Monday, May 27, 2013


Movie Name: Kon-Tiki
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg
Stars: Pal Sverre Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Tobias Santelmann, Gustaf Skarsgard, Odd Magnus Williamson, Jakob Oftebro, Agnes Kittelsen
Genre: Action, Adventure, Biography
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

"Kon-Tiki" is based on the true story of explorer Thor Heyerdal, a charismatic and fearless young explorer, who takes upon himself to test the theory that South Americans settled Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. For that effect, he and a crew he assembles, build a raft utilizing materials identical to the ones used centuries before. The long journey (100 days) tests the resources and friendship of all these men.
This group of directors, have previously done two films that went by slightly unnoticed, though "Bandidas" featured the talents of Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek. They both have created a reputation for themselves as directors of commercials. "Kon-Tiki" captures briefly whom Thor was and his intent on proving himself correct, but the definition of the character is so vague that ultimately he comes across more like an arrogant man, intent on getting his point across, sacrificing everything and everyone that crosses his path (including his family). The film is beautifully shot, edited and the actors try the best they can with very little to do, except look exhausted and tired (and bearded). The overall result is one that though entertaining, feels light and superficial considering the herculean task that these real men took upon themselves to achieve. Interesting.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Movie Name: Star Trek Into Darkness
Year of Release: 2013
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood, Alice Eve, Peter Weller, Noel Clarke
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

The "Start Trek" franchise continues after the rebirth given in 2009 by director J.J. Abrams, who again tackles the directorial responsibility of the sequel. The film continues to track the story of the crew of the spaceship Enterprise. The impulsive and emotional Captain Kirk finds himself in a difficult situation after saving his friend and first in command, Mr. Spock. All these situations somehow pale, when the Federation comes under the attack of a terrorist under the name of John Harrison. The crew of the Enterprise is tasked with seizing this incredibly resourceful menace, but end up uncovering a lot more than they expected.
J.J. Abrams is currently a one man empire, involved in multiple directorial features, and even more projects that he produces for TV and film. His previous directorial effort, "Super 8", was the homage he created to the sci-fi/monster films of the 80s, celebrating the work of renowned director Steven Spielberg. "Star Trek Into Darkness" follows his previous film from 2009, where he brought a new perspective to the world of the classic TV show, which was created by the late Gene Roddenberry. The first feature introduced the cast of the Enterprise, how they joined efforts and became a team. This sequel goes in a different direction, one that emphasizes more the action thrills (and the spectacle), while discarding the concept of the individual characters of the team (some of the characters have little to do, or basically are one note sidekicks, always mumbling or always worried). The film succeeds in building a momentum and rhythm, thanks to the special effects which allow the construction of fantastical worlds, however most of these elaborate set pieces end up feeling a bit hollow and devoid of feeling. There is an undeniable well oiled machine behind this entertainment, but where does a film of this scale stop feeling generic and start looking more individualistic and dare I say it, artistic. An interesting film worth watching nonetheless.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Iceman

Movie Name: The Iceman
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Ariel Vromen
Stars: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schimmer, John Ventimiglia, Ryan O'Nan, Danny A. Abeckaser, James Franco, Stephen Dorff, Megan Sherrill, McKaley Miller
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

"The Iceman" introduces us to the real story of Richard Kuklinski, an apparently cold and aloof man, who though capable of romantic behaviors, had psychotic moments just as frequently, where he simply killed people ruthlessly. Kuklinski marries his sweetheart Deborah, who is oblivious to that side of his personality, and they start raising a family in New Jersey. Kuklinski is taken under the wing of a local criminal and embarks on a new trade, one of a hired killer. He becomes very successful in this venture, until problems with his employer arise, which force him to find alternatives means of income, which may jeopardize his family's safety.
Relative newcomer Ariel Vromen tackles the gruesome story of Richard Kuklinski with an attention to detail that is commendable, however the film lacks a spark to a story that, by all rights, is dark and horrific. Focusing more on the details and the process of Kuklinski's "venture", director Ariel Vromen leaves the dynamics of his family life strangely underdeveloped. The film has shades of Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas", but where this film brought the plethora of characters to life, in "The Iceman", characters such as Deborah, played with restraint by Winona Ryder, feel under defined (the same can be said of her relationship with Kuklinski). The film really benefits from Michael Shannon's indelible performance as the title character - his performance is strong and riveting, and he makes his presence menacing just by a muted glance. The film benefits from a fantastic production design, a strong cast, the only faltering element being a screenplay that needs further depth. An interesting film nonetheless worth checking out.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Movie Name: The Great Gatsby
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki, Adelaide Clemens, Amitabh Bachchan
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

After the disappointing "Australia", director Baz Luhrmann has decided to tackle a classic of American literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" (the book itself has been adapted previously, one of the previous incarnations featured Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan). The film introduces us to Nick Carraway, our narrator. Nick recounts the story of how in the early 1920s he went to NY to work in Wall Street. There he reconnects with his cousin, Daisy and her husband Tom, a philanderer. Nick also realizes his neighbor is a man of a certain reputation, one who organizes lavish parties known throughout New York - his name being Jay Gatsby. Nick gets involved with Gatsby and realizes he has a hidden agenda behind all those lavish parties - he is trying to allure Daisy, whom he was involved with years ago, and whom he wants to reconnect with. Nick's involvement is a catalyst for the main duo's reconnection.
Baz Luhrmann is a director with a very discernible and specific aesthetic. He likes to make reinterpretations of classic stories through a pop lens, one where music, production design and costume design are amped up to a degree that threatens to suffocate the film itself. Sometimes this marriage works - such as his adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" - and sometimes it does not - "Australia" simply didn't work. One thing is undeniable - Luhrmann loves film and uses it as a canvas to portray his view of the world (and art). "The Great Gatsby" is a book that though defining an era (the roaring 20s, the excess of the American lifestyle), is also at it's core a doomed love affair. Luhrmann uses this to pair the more flamboyant side of the parties and the excess of that era with the more intimate side of a romance between two very different characters. The film benefits from a beautiful production design and from two great performances, namely Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan. The cinematography is equally beautiful, and the director uses different visual elements to make this story engaging and unique to the viewer. Though at times the film feels too tied to it's literary reference, this is nonetheless a vision that is bold, unique, and that breathes with love of film and all that this medium can provide. A film worth visiting.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3

Movie Name: Iron Man 3
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Shane Black
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak, William Sadler, Dale Dickey, Ty Simpkins, Miguel Ferrer
Genre: Action, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

The "Iron Man" franchise is back, this time under the direction of Shane Black. Shane Black made his name as a screenwriter of such well know films as "Lethal Weapon", "Last Action Hero" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight". His directorial debut was the underrated "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", which featured Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan.
"Iron Man 3" finds Tony Stark recovering from the events that occurred in the film "The Avengers". Tony feels very much like a war veteran, filled with traumas which progressively make him more distant and alienated from everyone. A new menace comes in the form of the Mandarin, an international terrorist, that is detonating bombs all over the world. In parallel, a figure from the past, Aldrich Killian, a renown scientist, makes his presence known to Pepper Potts, and ends up having a sinister purpose behind all his intentions.
Shane Black is a very intelligent director - he understands the action/adventure genre thoroughly. He builds momentum in his screenplays, with well outlined characters. There's the concern of building an overall arc that allows for humor, drama and suspense to fill the story, and to actually give the characters the sense of a journey. In Iron Man, there's the journey of Tony Stark surpassing his traumas and aiding his loved one and simultaneously ensuring that the world is a safe place. There's an excellent balance in this film, one that is achieved between action set pieces and the moments where the characters are given time to simply interact and make the film flow. The film also benefits from a great group of actors, in particular Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley, all of whom carry this film effortlessly. The special effects are astounding and simply superb. A very good action film worth watching.