Sunday, February 10, 2013

Side Effects

Movie Name: Side Effects
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta Jones, Channing Tatum, Ann Dowd, Mamie Gummer, Peter Friedman, Laila Robins, Vinessa Shaw, David Costabile, Michael Nathanson, Sheila Tapia, Polly Draper, Andrea Bogart
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Prolific director Steven Soderbergh is back with another fantastic genre piece. Following "Haywire" and "Magic Mike" from 2012, this new year brings "Side Effects", another collaboration of the director with screenwriter Scott Z. Burns who also wrote "Contagion" and "The Informant". The film follows the story of Emily Taylor, a young woman going through anxiety and depression following the release of her husband from jail (he was convicted for insider trading). Upon Emily's suicide attempt, she is placed under the care of Dr. Jonathan Banks, an overworked psychiatrist who tries to salvage Emily the best possible way he can. One of the medications he prescribes, Ablixa, has some side effects, namely sleepwalking. In one of those episodes, a dramatic event occurs that sends everyone's lives spinning in very different directions.
Steven Soderbergh is one of the most talented directors currently working - he not only directs, but also is the cinematographer and editor of his features (he uses the names Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard for those). He has tackled most genres since his brilliant feature debut with "sex, lies and videotape" in 1989. "Side Effects" is a great addition to his overall work, a film that is very much a Hitchcockian exercise, with flips in the narrative that you don't see coming. The film flows effortlessly, which is a true testament to the ability of the director to conduct this story with efficiency and talent. "Side Effects" also benefits from a very talented cast, particularly Rooney Mara who builds a character who is apparently very benign and docile and who turns out to be a lot more than what can be seen on the surface. Jude Law and Catherine Zeta Jones also turn in good performances which make a solid contribution to the overall feeling of the film. A solid film not to be missed.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Warm Bodies

Movie Name: Warm Bodies
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Jonathan Levine
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Theresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, John Malkovich, Analeigh Tipton, Dave Franco, Cory Hardrict
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Following "50/50", director Jonathan Levine is back with an interesting take on a specific genre, namely the Zombie genre, which has been made popular by the talents of George Romero. The film follows the story of R, a young man, who is a zombie and the narrator of the story. R is different from his comrades, and after battling a series of humans, he develops a romantic interest in the lovely Julie. This improbable connection develops into something more, as R becomes more than a corpse and starts coming back to life. This soon starts extending to other zombies, save for a group who is named the "bonies" and for whom there is no rescue.
Jonathan Levine adapts the novel of Isaac Marion, embedding his gentle hero with a series of quirks and eccentricities, that make him a lot more than the traditional zombie. From listening to vinyls, to collecting snow globes, R is a young man desperately trying to make a connection. The film placidly accompanies his attempts to connect, help and ultimately rescue Julie and prove to her father (the always fantastic John Malkovich), that the world changes all the time. The film is finely acted and also benefits of good visual effects that successfully create a sense of a world at the brink of ultimate destruction. A film worth checking out.