With much left to write to update my IMDB TOP 250 film challenge, I give you a few reviews of some of the films I have seen recently.
Moneyball (2011 – Bennett Miller): not being a fan of baseball in any way, I can say it is quite an accomplishment for a film that revolves around the sport to have captured my attention so deeply. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say it is the best performance of Brad Pitt’s career and I would go even further and say he is in my short list in the Best Actor category of 2011. I confidently state it because I could not imagine anyone else playing the part of Billy Bean, the former sporting director of the Oakland Athletics that significantly changed the philosophy on how to manage a major league baseball team.
The film’s script is smart, funny and carefully crafted. It provides a great portrait of Billy as a person, exploring not only his love and devotion for baseball, but his insecurities and deeply personal struggles. The cast around Brad Pitt is equally persuasive, with the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a standout in the role of manager of the Oakland A’s. The cinematography is equally impressive. Baseball fields are treated as temples that are to be admired, which also serve as catalysts to people’s hopes and fears.
Props go to Jonah Hill who was convincing as Brad’s geeky sidekick.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (excellent)
Like Crazy (2011- Drake Doremus): a touching romantic story that feels fresh and modern. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, two young up-and-coming actors, play Jacob and Anna, who fall madly in love with each other towards the end of their college experience. Their romance is tender and the chemistry is believable. Their performances are incredibly realistic, showing that improvisation can do wonders for a modest yet wonderfully crafted film.
If only their struggle was a bit more credible, the film would have soared to unimaginable heights.
Keep an eye on these two young actors, especially Felicity Jones who gives one of the best performances of the year.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (good)
Matchpoint (2005 – Woody Allen): heartthrob Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars alongside the beautiful Scarlett Johansson in this suspenseful and intriguing film by the everlasting Woody Allen. The performances are nuanced and effective, although the characters mostly remain mysterious and frustratingly misleading.
It was probably Woody Allen’s intention to make the film unreadable, almost impossible to dissect, especially in terms of what motivates his characters to do what they ultimately do. There was only one thing I took out that may be close to what the film intends to portray: people lie and love can often be mistaken for lust.
The film does suffer a bit from a lack of tempo, especially in the first half of its running time. The chemistry is not entirely convincing either, especially between the leads and supporting characters. Even the great Brian Cox remains pretty tame, stuck with a role that would be fitting of a lesser actor. However, the film does pick up enough towards the end with an aura of suspense that succeeds in making a tragic figure out of the rather unlikeable character played by Rhys Meyer.
Rating: 3 out of 5 (above average)
Horrible Bosses (2011 – Seth Gordon): an original comedy that is smart and funny enough to have kept me interested. However, it says a lot about the film that the supporting (more expensive) cast is much more entertaining than the leads. It is perhaps for this reason that the director lets them take over the film and the better parts of the script. Kevin Spacey is, as usual, a standout in the supporting role of the insufferable boss of Jason Bateman. Jennifer Aniston is surprisingly funny (and creepy) in the role of a sex-addict (not to say something else) dentist who harasses his dental assistant, played by the insufferably high-pitched Charlie Day. Last but not least a very un-handsome Colin Farrell who threatens to sink the company built by his father, played by Donald Sutherland, and his often unfunny right-hand played by Jason Sudeikis.
The film is unevenly funny and awkward throughout but, like I said, the supporting cast does wonders to keep it above mediocre status.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)
Immortals (2011 – Tarsem Singh): Visually this film does not have anything to envy to other contemporary fiction productions like 300 or Sin City. The special effects are wonderful and the artistry behind each scene is palpable. As it often goes though, the plot is thin, predictable and full of cliches. The people are either gorgeous, our hero and the Gods, or menacing-looking, Mickey Rourke and any other soldier. This, in turn, works to enhance the separation of those full of heroism and those who are not.
All in all, the story is not altogether bad and the excellent visuals do help us forget the mind-numbing dialogue.
Rating: 2.5 out 5 (average)
The offbeat and indie quality of this film reminds me a great deal of the overrated “Squid and the Whale” in the way it tries very hard to make a point or leave something of value on the viewer, but ultimately failing to do so. There is a certain awkwardness to almost every situation the characters are involved in that take the attention away from the story.
Jenna Fisher and her son have the only believable relationship in the film. It is no coincidence that the dramatic highs of their struggle, when they live through them one on one, is by far the best this movie has to offer.
Rating: 2 out 5 (mediocre)
More reviews will come in the coming days as I have several more films to analyze.