Da 5 Bloods
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I May Destroy You
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Question: Have you ignored the consequences of your actions, especially when the initial result was so horrendous that you opted out and thought it was best to forget than face it? Burying the pain any way you can, you live a dark, disconnected existence that keeps you oblivious. Exile. However, if you believe in karma, your actions will be rebuked someday, when you probably least expect it, and you will finally be forced to lift the veil. The sight isn't pretty but once concessions are made the sun might shine again.
California Solo quietly tells the tale of a former Britpop band member, played by Robert Carlyle, whose unspeakable actions over a decade ago brought his life to a screeching halt. Most should recognize the Scottish actor from his roles in Trainspotting, 28 Weeks Later or The Full Monty, but Carlyle portrays a man far different from those famous characters.
Lachlan MacAldonich (Carlyle) is a deep character. His performance was touching, enigmatic and heartfelt. He's full of pain, regret and he can't seem give up the booze to look clearly at himself. The layers of this man were slowly exposed and left me with a quandary. In the beginning, he's just a farmer in southern California living a quiet life. Then he makes a stupid mistake and gets caught. Due to his current situation and past indiscretions, Lachlan is threatened with deportation back to Scotland. For the rest of the film his realities are revealed, smacked in his face actually, but he fights to continue his self-imposed exile.
The level of empathy for the middle-aged man started off strong because he seemed like loner happy just being quiet and left alone. Yet, as you discover more about him and his past you become unsure how to feel. In fact, I went back and forth on whether I felt sorry for him.
Marshall Lewy, the writer/director, had me trying to figure this character out, why his demons were so buried, and wondering about his desperation to not go back to the UK. The story is compelling, to say the least. I was almost hypnotized by Carlyle's character and his deep need to push back the demons that were obviously rising up. Lachlan didn't appear to have much to live for but get up, go to work, frequent the local bar and produce a podcast about dead rockers. Was that a good existence? For him it was, but it couldn't last forever as he soon found out.
There are a few other characters in California Solo played by A Martinez, Kathleen Wilhoite, Alexia Rasmussen, and Danny Masterson. These are the few people in Lachlan's life but kept at arm's length - some further than others. All did a fine job in this indie film but Carlyle is the one to watch.
California Solo is a film worth viewing. It is a haunting story that is a cautionary tale about accepting responsibilities for behaviors of the past. Hiding, sulking and ignorance will not heal the pain no matter how many years have come and gone.
Review: 8 out of 10
There once was a girl named Kate
One day she decided to tempt fate
A horror film lay ahead
Something she would usually dread.
The picture started
Heart began to race
Palms turned sweaty
But she knew she was in the ready.
A story unfolded with little surprise
Hopes of good began to disappear
No matter which direction it took
Disingenuous it felt and had no hook.
Lead by a female of great skill
Not even her masks could thrill.
A woman who is content to be childless
Becomes the heroine to the lost
Two little girls like to draw and squat
While the males served little purpose to the plot.
A ghostly mother who never forgets
Cannot forgive but protects
Living in walls and dreams
Emotions bent out of shape
The mother could not escape.
No matter how she rose, twisted or turned
Or how idiotic the story burned
Mama could not be feared.
Alas, for this gal, the tale would soon end
Because laughter became her friend
Del Toro had a good thought
But truth be told the director did not.
Happy is the day when the lights brightened
For now the tale of MAMA can be forgotten.
Review: 4 out of 10
Usually I start off my reviews with a question, but I can't quite think of one to hook you all. Rust and Bone is a drama and a romance but the haphazard storytelling made me question if I really liked the film, loved it or thought, at times, perhaps being a female from America I just don't get it. So I am confused.
The story is about two people who become connected in each other's lives. Both are experiencing low points and companionship appears to their best solution. Yes, it turns romantic but after completing the story, I am not sure it ended on a happy one. I should probably view this film again to write the review, but usually I don't do that. My gut reaction/opinion is usually pretty strong on a film with one viewing. So, I am not sure what is going on exactly.
I saw this in the theatre as it just opened up in the States. The cinema wasn't too crowded (although had one annoying patron loudly reacting from time to time) to distract me from the story. Reading subtitles was not a problem either, stayed with the story just fine. So, what's the issue?
Perhaps it was the storytelling and they way the director/screenwriter spun the tale that is making it difficult to write my typical review.
Marion Cotillard stars in this film. We have all seen her in a plethora of movies, both French and US , and she was fantastic in Rust and Bone as she always is in everything she touches. She played a far different character than I am accustomed to watching though but that's didn't throw off the film at all. Her skill is flawless in Rust and Bone but this character I could not figure out or know if I understood her completely. Again, I am not sure if it was the way she performed it or the way the story was told on the whole. Maybe I would have liked more of a background on her character - or maybe being left in the dark about the whole character was refreshing.
I do know I didn't care for the male lead, not the acting, but the person he portrayed. Matthias Schoenaerts was great but the character was one I could not empathize with or understand. Yes, he was good looking but he had a few too many faults that I just couldn't get past and couldn't fully grasp the attraction Marion Cotillard's character felt. But therein lies the rub: We can never fully explain why we fall in love with someone, AND no one is perfect; so why can't I just let go and let this fictional couple be? Is it because I am a woman and find the lead male unforgivable with some of his actions; or that I am an American and our sexual proclivities are viewed differently than European's?
See why I am at a loss?
I did enjoy the film; and being in this kind of flux about a story is a treat for me. Watching as many films as I do, sometimes I see a film, write about it and then forget it. Rust and Bone is lingering. That is a good thing even if feeling like I can't fully dissect, delve deep enough or comprehend certain aspects of this film might drive me a little nuts. Thinking about art is ALWAYS a good thing.
My recommendation is to see Rust and Bone, but by all means, do not read summaries of the film like the ones on IMDb or such. Those summaries almost dumb down the meaning or the essence of the story to make it a purely romantic one, and might lead you to believe it is one type of film. It is not - this film portrays a more authentic story with layers juxtaposed within that might make you question its intent. It was a surprise to me so let it be a surprise to you.
One last thing: Pay close attention to the narrator at the very end and what is said.
Review: 7 out of 10
Based on the short story by Craig Davidson. Rust and Bone: Stories
Question: Are you a fan of Jack Black? If so, you might want to check out Bernie. It came out last year. Many probably missed the theatrical release because it did not stay out for very long. What a pity since I think this may be Jack Black's best performance to date.
Jack Black is entertaining in everything he does: Tenacious D, his comedic roles and even his dramatic roles which there aren't many. He is a true original and has talent in abundance, but many only acquaint him with the sidekick comedic portrayals when his career started to take off.
We may all know him best as the short, over-weight Shallow Hal, the bombastic monk Nacho Libre, or the one-track-mind guitar player in The School of Rock once he started obtaining lead roles. His stint in King Kong was the closest to his most dramatic reach but the overall film was a mess that his performance was muddled and soon forgotten. However, I promise that you have never seen Jack Black quite this way as he portrays real-life Bernie Tiede.
The same director of Slacker, The School of Rock, Dazed and Confused, and Before Sunrise, Richard Linklater delved into this true tale from a different perspective - which is something he appears to do with all his films. His style of directing is so diverse that it's hard to pinpoint a "type" per se; except that he appears to tell stories about ordinary people in unique situations that other storytellers might not want to tackle.
Bernie is just such a story and was perfect for Linklater's filmmaker abilities. He even told this one differently than his past films with an almost documentary feel with interviews of (real) townspeople intermixed throughout the entire film. The story is based on a newspaper article from Texas that came out a few years back about a man, an assistant funeral director, who was probably the most respected man in town - with good reason - but who is arrested because of an unspeakable act. No one in the town wants to believe it except for the DA Danny Buck, played by Matthew McConaughy.
Jack Black's performance was stellar. Bernie was a very kind man; an overly generous person whose sole purpose in life was to make sure people felt comforted when bereaved or not alone when others may have stopped caring. Bernie was liked by all, and by Jack Black's portrayal, you can see why.
Bernie's kindness, however, was pushed to the edge and beyond when he befriended a mean, lonely widow played by Shirley MacClaine. Watching Jack Black play this relatively non-comedic character (Bernie is a black comedy) did take a few minutes to get used to. There was always that cusp of whether to laugh or not, but Linklater and Black kept it at a good balance without cheapening the quality of the character or going too cliché.
As you witness this man and what he is trying to do with his life, you are simply swept away by the performance. You will forget that he was the stoner brother of Colin Hanks, a Neil Diamond impersonator trying to save his friend or the goof-ball, record-store snob. Well done, Jack Black.
Review: 8 out of 10
Question: Do you think we give a director a pass if the film happens to be their swan song but know it's not as great as the critics are claiming? How many say yes? Or do you disagree? Personally, I feel that with Steven Soderbergh's film, Side Effects, that is probably what's happening with all the recent praise for his final film.
High hopes are usually made when anyone announces they are retiring especially when you know the person is too young, extremely talented, and many of their past films fill your favorite's lists. It's rather sad to think there will no longer be any more hours of enjoyment from the director of Out of Sight, Traffic, Eric Brockovich, and Ocean's 11 to name just a few of his well-beloved and critically acclaimed films. Also, just look up his resume, his hand was into everything from producing, writing, cinematography, editor, actor...etc...This filmmaker was so prolific, successful and filled with a talent that is so rare. It is then completely understandable the want/need to let a not-so-great story pass as a good one.
However, with all that said, Side Effects started off very well with a story-line that was fresh and extremely intriguing. Emily (Rooney Mara) is married to Martin (Channing Tatum) who has been in prison for four years for a white collar crime. They went from very wealthy to losing everything due to the husband's crime. Nonetheless, the couple remained faithfully in love. On the flip side, Emily suffered from depression and sought professional help from a psychiatrist (Catherine Zeta-Jones) with therapy sessions and medications during her husband's incarceration.
We start off the film following the couple trying to rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, Emily's depression is exasperated when her husband is finally released and each day it appears to worsen until she apparently can't take it anymore. Once again, Emily receives help from a new doctor (Jude Law). He, too, speaks with her in sessions and prescribes anti-depressants whose side effects are too cumbersome on her body and mind. This part of the film was thoroughly entertaining.
Then the so-called "twist" came after a tragedy happened apparently spurred on because of the latest medication Emily took. The side effects of the new meds were great for Emily, at first; but it also had terrible ones as well. Side Effects showed the aftermath of the tragedy, who was affected and who garnered the blame for it. Again, the story was totally gripping at this point.
Then the story began to lose its freshness. The rest of the film was bland, unoriginal and a cop-out. Since this is a thriller I won't go into any details. Plus, many will still probably enjoy Side Effects and all the duplicity that tries but fails (in my opinion) to keep the audience in the dark till the very end. Again, that may be due to the aforementioned swan song ethos.
Rooney Mara's performance was extremely believable as was Jude Law's. The other two main characters were weak but acceptable (Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones). Perhaps the level of focal points left on Emily and Dr. Banks' (Jude Law) plot-line did not allow the other's to step forward. However, the reason for the smoke and mirror façade of most thrillers is to force your eye to go elsewhere, anywhere other than the truth. For the first half of the film that was communicated very well thanks to the actors' abilities (and the director's). The second half, however, was too familiar of a story-line and any "tricks" used were lame or lazy. Disappointment soon became the best word to describe the film, sadly.
There are enough redeeming details in Side Effects to make it worthy of viewing. Just don't expect this to be the best Soderbergh film of his career.
Review: 6 out of 10
Side-note: I would the first half a 9 out of 10 but the second half paled in comparison.