Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen) ***1/2 - I would not consider this one of Woody Allen's masterpieces. However, it does feature one of the best performances ever in a Woody Allen film. I am of course talking about Cate Blanchett who delivers an award-worthy performance as the title character, a mentally unstable spoiled wife whose husband was a Bernie Madoff-type crook. She's deservedly getting attention but I will also say that equally deserving of praise is Sally Hawkins whose role may not be as showy but she provides a pitch perfect foil for Blanchett's character as her "poor" but bit more together sister.
Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)
***1/2 - Based on the tragic true story of Oscar Grant III, a young man
who was shot during an altercation in a train station early New Year's
Day 2009. The film mostly avoids sensationalism and preachiness which
can often befall films like these. Instead, it concentrates on telling a
story of a imperfect but decent human being going about what will be
his final day. The film of course would not work nor have the same
impact without the absolutely beautiful performances of Michael B.
Jordan and Octavia Spencer (whose work here is far superior to her
Oscar-winning work in The Help). I first saw Michael B. Jordan as a standout in the first season of The Wire. It's wonderful to see him grow up to be a fine, fine young actor and one to look forward to seeing more of.
Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel
Coen/Ethan Coen) **** - The Coen Brothers, I noticed, have this really
fascinating way of presenting the world regardless of genre or their
subject matter. Even in their weakest film, there are always elements
that I find interesting and funny. This film may not be my absolute
favorite from them but it's certainly in the top-tier. The title
character Llewyn Davis is a struggling, homeless folk singer who
basically has a knack for alienating everyone around him. In other
words, a chronic fuck-up. Oscar Isaac is quite excellent. He manages to
make you want to go on his journey despite the fact he's a highly
unlikeable character. Being, Coen brothers of course, the film is quite
funny and features a colorful supporting cast of characters. Beautifully
shot and also has a great soundtrack.
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin
Scorsese) **** - I frankly don't know why people think this film
endorses the actions of its characters. I personally don't think it
does. It doesn't judge them or try to condemn them in any way shape or
form and allows the audience to judge them for themselves. After seeing
it, I came away thinking it's a really hilarious very dark comedy
featuring some very repulsive, greedy characters. It's like Goodfellas but with less guns, more tits and more laughs. This is probably Martin Scorsese's funniest film, funnier than even After Hours.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his career-best performance in this
film. He oozes sleazy charm and gives one powerhouse motivational speech
after another. I usually don't like Jonah Hill but he proves his worth
here and Margot Robbie is a really wonderful (and sizzling hot!!!!!!)
find. Overall, I think this is an excellent film. One of the best of the
year and a crowning jewel in Martin Scorsese's ouvre.
Ernest & Celestine (Stephane Aubier/Vincent Patard/Benjamin Renner) ***1/2 - I saw this the same day as The Wolf of Wall Street
and I thought this would make for a nice palette cleanser. And it is.
It's really a very nice, sweet fable about a world where mice and bears
live in seperate worlds where they fear and/or disgusted with each other
and Ernest, a bear, and Celestine, a mouse, each outsiders of sorts in
their own worlds meet and become friends causing all sorts of
complications. In a world filled with CGI, it's nice that they're still
making wonderful 2D animated films like these. The story is simple yet
manages to be funny and poignant. A terrific film.