Saturday, September 28, 2013
A cross between Cinderella Man and Secretariat but with Formula One race cars.
What you get is nothing terribly gripping nor visually arresting. But you do get an interesting examination of two dynamic real-life racers: James Hunt, a sexy playboy who does it for the glory, and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) whose skills for car design and driving lead him to overcome all odds to do the thing he loves.
Frustratingly, the film is mostly montage and has a rushed (pun!) feel to it. There's no set-piece racing sequence to get engrossed in until the end, perhaps, and even then the focus pulls away from the drivers' point of view.
Ultimately, the film is a satisfying look at two very different characters who compete against each other so fiercely that they feel at a loss when a horrendous accident takes Lauda out of the action.
Still, the film is about these two drivers and their involvement in a life-threatening sport, but director Ron Howard never puts you in the driver's seat.
Hemsworth is well suited to the role of the long-haired playboy, and Brühl keeps your attention with his portrayal of the awkward, anti-social outsider whose veins are full of motor oil.
Olivia Wilde is quite good as Hunt's trophy wife. Wilde is developing into a solid actress, and she does well in Howard's many extreme close-ups of her face. What's the deal? Does Howard doubt her ability to emote?
It's just not a film full of memorable moments. It moves along smoothly from episode to episode, but there are no gripping or hugely dramatic moments. Even the big accident is too quickly staged to have much effect. Every scene is utilitarian.
The most arresting scene comes when Lauda, in the hospital, gets his scorched lungs vacuumed out.
An enjoyable character study, but nothing that cries out for a second viewing.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Does the end justify the means? Elements of Zero Dark Thirty thrown into a suburban child-kidnapping tale. Add elements of Silence of the Lambs and The Vanishing.
During the first third of this film, the cinematography and the naturalistic performances of a great ensemble cast kept my eyes painfully wide open as I sat on the edge of my seat. I love the shots seen through frosty or rain-streaked windows. I felt I was viewing one of the most sharply lucid and realistic films ever made.
When some bargain-price retirees started to narrate what was happening on screen (Shot: The police release the suspect (Paul Dano) from jail. Retiree: "They're releasing him!") I relocated to the unoccupied front section and embraced the wonderful images framed by Roger Deakins.
When the film wanders into literal basements of perversion and goes stereotypically lurid, I was disappointed but still riveted by the camerawork, the ominous musical score, and the film's dense sense of approaching doom.
Jake Gyllenhaal's affectations tend to irk me, but here his understated, scowling delivery fits right in. He is superb. Jackman is still invested in Valjean. Viola Davis is excellent. The cast is a strong one though I would have loved to see what they could have done with a more grounded, realistic story about families reacting to a kidnapping.
The cinematography makes just about every shot chillingly, exquisitely memorable. The best moments are in the film's first third, before Inspector Loki (Gyllenhaal) makes his first descent into a dark basement.
I need to see this again for the cinematography, also because the plot gets too convoluted for its own good, and I want to clear up some viewing quandaries.
For me, the first third of this film is the most riveting movie experience in years!
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Like The Addams Family except with the family of Mafia boss Giovanni Manzoni, posing as the Blake family, hiding out under witness protection in Normandy, and trying to fit in. Like the Addams family of ghouls, this is one bizarre family, but they are loyal and loving like a normal father, mother, daughter, and son.
A very enjoyable film, nicely directed by Luc Besson, funny in a macabre way as it leads to one of the most gripping climaxes of the year.
Granted, playing a Mafia tough guy is in De Niro's blood, but I must say he shines in this movie. He doesn't ham it up or go off the silly deep end as he has done since he started doing comedy. This is a fine performance by De Niro.
Each member of the Blake/Manzoni family is excellent. Michelle Pfeiffer stands out as the long-suffering Mafia wife from Brooklyn who goes into a French grocery store, asks for peanut butter, and then torches the place when she is treated rudely. She doesn't stand for any nonsense, but she expresses the drawbacks of being married to a very dangerous husband whose favorite word is "Fuck!"
John D'Leo as the son, Warren, displays a youthful, promising talent. Hope we see more of him.
My favorite is Belle, the daughter, played by the talented and very attractive Dianna Agron. Her little brother has inherited his father's criminal talents for extortion, bribery, and forgery, but Belle has inherited a tendency to vent her anger in extreme ways, expressing a pent-up rage that suggests her frustrations with this unusual family and her longing to be part of a normal family.
The film builds up nicely to the tense climax when hit men locate the Manzoni family, take out the village policemen, and get ready to massacre the family.
My favorite moment: Belle takes a tennis racquet and vents her prodigious rage on a randy teenager who tries to force her to have sex. Her wrath is gorgeous. Oo, la, la!
I laughed out loud. I really enjoyed seeing the performance of a bygone De Niro. I was suitably gripped by the ending. Belle is awesome. I would see this again.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Repeat the same lurid red main title from Insidious without the same effect; use clips from the first chapter as flashbacks; keep Rose Byrne's Renai looking like she's scared shitless throughout the movie..
Not nearly as chilling as Chapter One. Not nearly as chilling as this year’s Mama. Poor editing softens its attempts to be scary. A nice premise is set up with the clairvoyant throwing dice to see what Patrick Wilson's demonic Josh Lambert has behind his back, but the editing is ponderous.
Patrick Wilson does well as the Daddy possessed by a demon that wants the deaths of his family.
There are some chilling moments, and the climax is nicely gripping with some nice editing; but there’s nothing too memorable here.
Enjoyable though not that scary. I liked the flashbacks that tie this chapter with the original story. Wish the original had been a one-off entity. Don't need to see this again.