Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

Happy 2018! Monthly recap: November & December films (part 1)

In Chicago we welcomed the new year like most years: wishing we could hibernate to keep our core body heat at a reliable level. It has been absurdly cold for the better part of 3 weeks now, with frigid winds blowing from the northwest through Christmas and New Years Eve.

The marriage of free time, the holidays and freezing weather did allow for some productive film watching though. Thanks to a very productive December, I reached and surpassed a goal I had set for myself at the beginning of 2017: to watch at least 120 films, or the equivalent of 10 per month. At the end, I reached 124, which improves my 2016 tally by 18 films.

Without further ado, I give you my thoughts on all of the new films I have seen since November 1st. To keep it manageable, I will break my monthly recap in two parts in the order in which the films were seen. You’ll find part 2 posted in a couple of days.

WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY (2017) [ 2.5/5 ]

7 days and 7 sisters named after each day of the week, all identical twins, all played by Noomi Rapace sporting different clothes, hairdos and personalities. They all live secluded in an apartment on an alternate future where overpopulation has forced the hand of those in power to enforce a strict one-child rule that, should it be broken, will see any younger sibling sent to a less than auspicious cryogenic sleep bank.

I have several issues with the film, too many to number them all here. Chief among them is that it never becomes about anything other than escaping death for each of the siblings after being caught living under a seemingly perfect disguise. We don’t end up caring for any of them, since they’re even hard to differentiate, so the film just felt like a series of sequences where things blew up and people got hurt. A disappointment.

13TH (2016) [ 4/5 ]

As a liberal with some moderate socio-economic views, I found some of what 13th argues somewhat impeachable. Agree or not, 13th is a point of view, a justified and tragic one that deserves sociological and political study and attention.

Leaving politics aside, the cinematic journey Ava DeVurney’s takes us in is a powerfully constructed account of pervasive racism in the United States in the 20th and 21st century.

Beyond Ava’s impeccable construction, there is nothing particularly original about her presentation. To watch 13th, however, is to understand this is not an experimentation in filmmaking, but a crystalline distillation of a long list of African American tragedies and grievances.

COLOSSAL (2016) [ 3/5 ]

Nacho Vigalondo’s film is surprising in that it uses a completely bonkers and silly idea to dramatic effect. I enjoyed Colossal’s underlying message of female reassertion and empowerment, but I found myself questioning a few of the film’s choices along the way. I was also unimpressed at some of the details, like the weak creature design, or the inconsistent rules that governed the fantastical aspects of the film.

BECOMING ZLATAN [ 3.5/5 ]

The film is a series of interviews and recordings, of which there are many, focusing on the early years of one of world football’s best players: Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

This documentary takes us back to his humble and simple beginnings as a teenager playing in Sweden for his hometown team, and then moving on to a much bigger stage, as the main attacker in the talent-rich Ajax of Amsterdam. The film is effective in showing a very human side of Zlatan, with all of his swagger and confidence, but also with the kind of humility of purpose that is much less discussed and that is common to find in almost every great athlete.

At the end, what I took away were the struggles that come with being in the spotlight, especially if you are a young adult trying to rise to meet your true potential while the world watches.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017) [ 3/5 ]

A lush and overabundant remake directed without reservations by Sir Kenneth Branagh. The film rehashes the classic Agatha Christie murder mystery with a remarkable cast that is, in many ways, the equivalent in popular appeal to the original cast from the 1970s film. Aside from an improved Hercule Poirot, Branagh’s direction is too neat and too polished, always opting for the grand and unnecessary gesture, making changes to the original film that feel void of value.

SEXO, PUDOR Y LAGRIMAS (1999) [ 3.5/5 ]

As I said in my “recap of 2017” post, this film relishes every opportunity to be irreverent, bold and sexy, all in the service of comedy. At the end, I felt amused, even if not entirely convinced about the artistic merits of the film.

3 BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017) [ 4/5 ]

3 Billboards manages the great feat of being both hilarious and emotionally poignant, often jumping between the two with great ease. Tonally, it covers a lot of ground. It is about female empowerment, about Americans’ terse relationship with police and about small town people dealing with issues in a small town way.

Frances McDormand kicks ass. Lucas Hedges makes the most out of his small role. Woody Harrelson is as solid as ever. Peter Dinklage shares some of the best scenes and steals them all; and Sam Rockwell delivers one of the best performances of his chameleonic career.

THE RED TURTLE (2016) [ 4/5 ]

A beautifully poetic animated film from the great minds of Studio Ghibli. It is mostly a silent piece, that relies on music, on a simple yet evocative animation style and on a universal human story to leave a lasting impression.

It is a film about choosing love and family over the mundane. It is also about learning to be one with nature and basking in its glory. A unique work of art.

CARS 2 (2011) [ 3/5 ]

In the back of the humility and simplicity of The Red Turtle, Pixar’s second iteration of Cars felt like the capitalistic and overabundant response for the new millennium. It is, more than any other Pixar film I have seen, the busiest, loudest and least original of all of the studio’s creations. It borrows a great deal from action movies, and while some of it offers great popcorn entertainment, I found it hard to follow the story and root for anyone in particular.

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (1983) [4/5]

Perhaps the best blindspot I managed to watch in 2017. Terms of Endearment is a film about family and love that centers on the peculiar dynamic between a mother and her daughter, and the men in their lives. Though it starts as a dark comedy that seems to try too hard to be hip and funny, the film slowly finds its footing, eventually arriving at a moving last act that makes everything that came before worthwhile.

The Best Films of 2011 (updated)

It comes 10 months into 2012 but, for the first time, I am confident enough to make my own list of the “best” films of 2011.

Imagine how important it was for me to wait until now to publish this list, that the film that eventually ends up at the top is one that I only managed to watch 3 weeks ago. Without it, this list would have been a crime against my own taste.

Instead of giving you a top 10 or a top 20, I simply give you a run-down of all of the films that received, at the very least, a 4/5 (very good) in my rating system. The result is that there are 17 films out of the almost 100 films from 2011 that I managed to watch, 11 of which received a 4/5, five films received a 4.5/5 and only one received the very rare 5/5.

Despite still missing some highly praised films released the previous solar year (it is impossible to cover them all), I now give you my favorite films of 2011 (and why they are) when we are already in October 2012:

Continue reading The Best Films of 2011 (updated)

2011: a horrible year for movies and for my pocket (so far)


I have seen around 13 movies released in 2011 and the verdict is in: 2 in 13 movies are great, another 3 are good enough to satisfy and the other 8 are either okay, not good enough or god-damn awful.

These are statistics, for as poor as they may seem, that are probably too flattering for the movie industry. Once you consider the fact that I tend to avoid films that seem a complete waste of my time (for audiences and critics alike), then you realize that even after you try to be selective, Hollywood makes sure that you’ll end up regretting your decision to sit and watch a movie.

Due to the unstoppable decay in the quality of films Hollywood puts out and my limited movie-goer budget, I have only sat in front of a big theater screen 6 times this year, spending around 6$ every time (and that is after a 5$ discount I get). The rest of the films released in 2011 I have rented, mostly from RedBox, which is where I have found the true garbage of Hollywood due to the tempting 1$ per night deal.

For my IMDB challenge, I usually resort to Netflix in the form of their instant online offerings or the one-at-a-time USPS movie rental that costs me 8.99 $ a month.

All in all, I probably spend 17 to 20 dollars a month in movies (monthly Netflix at 8.99$ + RedBox at 1$ for 2 to 4 movies a month + Movie Theater at 6$ for one film per month). The number goes up to around 105 to 120 $ for the first six months of the year. However, these numbers tend to be considerably higher as the movie offerings in the summer (blockbuster season) and Christmas (Oscar-worthy season) seem more appetizing and I find myself in the theater a bit more often.

Here is a quick recount of the movies I have seen this year starting from the worst and leaving the best for last (I may be missing one or two forgettable films). This could get long, so bear with me.

Just Go With It (Redbox rental – 1$): out the window goes my so-called “selective” nature on a night of boredom. Mind you, I would never pay to go into a movie theater if I see the name “Adam Sandler” associated with a film at any level. His movies have gone from the somewhat bad (earlier in his career) to the disgraceful status as of late. That his films do well at the box office is yet another testament to the poor taste of the average movie-goer (who is not to be confused with the avid movie-connoisseur). In any case, Sandler and his co-star Jennifer Anniston match perfectly in making horrible cinema with dumb-down plots, unfunny jokes, poor acting and a complete lack in making works or art.

Rating: 1 out of 5 (horrible)

I am Number Four (Redbox rental – 1$): In this case I was searching for a guilty-pleasure type movie and what I found was yet another mediocre film filled with gorgeous young Hollywood characters (not to say actors). Number Four is mildly entertaining here and there, but the concept is poor (not to say stupid), the effects are not convincing (not to say stupid), the acting is flat (not to say awful), the dialogue is pedestrian (not to say stupid) and the plot is a bunch of stuff put together by the minds of one or two nerds without much imagination and nothing better do.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 (very bad)

The Roommate (Redbox rental – 1$): some of you might have started to notice a pattern. Most of the movies that seem to be falling in the bad category come directly from RedBox and its tempting 1$ rental scheme. The Roommate starring Minka Kelly and Gossip-girl turned movie star Leighton Meester is wildly uncreative. I mean, how many times do we have to see films of young women going psycho-stalker for love, for acceptance or for friendship? There are elements that are acceptable in this film, like the explosions of violence and sexuality convincingly displayed by Meester. Besides all that, the cast surrounding the famous Gossip girl is flat-out awful, only servicing the film with their pretty faces and youthful exuberance.

Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)

The Green Hornet (Redbox rental – 1$): Another comedy by a slimmed-down Seth Rogen on a remake of the tv series that famously starred Bruce Lee as Kato, now played by Jay Chou. The biggest pleasure we can find in this movie is not in the dumb-down storyline and lackluster performances of big names like Cameron Diaz, but rather on the larger-than life role of the fabulous Christoph Waltz as the evil Chudnofsky. Everything else about this film is subpar and it would also be a waste of time to tell you precisely why that is.

Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)

Little Fockers (Redbox – 1$): The third installment of the famous pairing of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. All of the joys of the first two are now reused in this one with a bit less of the disaster-prone quality of Stiller and more of the obnoxious paranoia of an increasingly unlikable Jack (De Niro’s character). What seemed like comedic before, now seems repetitive and not very funny. The script seems to have been put together in about 5 seconds in detriment of less screen time for the always entertaining Barbra Streissand and Dustin Hoffman.

Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)

Paul (Theater – 6$): It seemed like a risk to watch a movie about a rather common-looking Alien with human-like demeanor voiced by Seth Rogen. The risk proved true at times, but not at others. It is really not Rogen’s fault that he’s been so overexposed (although he should start saying no to scripts) instead it is a far too common problem in Hollywood to cash in on once cool and different actors/comedians and shove them down audiences throats so often that the effectiveness of films like Paul is significantly reduced. As for everything else, the movie resorted to the typical formula of road trip buddy type movie but with a slightly more nerdy, awkward and British pairing than we are used to seeing.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)

Insidious (Theather – 6$): Here is perhaps the best half hour to 45 minutes of film I have seen this year. Sadly, the movie didn’t know what to do with itself and it ended up ruining everything it had built so wonderfully at the beginning. The last half was as bad as the first half was suspenseful and incredibly terrifying. Once we begin to see what is truly happening and the film begins to take itself too seriously, we’re lost in a pointless and unsophisticated back-story that makes everything rather comical and unimpressive.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)

Thor (Theather – 6$): When it comes to superheros, Hollywood has been able to find ways, for years now, to profit from the inventive minds of the people at Marvel and other comic book publishers. Thor is yet another installment that follows the never-ending formula of the powerful brat that needs to learn within less than two hours of film how to become a great man and, in the process, fall in love with a girl he just met. Taking out the very unoriginal premise and the unconvincing twists that the story tries to provide, there are moments of humor and entertainment in Thor that make up for a good part of the absurdity.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)

Gnomeo & Juliet (RedBox – 1$): I had the feeling that this animated movie worked within all the expected parameters of a typical family film. It took a common story of the seemingly doomed and tragic romance and adapted it to a setting that we haven’t seen before: the garden gnome world. The film offers some clever humor and it manages to make fun of itself quite often, but it never tries to fully defy the expectations and go off the script to give us something truly original.

Rating: 3 out 5 (above average)

Kaboom (Theater – 6$): An indie film about a group of young students at a college where strange things happen. Kaboom is fresh, sexy and exciting for most of its running time, or until the mystery surrounding the group starts to take over the film. The cast was surprisingly apt and the stars were successful, for most of the time, to walk the fine line between characters that belong in comedic parodies and realism. As the movie progresses, so does the strange mystery and with that the movie loses its freshness and its grip, leaving me with the feeling they were trying to rush to an odd conclusion.

Rating: 3 out of 5 (above average)

Super 8 (Theater – 6$): The childish and innocent quality of Super 8 is the movie’s most interesting aspect. The young teenagers embodied their character with ability and talent. Their relationships are convincing, real and entertaining. A good part of the audience probably felt more identified than the rest as the movie tries to capture, rather successfully, the feel of suburban America in the late 70s to early 80s. As long as the movie focused on the talented Hollywood bunch it assembled, the film remained magical and untouchable. The movie loses its character as more stuff happens and we discover more and more about the mystery. Once again, director J.J. Abrams builds up our expectations too high to then be unable to match them with a rather tacky and expected ending.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (good)

Rango (Theater – 6$): Rango was a true piece of originality that is defined within the ancient formulas of Hollywood. We have a guy who does not know exactly what he is or where he belongs, faith has it that he is put in a very difficult situation, and when faced with adversity, our hero rises to the challenge unexpectedly and heroically. However, Rango gives us a richly detailed set of characters, an ever-formidable and complex central character voiced by Johnny Depp, and a context that feels familiar yet fresh and surprisingly beautiful. In many ways it is an animated Western that takes cues from all sorts of pop culture sources, which most of the time are effective comedic relief in a movie filled with adventure, political undertone and extremely detailed characterization.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (great)

Bridesmaids (Theater – 6$): I’ll keep it simple for what is the best movie I have seen this year. This is a incredibly hilarious film with jokes that feel modern, that don’t seem forced, and that stick every single time. There were entire scenes that had me laughing uncontrollably, and even after the movie had ended. The audience sitting with me in the theater applauded and seemed genuinely happier coming out than when they came in. This is what comedy is truly about. Bridesmaids sticks to the formula just enough to make it familiar, but it remains always clever and unpredictable in the direction and tone of its humor.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (excellent, a masterpiece of comedy, comfortably in my own personal TOP 250 films of all-time).

Niels