Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rum Diary

Movie Name: The Rum Diary
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Bruce Robinson
Stars: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi, Amaury Nolasco, Marshall Bell, Bill Smitrovich, Julian Holloway, Karen Austin
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

"The Rum Diary" is an adaptation of a Hunter S. Thompson novel, following another well known book of his that was also adapted to the screen, the infamous "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", directed by Terry Gilliam. This project has been a favorite of Johnny Depp, who was a close friend of the writer, and who plays a thinly veiled version of the author in the film. "The Rum Diary" follows the story of Paul Kemp, an American journalist who arrives in Puerto Rico. The newspaper that employs him is chaotic and soon Kemp finds himself immersed in a shady situation with a suspicious man named Sanderson and immersed in alcohol and other substances which don't help him navigate the murky waters of Puerto Rico. With the help of his friend Sala and the unreliable Moburg, Kemp tries to expose some of the truth lying beneath the cool waters and free-wheeling alcohol of Puerto Rico.
Bruce Robinson has made his name as an actor, writer and director, though his output has been few and not very consistent. Prior to "The Rum Diary", Bruce Robinson directed "Jennifer 8" and the well known "Whitnail and I" which made him a well known director. He manages to bring the story of "The Rum Diary" vividly to life, thanks to a good cast (though Amber Heard still has a lot to go). Though the film does not focus on uncharted territory (the eternal alcoholic who barely functions), Johnny Depp makes his Paul Kemp an adorable under-dog, who always finds himself in bad situations. The period the film takes place, 1960, allows it to bring back the feeling of paranoia that was felt (the Russians, the Communists). The film has great humorous moments and that alone makes it a worthwhile watch!


Movie Name: Anonymous
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Rolland Emmerich
Stars: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, Joely Richardson, Jamie Campbell Bower, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, Edward Hogg, Xavier Samuel, Sam Reid, Paolo de Vita, Robert Emms, Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Rolland Emmerich, director of such big budget films as "Independence Day", "Godzilla", "The Day After Tomorrow" and "2012", is back with a film that is definitely of a smaller scale, but with a premise that is equally ambitious and epic. The film follows the premise that William Shakespeare, was originally an actor, but not a playwright whatsoever. The film focuses on the story of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, a prodigy who wrote all the plays that are attributed to Shakespeare. Edward who lost his parents at a young age, is taken in by Sir William Cecil, principal advisor to the queen.  Under his tutelage, all the arts are banished from Edward's life, something that he rebels against for most of his life. He continues to produce literary work, and finds an unknown writer through whom he thinks he can place his work to be performed. However this unknown playwright has a voice of his own, and does not wish to silence it, and Shakespeare becomes the front for all this talent. This sets in motion a ripple effect that extends to the court and to a succession battle that is taking place.
Unlike the previous films from Rolland Emmerich, "Anonymous" has a rich screenplay that allows for characters to have depth and substance. The film has a controversial subject matter, but behind the conspiracy theory and the court games, the film is really about the quest for someone to be heard. Edward is an artist who longs to express himself, even if someone else has to be the face of his own words. Rhys Ifans and his sad eyes, convey the longing and despair of a person who has been silenced and denied for a lifetime. The film correctly allows him to be a fully fledged character, unlike William Shakespeare who ends up being more of a caricature - which is where the film also falters. The film is nonetheless riveting, with great acting from Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave and David Thewlis, great cinematography from  Anna Foerster.  A film worth watching!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Movie Name: Moneyball
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Bennett Miller
Stars: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Brent Jennings, Arliss Howard, Tammy Blanchard
Genre: Drama, Sport
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

"Moneyball" had it's fair share of problems on the way to the screen. The film was originally slated to be directed by Steven Soderbergh, who walked away from the project shortly before it was due to start shooting. Director Bennett Miller, who previously tackled "Capote", took the director's seat and the film followed without any incidents. "Moneyball" follows the story of Billy Beane, General Manager for the baseball team Oakland A's. After another painful season and another loss, Beane realizes he does not have as much money as bigger teams, which makes his job a lot more difficult. He hires a young professional named Peter Brand, a Yale Economics graduate, who has a more analytical and statistical concept of the game. According to Peter, through stats you can build a winning team, with players that are under-used or simply disregarded. Beane decides to follow this concept against everything and everyone.
"Moneyball" is based on a true story, with some additional elements added for dramatic effect, but the film has an authentic and documentary style that makes it gripping and riveting. It's a film that works not just as simple "baseball" film, but as a triumph of intelligence, of initiative over the status quo, over the establishment. The film smartly focuses on Brad Pitt's Billy Beane, a man who had a history in the sport, a man who was trying to make something different, to accomplish more than he ever did as a player. Bennett Miller also gives a glimpse into Beane's personal life, as a father and a ex-husband, someone who treasures his daughter's happiness. The character is a fully rounded one, a character that evolves, also thanks to Brad Pitt's great performance. The cinematography of Wally Pfister is fantastic as is the score of Mychael Danna. A great film worth watching!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Ides of March

Movie Name: The Ides of March
Year of Release: 2011
Director: George Clooney
Stars: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Max Minghella, Jennifer Ehle, Gregory Itzin, Michael Mantell
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

After "Leatherheads", George Clooney's previous directorial effort, "The Ides of March" is a good return to form, in a film very much similar in tone to Tony Gilroy's "Michael Clayton", that Clooney starred.
"The Ides of March" follows the story of Stephen Myers, a young idealistic staffer who works for a governor currently trying to get the democratic vote to embark in the presidential race. Stephen works hard and is highly regarded. He gets lured into a situation by a rival campaign organizer which leaves him exposed and vulnerable to be laid off, however Stephen knows of a situation that topples all the scenarios that have unfolded.
George Clooney has had an interesting career as a director, starting with "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", though his best film thus far has been "Good Night and Good Luck". With "The Ides of March", Clooney tries to show the corruption of values that touches everyone that gets involved in politics, even the most idealistic person. Stephen tries desperately to stay in his course, but rapidly realizes that in the game of politics, everyone is a pawn and all ideals and morals are easily brushed aside for more money or more power. The film tries to be very much in the vein of the political thrillers of the 70s, but the message becomes apparent all too quickly. The cast is uniformly great, with Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Evan Rachel Wood all having good performances. A film worth checking out.

Monday, October 3, 2011

What's your Number?

Movie Name: What's your Number?
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Mark Mylod
Stars: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Blythe Danner, Ari Graynor, Ed Begley Jr., Chris Pratt, Joel McHale, Heather Burns, Martin Freeman, Anthony Mackie, Zachary Quinto, Thomas Lennon, Dave Annable
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Director Mike Mylod has made a name for himself directing shows as "The Fast Show", "Ali G Indahouse" and "Entourage" to name but a few. His new film"What's your Number?" follows the story of Ally, a young woman who suddenly realizes she has had a considerable number of romantic partners and never found the right one. Her fear is that she reached a number that is a limit, after which no one will want her. In order to overcome this problem, she enlists the help of her attractive neighbor, Colin, and they track her previous dates and figure out if one of them can actually be the right man!
Anna Faris is a great comedienne, always managing to make the best of whatever role she has. That can easily be seen in Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation", Greg Araki's "Smiley Face" and the "Scary Movie" franchise. In "What's your Number?" she ends up being the best thing about a film that is very formulaic and filled with cliches, but that thanks to her perfect comic timing it does end up having some humorous moments. Aside from her performance, the film has few highlights, since it is indeed a romantic comedy very much like plenty of others - P.J. Hogan's "My Best Friend Wedding's" for instance.


Movie Name: 50/50
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Jonathan Levine
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Houston, Serge Houde, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall, Seth Rogen
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Adam is in his late 20s, has a live-in girlfriend and workouts regularly. Much to his surprise he's diagnosed with cervical cancer. What follows is a grueling set of treatments that progressively make him weaker, while his sentimental life also experiences new lows and also new beginnings.
Director Jonathan Levine follows his feature "The Wackness" with "50/50", based on the life of screenwriter Will Reiser. The film tries to maintain a balance between the dramatic core that generates the entire story, namely the illness of Adam and the humor that is brought by Adam's friend, Kyle, who tries to take some advantage of the situation on the dating field. While the film works dramatically thanks to the interaction between the gifted actors that are Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Houston, the more humorous scenes with Seth Rogen feel like material that he has already done in his previous films, that add absolutely nothing to this film in particular. The director tries to maintain a certain detachment from the characters, never going down the melodrama path, which also makes it feel a bit distant to the viewer/audience, but when the final realization comes painfully evident to Adam, we can see the true core of the film. Adam is just a young man trying to live. This is a small film that could have worked far better without the skewed comedic angle, or with a far better actor than Seth Rogen. His eternal frat-boy trying to get dates and being selfish is long overused by now. A film worth watching nonetheless.