miercuri, 31 iulie 2019

28 Up, directed by Michael Apted - 8.7 out of 10

28 Up, directed by Michael Apted
8.7 out of 10

The idea of this excellent documentary film is meritorious and it is used in psychology and other fields.

Indeed, we could think of the nuns of Notre Dame or the Duchenne smile studies.
The former is one of the strong evidences in favor of the notion that those who are happier, more optimistic live a longer life, for the nuns who were more positive in their writing lived on average nine years more than those who had been less enthusiastic in their diaries.

In the Duchenne smile research - well, one of them, for there isn't only this single study - the photographs taken at the end of highs school were used to see what happens with those who have an authentic, Duchenne smile in those photos and with the rest.
After returning to those graduates three years, seven and then more years later, it was found that those who had had an authentic smile in their pictures had a better professional and private life.

In 28 Up, director Michael Apted interviews some children, then returns when they are teenagers, young and then finally adults.
It is very interesting to see how their views on money, women and respectively men, life have changed or indeed, stayed much the same.

One man is at the end of the period a professor in America, after studying nuclear physics in Cambridge and realizing at the end of the studies that his standard of living had dropped significantly.
Thus he takes the chance of a much better life, at least financially, and settles with another British woman in the United States.

Another protagonist would travel even further, making Australia his new home, the land where he takes a long time off and drives for thousands of miles, on a journey that includes self discovery, perhaps.
One boy who had wanted to work with horses as a grown up has become a taxi driver in London, after the difficult learning period and the test that one has to pass, proving he knows a huge number of streets in the British capital.

Some have become lawyers, while some of the women have settled as housewives.
One of the most intriguing, captivating characters had been living in a state orphanage as a child.

As an adult, he has five children and could not be any happier.
He has a fantastic insight when he states that they could give him more more money, but he wouldn't be any happier...

Is the one who has two million pounds any different from the one who has one million?
When they are rich, they will always want something else down the road.

He is perfectly right! 
The phenomenon in question is called Hedonic Adaptation.

Indeed, having money for a decent life seems crucial for happiness.
But once a threshold of about seventy thousand dollars per year on average,  in America for instance, is reached, differences in wellbeing brought in by more money appear to be insignificant.

The Manson Family Massacre, written and directed by Andrew Jones - 8 out of 10

The Manson Family Massacre, written and directed by Andrew Jones
8 out of 10

The crimes of the Manson family have become so infamous that we have heard about them even in our faraway lands.

They are so horrible, savage and incredible that watching a film with this subject can be hard.
It is probably the main reason why the undersigned has not liked the motion picture.

Another explanation for the lack of enthusiasm might be the acting...perhaps the direction as well.
It often seemed exaggerated, pathetic and overblown.

But then this could be the perfect take on the Massacre.
It is as over the top, incredible and grotesque as any fictional story can be.

And yet it is true in all its violence, outrageous bloodiness and mad destruction, men and women being stabbed multiple times by members of a cult who claimed to be Devils and were surely possessed.

Not by demons, this viewers an atheist, but by an apocalyptic, awful, deranged, subhuman vision and thirst for blood.

marți, 30 iulie 2019

The Commuter, by Byron Willinger and four others Six out of 10

The Commuter, by Byron Willinger and four others
Six out of 10

It is surprising that Liam Neeson has become an action movie figure, after the magnificence of roles like Oskar Schindler and Alfred Kinsey.

Alas, many of these features are just forgettable.

Just like The Commuter, which has the usual adrenaline filled fights, close encounters with death, miraculous escapes, and incredible changes.
Nothing quite out of the ordinary here, no line of dialogue stands out, like the now viral quote from Taken:

‘If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it.’

luni, 29 iulie 2019

Final Portrait, written and directed by Stanley Tucci, based on the book by James Lord - 9.4 out of 10

Final Portrait, written and directed by Stanley Tucci, based on the book by James Lord
9.4 out of 10

Final Portrait is a marvelous, splendid portrait of the genius painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, as brought forward to the audiences by the iconic Geoffrey Rush- winner of an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of another artist, in Shine – and James Lord aka one of the best actors on screens, albeit so young, Armie Hammer.

The public finds at the start of the film that the American writer and esthete James Lord has taken a trip to Paris in 1964 – year of the undersigned’s birth – and Alberto Giacometti has asked him to sit for a portrait, which apparently would only take a few days.
The feature is subdued, as Alberto Giacometti seems to have been less volcanic than Pablo Picasso for instance – one remarkable film about this other genius that you can see is Surviving Picasso – but the narrative is mesmerizing, offering insight into the brilliant mind of a creator that doubted so much his abilities that the Final Portrait ends up taking many more days, as the painter keeps taking out the big brush and putting paint over a work that he is dissatisfied with.

One of the many scenes that reveals, underlines the modesty of this acclaimed, stupendous magician has him come to his atelier in fury, taking his sketches out and burning them, because he has been told they cannot be used as lithographs and hence he has no use for it, in spite of the protest of Lord, who is waiting to pose for the never ending portrait.
We have the opportunity when seeing this educational film to learn about the view that Giacometti had on so many subjects – he tells his model that portraits used to be important, before the arrival of photography, and they had to be finished, whereas now – in 1964 – they have no meaning…signifying that they lack the significance of telling people what the model used to look like, something that a photo can do better…perhaps

In another of the many dialogues between the protagonists – James Lord has to sit for long periods, given that the painter is not at all satisfied with his portrait – Alberto Giacometti tells his model that he looks like a degenerate from the front and like a brute from the side and then he states that he has no control over his painting, for it comes and goes.

Just as James Lord and the public are more than happy with what the genius has seemingly completed, Alberto Giacometti takes out another brush and paints over, destroying it, only to ensure a new start, causing his model to devise a strategy by which to deter this repeated act of figurative immolation.
James Lord talks with the painter- sculptor’s brother, Diego Giacometti aka excellent Tony Shalhoub, about the regret he has to see this portrait disappear, I a repeated and infuriating ritual, and when he thinks the time has come for yet another destructive act, he stands up and says that he needs to stretch and move, makes a sign to Diego, who is working nearby and asks for his opinion.

In their private conversations, when Alberto Giacometti is not present, the young American writer asks Diego is he was reading one of his books, then he says that the sculptor appears ‘determined to remain completely unsatisfied’ and the brother replies to this: ‘not completely…perfectly’ and they seem to bond with each other.
In the meantime, James Lord and the audience is getting acquainted with Caroline, a young woman who is the primary model and the obsession of the creator, someone for whom he has to pay a couple of pimps, for the company, the modelling of the past months and then another wad of banknotes for the upcoming six months.

As they become ever more intimate friends – figuratively, for although James lord is gay, Giacometti is not – the genius asks ‘have you ever killed anyone?...I ask because I think you are capable of anything…in a good way’ and then continues with ‘I have killed many people…in my mind’.
“Death must be the most fascinating experience”

Some of the other rewarding exchanges are:

Alberto Giacometti: When I was young, I thought I could do everything. When I grew up, I realized I could do nothing. That's what kept me going.
Alberto Giacometti: Just so you know, it is also impossible to ever finish a portrait.
James Lord: What do you mean?
Alberto Giacometti: Well, portraits used to be finished. They had to be. They were necessary. It was a substitute for a photograph. Now, portraits have no meaning.
James Lord: So, what we're doing is meaningless?
Alberto Giacometti: Mm. And impossible. And I'm not even doing it. I can only ever try to do it.
Alberto Giacometti: [preparing to paint him] You have the head of a brute.
James Lord: Gee, thanks.
Alberto Giacometti: Yeah. You look like a real thug.
James Lord: Thank you.
Alberto Giacometti: If I was to paint you as I see you now and a policeman was to see this painting, you'd be thrown in jail, like that.

Patrick by Vanessa Davies - Six out of 10

Patrick by Vanessa Davies
Six out of 10

The Economist has an article in one of the recent issues wherein we find that we may have reached the stage where pets control us and not vice versa, for they have developed over time, according to studies, the looks that make them so endearing and their human companions – or butlers as they have it in some places, South Korea for instance – make all the efforts to provide special new food, toys, treats and a whole paraphernalia of items for their friends or is it masters…

Patrick is a rather failed comedy, where we can see various humans surrendering to the charms of the hero, the pug left without a human to care for all his needs and transferred through a testament to an unwilling new master – is this the proper word, for it is being revised today.
Sarah Francis is the protagonist of the motion picture, on the human side, for it is actually the pug called Patrick who dominates and stelas the whole show…that is called after him indeed.

Sarah is more or less evicted from his life by a rather pathetic boyfriend and she seems to be unable to cope with the challenges of her life, when her grandmother dies and leaves her the most treasured inheritance:


The young woman does not want the animal that, as we have expected, would engage in a massive destruction of furniture, pillows, rugs, in short, almost everything within reach in the apartment.
He is alone and therefore somewhat understandable, as the new owner is a teacher and has had to get to school to work, only to find a calamity upon her return… a rather nice neighbor might offer salvation.

They met in the courtyard, with their respective dogs; although they are not allowed to keep pets according to the policy of the place where they rent, just as Sarah is about to…urinate.
She took the new, unwanted pet out for that, but he was not doing anything and she felt the urge.

The human protagonist meets two men, one is a rather good looking, but only on the outside, vet and the other a more decent, respectable man.
While the vet does help with Patrick when this one ingests some chocolate, when they go out for dinner, he reveals his true colors, the dark side that denies help for pets of women he sees.

As for the rest, it is as forgettable as the first part, with déjà vu scenes of escapism, lost and found animal hero, lovely to watch, but to quote The Guardian:

‘Where is the bite?’

duminică, 28 iulie 2019

The Rapture, written and directed by Michael Tolkin - 9.4 out of 10

The Rapture, written and directed by Michael Tolkin 
9.4 out of 10

Mimi Rogers carries this outstanding film with a mesmerizing, incredible,magnetic, complex, haunting and hypnotic performance.

The Rapture is one of the best motion pictures on The New York Times' Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list.

On the other hand, an evil voice in my head says that you could turn the famous John Stuart Mill quote 'the mind is its own place, it can make heaven out of hell and hell out of Heaven' on its head.
A vicious, false take on The Rapture would be:

'A woman with a ferocious virus working through her mind engages in frenetic sex in the first part of her story, only to become a bigoted, sick fundamentalist in the second half, when she kills in the name of Jesus'

That would be not just wrong, but maybe the exact opposite of the motion picture that is complicated, thought provoking, splendidly acted, captivating and sophisticated in that it raises questions that are fundamental and offers the various, opposing angles to the meaning of life, existence of God.

At the start, Sharon aka the superb Mimi Rogers is frenetically searching for pleasure in sex, with her companion Vic, but mostly with what seems to be alternating swingers, often debutantes, people met occasionally in bars and other public places.
This is how she runs into Randy aka the young but accomplished David Duchovny and his partner. 

The two couples engage in sex at the store that Vic has, although he is more interested in watching.
What seemed like one of a multitude of casual, coital encounters, develops into something more complex, albeit after a rocky start.

Randy gets involved, but Sharon is first more inclined to share her body with others, while experiencing a taedium vitae, an existential crisis in which she finds her life lacks meaning...well, a more significant one than copulating with hoi polloi.

'There has to be something more...I am tired of the pain in my life'

The heroine is visited by some missionaries and she has another vision, perhaps, when she is having so in another foursome and the other woman has a tattoo on her back.
This is an amusing moment, even if it may mark one stage in the revelation, epiphany of the protagonist, for while she has one man entering her from the side, she looks at the apparently religious tattoo and keeps asking questions about it,  until both men stop their frenzied intercourse...

'For God's sake, do you have to do this now?!'

Eventually Sharon is 'born again' or whatever the characterization should be and she is not only a believer now,but she is using her job to spread the word of God.
She works as a telephone operator - back in the old days- and when her boss talks about the excessive time she spends with various callers, it looks like she may be fired.

Instead, this man happens to be another very faithful man - and probably a strong Trump supporter today.
When she sees Randy, she tells him that she is in love with Jesus...

'Oh, yeah? And how is this going to work?
Is he going to keep his place or is he going to move in?'

He is not just acrimonious, cynical and an atheist, he rejects her new found faith decidedly...

'It's just a drug!
You're in pain and instead of doing heroine, you're doing God!'

Nonetheless, we skip a few years and the anti dogmatic Randy is now married to Sharon, a solid church going father of a girl of about five.
And tragedy strikes.

The Rapture is the best motion picture I have seen in quite some time.

Sin City, written and directed (with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino) by Frank Miller - 8.5 out of 10

Sin City, written and directed (with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino) by Frank Miller
8.5 out of 10

Sin City must be a goddamn good film, if it has managed to impress on the undersigned, who does not watch this type of fare,  never mind enjoy it.

Furthermore, it features Mickey Rourke in a leading role, as Marv, and this name in the cast is enough by itself to cause an aversion.
However there are plenty of artists that delight with their skill and it must be admitted that Rourke is good here, without mannerisms and exaggerations that plague his acting in other films.

Jessica Alba, Alexis Bledel, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, the recently deceased and regretted Rutger Hauer, Brittany Murphy, Bruce Willis and especially Clive Owen are a supreme delight to watch.
It amost doesn't matter that the escapades, multiple fights, limbs severed, heads rolling make for a rather gory scene.

One critic said something like:

'When you walk out of the cinema, you will spill teeth out, for there is so much fighting and killing'

Fantastically entertaining, beautifully set up, extremely captivating.
It almost, but not quite, makes this cinephile watch another motion picture with characters that come out of comic books...

Like the latest Avengers, that I understand has already beaten another mediocre film - in terms of artistic value, not exorbitant box office - Avatar, in the commercial domain, otherwise, Sin City appears to be more worthy than the Cameron feature.

sâmbătă, 27 iulie 2019

Jigokumon aka Gate of Hell, play by Kan Kikichi - 8.7 out of 10

Jigokumon aka Gate of Hell, play by Kan Kikichi
8.7 out of 10

Like all of the best Japanese motion pictures, Jigokumon has become a landmark, winning an Oscar and more importantly, the Grand Prize of the 1954 Cannes Film Festival, a competition that rewards value much more than the glitzier,  but less worthy Academy Awards.

Gate of Hell has been included on The New York Times' Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list.
It has an ending which we could never see in a Hollywood movie, with tragedy all along the line.

It is therefore a compelling drama, the sad story of a romance that could not be, an intense, passionate love that scorches everything in its path, beginning with the hero who is both admirable for his dedication and loathsome, as an antihero, for the abominable depths to which he is taken by his infatuation.
Moritoo Endo is a warrior loyalty the emperor and he does not fight in the camp of the enemy, even when his brother switches sides.

Since this is a dangerous, potentially fatal situation for the emperor and his family and entourage, a volunteer is called for to play the role of the sister, who would flee and place the lady in waiting in peril instead.
Kesa offers to put her own life at risk, in order to allow Her highness a more protected passage and she meets with Moritoo Endo , following the battles that appear to be won against the emperor.

When this unknown lady is in peril and an intruder appears ready to offend her, the hero gets ready for a fight to the death, with swords and all he has available.
Eventually, his loyalty to his camp is to be acknowledged and rewarded.

When asked by his protector what he wants, Moritoo states that he would like the patron to be godfather at his wedding and this request seems to be accepted.
Nonetheless, an insurmountable problem is immediately discovered:

The woman in question is already married!

Therefore, the increasingly impatient, absurd and enamoured Moritoo acts with irresponsibility and fury.
He still wants Kesa and he is granted a meeting with her.

If she accepts his request, the lord of the land would agree to take her from her husband, Wataru Watanabe, and give her to the one who is an antihero now.
However, Kesa is loyal to her husband and would not agree to any devious plan that this febrile, mad admirer concocts.

Instead, when he blackmails and threatens to kill her spouse, aunt and whoever he would find, the woman who had already proved she is willing to sacrifice, when she volunteered to play the sister of the emperor for the enemy, seems to be ready to take all the pain on herself.

Sublime story of valor, self sacrifice, love and destruction!

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, characters by Pierre Boulle - 8 out of 10

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, characters by Pierre Boulle
8 out of 10

Although not as meaningful, enticing, gripping as the original Planet of the Apes, this sequel does offer food for thought.

In a future that seems possible, if not probable, humans decide to use and abuse apes which are taken into slavery.
After all, mankind has destroyed so many species and is in the process of making the whole planet uninhabitable, hence this premise is credible.

The apes,  for which viewers cheer, instead of for humans, have a chance.
This is Caeser, the son of Cornelius and Zira, protagonists of the first Planet of the Apes.

He is brave, super intelligent, resilient and resourceful.
While vicious humans try hard to have him and many other apes tortured, inprisoned and killed, Caesar finds the brilliant  strategy to defend his mates and eventually win over the enemy.

Indeed, in the plot there is the notion that with time travel, human leaders know that in the future, it would be the apes that are in control and men and women have lost the supremacy that they are using, as we see in the present, to destroy the climate and perhaps make this planet just like the myriad of cold rocks that travel through the universe without any form of life on them.