Saturday, April 27, 2013


Movie Name: Mud
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Ray McKinnon, Paul Sparks, Joe Don Baker, Bonnie Sturdivant, Johnny Cheek
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Jeff Nichols' follow up to the critically acclaimed "Take Shelter", is another fantastically achieved film, that drinks directly from classic American novels (and authors as Mark Twain) and from his own knowledge of rural America. The film follows the lives of two young boys, sensitive and smart Ellis, and his best friend, Neckbone. Both boys discover a stranded boat on an island and much to their surprise find a man living in it. They come to know him as Mud, who is waiting to meet up with his girlfriend, Juniper. Ellis, going through troubled times at home, befriends Mud, and starts bringing food and acting as a messenger between the two lovers. Ellis and Neckbone eventually hear Mud's story and how he found himself deserted in that small island. His story ends up being a catalyst in Ellis' life.
Jeff Nichols' "Mud" is a beautiful story about growing up and how young children cope with their primal fears - the disintegration of their family, the lack of love and growing up. The director beautifully captures the life of people living by the river, coping with difficulties and hardship. The main hero of the story, the young Ellis, is a young boy who believes in the purity of love, and in the goodness of people. Mud for him represents an ideal of someone who fights for his love and to protect someone he cherishes, something he sees slowly fading away in the relationship between his parents. The film has hints of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", but it has an identity of it's own. Jeff Nichols' also benefits from a terrific cast, from the veterans Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Michael Shannon, to the newcomers Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. The cinematography from Adam Stone is equally beautiful. A stunning film not to be missed.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Movie Name: Oblivion
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Director Joseph Kosinski is back, following his big budget debut "Tron Legacy". "Oblivion" is another journey through slick and sophisticated environments, but this time around the story takes place in 2077. Our narrator, Jack, outlines the events of the last decades, describing a battle with an alien species that invaded Earth, leaving the planet almost destroyed. Most inhabitants had to flee the planet, but he and Victoria, are part of a maintenance crew tasked with maintaining some devices operating so there's enough water to maintain the survivors. Earth however is still haunted by scavengers, some of the surviving alien species, that try to sabotage Jack's efforts. In one of Jack's perimeter checks, he rescues a survivor from a spaceship, someone who strikes a resemblance with a woman he sees in his dreams recurrently. This accidental rescue sets in motion a series of events that challenges all that Jack knows and believes in.
"Oblivion" is an original story from Joseph Kosinski and Arvid Nelson. The director successfully builds a landscape that is simultaneously futuristic, bleak and stunning. The film depicts a world that is beautifully constructed, elegant and credible, though as the story progresses, the uneven balance of what is presented versus character and story development, starts to falter. The main issue with "Oblivion" is it's own premise - the director introduces the characters and the storyline so perfectly, that it has difficulty in maintaining that momentum - there are obvious troubles in rhythm within the narrative. Some of the action scenes are definitely video-game inspired, but are nonetheless thrilling and dynamically well staged. The actors are uniformly good, with a particular positive note to Andrea Riseborough, who manages to build her Victoria almost as a corporate drone, who wants to get out of Earth and be on her way to happiness. An uneven, yet entertaining and beautifully rendered film worth seeing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Movie Name: Trance
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, Danny Sapani, Matt Cross, Mark Poltimore, Wahab Sheikh, Tuppence Middleton
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

The ever fantastic Danny Boyle is back, following "127 Hours" and the Oscar winning "Slumdog Millionaire". "Trance", his latest feature, bears some similarities with his debut, "Shallow Grave", but the narrative goes in different directions and is an overall successful concept and execution.
The film follows the story of Simon, a young auctioneer, who gets involved in a scheme to steal a very well know and valuable piece of art, with a small group of accomplices. The heist however takes a wrong turn, Simon loses memory of what happened to the stolen painting, and the group resorts to a hypnotherapist to help him overcome that mental obstacle. Elizabeth Lamb, the doctor, becomes involved with the group, and as the dynamics change, things start unraveling for all the characters.
"Trance" will immediately bring to mind the traditions of film noir, namely the flips of the story and characters, very much in the tradition of what Lawrence Kasdan achieved with "Body Heat". Danny Boyle successfully creates a world filled with questions, where the events and connections between the characters slowly start peeling away. The story is built like a russian doll, with each level bringing further insight to the characters and propelling the narrative forward. As usual in Danny Boyle's films, he places his focus on an anti-hero (for instance Renton from "Trainspotting" or Robert Capa from "Sunshine"), he pulls the viewer to his perspective, though this time around, that same central character has some surprises in store. The film benefits from the stunning cinematography from Anthony Dod Mantle and a beautiful score from Rick Smith (from the band Underworld). The three central leads are all uniformly great. A wonderful film worth watching.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Evil Dead

Movie Name: Evil Dead
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Fede Alvarez
Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Phoenix Connolly, Jim McLarty
Genre: Horror
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 2

"Evil Dead" established the name of Sam Raimi as a talent to watch, in 1981. The film was a low budget experience from a director trying to establish his vision. This new remake, from Fede Alvarez, who previously directed quite a few short features, has sadly none of the auspicious highlights that made Sam Raimi's work always a treat for viewers.
The film follows a group of friends, who get together in an old cabin in the woods to help Mia, a recovering junkie, go through a forced detox. One of the friends, discovers an ancient book in the basement, and upon reciting the words from it, unleashes a deadly spirit, that possesses Mia and ends up wreaking havoc in the whole group.
The new version of "Evil Dead" follows the original very closely, however the main problem with this film is it's lack of inventiveness. There is no cliche that isn't visited here, the characters and plot points end up being mostly thin threads to connect the more disturbing and gruesome scenes. The film does achieve a high point in gore and horrific depictions of mutilation, but other than that, it brings no fresh perspective on a genre that can always have a new perspective (which "The Cabin in the Woods" from Drew Goddard does so well). There's also no suspense or sense of fear created throughout the film - most of it's impact comes from all the shocking bloody scenes, which after a bit become tiresome and repetitive. "Drag me to Hell" from Sam Raimi did a good job of being suspenseful without being gruesome, of being terrifying without being obvious and having a sense of humor (which does not exist in this version). The good remark in this wasted effort goes for Jane Levy, on whose shoulders the film anchors itself. Some lessons should definitely be learnt when tackling a remake of a film that didn't need to be remade.