Friday, December 18, 2015

This review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens represents my personal impressions of the film, is not intended to ruin everyone experience of the movie. Is my honest opinion of a a series of movies that I been cherish for years. This review might contain mild spoilers - read at your own risk

Finally the dark screen reveals the Lucasfilm, LTD logo, then the most famous title "A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away" then the Star Wars logo and finally a three paragraph prologue which tells you the back story of what about to see. Means a lot because they need to explain 30 years of what happened after the events of the Battle of Endor. It tells you the engine of the whole story, what it’s happening with our heroes and villains and then where are we heading. Pretty simple and straight forward.

What happen later, specifically in the first act of Episode VII is quick and “sort of in your face” the situation develops in a J.J. Abrams pace, which sometimes is not that necessary, we need to slow down a little bit, it’s been 30 years. To me is like you are going to a middle eastern market and you been harassed by street vendors who are trying to sell you something and is very hard to process. you wanted to focus in a single thing and analyze it, but the first half and hour is rather fast.

New audiences are been introduced to 4 main characters, a new generation of actors who have the difficult task to continue the footsteps of Mark Hammill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, the original cast of our beloved Star Wars trilogy.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) a scavenger in a desert planet Jakku, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) a dark warrior commander of the first order, Finn (John Boyega) a redeemed First Order stormtrooper and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) a resistance X wing fighter.

The plot develops quickly and again in your face, there is mission to find Luke Skywalker and of course there is a map hidden in a droid (sound familiar right?), the droid gets lost in the desert and been found by someone who is dreaming of leaving that place ( again, something pretty familiar) and then there is planet converted into a weapon to destroy other planets (please another familiar thing?) To me seems that already know what’s happening and where I’m going, but what makes the film special is you leave behind a that horrendous prequels that everyday you want to forget about the origin of Darth Vader and there is still live for new films. Every new character is a mash up of at least two famous characters Poe Dameron feels like Luke, but also like Han Solo, Ray have similarities of Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke, Finn have similarities from Luke and Han Solo and even Kylo Ren who to me is a Darth Vader wanna be with bad temper, but he also becomes Star Trek’s Khan from J.J. Abrams, a mystery guy that almost everyone knows who he is.

The true genuine character in the movie is called: BB-8 so much life and personality

But, don’t get me wrong, the film delivers, very well. J.J. Abrams with writer Lawrence Kasdan create a very powerful mash-up of the original trilogy, filled with nuances and easter eggs that you really enjoy and reminds you that finally a movie who pays tribute to 3 films that George Lucas made with so much passion.

Star Wars The Force Awakens is a instant classic of the Star Wars universe, but is difficult to surpass the originals, the mission was accomplished. The fans are engage, they are going to make tons of money and they are revamping the story for a new generations. Overall the film is well crafted with the best of the best, but the real anticipation will be Star Wars: Episode VIII directed by Rian Johnson who will make a risky films with a different of point of view…

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A melodic rock band start with a delicious female voice leading to a very energetic guitar unveiling a powerful lyric. You Got The Love by The Retrosettes Sister Band. The song glorify trust, strength and of course the best feeling of all “Love” This is the very beginning of the film “Youth” directed by Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty)

This film follow up another story of a frustrated artist living his septuagenarian life on earth. Fred Ballinger a retired composer who enjoy the success of his work, specially the one that he really hates, “Simple Songs” For every artist their finest work is not the one that was made with love and care, sometimes is the one that appeals the audience. Ballinger is similar to another frustrated artist on film, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) in the movie Birdman, which is haunted by this demon, success with the less meaningful piece of art.

Sorrentino Italian director winner of the Academy Award for The Great Beauty presents similar characters from his previous work in this movie. Ballinger is a composer and Jep Gambardella is a novel writer. Both of them very successful in their art, are haunted by a woman in their past. But they also have a woman in the present, For Ballinger is his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) and for Gambardella is his editor Dadina, which constitute their conscience.

The film “Youth” takes place in a very peculiar place, a luxury resort in the Swiss Alps, a home to rejuvenate with hot springs, massage and healthy food. Of course this place is filled with millionaires, aristocrats, artists and celebrities. Ballinger best friend is Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) who also stayed with him at the resort is a successful filmmaker who is completely attached to his past work as well his main inspiration actress Brenda Morel, another character in the story is Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) an actor which to me mirrors Ballinger as another frustrated artist who enjoy more artsy work, but is haunted by his lest meaningful role, a robot in a sci-fi

Michael Cain is perfect for the role as well Harvey Keitel, the chemistry between them is pure magic. Dano and Weisz are excellent on screen. Some additional roles Roly Serrano playing the soccer player Maradona, Luna Zimic paying a Young masseuse and Madalina Diana Ghenea as Miss Universe represents those quirk characters that director Paul Sorrentino always like to introduce in his movies.

The director Sorrentino, continues amaze audiences with his style and subtle film making. He presents vignettes with the actors in beautiful locations and sublime stages, but also engage with the audiences with a powerful soundtrack that is not just sound, is a visual definition by bringing the musician who perform on screen with a elegant vision. He follow the roots of Fellini with magical scenes in a very symmetrical way.

“Youth” is a story about love, remembering missing time, mistakes made and the realization that nothing is overrated in this life, is more about what we have and what we can enjoy. Is a philosophical exploration of human beings who attend to place to find the fountain of youth, with just illusions discovering that is a just a place to understand what life is…

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Human exploration of people captive in films is a very interesting subject that Hollywood and independent studios produce.

Movies such as Shawshank Redemption (1994) The Green Mile (1999), Papillon (1973), Rescue Dawn (2006) Empire of The Sun (1987), Unbroken (2014) Misery (1990) and Buried (2010) represents a wide variety of sub plots that goes from: Jails, prisoners of war and actual abduction.

In the film “Room” Director Lenny Abrahmson explore the life of Ma (Brie Larson) and his son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who are confined in this small room, which contain a rudimentary kitchen, a bed, a toilet, a sink and a skylight. The film starts when Jack is turning 5 and her mom is doing her best effort to celebrate this landmark, by baking a cake. Throughout the film develops, the audience discover that they are locked in this room by a guy called Old Nick (Sean Bridges) who bring them supplies every night and also for sex with Ma. Ma was abducted about eight years ago in the film plot. Jack is living in a reality that is only portrayed in his personal window to the world, the television. Ironically the real window of the world for Ma is the skylight in this room, she can see the seasons and the time of the day, but for Jack is nothing. He don’t know how the real world is and his sense of space is limited but the fact that Ma is the only person that he ever interacted. For Jack the room is a confined world but is a world of fantasies, sounds, smells and strange voices ( Old Nick paying a visit to Ma every night for sex)

Ma tries to give Jack some education by making him read books like Alice and Wonderland, but Ma also wants to escape and give Jack the life that he deserve. The process won’t be easy…The escape is a beautiful and poetic moment which is also the biggest revelation for Jack been free for the first time.

The film Room is a very difficult film to watch, is a movie about the love of a mother for his child, the wounds of a person been abducted for years, the adaptation of a little boy to the real world, but also is a movie about justice and human and family values.

Brie Larson is outstanding in this role as well Jacob Tremblay, the film, is really well edited and well directed who carefully crafted with the art direction team the perfect space to make the audience feel locked in that Room.

One of the lack in this movie is the development of Ma’s dad Robert Newsome (Willam H Macy) his character become important when a pivotal moment happen in the movie and later vanished from everyone’s mind.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Charlie Kaufman is always been considered a visionary and groundbreaking screenwriter. Winner of several awards his reputation always related to twisted stories with a very personal and human quality. Adaptation, Synecdote New York, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Eternal of The Spotless Mind, represents a bod of work, where the main character is the human emotions, most of his characters are empty and they are looking for a way to escape from the reality.


In Anomalisa, directed by Kaufman and Duke Johnson a truly visionary stop motion animated film we been introduce to Michael Stone (David Thewlis) a book author traveling to Cincinnati for a conference where he will be the speaker. His book is a exploration of how costumer service can fix the struggles of connect with people. From the very beginning Michael is the victim of what he been trying to achieve in his book. He is a very introspective person who cannot relate to people, he is a jerk and you notice every time he opens his mouth. Michael is not interested in the weather, if the Cincinati Zoo is the best, he seems to be a practical person who is not interested in explanations or engagements, he just wants things done.

In a way I relate to him, because the world is now immerse in banalities that could be pretty normal for some, but for me its superficiality. The masterful script by Kaufman reveals a very strange phenomenon to Michael and the audience seems to be confused about it. Every single character have the same voice (Tom Noonan) This adds up to the routine that Michael live every day, is a constant reminder of the daily routine that he lives or some people live. All the sounds are the same and for Michael even his wife and kid sounds the same.

To me is a metaphor of a routine life in America, you drink the same juice, you walk the same steps, you take the same train and you work the same work every day without challenges or variations.

After a sudden events that involves Michael meeting with his lost love, he meet Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and fan of his book and also a very introspective and shy girl who loves Cyndi Lauper. Lisa is different from the very beginning not because she have the only female voice is because she is different and her behavior raise interest in Michael. Is not aiming for a beautiful or sexy girl, his obsession with her is about her voice and her ability of be different from the sea of people who are just the same.

Kaufman and Johnson exploration of life, loneliness, human connection represents in a way a very eccentric story, but the meaning is powerful. I wish that the movie was trimmed at least 10 min just to make it perfect. Overall is a great movie. With two confusing parts in the story.

After the huge success of Skyfall the new chapter of James Bond story comes with the film Spectre.
The story continues were was left off. James Bond (Daniel Craig) continues his erratically behavior by disobeying M orders of not travel to other countries and operate on his own. Previous M (Judi Dench) leaves a posthumous message to kill two men plotting a terrorist attack and also eliminate Marco Sciarra.

The operation turns deadly. After Bond returns to London is suspended by current M (Ralph Fiennes) which is dealing with more delicate problems. MI6 is going to be dismantle by “so called” new espionage technology company name lead by C (Andrew Scott) the idea is to get rid of the 00 agents and the program and continue operations with computer surveillance and drones. None in Mi6 are happy about it.

Bond continues follow previous M messages with the help of Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomi Harris)
traveling to Rome where he meets Lucia Sciarra ( Monica Belluci) at Marco’s funeral. In Rome he will have the biggest revelation of all. He will encounter Spectre organization, lead by Ernst Stavro Blofeld

At this point the audience understand who are the crucial roles here. But unfortunately you are able to predict in which direction the story goes. Spectre film directed by Sam Mendes, pretends to continue the footsteps of Skyfall and felt flat. Spectre is a very predictable film with amazing actions scene, that sometimes can be compared to Pierce Brosnan movies. Try to connect all the villans from previous James Bond/Daniel Craig films, it's just a easy set up to give closure for this Bond to a new Bond and a new director who will definitely needs a new wave for the agent 007

Christoph Waltz character is basically a caricature of villains that I ever seen in other not so good Bond films or even other movies. I was so annoyed by his character that I was expecting after certain events, he will reappear in a wheelchair, caressing a cat, with his head bold and with scars on his face, to connect directly with For Your Eyes Only movie

I feel that if I have to give a comparison to this movie, this film is the Star Was Episode III: Revenge of The Sith of the James Bond movies. Were you reveal a villain origin. More than seen the origin of Blofeld, I wanted to see the origin of Goldfinger or even Dr No.

The film is beautiful shot, with amazing landscapes in Rome, Austria, Morocco and London,The opening scene in Mexico is a masterpiece and clearly was influence by the Academy Award winner Bridman. That’s probably my favorite thing, overall I wasn’t impress.

When I was suggested to see Brooklyn a few weeks ago, my expectations were very low. Not because all the artistic values, but because I felt that this movie wasn’t for me, the plot lean towards a female story just for women. I was pleasantly surprise and also wrong about my assumption.

Brooklyn tells the story of Ellis (Saoirse Ronan) a young woman living in a small town of Ireland. She lives with her sister, Ellis works in a small shop where the owner Mrs Kelly bully most of her employees. When you discover this character Ellis you noticed a very quiet and humble person, but also naive and innocent. Ellis sister Rose arrange to send Ellis to America where she can find better opportunities. The moment of revelation comes when she is onboard and stumble a female traveler who is just returning back to the USA after visiting her family in Ireland. This woman traveler is experienced which help Ellis thru her difficult journey to America. From how to behave on board, what to wear and how to react when you meet immigration officers in the USA

Ellis arrive to the US and everything is new and interesting, she start living in a Irish boarding house, she get a job in a department store. All her support come from Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) which quickly realized that Elllis is home sick and heavily depressed. Ellis also express her sadness in letters sent to Rose, Father Flood is informed and make sure to do something about it. Ellis is enrolled in bookkeeping classes where the audience noticed how her life improves and also is able to meet her new love Antonio Fiorello (Emory Cohen) Ellis story continues with ups and downs throughout the movie…

John Crowley directs Brooklyn a film that touch most of everyone’s heart. For an immigrant like me, I was able to connect with Ellis and understand what is like to be away from home in a new land, finding a way to fit, but also experience the sadness of loosing a love one and have to make my journey home without the option to say a proper goodbye. A phone call is that sudden message and you need the strength to go back and face that reality.

Brooklyn also represents a beautiful way of been an immigrant loving someone throughout the seasons, you start a relationship in the winter and develops thru spring and summer, but then becomes dramatic again in the fall and winter. The film is so colorful with the masterful art direction by François Séguin, Irene O Brien, Suzanne Cloutier and Robert Parle. The costume design by Odlie Dicks-Mireaux and cinematography by Yves Bélanger.

The story of Brooklyn is simple and very engaging, but also can be a little bit flat for easy and quick conclusion. Saoirse Ronan is a great and talented actress, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters are the most noticeable performance besides Ronan. The films grow and shows Saoirse Ronan evolution in a cyclical story where she departs vulnerable and returns home stronger than ever.