Cheese lovers may appreciate the terrible acting, editing, sound mixing, cinematography, special effects, plot development, character development, general direction. They are all bad, in the same way that Birdemic is bad. This is clearly the work of an amateur. I forgive that much, especially since I find cheese to have great entertainment potential. I have a qualm, though. Whereas Birdemic pushes a vague environmentalist agenda that, if anything, has its heart in the right place, I am not sure where director-screenwriter-producer-main star Neil Breen (yeah, one of those) has his heart. Fateful Findings is a sci-fi-political thriller-romantic drama. You know how, say, The Room indulges fully in the melodrama of its corrupted love triangle? Wiseau clearly has a lot of heart in the pitfalls of his character's romantic life. Breen takes his character idly through everything that happens to him. Strange superpowers? Whatever. Government and corporate corruption? Of course. My wife is addicted to meds? Get over it. My best friend killed himself? Nah, that ain't him. And damn it, I will continue to defend Wiseau for his respect towards suicidal victims. Better saccharine than inconsequential. SPOIL--Fuck that. Not only does one major character kill herself (not the best friend, actually), but so do the entire "government" and leading corporate figures. So if everyone was incriminated, who brings the punishment? And Breen has no remorse, and truly believes he should not be held accountable for any of his actions. Birdemic cast had remorse for their evil gas-guzzling ways, The Room cast had remorse for their evil two-timing ways. If Fateful Findings were not so weird and entertainingly bad, I would deem this unwatchable to anyone who has the time to see literally anything else.
Character studies, within as close of an approximation to real life as drama allows, generally do not scream, "That's entertainment!" Everything that can count towards film quality will count -- cinematography, score, acting, dialogue, storytelling, lighting, editing. Thus, I would argue that the best character studies are generally better than the best of nearly all other genres. Of course, that comes with plenty of personal bias. I have trouble in enduring characters not worth my time learning about. Luckily, director-writer Kenneth Lonergan has created and developed a character who may be all too familiar to us somewhere in our personal lives, yet strangely absent in the realm of cinema. On the surface, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) may seem like a typical deadbeat father / husband / employee / friend / uncle / general member of society, treating everyone like crap and is forced to face the consequences of his actions. But Lee knows himself well enough, to understand that seeking redemption is futile. He made a grave mistake, and second chances won't prevent him from making the same mistake again. He won't ever forgive himself, even if everyone else does, and will simply do what he can to distract himself for however long he lives. Because he does not forgive himself for *SPOILER* neglecting a fire that ultimately killed all three of his children, he could not ever take the place of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) as the guardian of Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
I dig negative spaces. With Manchester by the Sea being the second Kenneth Lonergan film I have seen, I hail him as an artisan of the cinematic negative space. We can see connections develop and thoughts transmit through both what is said and what is not said. We fill in the blanks, based on both what is on the screen and what is not on the screen. Not just in one scene, but also in between scenes. That can apply to a whole plethora of directors, so I would also note something unique about Lonergan's style. I would not necessarily call him darkly humoured, but he does let sad jokes also stand as revealing moments for us to better understand the characters. Thus, you are free to laugh off whatever was said or done, or you can spend more time considering whom the person in question is. So, uh, I've seen two-thirds of Lonergan's entire filmography as director and writer, Margaret being the one film I missed. Looks like I am a fan. I'm not sure why Manchester by the Sea got some audience negativity for being slow. Maybe it really is too real for some viewers. Oh, well. Incidentally, I recommend this to anyone with a general appreciation for cinema, not to mention Massachusetts.
There is a time and place for cheap, but funny environmentalist satire. A giant monster movie seems perfectly fitting. Sure enough, without ever having to push an agenda on the audience, many of the jokes still linger. What I did not expect in the package was high tension, heartbreakingly sincere performances at the face of ridiculousness, a family in disarray we so long to see in both literal and figurative unity, clever editing, and -- for the lazy viewer -- a frightening monster. I went in as a cynic. 72% approval from RT audience: How could it be any more than a silly Korean horror flick? So much more, it turns out. Thanks, director and co-screenwriter Bong Joon-ho.
Rarely do animated children's movies challenge the moral core of its viewers, regardless of age. I mean, in its structure and jokes, Toy Story 3 is a movie primarily intended for children, starting around age 4 or 5. It's perfect for those with younger siblings in the age range of 1 to 3, or even remember daycare / preschool. And regarding the fate of all the characters, the heroes survive to a happy ending, the villains get their comeuppance, no character is left behind. I accept this fully from a children's movie, because, oh God, why should any child have to experience their beloved characters ultimately live in a cruel, miserable, unforgiving world? No, what Toy Story 3 wishes to teach is that there are cruel, miserable, unforgiving situations. Sure, you may be able to pull through as best as you can, but you must also accept whatever cards you are dealt with. That is shockingly mature for any film, let alone one with pull-string cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) and battery-operated astronaut Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) as the heroes.
Pixar has generally had a natural grasp in reappropriating familiar movie tropes for their own studio works. In the case of Toy Story 3, there are elaborate heists, noir-esque flashbacks, torture / brainwashing, loss of a loved one, loss in faith, star-crossed lovers, even a scene that switches between two settings to unveil some major corruption. That scene is also one of the funniest, because the toys are expecting the loving arms of preschoolers, only to be mutilated by senseless toddlers instead. For most viewers, however, the one scene that will stay with them is the gang slowly descending on garbage disposal towards a furnace, holding each other's hands as they wait for death. Pixar took a leap of faith in where kids, parents, and critics could meet, without sacrificing any group. They landed safely.
Bear with me, I shall compare this trilogy to Star Wars. The first movie established a premise, with flying colours despite, or perhaps because of, trope indulgences. They turn the tropes into something refreshing, much needed for their respective genres. The second movie uses what was great about the predecessor, for the creation of a cinematic masterpiece. The third movie finishes unfinished business, with satisfying results amid surprisingly weak moments. And much like Return of the Jedi, Before Midnight is the only film in the series that would struggle to stand on its own. The characters have grown older, wiser, and at the brink of midlife crises. A common theme in the trilogy is that Hawke and Delpy have open, non-judgmental, thought-provoking conversations, yet struggle to communicate how they feel in a direct manner. Before Midnight highlights the dark side to this. What if they actually need to be away from each other? More fruit for thought, only this time, it's at the expense of the same level of interest that was attained in previous movies. I don't believe it was bound to happen, but nevertheless, expect some of the usual relationship conflicts and miscommunication in most other romance films. Hawke and Delpy's commitment to their roles makes up for that greatly, and it's not that I don't believe the conflict on screen. Linklater's take on romance is refreshingly in touch with reality. I just had to make more of an effort to care, this time around.
A campy tale of revenge, with excellent kung fu choreography. The characters do a much better job at evading attacks than the morals do. Worth repeated watches? Absolutely. Nothing better than a monk butting his head and playing synthesizer with his eyes, while being the morally worst monk in all of Shaolin history.
One continuous shot is a technical challenge. One continuous time lapse is an artistic challenge. Linklater had hinted at this in the first of the series, Before Sunrise, but in Before Sunset, every minute is even more precious because it is perhaps all the time Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have to spend with each other. Before Sunrise was not missing much, but imagine if you had only watched the movie when it came out, then, nine years later without warning, a sequel comes out. It would be easy to idealize the happenings of the first movie, just so the second one seemed extra magical. And what's even more outstanding is how well, in fact much better, Before Sunset stands on its own. That's because the chemistry is not beholden to what happened nine years ago. It's still there, after all this time. It's more mature, too. They have real responsibilities now, and the consequences of their actions are much higher. With that, they find an easier time to laugh about the circumstances of the world and have more hope, though they certainly were not lacking those skills in their younger selves. Hawke and Delpy are also more self-aware here. And, perhaps most importantly, the two never once directly propose the idea of getting back together, or even sharing some physically romantic gesture. They only express such feelings through stories, dreams, songs. There's tension in what is unresolved, but is relieved by the calm in what has been resolved. This dichotomy means Before Sunset ultimately comes out as even better than Before Sunrise. I'm looking forward to the next (and perhaps final?) movie.
Past the nauseating cinematography that dates Jean-Pierre Jeunet's work more than he probably intended, he has an alluring weirdness that keeps me searching for content. The best content is in the weirdness itself, like the character introductions that inform us of their biggest likes and dislikes, or the mini-quests Amelie (Audrey Tautou) takes on to bring happiness to others -- identifying a man who frequently takes photos at booths around the city, finding the lost letters of a long lost love, shaping intent in the look of someone in a Renoir painting. Describing much of what literally happens is more delightful now than how I initially swallowed it, during the showing.
What I may not ever agree with is the character Amelie. Jean-Pierre Jeunet ultimately portrays her as a simple-minded young woman with creative spark in toying around with people, but lacking the vulnerability to reveal herself as the good doer. Overtime, she lacks fulfillment under the guise of a nobody, and, expressed through televised dream sequences, fears a short life of no one else appreciating what she has done in her life. These moments do not merely normalize her, but they humanize her. I had to clarify that because Jeunet's fears of normality sacrifice heart, which I had hoped this film would have an abundance of. Amelie's superiority complex is subtly deconstructed as she discovers love, but what is left standing strong is a lust for karma. Sometimes, it's as if she does not actually care how her human subjects respond to her deeds, especially her more vengeful acts. On top of that, I never quite understood her agenda. Do good for the world, piece by piece? Find love in some random guy with a neat photo album? Simply be? Reading from critics that this is Jeunet's most focused film, I'll accept the unwieldy attitude of Amelie, and hope I like it better overtime.
If there is any feeling that director-screenwriter Barry Jenkins captures masterfully -- I'm speaking mostly from an outsider perspective -- it's the feeling of your whole life moving far too quickly to recall anything other than the few moments when it all seemed to slow down. For better or worse. The characters under scrutiny are also a welcome change to the near-homogeneity of most contemporary films, not just with respect to white upper-middle class but also the tough/macho-by-social-law culture of black below-poverty-line class. Moonlight certainly has its important place in today's time. We'll see where Hollywood goes (or Barry Jenkins, for that matter), in ten years' time. As for the story itself, well, it's another coming-of-age, finding-yourself tale. The simple change in who is of focus makes this an especially durable piece of storytelling, not to mention remarkable pacing and structure. "Little" / Chiron / "Black" (the same person played by three different actors, all of whom deserve praise for their breakthrough performances) is soft at the core, and as he ages, we see how his environment forces him to build a cold, rough exterior when all he wants is to feel soft again with someone he loves. I would argue that Moonlight is undeniably beautiful, but then again, see the ~18% gap between critical favourability and audience favourability? The 18% will explain to you how the fact that Chiron is "too much of everything": black, poor, homosexual. And in come the accusations that Jenkins is trying too hard. To which I say, fuck you.
On Al Pacino's cocksure performance alone, Dog Day Afternoon is worth your time. As for how the real story of his character -- a mediocre bank robber turned local TV star of the day -- is told, picture a freshly sharpened knife being used over the course of several years, still sharp enough to cut but noticeably duller. Director Sidney Lumet and screenwriter Frank Pierson search to agree on a single point of view, as they examine different dimensions to the day-long tale. And in many isolated scenes, they really are on point when it comes to media scrutiny, crowd mentality, contemporary relations with authority figures, etc. Speaking of contemporary times, you gotta give some credit to the two for detailing a truthful relationship between Sonny (Pacino) and his to-be-transsexual wife Leon (Chris Sarandon). Sonny knows how to play a show, and so does Pacino. There is a catch to empathizing for Sonny, under Lumet's vision. By the ending, we lose some of the important context that Sonny and his partner Sal (John Cazale) have been holding several people as hostages for the entirety of the day, outright saying to each other that, if necessary, they are ready to kill. This is intentional for the final twist to come out of nowhere, and in its execution, a job well done. Who do I care about then? Hostages, certainly, I want them to be safe. The police, fuck them. The FBI, goddamn, fuck them! The bank robbers, um... They deserve punishment, but be easy on them...? A good true story to snag, with great dark humour bolstered by Pacino, but, if Lumet wanted to complete his analysis on small felony justice, he may have fared better by taking inspiration from the story instead.
When I watched the sole trailer for this movie, I initially lacked the motivation to watch what seemed like a good-natured, first-rate romantic comedy/drama. Then I noticed that there were sequels, which each take place about a decade after the previous movie. Better yet, they were actually filmed a decade later, to show how age has taken its toll on the two main people as accurately as possible. For those of you who heard of Boyhood, which spans 12 years of filmmaking, this type of project is nothing too weird for filmmaker Richard Linklater. The question is, past the gimmick of such a monumental project, how does one film hold up on its own? Pretty well, thankfully! The cinematography moves as gently and in the same direction as the characters' focus, throughout their day in Vienna together. The conflict is one that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy do their best to brush away, up until the very last scene, but I felt so invested in the chemistry between Hawke and Delpy that I never left the moment on the screen. Their love is quite mature and hip to modern politics, and only feels tied to a generation long gone when considering how useful cell phones would be for their situation. Pacing could feel slow for those who do not find either character especially charming; there is not a scene without them together in some way. Personally, much like Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally, I am so happy for their honest, happy-go-lucky, and vulnerable friendship that I sympathize for the romantic gaga they eventually have to face (while acknowledging it is gaga).
If Kenneth Lonergan were only a good director, I would still take away his finesse for economy. He seems to tell as little as he expects the audience needs to understand the characters' circumstances, emotions, and priorities. A challenge is appreciated. If Kenneth Lonergan were only a good screenwriter, I would still take away his craft for bringing natural lightness to situations, no matter how tough it gets for the characters at hand. In the case of You Can Count on Me, we get both strengths, plus an affecting relationship between two siblings, Sammy (Laura Linney) and Terry (Mark Ruffalo). Mature adult relationships between siblings is much rarer in cinema than I had realized, before watching this. I empathized greatly with both Sammy and Terry, who have very different views on family values and their relationship with the small town in which they grew up. Terry's current circumstances are much more mysterious than Sammy's, though, regardless of Lonergan's intentions, I was far more interested in what Sammy had been going through. I mean, Sammy had both a potential engagement with someone (Jon Tenney) and an affair with her boss (Matthew Broderick). Terry's freespiritedness was surely empathetic, much credit to Ruffalo for that, but there was little revealed of what he was actually doing. That is likely in Lonergan's intentions. Terry's behaviour may be his own way of dealing with his parents' freak accident death (first scene); it's not even that relevant to the core of the film -- how the characters move forward. No one acts hurtfully or spitefully, in response to a retrospective action. Everyone may do some coarse things in a moment, but they have a desire to hug it out, before it is too late.
Jordan Peele has it all: an effective premise, characters to care about, consistently funny dialogue, a strong underlying theme, and moments of extreme anxiety. Most horror films do not have that much going, so, for a first-time feature film, Get Out is especially impressive. Perhaps the horror itself is not too frightening upon full realization, but the presentation will be enough to give you the perspective of Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man about to visit his white girlfriend Rose's (Allison Williams) prestigious and even whiter family. Regarding the theme and premise, I do not feel fully comfortable in saying that Get Out offers Chris' full perspective. For Rose's family, it is not enough to welcome black people into their culture. They must literally be able to become black people. This film leaves quite an effective mark in contemporary American society, where many media outlets fail to integrate cultures in a respectful manner. Blatant white supremacy is a dying problem, but the secret supremacy lives on. That is what Rose's family represents, and we see Chris experiencing the extremities of feeling out of control, helpless to the strings of someone with more power, aggravated with how near impossible it seems to share compassion with the more privileged. Mainstream audiences are not often blessed with films like this. This is nice. Bonus points for an interracial sex scene (seriously, I cannot remember the last time I saw a black man and white woman have sex in a film that was not porn), as well as the comedic chops of Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, and LilRel Howery.
Solid adaptation of Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies." The Spierig brothers add enough material to justify the running length, which barely passes over an hour-and-a-half, without bogging down the brilliance of the original story. Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook do an excellent job in fleshing out their character(s) for the purpose of good cinema. The story itself may feel like a tool for the means of unveiling a science-fiction phenomenon, but I was still madly entertained by twist after twist after twist. I would recommend reading the story for the sake of subtlety, but I certainly would not discourage anyone from watching this.
A story of empathizing with others told with childlike imagination, which lends shapeshifting animation styles and amusing, sometimes expansive transmogrifications of everyday scenery. That same childlike imagination also lends some shallow themes, despite some delightful relationships among the likable characters. The old ways of teaching and raising children are simply scoffed, without any attempt to discern value from them, in favour of letting the kids roam rampant and learn on their own. Very weak. On top of that, while I had some fun in watching this as an adult, I could see my inner child finding this movie rather dull. I would have trouble appreciating the purposely dreary depiction of the real world, as well as the exaggerated horrors of a future reality. Alfredo Soderguit is on his way towards artistic maturity, but he will need a completely different screenplay before he reaches it.
Renowned robot maker Alex (Daniel Bruhl) is hired to create a robot boy, with the same playfulness of an actual child but with the danger level toned down, and he befriends the child of his two colleagues David and Lana (Alberto Ammann and Marta Etura), who proves herself to be an excellent, if not flawless, model for this robot. What can go wrong from here? A love trite-angle that a team of FOUR screenwriters said was a sensible inclusion. No, no, no. Despite this hackneyed trope's role in "developing" both plot and characters, it ultimately did not dampen the most affecting moments of the movie. Alex's character especially intrigued me, as such a heavily praised genius *SPOILERS* ends up being a monumental failure -- as an engineer, as a lover, and as a father. Kike Maillo's direction can be questionable at times, like following such a cluelessly intense opening with an hour and a half of nothing too crazy at all, and the writers missed out on great opportunities for establishing sub-themes in understanding the true nature of children. However, there are hardly any sub-plots, as Alex really is the central character in every scene; as a simple character study in a hardly compromised future, Eva succeeds.
What was once a simple coming-of-age story has been fortified as a chosen-one action flick -- still for kids, at that! And production did not accomplish this haphazardly. Not only is new actor Neel Sethi excellent in his CGI environment, but so too are seasoned actors like Bill Murray as Baloo the bear, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, and, most commendably, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, now one of the scariest villains I have ever seen in a children's movie. Having never seen The Life of Pi, I am in awe at how far CGI has come, and how director Jon Favreau uses this for a more primitive portrayal of the characters at hand. There may be law in the jungle, but when push comes to shove, we see the characters fight and move like the animals that they are. This is even more effective when they stop speaking English altogether, and instead call out through their native tongue. They even keep the Sherman Brothers songs, which, while standing out as the weakest components of the movie, will certainly delight both young kids and those who have fond memories of the 1967 Disney adaptation. So great, from start to finish. I look forward to seeing what Favreau does with The Lion King.
The sheer imagination, to make an animated documentary on the 1966 University of Texas Tower shooting with both real people interviewed about what happened to them firsthand and actors portraying their younger versions, reading precisely what the real people had said in interviews. Knowing little about the details of this incident, some contextual factors were interesting to pick up: how hot of a day it was -- so hot that anyone who laid on the campus pavement were at equal risk of overheat as getting sniped, the lack of police training in how to use a sniper, how involved a good samaritan was in silencing the shooter. By the way, they never show the shooter for most of the movie, until one victim looks at a picture of the shooter as a young boy and says she forgives him. That moment may give the best idea of how director Keith Matland wishes to describe the events. There is no preaching about how it could have been prevented or why someone would dare to commit such acts. Matland even skews this formula at the end, with a small clipshow of victims of other shootings. What is important to take away from this documentary is, even under a situation as extreme as this, you never have to feel alone in feeling helpless and hopeless. Nothing new, but always nice to hear again.
This movie really knew how to test my patience. There were many signs that this would be a formulaic rom-com with a cast far too good for the script. I turned out to be wrong. If I know of Simon Pegg's celebrity lifestyle, he is not one to take on a terrible script. Seeing that he was the male lead, I thought, "Okay, I may miss something, if I am not careful." Man Up is very straightforward in its purpose, but its purpose is rather uncommon. The premise is that Simon Pegg, a middle-aged recent divorcee, mistakes 34-year-old long-time single Lake Bell for a highly ambitious, city-loving 24-year-old, and Lake Bell plays along with it... Is that it? [SPOILER] Nope! Screenwriter Tess Morris throws a curveball by turning what most would write as the misunderstanding into a second part to the premise. Not too far into the date, Pegg finds out that Lake Bell was not his intended blind date, and that is when the film takes off. They soon discover how terrible of decisions they have been making, in the past day, week, year, and, through exposing their most vulnerable experiences, pass wisdom onto the other for long-term growth. All the while, slapstick, flame wars -- figuratively and literally -- and a stalker (Rory Kinnear) as the comic relief support the overly defensive chemistry between Pegg and Bell. Initially, they seemed too self-involved to connect on any deep level for the audience, but those scenes are meant to mask how horribly confused each of them are about their love lives. The real misunderstanding was much more plausible, given the circumstances, though I wish that director Ben Palmer picked up the pace when culminating to the inevitable ending. As the saying goes, the sum is better than the parts. Even if the presentation may appear formulaic, tropes are bound to come up. Bonus points for describing characters with current disconnection and a longing for connection to the mainstream world, and maybe one deduced point for not thinking of a title better than Man Up.