Saturday, 16 November 2013

No Country for Old Men Review

Well, it's been a while.  i haven't been watching a lot of movies lately because I have been engrossed in Breaking Bad and want to get through them before someone spoils the ending for me.  but when you're on a plane from Toronto to Regina, there's not a whole lot else to do and I had wanted to see this one for a long time.

It starts out really well.  It's a tremendously well acted movie with superior performances from Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem.  While it seems to move a bit slow, you don't seem to mind because the story is quite gripping and very well shot.  I can see why it won best directing.  But I don't quite understand why it won best picture.  It's moving a long quite well for most of it and then it just derails to an ending that really doesn't make a lot of sense.  It does have a philosophical air to it throughout so I can see what the Cohen brothers were going for.  But it was almost as if they realized they had two hours with no resolution so they just ended with some non-sensical soliloquy from one of the characters and fade to black.  After all, the Academy eats up that artsy crap; and it worked.  Not having read the novel, I can also only assume that is what they had to work with for the source material and probably stayed true to it.  Unfortunately, that works better in the written word than it does in film and I'm not sure why.

The bottom line is that I'm of two mids for this one.  On the one hand, the acting is great and the directing is superb.  On the other hand, a couple of twists send it spiralling into something they desperately try to save and, in my mind, fall short of doing so.  But, all in all, it isn't a waste of two hours.  See it.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Gravity Review

I'm glad they finally turned Space Oddity into a movie.

Seriously, though.  It's a good thing this movie is only 90 minutes long.  Otherwise I may have blacked out from not breathing.  It is absolutely riveting from the opening shot right until the end credits.  In a way, it reminded me of Buried.  You know, the movie where all it is is Ryan Reynolds in a coffin talking on a phone?  It's like that in the fact that, through the use of excellent acting and a great score, they make you feel like you're there with the characters.  Add in that they could do so much more with camera work and the 3D, and you feel what I can only imagine is close to the same helplessness in the void that Ryan Stone does.  I think it's the 3D that really puts it over the top though.  The movie obviously had to have a lot of CGI in it and it still felt so real.  I guess you can spend a lot on that when you only have two or three on screen actors in the whole thing.

The only beef I have with the film (and it's very minor) is that it beats you over the head with its metaphors and allegory.  It's an obvious tale of persistence and moving on through adversity shown in an extreme case.  There are moments where they move past subtlety and almost say to the audience, "get it?"  But by then, you're so engrossed in the visuals that you don't care.  There are also instances where I'm pretty sure they bent the laws of physics and ignored actual space travel protocols but I can live with that.  I'm no physicist or rocket scientist so I'll defer to their judgement on how far you can take artistic license.

Acting wise, it's very strong.  While it isn't either of their best performance, both Clooney and Bullock are above average.

Definitely see it.  If you suffer from motion sickness, maybe take some Gravol with you.  But don't let it stop you.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Art of the Steal Review

It's nice to see Canadian cinema making some real strides into the mainstream.  Many of the films that come out of Canada have this artsy vibe to them as if to say that we're either above making a Hollywood style movie or we're just not ready yet.  The Art of the Steal breaks away from that and proves that Canada can make a decent quality movie and make it distinctly Canadian and not one big stereotype of lumberjacks and maple syrup.

I'll start with the story.  It's a fairly basic heist movie that has a lot of the same elements of the Ocean's franchise.  There's a big score, a twist or two, and clever dialogue that keeps it light.  Unfortunately, the writing is a bit inconsistent as there are a few spots where it slows down quite a bit.  But, for the most part, the dialogue is engaging enough for a 90 minute movie.

The movie is also helped out by a very good cast.  Kurt Russell, Jay Baruchel and Matt Dillon are not the biggest stars in Hollywood but they are all competent at what they do.  It shows in this film.  They play off of each other very well and all seemed comfortable in their roles.  Even Baruchel who seemed comfortable playing someone who seemed to always be uncomfortable (which is his forte).  Baruchel steals every scene he's in and keeps the audience laughing throughout.  The same can be said for Jason Jones.  He provides terrific comic relief as the witless Interpol agent.

But what I liked the most was the feel of this movie.  It had a lot of bleak shots which is not surprising seeing as how it takes place in Canada and Detroit in the winter.  Rather than stylize the lives of the criminals and have them be these suave and cool people like Clooney and Pitt in the Ocean's movies, they made them out to be regular people.  While the story is a bit far fetched, it still felt real.

See it.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Great Gatsby Review

I read this book back in college but don't remember most of it.  Steph read it just recently and said that it was fairly similar to the movie.  I had forgotten that, on the surface, it is a basic tragic love triangle story as told by someone from outside of the web.  When you dig a bit deeper, it becomes about the dangers of excess and selling your soul.  I won't go into how I came to that conclusion because Baz Luhrmann hits you square in the face with it.  There is nothing subtle about this movie at all.  Sets, costumes, dialogue, scenes.  Everything is over-stylized to give the viewer a sense of over-extravagance.  Even the Valley of Ashes is so far on the other end of the spectrum that you can't wait for them to leave it.  I can see the need for some of that.  If over indulgence is a theme of the story, they need to translate it from the written word to the visual medium.  But Luhrmann went a bit overboard with it and it dominated the movie to the detriment of the rest of it.

That's what makes me a bit disappointed.  Even though the script was a bit campy in parts, all of the actors from the top billed right down to the bit parts did a very convincing job of delivering their lines.  Leonardo DiCaprio in particular was magnificent.  He seamlessly goes from happy party host to sinister villain to heartbroken lover and everything in between in a believable manner.  He is truly one of the best our generation has to offer.

If you like fantastic visuals that take you to a slightly different reality, this may be the movie for you.  Personally, I would have preferred a better balance but I still enjoyed it.  See it

Monday, 26 August 2013

The World's End Review

The third instalment of the "Cornetto Trilogy."  But it isn't really a trilogy because the three movies (this, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz) really have nothing to do with each other.  The stories are completely different and so are the characters.  In each of the three, you don't even have the actors playing similar roles to the others.  But they are a trilogy in styles.  There are similar jokes, shots and gags that run through all three.  But, most of all, they all place significance on seemingly insignificant things like colours, names, etc.  Because of that, these are more than just action comedies.  You really have to watch and pay attention to get the whole effect.

The World's End had a bit of a different feel than the others.  While there were some of the same gags, it felt more formulaic than the other two.  This is probably because the basis is a set out pub crawl that the characters have to wind their way through.  It made the flow seem a bit choppy and episodic.

But that is overshadowed by some very clever dialogue writing and superb acting.  The film is excellently cast with each of the five guys in the group playing the role that is perfect for them.  It was good to see Pegg as the clueless one and Frost as the level headed one in a bit of a switch.  Add in Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan and there is a terrific chemistry in virtually every interaction.  They keep it moving very fast with some superb comic timing.  They also do a terrific job of showing all of the characters' progression into a continuing state of drunkenness.

While it does feel different from the other two and has what seems to be a tacked on ending, it still entertains all the way through.  I laughed out loud a lot and it never felt forced.  It's another home run from what is, for my money, the funniest group the film industry has to offer right now.  See it.

Friday, 23 August 2013

RED 2 Review

I liked the first one.  The premise of quirky, past their prime spies running around and blowing stuff up while delivering witty dialogue appeals to me.  But, I knew when it was over that there would be a sequel and that it would be an ill-advised venture.  I was right.  This had all the potential to be quite good with a good cast.  But it ended up being very disappointing.

I've said before that a good sequel has to take the things that were successful in the first one and build on them.  After all, you should want to give people more of what they want.  It's what made The Empire Strikes Back better than Star Wars.  People wanted more Darth Vader so that's what they got.  In RED 2 I can see that they were trying to give us more of what made the first one good.  In RED, it was all John Malkovich.  He stole every scene and was hilarious.  They did give us more of him but his character went from being delightfully insane to just a bit quirky.  He still delivers it well but it isn't the same character that we wanted to see more of.  The same goes for Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker.  Their characters were off from what we saw before.  I'd say that Bruce Willis might be losing his edge but it only seems to happen in sequels (A Good Day to Die Hard, The Whole Ten Yards, etc.).  And Parker played inconsistently between sassy, badass, and demure.  It was just all over the map for both of them.

Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins both deliver but they could phone it in and still be the best thing on any screen.  Catherine Zeta Jones is what she is: very average in every way.  Finally, I liked Storm Shadow.  He fit the role quite well.

As for the plot, it is very thin and shallow.  There are no surprises and it's actually quite mundane and boring.  I guess a movie about retired spies would have to deal with digging up stuff from the past.  But Cold War grudges and such just aren't interesting any more; especially when you try to intertwine it with relationship therapy between Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker

Don't see it.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Man With One Red Shoe Review

If you want a fun little movie with a few laughs and that isn't difficult at all to follow, this is the movie for you.  It's the story of a guy who is unwittingly a pawn in a chess game between two rival CIA factions.  While the potential for a lot of twists and confusing turns is there, the film makers did a very good job of making sure that didn't happen.  in fact, it may have been too good because the movie is actually very shallow with little to no intrigue that a spy movie should have.

But this is, first and foremost, a comedy rather than a spy movie.  So ensuring that the intrigue is there is a much lower priority.  They focus on keeping it light and the result is some very funny bits with Tom Hanks being unaware of what is going on around him and the CIA agents suffering the consequences of his inadvertent bumbling around.  And Hanks plays this very well.  Even back in the 80s, he was a top actor.  Throughout this movie, his performance is stable and convincing even when his situations were not.  he is supported by a competent but not stellar cast that allows him to be the spotlight.

Like I said, it's pretty thin and there are a lot of holes and problems with the script.  But it is funny and only 1.5 hours long.  It's a fun diversion to turn your brain off.  See it.