Sun, Oct 20, 2013

: Lawless

I skipped this in the theaters as it didn’t seem my cup of tea, but it turned out to be pretty good. In the glimpses I’d gotten I’d thought it was a Western, but it’s about hillbilly bootleggers during Prohibition. There’s a lot of horrific violence, but everything’s stylized and dramatic, and the action is pretty entertaining.

There’s a lot I didn’t like: the overdone accents are almost intelligible (I had to frequently rewind and read the closed captions to figure out what characters were saying), and the music is absolutely atrocious. (I guess it’s supposed to be topical somehow, but I just found it annoying and off-putting, though I did like the one song during the closing credits that seemed to be a real hillbilly singing.) Some of the performances are just too over-the-top and weird (Guy Pearce as the bad lawman is just bizarre).

The story itself was more interesting than I expected, about a shy younger brother who is too frightened to kill and his deadly older brother whom everyone fears, and how the younger boy ends up taking the reins of the family business and prospers.

In short, I didn’t expect to like this much but I did. I found myself caring for the brothers despite their criminal enterprise, and I liked the ending. Worth seeing, though be warned it is pretty brutal.

Topic: [/movie]


Sat, Oct 19, 2013

: Zero Dark Thirty

I finally got around to seeing this. I’m glad I did; it’s interesting, and well-made, but there are few surprises. Even though I knew little of the real story, the story is basic: a female CIA operative spends her whole career trying to track down Osama Bin Laden, overcoming countless obstacles, and finally succeeds. There’s much in the specifics of how they track the terrorist, but it still feels too-by-the-numbers for me. Still, it’s worth seeing just for the historical aspects.

Topic: [/movie]


Sat, Oct 05, 2013

: Gravity

Director: Alfonso CuarĂ³n

This is a fantastic film with a minimal story about a female scientist on the space shuttle who’s the only survivor of a terrible accident. She’s trapped, alone in space, with no way to get back to earth, and she’s not a professional astronaut.

That may sound depressing, but it’s utterly inspiring. What makes it work is the fantastic direction and acting. Sandra Bullock is outstanding in a pivotal role in which she’s in every single scene, most of the time alone, in cramped quarters or inside a space suit. She’s alternatively frail and incredibly strong, and makes both believable. Many actresses would have overdone the dramatic moments but hers are spot on. Definitely my vote for deserving an Oscar.

Equally key is Alfonso’s direction, which gives us astonishing realism. His choice to make much of the film without sound — just like space in real life — is amazing, as watching spaceship crashes in utter silence is creepy and disconcerting. It also magnifies every other sound in the film, making the tiniest things more important. Visually the film is stunning, with glorious views of earth from space.

I watched the 3D version because I heard that the director insisting on filming this in real 3D (not awful post-conversion) and it’s worth the extra fee. Floating objects drift toward you, and you get the feeling you’re in space yourself. My favorite effect was a scene where Sandra cries and a few tears trickle off her face and float toward the camera. Really, really cool, and yet subtly done so it doesn’t distract from a key emotional moment.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable and tension-filled film. It’s non-stop stress from the almost the first scene, and it makes the perfect 90-minute runtime just fly by. What impresses me the most is that so many things could have gone wrong: with such a simple story, the slightest flaws have nowhere to hide. Instead we’re treated with a survival story that’s surprisingly easy to understand (all the tech jargon is extremely well-explained), perfect moments of tension-relieving humor, and incredible realism. Two thumbs up and top recommendations.

Topic: [/movie]