Sunday, November 9, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (11/2/14 - 11/8/14)

I Killed My Mother (Xavier Dolan) ***1/2 - I guess it's finally time for me to see what all this fuss is about. Ever since this came out, people have been comparing this then 20-year-old enfant terrible to Orson Welles. Not quite Orson Welles but I will say, pretty damn close. It is an impressive first film. This is concerns a tempestuous love-hate-love-hate relationship between a gay teenager (played by the young director) and his single mother. I can't help but wonder how much of this is autobiographical. In any case, it's a terrific film. Somewhat self-consciously artsy since it's very art-directed with off-kilter framing but it's charming here instead of annoying. The performances of the two leads are impeccable. I'm looking forward to exploring Dolan's filmography. 

Stage Fright (Alfred Hitchcock) ***1/2 - A husband of a famous actress is murdered. A young aspiring actress takes it upon herself to try and prove the innocence of the main suspect, a man she loves, by, what else, acting. Hitchcock made a lot of masterpieces and this is not one of them but it's still a damn good film that will keep you guessing. The performances are fun too. Marlene Dietrich (damn, I've been watching a lot of her films lately) and Alistair Simm are so good as the "femme fatale"-ish, probably murderess and the father of the young actress respectively. The rest of the cast is great too including Sybil Thorndike who provides quite a bit of the film's laughs. 

On the Town (Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen) **** - This is from the same team that made Singin' in the Rain. It is no Singin' in the Rain, but very few things are really. But it's close and that still counts as a win. Somewhat loosely adapted from the Broadway musical, this is about three sailors who go on a trip to New York on a 24 hour shore leave to see the sights and "meet some dames" (i.e. get laid). It's a wonderful musical filled with some genuine laughs and heart and you'd be surprised at how they got away with a little risqué humor as well. As expected, the musical numbers are fun and dazzling, as expected from Gene Kelly and company.

Interstellar (Christopher Nolan) *** - I wanted to see this film in 70 mm IMAX but the only IMAX theater showing it is kind of far away and a tricky (and headache-inducing) commute (and no, I don't drive). So I settled for a digital IMAX. I like Christopher Nolan films quite a bit. I like his vision and his ambition that he brings to blockbuster genre pictures. I've heard this film be compared to 2001 and Solaris. Nolan's a pretty good director but he's far from Kubrick and Tarkovsky. That said, a lot of things here remind me of those two films, only with a more delineated plot. So if your problem with those two movies is that you need a three-act structure practically free from any ambiguity and you find them too "artsy", well, Interstellar is the answer to this. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I admired and enjoyed this film quite a bit. Beautifully shot, excellent visuals, sound mixing, design, etc. The acting is splendid. I appreciate the fact that they ground this as much as possible in real, believable science. But ultimately, it's not the masterpiece that it hoped it would be.

Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev) ***1/2 - This is the Russian entry to this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race. This one is about a man who is being forced to sell his house and land way below its cost by a corrupt mayor and other drama ensue. A slow burn for sure but the drama unfolds beautifully so. Despite the deliberate pace, there's always seems to be an aura sprinkled through out. The film is known to be quite critical of the Russian government and from what I can tell, a lot of it seems to be similar to the situation here in the Philippines though I'm not familiar with the minute details of it. But still, it's quite an absorbing drama, beautifully shot and well-acted by a fine ensemble. 

Mommy (Xavier Dolan) ***1/2 - I recently saw I Killed My Mother and it's safe to say between this and that film, writer-director Xavier Dolan must have a lot of mommy issues. Well, I guess we really have his mom to thank because she raised a very, very talented young filmmaker who created this remarkable piece of work. Anne Dorval once again plays a flawed mother, this time of a teenage boy with severe behavioral, emotional and mental problems. They are befriended by a neighbor who happens to be a teacher with a stuttering problem. The three actors playing the principal are all outstanding. Dolan manages to mine quite a bit of the same themes with that other mom-themed film without feeling like he's repeating himself. I wasn't so sure about the entire changing of aspect ratios but I warmed up to it. I'm astounded that he's only 25 and is already ratcheting up a respectable filmography.

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