After a forced long hiatus, I’m back at blogging about some of my favorite things. In an effort to make this blog more representative of my interests, my monthly round-ups will now include short reviews of books read and videogames played (even if not completed) in addition to my usual run-down of films.
Below, the first part of a set of short reviews on anything I have had the pleasure to watch in the previous months.
BLUE JASMINE (2013) [3/5]
The awesome performances of Cate Blanchet and the rest of the cast does not save this film from its lack of heart, and unfunny dry humor.
Aside from the main character’s story arc, all of the complimentary storylines are explored perfunctorily. Certainly not the best film Woody Allen has had to offer in recent years.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET [3.5/5]
Scorcesse’s latest film about Jordan Belfort’s meteoric and chaotic rise in Wall Street overflows with ridiculous scenes and larger-than-life characters in a 180-minute ode to utter debauchery. For Scorsese, the film had to go big and never stop.
Leonardo Di Caprio‘s Belfort is yet another fine performance by the thespian, while Jonah Hill manages to upstage everyone in his best role yet as Belfort’s deranged sidekick and best friend Donnie Azoff.
Some very good sequences have the staple of old Scorcesse and a couple made my stomach churn with laughter. I just wish the film had been a bit more heartfelt, and as consistent as its better sequences throughout a very healthy running time.
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN [2/5]
It is a bit ridiculous to think that an armed airplane with North Korean pilots could ever infiltrate into Washington D.C. However, this is not a film that is high on details and one could not expect it to be so.
Olympus Has Fallen is your typical tongue-in-cheek action movie without much food for thought and an array of one-dimensional characters that belong at a comedy rather than an action film.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED [3/5]
An offbeat comedy with an interesting premise. Enjoyable if not remarkable. Nothing to write home about. The ending is sweet, though it did not surprise me all that much.
HER (2013) [4/5]
Great film by the genial Spike Jonze. Find my full review here.
PASSION (2012) [2/5]
What happened to Brian De Palma? Very little is left of the film maker who was a trend-setter with films like The Untouchables and Scarface, and who directed little known gems like Blow Out.
Though beautifully shot, Passion is a mess of a motion picture. The sequencing is odd. The acting is off-putting even though it features two very good leading ladies. I would be surprised to find a cinema buff who finds ways to defend this film.
NO (2013) [3/5]
Highly political film about the campaign that managed to overthrow the ruthless Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The film goes for realism, even if it only offers a very narrow picture of the whole situation. Some very decent acting, mostly coming from the always solid Gael Garcia Bernal.
The story develops almost casually, without much of the kind of passion and tension that the circumstances likely inspired. Can’t see it being worthwhile for those without an interest in South American politics.
DON JON [3/5]
An uneven yet decent debut for Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a director. The film is a caricature of a section of New Jersey’s image-obsessed, sex-crazed and emotionally immature youth made infamous as of recent by reality television.
A bit repetitive and unimaginative. Expected more.
A revealing documentary that opened my eyes to the despicable practice of having killer whales in captivity. Recommended to raise awareness about the issue. Not particularly remarkable as an art piece.
HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET [2/5]
A run-of-the-mill horror film with little imagination, a weak story and questionable acting. Jennifer Lawrence can and should do better.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY [3.5/5]
The return to the Middle Ages dragged a bit, and certainly lacked the emotional punch of the original trilogy, but it was nowhere near as disappointing as some made it out to be. Peter Jackson is still one of the very few capable of creating such a convincing and beautiful fantasy world.
THE LAST STAND [2.5/5]
Despite his old age, Arnold Swarzenegger refuses to let go of his action hero persona. With The Last Stand he pokes fun at his aging body and less-than-perfect physique while delivering a rather campy action film without much to offer in terms of over-the-top action scenes. However, fans (like myself) will love the last showdown, which is yet another demonstration that Arnold still has some of the athletic swag that once turned him into the world’s favorite action hero.
JACK REACHER [3.5/5]
An understated Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher, a peculiarly talented man whose rebellious demeanor goes at odds with his crime-solving good-hearted nature that he consciously tries to conceal.
There’s a level of darkness and polished precision to the film that makes it more effective than its less than stellar storyline. One of the better films Tom Cruise has been a part of in recent years.
Though the story drags out a bit and stalls in a couple of ocassions, director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) delivers a powerful film that remains suspenseful from beginning to end. In a rare dramatic role Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a distraught father who will go to extremes to find his daughter after she was mysteriously kidnapped. Investigating the case is detective Loki, played by a convincing Jake Gyllenhaal in one of his better performances to date as a dedicated policeman who splits his efforts between controlling a vigilante father and searching for clues of the kidnapping.
The ending was a little dissappointing and a bit too contrived, but Prisoners was edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART II …