Movie Reviews of 2013: Mud (#421), The Place Beyond The Pines (#422)

Doing some marathon-ing the past week so I’m gonna have to shorten my thoughts on each movie. Don’t worry though, I’ll still get to the bottom of everything. Expect this format for the next two weeks or so. And to start it off, let me tell you something about Mud and The Place Beyond The Pines – two very good dramas, but the replayability of the former is loads more than the latter.

MUD

Featuring real actors with unbelievable potential

Who would’ve expected the generic Hollywood rom-com star Matthew McConaughey to end up transforming into an actor worthy of an Oscar nomination. He becomes a completely different person in Mud, a movie involving one of the finest acting ensembles of the year. Yet despite his great performance, the real scene-stealer is 16-year old Tye Sheridan who pulls off a tearjerker with such ease it’s impressive to watch. The performances in this southern coming-of-age drama are compelling, heart-warming, and engaging at the same time and I hope it won’t be forgotten come Oscar season. They make great use of the screenplay and director Jeff Nichols did well in creating a realistic setting that really helped nail down one’s connection with the characters. It’s a very solid drama and has now made its way to my Top 10 Films of 2013.

GRADE: B+

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

A solid drama that’s tough to watch

There’s nothing to love about this film, because in all aspects The Place Beyond The Pines is a downer. But what compels you to keep watching are the characters that are sadly intertwined in this tough drama starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Dane DeHaan.  It tackles themes similar to those of On The Job – my current favorite film of the year. It’s a solid, beautifully-made, and gut-wrenching drama about fate, fatherhood and responsibilities – but its premise is so depressing that I’d probably never see it again due to its unapologetic grittiness.

GRADE: B

 

 

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Movie Review #420: To The Wonder (2013)

Pretty and pretty pointless

Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder is similar to an abstract painting that’s nice to look at, but isn’t compelling enough to make you stare and search for meaning for almost two hours. It strays away from conventional storytelling and in its place is a narrative almost devoid of dialogue coupled with voiceovers and visual mannerisms that make the film seem less meaningful and more pointless as time passes.

The story is told in the perspective of four people played by Olga Kurylenko, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem. All of them struggle to find something that I can only assume centers on love, happiness, and God. Aside from a few smiles and laughs, none of them actually say much. This leaves them relying on body language and actions to express their emotions and explain what the hell is going on. Even I can’t quite decide what the main point of the movie is, though I guess that’s the real intent of Malick – to leave everything that was presented open to interpretation and discussion. Only then, I believe, will people find enough things to satisfy themselves in this vagueness.

Of course, its weird structure could annoy people that they won’t even bother talking about it. I myself found Malick’s style to be tiresome and unsustainable. As for Wonder’s entirety, it’s a bit gloomy and dull; certainly not enjoyable, but the cast and the picturesque settings have enough charm to keep you watching through the end.

GRADE: C

Movie Review #419: Gravity (2013)

A towering achievement in filmmaking

Gravity is a movie worthy of comparison to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) only made more relevant by advances in technology. It’s not amazing because it’s thought-provoking, but because it attempted to provide both a visual and physical experience that the average person could never have – until now. The use of space as the setting is as compelling as it is beautiful. And with the help of Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography and Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful direction, people are transported to cinematic bliss.

The film has already penetrated the Top 50 films ever list on the Internet Movie Database, which meant audiences, at least online cinephiles have grown to adore this rare offering. On its third week in theaters it’s still the most watched movie at the big screen, apt considering Gravity’s selling point is its offering of an unforgettable 90-minute trip to space with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. To be honest I think the only way you can fully enjoy the experience is by catching a screening today, as deferring until it gets released in DVD will surely disappoint people who have heard so much from this Oscar frontrunner. This is also just one of the few that utilizes 3D in such a great way that it transcends its gimmickry nature for the sake of art and storytelling; so once again, kudos to Cuaron for nailing it.

Unfortunately, the film is stained by an unavoidable problem in its premise. With only Bullock and Clooney to lean on to for the majority of the screen time, the film has a tendency to drag especially on times of dialogue or when the characters’ movements become restrained inside a spacecraft. Neverthless, it is compensated by highly intense moments that arrive sporadically, which admittedly gave me goosebumps when they came. I haven’t had that feeling in a long while and this is what truly sets Gravity apart from the latest offerings at the box office recently.

Long story short, Gravity is a visual masterpiece with a major flaw that prevents it from becoming astonishing from start to finish. But despite its problems, it’s one that I’d recommend aliens to see if they ever visit Earth to learn some of the finest works we’ve ever produced. I just hope they’re patient enough to sit through it all.

GRADE: B+

Movie Reviews: Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters (#417), Trance (#418)

Yes it’s silly, but what did you expect?

Action? Yes. Dark? Sometimes. Comedy? Maybe. Violent? Absolutely! You don’t really know what this adaptation of Hansel and Gretel is until you realize it doesn’t matter. It’s simply a silly film you wouldn’t mind watching for some mindless entertainment. Sure it’s not mind-blowing, but when boredom comes your way I’m sure you won’t mind taking a peek at witch hunters killing witches in blood-spattering fashion.

Of course it wouldn’t hurt to have stars like Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton playing the titular siblings. Both of them have that charm that’s pleasing to watch without necessarily requiring them to bring out excellent performances. At least when things get overly ridiculous you have them to lean on to help you accept what’s happening. Still, the amount of entertainment I got from the fast-paced witch slaying makes up for its tonality issues. And that’s really just what you hope for in a film that’s supposed to be awful – find a way to compensate the bad elements and make it a worthwhile watch. So good job Witch Hunters, you’re not a waste of time after all.

GRADE: C+

Hypnotizing

While watching Trance I couldn’t help but notice the electrifying pulse of Rick Smith’s score, because despite the flaws of the film’s narrative it makes director Danny Boyle’s creation a little more ‘thrilling’ than it’s supposed to be. The small gaps found in the plot is made forgotten by the strong performances of the main cast featuring the likes of James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson, with their intensity peaking during a rather exciting revelation at the climax.

One of the issues I had was that the film’s main theme of hypnosis was not made believable enough, which could possibly ruin someone’s liking of the film. It also came off somewhat boring at the start, but by the time Trance ends you’ll wonder how time could pass by so quickly. If there’s a word that can perfectly describe the movie, it’s that it’s hypnotizing. And to understand it you’ll just have to see for yourself.

GRADE: B

This Week I Watched: Inside Job (#414), 300 (#415), Perks of Being A Wallflower (#416)

I’m back and boy did I have a great week at the movies! First I had my initial viewing of 2010’s academy award winning documentary, Inside Job. Then I feasted on the chiselled, greased-up bodies of Spartans in 300 (just kidding). Finally, I took a little detour with a surprisingly mature flick called the Perks of Being a Wallflower. All of them are very good films and I personally recommend them.

To start off, let me just tell you that I’m currently a college student taking up business administration and accountancy, which means that I’d actually be one of those people who’d be excited to catch Inside Job. It gives us a closer look to what took place during the financial crisis in the mid-2000s, and is no doubt a well-thought of, well-directed piece. Going in I didn’t even know much about what happened, and this film was definitely an eye-opener. It’s compelling, informative, and angry. And that rage is what drove the movie to be so much more than a simple inquisitive documentary. It’s so good it’s now on my ‘Top 10 Films of 2010’ list.

Next up is 300, Zack Snyder’s visually-striking medieval blockbuster that I remember liking a lot back when it was first released. I haven’t rated it then but I have to say my repeat viewing was just as enjoyable. War never looked as good as this, and Snyder should receive most of the credit. Compared to his disaster named Sucker Punch, this one actually had a story to tell, and Gerard Butler was brutish and charismatic as Leonidas.

Last but not the least: Perks. I’ve always wanted to catch this but I keep forgetting. But when I finally did I was taken aback by how this coming-of-age story played out. It’s very well done and the things going on in the film hits you hard. Not only does Stephen Chbosky tackle mature themes, he also presents it in an intriguing way. The trio of Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, and Emma Watson are entertaining to watch and I can only hope they can continue their careers with even greater roles. The film is not without its flaws (like the cinematography), but one can only complain so much about an otherwise wonderful movie.

Final Grades:

Inside Job: A-

300: B+

The Perks of Being A Wallflower: B+