Sunday, December 29, 2013

Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

The absolute best film of 2013. A darkly comedic, downward spiral of a hot shot stock broker shown in graphic detail from start to finish.

Scorsese knocks it out of the park with his best film in years and his best collaboration with DiCaprio to date. The screenplay is sprawling and all encompassing but never falters.

Fantastic performances all around from Jonah Hill showing some great range to DiCaprio in his career best role, this film really has it all.

Wolf of Wall Street is three hours long but you'd never know it. Thanks to Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker's deft hand in the editing room this feels like a brisk hour and 45 minutes at the most.

I can't stop thinking about this film and I doubt I'll be able to stop for quite a while.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Movie Review: American Hustle

A phenomenal film featuring some of the best work of this cast's respective careers.

A beautifully crafted film from director David O. Russell with a sharp script and cinematography that's perfect.

As I stated before, the entire cast is aces, from Christian Bale in one of his most impressive roles yet to Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams both bringing their A games. There isn't a weak link to be found with this impressive group of actors.

One of the best films of 2013 and I wouldn't be surprised if it makes my top 3 when all is said and done.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Movie Review: The Last Stand

A fantastic modern western from director Kim Jee-Woon. The way he shoots an action scene is very impressive with every shot adding to the greater whole. I'm going to have to make a point of checking out his other work.

This has some fun characters as well with some charming performances from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Luis Guzman and Peter Stormare topping the list.

All in all it's great to have Arnold back as the focal point of an action movie again. I'm really looking forward to what he does next with his "comeback."

Movie Review: Elysium

Elysium was...good. Though it was entertaining to be sure, I wanted it to be so much more. Sadly, it was simply a highly entertaining sci-fi adventure. I'd still recommend it though.

A good film overall, but some of the characters, Copley and his henchmen mostly, were a bit much. I could've without the lecherous aspects.

Jodie Foster was truly surprising though. Personally I liked her "Ritzy" accent and would've liked to have seen more of her to be perfectly honest. She plays a delightfully wicked villain and I would love to see more of that from her.

In his two features so far, Blomkamp has yet to truly disappoint. Both District 9 and Elysium are fine films, though the latter is nowhere near as provocative or heartfelt as the former.

Side note, the dude knows how to design some insanely cool weapons.

Movie Review: Carrie

A thoroughly enjoyable remake of the DePalma classic.

Carrie, updated for the modern era, is quite entertaining for what it is, though we've seen it all before.

Major credit to Moretz and Judy Greer who shine in this film. Moretz's Carrie has a much less "Deer in Headlights" look than Sissy Spacek which definitely helps elevate her performance. Greer on the other hand is great as always, bringing a nice touch to the gym teacher.

Juliane Moore, while great as the troubled and fanatical Mrs. White doesn't soar as high as Piper Laurie did in the original film. Still she was impressive as the religious mother that the character calls for.

Some nice added touches from the novel also help lift this above most of the dreck of modern horror films. Sure it basically follows the book/original film, but there's enough here to keep it interesting. The introduction of cyber-bullying was an especially nice touch, helping sell the story to a modern audience.

I was never bored with this remake of Carrie, something I honestly can't say for most other modern remakes.

Movie Review: Scream

An undeniable classic and one of Wes Craven's best films, Scream was a welcome shot in the arm for the horror genre in the 90's.

The film has been spoiled and parodied to death so to go into the plot is moot. Needless to say, Craven is at the top of his game here, weaving tension and humor throughout each scene. The screenplay by Williamson is top-notch as well, if a little dated by today's standards, with vivid characters and believable situations abound.

Simply great stuff all around and a pure delight of a slasher film.

Movie Review: Alien

For years, this masterpiece has been trying to be my favorite film of all time, well tonight it finally happened. Sorry Ghostbusters.

Quite possibly Ridley Scott's best film and the reason he's my favorite filmmaker, Alien is a bonafide classic that holds up all these years after its release. Scott himself has called this his Haunted House movie and it has all the trappings of one. Dark locations, a mounting body count and an unrelenting villain in the form of H.R. Giger's beautiful creation, Alien is one of the best horror films ever made.

Everyone in this cast is pitch perfect, from Sigourney Weaver in her film debut to industry veterans like Ian Holm and John Hurt. They're just so good, you believe that they've actually worked on the Nostromo together for quite some time.

Scott knows how to pull off suspense and it shows. The scene with Dallas traversing the air-shafts is incredibly intense, almost too intense at times. Every scene could possibly be the best scene in the movie, from Kane finding the eggs to Brett's search for Jones the cat, there's never a dull moment.

Direction, editing, the score, set design, special effects, all are amazing and some of the best you're ever likely to see.

I'm not ashamed to say that this is my favorite film of all time, it's endlessly rewatchable and a high point for one of my favorite genres of film. A great horror film, a great slasher film and in the end, simply a great film overall.

Movie Review: Frances Ha

What a delightful little film. Having never seen any of Baumbach's other works, I can't comment on them but Frances Ha is one of the most charming films I've seen all year.

Greta Gerwig's lead performance was truly amazing, she plays such a great "poor thing," I just wanted to hug her every time something went wrong.

Fantastic music, stellar direction, believable down to earth performances and a good story make this one of the best films of 2013.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit- The Desolation of Smaug

An entertaining enough film bogged down by far too much unnecessary CGI and some pacing problems.

Peter Jackson returns with his second (!) Hobbit film and I dare say the cracks are starting to show. Myriad parts of Tolkien's appendices make an appearance here including the completely redundant fan-service of Legolas. 

McKellan is great yet again as Gandalf the Grey and Martin Freeman continues to put his own stamp on Bilbo, but when these two aren't on screen the film suffers for the most part. The other performances range from decent to mesmerizing but Jackson just can't seem to stay focused for very long. I found myself deathly bored for extended periods of the film which is something that rarely happens with this series. 

Those gripes aside, it was pretty enjoyable overall and I'll certainly buy it when released on home video, if just to complete the set. 

If you see this for one thing, see it for the titular dragon, Smaug. He truly is a sight to behold and in a film filled with overzealous CG effects, the work put into this beast is very effective. Smaug, like Gollum before, looks like a living breathing creature. So much so that I half-expected a "Dragon Wrangler" credit during the ending scrawl. 

If you're a fan of the series you're going to ignore all of my gripes and see it anyway, and who am I to stop you? It's an entertaining adventure for the most part just don't expect the heights of the original trilogy.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Movie Review: Only God Forgives

In his follow up to Drive, one of my favorite films, Refn takes a look at the seedy underbelly of Bangkok to mostly great results.

There's a serious dip in quality from Drive when it comes to the narrative but OGF is an exceptionally well photographed and acted film, even if Refn doesn't reach the heights of his past triumph. The real flaw here is the lack of characters you actually want to root for. These are some truly despicable humans on display.

Then again perhaps that's the point. Not every story needs to have characters you like or even respect for that matter, some people are just wretched and OGF is proof of that.

Gosling is great as usual, bringing his now trademark stare to almost every scene, even moreso than he did in Drive. It works here though, as the character of Julian seems off-kilter from the start, an aspect that becomes cemented once his domineering mother enters the film. Kristen Scott Thomas is completely insane in this film and it might be the best performance of the bunch. She's a cold, hard bitch who couldn't give two shakes what anyone thinks of her and even though she isn't likeable in the least, her command of the screen makes up for it.

This is a film where even the apparent good guy, a cop named Chang who wields a mean sword, is despicable in the way he goes about serving justice. Vithaya Pansringarm plays one tough dude who isn't afraid to beat you with his bare hands and then go out for a little karaoke. After the twisted nature of Thomas it was shocking to find that Chang might be just slightly more twisted.

This is a great film, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The cinematography is some of the most beautiful I've ever seen, which is striking with a story so dark and unsettling. Cliff Martinez returns for another round as Refn's composer and I would dare say that his score here is more impressive than his output for Drive. This is a loud film and a good set of speakers is highly recommended.

Is Only God Forgives better than Drive? No, of course not, very few things are, that's just science. Does it stand on its own? Certainly. This is a crazy film that only gets crazier the more you think about it.