Sunday, February 9, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (2/2/14 - 2/8/14)

The Square (Jehane Noujaim) ***1/2 - This is a fascinating documentary about Egyptian uprising AFTER Mubarak stepped down through the eyes of a handful of freedom activists including British-born Egyptian actor, Khalid Abdallah and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a film I feel whose story is not yet finished since as of this writing, the struggle for true democracy and freedom in Egypt continues. This documentary allows us an insider glimpse into the struggle of freedom and democracy while never shying away from showing all the grey areas and the shocking violence. I don't think feel like I'm already expert in the issues surrounding Egypt but the film does give you a lot to chew on. Overall, an excellent piece.

Floating Clouds (Mikio Naruse) **** - A woman and a man married to someone else meet up again after World War II. The woman hopes to maybe rekindle their past affair. At first you think this is going to be bittersweet romantic film about two lovers who can never be together but as the film goes on, it becomes more and more bitter than sweet and goes into all surprising directions. Someone described this film to me as "anti-romance". I can see how it is. If it was made today, the film feels like it's giving the middle finger to Nicholas Sparks and his ilk. The soapy, romantic elements are often undercut by the darker aspects of the story. It's a compelling, surprising film that will probably illicit strong reactions. This is my second film from director Mikio Naruse. I will exploring more from his filmography soon.

You're Next (Adam Wingard) *** - A family reunion goes terribly wrong as unknown assailants kill them one by one. The film starts out as your run-of-the-mill slasher film but the twist here makes it a better-than-your average horror film. Just like Scream this one has lots of in-jokes for horror fans but this time around, they are heavily referencing and influenced by Italian horror, or giallo movies by Dario Argento and Mario Bava. It didn't exactly blow me away but it does have some really good scares and good kills. It's a pretty fun horror film but nothing particularly outstanding.

The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges) **** - A woman married to a broke architect decides to divorce him out of "practicality". Along the way, she meets a charming millionaire. I've been meaning to see more of Preston Sturges' filmography since I really loved his other two films. This one is yet another great one. It is a screwball comedy. Apart from a few politically incorrect but of-its-time depiction of African-Americans, it holds up very, very well. Surprisingly quite a bit racy! I'm surprised the words "ass" and "sex" sneaked through. Is this pre-Code? I don't think so. Correct me if I'm wrong! The dialogue is sharp and witty and the cast plays it to the hilt. They don't make them like these anymore .

All is Lost (J.C. Chandor) ***1/2 - The film is deceptively simple: A man is in a yacht which collided with a fallen metal cargo hold, punching a hole and destroying his communication and engine and so begins his struggle to survive. We don't know why he's out there. We don't even know his name. Only that he wants to survive. With barely any spoken dialogue and pretty much focused on only one character, the film still is tremendously gripping. You care about this man despite not knowing much about him. This is thanks to Robert Redford's terrific performance. I personally would have nominated him but I can understand why he fell short. It's a rather subtle performance with hardly any showiness and barely even speaking so it SEEMS like he's not doing anything special. But a less than competent actor wouldn't make me give a shit about him.

American Hustle (David O. Russell) **** - I'm normally a fan of David O. Russell's work but I think last year's Silver Linings Playbook wasn't up to his standards, at least in my opinion. I was cautiously optimistic about this and I think the David O. Russell I love is back. This is an extremely well-acted and not to mention FUN caper film loosely based on an incident that happened back in the late '70s. It's funny, it's exciting and thankfully, I avoided spoilers so it was also unpredictable. I kept on guessing who's playing who. Jennifer Lawrence steals the film but I still think she's just a tad too young for the part and personally, I would have nominated Jeremy Renner ahead of Bradley Cooper but that's just me. Overall, this is the David O. Russell I love.


Adam said...

I won't be able to see it too terribly soon, but I can't wait to see American Hustle

Michael Peterson said...

I saw All is Lost recently and loved it. My wife hated it because she found the tension unbearable, which was rather the point.
I found it quite interesting to compare this film to Gravity - both are essentially shipwreck films. However, in Gravity, where Sandra B's character never shut up, I felt that I knew her less and cared for her less than with Redford's character, who hardly says anything ... that is, anything vocally. Also, I never doubted that SB's character in Gravity would make it home, whereas in All Is Lost I remained fearful for the sailor right to the very end, hoping against hope. Great film.