Sunday, January 27, 2019

Die Hard 2

Movie Name: Die Hard 2
Year of Release: 1990
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Reginald VelJohnson, William Sadler, Franco Nero, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, Fred Dalton Thompson, Tom Bower
Genre: Action, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6 
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Synopsis and Review:
Director Renny Harlin made a splash in the early 90s, after he directed "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master", and particularly after the huge hit that was "Die Hard 2" (he was at some point going to directed the maligned "Alien 3"). Unlike the predecessor feature, which utilized a confined space to build tension, and smartly up the ante on the challenges faced by John McClane, the sequel took him to Washington, D.C. , specifically the airport, right before Christmas. His wife Holly is on a flight, and McClane is there to pick her up, since they're spending Christmas with her parents. Turns out, there are terrorists wanting to highjack a drug lord who is being brought over to be tried in the US, and they will stop at nothing, including causing massive fatalities, to make sure they get that man safely and that their escape is spotless. Once again McClane has to be the lone ranger, fighting against incredulous airport security and police, to call out attention to the conspiracy and plot which are taking place.
"Die Hard 2" bears less of the ingenious and dexterous hand from John McTiernan, who navigated the original film to its original status as one of the finest action films ever made. However, it's a film that manages to retain some of the spirit that the original film had, most of it due to Bruce Willis' easy charisma and willingness to work with some of the convoluted plot holes that emerge. It's a film that lacks some finesse, and character development, instead going for the quick editing and big explosions that defined some of the action films of the early 90s (for instance, Tony Scott's "Last Boy Scout" and even Michael Lehmann's maligned "Hudson Hawk", both of which featured Bruce Willis). The supporting characters are for the most part forgettable, as is for instance the roles of the designated villains, who fare far worse than Alan Rickman, who created a formidable foe in the original film. It's a mildly entertaining, yet also quickly forgettable film. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Movie Name: Darkman
Year of Release: 1990
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels, Larry Drake, Nelson Mashita, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, Dan Hicks, Ted Raimi, Aaron Lustig, Nicholas Worth
Genre: Action, Crime
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6 
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Synopsis and Review:
Director Sam Raimi followed his well received "Evil Dead II" with his first studio film (in this case for Universal). The film is an original creation of his, inspired by the horror films of the 30s. The feature follows the story of Peyton Westlake, a medical scientist who is working on a special project focused on synthetic skin. Sadly the locale where he works, is of interest for some gangsters, who force him and his associates violently out, some dying in the process, and Peyton suffering horrific burns. While in the hospital, some new medical treatments are tried on Peyton, transforming his personality and giving him some enhanced capabilities. He escapes the hospital, thirsty for revenge, and for another chance to visit his fiancée, Julie. He uses whatever devices escaped from the fire on his lab, to devise a way to create masks, and start his revenge plans.
"Darkman" is at its core an homage to the monster films from Universal Studios of the 1930s, but also a comic book movie in style and concept. The hero is substantially darker than the typical Marvel or DC cannon, there's an almost sadistic pleasure in him in inflicting pain on those who disfigured him, but the hero/anti-hero is someone who nonetheless wants to protect his loved one and have a normal life. The film exhibits the traits which defined the early career of Sam Raimi, namely the kinetic editing, and brief character definition, both of which exist to propel the action forward, while giving just enough insight into characters motivations and plot dynamics. Though stunted in terms of character depth, it's nonetheless a film punctuated by a good performance from the always reliable Liam Neeson (before his breakout role with Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List") and the always fantastic Frances McDormand, taking a rather thankless role, as the somewhat passive love interest. The cinematography from Bill Pope is great, as is the score of the always excellent Danny Elfman, who in 1990 alone had additional scores for Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands", Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy" and Clive Barker's "Nightbreed". Enjoyable and somewhat forgettable.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Beautiful Boy

Movie Name: Beautiful Boy
Year of Release: 2018
Director: Felix van Groeningen
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, Stefanie Scott, Julian Works, Oakley Bull, Christian Convery, Kue Lawrence, Ricky Low, Andre Royo
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6 
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Synopsis and Review:
Director Felix Van Groeningen made a name for himself with the film "The Broken Circle Breakdown" which proved to be a critical hit back in 2012. "Beautiful Boy" is an adaptation of the memoirs from father and son, David and Nic Sheff. The film focuses on the progressive deterioration of Nic's life, as he becomes further consumed by drug addiction. As Nic becomes further enthralled by his addiction, his father desperately tries to rescue him from the temptation, and from himself. After landing in the hospital, Nic moves with his mom in LA, where he manages to go through a rehab program, but that is something that doesn't last for very long. Back in San Francisco while visiting his father and siblings, Nic falls back into old habits which sends him on a dangerous downward spiral.
"Beautiful Boy" is a film that depicts the descent of a promising young man into the pits of drug addiction, and the impact that his choices have on his father's life and the whole family. The film decides to focus more on the trials of the father, as he desperately tries to understand what is motivating his son to embark on such a perilous journey, revealing less about the reasonings behind Nic's addiction. It's a film that lives primarily from the performances from the acting ensemble the director has assembled. While Steve Carell is adequate, the stronger performances fall on Timothée Chalamet and Amy Ryan, both of whom create characters that transcend simple clichés (namely, the well-off young kid dealing with drugs, and the self entitled and career focused mom). The film lacks a grittier and far more realistic perspective into something as harrowing as drug addiction, but it is nonetheless an interesting view into the tribulations of a family going through something as devastating as drug addiction. A watchable yet un-memorable film.

Eighth Grade

Movie Name: Eighth Grade
Year of Release: 2018
Director: Bo Durnham
Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Daniel Zolghadri, Fred Hechinger
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6 
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Synopsis and Review:
Bo Durnham has made a career for himself as a standup comedian/performer, and "Eighth Grade" is his directorial debut in narrative film. The film follows the story of Kayla, during her last week in middle school. Kayla is a somewhat introverted girl, who reaches out to the world, through social media, namely through Instagram, Snapchat and making motivational videos on Youtube. She lives with her caring and supporting father, who try as he might, is always faced with a block of rejection or silence from Kayla. She's equally quiet at school, save for when she goes to the high school she'll be joining, where she has to shadow one of the students there. She makes quick friends with Olivia, who in turns opens Kayla social dynamics a bit further with unexpected results.
"Eighth Grade" is a film that closes in on the experiences of going to middle school, through the eyes of a somewhat introverted young girl. It gives some insight into what teenagers dabble in and are interested in, with the advent of social media, where everyone has a podium to advertise their ideas on virtually anything and everything. It's a film that is almost voyeuristic, in the sense that it tries to capture all the motivations and aspirations of the young Kayla, but somehow falls short of doing so. She mostly comes across as someone awkward, trying to reach out to others through those devices, but who struggles to even communicate with her father, who is indeed her fan and supporter. It's an interesting portrait of adolescence, more anchored in observational situations, than in uncovering what underlies the angst of these young people in general, and of this character in particular. Elsie Fisher manages to create an interesting character, as does Josh Hamilton, an underrated character actor, who deserves more screen time in his next films. An interesting debut. 

Best Films of 2018

2018 turned out to be a somewhat mediocre year for films. Even if the attendance increased, most films that propelled those numbers were vastly mediocre or instantly forgettable (such as James Wan's "Aquaman" for instance). My ten best list, includes films released during 2018, though some were actually produced in 2017. Also should be noted, that two of those films came from streaming giant, Netflix. I also included two new TV shows that debuted in 2018, that are worth checking out.

Director: Alex Garland
Stars: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac, David Gyasi, Benedict Wong

You Were Never Really Here
Director: Lynne Ramsey
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, John Doman, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, Dante Pereira-Olson, Scott Price

Director: Ari Aster
Stars: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Mallory Betchel, Jarrod Phillips

Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Stars: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Wes Bentley, Kristoffer Joner

Director: Luca Guadagnino
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ingrid Caven, Sylvie Testud, Malgorzata Bela, Angela Winkler, Alek Wek, Jessica Batut, Elena Fokina, Renee Soutendijk, Christine Leboute, Olivia Ancona, Majon Van der Schot, Doris Hick, Clementine Houdart, Vanda Capriolo

Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Stars: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Nancy Garcia Garcia, Veronica Garcia, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero

The Favourite
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Stars: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, Mark Gatiss, James Smith

Director: Steve McQueen
Stars: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Garrett Dillahunt, Lukas Haas, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Coburn  Goss, Molly Kunz, Adepero Oduye, Matt Walsh, Kevin J. O'Connor

Private Life
Director: Tamara Jenkins
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Shannon, John Carroll Lynch, Denis O'Hare, Kayli Carter, Emily Robinson, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Desmin Borges

Isle of Dogs
Director: Wes Anderson
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Jeff Goldblum

TV shows worth investigating include Mike Flanagan's The Haunting of Hill House and to a lesser extent, Laeta Kalogridis' "Altered Carbon".

Films that simply failed on multiple levels include Ava DuVernay's "A Wrinkle in Time", Brad Peyton's "Rampage", James Wan's "Aquaman", J.A. Bayona's "Jurassic World: Lost Kingdom", Shane Black's "The Predator" and Corin Hardy's "The Nun".

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Dances with Wolves

Movie Name: Dances with Wolves
Year of Release: 1990
Director: Kevin Costner
Starring: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman, Tantoo Cardinal, Robert Pastorelli, Charles Rocket, Maury Chaykin, Jimmy Herman, Michael Spears
Genre: Drama, Western
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7 
Watch on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
After he solidified his acting career with a string of hits in the 80s, Kevin Costner made his directorial debut in 1990, with his passion project, an adaptation of the Michael Blake novel "Dances with Wolves". The film follows the story of Lieutenant John Dunbar, who following what he thought was a suicidal last moment in a battle (Civil War), ends up leading his troops to victory. Dunbar gets rewarded for his act of bravery, and gets a position in the Western frontier. He finds the post deserted, but slowly rebuilds it, while making friends with a lonely wolf that comes by, and the nearby Native American tribe. In that tribe, he discovers a white woman who has been raised by them, with whom he becomes enamored with. This peaceful co-existence continues to develop and grow roots, until a regiment shows up to assess Dunbar's progress, throwing everything into disarray.
"Dances with Wolves" was of course an iconic film from the 90s. It amplified Kevin Costner's career, giving him critical and commercial success (he won Academy Awards, and nearly every award available in 1991), and propelling him to a high profile career that only started to cool off after Kevin Reynolds' "Waterworld". The film comes more as a spiritual descendant of Ralph Nelson's "Soldier Blue", more so than the iconic films of John Ford (such as "The Searchers"), which it also references. It's a film about the relationship established between people of different communities, at a time when the American territory was still being shaped, and tension existed between the Native American tribes and the settlers. The film is at its best when it goes for the open shots of the west, showing the natural beauty of the territory. It is somewhat maudlin when it comes to the depiction of the relationships at hand, but it's nonetheless effective in creating an authentic feel for life in the Western Frontier in the late 19th century. Time hasn't been as forgiving with this film as it was when it originally came out - the film was then praised for maintaining the authenticity of the tribes dialect, but it is still very much a vision of that existence from an external point of view, and not so much a fairly realistic one (just for comparison, it's interesting to see the far more poetic, grittier vision that Alejandro G. Iñárritu captured with "The Revenant"). It's an interesting film nonetheless featuring great supporting performances from Mary McDonnell and Graham Greene, beautiful cinematography from Dean Semler and the always memorable score from John Barry. Worth watching. 

Cyrano de Bergerac

Movie Name: Cyrano de Bergerac
Year of Release: 1990
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Anne Brochet, Vincent Perez, Jacques Weber, Roland Bertin, Phillippe Morier-Genoud, Pierre Maguelon, Philippe Volter, Louis Navarre
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8 
View trailer

Synopsis and Review:
Writer/Director Jean-Paul Rappeneau has been working steadily since the 50s. "Cyrano de Bergerac", which made a splash at the Cannes Film Festival of 1990, is undoubtedly his biggest hit, both commercially and critically (the film went on to win 10 César Awards, the Academy Award French equivalent). Adapted from the play by Edmond Rostand by Rappeneau and Jean-Claude Carrière, the film follows the adventures of the heroic and larger than life Cyrano. He's a valiant, sensitive and humorous poet and man of arms, possessed of a large nose, something that makes him somewhat self-conscious. He's also in love with his cousin, the beautiful Roxanne. When he discovers she has become enamored of the young and dashing Christian de Neuvillette, himself a new cadet serving in the same military branch as himself, he decides to help him gain her affections. Cyrano starts writing and telling Christian what to say to her. As Roxanne falls in love with Christian, another rival enters the scene, someone who takes the situation in a different direction. As Roxanne denies her affections to this man, his reprisals force Christian and Cyrano to go to war with the Spanish, with dramatic consequences.
"Cyrano de Bergerac" is a film that is truly a testament to the beautiful writings of Edmond Rostand, but also to the vision of Jean-Paul Rappeneau to stage the film in a dynamic, humorous and emotional manner. The film captures the lyricism and poetry of the original writings and by extension, it builds a beautifully rendered story of unrequited love. Gérard Depardieu is truly phenomenal as Cyrano, a memorable performance where his immense talent and physicality are perfectly tailored to this character, from the athletic aspect of it, to the quieter and softer moments that the film provides. It's a performance that is richly layered, going through a range of emotions, something that makes the character, and the film by extension, feel truly alive, and not just a superbly crafted period reconstruction. The supporting cast is equally fantastic, from the beautiful Anne Brochet, Vincent Perez and Jacques Weber, as the denied lover. It's a film that works both in the emotional larger set pieces, with the swashbuckling/action scenes, but also in the smaller, emotional and quieter ones. The cinematography from Pierre Lhomme is beautiful, as is the score of Jean-Claude Petit. A fantastic film always worth watching.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Back to the Future Part III

Movie Name: Back to the Future Part III
Year of Release: 1990
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Elisabeth Shue, Thomas F. Wilson, Lea Thompson, Matt Clark, Richard Dysart, Pat Buttram, Harry Carey Jr., James Tolkan, Marc McClure, Wendie Jo Sperber, Jeffrey Weissman
Genre: Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6 
Watch on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
After the success of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", director Robert Zemeckis tackled the direction of the two sequels to his enormously entertaining "Back to the Future". The first sequel premiered in 1989 and the second in 1990. The film finds Marty McFly stranded in 1955, and having to resort to Doc Brown yet again, but this time around, to go back in time to retrieve the Doc Brown from 1985, who accidentally was sent back in time to 1885. When Marty does get back to 1885, he gets tangled with another of Biff Tannen's ancestors, a criminal by the name of Buford 'Mad Dog' Tannen. As usual in his adventures, Marty miraculously manages to overcome Tannen, and he and Doc try to get the car on the rail-tracks in order to get back to 1985. However this time around, Doc has created emotional ties with a schoolteacher, by the name of Clara Clayton, which makes the separation a lot more difficult. 
The very talented Robert Zemeckis, is someone who has made a career for himself by being able to create compelling narratives, ones that marry deft, emotional and well layered screenplays, with technical prowess,  a marriage that makes his features truly memorable. "Back to the Future Part III" is the closure to one of his most successful films, and sadly not the most compelling one. His most action centric films always manage to combine humor, with just enough daredevil action, to make them engaging and satisfying, however the combination of science-fiction, western revival and comedy, is somewhat unbalanced and somewhat contrived. What was so deliriously satisfying about the previous installment, was the fact that the director (and the cast), knew they had the liberty to play with timelines and just generally play with pop culture references - the tone was definitely zany and almost hyperbolic when compared with the somewhat restrained first film. The third chapter tries very hard to be reverential to the Western genre, and it ends up not being sufficiently funny, nor sufficiently Western driven. The helium balloon which was powering the very funny series, deflates somewhat in this chapter. The film features nonetheless the committed Michael J. Fox alongside Christopher Lloyd, both of whom try to elevate the material as much as possible. The cinematography from Dean Cundey is wonderful, as is the classic score from Alan Silvestri. A somewhat minor chapter in an otherwise stellar series.


Movie Name: Awakenings
Year of Release: 1990
Director: Penny Marshall
Starring: Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, John Heard, Julie Kavner, Penelope Anne Miller, Max Von Sydow, Ruth Nelson, Alice Drummond, Richard Libertini, Anne Meara, Dexter Gordon
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6 
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
"Awakenings" is the third film in Penny Marshall's directorial career, and follows the successful "Big", which was a turning point for both her and Tom Hanks' careers. "Awakenings" is an adaptation of the book by Dr. Oliver Sacks, and follows the events that took place in his career when he dealt with a group of patients who had survived the encephalitis lethargica epidemic (which lasted between 1917-1928). The film takes place in 1969, and the adaptation places the center of the narrative upon the relationship established between Leonard Lowe, a patient who had been catatonic since he was 11 years old, and Dr. Malcolm Sayer (the proxy for Dr. Sacks). When Dr. Sayer manages to change the medication for the patients, after much research and hurdles, that trial run slowly produces effects and brings Leonard to life. This awakening, allows him to restart his life, develop new relationships, much to the disbelief of his elderly mother. This awakening is however not without issues - Leonard's mood starts shifting and he starts developing tics that indicate that the medication may not be entirely successful.
"Awakenings" is a fictionalized version of Dr. Sacks' book, and covers the events surrounding his tenure in an Hospital in the Bronx, where through a series of trials, he managed to change medication routines, and impact the lives of patients who had been catatonic for decades (this is obviously a mere snippet of the tremendous work performed by Dr. Sacks). The film and the screenplay give the overall story un-necessary embellishments, by adding love interests for both Leonard and Malcolm (which in the case of Robin Williams' character wasn't even realistic since Dr. Sacks was in fact gay). Those embellishments are extended to the portrayal of Leonard who suddenly, upon waking up, becomes a savant, telling the shy Dr. Sayer that life is all about taking chances, seizing the day and generally exploring the reality that surrounds us all (he goes from catatonic to New Age Guru). The film is more successful when it captures the emergence of Leonard from his sleep, and Malcom's attempts at saving these patients whose lives have been stunted by such a terrible ailment. It's a film that lives primarily from the two main performers, with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams balancing each other perfectly, with the first one creating a character dazzled by everything he discovers, while Robin Williams channels his enormous energy inwards, and creates someone shy, but deeply emotional and committed. It's a somewhat forgettable film, but nonetheless a watchable one due to the talent assembled. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sex and the City 2

Movie Name: Sex and the City 2
Year of Release: 2010
Director: Michael Patrick King
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth, Candice Bergen, Jennifer Hudson, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Mario Cantone, Willie Garson, Alice Eve, Liza Minnelli, Lynn Cohen, Art Malik, Raza Jaffrey, John Corbett, Max Ryan, Noah Mills, Michael T. Weiss, Kelli O'Hara, David Alan Basche, Condola Rashad, Penelope Cruz
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 1 
Watch on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Following the astounding success of the first film, Michael Patrick King quickly gathered the cast of the first film and show, and returned for a sequel. The film once again follows the adventures of Carrie Bradshaw and her friends. Samantha now in her 50s, is battling menopause, Miranda is dealing with some complications at the office and Charlotte is handling a house with two small children demanding a lot of attention. Carrie in the meantime is having issues with her married life, since her husband loves staying at home and watching TV, while she desires a life that is more socially engaging. The girls all get what they want, a break from their domestic challenges, when Samantha gets an all paid trip to Abu Dhabi, courtesy of a film producer who has worked with Smith Jarrod in his latest feature. They all get a nice luxury vacation, one that goes smoothly, until Carrie sees her ex fiancée, Aidan, who fires up her attention. 
"Sex and the City 2" further removes the characters from any remotely relatable traits they once had, and goes flamboyantly into the deep waters of kitsch. The film is truly a testament on creating a feature based literally on nothing. There's little to no relationship drama at this point with these characters, and instead of opting for a view/insight of what it means to grow older and how that impacts relationships, the film sails into the shallow and offensive traps of taking the heroines to an exotic locale, where they learn some lessons about cultural differences, while simultaneously regaining an appreciation for the domestic life that was driving them insane. What made the show interesting, was always the ability to show glimpses into the lives of these different women, how they tackled relationships and expectations surrounding them. That has all been swept away in this film, which chooses to portray and reduce the characters to episodic moments of laughter or epiphanies that don't mean much. It's a film that isn't very funny, nor very relevant, and that does a disservice to the cast and the legacy of the show. The one single aspect to commend, is Penélope Cruz's willingness to even cameo in this film, and bring with her an ease and relaxed feel that is all but gone from the entire narrative. Avoid at all costs. 

Sex and the City

Movie Name: Sex and the City
Year of Release: 2008
Director: Michael Patrick King
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth, Candice Bergen, Jennifer Hudson, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Mario Cantone, Willie Garson, Joanna Gleason
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3 
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
Ater the end of the show "Sex and the City" in 2004, Michael Patrick King, one of the show runners and producers, decided to continue the story of the four main characters. "Sex and the City" is his feature directorial debut, after a lengthy career in television. The film follows the story of Carrie Bradshaw, after she has turned 40, and is settled in a stable relationship with Mr. Big, aka, John Preston. Her friends in the meanwhile, have also continued to experience different trials and tribulations. Miranda and Steve care experiencing some rocky moments in their marriage, while Charlotte has an adopted little girl, while still attempting to get pregnant. Samantha in the meantime is living in LA with Smith Jarrod, handling his career and keeping her publicist business moving forward. When Carrie and Big decide to get married, the entire event gets out of the hand, and has an unexpected outcome, sending the girls on an unexpected trip to understand what went wrong, and also self analyze their lives.
Part of what made "Sex and the City" show relevant, was the fact that it anchored a distinct female point of view, from a group of young women, dealing with adulthood, relationships, sex and what does come next as you age. Towards the end of the show, the storytelling became less about the vicissitudes of women's lives in a big metropolis, and more about the lives of those living in the lap of luxury, though Kim Cattrall's character did provide a somewhat grounded perspective as her character went through some emotional and health turmoils. The film "Sex and the City" is like an amalgamation of three episodes of the latter part of the show, which means, less insightful, less realistic (if that was even part of what described the show during its run), and definitely more artificial and manicured. What made the show perennially entertaining was the fact that it was rough around the edges at times, particularly during the first three seasons, where all the characters had their ups and downs, and were shown in a very humane manner. The film bypasses all that, and focuses instead on what apparently the creators thought the audience wanted to see: fashion shows, sex innuendos, and living the high life. It makes for quick viewing, but sadly for little substance. Cynthia Nixon as usual, manages to create a character that is just brazen enough to make this endeavor watchable. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019


Movie Name: Alice
Year of Release: 1990
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Mia Farrow, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Joe Mantegna, Judy Davis, Cybill Shepherd, Julie Kavner, Robin Bartlett, Blythe Danner, Gwen Verdon, Caroline Aaron, Bob Balaban, Keye Luke, Holland Taylor, June Squibb
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7 
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Following the well received, critically and commercially, "Crimes and Misdemeanors", director Woody Allen went in a lighter note, and returned with his yearly opus, "Alice", which premiered in December of 1990. The film follows the story of Alice, a very rich and lovely woman, living in Manhattan, with her husband and children. Alice has a personal trainer, an interior decorator, and a busy social life, but starts complaining about her back, and the lack of having a career. She goes to a Chinese doctor, who prescribes some potent, and magical herbs and teas, that start surfacing all sorts of buried things that Alice has kept inside. For starters she remembers and engages fondly with her past fiancée who passed away, Ed. She also gets the nerve to flirt and consider an affair with a divorced Jazz player, by the name of Joe. And she finally realizes her ambitions of writing are more driven by guilt, than actual talent, while also discovering her husband has been cheating on her for quite some time. The treatments allow for Alice to truly get in touch with who she is, and in the process re-awaken the woman she always wanted to be.
"Alice" is a film that brings back the Woody Allen focused on lighter topics, but this time around, he chooses to do so, by focusing his comedic perspective on the of re-awakening someone's purpose in life. Alice is a woman who is haunted by family decisions and by some episodes of her past, and yet, someone whose present has been lavishly rewarded, with a luxurious life in Manhattan. As her life progresses, these past anchors that have always haunted her, start surfacing and manifesting themselves physically, something that the magical herbs solve, and provide a catalyst for some good humor, but also for some realizations. It's a film that is smartly built, mixing themes of nostalgia, emotional longing and resolution, but also growth, acceptance and the happiness of finding inner peace. It also features a knockout performance from Mia Farrow in the central role, one who goes from timid to seductress, in a few short minutes, and back to confused shortly after. The cinematography from Carlo Di Palma is stunning as are the costumes from Jeffrey Kurland. A very good film always worth revisiting.

Edward Scissorhands

Movie Name: Edward Scissorhands
Year of Release: 1990
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Alan Arkin, Robert Oliveri, Conchata Ferrell, Caroline Aaron, Dick Anthony Williams, O-Lan Jones, Vincent Price, Susan Blommaert, John Davidson
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9 
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Tim Burton continued his revelatory career in the 90s, with "Edward Scissorhands", one of his first truly personal films, based on a story of his own creation. The whole narrative follows Edward, a young man invented by an old genius, who sadly passed away before being able to finish Edward, leaving him alone and with scissors for hands. Edward lives remotely, in the old inventor's home, and is discovered by Peg Boggs, a nearby neighbor, who is also an Avon sales person. Witnessing his isolation and sadness, Peg decides to bring Edward to town, to live with her family. While initially unaware of most of everything that pertains to living in society, Edward soon dazzles everyone with his creative mind, and his abilities with topiary and hair. His entanglement in the lives of the community, while initially well received and cheered upon, quickly turn sour, with dramatic results.
"Edward Scissorhands" is a beautiful fable, one that mixes a lot of what James Whale had done with Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", but brings that same context into American suburbia, and distills it with his gothic and overall stylistic approach. It's a film that cemented his point of view, one that is typically associated with heroes that don't fit in with normal society, and that are rendered and categorized as freaks or outcasts, but who in the end, have a way of capturing or creating poetry and beauty, only to be in many occasions, pushed aside or even brutally mistreated. Edward, is one of his most iconic characters, due to his personality traits (kindness, quiet, focused but also oblivious), but also because of his presentation, with the disheveled hair, the dark leather suit, and the scissors for hands. Burton also creates suburbia as a land of boredom and yet filled with bright colors, an overly saturated realm of excitement for Edward, who is accustomed to dark surroundings in his decaying castle. It's a film that allows for the message to come across loud and clear - how quickly we judge, and how we never listen, choosing most of the times to trample and destroy what we don't understand. It's a beautiful film, featuring fantastic performances from Johnny Depp, Dianne Weist, Alan Arkin and Kathy Baker. The cinematography from Stefan Czapsky is fantastic, as is the score from Danny Elfman. A great film always worth watching.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Music with an Impact - 2018

2018 was an interesting year for music. The political climate that is being felt all over the world, permeated across the work of these diverse and accomplished artists. The overall tone was definitely introspective, reflective and filled with different textures, something that Thom Yorke's work for "Suspiria" (the soundtrack) can attest and exemplify perfectly. On top of new releases, I was also able to discover some previous releases from artists who have become my favorites.
Below are my favorites of 2018.

Jon Hopkins - Utopia
Nils Frahm - All Melody
Tim Hecker - Konoyo
Robyn - Honey
Beast - Ens
Thom Yorke - Suspiria
Gas - Rausch
Neneh Cherry - Broken Politics
Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer

Jon Hopkins - Monsters
Clark - Death Peak
Geotic - Abysma