Tag Archive | 6.0

116- Chronicle [6.0]

Whilst attending a party, three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery underground. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides.

Director Josh Trank seems as fed up with the found footage audience as most people are, so why does he opt for it? In the opening scene of Chronicle, one of his leads gives a fairly stilted reason for constantly filming that one can look past; however, all the other instances of filming are more forced and made me wish that Chronicle avoided the style all together. Though not providing anything new for the superhero genre, the film is nonetheless a mildly interesting look at the responsibilities of having super powers.

107- Moneyball [6.0]

Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s and the guy who assembles the team, has an epiphany: all of baseball’s conventional wisdom is wrong. Forced to reinvent his team on a tight budget, Beane will have to outsmart the richer clubs.

As a longtime baseball fan, there are a lot of elements of Moneyball that I enjoyed. For one, the statistical breakdowns of how a victorious season can come about based on a certain combination of players is intriguing (and judging by the Red Sox eventually employing Beane’s methods, possibly factual). I also enjoyed that the film delved into the emotional heart of the game. Yes, at the end of the day it is just a game, but for some, there’s a heavy investment into the sport.

My real issue with Moneyball is just how damn pedestrian the whole affair is. The closest thing to an antagonist is Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Art Howe, but even then, the audience may very well side with Howe’s logic and calm demeanor. Hoffman is one of my favorite actors, and it was a pleasure seeing him not chew the scenery even once in a movie. If anything, his low key attitude was almost more frightening than the explosive side of Hoffman’s range. I was also surprised by how good a subdued Jonah Hill can be. There’s a texture to his performance that I didn’t think he was otherwise capable of.

The strangest thing about Moneyball is something I can’t necessarily hold against the filmmakers: being based on a true story, we’re viewing a semi-factual account of events from way back to…ten years ago. Perhaps there’s not enough time between then and now to have the weight of the story sink in (though the A’s winning 20 consecutive games is still remarkable). Maybe in a few years I’ll revisit Moneyball and think higher of it.

102- A Dangerous Method [6.0]

Seduced by the challenge of an impossible case, the driven Dr. Carl Jung takes the unbalanced yet beautiful Sabina Spielrein as his patient.

Both the historical figures and topics at the center of A Dangerous Method are endlessly fascinating. Be it the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, or psychoanalysis being explored and potentially limited due to the fears of its reception, there should be no shortage of interesting material to keep the viewer intrigued. Instead, David Cronenberg’s film goes from one scene to the next without much dynamic change.

That’s not to say that A Dangerous Method is largely a bore. Jung and Freud’s admiration and jealousy for each other is displayed in a subtle fashion until their relationship completely fractures. Considering their vast intellect, I appreciated that there wasn’t some verbal blow out shouting match nor venomous, manipulative attacks; rather, their competitive, jealous, and opposing views all play a part over the course of the film in giving ample reason as to why they split from each other both professionally and as friends. It’s a shame, though, that there is no emotional weight under any of it.

A Dangerous Method is best when Jung and Freud are simply bouncing ideology off each other. Michael Fassbender turns in yet another terrific performance, but it’s Viggo Mortensen that is at the best I’ve seen him as Sigmund Freud. His slow, almost cautious delivery shows Freud as a man who’s rarely at a lack of understanding, yet always measures his words carefully. Props are due to the makeup department, as Mortensen truly looked like someone else.

The one performance that I imagine is going to be divisive is that of Keira Knightley’s as Sabina Spielrein. The opening scenes showcase her in the middle of a nervous breakdown, and her acting teeters dangerously between captivating and scenery chewing. There were times in the first act where I was so unsure if her acting was laughable that it took me out of the movie completely. Her Russian accent, though not great, is at least somewhat consistent throughout.

The movie occasionally slips into melodrama (especially at the end) but largely shies away from it. I felt largely conflicted throughout as my appreciation for what is being covered in Method is something that interests me greatly, but perhaps not played out in this fashion.

89- Win Win [6.0]

Centering on a beleaguered attorney and part-time wrestling coach who schemes to keep his practice from going under by acting as the legal caretaker of an elderly client.

Win Win is a sweet movie that, if you’re willing to be uncynical, makes you believe that people are good at the core. That’s not to say that Win Win is a sappy or melodramatic film, but rather, that it explores the possibility of selflessness and charitably we all potentially possess.

84- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 [6.0]

In the epic finale, the battle between the good and evil forces of the wizarding world escalates into an all-out war. The stakes have never been higher and no one is safe. But it is Harry Potter who may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice as he draws closer to the climactic showdown with Lord Voldemort.

Enjoyment of Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is largely contingent on your relationship to the rest of the series. As someone who has seen all of the films but hasn’t read the books, I found Part 2 to be a satisfying conclusion to the Harry Potter series. Light on character development (granted, it’s the eighth film) and heavy on action, the vast majority of Deathly Hallows takes the film into darker territory than its predecessors. This has been the logical progression from one film to the next, and a welcome one due to the stakes that J.K. Rowling set up from the beginning. With the exception of some shoddy CGI (boy, does that dragon scene look bad) and laughable aging in the epilogue, David Yates deserves praise for his work on one of the better Harry Potter films (though I still enjoy Prisoner of Azkaban the most).

50- Thor [6.0]

The epic adventure spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the mystical realm of Asgard. At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. As a result, Thor is banished to Earth where he is forced to live among humans. When the most dangerous villain of his world sends its darkest forces to invade Earth, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero.

When it was announced that Kenneth Branagh was to direct Thor, it seemed to be a perfect match of director and material. With his background as actor and director of many Shakespeare adaptations, Branagh would be able to get the best performances from his actors. Considering he’s never worked on a project with such a large budget and expectations, the only worrisome factors were whether or not he’d be able to handle the fight sequences and find a way to make the Asgard sequences and costumes not look cheesy. For the most part, he succeeds.

The fish out of water trope has been used many times before, but it’s necessary for the portions of the film in which Thor is on Earth. Chris Hemsworth handles all facets of Thor (the arrogance, humility and charm) with ease, proving that his star-turning performance in Star Trek was no fluke. Tom Hiddleston was the highlight of the film, with his layered portrayal of Loki. The reasons for his actions, coupled with his intelligence and playfully mischievous side make Loki the best villain to appear in a comic book adaptation thus far. Idris Elba does a fantastic job as Heimdall, the guardian of the rainbow bridge (which is exponentially more awesome than it sounds).

Thor is not without its faults– the romance with Jane Foster, Thor’s personality change and the third act are all rushed. Though the film speeds along without losing its momentum, an extra few scenes to pad the Earth and Asgard sequences could have gone a long way to fleshing out some of the character development (it’s obvious that the majority of Renee Russo’s lines ended up on the cutting room floor). Depending on how you feel about Kat Dennings, some of the humor on Earth may feel unnecessary (though Thor gets some great lines– “I need sustenance!”).

I would have liked to see a Thor film that solely takes place in the nine realms, but perhaps that will occur in a sequel. I took most issue with Branagh’s incessant use of dutch angles (achieved by tilting the camera off to the side so that the shot is composed with the horizon at an angle to the bottom of the frame). The vast majority of the films’ shots appear sideways, and though I understand how it could be used to make Asgard feel more alien-like, Brannagh chooses to frame a lot of Earth sequences that way as well.

It’s frequently said that summer blockbusters should be mindless entertainment that allow the audiences to turn off their brain for two hours. On top of that sentiment being insulting to film viewers, it perpetuates the notion that there should be a four month lull of intelligent filmmaking. Thor challenges this idea by rooting the central conflict in Shakespearean themes. Though the film has an abundance of special FX shots and the origin tale of this nature has been done before, Thor is a step above the rest of its class by pushing what is to be expected of a comic book film.

42- Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps [6.0]

As the global economy teeters on the brink of disaster, a young Wall Street trader partners with disgraced former Wall Street corporate raider Gordon Gekko on a two-tiered mission: To alert the financial community to the coming doom, and to find out who was responsible for the death of the young trader’s mentor.

In a sea of endless sequels, remakes and reboots, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps stands apart, as it had a good reason to be made. The stock market crisis of the late-2000s was ripe material to get Gordon Gekko back on the screen. This worthy follow up to the 1987 classic has its share of missteps (very long expositional scene of Gekko family drama, the ghost of a deceased character appearing), but it is still an entertaining film. One of the bigger things I can take away from Money Never Sleeps is that David Byrne’s music (which is all over the soundtrack) is meant for movie montages.