Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ginger and Rosa

Movie Name: Ginger & Rosa
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Sally Potter
Stars: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening, Jodhi May, Andrew Hawley
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Sally Potter's work is forever associated with her adaptation of "Orlando", which featured a fantastic performance from Tilda Swinton. Her newest film, "Ginger and Rosa", follows the story of two young girls, who are best friends growing up in London. By the time they reach 17, it's 1962 and the world is at the brink of a nuclear meltdown. But whereas Ginger is more interested in the salvation of humankind (and her family), Rosa is more interested in relationships, in particular with Ginger's father, the immature and self centered Roland. As the nuclear tension escalates, so does both girls lives, with each going in directions that end up having dramatic disclosures.
Sally Potter has been a director always interested in the lives of women looking for a sense of direction in their lives. Women that are coming in to their own terms, feeling comfortable in their own skins - that occurred with Tilda Swinton in "Orlando", with Christina Ricci's character in "The Man who Cried" and now with Elle Fanning's character in "Ginger and Rosa". The film utilizes the backdrop of the Cold War, to depict the slow disintegration of Ginger's family life - her father is an immature, self centered and self righteous man, and her mother resents his infidelities and a life that she put on hold to have a child. The film portrays the bohemian/intellectual side of Ginger's life (with the circle of friends her mother has) and depicts the innocent friendship and complicity with Rosa, who ventures into more sexualized territories than Ginger. The film is beautifully shot and has strong performances from Elle Fanning and Alessandro Nivola, but ultimately it never feels engaging and connected with both the drama of Ginger's sudden step into womanhood, and her family's ultimate ending. It's a flawed, yet interesting film worth investigating.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Olympus has Fallen

Movie Name: Olympus has Fallen
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Radha Mitchell, Finley Jacobsen, Ashely Judd, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Cole Hauser, Melissa Leo, Phil Austin, Sean O'Bryan, Robert Forster, Malana Lea
Genre: Action, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3

Director Antoine Fuqua is back, following his latest action efforts, "Brooklyn's Finest" and "Shooter". The film follows the story of disgraced secret services agent Mike Banning, an all around decent and hard working man, who is desperately trying to redeem himself. This opportunity presents itself when the White House is attacked by Korean terrorists, who seize the President and his aids. It's up to Mike Banning to single handedly combat this group of highly skilled mercenaries and save the day.
Antoine Fuqua has always trailed behind the late Tony Scott in terms of directing style and visual flair. Though their styles have some similarities, Antoine Fuqua sadly can't rise above all the clichés that abound in this tepid action vehicle for star Gerard Butler. In this thinly veiled B-film with a fantastic cast, the main character and plot, are a mix of John McTiernan's "Die Hard" with John Carpenter's "Attack on Precinct 13th", with a dash of Wolfgang Petersen's "Air Force One". The film never presents anything innovative, and the actors are just dialing in their performances. It's quite puzzling seeing Oscar winners Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, and talented actors such as Radha Mitchell, Aaron Eckart and Robert Forster in such a tepid film. The positive points go primarily for the first section of the film, when the situation presents itself, but this one film that would have benefited from John McTiernan's hand in deftly building tension. A missed opportunity and a mediocre film at all counts.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Movie Name: Stoker
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Park Chan-Wook
Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Ralph Brown, Phyllis Somerville, Alden Ehrenreich, Lucas Till, Harmony Korine, Judith Godreche, Tyler Von Tagen
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

"Stoker" is director Park Chan-Wook's first english language film, following his successful korean films "Thirst", "Oldboy" and "Lady Vengeance" (to name but a few). The film follows the Stoker family, in particular India, a young woman, whose father unexpectedly dies on her 18th birthday. Her long missing uncle reappears precisely around the time of the funeral, which prompts suspicion from India, and causes joy in her distant mother. As her uncle starts inserting himself in India's life, the seemingly placid life the Stoker family has enjoyed starts unraveling and changing, forever changing the young woman's life.
"Stoker" is a beautifully directed film, with a stunning cinematography and editing, which makes the film a pleasure to look at. It has a perfect pacing in the way it builds the tension and drama between the characters, however that's precisely where the issue lies with this film. The main faulting issue in this otherwise beautiful film, is the complete cliché ridden screenplay, which makes no use of what could have been a dark and interesting premise. The actors all try to breathe some life into characters that are barely explained (why does India resent her mother and vice versa), though Mia Wasikowska does manage to build a character filled with doubt, self questioning and ultimately becoming a woman. Nicole Kidman (whose face is emotionless these days) and Matthew Goode in particular are not so fortunate in their performances. Matthew Goode tries to build a menacing persona, but there's a spark definitely missing in his performance - this was definitely a case of miscasting. A beautiful but ultimately hollow film, which crumbles due to a weak screenplay.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful

Movie Name: Oz the Great and Powerful
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King,  Tony Cox, Abigail Spencer, Bruce Campbell
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3

Director Sam Raimi is back, after tackling his "Spider Man" trilogy and the underrated "Drag me to Hell". "Oz the Great and Powerful" is a prequel to Victor Flemming's "The Wizard of Oz", the beloved classic which immortalized Judy Garland and the legendary yellow brick road. The film introduces the audience to Oscar, aka Oz, a small time magician in Kansas, who makes his living through rudimentary magic tricks and who uses his suave style to lure and seduce the ladies. Oscar is accidentally transported to Oz, the kingdom, when a hurricane hits Kansas. Upon there he meets Theodora, a young beautiful witch, who falls under his charms, and who believes Oscar to be the legendary Wizard who is destined to save the kingdom from the wicked witch. Oscar is sent out to the dark forest to battle the villain, but ends up meeting the beautiful and gentle Glinda, who explains who the real evil forces are. It's up to Oscar to acknowledge his inner worth, and save the entire kingdom.
Sam Raimi's take on the legendary world of Oz, owes more to the vision that Tim Burton set forth in his "Alice in Wonderland", but it does build some aesthetic bridges to the Victor Flemming classic. The film's main issues end up being related to the characters and story development. The film is filled with clichés, from the main anti-hero (the con man with a heart of gold), to the trio of witches, who are of course completely paper thin in terms of character development. The sidekicks for the main hero, namely the cute monkey and the chinadoll girl, though beautifully rendered, remain lifeless just like it's main hero. James Franco simply does not work in the main role - he does not embody the whole larger than life persona of the con man, and without a strong lead, the film lacks spark and emotion. The wicked witch also feels trapped and does not have much to do - this film needed a villain with a bigger bite, and sadly that never occurs. On a positive note, Peter Deming's cinematography and Danny Elfman's score are both wonderful. A misfire from Sam Raimi.