Monday, November 30, 2015

Everest (2015)

Director: Baltasar Kormákur. Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, Robin Wright, Keira Knightley. 121 min. Rated PG-13. Adventure/Biography.

In 1996, a private climbing expedition to Mount Everest (of the expensive type) runs into problems when climbers are hit by a severe storm. Educating at offering a step-by-step guide to methods and perils of climbing such a mountain, but somehow, the question kept coming up: What's the point? Is the sole motivator for risking your life and abandoning your family for such a journey ... an ego trip? Even the characters discuss this among themselves, as though the screenwriter was dumbfounded about it. Spectacular panoramas and an outstanding cast notwithstanding. this film left me unsatisfied for leaving the question unanswered.

Mo says:

Tangerine (2015)

Director: Sean Baker. Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian. 88 min. Rated R. Comedy/Drama.

This is a comedy (supposedly filmed with an iPhone) about the world of transgender prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers and junkies, set in those seediest corners of the planet called Hollywood and Sunset Blvd. During some moments, the filth of the paraded concepts was so overpowering, for the very first time I felt nauseated watching a movie - let alone think any of it was funny. But 24 hours later, I'm still thinking about these characters. And doesn't any movie that induces such a strong reaction deserve a Mojo? Try it for yourself; it'll be a contemplative movie experience you can't ignore.

Mo says:

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: