Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Tomas Alfredson) ***1/2 - This is a slow-burn spy thriller set during the cold war. It gets a bit slow and hard-to-follow in the beginning but gradually picks up and becomes rather gripping. Gary Oldman gives a remarkably controlled and subtle performance as a veteran agent trying to ferret out a mole in their agency. He is supported by an amazing ensemble of actors especially Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. It's also very skillfully directed by Tomas Alfredson and the design, cinematography and score are all impeccable. Definitely worth your time.
Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog) **** - This
is a film that has many layers of insanity and I absolutely love it, not quite
as much as Aguirre, Wrath of God but I
still do. Basically, it's all about a man who treks deep into the jungles of the
Amazon river and enlists natives to help him drag a steamboat over a hill to the
other side of the river in order for him to earn enough money so he can build an
opera house in the Amazon village where he lives. It's as insane as it sounds
and I love it. Even more insane is the fact that they actually did it on film.
The passion that the title character has for this project is very much
reflective of the passion of director Werner Herzog and his star, Klaus Kinski.
The Kid with a Bike (Jean Pierre
Dardenne/Luc Dardenne) **** - The Dardenne Brothers are, to me anyway, the
modern day heirs of both Robert Bresson and Vittorio De Sica in their sparse
dramas that are both minimalist and humanist in their approach. They further
prove that with this affecting drama about a young boy whose father abandons him
and a kind woman comes to his rescue. It's moving without being the least bit
sappy or sentimental. Thomas Doret, who plays the troubled young boy, gives a
magnificent, moving performance that's simply heartbreaking. Also great is
Cecile DeFrance as the kind woman who inexplicably takes him into her home. A
Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski) *** - The
first act of this film felt a bit derivative: Earth is deserted after a war with
alien invaders left everything devastated and two people are tasked with
"cleaning things up" while the rest of the population are up in space. However,
the third act twist elevates this to very good instead of just being okay.
Joseph Kosinski's last film, TRON:
Legacy was visually dazzling with a great score but left me cold
otherwise. This one, however, is a vast improvement. It may not be a sci-fi
masterpiece but it's engaging story with some darn good special effects.
Kosinski knows how to direct action scenes, thank goodness there's a decent
enough story built around it.
Dreams (Les Blank) **** - Director Les Blank recently passed away while
at the same time, I recently saw Fitzcarraldo for the first time. So it's the
best time for me to see this documentary about the making of the film. I
suspected based on what I've seen that the making of Fitzcarraldo would be just as fascinating and
compelling, if not more so, as the film itself. I was absolutely right. It's a
great documentary that's almost a remake of sorts of the film it's documenting
with Werner Herzog replacing the Fitzcarraldo character. Watching this, I have
to say it's a miracle the film got completed and I have to admire Herzog the
director for having the tenacity to complete it. Boy, I could listen to Werner
Herzog talk all day. No joke.