Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Movie Name: The Dark Knight Rises
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Daniel Sunjata, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Brett Cullen, Nestor Carbonell, Juno Temple
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Following the huge critical and commercial success of "Inception" and "The Dark Knight", director Christopher Nolan is back with his final chapter in the interpretation of the Batman character. The film picks up 8 years after the events of the "The Dark Knight", and Gotham City has become a more orderly city. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse and tends to his wounds. However a new menace comes to the city in the shape of Bane, a criminal mastermind, who battles Batman on equal terms, and who has resources which enable him to take over the city and hold it ransom. It's up to Bruce Wayne/Batman, to rise above all his limitations and with the help of old and new allies, save the city and it's inhabitants.
Christopher Nolan is back expanding on the themes of his previous Batman film, namely the deterioration of the economic and social tissues of society. Batman is a haunted figure, now battered by the fights he has fought, a recluse who has to deal with a menace that looms over the entire city, and over him and his personal well being (as well as survival). The film feels very much like an extension of the previous one, a closure to a path that the character of Bruce Wayne started with "Batman Begins". The film is very successful in building a momentum and a tension that grows progressively, anchored in actors that are uniformly good and solid. The film does feel a bit contrived and forced in certain sections, but the overall spectacle that the director builds, far surpasses the shortcomings of some characters. Special highlights should also be given to Wally Pfister's cinematography and the impeccable special effects. A solid and entertaining film worth watching.

The Queen of Versailles

Movie Name: The Queen of Versailles
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Lauren Greenfield
Genre: Documentary
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Director Lauren Greenfield who previously directed the documentary "Thin", is back with a look at the  economic collapse of 2008, through a family who was directed affected by it on a very large scale. The documentary focuses on David Siegel and his wife Jackie, who up to 2008 were living a millionaire life and who became well known for building the largest privately owned home in the USA. David Siegel made his fortune in time-sharing, and alongside his third wife Jackie, embarked on the construction of a large home in Orlando, which aimed to replicate the Palace of Versailles in France. The economic collapse of 2008 left Siegel's finances in shambles, and the future of his house under severe uncertainty.
Lauren Greenfield's documentary is an interesting look into the mechanics of not just the economic collapse we are all still experiencing, but how consumerism dominates so much of our current society. Observing the lives of a family who has so much, and who simply flounders and is unable to cope with the new constraints of a reality who has changed, is very much like looking at so many families who exist all around the globe (though the scale of wealth is considerably different). What makes this documentary so pertinent to these days, is essentially the view it shows of how most people live their lives beyond their realistic capabilities/resources, and how deep down, everyone has ambitions which are so similar (no matter where you come from). A great documentary worth watching.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

To Rome With Love

Movie Name: To Rome with Love
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, Alison Pill, Roberto Benigni, Flavio Parenti, Alessandro Tiberi, Alessandra Mastronardi, Carol Alt, Ornella Muti, Corrado Fortuna
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Woody Allen is back with his regular one film per year output that has been a staple of his since the 70s (which makes him a very prolific filmmaker). "To Rome with Love" is a film with a series of vignettes, following different characters in the city. One of the stories centers on Hayley, a young American tourist who falls in love with an Italian attorney, whose parents come to the city to meet her future husband and in-laws. Another story centers on John, who revisits a younger version of himself in that city, and his tribulations with love and two different women. Another vignette focuses on Leopoldo, a clerk who becomes the center of attention of the media, who constantly harass him. And finally another story that follows a young couple on their first trip to Rome, who get lost from each other, and who come to terms with what they want out of life.
"To Rome with Love" is one of Woody Allen's lighter comedies, filled with entertaining moments, stunning cinematography and great actors. It's a film that touches some of his usual themes, namely death, love, the nature of relationships and sex. It's also a comedy filled with his surreal moments that really brings back memory of his full blown parodies from the 70s. The film doesn't add anything in particular to his body of work, but it's a nice interlude with great actors doing what they do best, namely Judy Davis and Penelope Cruz, who play their usually characters, namely the slightly neurotic woman and the voluptuous temptress respectively, impeccably well. An entertaining film worth checking out.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Movie Name: Savages
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Emile Hirsch, Demian Bichir,  Joel David Moore, Sandra Echeverria
Genre: Thriller, Crime, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Director Oliver Stone is back, following his sequel to his own successful film "Wall Street". "Savages" is a return to a style the director knows quite well, having directed the fantastic "Natural Born Killers" and the less seen, but equally interesting, "U-Turn". "Savages" follows the story of Chon and Ben, best friends who have a small business in California selling drugs. Their business draws attention from a big drug cartel based out of Mexico, which is run by ruthless Elena, who wants to take over their little operation. In order to impose her orders, Elena has Ophelia, the girlfriend of both Chon and Ben, kidnapped. What follows is Chon and Ben's attempts to get Ophelia back and get out of the business.
"Savages" is an adaptation of Don Winslow's novel. The film is graphic in the depiction that it makes of violence, but at it's core, tries to showcase the bond between the three main characters (and their need to save each other). That is precisely where the problem with the film lies: none of the actors who embody the central characters transmit a sense of credibility to the whole story. The central characters are suppose to be a small family unit, one where the bond is strong and where the chemistry is palpable, however, the more engaging characters end up being the supporting ones, embodied by Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro. The story itself is vividly depicted by Oliver Stone, who again saturates the screen with an energy seen in his previous films, however the poor casting for the central leads ends up making the film feel impoverished, particularly with the numb Blake Lively, who simply can't act. Ophelia is suppose to be an energetic and beautiful California girl, but in the hands of Blake Lively, she becomes a comatose and flat character, something that taints the film itself. An interesting film that deserved better casting.

The Amazing Spider Man

Movie Name: The Amazing Spider Man
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Marc Webb
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan,  Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Zylka, Max Charles, C. Thomas Howell, Kari Coleman
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Marc Webb's second feature after his great debut, "500 Days of Summer", is a retelling of the story of the iconic Spider Man. The film follows the story of young Peter Parker, whose parents leave unexpectedly one evening, leaving him with his uncle and aunt, who become surrogate parents after his own die in a car accident. Peter grows up to be a highly intelligent, but timid adolescent, who stands up for what he believes, sometimes at a risk of being bullied. After visiting the lab and a scientist colleague of his late father, Peter is accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider, which gives him some extraordinary powers. Peter also discovers some research his late father was developing, which he successfully adds information to, enabling his father's former colleague to develop a serum. This serum ends up turning him into a monster, something Spider Man has to battle to save his closest loved ones.
Marc Webb's take on the classic Marvel Comics character, tries to balance three interesting components in the story of Spider Man: the awkward teenage years, the first love of two adolescents and the big action picture with a lot of special effects. The mix of these components is the main problem with the film - the director aims to create more than standard flat characters, something he and his great actors successfully achieve, but the problem of the film is the mix of this component with the more spectacle side of a comic book or adventure film for that matter. The fantastic special effects aren't enough to hide the fact that ultimately, the villain in this story presents no real menace and the action set pieces feel inserted into a story that was told very differently (the tone is more akin to a romantic film). This is a different Spider Man (even the origin story is told somewhat differently), but one that still needs to find a better balance between character development and action/special effects extravaganza.