Friday, July 18, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (7/6/14 - 7/12/14)

Wow. This one was VERY late.

The Rover (David Michod) **1/2 - I thought Animal Kingdom was a solid crime drama so I wanted to give David Michod's follow-up to that a chance at least. The results are VERY mixed. Set in the outback of Australia 10 years after a devastating economic collapse that apparently sent the entire world (or at least Australia) topsy-turvy. An Australian man teams up with an American GI after the latter's brother stole the former's car. There are some effective moments. David Michod ratchets up the tension through atmosphere and sudden violence. But there are a few things that make zero sense which really mars the entire thing if you think about it. Plus I think Robert Pattinson is miscast. I can't quite get his character. Is he supposed to be mentally challenged or very young? He seems to be doing a Forrest Gump impression. The ending will anger a few people. It didn't anger me but I didn't find it all that satisfying. Overall, Michod's talent still shines but I'd file this as a misfire.

A nous La Libertie (Rene Clair) *** - Two con men try to escape from prison. One was successful and the other was recaptured. While outside, the guy who got out made his fortune by becoming a factory owner and eventually they reunite when the other gets parole. Complications though ensue. This is, by the way, a musical (though the music is fairly just okay). It's extremely well-crafted and there are some laughs. But unfortunately, I didn't find myself heavily invested in either character thus preventing me from completely falling in love with it. Under the Roofs of Paris was better.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves) ***1/2 - A lot of people LOVED Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I liked it just find but I wasn't one of the ones singing its praises as if it's the Second Coming. I wasn't really looking forward to the sequel so I was, at best, cautiously optimistic about it despite the advanced raves. And it's a very, very good film. I would say even better than the first one. The ape effects were a lot better and I love the fact that they really dug deep and found more depth to the characters, particularly the ape characters. Andy Serkis is of course excellent creating a full character with his mo-cap performance. Also excellent are Nick Thurston and Toby Kebbell as Caesar's son and the main ape villain respectively. Again, it's better than the first one but not quite the Second Coming. Matt Reeves, though, is slowly becoming an excellent mainstream genre filmmaker.

Life Itself (Steve James) **** - As a film buff, film criitc and aspiring filmmaker/screenwriter, Roger Ebert certainly had an influence on me and has become part of my life. I read his reviews, I watched clips from his show on the internet, I follow him on Twitter. I didn't agree with him all the time but I was always interested in what he has to say. It's obvious that he loved movies at least as much as I do and he loved writing about them, at least even more than I do. So I had genuine affection for this man and I'm happy to report that the documentary that chronicles his career is a remarkable film onto itself. The film doesn't shy away from the ugliness and difficulty of Ebert's condition: His lack of a lower jaw, his hospital procedures, etc. The documentary also doesn't shy away from Ebert's dark past, his flaws and the criticisms against him. But still, one can't help but be moved by Roger Ebert's spirit: His love for his wife, his step-children/step-grandchildren, his friends, his colleagues, the filmmakers he has championed throughout the years and of course, his love for the movies. I was deeply moved by the fact that in the twilight of his years, unable to talk, his mind is still sharp, never loses his sense of humor and his passion for writing. Quite simply, it's a moving testament to a man who loved movies.

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