Monday, 20 February 2017

Rocky IV (1985)


Drama | Sport


Sylvester Stallone




Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Dolph Lundgren, Brigitte Nielsen, Tony Burton, Michael Pataki, LeRoy Neiman


After Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is killed during a match by Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) goes to Russia to fight the new champion and avenge his friend.


Know that Tina Turner song that goes like "you're simply the best, better than all the rest"? Well, it doesn't apply to the fourth instalment of the Rocky series, the worst entry so far.

Stallone tells the same damn story for the fourth time, only this time he doesn't really bother to add anything new. Just like in "Rocky III", the story is fuelled by the death of one of the main characters by the hands of the villain with only one difference: while Clubber Lang didn't kill Mickey with his own hands but died because of him, Ivan Drago kills Apollo Creed, intentionally I'd say, so to make another film about revenge. Have I mentioned that the plot is also utterly unbelievable and makes no sense whatsoever?

Anyway, what makes "Rocky IV" worse than his predecessor is that the filmmakers decided to involve politics, probably to attract the audience. Worst decision ever, especially if you are going to do an unoriginal thing such as portraying Russians and Russia as the bad guys. Also, they make Russians look so ridiculous.

The characters aren't any better. The old ones are only shadows of the people they used to be and the new ones are terrible. Ivan Drago is supposed to be menacing, and he is a bit, but most of all he looks like some mentally challenged guy. But at least he is an unlikable character, so unlikable even the crowd in Russia starts supporting Rocky.

Even the boxing is getting boring because Rocky fights as he always does, he gets hit a lot in the face and head, and he obviously wins, even against a much stronger opponent.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Red Turtle (2016)

Original Titles

La Tourte Rouge レッドタートル ある島の物語


Animation | Fantasy


Michaël Dudok de Wit


France | Belgium | Japan


A nameless castaway attempts to leave a desert island but a red turtle stops him.


In times when 3D animation is a must - or at least that's why Hollywood is trying to say -, Studio Ghibli yet again amazes the entire world with "The Red Turtle", a spectacular 2D animated film that touches more serious, mature themes than usual and therefore ends up being more of an adult film than one for kids.

With a dialogue-less story - because this is the kind of story that doesn't need words - about nature and human beings being part of it, the film magically blends reality and fantasy and beautifully captures the life stages of a castaway - he could be each one of us, though. And the ending, oh my, it is so poetic and moving; it also gives the film so much more meaning - showing that humans always look for a reason to do something - and it's the reason why everyone should give this film a try.

The other (obviously) outstanding aspect of the film is the animation. Some may argue it is too minimalist, too repetitive and lacking in action; I saw a great mixture between European and Japanese styles. Dodok de Wit does not fill his film dazzling special effects and that's why the film works so well. The animation, especially the character movements and settings, are so realistic it will blow you away. The colours are also wonderful.

However, "The Red Turtle" isn't perfect. The director is known for his short animations and maybe he should have kept doing that. What I'm trying to say is that the story doesn't feel written for a feature film, and sitting through the film for 80 minutes feels a bit tedious at times. 

Anyway, if you are a fan of Studio Ghibli, or survival movies, this makes for a great watch.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Manchester by the Sea (2016)




Kenneth Lonergan




Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Gretchen Mol, C.J. Wilson, Tate Donovan, Kara Hayward Anna Baryshnikov, Heather Burns, Erica McDermott, Matthew Broderick, Kyle Chandler


When his brother passes away (Kyle Chandler), Lee (Casey Affleck) is obliged to return home to take care of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) and this return to the past reopens an unspeakable tragedy. 


I haven't seen any of Kenneth Lonergan's films but my gut told me "Manchester by the Sea" was going to be a great film. Maybe it's because of Michelle Williams - the lady sure knows how to pick her films - or the depressing nature of it - yes, I'm attracted to depressing things. However it is, I trusted my gut, like Olivia Pope would do, and I kneel before Lonergan because this film truly is one of the best films of the year.

This film doesn't have much of a plot, but that's what I enjoyed the most about it. It is one of those films where not much happens, that are slow paced but in spite of that, it still manages to engage you and keep you interested. I'd say that's mainly because of the non-linear storytelling. 

Anyway, the most surprising aspect of this film is that while handling very depressing and tough themes such as redemption and guilt, Kenneth Lonergan still manages to deliver some humour. And it isn't at random, it is indeed well balanced with the drama and the director makes use of it just at the right moment.

In addition to being filled with sharp and smart dialogue, the screenplay also features great characters starting from Lee, the main character. At first, we see a drunk who is rude with everyone around him. The kind of guy you can't understand and won't ever like. As the story unfolds, though, and his past emerges we come to know a broken man worn out by guilt and that guy is spectacularly portrayed by Casey Affleck. Without being melodramatic or overacting, he delivers the anger, the sadness and the depression of Lee beautifully and arguably gives the performance of a lifetime.

The supporting characters are also quite well written, developed and well acted, especially by Michelle Williams who manages to give an emotional performance filled with the pain of the character despite having a small amount of screen time. The same can be said of Lucas Hedges playing Lee's nephew. The young actor has a bright future ahead.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Jackie (2016)


Biography | Drama


Pablo Larrain


USA | Chile | France


Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Max Casella, Billy Crudup, Beth Grant, Richard E. Grant, John Carroll Lynch, Sunnie Pelant, Caspar Phillipson


After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) fights to establish her husband's legacy and the world of "Camelot" that she created and loved so well.


I've been waiting for "Jackie" for a long time because of Natalie Portman. Then people said it was great and I wanted to see it even more. However, in my country, it has been advertised as one of the best films of the year which I knew wasn't going to be true and it ended up lowering my expectations. Well, at least I wasn't disappointed. This film is far away from what I read it would be. It didn't amaze me, it just bored me.

The main reason is probably because there wasn't a plot. The film only shows Jackie Kennedy trying to pull herself together and planning her husband's funeral which clearly isn't' (interesting) enough to make a film about it. Also, the pace is terribly slow.

I wouldn't care for the plot if the film was able to provide a solid character study. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I am not very familiar with Jackie Kennedy but I walked into the movie knowing she was a beautiful, intelligent and rich woman married to the most famous leader of the free world. I walked out knowing something else: she acted as if she was the only woman in the entire world whose husband died and as if she was the only one who has lost a family member. I don't know what the goal of Pablo Larrain was, but I sure didn't feel any compassion for her, if anything I despised her a little.

However, "Jackie" isn't a complete mess. Visually it's wonderful. The editing, cinematography, set design, costumes and makeup are indeed spectacular.

Natalie Portman is great. There wasn't much she could do with that script but she managed to deliver an astonishing and emotional performance as Jackie Kennedy. She wasn't as good as in "Black Swan" though. Peter Sarsgaard also does an excellent job portraying a broken Bobby Kennedy.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Shakespeare Adaptations

Hello and welcome back to Thursday Movie Picks, the weekly series hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves where you share three movies to fit the theme of the week each Thursday.

Yay! It's Shakespeare's week! Actually, I am not that happy the reason being I haven't seen a lot of movies based on his plays. Let me rephrase that, I haven't seen a lot of good films based on his plays; therefore today I'm going with three films with great actors.

Macbeth (2015)

After receiving a prophecy that one day he will become king of Scotland, Macbeth is consumed by ambition and murders his king to take the throne. I really wanted to love this film but it was too flawed. But Michael Fassbender and Mario Cotillard give such great performances, I'd watch it again for them.

Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

While two neighbouring gardens are at war, gnomes Gnomeo and Juliet fall in love. I must say the idea of recreating the play with garden gnomes wasn't that bad, but it turned out terrible. The main reason is because the writers had no idea where to focus. The story changes direction too many times. On the other hand, the cast is great. And for great I mean those actors are usually good; however, the script is so poor they can't save the film.

Hamlet (1990)

When the ghost of his father appears and tells him that he was murdered by his brother Claudius, Hamel starts planning revenge. I've seen this one a lot of years ago at English class so I don't remember much. It wasn't that bad, though. And I remember liking Mel Gibson as Hamlet.