miercuri, 31 octombrie 2018

Operation Finale by Matthew Orton - Eight out of 10

Operation Finale by Matthew Orton
Eight out of 10

Operation Finale could have been better, but it is a gripping, dramatic, watchable, compelling motion picture.

It is based on the true story of a Mossad operation that took Adolph Eichmann out of Argentina, where he had found refuge and was already engaged in developing a community of Nazis.
The murderer is portrayed by Ben Kingsley, playing the opposite of the character that has brought him the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role- Gandhi, the epitome of peaceful and non –violent methods.

Adolph Eichmann was the mastermind of the Final Solution and one of the most wanted of the World War II criminals that has managed to escape and run to South America, where he lived under a false name.
In Argentina, he lives with his son, Klaus, and his wife, Vera, and he is celebrated by other fascist escapees, entertaining with them dreams of bringing again to light the vicious fascist ideas.

In the same region in Argentina lives Lothar Hermann, aka Peter Strauss, with Sylvia Hermann, a Jewish girl that was raised Catholic, who becomes close to Klaus and invites him to her house.
Lothar Hermann understands who the father of the boy is, informs the Jewish community and this information is related to the Mossad headquarters in Israel, where it is however considered that they need to concentrate their limited resources on the present and not the past.

This is only for a while and due in large part to doubts that the real Eichmann has been found, the difficulty of getting him out if the information proves correct and the calamity that would follow a botched attempt.
The logistics of the operation is indeed more than a reason to ponder over the plan, at times it seems impossible to pull off, given that army airplanes would be unable to reach that far – although they did fly all the way to Entebbe, in another awesome Israeli operation.

They would need to use the services of the flag carrier, El Al, and use the celebrations occasioned by a round figure of years since the Argentinean Independence, to elude the authorities and take the war criminal out.
Peter Malkin is the most important figure in the Mossad team, portrayed with brilliance by the great Oscar Isaac, and he is in love with Hanna Elian – played by the equally formidable Melanie Laurent – who is also part of the operation.

Indeed, it looks like without Hanna Elian they would not get the approval, for she is the expert that would give the fascist the correct dose of medication to keep him drugged while they pass the customs, without killing him.
It is to be a difficult task, the agent does not even want to participate initially, because she had lost a detainee, because the dose is so hard to establish and in the awful circumstances imposed by such abductions accidents can and do happen.

The team is given a safe house in Argentina, they have cars to which they attach diplomatic plates when necessary, support is offered by the Jewish community living there, albeit some doubt if their allegiance is to Israel or Argentina.
Agents follow the moves of the Nazi criminal, establish the plan of abducting him when he returns from the Mercedes plant where he works, in a place where it is dark and then embark him on the El Al flight that would take him out of the country.

After they manage to get Eichmann, there are complications because the fascists quickly realize what happened, but more importantly, El Al insists they want a signed statement from the war criminal that shows he agrees to be on trial in Israel.
Adolph Eichmann refuses to sign and even to admit that he is man they are looking for, and when he confesses that he is the infamous architect of plan, he tries to use the usual flimsy cover ups, he was just a clog in a machine, everyone, including the Mossad agents, has to obey orders…

Peter Malkin tries a new approach, giving the prisoner cigarettes, engaging in conversations with him, in order to get him to sign the crucial document, without which the whole mission would have failed.
There are tensions over this tactic, other members of the team feeling that Malkin is going too far, one would very much like to torture the monster and get him to sign and if not just eliminate him pure and simple.

Peter Malkin himself has a couple of scenes in which he seems very close to killing the brute, for he remembers his sister and her children, who were killed by the fascists, who have murdered six million Jews in the war.
Furthermore, at a critical moment, the loathsome, disgusting Eichmann decides to talk about his presence in the forest where the sister of Malkin was killed, the scene where a multitude of innocents are lined in a trench and then shot, a young woman holding her baby up, trying to give it to the monster, while a bullet kills first the baby, then the mother and the Nazi official has to wipe the brains off his clothes.

The tragedy is immense, the film is notable, but there is something missing and the insistence on the signed document seems exaggerated.

Welcome Home, by David Levinson - Seven out of 10

Welcome Home, by David Levinson
Seven out of 10

It is regrettable to see that such a talented actor as Aaron Paul has had very little chance to prove his abilities once the superb Breaking Bad series ended.

Welcome Home is not that opportunity, even if it is not altogether a meritless motion picture.

Aaron Paul plays Bryan, the boyfriend of Cassie aka attractive, gifted – never seen before by the under signed – Emily Ratajkowski.
They rent a splendid villa, more like a mansion in fact, in Italy, where the American couple arrives in a Fiat.

On the way to this resplendent small palazzo, they stop at another beautiful house, next door.
The mansion has a fabulous swimming pool, a well-supplied cellar, from which a bottle of wine is placed on the table by the owner with a card, compliments and the invitation to call if they need anything.

There is something wrong though, for when Cassie and Bryan engage in erotic games, embraces, kisses, the man is moving away for a reason that we are soon to find out and would mark their relationship.
She has made a mistake and been unfaithful.

Ever since, it seems that Bryan has visions of his lover having sex with that other man and he is jealous.
At one point, the issue of “leveling the playing field „is brought out, with the idea that he may have to commit an infidelity.

Cassie is jogging in the forest near the villa, when she stumbles over something that may have been placed there intentionally – we could think that especially with hindsight, after we learn what is happening next.

As she can barely walk, she struggles to reach the road, where she tries to stop a passing car, succeeding to get support from a man driving a pick-up truck.
This is Federico aka the very good Riccardo Scamarcio, who would be able to take care of the injured jogger, knowing well what to do, that it is not serious, for after a short while the wound would look much worse, if something were broken.

He comes to the mansion, offers to take the couple to the small town nearby, later on he comes with a rabbit that he cooks so well that Cassie says any woman would melt in his arms…
Given the recent infidelity, Bryan is not too keen on the presence of this handsome foreigner and his intrusion into their holiday, but he does not want to be rude- well, until that would become necessary.

When in town, the two lovers have another conflict, the man walks to a bar where Federico joins him – supposedly there by chance, but we know by now that he has a nefarious plan.
He invites the American to drink, then he is offered a round and very soon Bryan is inebriated and although not enthusiastic when two young, alluring women enter the bar and salute their Italian friend, he is pressed by the other man.

The scheme is to get the rival out of the way and into an embarrassing, compromising situation and then walk on to the empty field and seduce or use other means to get to Cassie.
The nefarious, perverted Italian is watching monitors in a dark room, where he can see the couple everywhere in and outside the villa, as they undress, have sex…

After a hangover, Bryan arrives at the mansion and the two have an explanation, they decide to enjoy the time on holiday, especially since they know they love each other, so she is to prepare in the room, blindfolded, while he gets a bottle of wine from the cellar.
Only the door of the cellar is closed with the American man within and approaching, kissing, fondling, pushing Cassie is not her lover, but the loathsome Federico, who takes advantage of the blindfold.

As it happens in thrillers, Bryan does find a way out, making the lascivious intruder abandon his plan temporarily, but the man and woman have an argument because he thinks this is his partner cheating again and she has just seen the film of the threesome that was placed conveniently by the monster near her, on the bed.
The unite their forces against the criminal when they finally see that he wants to rape Cassie if necessary – actually it is rape already when she does not know she is not having sex with her lover, being blindfolded – and he would not stop at anything.

The fight that follows is deadly, only for reasons of spoiler alert it would not be mentioned here what happens, how many die and what the end is…only it needs to be said that there is an interesting surprise right before the credits roll.

marți, 30 octombrie 2018

Requiem for a Dream, written by Hubert Selby Jr. (based on his book) and Darren Aronofsky, directed by the latter - 10 out of 10

Requiem for a Dream, written by Hubert Selby Jr. (based on his book) and Darren Aronofsky, directed by the latter
10 out of 10

Requiem for a Dream is one of the best motion pictures ever made!

It is also very popular; audiences have placed it at number 81 on the Top Rated Movies List.
Disappointing is the fact that this chef d’oeuvre has received only one Academy Award nomination for the fantastic, if horrifying Ellen Burstyn for Best Actress in a Leading Role, category for which she was also short listed at the Golden Globes.

The mesmerizing Ellen Burstyn portrays Sara Goldfarb, the aged mother of Harry Goldfarb, facing solitude, depression and from one stage on an addiction to television game shows and then to some awful diet pills that look likely to destroy her life.
She hopes to become famous, if for a few minutes, by entering one of these shows, which send her an invitation, trying hard to fit in her good, red dress assorted with her gold shoes, which would impress audiences and her son.

Unfortunately, the initial boost in wellbeing, operated by the telephone call that purports to welcome her on the television program is followed by a very rapid descent into agony, as the heroine embarks on a diet that would become a calamity for her.
Eating less is not only the secret for a long life, as demonstrated by the inhabitants of the island of Okinawa, where they have record numbers of people that reach a very advanced age, who eat only to be about 70% full, but it is also a very good life style choice.

Only in the case of Sara Goldfarb, this radical change is made with ghoulish consequences, probably because of the pills that are prescribed by what seems to be a negligent doctor – to say the least – and which start having ghastly side effects.
The filming of the ordeal of this protagonist and that of the other characters of the narrative is brilliant – the film was introduced on one of our main channels by one of our remarkable directors, Alexandru Tocilescu, and he spoke in awe at the achievement, noting that he knows, working in this domain, how filming is done, with crews drinking coffee, often joking about what is going on the set, but he was still flabbergasted, taken aback by this tremendous accomplishment.

Sara Goldfarb has many neighbors that cherish the fact that she is invited on a television show, one of them is trying to do her hair, even if the resulting color is not red, but a shade of orange, not what Madonna has.
After taking the blue, mauve and other color pills, the refrigerator appears to move, threatening the poor old woman, who has visions with her on stage, applauded by the public, but also some frightening apparitions, seeing herself as a scary figure that comes to her home to haunt…herself.

In the good days, the responsible, decent, charming Harry aka the fabulous, formidable Jared Leto is involved in a relationship with the stupendous, angelic Marion played by one of the best artists of our time, the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly, trying to start a small business.
Harry even buys a television set for his mother, as a surprise gift that he would nevertheless later steal repeatedly from his parent; in order to pawn it and get money for the drugs he cannot live without and appear to destroy him.

Harry Goldfarb is taken down by his drug abuse and instead of opening a business with the talented Marion, who has creative ideas that she could have used to design beautiful clothes, takes another path, trying to become a drug dealer with his friend Tyrone aka another fantastic actor, Marlon Wayans.
When they are left without money, following a murder where Tyrone is an innocent bystander charged however with complicity to a homicide, forcing Harry to use the money that had saved to bail him out, the drug addicts are acting like zombies because they do not have the funds for the next shot.

Requiem for a Dream highlights what happens to addicts, for instead of being extremely happy together, grateful for having found love, such beautiful, talented, charming partners, Harry and Marion agree that she has to have sex with a much older, disgusting man for money.
This would not be an isolated event, for she does it again, with Big Tim played by yet another great actor, Keith David, and when this dealer mentions a Sunday party, after initially refusing, the lost woman attends it, engaging in offensive, extreme sex scenes that represent the depths where cocaine use can take people.

Sarah Goldfarb, her son and his girlfriend are followed in parallel, the older woman has a breakdown when she decides to take the subway to the office of the company that had invited her to the game show and has not followed suit.

She is in an awful state and when she reaches the office, the staff talk to her for a while, listen to her plight, the plea to walk on the set of the show at last, for she would give away the prizes, but then they call the police.
The heroine is taken to the hospital, where they rate her case as a psychiatric one, she is tied to the bed, fed by male nurses, but when she does not comply, and she is forced fed with a tube pushed into her mouth.

There are many gruesome scenes, which may belong in a horror movie, with a noble, teaching purpose, for someone who has seen this masterpiece would surely think more than twice before abusing drugs.

An Interview with God by Ken Aguado - Eight out of 10

An Interview with God by Ken Aguado
Eight out of 10

An Interview with God is a very interesting motion picture that has been – so far – ignored by the critics and the public.

David Strathairn plays a very good God that recalls for brief moments the performance of Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty.
If Bruce was a comedy, the Interview with God is a more serious affair, wherein the deity agrees to an interview, after the journalist Paul Asher aka the talented Brenton Thwaites prays.

God explains that he thought the medium of an interview is best suited for a reporter, but he has, like always, a more complex plan in mind.
This drama invites the audience to think of major themes, indeed, there is little if anything more important than the concept of God, what makes bad things happen to good people and other pressing, vital questions.

The life of the journalist is at a nadir, he is facing a crisis in his marriage that affects everything else, to the point where he may collapse and engage in what is perhaps the only thing that god would not forgive.
There are three sessions, in which are organized in an interesting way, the dialogue and the premise is smart, the reporter is not immediately buying the story that he is talking to the Almighty.

Indeed, he has some tests, including a difficult operation, multiplying 12,347 with 34,285 or something of the kind, even if he states later that this is the kind of thing some humans can do.
When the conversation becomes about the young journalist, he becomes angry, even furious, for he complains that this is supposed to be an interview where he gets answers and it is not about him.

Nevertheless, the Omniscient One has an idea- actually, He is supposed to know everything – about the turmoil, the calamity that might be waiting to happen and could destroy the reporter.

God warns the man that he has little time.
Aghast, the interviewer feels this is a threat and does not see that this is actually God trying to help him, make him understand that he is at a crossroads and free will might take him to an abyss.

Alternatively, he could see the danger and avoid the…void.

Different viewers will look at this outré motion picture with a comprehending or accusing perspective, depending on their religiosity, orthodoxism, liberal or atheistic beliefs.
Nathaniel Branden, genius, classic of psychology, and author of the chef d’oeuvre The Six Pillars of Self- Esteem has a very negative opinion about religion.

In his superb work The Psychological Effects of Religion, the professor warns about the dramatic consequences that beliefs have, from the threatening, permanent presence of a Supreme Being, ready to punish you for things you did as a child, making you suffer for masturbating – for instance – many years back.

An Interview with God is one of the rare gems, a thought provoking feature that does not indoctrinate, advances challenging topics, without arrogance, with respect and interesting message.

luni, 29 octombrie 2018

My Dinner with Herve, written and directed by Sacha Gervasi - Eight out of 10

My Dinner with Herve, written and directed by Sacha Gervasi
Eight out of 10

Looking at the title of this biographical drama, one might think of My Dinner with Andre – that sounds pretty close to Herve, doesn’t it? – only the meal with Andre is in a different category and directed by a classic, Louis Malle.

Having said that, it must be stated that the encounter with, eventful evening spent in the company of Herve Villechaize, portrayed by the even more famous, talented Peter Dinklage is rewarding.
The other major player in this drama is Danny Tate aka Jamie Dornan, a journalist who has serious personal problems, faces a termination at his office and is supposed to interview Gore Vidal.

Danny used to be an alcoholic that is counting the days since he has stopped drinking and when he tells Herve that he has had thirty two days without a drop, the latter is correct in assessing there is still a problem if the days are so carefully counted.
Indeed, when he arrives at the hotel where he stays before supposedly meeting Gore Vidal, he calls the reception to ask for the alcohol in the room’s minibar to be completely removed – obviously fearing he would not fall into temptation again.

When the hotel does not do that, a day later, the journalist carries the mini bottles outside the door and throws them there, remembering what happened one night, when he got so drunk that he took a woman home, started having sex with her and his wife came in, with their baby in her arms.
Ever since- psychology would argue that it is actually before that that things had started to fall apart, an affair is a consequence, symptom of a deteriorating, potentially terminally ill relationship and not the cause as is generally thought- his wife has wanted to separate.

Danny Tate meets with Herve Villechaize, a once celebrated actor that has acted in The Man with the Golden Gun with Roger Moore and became ever more famous after starring as Tattoo in the series Fantasy Island.
Since after this encounter he is twenty minutes late at his appointment with Gore Vidal, the journalist faces a scene, the acclaimed writer is not just furious, but determined to leave without any interview.

This is a calamity for the reporter, his job is on the line and therefore he tries to arrange for an extension, another return ticket and hopes he would still be able to return with his assignment completed.
Meanwhile, Herve Villechaize offers a tremendous opportunity, the chance to have the last interview of the former star, who starts telling the story of his life, how his parents were normal people, he was born in Paris, France and as a child the doctors have discovered that he suffers from a rare disease and hence he would not be able to grow.

The vertically challenged young man discovers soon that he is a talented artist, he paints and loves women, who in turn are frequently very attracted to him, in his future life as a celebrity he would become a womanizer, involved in multiple affairs.
The courageous, determined, resilient and gifted young man decides he wants to be an actor and the key to success is to get his foot in the door of the most accomplished agent, Marty Rothstein aka David Strathairn, who receives a very outré visit, from a small man with a knife that scares the secretary.

After a showy entrance, a rather frightening appearance with a weapon in his hand, Herve puts up an act, declaims some lines, comes to the drawer where the agent keeps the pistol he was ready to use and convinces this man to represent him.
After the success of the James bond movie, which was however not savored by his mother, who thought the part of the son to be demeaning and offensive, there is another Launchpad for the intrepid French artist, represented by the series Fantasy Island.

This is where he would play the role of Tattoo, against the leading man of the show, Ricardo Montalban aka Andy Garcia, a presence for which he would receive a great sum of money, $ 35,000 per week, which could be close to twice that much in today’s currency.
The two performers would have an uneasy relationship, some conflicts, because in the interpretation of Herve Montalban was jealous, hated the fact that he had affairs with so many beautiful women and his success in general.

His agent has a different perspective, emphasizing that Ricardo Montalban was actually helpful, warning his co-star when he was about to walk off the set after a bad marriage breakup that this would have serious, grave consequences.

My Dinner with Herve is very good, even if given the choice; My Dinner with Andre would be a better, more instructive, sophisticated, intelligent, thought provoking option.

Juliet, Naked, based on the novel by Nick Hornby - Eight out of 10

Juliet, Naked, based on the novel by Nick Hornby
Eight out of 10

Juliet, Naked is an interesting, rewarding proposition, if not the best film of the year, in the line for multiple Academy Awards.

Rose Byrne portrays Annie Platt and she seems to be the most sensible, decent, attractive of the three major characters that dominate the narrative of this feature.
Her partner is Duncan Thomson aka the amusing, charming, gifted Chris O’Dowd, a man who is obsessed with the music, the life and the gossip surrounding Tucker Crowe aka the established Ethan Hawke.

Tucker Crowe used to be a rock star – for some reason, he makes yours truly think of the Mick Jagger interview inserted at the start of the Walk Like Jagger hit, where he states at the debut of his career that he would probably go on for a short while, a year, maybe a few and we see he is singing past the age of seventy…
The former singer has retired, but there is a cult following, with people continuing to obsess about him and his music, his whereabouts, innuendo that has him as the father of a child with a member of the Swedish Royal family and in many other relationships and circumstances.

Annie starts a correspondence with the retired celebrity and as that intimacy develops into an interesting closeness, Tucker, who is about to visit his daughter, who is going to have a baby, suggests an encounter.
The idea of becoming a grandfather is at first preposterous, for the former star thinks he is not that old, but when “he does the math” he sees that it is possible and he would have a larger family.

However, instead of having a decent, romantic encounter with his transatlantic correspondent, the retired rock star ends up in a hospital, following a possible heart attack.
The scenes that take place in the intensive care room are amusing, for many people come to see the connected musician, who has been in numerous relationships – if not with anybody from the Swedish Royal Family.
It is difficult for many, if not most, of those present to keep track of whose mother is this and that child or relative.

While Annie and Tucker get closer to each other, Duncan has an affair and confesses to having slept with another woman, taking her to the coast, where they accidentally encounter the American and his British friend.
Another amusement is in store, for Duncan, who is such an expert on the rock musician, talking online with other fans, intimate with all the details of the star, encounters the godhead on the beach, with his former lover.

Only he does not recognize his Allah, Jesus, and Zeus!
Not only that, when Annie introduces the American, Duncan rejects the idea and he acts as if he was told he was meeting God and he needs to reply that indeed, he is also an angel or the Messiah…

Furthermore, the humor is continuous, for the supposed expert comes to see if there is a possibility that his hero, role model, godsend is not actually near him and so accessible…
He wants tucker Crowe to show him the passport proving he is the real musician and then he is invited for dinner.

Over their meal, the rock singer and his disciple argue over the quality of his music, for if the singer is modest and thinks his production was not so worthy, the fan is of the opposite opinion.
It changed his life and he loves it no matter what the musician thinks!

He declares s much and then departs from the table.

Juliet, Naked is a very good, refreshing comedy drama, not pretentious, complicated, but inspiring nevertheless.

sâmbătă, 27 octombrie 2018

1:54, written and directed by Yan England - Eight out of 10

1:54, written and directed by Yan England
Eight out of 10

1:54 is a provocative, thoughtful, remarkable drama that explores some of the issues faced by teenagers who are gay and as a result, they have to suffer the bullying, insults and aggression of colleagues.

It is true that other categories of teenagers – perhaps most? – have to cope with adversity and trauma, as they are rejected by one or another of their colleagues, or are excluded from one Facebook group or another.
There is a different situation in the case of the hero of this narrative, Tim aka the very talented, wonderful Antoine Olivier Pilon (seen in another formidable work, Mommy, noted on here: http://realini.blogspot.com/2017/03/note-on-mommy-written-and-directed-by.html)

Tim is a talented boy of sixteen going on seventeen, who has lost his mother and after her death his world is changing, he seems to be somewhat confused regarding his sexuality.
Although, it might be better said that he probably understands that he is gay, only given the pressure of the peers, the ferociousness of some of the colleagues who are vicious and always ready to torment, he does not admit to it, at least not openly.

In fact, at different stages he denies his homosexuality, when his friend Francis aka Robert Naylor admits he is gay, Tim acts as if he is stupefied and he says that he had no idea.
Later on, he kisses a girl, Jennifer aka Sophie Nelisse and she would be upset with him, for she has realized and reproached him that this embrace was meant to disguise the fact that he is a homosexual.

Tim and Francis spend a lot of time together, they are both remarkable in chemistry class, where they are encouraged by the teacher and their experiences attract other pupils who come to watch the minor explosions and the special effects created by the two virtuoso.
Francis is very sensitive and overwhelmed by the bullying, repeated attacks and vicious pranks that homophobes perpetrate, making him suffer in all manner of humiliating circumstances.

At one point, Tim hears a commotion in school and he has a feeling that something is very wrong, and as he approaches the place where people are gathered, he can hear Francis shouting.
He has been locked in his locker for some time and when he is finally released, he sees his best friend in the group that had been so mean to him and seems to think he could have done something to do with it, if not willingly, intentionally, at least he might have been a co-conspirator.

When the teacher arrives, he is asking around and stops at the hero, who is unwilling though to incriminate anyone, he would not say who is behind this ordeal and then adds that he is not a snitch.
Alas, the fragile state of mind, the frequent attacks and humiliations, the bullying, the constant torment and probably the lack of support from his best friend make Francis unable to cope with trauma anymore.

He commits suicide by jumping from a high point

Tim is devastated and admits to the blame, he tells his teacher that he was not there to offer support when his friend needed it and he would be haunted by dreams in which the ghost of the departed shows up.
He has an idea that he could act in such a way as to pay homage to the memory of the dead comrade, and if he had refused to participate in running for competitions before the tragedy, he is willing to use his skills now.

Tim has beaten the record for the fastest running student and seems to be on his way to win more, making the previous winner angry and determined to stop him at all costs, including nefarious means.
Jeff has won the running contest one year before, he is one of the villains, the thugs responsible for the death of Francis, and who is now concentrating his malicious attacks on his competitor.

One night, Tim engages in same sex with another teenager who performs felatio on the hero, an act that is alas recorded on camera by the loathsome Jeff, who would then use it as blackmail:

“You get out of the running competition, or else the video will be available for everyone to see”

This causes a breakdown and it makes Tim willing to get to the end, to extract revenge on all, for the sufferings, torments inflicted on him and his dead friend, using his knowledge of chemistry to cause a calamity.
For reasons of spoiler alert – even if it is very unlikely that people read this and furthermore, they might take the trouble to look for this on Netflix – we had it on Cinemax here, which comes with the HBO package – I will not say what happens next.

vineri, 26 octombrie 2018

Street Kings, by James Ellroy and others - Seven out of 10

Street Kings, by James Ellroy and others
Seven out of 10

Street Kings reminds one of scenes from Payback with Mel Gibson, Unforgiven with ( and directed by) Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman, Death Wish and other much better motion pictures.

Alas, even if we can see Keanu Reeves (a very talented actor that seems to have renounced the glamour of Hollywood and the life of a celebrity, to live as a normal human being in new York), the Academy Award winner and phenomenal artist Forest Whitaker and last, but in no way the least the great Hugh Laurie, Cedric the Entertainer and Chris Evans, this feature is a forgettable experience.
We have some interesting angles from which the film was shot, plenty of action to keep a viewer watching, surprises in the plot, but the final product does not reach the level of the aforementioned dramas and others like them.

Keanu Reeves plays detective Tom Ludlow, a rather complicated main character, with fabulous achievements under his belt, but also the man who drinks while driving and shoots villains in revenge, obviously extra judicially.
He faces an investigation regarding a shootout in which criminals are killed by him, following a vicious interaction, a transaction in which the undercover detective was supposed to provide weapons, including machine guns to these thugs.

They beat him up, affronted by Ludlow’s use of Konichiwa, which is more like an insult, given the fact that the mobsters are Korean and Konichiwa is Japanese and the two peoples share a history in which they have been fighting each other, Japan having occupied Korea, tormenting the population and more.
Indeed, to this day, they have unresolved issues and animosity is often at a peak, because of the issue of the “comfort women”, unfortunate women who have been taken in a sort of slavery and then terribly exploited as sex slaves.

There is also the problem of disputed territory, islands that both countries claim as their own.
The police officer is hit repeatedly and beaten by the Asian gangsters, who send him to the ground and then shout Konichiwa to him.

They will pay dearly for this and their evidently long history of violence, terror and murders, for they will die soon, eliminated by an undercover officer who should obey the law, but instead takes it into his own hands.
In his defense though, two young girls are liberated because of the brutal action of Tom Ludlow and this makes him a sort of a hero.

Detective Terrence Washington is a critic and apparently a serious adversary for the flawed hero and when the former happens to arrive at a grocery store, Tom Ludlow is apparently ready for a new confrontation.
Nevertheless, while Terrence Washington is already inside the shop, a car with two men is driving by and the two individuals, wearing scarfs that cover most of their faces, enter the same store.

The hero understands this is a dangerous, potentially tragic situation and tries to warn his foe, who thinks this is just another clash between them and while they argue, the two killers come close and shoot Terrence Washington multiple times, using machine guns.
While Tom Ludlow is recovering in the hospital where his girlfriend works, an unknown man asks him if he is not the famous cop who had freed the two girls, acting as if he is not sure and does not know the story except from the news…

While he is putting on this performance, a police detective comes close and calls him captain, ending the pretense and making Ludlow and the audience understands that this was a trick and a potential trap.
Captain James Biggs aka Hugh Laurie is investigating the homicide case and he has been at odds for a long time with Captain Jack Wander aka Forest Whitaker and his team that is suspected of criminal acts.

There are elements that will keep a viewer interested in finding out who the good hombres are and where the corruption lies, but it is not a very satisfying motion picture.
Perhaps the remarkable group of actors would have benefited from a different director, who could have made this film a more rewarding feature.

joi, 25 octombrie 2018

Thunder Road, starring, written and directed by Jim Cummings - Eight out of 10

Thunder Road, starring, written and directed by Jim Cummings
Eight out of 10

Thunder Road is a very accomplished comedy – drama that has won five festival prizes, has been rated by the critics with an impressive average of 83 out of 100, while the public has also appreciated the feature with 7.8 out of 10 markings.

Jim Cummings is remarkable as the writer- director of the motion picture and the actor who portrays the hero of the plot, Officer Jim Arnaud, a pleasant, affable, somewhat outré character that is having a breakdown when faced with trauma.
In the opening scene, the hero is acting weirdly at his mother’s funeral, although he tries to point out later, when images of his act at this interment are shown to the judge, that everyone is overwhelmed in such circumstances.

His wife, Rosalind Arnaud wants a divorce, she sends the papers at the police station where her husband works, but he seems unable to figure out their meaning and has to call her to find that she also wants full custody of their daughter, Crystal Arnaud.
Jim Arnaud has friend, Officer Nate Lewis, but he will argue with this comrade too, when he suspects he has delivered testimony, or evidence against him, an impression that is wrong and the protagonist would regret his behavior.

The captain has warned the hero that he would be suspended and eventually lose his job and when things come to a breaking point, the superior officer asks for the badge, the gun and everything else.
This happens after Jim Arnaud confronts his friend Nate Lewis, becomes violent, insulting and aggressive, he does not back up when other officers come out of the precinct and he reaches a nadir when he takes out his pistol.

When the captain is stating that this is the ned and he has lost his job, requesting the return of police property, the hero starts getting his clothes off, and he ends up in his underwear, for in the clash with his friend, the pants have been affected and we now see that what was under them got destroyed too.
Most often, in spite of his tendency to cope badly with adversity and trauma, Jim Arnaud remains likeable and we feel compassion for him, even when he appears to go over the top and exaggerate.

In court, trying to fight the demand of his wife that she gets full custody of the child, the officer is again on the wrong path, even if he starts with apparent contained, balanced demeanor.
He explains that he thinks his soon to be ex-wife has taken good care of their daughter, Crystal, they seem to agree on the manner of education she must have, broadly speaking and he does not turn against her.

However, after he speaks in his defense, trying to win rights over his child, making the point that he has been a good officer, has not had negative remarks in his experience working for the police, things go wrong.
The judge is trying to see if he has been aggressive and after Jim Arnaud denies it, the judge is presented with a laptop containing an incriminating recording from the funeral, which the police officer tries to explain.

Alas, the situation becomes ever more serious, for in trying to explain his misbehavior, the aggrieved man says something like:

“Judge, when you will lose somebody close, you will feel and act the same way…
Is that a threat? Asks the upset judge
Oh, no! I did not mean that! Let’s get back, let me explain…”

Nevertheless, it is rather late for backtracking and the judge insists that Jim Arnaud needs to return to his counselor, which the tormented parent does not seem to agree with, making the intervention of a bailiff appear imminent.
There is a further calamity and the protagonist is stopped on the road by a police officer, he gets out of the car, forgets the key inside and is left locked out of his Ford pickup – which is what yours truly drives as well -.

The active police officer is unable to tell the ex – man of the law what the emergency is, but when he mentions the address, Jim Arnaud understands it is the address of his now ex-wife and breaks the window of the car to get in.

Unfortunately, when he arrives at the scene, a tragedy has already taken place and in another strange, bizarre and somewhat darkly humorous scene, the hero slaps the dead body he finds on the couch – for spoiler alert reasons, who the dead person is will remain a mystery here.
Thunder Road is an amusing, intriguing, different motion picture that is worth watching.

Austin Powers in Goldmember, starring and written by Mike Meyers and two others Seven out of 10

Austin Powers in Goldmember, starring and written by Mike Meyers and two others
Seven out of 10

A note on this comedy could be ended in one sentence:

It is not worth it, although for some reasons critics gave it an average rating of 62 out of 100 and the film has won five prizes, being nominated for another twenty-two.

We could look at the great cast in two ways:

First, one could regret seeing Michael Caine, Michael York, and Robert Wagner in such a silly, preposterous feature, which also brings to the fore Beyoncé and for the promising opening scenes:

Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Danny DeVito, Quincy Jones, John Travolta and a few other stars.

Indeed, the opening scenes make the public raise its expectations to limits that are then disappointed.
Austin Powers is talking to Steven Spielberg in a manner that could be construed as funny, telling the classic, titan of cinema what to do when directing a film based on the life of the celebrated spy.

Nevertheless, on a personal note, it is downhill from there.
So much so that it does not even seem worth mentioning some of the bizarre jokes and supposedly mirthful scenes – one has Austin Powers and Mini Me involved in a game of shadows, where a witness looks and imagines he sees all sorts of outré actions.

It is a waste of the talent of those numerous, talented actors involved, albeit most of them only make a cameo appearance.

Margaret, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan - 8 out of 10

Margaret, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan
8 out of 10

Even if Margaret is not such a splendid work as the most recent fabulous, outstanding Manchester by the Sea, for which the author has won The Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, it is still remarkable.

Indeed, there are some themes that the two motion pictures have in common - the importance of the truth, coping with adversity and trauma, the problem of guilt and retribution.

Anna Paquin is one of the youngest winners of an Academy Award - if not the youngest? - for her supporting role in Jane Campion's The Piano, a wondrous feature in which she was only eleven, actually I think she was ten years old.
She has the leading role in Margaret, where she is Lisa Cohen, a seventeen year old high school student.

Lisa lives with her mother, but she raises the possibility of moving with her divorced father, for one year.
When she mentions this prospect, her mother is infuriated and makes a scene.

As she wants to get a cowboy hat, the heroine sees a bus driver wearing an interesting one and tries to find where has he bought it from.
The problem is that the bus is moving, the discussion takes place in awkward, improper circumstances.

Maretti is the name of the driver portrayed by Mark Ruffalo.
This young man is looking at the teenager, while the lights turn to red and a pedestrian walks in front of the moving bus.

She is killed and in the first stage of the investigation, Lisa states that it was an accident and the color was green for the bus.
Maretti has the same deposition and the case is soon closed.

At one point, one of the detectives mentions the fact that without an intent to kill, it is next to impossible to prosecute and condemn the driver, if when the crucial witness has changed the initial statement.

Which she does, following a process of becoming aware of the moral aspect, the implications of having basically lied in the first instance.
This change of heart made sense for this viewer, as opposed to so many of those involved, especially Maretti.

The latter is flabbergasted to see the teenager walk into his apartment, where she tells him and his wife that she wants to have a word.
In private...

Lisa Cohen explains that she will change her statement, but wants to talk to him first and that he knows very well that the color was green.
Even more dramatic, incriminating and terrible, he was not watching the road!

She tries to remind him the way they looked at each other, as she was looking for the hat and other such details.
The driver is appalled, aghast and infuriated.

What will get with all this?
How will my family survive?
There is nothing we can do for her, she is not coming back!

Words to this effect and more, after which he becomes rather aggressive, asking for her phone number and appearing to be ready to sue her.
Meanwhile, the police detectives in charge are not pleased with her change of heart at first, then annoyed and outright angry when she talks to a superior officer to complain about the manner in which the investigation had been conducted and more.

And there are many sidelines, adjacent characters that have their own experiences, dramas, personages played by great artists like:

Matt Damon aka a high school teacher, Jean Reno as the man who takes Lisa' s mother out to see Turandot and on other occasions, the writer- director himself portrays the divorced father.
Matthew Broderick in the role of another teacher, John, has some excellent moments.

In class, there are discussions over what Shakespeare has meant or perhaps he hasn't, in one of his quotes which mentions the gods and their attitudes towards human beings that they treat or regard as flies.
While a student has very insightful, if unusual perspective on the matter, the teacher becomes abrasive, rigid, and ultimately obnoxious and plain wrong.

There are many gems, brilliant scenes that make this film memorable and excellent, if perhaps a little too long at two hours and thirty minutes.
Finally, there is the issue of the guilt of Lisa Cohen, who was so determined to make Maretti pay - and she is right to seek justice- but she shares in the blame, for she is the one who kept distracting the culpable drive.

Yes, she is a teenager and a driver has a tremendous responsibility, first and foremost he has to watch the road and the colors of the traffic lights, no matter what others do around him!

Thought provoking, intriguing and challenging!

The Etruscan Smile, based on the novel by Jose Luis Sampedro - 7 out of 10

The Etruscan Smile, based on the novel by Jose Luis Sampedro
7 out of 10

The jury of The Boston Film Festival considered The Etruscan Smile so accomplished that they gave it  two prizes, including the one for Best Cast.

Yours truly must have seen a different motion picture.
For although The Etruscan Smile definitely has something to offer, its quality is not overwhelming.

Audiences could indeed feel challenged to meditate on the value of life, the brevity of the time we have on earth, the need to savor every moment and Carpe Diem.
I could refer to Dostoyevsky and his final three minutes, before the execution squad.

He was pardoned at the last moment and he writes about the feelings of the men condemned to death in his masterpieces.
The experience of the hero of this feature is less compelling, although Rory MacNeil aka Brian Cox is also facing a death sentence.

The protagonist has terminal cancer and travels from the Hebridean island to San Francisco to reunite with his son.
In spite of the impulse to feel compassion for the very sick man, his character makes it hard, nay, impossible to like him for more than a few moments and this affects the appreciation of the film, which becomes a rather unpleasant proposal.

First of all, the dying man has a competition with another inhabitant of the island:

Let us see who dies first!

They have a history of revenge and viciousness, the hero accusing the other of having killed the dog of his son.
He has not buried the corpse, instead, after it became rotten, it took it to the door of the alleged criminal.

In San Francisco, he celebrates the death of his rival and his victory, which resides in having a few more weeks to live.
Some may find this alluring, perhaps funny in a morbid way, but I just felt like watching something else.

This peculiar character has a penchant, no, an obsession for very bizarre things...
From blood sausage - he asks at the grocery for the bloodiest one - to swimming naked in public and therefore getting the police to take him home with a warning.

The Hebridean insults the doctor, takes his grandson out and nearly kills him, tells Claudia aka Patricia Arquette that he never apologized to any woman...

Are we really supposed to like this man?
Well, I guess we are, for otherwise why on earth would we watch to see him expire?

His son is not pleasant either and the actor playing him struggles.
The daughter in law, I mean the actress has been great in American Beauty, but there is not much to admire in her performance here.

Frankly, there are more flaws to be listed, but what would be the point?
Let us just conclude that in my opinion, this film is to be avoided.