Sunday, July 6, 2014

Weekly Film Round-Up (6/29/14 - 7/5/14)

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer) ***1/2 - From the first frame to the last, this film is destined to infuriate many people and grip and delight others. I'm glad to say that I belong to the second camp. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who, under the guise of a beautiful human lady, seduces men in order to harvest their skin. The film takes a unique approach to the material, mixing actual scenes of Scarlett Johansson the actress actually conversing with men around London, beautiful visuals that is absolutely jaw-dropping and a narrative that does the courtesy of letting the audience figure out what's going on by themselves. It gives you a hell of a lot to chew on. I've heard people compare this to Kubrick and they wouldn't be entirely wrong. If that doesn't convince you, then consider this: Scarlett gets naked quite a bit.

The Raid 2: Berandal (Gareth Evans) ***1/2 - I loved the previous Raid movie. It's a lean mean, almost non-stop action flick with just enough of a story to keep you invested in characters and give a damn what's going on. In this one, Rama infiltrates a criminal syndicate in order to flush out high-ranking dirty cops. This one has more of a plot than the previous one and I have to say, it almost gets in the way of it sometimes, making it a tad overlong. But oh boy, there's more than enough action to satisfy the previous film's fans. As usual, you will feel every kick, blow, cut, bone-breakage, etc. and of course, the effect is oddly exhilarating thanks to the great choreography, sound design, cinematography and editing working all in harmony. This is what an action movie is supposed to be!

Chef (Jon Favreau) *** - I'm glad I had a big meal before I saw this movie. All the delicious shots of all that food must be torture to someone who's hungry. That's just one of the things I liked about this movie. Actually, there's a lot of things to like about it. It's Jon Favreau going back to his roots as a filmmaker, making a smaller film after doing a bunch of big movies. Obviously, it's personal, sweet and heartfelt. The film is definitely formulaic but the strong performances of the cast lift it up and make it seem fresh with a bit of bite. The ending though leaves a bit to be desired. Even though it's already a bit long for a comedy, the ending felt too abrupt/a bit of a cop out.

Baby Doll (Elia Kazan) **** - Wowza. I can't believe Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams (who wrote a completely original screenplay) actually got away with doing this film. Karl Malden plays a middle-aged man married to a much younger and VERY hot woman who refuses to consummate the marriage until her 20th birthday. The film remarkably deals with its subject matter very tastefully, intelligently and discretely all the while turning it into a racy black comedy that will still probably raise a few eyebrows even today when explicit sexuality is more readily available in mainstream cinema.

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