Monday, November 23, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

Director: Christopher McQuarrie. Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin.  131 min. Rated PG-13. USA/Hong Kong/China. Action/Thriller.

I watched this on the heels of the new Bond movie, and it's ironic how Bond-inspired franchises are doing significantly better than Bond himself. Of course, like any Mission Impossible movie, the best sequence is when they're infiltrating some top-secret high-security compound - it's an underwater facility in this one, and they dive in without oxygen tanks, holding their breath the whole time for excitement's sake (because they know we're watching). In lieu of its star's bizarre ideology, it's hard to deny the entertainment value of this fifth installment - even if it doesn't reach the peak the fourth movie did.

Mo says:

Listen to Me Marlon (2015)

Director: Stevan Riley. 103 min. UK. Documentary.

Before his death in 2004, Marlon Brando had hundreds of hours of voice recordings, ruminating about his life, his movie career, and the concept of acting; how his father abused him, how he believes acting is a lie like any other form of success-driven lying, how his thoughts on social injustices were decades ahead of his time. But the magic here is how director/writer/editor Riley juxtaposes his recorded words with scenes from his movies and activism, making us realize Brando was actually playing out his personal life on film. Watch this and experience method acting in its purest.

Mo says:

Spectre (2015)

Director: Sam Mendes. Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw,  Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott. 148 min. Rated PG-13. UK/USA. Adventure.

MGM decided to re-invent James Bond by bringing in Daniel Craig for Casino Royale, and it worked. Then Quantum of Solace made the mistake of expecting viewers to remember Royale's details. After the splendid Skyfall, Mendes has repeated that mistake: restoring characters from all three prior movies, making it too personal to serve the fans. The overlong show feels like a drama piece, with a few action scenes thrown in because hey, it's a James Bond movie. Okay, the well-choreographed opening tracking shot and the origin of Blofeld's scar were cool; but that's it. The Daniel Craig experiment is over.

PS: Léa Seydoux in the final scene in the passenger seat of the Astin Martin, was Pussy Galore all over again.

Mo says:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mr. Holmes (2015)

Director: Bill Condon. Cast: Ian McKellen, Milo Parker, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada. 104 min. Rated PG. UK/USA. Drama/Mystery.

How would Sherlock Holmes have been if he lived to old age, and suffered from senile dementia? Bill Condon's newest feature felt like watching his Gods and Monsters all over again: the interactions between an old protagonist (McKellan in both films), a younger boy (although a child in this one), and a domineering female (Linney here and Oscar-nominated Redgrave there). And in both cases, I had to fight the urge to doze off. McKellan shows some serious acting chops here, and an octogenarian/nonagenarian Sherlock is well-imagined, but then again ... what was the point of making this film?

Mo says:

Monday, November 16, 2015

Wildlike (2014)

Director: Frank Hall Green. Cast: Ella Purnell, Bruce Greenwood, Brian Geraghty, Ann Dowd. 104 min. Drama/Adventure.

Managing to achieve what Into the Wild did with tremendous cynicism, and what Wild tried to achieve but tremendously failed. The more optimistic Wildlike follows the story of one unlucky teenage girl, whose father died the year before and is sent under the care of her twisted uncle in Alaska. The result: she becomes a runaway, befriends an older unlucky soul, and finds the remedy for the filth of human civilization in the Alaskan wild. Another movie that should not be watched on a small screen, because it's all about grasping the atmosphere, not resolving a definite story ending.

PS: The film's 100% score on the Tomatometer (albeit with only 11 reviews) should provide a clue.

PPS; Thank you JZ, for the recommendation.

Mo says:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

Director: Wes Ball. Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aidan Gillen, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Lili Taylor, Barry Pepper, Nathalie Emmanuel.

The first installment was engaging, because in addition to the continuous running (implied in the title), there was a sense of mystery, regarding why these youngster were stuck in a dystopian arena. Here, they're already out of the maze, and except for the opening act, the mystery element is out, and we're left with youngsters running. And they just keep running. Running here, escaping there. Until finally, the main character says he's tired of running - even though some prominent actors show up (and one is killed for no intelligent reason). But he still promises more running for the third installment.

PS: Look up Aidan GillenNathalie Emmanuel,and Thomas Brodie-Sangster. They may have been working towards a "Game of Thrones" reunion here.

Mo says:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Room (2015)

Director: Lenny Abrahamson. Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen, William H. Macy. 118 min. Rated R. Ireland/Canada. Drama.

This film contained a scene that was one of the most tense movie moments I had ever experienced (and I've seen some film). It also significantly undermines the concept of parenthood towards the end. Other than that, anything else I say would spoil the impact of its first viewing. Go in cold - don't read anything about it, and thank me later. Also, bet at least on Brie Larson's chances for an Oscar nomination, among the film's other awards (it already won Toronto's People's Choice Award). One of the greatest movies of 2015.

Mo says:

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Director: Guy Ritchie. Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris. 116 min. Rated PG-13. Action/Comedy.

Two films reincarnating the Bond-inspired spy shows of the 60s were screened this year: Kingsman, which was a marvelous event and one I would like to see sequels to; and this, based on the TV show of the same name, which I hope would end right here (although the ending clearly takes away all hope of that). None of the three main actors demonstrate enough chemistry to carry an action film, and I'm losing confidence Guy Ritchie is capable of making anything worthwhile anymore. But boy, does Henry Cavill look like Christopher Reeve.

Mo says:

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fantastic Four (2015)

Director: Josh Trank. Cast: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson. 100 min. Rated PG-13. USA/Germany/UK/Canada. Adventure/Sci-fi.

With every superhero movie comes the question: has this added anything to the genre? This case begs another question: has this added anything to the previous Fantastic Four, to justify a remake? In both cases, the answer is no. The origin story gobbles up more than half the movie, and as soon as Dr. Doom enters the picture and things start getting interesting, only 20 minutes is left. Ironically, the ill-fated 2005 version was better at casting (no way Jamie Bell's persona would say "It's clobberin' time!" when he becomes The Thing). Some mistakes are better left in the past.

Mo says:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Love & Mercy (2014)

Director: Bill Pohlad. Cast: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti. 121 min. Rated R. Biography/Musical.

And I thought Danny Boyle's style for the Steve Jobs biopic was innovative, while this film was already thriving from the same artistic ether: during pivotal moments in the youth and middle age of Beach Boys song-writer Brian Wilson, played in flashbacks and flash-forwards by Dano and Cusack, respectively, we watch how a diagnosis of paranoid-schizophrenia almost destroyed the artist's life. Add Banks and Giamatti to make a quartet ensemble of skilled actors, and Amadeus-like music-writing sequences (for "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations"), and this is another memorable musician biopic along the lines of Ray and Walk the Line.

Mo says:

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga. Cast: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Emmanuel Affadzi. 137 min. Drama/War.

From Blood Diamond and War Witch to the failed Kony 2012 attempt, the concept of a child soldier is devastating. And while this territory has already been tread upon, the new film by Cary Fukunaga (Sin NombreTrue Detective) compliments additional elements to keep the long movie engaging; namely, a cute opening that makes the main story even more heart-wrenching, a dominating presence by Elba ("This guy killed your fatha ..."), and beautiful cinematography by Fukunaga himself that should not be watched on a small screen. Those unable to see a kid slash a man's head with a machete ... stay away.

Mo says:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Steve Jobs (2015)

Director: Danny Boyle. Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston. 122 min. Rated R. Biography/Drama.

They can call it fictitious (and of course, there's no way some scenes here could've happened in real life), but this is exactly how biographies should translate to movies: projecting the "essence" of what a personality must have been like from reading their stories, and not necessarily a moment-by-moment compilation of documented events. Aaron Sorkin's screenplay shows how during three life events (the launch of the Macintosh, NeXT, and iMac), Steve Jobs' personality traits exploded onto those around him, and no one was safe while he manipulated his way to success. Danny Boyle has flipped the biography genre on its head.

Mo says: