Guest Review: PATERSON (2016)

guestpost

Written/Directed By: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani
Runtime: 1 hr 58 minutes

Jim Jarmusch films can be challenging and Paterson (2016) is no exception. Audiences who are accustomed to plot or character-driven stories will find themselves grappling instead with a mood in search of a reason. Without a genre label to help, we must work through an exploratory essay into the ordinariness of human existence elevated occasionally by the creative impulse to write poetry. If it sounds cerebral, then it’s a Jarmusch film.

Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in Paterson, USA. If that sounds odd, then it matches this whimsical story based on the typical week of a nondescript transport worker who lives not a life but a routine. His unchanging beige existence is in bold relief to his beautiful Iranian-born wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) who is artistically creative and continually reshaping her goals. Their lovable and irascible bulldog Marvin is the story’s primary source of humour. Paterson drifts into writing poems throughout his day, composing lines in his head, and sometimes his silken words appear as on-screen text framed by banality like an urban bus window. His free-flowing verses are a contrast to his symmetrical and ordered life. While Laura thinks they should be shared with the world, he is bashful about them because the sentences do not rhyme. The pattern of his days is always the same, punctuated by what happens to others rather than what happens to him. Quirky characters create capsule sketches that represent the mundanity of living: a woe-riddled supervisor, a broken romance, a curious Japanese tourist, overheard passenger conversations, and a broken down bus – all part of a quiet existential stream notable only for its inconsequence.

Narrative turning points work like signposts that tell us that something significant is about to occur in a story, but there are none here. Each time it appears possible that the story might progress in some interesting new direction nothing happens, perhaps to reflect how Paterson lives his life. There are layers of unreality across many scenes and the dialogue often feels as if it is being delivered at a script reading: clear diction, perfect rhythm, without emotion. This slight air of inauthenticity forms a backdrop for the sincerity and lyricism present in Paterson’s poetry. It may or may not be good poetry; that is not the point. It is about contrasting layers of reality and they are evident elsewhere, always with the same effect. When a small girl who also writes poetry says “Cool. My bus driver is a poet” we feel like responding: “well, why not?”; creativity hides everywhere.

Not everyone will stay with this film because of its minimalist pace, deadpan humour, prolonged silences, understated acting and noticeably sparse music to lift the emotional tone. It is devoid of regular cinematic artifice and feels like we have momentarily glimpsed into the inner space of a true gentle soul and can walk away the better for it.

cinemuseRichard Alaba, PhD
CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
Sydney, Australia


Have you seen ‘PATERSON’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: LIFE (2017)

guestpost

Directed By: Daniel Espinosa
Written By: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Runtime: 1 hr 43 minutes

I wish I could at least pretend to be as cool as the other writers who sit around me at these press screenings. I wish I could go to a genuinely scary movie like Life and calmly take notes, looking up at the screen dispassionately as I mentally critique some of the lamer dialogue. But I’m not cool, so instead I sit there cringing for an hour and a half, fighting the urge to put my hands over my eyes during a couple especially gag-worthy moments, “ohmygodohmyohmygodohmygod” written all over my face. On the bright side, any movie that can elicit this kind of reaction is pretty impressive.

Life follows a crew on the International Space Station (Hiroyuki Sanada as Sho Murakami, Ryan Reynolds as Rory Adams, Rebecca Ferguson as Miranda North, Jake Gyllenhaal as David Jordan, Olga Dihovichnaya as Ekaterina Golovkina, and Ariyon Bakare as Hugh Derry) that has obtained a Martian soil sample containing a living organism dubbed “Calvin.” While initially thrilled at their discovery of life on another planet, the crew soon has to fight for their lives as Calvin quickly evolves into a terrifying creature that threatens both them and, if they don’t stop it, life on Earth.

While fighting a terrifying extraterrestrial is hardly an original concept for a film, it is still incredibly well done here. Both the pacing of the movie and the soundtrack create a suspenseful atmosphere the whole hour and forty-three minutes. The CGI is impressive, and Calvin is a truly spooky creation; the design isn’t over the top, but it’s still genuinely scary, and the way it moves is so unnerving. The whole cast gives a strong performance, especially Hiroyuki Sanada and Jake Gyllenhaal, who have a couple stand-out moments during some particularly emotional scenes. However, the actors do tend to mumble some of their lines, making them hard to understand at times. There is also some lazy dialogue-clichéd jokes, comments stating the obvious- that falls flat and sometimes distracts from the overall feel of the movie.

Despite the couple issues I had with this film, I really enjoyed Life. I can see myself watching it again and being just as creeped out as the first time, which, for a sci-fi/horror movie, is no easy feat. If you want to be on the edge of your seat for most of the run time, definitely check this one out.

4Reels

laura_review


Have you seen ‘LIFE’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: THE INNOCENTS (2016)

guestpost

Directed By: Anne Fontaine
Cast: Lou de Laâge, Agata Buzek, Agata Kulesza
Runtime: 1 hr 55 minutes

Most war films recount history as if women were never involved or their experiences not worth mentioning. That is just one of many reasons why The Innocents (2016) stands out in the war film genre: it is about, for, and made by women. The result is a soulful essay about atrocities committed against a group of nuns during the second world war, portrayed as a complex metaphorical struggle between religious faith, medical science, and evil.

The linear plotline is as austere as the film’s narrative. We meet a serene and devout convent of Benedictine nuns in Poland who go about their daily prayer with quiet conviction and meticulous adherence to ritual. The serenity is shattered by the scream of a nun about to give birth. One nun fetches a French Red Cross medical intern Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laáge) who sneaks out of the aid mission to help. She learns that Soviet soldiers had raped the nuns and several births were imminent. Mathilde is a non-believer yet is bewildered by the strength of the nun’s faith and compelled to help. The nuns believe they are complicit in sin, and some are unable to even submit to medical examination while others do so with deep shame. The tension between sin and evil erupts when the baby is born and Mother Superior takes it out for fostering but instead leaves it in the forest. With more births coming, a convent full of babies cannot survive under Soviet occupation. It is Mathilde who finds an ingenious solution that ensures their survival.

Within this narrative arc, there are several strands that explore the nature and practice of faith by a group of women with varied backgrounds and different relationships with their god. Throughout the story, the tension between belief and logic creates a haunting presence. Young Mathilde struggles in a vortex of faith, science and evil, and comes to learn that there are no absolutes. The dystopia of war shatters all, yet faith survives in love and devotion to helping others. She grows emotionally with the experience just as the nun’s learn tolerance of those who do not share their faith.

While the film has a strong cast of fine performers, it is Lou de Laage who shines brightly in a difficult role. She seamlessly traverses a wide emotional range from inspired awe to resolute determination to help, including restrained romantic explorations with a senior colleague. The portrait-like cinematography conveys the bleak landscape and convent solitude with a sympathetic lens that avoids despair. The film is a tribute not only to the violated nuns but to women of all nationalities mistreated at the hands of military forces. Rape in war continues in modern times, with many nations in denial and others struggling with unresolved shame. This is not an entertaining story, but a dark episode of history on which light has long been needed.

4Reels

cinemuseRichard Alaba, PhD
CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
Sydney, Australia


Have you seen ‘The Innocents’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: Beauty and The Beast (2017)

guestpost
Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Stephen Chbosky & Evan Spiliotopoulos
Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes

I cannot begin to explain how excited I was to get to review this movie. If I hadn’t been in a theater with about twenty-five other reviewers, I might have burst into tears as soon as the title appeared on screen. Beauty and the Beast was the first movie I ever saw in theaters, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s still one of my favorite movies. It’s a beautiful film, has some of the most memorable songs of all time, and features a princess whose defining characteristic is her love of reading. When I heard about the live-action remake, I was both excited and nervous. I’m not the kind of person who worries that a bad adaptation of a beloved classic will destroy my childhood, but I still wanted to like the new version. Luckily for me, I was not disappointed.

If you’ve been living under a rock your entire life and don’t know the story, Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful bookworm named Belle (Emma Watson), who lives in a small French village with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), where her bookish ways are misunderstood by the other townspeople, including Belle’s brawny, brutish suitor, Gaston (Luke Evans). One night, when a traveling Maurice unwittingly trespasses in a castle in the middle of the forest, he is taken prisoner by the beast (Dan Stevens), a prince who was cursed (along with his servants, who were all turned into household objects) by an enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for the beast to find true love, and to be loved in return. Belle bravely offers to trade places with her father, and, over time, begins to see what kind of man the beast can be past his appearance.

As someone who is very sentimental about the original, I can safely say this is an incredibly faithful adaptation. Much of the dialogue from the original is included verbatim in the remake, and there are lots of little moments and details from the animated version that are featured in this one, making me feel wonderfully nostalgic. At the same time, the remake offers some much-needed updates. For example, Belle is a better-developed character in this version. Besides just being a bookworm mostly interested in fairy tales, she helps her father with his creations and shows her own innovation. She’s also more relatable, showing her self-consciousness about how the other villagers view her as “odd.” The romance between Belle and the Beast is better handled as well. The movie shows how their friendship develops first, which makes the transition to romance more believable. The fact that Emma Watson and Dan Stevens have excellent chemistry helps sell it as well.

Besides the actors behind the titular characters, the rest of the cast give wonderful performances as well. Luke Evans and Josh Gad were born to play Gaston and Le Fou. Kevin Kline is a less scatterbrained (but still dreamy) Maurice, and the chemistry between him and Emma is heartwarming. The household staff all gave solid performances, and Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth were especially entertaining.

Besides the adaptation in general, I was mostly nervous about how the singing would be. Emma Watson is a fantastic actress, but I wasn’t sure how she’d do as a singer, and she had some pretty big shoes to fill. Fortunately, she did not disappoint. Watson has a lovely, bright-toned voice, and while it’s not as full-sounding as Paige O’Hara’s was in the original, it was still an excellent fit for the character. Luke Evans gives a decent performance as well; while there isn’t as much bravado in his voice during Gaston as I would like, he really shines in Kill the Beast. Ewan McGregor nails Be Our Guest with his warm, sparkling voice, although something about the number overall feels kind of underwhelming; I’m not sure if the tempo is a little slower, or if the phrasing could be tighter, or there isn’t as much background chorus as there was in the original, but it doesn’t pack the same punch the Oscar-winning number did in the animated version, although it is still enjoyable. Emma Thompson’s rendition of Mrs. Potts’s titular song holds its own against Angela Lansbury’s, which is no small feat. Naturally, Broadway royalty Audra McDonald as Garderobe is the best singer out of the cast, and while her song at the beginning isn’t particularly memorable, she still makes it sound amazing; seriously, she could sing the dictionary and make it sound good. My last music-related critique is that the orchestra is pretty overpowering and tends to drown out the singing a bit.

Lastly, the movie is visually stunning, as anyone who has seen the trailers has probably already gathered. The big group scenes are beautifully shot and reminiscent of the original. The sets are lovely, and the castle is especially breathtaking. The CGI for the beast and the other enchanted characters is very impressive. Most memorable, though, are the costumes; they remain faithful to the animated version while still adding incredible detail. While Belle’s trademark yellow ball gown is gorgeous, my favorite is the one she wears in the final scene of the movie; if I ever get married, I will walk down the aisle in a replica of that dress. 
 While I’m sure I will continue to be skeptical of this wave of live-action remakes Disney has been churning out, Beauty and the Beast is excellent, both as an adaptation of an animated film and as a movie on its own. Whether you’re a hardcore, nostalgic Disney fan like I am or a casual movie-goer, I have no doubt you will enjoy this.

4Reels

laura_review


Have you seen ‘Beauty & The Beast’? Well, what did you think? 

Music Break: St Patrick’s Day Special – Favorite songs from movies set in Ireland

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY everyone! I’m wearing green today… we’re all Irish on March 17th, right? 

In my Sing Street review I said I was going to make a Music Break post dedicated to that movie. Well I haven’t got a chance to do so but hey, it’s perfect for today! Since I haven’t done a Music Break post in ages, I’m going to include my fave songs from other movies set in beautiful Ireland!

So without further ado… here we go…

Can’t pick just one from Sing Street… what a great soundtrack!

I saw ONCE after I saw Sing Street and of course it broke my heart…

Ooooh how this song made me swoon… I have such fondness for Circle of Friends

Now I have to admit I adore P.S. I Love You… perhaps the last Gerry Butler movie I actually enjoyed…

Now, Leap Year is a rubbish movie, I only watched it for Matthew Goode! But this song by Snow Patrol is lovely.

Of course you can’t talk about great Irish-tinged songs without mentioning ENYA right 🙂


Hope you enjoy this edition’s music break. What’s YOUR fave songs from movies set in Ireland?

Guest Review: JULIETA (2016)

guestpost

Written/Directed By: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Adriana Ugarte, Michelle Jenner, Rossy de Palma,Emma Suårez, Inma Cuesta
Runtime: 1 hr 39 minutes

You may enjoy Julieta (2016) more if you know that it is a women’s film from the melodrama genre and a story of pure emotion. While it is labelled a romance it is nothing like a romance and don’t expect light entertainment or laughs as the film is devoid of humour. What is does have is an outpouring of quintessentially maternal guilt and self-absorbed loss that is palpable throughout the film. While critics may be divided, this is a beautiful film with a long aftertaste.

We meet the attractive widow Julieta just as she is packing to leave Madrid and move with her boyfriend to Portugal. Madrid is full of painful memories, the most intense of which is not seeing her daughter Antia for twelve years. A chance encounter with her daughter’s former best friend opens an uncontrollable torrent of guilt which suddenly fills Julieta’s life. Abandoning her boyfriend, she decides to stay in Madrid in case Antia ever looks for her. Unable to deal with her grief in any other way, she writes the story of her life as if she is talking to her absent daughter.

Julieta narrates the story in chapters that become extended flashbacks to her early romance with Antia’s father, their lives together as a family and its eventual disintegration. What was once a life full of loving relationships becomes one of multiple losses even though Julieta herself bears little blame for the tragedies. Julieta is unaware how deeply her daughter was affected by what happened and is bewildered when Antia searches for spirituality at a Swiss retreat. Her sudden disappearance without explanation has left her mother with unresolved grief.

As each chapter unfolds we see the larger portrait of the mother and daughter relationship in all its dense complexity and destructive power. The narrative teasingly denies us knowledge of why Antia refuses all contact with her mother, and year after year Julieta mourns each passing birthday as if it was a funeral. The storytelling intensity is sustained by finely nuanced acting from the two stars who play the younger and older Julieta, and those who play Antia at different ages. The camerawork has a melancholic sensitivity that resonates with the Spanish landscapes and urban settings, and while the story unwinds slowly, to tell it more quickly would lose depth and meaning. While Julieta is a darkly sensitive essay about the universal emotion of maternal guilt, its melancholy lifts like a rising fog with a masterfully ambivalent ending that soars.

4Reels

cinemuseRichard Alaba, PhD
CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
Sydney, Australia


Have you seen ‘Julieta’? Well, what did you think? 

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Trailer Spotlight: WONDER WOMAN (trailer 3)


Hi everyone! Hope all is well in your part of the world. Well I don’t have to tell you that my life’s been practically consumed by my short film now. As they say, writing is pretty much rewriting and that’s where it’s at now… constant script revisions. It’s a very exhausting, humbling and also fruitful learning experience for me. But believe it or not, that’s not the worst part of it so far… scheduling is definitely a bloody nasty process!

So pardon me if I haven’t been around your blog lately, heck I haven’t even been around MY own blog. But I do miss doing these community links… so let’s get to it!

Margaret participated on the Unsung Heroes Blogathon. Of course it’s one of Ed Harris‘ movies 😉

Let’s take some time from movies to gaze at Cindy‘s stunning shots of full moon over Sycamore Canyon, AZ

Jordan reviewed an Italian film Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers)

Meanwhile Allie just reviewed a book, Truly Madly Guilty. I actually haven’t done a book review before, not sure I’m cut out for that. I think I’ll stick to movies.

As I’m about to write my quick thoughts on LOGAN, glad my friend Mark loves it as much as I do!

On the other hand, glad I’m not the only one who isn’t so ga-ga over La La Land. Eddie didn’t fall head over heels with it either.

I love Michael‘s Best Album Covers series, this time he shone the spotlight on trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s album Hub-Tones

Speaking of music… Chris has been listing his Top 100 songs of 2016. Check out if one of your faves made his list.


TRAILER SPOTLIGHT

Ahhh yes… wonder indeed!! I have posted about Wonder Woman here which was around Comic-con last year. Man I can’t be more excited for this movie. It’s one of the rare DC movies I’m actually super looking forward to.

Behold…

Woof, this gives me goosebumps! I love that first part of the Amazon princess Diana in warrior training. Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman! I actually had trepidation about her casting initially, but just like Daniel Craig w/ Bond, I’m definitely sold as soon as I saw the first teaser!! Interestingly enough she actually auditioned to be a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace, heh I’d love to see her play a female spy, and the fact that she was in the Israeli Army, she likely could kick any of those Bond actors’ arses effortlessly 😉

I like this alley scene, definitely reminds me of a scene in Superman: The Movie, the first time Clark Kent saves Lois Lane from a bullet in an alley, complete with Diana wearing dark rimmed glasses too!

Nice to see Connie Nielsen back on screen again as Diana’s mom Hippolyta. Oh and Princess Buttercup er Robin Wright as an Amazon warrior? Yes please! Chris Pine is instantly likable as her love interest, glad he took on a second-banana role despite being one of Hollywood’s hottest leading men. But mostly I’m thrilled because we have a woman behind the camera this time! That in itself is history in the making, Patty Jenkins is the first woman to have directed a live-action movie with a $100 million budget.

I sure hope this movie will be a huge success… I mean dayum, DC sure needs a hit right about now. As for me, I’m hugely optimistic… heck this scene alone looks darn epic!!!

I still gets goosebumps when the Wonder Woman theme came on… thanks to Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL. I love that they use it sparingly for the finale, which made it all the more impactful.

 


What do you think of the the third Wonder Woman trailer?