Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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A tragic romance worthy of the dreary Russian classic novel.
Martha Fiennes' Onegin (1999) is a depressing and gray adaptation of Alexander Pushkin's verse novel Eugene Onegin (1833). Martha Fiennes brings this iconic Russian novel to life with a dark perspective and a subtle lens of the male and female gaze. Remi Adefarasin's cinematography captures period Russia with ornate, if dreary homes and desolate surroundings. Many shots with close-ups on characters' faces feel so revealing without a word needing to be said.
I do think this film goes on too long like it has a few too many scenes that could be the last shot. It elided much of the novel into a more succinct format, but it still could have told the same story in a shorter fashion. Jim Clark's editing is nice within each scene, but he needed to seriously trim the length of each shot. The pace is so languid, I can understand how many audience members were bored if they were not already invested in this tragic romance story
Pushkin's writing is as biting as ever. Unfortunately, the film loses much of his poetic verse language and phrasing, but his ideas are still present here. A cynical man getting rejected years after hurting the woman he loves is a timeless narrative and remains a brave conclusion. This is a romance drama, but the focus in on the negligent, cruel, and aloof Onegin.
Ralph Fiennes is excellent as Eugene Onegin. His carefree attitude and pessimistic tone reveals all his character's intentions. His thought pattern is evidently negative and his actions cruel. Fiennes portrays Onegin as a socialite out of boredom and mean spirited for the sake of it. Ralph Fiennes is simply marvelous in this tragic role.
Lastly, I really appreciated Liv Tyler's performance in Onegin. She is endearing and lovely, but genuinely captured the face of a woman whose love rejects her. Once she is devastated and free to marry another, Tyler acting just gets better and better. Her finale confrontation with Onegin is outstanding. When she reveals that Onegin was, "just too late," you seriously want to cry.
In short, Onegin is a solid romance drama with a crescendo of pain and unhappiness that is fascinating to watch unfold.
A thoroughly feminist film for the ages.
Ridley Scott's crime road trip movie Thelma & Louise (1991). It's a blast of energy and consequences. These two women take no nonsense from the various sleazy men they encounter. Thelma & Louise is certainly a feminist piece about women standing up for themselves and each other. I enjoyed the witty humor, good times, and exciting situations.
Ridley Scott's direction is a light touch allowing his actresses to lead from their enthralling dramatic and hilarious lead performances. Scott captures vast deserts and dusty towns alike with equal rustic realism. Adrian Biddle's cinematography is lovely and marks itself with an earnest focus on the leading ladies' faces. Hans Zimmer's score is fun and energizes the movie. The soundtrack is spirited and the theme song is killer. Whenever the Thelma & Louise melody starts playing, your blood starts pumping.
Susan Sarandon is a firebrand of a lead actress. Her Louise is a fierce leader of woman of action. Sarandon's tough girl persona melts as her has a soft spot for her friend Thelma and a pain when her traumatized past is brought up. Susan Sarandon deserves credit for molding Louise into her own brave and strong woman.
Geena Davis is so endearing as the often trampled upon Thelma. Davis starts out as a meek housewife afraid to stand up to her mean husband Darryl, played by the brilliantly cruel Christopher McDonald. Geena Davis is funny when she messes up, while heartbreaking as she is assaulted and taken advantage of time and again.
Harvel Keitel is great as the persevering detective Hal with good intentions. Michael Madsen is crude and rough as ever as Louise's boyfriend Jimmy. Lastly, Brad Pitt makes a memorable supporting cowboy. Though young, Pitt pulls off a convincing Southern accent, charming robber character named J.D. I'm sure girls will love his sweet persona and shirtless scenes. As a guy, I was more interested in how Pitt crafted a outwardly appealing character with two faces. He seemed so nice, but as Thelma & Louise tells you, men will only hurt women.
Though men are no good these these ladies, Thelma & Louise shine together as complex and nuanced cinematic women. I definitely recommend seeing Thelma & Louise.
Clint Eastwood's finest film is Mystic River.
Clint Eastwood's psychological mystery drama Mystic River (2003) is a harrowing journey of tragedy, trauma, and repression. Characters must deal with loss, grief, abuse, and accusations while under immense emotional pressure. Mystic River is honestly Eastwood's greatest film. He uses heavily nuanced storytelling to portray realistic people struggling with tremendous pain. Eastwood's direction just thrusts you right into the agony from childhood kidnapping to coping as an adult and brings Dennis Lehane's novel and Brian Helgeland's script to life. You are held in suspense on every word in each scene.
I love how Eastwood uses shadows and dark lighting to hide or obscure faces on purpose. The lighting gives Mystic River a neo-noir feel akin to Zodiac, Spotlight, or Se7en. You never feel safe or sure. The Boston backdrop always feels potentially dangerous and dark. The narrative builds off of clues that Eastwood gives you to figure out what has happened, but I doubt you'll figure out the full truth in time. Mystic River's finale is shocking and affecting. The twists and reveals never seem to stop until you are just emotionally drained. Eastwood's direction is creative and engaging, while the brutal story is relentless. Mystic River is really Eastwood's film as he even scored it with brooding, ominous music to accompany the darkness on screen.
Sean Penn is truly astounding in how moving his Jimmy character is at displaying profound loss and agony. Penn plays a father mourning for his murdered daughter, while hunting her killer. His screams of rage and sorrow during his discovery of her body are haunting. Penn gives such a subtle performance of foreboding frowns and knowing glares. He earned that Best Actor Oscar he received for Mystic River. On the same note, Laura Linney is excellent as his supportive wife Annabeth with a darker tendency to overlook Jimmy's violent fury.
Likewise, Tim Robbins is fascinating as a man, who experienced unimaginable childhood trauma, whose mind is deteriorating due to his inability to cope with what happened to him. Mystic River tackles childhood abuse with a careful and thoughtful perspective. It makes you feel like Robbins' character Dave is truly another victim in a long line of children taken advantage of by criminals. Robbins plays it cautious, anxious, frightened, confused, angry, and defeated as Dave. He is wonderful to watch, especially alongside Marcia Gay Harden as his sweet and devoted wife Celeste. She brings a warm chemistry with Tim Robbins that perfectly captures her character's timid nature and uncertain feelings.
Kevin Bacon is outstanding as a cop named Sean. His cold demeanor hides a layer of remorse and sympathy for his old friends played by Penn and Robbins. Bacon shines brightest in the end during a touching phone call from his estranged wife. Bacon pours on the nuance throughout Mystic River as he must cover his inner conflicted feelings of friendship and justice from his no nonsense partner Whitey, played by Laurence Fishburne.
Lastly, Mystic River features several cool cameos like Eli Wallach as the hilarious and surly shop keep. Emmy Rossum is lovely and endearing as the ill fated Katie. While she is on screen with Sean Penn, you really buy her as his daughter. Finally, Tom Guiry and Spencer Treat Clark as interesting as Katie's boyfriend and his mute brother, respectively.
In short, Mystic River is a numbing experience. You will feel assaulted by the sensory overload of apt casting, ambient scoring, complex acting, and riveting direction. Mystic River is a classic picture from Clint Eastwood.
A magical foray into adorable adventure brought to life with skillful stop motion!
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) is a masterful display of what clay animation can look like with fluid motion and expressive characters. Wallace is as quirky and charming as ever, Gromit is adorable and empathetic, and the rabbits are all cute. It's a wonderfully crafted film with heavy atmosphere and distinctly British humor. This film's clay animation is so riveting and engaging that you wonder why more filmmakers do not take up the challenge of stop motion movie making. It's tedious and slow work, but Wallace & Gromit are a peak in the art medium.
The clever script will have you laughing every few seconds with a Chesire grin plastered on your face the entire 94 minutes of Wallace & Gromit's latest journey. All the dialogue gets double meanings and visual gags to go along with the written jokes. I love how creative the shot choices are and how the directors bring characters a realistic expressiveness despite being clay.
The tone of this one is dark, yet fun and perfect for a family around Fall or Halloween. You get legitimately creepy nighttime sequences and neo-noir mystery elements that ground this story in a moody style. I have loved this film ever since I was young and it continues to bring me joy. I think it's sadly forgotten, but always respected once it's brought up.
Gromit is mute, so he never speaks, but you can always tell what he's thinking. This brilliant dog is a most admirable companion for the silly Wallace. Peter Sallis was born to voice Wallace with his gentle and upbeat vocal work as the titular hero as well as his counterpart rabbit Hutch. Ralph Fiennes is excellent as the pansy Lord Victor Quartermaine. Helena Bonham Carter is so lively and sweet as Lady Campanula Tottington. I also love Nicholas Smith as the Vicar Reverend Hedges. The voice cast for this film is all fitting of the goofy British common-folk and aristocracy.
See Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit for a delightful mystery and a good time!
An enchanting journey of survival and faith.
Ang Lee's Life of Pi (2012) takes you across the Pacific Ocean from India to Mexico and ends in Canada. It's an epic of breathtaking aquatic visuals from visionary director Ang Lee. Lee cleverly uses aspect ratio to fill up a screen full of seawater, stretch the image to allow flying fish to leap out at the viewer, and widen your horizons with a mesmerizing whale sequence. The whale encounter is definitely my favorite scene in Life of Pi.
Lee's CGI team really outdid Avatar in taking you somewhere. The deep blues and brights yellows really pop in Life of Pi. The ocean looks real as does the intricately detailed tiger. You see plenty of real animals in the beginning of Life of Pi and while you can slightly tell the tiger, Richard Parker, is fake, you are never pulled out of the film. The tiger moves and feels like a realistic animal struggling to survive just like the boy.
Suraj Sharma is a pretty good actor for making you care about him being lost at sea for a majority of the film. He is compelling as you see the fear stemmed inside him through his shocked eyes. Each movement feels deliberate from Sharma. Much like Lee's slower deliberate pace, Sharma makes you feel like you are stuck at sea with him.
I most appreciate Irrfan Khan as the narrator and the adult Pi. He is the moral and philosophical heart of Life of Pi. He presents you his character Pi's life story with a grounded emotional delivery. You are immediately invested in his life. While not all of the movie will hit you hard, Khan's portions always grip me with his serious and spiritual style. He poses an unforgettable question at the end of the film.
Rafe Spall is also a good framed narrative character. His author seeking a story gives the audience a way into the strange and magical tale being told to him.
Tabu is great as the mother of Pi, but she gets very little to do or say. Lee certainly underused her. I like Pi's father too, but some of the CGI around him early on looked pretty fake. You only ever notice the CGI when it's a stray fish that's too shiny or a person's face aged a certain amount of years. Lastly, Gerard Depardieu is in Life of Pi as a racist cook for some reason. He's terrible and bland like a parody of himself. No idea why Ang Lee wasted screen time on him. I think Lee needed to cut down Life of Pi by maybe 10 minutes or so as it does feel too long. I was captivated by the story and visuals the entire run-time, but it's slow pace wears you down after a bit.
Overall, Life of Pi is unlike other survival films. It's more emotional and beautiful than Castaway. It captures more grand natural storms than The Perfect Storm. It rivals the exotic spirit of The Adventures of Tintin. I'd also say Life of Pi took some of Scorsese's magical fantasy tone and style from Hugo and brought it a new life. Life of Pi is therefore similar to many movies, but a refreshing experience all its own. The visual stimulation is sure to entertain most audiences unless you just don't like tigers.