Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Genre

Comedy | Drama | Fantasy

Director

Marc Forster

Country

USA

Cast

Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Tony Hale, Tom Hulce, Linda Unt, Kristin Chenoweth

Storyline

Harold (Will Ferrell) suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear; a narration that begins to affect his entire life, from his work, to his love-interest, to his death.

Opinion

Before this, I've never thought it would have been possible to actually love a film starring Will Ferrell. But what can I tell you? "Stranger Than Fiction" simply is not your average comedy, rather it is a brilliant, complex, and clever dark comedy that everyone should see.

The most intriguing thing about the film is arguably the story. Very original - maybe someone would argue on that because of "The Truman Show", and if you ask me they are not the same thing - it is incredibly engaging to follow Harold's life once he realises that he is the character of someone else's novel, and it's amazing to witness the awakening of the character as he learns that he is going to die soon.

The great thing about this story is not even the story itself, or the (un)expected ending, but what the film shows: everyone is the creator of their own destiny, if doesn't matter if someone else is writing the plot for you, if you want to, you can change that. And I don't know about you, but that really spoke to me.

As for the characters, well there isn't a lot of originality. As you probably guessed, Harold is the typical (pretty much) likeable guy that discovers how meaningless his life is and that eventually transforms into a new, interesting person, Is it clichéd? Yes, but the film goes on so smoothly it doesn't matter that much.

The biggest surprise, however, was Will Ferrell. I am not a fan of him, at all. Sure, he can be a funny guy but he usually doesn't deliver performances that are worth to be remembered - at least, he didn't in the films I've watched so far. But here he took a role with more substance and he owned it. The supporting cast also does a good job, especially Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Planet of the Apes (2001)

Genre

Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi

Director

Tim Burton

Country

USA

Cast

Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Kris Kristofferson

Storyline

Air Force astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) crash lands on a mysterious planet where evolved, talking apes dominate a race of primitive humans.

Opinion

Thirty-three year after Pierre Boulle's masterpiece, "Planet of the Apes", they thought it made sense to remake a film that absolutely needed no remake. But how do you even attempt to remake a classic? Idea, you hire a great director, Tim Burton, he's definitely going to make a great film. Well, I hate to say this, but it doesn't work like that, and this new "Planet of the Apes" is the very proof of that.

Obviously not even close to the original, this film is also pretty much atrocious from start to finish, and the main reason is the dreadful script.

The writer decided to abandon the original story - which is okay so they won't ruin it - for a lame, simple story that has more holes than a strainer, made of cliché after cliché, only to end in the worst possible ways, with a silly finale that makes no sense whatsoever. And it can be summarized in three words: running, hiding, battling. That's all that happens after all.

But what kind of awful story would it be without awful characters? Don't worry, that's another feature of this film. Character development is completely lacking - okay, maybe Ari, the ape played by Helena Bonham Carter, is slightly developed, but that' all - and there are plenty of useless human characters. The astronaut would have been enough, even though he's quite a character. One minute he says to apes that on his planet apes are kept in zoos, and regarded with nuts; a moment after that, he says that on his planet humans and apes live in peace. That's a weird conception of peace.

However, that's not what annoyed me the most, that place belongs to Tim Burton. He is completely missing. There's nothing in this film that would make you think he made it. Nothing at all. Somehow he also failed to make any kind of social commentary, and he handled the theme of being different in a very childish way.

Even the action sequences, special effects and score are awful. And the cast, of course. Estella Warren deserves a special mention because she is the worst of them all. She is basically a very good looking piece of wood. I wonder how she even gets acting jobs. Please, don't answer that.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Boxtrolls (2014)

Genre

Adventure | Animation | Comedy

Directors

Graham Annable | Anthony Stacchi

Country

USA

Voice Cast

Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Simon Pegg, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum

Storyline

A young orphaned boy (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator (Ben Kingsley).

Opinion

In a world where animation basically means Pixar, Disney or DreamWorks, this film, Laika's third film, captured my attention with its being different. Having not seen neither "Coraline" nor "Paranorman", I didn't know exactly what to expect, other than the film to be good because of the nominations it got, but I really liked what I saw. "The Boxtrolls" indeed is maybe dark, but very fun, charming and entertaining animation flick.

Based on the children's book "Here Be Monsters" of which I've never heard of, the story is simple yet quirky, smart and original. Sure, it does have some plot holes and some things don't make a lot of sense, but it's still above-average, and the storytelling is beautiful.

Along with the original story go original characters, the Boxtrolls. They were developed in a different, unique way because of their limited form of communication but they are just adorable, and even though they are just a bunch of indistinguible characters, it comes natural to pick their side.

However, the over-the-top villains are the most interesting and fun, maybe because they are lead by Ben Kingsley's Snatcher, a hideous, diabolic man who wants to exterminate the Boxtrolls.

Maybe "The Boxtrolls" is a little too dark for kids, but it deals with some themes quite well. It teaches not to be afraid of what we don't know or understand, but, more important, not to judge someone or something based on what other people say. The film in fact shows how easily people are manipulated, and how they choose not to think for themselves. That's our society in other words.

Having not seen the previous films from Laika, it took me a while to get used to it, but eventually I've fallen in love with this film's stop-motion animation which is simply amazing. 


Saturday, 24 September 2016

Fading Gigolo (2013)

Genre

Comedy

Director

John Turturro

Country

USA

Cast

John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber, Tonya Pinkins, Max Casella, Aida Turturro, Bob Balaban, Michael Badalucco, David Margulies, Aurélie Claudel, Loan Chabanol

Storyline

With his friend Murray (Woody Allen) acting as his pimp, Fioravante (John Turturro) starts a male prostitution business.

Opinion

Woody Allen is no actor, he just happens to act. Most of the time he does so in films written and directed by him. Sometimes he allows someone else to direct him, like in the brilliant "Play It Again, Sam". So, I thought, if he picks a film, he gotta see some potential in it, and that's why I decided to watch this film.

Unfortunately "Fading Gigolo" is a comedy that is not funny. Or maybe it was supposed to be a drama, but we would still be having a problem here because drama is another of those things the film lacks. 

The film features a story that may seem interesting at first - Turturro basically stole from Allen - but eventually ends up being unengaging, not so bright, flat, and tedious.

And it's a shame because a part of the story actually works quite well: the relationship/chemistry between Allen and Turturro. When focused on them, the film is slightly interesting and seems a little witty as well. When focused on the other characters, all of Turturro's women, the film just doesn't work.

It does something good though, like making a satire on the religious fanatics and showing how hard it is to live in a society full of moral or cultural rules and where one is supposed to do what one is supposed to do - am I making any sense?

Anyway, just like I mentioned before, the chemistry between Allen and Turturro is great, and even though neither of them is able to make you laugh it's still quite nice to see them. As for the female cast, while Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara are obviously in the film to attract a bigger audience, the one shining is Vanessa Paradis who plays the widow of an orthodox rabbi.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

Genre

Comedy

Director

Dan Mazer

Country

USA

Cast

Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Hough, Jason Mantzoukas, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Adam Pally, Michael Hudson, Danny Glover, Mo Collins, Henry Zebrowski

Storyline

After his grandmother passed away and right before his wedding, Jason (Zac Efron) is tricked into driving his grandfather (Robert De Niro) to Florida for spring break.

Opinion

I'm starting to think that 2016 is the year of disappointments, comedy speaking. It's not like I was expecting anything great from this, but at least I thought it would have been funny. But no. Instead "Dirty Grandpa" is just another unfunny comedy as well as a waste of time and money.

What I was expecting was the typical American comedy that uses gross, sexual, childish and quite stupid humour, and drugs and alcohol related gags to make people laugh. Something like "The Hangover" basically. Maybe it's the casting, maybe it's the direction, the thing is I haven't laughed a single time during the film, except one moment in the middle of the closing credits. Instead, it ends up just being offensive. Making fun of Jews with a swastika made of penises? Seriously?

However, the major reason this film doesn't work probably is the plot. Paper thin and not engaging at all, it is obvious from the very beginning where the story is going. There is really nothing that gives you a reason to keep watching the film. And it's quite a shame because, even though, the storyline sounds pretty dumb, something good could have come out of it.

Is there anything good? Of course there is. If you are a straight guy, you'll probably love - maybe too much - Aubrey Plaza's nymphomaniac character. If you are a woman or a gay man, you will definitely enjoy those scenes with an almost naked Zac Efron. Eye-candy at its best. And the music isn't bad. But that's it.

To top the awful script there is the cast, the leading duo actually, Robert De Niro and Zac Efron, both casted only to appeal a large audience. I'm wondering what on earth was De Niro thinking when he agreed to do this thing. I admit that his films haven't been great lately, but this one tops them all. And this is probably Efron's worst film as well. He pretty much has the same expression throughout the whole film, the same expression only someone feeling completely uncomfortable would have.