a sappy love story (which wouldn't be so bad, knowing Richard Curtis), but this film is so much more than that ... Rachel McAdams is the best I've ever seen her ... and the relatively new Domhnall Glesson is fantastic in the lead role of Tim Lake. It's beautifully shot, and surprisingly hilarious. I loved "Notting Hill," and "Love Actually," so it was only a matter of time before I fell in love with another one of Curtis's films. This man knows how to direct a movie, and he doesn't show any weakness here, for "About Time." Guilty pleasure in the realm of film? Undoubtedly all of Richard Curtis' films, especially this one, which I, despite the minor flaws, absolutely, and positively loved.