Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Movie Name: Lucy
Year of Release: 2014
Director: Luc Besson
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Analeigh Tipton, Jan Oliver Schroeder
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

"Lucy" is the latest directorial effort from the always prolific Luc Besson. It comes after the mediocre "The Family", and focuses on the story of Lucy, a young American woman studying in Taiwan. Lucy erroneously gets involved with the local criminal underground, and is used as a drug mule for an experimental drug that is being smuggled throughout Europe. However Lucy is violently beaten, which causes a rupture on the drugs that she's carrying. This rupture produces side effects throughout her body, particularly in her brain, which starts increasing capability at a geometric rate. With her new found capabilities, Lucy seeks out Professor Norman, a specialist in brain knowledge, while simultaneously evading the criminals in her pursuit.
Luc Besson has become known in the recent years as a writer and producer of action films, that have become quite successful, but somewhat formulaic - namely "The Transporter", "Taken" and "Colombiana", to name but a few. "Lucy" has some faint contacts with his previous female centric action film "La Femme Nikita" (from 1990), but unlike the latter one, "Lucy" does not contain much development about the character - it focuses on the development of the human brain and how the concept of being human evolves accordingly. The film is scarce in character or story development, presenting mostly ideas and some interesting action set pieces. Scarlett Johansson manages to create an interesting character, going from a scared young woman, to an individual that is questioning herself, her humanity and gaining a sense of knowledge that is unparalleled. It's an interesting parallel to her character in Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin", and ultimately she gives the film the depth and authenticity that it has. This is an interesting concept, one that deserved a bit more development.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Something Wild

Movie Name: Something Wild
Year of Release: 1986
Director: Jonathan Demme
Stars: Melanie Griffith, Jeff Daniels, Ray Liotta, Tracey Walter, Charles Napier, Margaret Colin, John Sayles, John Waters
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

When "Something Wild" came along in 1986, celebrated director Jonathan Demme, hadn't established himself as a directorial talent to be considered. His previous efforts, namely "The Last Embrace", "Melvin and Howard" and "Swing Shift", didn't really convey his sensibilities and artistic ambition. "Something Wild" was the first feature that really had his trademark, a style that was simultaneously comedic, edgy and real. The film follows the story of Charles Driggs, a regular bank employee, whose biggest quirk is walking out of restaurants without paying his bill. In one of these occasions, he meets the beautiful Lulu, who calls him out on his scheme, and who volunteers to drive him back to his office. This apparent and seemingly innocent act, takes Charley and Lulu (whose actual name is Audrey) on an adventure that becomes increasingly more dangerous.
Jonathan Demme really came into his own style with "Something Wild". The film featured a wonderful mix of comedy with a darker twist, that showcased his talent to allow characters to be multidimensional, and not just archetypes. The film also featured his trademark taste of music, and in this case, his collaboration with David Byrne (and the Talking Heads, with whom Demme had made "Stop Making Sense"). This taste in music permeated into the rhythm of the movie itself, with the first part of the film definitely more upbeat and tropical, and the second part rockier and edgier. Demme would of course go on to do "Married to the Mob", "Silence of the Lambs" and "Philadelphia", but this film stands as testament to the freshness of his vision, and a showcase of the talents of Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels. A great film worth exploring!

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Movie Name: Snowpiercer
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Stars: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Ewen Bremmer, Alison Pill, Kang-ho Song, Ah-sung Ko, Vlad Ivanov, Luke Pasqualino, Adnan Haskovic, Emma Levie, Steve Park
Genre: Action, Thriller, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Joon-ho Bong has carved himself a name as a director with the success of his features "The Host" and "Mother". "Snowpiercer" is his latest feature, and it's an adaptation of a french graphic novel originally published in 1982. The film takes place in a not so distant future, where Earth has frozen and the few remaining survivors are located in a train that perpetually circles around the planet. The train is organized in different carts, and there's a caste structure in place, where the rich and wealthy sit in the front, and the poorer and destitute are located at the end of the train. The population is controlled strictly and mobility is non-existent. The people located at the bottom of the train, start a revolution, aiming to take charge of the train, and abandon the torture and low conditions in which they live. In order to do so, they have to go all the way to the front of the train, and that's where all the obstacles lie.
"Snowpiercer" is an interesting metaphor for the state of our society, and how decisions that are made for the greater good, usually imply the destruction of the concept of humanity. The futuristic setting and the constraint of the train, allow for the film to have a feeling of claustrophobia and eminent threat, since there is no place to hide or to go beyond those carts. The screenplay falters in some aspects, since the usual clichés are there - the anti-hero with a past that haunts him, the father figure that makes the sacrifice for the greater good, the unstoppable villain and so forth, but the overall look and feel of the film, still feels fresh and original. The feature is also beautifully designed and rendered, and benefits from a terrific sprawling cast, where the highlights are the usually fantastic Tilda Swinton (almost unrecognizable) and John Hurt. The cinematography from Kyung-pyo Hong, is stunning, as is the art direction, which creates a unique universe in that train. A very interesting film worth watching.

Odd Thomas

Movie Name: Odd Thomas
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Stephen Sommers
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Willem Dafoe, Nico Tortorella, Kyle McKeever, Patton Oswalt, Laurel Harris, Arnold Vosloo, Shuler Hensley
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Director Stephen Sommers is back, after his big budget "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra", with an adaptation of the Dean Koontz book, "Odd Thomas". The film follows the story of Odd Thomas, a young cook, with special paranormal abilities, that allow him to see the dead and understand the clues they leave that tell him when something deadly and menacing is going to occur. Odd starts finding out clues for an event of massive proportions, that forces him, alongside his girlfriend, Stormy and the chief of police, to figure out what is about to occur.
Stephen Sommers has made his name as a director of big blockbusters, particularly the "Mummy" series and "Van Helsing". These were films that relied heavily on the visual effects and big action set pieces, and not so much on character development (or even originality of concept and story). "Odd Thomas" is definitely a smaller scale film for him - the feature focuses specifically on a young hero, that against all odds, has the responsibility of saving the world from ultimate destruction. The hero is a lonesome figure, since he has been born with special powers or capabilities, that allow him to see the world differently. The director isn't much interested in how the character inhabits the world, the focus is definitely on the procedural part of the story, where Odd has to track clues and understand what the menace is and how it's going to present itself. What the film lacks in character development, it relies on the momentum of the mystery that slowly unravels as the film progresses. The film also benefits from the engaging Anton Yelchin, who continues to cement his rise as an interesting actor (with very eclectic career choices) and the always solid support from Willem Dafoe. A very entertaining film worth finding out.

Alien: Resurrection

Movie Name: Alien: Resurrection
Year of Release: 1997
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Gary Dourdan, Kim Flowers, J.E. Freeman, Brad Dourif, Raymond Cruz, Leland Orser
Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Following the debacle of "Alien 3", 20th Century Fox hired Joss Whedon to write a screenplay that would bring back Ripley, but with an edge. The selected director was Jean-Pierre Jeunet, at the time mostly well known for "Delicatessen" and "La Cité des Enfants Perdus". The story picks up centuries after the events of "Alien 3". Ellen Ripley is successfully cloned after her demise, but in the process, her DNA has gotten mixed with the alien creature, giving her some enhanced capabilities, but also forcing her to question her humanity. She comes across a team of space mercenaries, working for the army who has interests of their own, as far as the alien creatures are concerned. All of these plans go awry once the aliens go rampant and start decimating the entire ship. It's up to Ripley and her new found allies to figure out a way to stop the lethal creatures.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet is an interesting director, one that has always focused on creating excessive universes, that are a metaphor for how people ultimately treat each other. His early films were co-directed with art director Marc Caro, but "Alien: Resurrection" was his first effort as a solo taskmaster. The film suffers from a certain unbalance in finding it's own tone - whereas the previous films were dominated by a certain bleakness, menace and atmosphere, this film tries to maintain a certain level of humor, something that doesn't really gel with the material. Jeunet brings his usual collaborators to the fold, and where cinematographer Darius Khondji elevates the look and feel of the film, the contributions of Ron Perlman and Dominique Pinon, are superfluous (they almost feel like they are on a different film than the one that Sigourney Weaver's Ripley inhabits). This awkward tone, that comes from the screenplay of Joss Whedon, leaves the film in a certain limbo, between a space adventure with a crew of wise cracking mercenaries, and Ripley's story, that is ultimately what has always brought gravitas and interest to the series. Sigourney Weaver brings depth and edge to a part that she has made her own, and the visual effects of Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. are fantastic as always. This is a film that ended the series on a downward quality level, though it has some interest.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Alien 3

Movie Name: Alien 3
Year of Release: 1992
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Lance Henriksen
Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7 (extended cut - 145 minutes)

David Fincher's "Alien 3" premiered in 1992, but it was marred by a hectic and troublesome production and pre-production history. The film went through different directors, storylines and screenplays, before 20th Century Fox settled on David Fincher, back then mostly known for his commercials work (he had directed at the time videos for Madonna and George Michael, to name but a few).
The film picks up immediately after the events of James Cameron's "Aliens": while in stasis, Ripley, Newt, Hicks, get attacked by a facehugger that was left behind by the destroyed queen alien. That forces an evacuation of the pods where they are all sleeping, and they all crash land on a planet, Fiorina 161, a semi-abandoned foundry and penal colony facility. In their pod also comes an alien, that attacks one of the animals of the facility, upon which it starts attacking all the inmates. It's up to Ripley and her newfound colleagues to battle this unstoppable menace.
David Fincher is, justifiably so, one of the most celebrated and interesting directors working these days, however in 1991, when he was hired to handle "Alien 3", there was a plethora of problems surrounding the feature. The main one, ended up being the fact that the screenplay was unfinished, and the studio kept on interfering with his decisions (creative and otherwise). This eventually resulted in Fincher abandoning the film, never claiming it as his own, not even to this day. The version that was released to the theaters was assembled by Terry Rawlings, but for the release of the "Alien Quadrilogy" box set, the longer cut that was initially presented to the studio was introduced, and that came closer to what originally Fincher intended to do. The film echoes some of the concepts presented by Ridley Scott in "Alien": a menace that is unstoppable and lurking, starts killing the humans and using them as hosts for new creatures. The sense of menace and the constraints of both technology and the prison facility, add to the claustrophobic feeling the director successfully creates. Visually the film is stunning, mostly due to the mix of futuristic landscape and medieval look that was part of the original concept of the screenplay. The cast is again uniformly good, with Sigourney Weaver evolving her interpretation of Ripley, who is now a tired and cynical survivor. Charles Dance and Charles S. Dutton give good support as the doctor who nurses Ripley and the spiritual leader of the community, respectively. The cinematography of Alex Thomson and the score from Eliot Goldenthal are fantastic. A good film worth discovering and watching.