Favorite quote of the moment

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Bosch (season 1)

bosch

Main Cast: Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector, Amy AquinoLance ReddickAnnie Wersching

I’ve decided to watch Bosch because of Titus Welliver, finally someone had the guts to give him a chance as lead actor after decades of solid work as character actor in many TV-shows  and a few films (most viewers will remember him as “the man in black” from Lost but to me he will always be War, the horseman, from Supernatural and Jimmy O from Sons of Anarchy). The show is co-created and co-written by Michael Connelly, based on his successful (apparently) series of books. I’ve never read the books so I cannot judge on the quality of the source material but the on-screen version works well, with a vibe halfway  between Southland and a Michael Mann’s movie.  Set in Los Angeles, Harry Bosch is a homicide detective in the Hollywood division with a reputation for being tough, not following the rules but always getting the job done (seriously?!?). In addition our hero has a tormented past (war vet and traumatic childhood), a difficult love life, he’s a loner, a workaholic and a distant father. What can I say: all the boxes for the most used cliches about detectives are checked so let’s move on, nothing new here. What really works is Welliver’s performance, he makes the character believable and, as a viewer, you can’t help but root for him. It also doesn’t hurt to have two The Wire alumni among the main cast: Jamie Hector as Jerry Edgar, Bosch’s partner, Lance Reddick as Deputy Chief Irving. Both actors do their best but, unfortunately, their characters have little depth and are mostly one-dimensional. Fans of The Wire might cringe a bit thinking that Lt. Daniels has metamorphosed into Deputy Rawls, all politics and no real police work, but hey that’s life (if you have not see The Wire, you should definitely do that before even thinking of watching Bosch!). Amy Aquino is Bosch’s direct superior, Lt. Billets, smart, tenacious but also a good friend. Luckily she has a more well-rounded role and it’s a fair depiction of a woman in a tough line of work. Same goes for Wershing’s rookie cop: pushy and go getter, who champs at the bit and can’t wait to be a detective. She also happens to be Bosch’s love interest that, naturally, will complicate his life even more. The two intertwined story lines of a cold case and a serial killer on a rampage keep you interested and mildly invested and I liked the photography and some of the directing choices. So all in all a honest, quality cop show without thrills or innovative approach. Reliable –6/10

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Relatos Salvajes

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Director: Damián Szifrón; Main Cast: Darío Grandinetti, María Marull,  Ricardo DarínLeonardo SbaragliaOscar MartínezErica Rivas,  Diego GentileJulieta ZylberbergRita Cortese;

Damian Szifron wrote and directed this multi-segmented film that explores the dark and wild side of human nature. Each of the six episodes starts from a very simple premise: a plane trip, a new customer at a truck-stop restaurant, an overtaking on the motorway,  a car towed away, a hit-and-run accident and a wedding celebration; each story however evolves into something far more extreme than usual with a morbid humour and, in a few cases, very grim endings. The common denominator is always the loss of control, the refusal to be logical or sensible while facing the facts and just giving in to a more visceral and primal reaction. The first two stories are strictly about vengeance: long and carefully planned like the count of Montecristo or more in the spur of the moment like Beatrice Kiddo in Kill Bill (and equally bloody); both episodes are told with a slow pace and a mounting sense of foreboding. The fourth and fifth tales are more about “the insolence of office, and the spurns
that patient merit of th’ unworthy takes“, the former taking a very extreme turn reminding me of Michael Douglas’s character in Falling Down. The third and the sixth episodes are centered on what can happen if you cross the wrong person and how things might escalate (very quickly!) into violence. It is not a surprise that Pedro Almodovar is the producer since the mood and the flair of this film strongly remind of his early dark comedies (e.g.¡Átame!), he probably recognised the genius and the potential of these grim but very entertaining  parables. The whole cast is quite brilliant but a special mention should go to Erica Rivas for her role as deranged bride. I must say that when the film ended I was surprised, I would have watched at least another hour of these tales of ordinary folly. Impressive and riveting. –8.5/10

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Great use of a pop culture reference

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The Satellite Girl And Milk Cow

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

 

Director: Hyeong-yoon Jang; Main Cast: Yu-mi Jeong, Ah In Yoo;

This film follows the much used formula of boy-meets-girl but in a very unusual way. Meet Il-ho (Yu-mi Jeong): lonely, de-commissioned satellite who falls to Earth after hearing a song by a street musician and it’s transformed into a girl robot (reminding me a little of Nana Supergirl) by a close encounter with a monster-incinerator. Meet Kyung-chun (Ah In Yoo): hapless composer and musician of said song, heartbroken, after being dumped by his longtime girlfriend, and transformed into a milk cow. If being a milk cow and not a boy anymore wasn’t enough, Kyung-chun’s life is in danger from two horrible foes. First off, there’s a nasty teleporting bounty hunter with a magical bathroom plunger, he removes organs from the bodies of brokenhearted humans turned into animals and he sells them to a black market dealer. Secondly, perhaps even worse, there is the above mentioned monster-incinerator who roams the streets of Seoul looking for the same type of prey but to drop them into his fiery, gluttonous mouth. Well, tough times indeed for being heartsick, like adding insult to injury or, maybe more aptly, injury to injury. Anyway, our unlucky musician is helped by Il-ho and by the great wizard Merlin, who happens to be a toilet paper roll (consequence of a curse), yep you read it right and, let me tell you, it is the best part of the movie. Naturally amor omnia vincit but the whole story is definitely unconventional and, at times, quite funny. My only complain is the soundtrack since I don’t find romantic pop songs in Korean my favorite cup of tea. The animation is top-notch and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Hyeong-voon Jang’s work in the future. Remarkable –7/10

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Mr Selfridge (season 1)

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Main Cast: Jeremy PivenFrances O’ConnorAisling LoftusGrégory FitoussiTrystan GravelleAmanda AbbingtonTom Goodman-HillKatherine KellySamuel WestZoë Tapper;

Harry Selfridge (Piven),  visionary American tycoon, moves with his family to London in 1908, to open a high-end department store. Based on the book Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead and written by Andrew Davis (Pride and Prejudice, Wives and Daughters among his works), it follows not only the struggles and successes of  the titular character but it gives us insights on his employees, friends and family. Using a well-tested formula of upstair/downstair, we navigate through both high society and working class worlds, with a little dose of what goes on in between. As an outsider in the upper crust of London, Selfridge needs a sort of sponsor or patron to be accepted and, thanks to friend and journalist Frank Edwards (West), he finds just that in Lady Mae (Kelly). Her shrewd and calculated moves help Harry greatly and set him and his store on the path of success. What I found particularly interesting are his publicity stunts using the celebrities of the time (a pilot, an explorer, Arthur Conan Doyle, a renown ballerina) and his idea to enlist a famous showgirl, Ellen Love (Tapper) as “the spirit of Selfridge” (an ante litteram celebrity endorsement). As it can be foreseen from the beginning, matters will end up quite entangled between Ms Love and Mr Selfridge. Among Harry’s family, the focus is mostly on his wife Rose (O’Connor) who is reserved, sensible and with an independent streak that will lead to a surprise. On the employee front, the attention is on: the ingénue Agnes Towler (Loftus), shop girl with big dreams and a lot of determination; Henri Leclair (Fitoussi), French genius designer, who creates artful tableaux for the windows of the store; Victor Colleano (Gravelle), waiter with a talent for cooking; Mr Groove (Goodman-Hill), chief of staff and capable right hand of the boss, and Miss Mardle (Abbington), head of the accessory department who seems a little too controlled for her own good. At the beginning I found Piven’s performance a bit grating, even over the top, but then I realised it was just his take on the character when he finally started to show more nuances. I must say: kudos! Occasionally, however, I wished for a witty one-liner of the Dowager Countess of Grantham or a caustic comment from Lady Mary to jazz up a scene. Other times I ended up thinking: “Carson would find this rather unseemly”.  Still, the story has a good pace and the cast works well. The costumes, the sets and the production design are splendid, they add indeed charm to each episode but at times they feel like one of Henri’s store windows: beautiful but distant. My overall impression is that Mr Selfridge is to Downton Abbey as Elizabeth Gaskell is to Jane Austen. Nonetheless a good fix for period drama withdrawal. Pleasant –6.5/10

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Diplomatie

diplomatie

Director: Volker Schlöndorff; Main Cast: André Dussollier, Niels ArestrupBurghart KlaußnerRobert Stadlober;

Cyril Gely adapted for the screen his play by the same title about a battle of wills between Dietrich von Choltitz (Arestrup), the German military governor of occupied Paris, and Swedish consul-general Raoul Nordling (Dussollier). The film takes place during the fateful night of the 24th of August 1944, after von Choltitz has received the order to reduce Paris to a pile of rubbles since the Allies are about to liberate it. Nordling shows up, rather unexpectedly, to the governor’s office and try to convince von Choltitz to disobey his orders. The two men know each other quite well and try to use it as an advantage in this bloodless confrontation. Of course we all know that Paris was never destroyed but it is still interesting to see Nordling pleading with von Choltitz, tellling him he will go down in history as the man who laid waste to a beautiful and emblematic city. On the other hand, the governor thinks he has no other choice, since Hitler has threatened the well-being of his family. It seems to me that diplomacy looks a lot like poker: you don’t play the cards you play the man. Although very static, it is still an engaging film, thanks to the brilliant performance of the two leads. I also like the use of original footage of the Allies entering Paris, not new but effective (and it probably saved some money on production!). It’s still an entertaining story even if it is not completely accurate from a historical point of view. Diverting –7/10

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Mr Turner

Mr-Turner

Director: Mike Leigh; Main Cast: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy AtkinsonMarion Bailey;

Visually stunning biopic of J.M.W. Turner (Spall): dedicated, single-minded and inquisitive painter of the 19th century. Mike Leigh’s take on Turner is focused on the last twenty-five years of his life, when he’s already an established artist and master of the craft. Turner spends his time either travelling (abroad or in the country) or painting in his London’s home, which he shares with his beloved, aging father William (Jesson) and Hannah (Atkinson), faithful housekeeper who has feelings (not returned) for the painter. The film gives a dichotomous portrayal: on one hand the genius of the light rendered on canvas, on the other the eccentric, at time cantankerous, man with a rather complex personal life. We witness Turner’s determined study of light in any condition of time and weather, even going to extreme measures like being tied up to the mast of a ship to observe a snow storm at sea. Both celebrated and reviled by public and critics (including royalty), he is popular among his fellow artists of the Royal Academy, although considered peculiar as shown in a couple of quite effective scenes. During one of his trips to the seaside, he befriends a local landlady, Ms Booth (Bailey), with whom he eventually lives in secret in Chelsea until his death. Mike Leigh manages to balance well the dichotomy in Turner’s life and describes skillfully this man, who grew up in the bohemian world of Covent Garden, but was later held accountable by the more rigid Victorian moral standards. Timothy Spall really owns the role, giving an intense and convincing performance and injecting some humanity in a character that could come across as too cold and detached. Special kudos also to Dorothy Atkinson for her Hannah. Powerful –8/10

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All-time favorite quote

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The World’s End

TheWorldsEnd

Director: Edgar Wright; Main Cast: Simon PeggNick Frost, Martin FreemanPaddy ConsidineRosamund PikeEddie Marsan;

The Big Chill meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers seasoned with British humour. It sounds good on paper, I know, especially considering that it’s written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (and directed by the latter), who already gave us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Unfortunately, this film was not at the same level: the true funny moments are too few and far apart.  Gary (Pegg), a recovering addict, wants to recapture the magic of the glory days when he was young and free, only seventeen. In order to do that he needs to give another try to the epic pub crawl (12 pints in 12 pubs!) that he and his old gang never finished. Unlike Gary,  Andy (Frost), Oliver (Freeman), Steven (Considine) and Peter (Marsan) have managed to grow up and not just grow taller. They all have jobs and quite fulfilled lives but Gary convinces, coerces and outright lies to his friends to get them back to their hometown (in a very Jack-and-Elwood way).  So the boys are back in town, not really enthusiastic about it but going through the motion to appease the unstoppable Gary. The first surprise is a mundane although pleasant one: Oliver’s sister, Sam (Pike), is also there, just a token love interest or a way to prove even more that Gary is a jerk? Not clear. Anyway, after this, our heroes begin to notice something strange is going on in their beloved town… the people around them are not exactly people! Gary, Andy and the rest realise that their evening out is much more they bargained for. They have to fight for their life and reach the last pub: The World’s End (foreshadowing ?). Unfortunately this mad race is not as fun to watch as it probably was to shoot for the actors. I did like Billy Nighy’s cameo though! Disappointing . — 5.5/10

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Il Giovane Favoloso

il-giovane-favoloso

 

Director: Mario Martone; Main Cast: Elio Germano, Michele RiondinoMassimo PopolizioIsabella RagoneseAnna MouglalisEdoardo NatoliValerio Binasco;

The life and struggles of Giacomo Leopardi, Italian poet and philosopher of the early 19th century. We follow Giacomo (Germano) from his early, intense studies in his childhood’s home in Recanati, under the tutelage of priests and rigidly supervised by his father Montaldo (Popolizio), reactionary and narrow minded, to the time he spent in Florence, Rome and Naples, where he met (and established few life-long friendships) with historians, classicists, poets and intellectuals. His youth in Recanati, although plagued by both physical and emotional ailments, is sweetened by the presence of his younger siblings Carlo (Natoli) and Paolina (Ragonese), playmates and allies who lighten the burden of suffocating and controlling parents. The fire of rebellion is ignited by the visit of Pietro Giordano (Binasco), a classicist, with whom Giacomo has been exchanging letters over the years, keeping alive their friendship and fruitful collaboration. After a failed attempt to escape his stifling, oppressing home, it will take Giacomo a few more years to finally be free to roam the world (well, just Italy, as it turns out). The story moves then to the final years of Giacomo’s life. We find him in Florence, living with his good friend Antonio Ranieri (Riondino), writer and free-thinker exiled from his native Naples for his political views. Antonio is quite the opposite of Giacomo: charming and outgoing, at ease in social gatherings and with the ladies. Giacomo’s inner pain and his deteriorating health are the roots of his pessimistic view of the world that set him apart from his contemporaries. He is criticised and shunned by other intellectuals, not only in Florence but also in Rome and Naples, where the two friends moved, in an attempt at finding a more suitable environment for the fragile poet. One flaw of the film is the lack of details about the complex political situation in Italy at the time, which was entwined with the literary world and a key element in Leopardi’s life. Throughout the film there are explicit and implicit references to his poems and other writings which, although very beautiful, might not be fully appreciated by viewers unfamiliar with his work. Elio Germano gives a spellbinding performance as the sickly but brilliant poet and Michele Riondino is quite effective as the roguishly charming but loyal friend. The sure hand of Mario Martone at the helm, the supporting cast, the beautiful photography and production design contribute as well to make this film a little gem. Enchanting –7.5/10

 

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Valentine Day quote

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Halloween quote

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Best warning to an audience

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Favorite quote of the moment

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Great use of a pop culture reference

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Short Term 12

Director: Destin Cretton, Main Cast: Brie LarsonJohn Gallagher Jr.Rami MalekLakeith Lee StanfieldAlex CallowayKevin HernandezKaitlyn Dever;

short-term-12

Intriguing and insightful story about a seldom visited topic: foster care facilities for at-risk kids (in the US). The audience discovers this world through Grace’s eyes (Larson) and her co-workers. She is a young counselor who has been working for a few years at one of these facilities, she is capable, understanding and very dedicated to her job. Her boyfriend Mason (Gallagher) also works at the same center with equal dedication and kindness, and he does his best both at work and home, being caring and thoughtful with Grace, who seems to be going through a tough time. The audience gets acquainted with the center’s inhabitants along with a new counselor named Nate (Malek), Grace and Mason introduce some of the kids to him: there’s Marcus (Stanfield), who’s about to turn 18 and, therefore, will be leaving the facility soon, Sammy (Calloway), who’s going through a deep psychological trauma, and Luis (Hernandez), who’s easygoing but enjoys bullying Marcus. A new arrival, Jayden (Dever), is clearly quite traumatised and Grace takes particular care of her.  She, however, ends up relating and deeply empathising (maybe too much) with Jayden, due to the particular conjuncture of events in her personal life. Grace will go to extremes to protect Jayden and face her inner demons in the process. Destin Cretton, in this debut feature, skillfully directs a talented young cast without falling into the trap of looks-before-substance, that sometimes dooms a indie film.The hand-held camera work and close-ups of the characters make for good storytelling, enhanced by a lovely photography. The story arc of Grace is very compelling thanks to Larson’s intense, convincing acting, helped along by strong performances of the rest of the cast, Gallagher and Dever especially. I particularly enjoyed the nice touch of Mason sharing a story with Nate at the beginning and at the end of the movie as encouragement and hope for the future. This film turns out to be a little gem, everything an indie movie should be and more.Uplifting and unconventional 8/10

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Favorite quote of the moment

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Oldies but goldies: Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Director:  Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Main Cast: Elizabeth TaylorKatharine HepburnMontgomery Clift;

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Doctor Cukrowicz (Clift) is a young and capable neurosurgeon, recently arrived at the Lions View Hospital in New Orleans from Chicago. He is developing an experimental treatment for mental illnesses: lobotomy, considered a rather cutting-edge (pun intended) and effective approach in 1937. Having read about him in the newspaper, Mrs Violet Venable (Hepburn), a wealthy and well known widow, summons the good doctor to her house and presses him into using his surgeon’s skills on her disturbed niece, Cathy (Taylor),  who is currently residing at a private facility for the mentally ill. The board is set for this family drama to unfold, the viewer will slowly discover more details about Violet and Cathy along with the Doc and, naturally, there is a deep, dark secret that will be uncovered at the end. In this character-driven film, deftly directed by Mankiewicz, women have the lion’s share: Hepburn and Taylor are both brilliant and give spellbinding interpretations. Violet makes a very striking entrance, coming down in an open elevator, all wrapped in white and talking fondly about her son Sebastian, the poet. The audience learns about gifted, charming Sebastian who died, suddenly, the previous summer in Spain, while travelling with his cousin Cathy. The latter came back rather “unhinged” and with an amnesia about what exactly happened to Sebastian. She is committed to a facility and basically held there because of her unseemly tales about Sebastian, which Violet finds disquieting. We also detect a simmering anger and jealousy in Violet, since she had an unsound, possessive, co-dependent relationship with her son and she resents and holds Cathy responsible for what occurred. The doctor is caught up between these two strong women and seems a bit lost at times, mostly due to Clift’s portrayal, very subdued and lacking the necessary clout and charisma. The story is moved forward through what it would be considered today an excess of dialogue, which is understandable being an adaptation of a play by Williams, but I think it works very well and it helps in shaping all-round characters. The only complaint about the film could be about not using enough the visual medium as a way to tell the story, although Mankiewicz made some interesting choices for the final monologue that I found very effective. Riveting –7.5/10
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This post is part of the Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon hosted by Margaret Perry, read all the other interesting contributions here:

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Directors: Anthony RussoJoe Russo, Main Cast: Chris EvansSamuel L. JacksonScarlett JohanssonRobert RedfordAnthony MackieSebastian Stan;

captain-america-winter-soldier

The second chapter of Captain America’s story (or the fourth chapter of the Avengers?) is about a conspiracy and a new, scary Big Bad. Although Earth (and the Universe!) has been recently saved by Thor, it manages to get in jeopardy again pretty soon, this time around the menace comes from within S.H.I.E.L.D. and nobody can trust no one… see alien races, we are perfectly capable to annihilate our species all by ourselves, you don’t need to break a sweat. Steve Rogers (Evans) has to face this new peril all by himself, relying only on his running buddy Sam (Mackie), who happens to be a super-trained soldier a.k.a the Falcon. Devious and cunning agent Romanov (Johansson) will eventually prove her loyalty as well and lend a hand (and a flying kick) to the cause. In the meantime, shrewd Nick Fury (Jackson) plays dead to find out who is behind the evil scheme and how far its ramifications go. Primary agent of villainy and legendary hitman, the Winter Soldier (Stan) wrecks havoc and brings ruin wherever he is sent and he can hold his own against the Cap. He is, however, only a blunt instrument in a much bigger plan of the true villain, Alexander Pierce (Redford). What can I say? The action scenes are top-notch, I wouldn’t have expected anything less, sly Fury gets a bigger part to play and brings some layers to the cliched plot, badass Black Widow feels more like the token strong woman this time around, to appease the female audience (and be ogled by the male one), than a character in her own right (Marvel still fails spectacularly the Bechdel test!). Falcon is just the sidekick/comic relief and the Winter Soldier is one-dimensional and loses his aura of danger and mystery too soon, becoming just a tackling amnesiac. Super-villain Pierce is hindered by a poor script, making him too stereotypical, Redford’s valiant effort notwithstanding. Last but not least, Captain America himself: gallant and noble soldier, white,red and blue hero and so boring! Chris Evans does a pretty good portrayal of the character but I’ve never warmed up to him, sorry, but I need some bad boy in my superhero and a bit of humor. Far more interesting is Loki’s impersonation of the Cap in Thor 2, in which Evans renders Loki’s mannerism brilliantly:

In conclusion: conspiracy, mysterious baddie, attack ships on fire, tons of fist fights, nazis on steroids and pulling a Snowden to save the day…mmm, sometimes less is more but the Russo bros missed that crucial lesson. This movie wants  to be serious but lacks the necessary nuances to be compelling, a dose of humor would have helped the final result. Not up to snuff –5.5/10

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