Friday, May 30, 2014

Locke

Films with a minimalist cast are often tricky to do. Sometimes there's too much for the few characters to do while other times there's not enough for them to do. It all requires the right balance.

Steven Knight's Locke has such a balance, and it shows throughout the film's short runtime. In the film's 85-minute duration, Knight relies on a short story, key actors and a sharp eye to make his film work. And boy, does it pay off.

The main star of Locke is Tom Hardy, who is definitely one of the best actors out of the UK in recent years. Here, Hardy proves he can carry a film very much on his own. (Then again, he more or less already proved that with Bronson.) The camera lingers only on him and damn, he knows what he's doing.

The main supporting actors (which are only their voices) are familiar names to those who have seen their fair share of British television. (Those actors, by the way, are Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott.) Much like with Scarlett Johansson in Her, they provide dynamic performances with only their voices. (I'm starting to see a trend form.)

Anyway, Locke is a very effective piece of filmmaking. Knight proves that you don't always need to go into grand detail to make a damn good film. Sometimes simpler is better.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fading Gigolo

When the subject of sex in the focus of a film, the characters in said film are often in their twenties or thirties. Bear in mind most people at that time of their lives aren't that well-versed with sex. (I'm certainly not.) Apparently it's mainly a way to sell more tickets. (Oh, the sacrifices one must make for a better reaction.)

Fortunately, John Turturro averted that route when he made Fading Gigolo. Instead of having a film full of people who are a little too experienced with sex for their age, Fading Gigolo has a cast of people who've had their fair share of sexual encounters (and maybe even fallen in love at some point). Hollywood, just do this instead of having a cast full of thirtysomethings.

Amusingly, despite what the title implies, Fading Gigolo doesn't rely strictly on sex. The film also focuses the interactions we share with people. It can be something as simple as passing someone on the sidewalk and saying hello to them. A casual hello can often cheer up one's day.

Sure, there are several films that also revolve around human interaction, but Fading Gigolo feels a bit more modest in some scenes. Granted, said scenes have their flaws but Turturro keeps an air of honesty to them. (It takes a keen eye to notice subtly.)

It may not be the kind of film most people would enjoy, but I liked Fading Gigolo. Yes, it has its flaws but it's a mostly solid film. It's nice to see a mature film about sex and personal relationships every now and again. Also, I look forward to seeing Turturro's other ventures as a director.

My Rating: ****

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Joe

There will always be those actors whose careers everyone assumes are a lost cause. After a whole string of box office flops and critical disasters, everyone simply agrees those actors' careers are pretty much dead and buried. That doesn't mean those actors are down for the count just yet.

Nicolas Cage frequently falls into this category. Many people assume the Oscar winner is basically a lost cause by this point. Sure, he's done a few good films within the last few years, but he's been in more misfires than hits.

Thankfully, David Gordon Green's Joe proves that Cage hasn't gone away just yet. Like his Oscar-nominated work in Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation, Joe showcases how Cage is one of those actors with a burning fire within him. It's only a matter of time before that fire is unleashed.

In a way, Joe is much like last year's Mud. (Not just because both films feature Tye Sheridan.) Both Joe and Mud feature a man with a criminal past essentially being idolized by a young boy. It also becomes quite clear that said adoration could be a costly decision. (It should also be noted that Mud is darker than Joe in some regards.)

Anyway, Joe is one of those films that lingers in your mind afterwards. Cage and Sheridan are great but special mention must go to Gary Poulter. On a different note, I should see some of Green's other films.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Ten: Most Iconic Movie Characters


Ooh, another relay race from My Filmviews. Candice over at Reel Talk passed the baton over to me and I figured I'll give it a shot. The rules are as followed:
A list of 10 iconic movie characters has been made. That list will be assigned to another blogger who can then change it by removing one character (describing why they think it should not be on the list) and replace it with another one (also with motivation) and hand over the baton to another blogger. Once assigned, that blogger will have to put his/her post up within a week. If this is not the case the blogger who assigned it has to reassign it to another blogger. After you have posted your update leave the link in the comments here and I will make sure it gets added to the overview post.
Now let's see who's made the list so far, shall we? (It starts after the jump.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Le Week-End

Whenever a film about a couple gets released, the couple is always in their twenties or thirties. It always revolves around the couple in the early stages of their relationship, almost always ignoring the problems they'll encounter.

This is why Roger Michell's Le Week-End is a refreshing change of pace. Rather than a couple of twenty- or thirtysomethings, the film focuses on a couple in their early sixties as they take a trip to Paris. Their marriage has been on shaky grounds lately, and this trip could either save their marriage or destroy it.

Much like last year's Before Midnight, Le Week-End examines how even if relationships last for years and years, that doesn't generally mean they'll stay happy. After all, most long-term relationships are bound to have their ups and downs. (It's certainly a far cry from those films revolving around the early stages.)

And the performances are quite good too. Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan bring out both the best and worst in their characters. And Jeff Goldblum easily steals every scene he's in. They're simple performances but lasting.

Le Week-End has a few flaws here and there but is overall a solid film. (Certainly doesn't hurt that it's also written by the same person behind My Beautiful Laundrette.) And that last scene has one of the best cinematic shout-outs I've seen.

My Rating: ****

The Lunchbox

The basis for any solid personal connection is communication. Everyone knows that. Without it, marriages can fail and friendships falter.

That is a vital part of Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox. Focusing on a lonely housewife and a soon-to-be-retired widower, the film shows how a small mistake can lead to something potent. (It's something you don't usually see very often in most films.)

Now I'm not that well-versed when it comes to Indian films (a blight amongst my film watching), though I am aware of what they're like. (That is, those outside of the standard Bollywood films.) I know they tend to be melodramas but The Lunchbox is a much quieter film.

In a way, The Lunchbox is sort of like an Indian In the Mood for Love. How so? It doesn't rely on gratuitous sex scenes or repeated utterances of the word "love" to get its point across. All the film needs is solid interactions between its actors.

The Lunchbox is a very charming film. Batra weaves a beautiful story about connecting with others. Sometimes a small mistake doesn't always lead to a bad outcome.

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Oculus

I have stated time and time again that I am not one for horror films. Most of the time it's because what Hollywood's cranking out doesn't look that appealing. (The rest of the time is because I'm a wuss.) There are simply too many horror sequels and remakes. Where are the original ideas?

Thankfully, we do get an original horror film every so often. And recently, that's in the form of Mike Flanagan's Oculus. I feel like I shouldn't say much about the film otherwise it would ruin the experience, but I'll try my best.

This is mostly my belief but I think for a horror film to work properly, it should rely more on suspense than on blood. And thankfully Flanagan follows this belief as well. God, the amount of suspense that builds throughout the film could easily stun an elephant. (Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but still.)

The stars of Oculus are Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites, both of whom clearly know how to act scared effectively. (Then again, Gillan pretty much knew how to from her Doctor Who days.) They display the film's paranoid ambiance from the get go. I expect a promising future from both of them.

Oculus has the right amount of paranoia and suspense, perhaps a little too much in some scenes. Still, Flanagan, Gillan and Thwaites manage to make a very effective horror film, a rarity by today's standards.

My Rating: ****1/2