Tag Archives: based on a book

Decades Blogathon – The Battle Of Algiers (1966)

Here’s my contribution to Decades Blogathon, hosted by Mark from https://threerowsback.com and Tom from http://digitalshortbread.com/
Thank you guys!!

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1966

Welcome to another day of the event of the year: the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition – hosted by myself and Tom from Digital Shortbread! The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and for Super Tuesday it’s the turn of Marta from Ramblings of a Cinephile, who turns her sights on the masterpiece that is The Battle Of Algiers (1966).

The gritty and rather bloody story of the uprising that led to the independence of Algeria in 1962 is shot by Gillo Pontecorvo in a compelling style.

Commissioned by the Algerian government less than a decade after the facts, it shows both sides in an unforgiving way – from the terrorist attacks of the Algerian militants to the tortures of the French army. Pontecorvo…

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Paprika

Director: Satoshi Kon; Main Cast (voices): Megumi HayashibaraTôru FuruyaAkio ÔtsukaKatsunosuke HoriKôichi Yamadera;

Paprika

Brilliant psychiatrist Chiba (Hayashibara) helps people with dream therapy using a new device, the D.C. Mini, designed by her genius colleague Tokita (Furuya). This new machine allows not only to enter someone else dreams but also to record them. Chiba is determined, dedicated and a little aloft and, with her boss Shima’s (Hori) blessing, she treats patients using the D.C. Mini outside a sanctioned project of the Foundation for Psychiatric Research. Her fun-loving easy-going dream alter-ego, Paprika, is currently aiding detective Kowaga (Otsuka) working through his issues, visiting a recurrent dream of his about an on-going case. Unfortunately, Chiba,  Tokita and Shiba realise that a D.C. Mini has been stolen from the research centre and the thief is using it to enter people’s minds, when awake, and distract them with their own dreams and those of others. Mayhem ensues and the boundary between dream and reality starts to fade. What follow is a desperate search for the culprit: the trio of scientists uses all their knowledge and, aided by detective Kowaga, put together the pieces of the puzzle.

The viewer is treated to incredibly rich and absolutely nuts dream sequences (as all dream are!).  They are integral part of the investigation offering both clues and red herrings. They also are more and more intertwined with reality as the film progresses. The result is stunning: it feel like a roller-coaster and a merry-go-around ride at the same time, without detracting from the smooth flow of the plot. I particularly liked Kowaga’s dreams, full of film references and homages, quite a treat for a movie buff!  The animation is nothing less than top notch and it appears to be the perfect medium for such a story. I doubt that a live-action version would have been this lavish and outlandish. I know some might say that Inception did that but we are not even close. It is interesting, however, the parallel on useful technology turned into a weapon and the need for exploring and understanding one’s subconscious.

Sadly this is the last gem of Satoshi Kon’s short filmography. I do recommend watching his other films: Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress and Tokio Godfathers.

Mesmerizing —9/10

This is my contribution to the Movie Scientist Blogathon: the Good, the Mad, the Lonely hosted by Christina Wehner and Silver Screenings, go and check all the other entries out!

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Oldies but goldies: Plein Soleil (1960)

Director: René Clément; Main Cast: Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet, Marie Laforêt;

plein-soleil

Handsome but penniless Tom Ripley (Delon) has been tasked by wealthy Mr. Greenleaf to bring back home to San Francisco his wayward son Philippe (Ronet), who is gallivanting around Italy.  Philippe is living large with his girlfriend Marge (Laforet) in Naples and the audience finds Tom tagging along and being Philippe’s buddy and occasional virtual punching bag. Philippe is good looking, viveur and self-confident, his money gives him the freedom that Tom doesn’t have. It’s obvious since the beginning that Tom is both attracted to and envious of Philippe, we can see him clearly thinking: ” I can be like him, I just need money!”. On the other hand, Philippe is intrigued by Tom’s many talents but repulsed by his lowly social standing and the creepy vibes he gives off. Tom’s meekness and subservient attitude seems to excite Philippe’s mean streak to the point that even Marge takes Tom’s defense. The tension gradually builds up while the strain on the relationship between these three characters grows, all in great contrast with the beautiful scenery of Southern Italy. This adds a somewhat sinister twist to reassuring surroundings and the scenes on the sailing boat become almost claustrophobic. As Tom’s hope of obtaining the reward Philippe’s father has promised fades, his fantasies of riches and easy life coalesce into a much darker plan to gain what he wants. The second half of the film revolves around Tom’s schemes and maneuvers to keep his dream alive, not letting anything gets in his way. Clement adapts skillfully this story of envy, deceit and delusion of grandeur based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley. His expert use of the blazing white and blue of Italian summer and the lovely settings in Naples and Rome brings an additional layer to the unfolding drama. The cast delivers solid performances, Alain Delon is a perfect embodiment of Tom with the right mix of charm and slyness. The only point that raised involuntary laughters was Marie Laforet’s crying scene, similar to every display of sorrow by any Disney princess. This is a very minor flaw that doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the film. In comparison to the more recent adaptation, this is a far superior movie with a better and more convincing casting.  Dazzling —7.5/10

This is my entry to the The Beach Party Blogathon hosted by Silver Screening and Speakeasy. Ruth and Kristina will keep the party going all week, go and check their blogs!

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Inherent Vice

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson; Main Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen WilsonKatherine WaterstonBenicio Del ToroReese Witherspoon;

Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice

The lastest film by Paul T. Anderson is somehow a crossover between The Big Lebowski and Chinatown.  This slightly surreal and meandering story starts like a classic noir: an ex-flame comes back into Doc Sportello’s (Phoenix) life asking for help. Our hero is a private detective with glorious sideburns and a penchant for smoking pot. His ex, Shasta (Waterston), once a flower child with the same proclivities, has since moved on to greener pasture: her current lover is a real estate magnate.  After her cryptic visit, Shasta disappears and Doc begins a strange journey following weird clues, stumbling on the kidnapping of said magnate, searching for a phantom ship and dealing with all sorts of crazies. He’s helped by faithful friend and lawyer Sauncho (Del Toro), deputy district attorney and occasional lover Penny (Whiterspoon) and he ends up making common cause with Dirty-Harry like detective Bigfoot Bjornsen (Brolin). Set in 1970, this strange and rather convoluted tale, based on the eponymous book by Thomas Pynchon, might be slow-burning and very unlike Anderson’s previous film (The Master) but it’s captivating to follow. Doc is an oddball character and, most of the time, he’s stoned but, improbable as it may seem, he’s also pretty good at his job. In addition there’s Bigfoot, he starts out as a “benevolent nemesis” or “evil guardian angel” to Doc, but he reaches an understanding with him after their investigations  cross path. In a way, Bigfoot has similar traits to Doc: loner, determined and capable (with a visceral hate for hippies but that’s just a colorful side of his persona). This film with its eerie atmosphere and intricate plot turns out to be more  a character study on acid and it really works due to the superb performances of Phoenix and Brolin. Anderson has managed again the difficult task of keeping the viewer engaged with a star-studded, 2.5 hour-long movie based on a pretty wacky premise: chapeau! The cast in general is rather spectacular: curious, unexpected cameos and intriguing portrayals, it is clear that there’s a sure hand at the helm. The soundtrack and the photography complement the story and contribute greatly to the bizarre feeling that pervades the film throughout. Anderson’s style might not be everyone’s cup of tea and this film is even stranger than his usual fare so consider yourself warned. Mesmerizing –9/10

 

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The Last King of Scotland

last-king-of-scotland

Director: Kevin Macdonald; Main Cast: James McAvoy, Forest Whitaker,Kerry WashingtonGillian Anderson;

The rise to power and violent regime of Idi Amin (Whitaker), real-life Ugandan dictator during the seventies, is seen through the eyes of a fictional character Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (McAvoy), young and a little naive Scotsman. Based on the book by Giles Foden, the story mixes well facts with fiction keeping the viewer engaged. Forest Whitaker goes above and beyond to give us a multi-layered portrayal of this larger-than-life historical figure. Well-trained by the British army, Amin happened to be one of the first two officer in the post-colonial Ugandan army; he raised quite fast in the ranks to Commander of all forces,thanks to his charisma and attitude to leadership, and brilliantly solved his years-long struggle with President Obote with a military coup. This is when young Nicholas meets him, cheered by the people as savior of Uganda. Amin has a great admiration for Scotland and he’s positively impressed by Nicholas, who is direct and self-confident. Nicholas is intrigued and charmed by this charismatic giant and let himself be convinced to become Amin’s personal physician. However, behind the lovely, colourful facade of life in the presidential residence, the blight starts to show: Amin is increasingly paranoid, ruthless and in more than one occasion shows erratic behaviour lashing out at advisors, family and friends alike. Amin relies more and more on Nicholas as he slowly turns himself into an absolute despot, ruling with iron fist and killing all his opponents. The viewer, together with Nicholas, is both disturbed and terrified by this Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hide behaviour and begins to understand that things will only get worse. To complicate matters, Nicholas has the not very bright idea of having an affair with Kay (Washington), Amin’s second wife,  since she is lonely and shunned by the dictator due to the epilepsy of his son by her. Unfortunately for the parties involved and for the viewer, this will result in particularly gruesome violence as comeuppance dealt by the “wronged” Amin. I haven’t felt this much of empathic pain since A Man Called Horse.  Our so-called hero makes it out alive, unfortunately that’s not the case for many Ugandans, during his eight-year regime Amin managed to kill 300000 of them, in rather horrific ways. During the last confrontation between the two leads there’s a very illuminating exchange:

Amin: I am Idi Amin! President-for-life and ruler of Uganda. I am the father of Africa.

Nicholas: You’re a child. You have the mind and ego of an angry, spoiled, uneducated child. And that’s what makes you so fucking scary.

7.5/10

This post is my contribution to the second edition of The Great Villain Blogathon hosted by an amazing trio: Ruth of  Silver Screenings, Karen of Shadows & Satin and Kristina of Speakeasy. Go and read all the other entries linked on their blogs.

You can find my entry to last year edition here.

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Wolf Hall (TV mini-series)

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Main Cast: Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis, Claire FoyJoanne WhalleyBernard HillJessica RaineJonathan PryceAnton Lesser;

One might be tempted to say: do we really need yet another take on Henry VIII and his desperate need for a male heir? Well, yes. Forget bodice ripping and Henry’s cavorting with all the pretty ladies while the peers of the realm fight for his favour, this is more A Man For All Seasons only in reverse. This time around the hero of the piece is Thomas Cromwell (Rylance) and his cautious and shrewd navigation of the dangerous waters of Henry’s (Lewis) court. The story starts with the fall from grace of Cardinal Wolsey (Pryce), the banishment of Catherine (Whalley) from Henry’s side and the rise to power of Anne (Floy), the Boleyns and the Duke of Norfolk (Hill). The villain is embodied by Thomas More (Lesser), unrelenting and quite fanatic in all matters pertaining religion and the Holy Church. Notwithstanding the fact that Cromwell is Wolsey’s protege, he manages to achieve a position of power and to help Henry solving his Great Matter and finally marry Anna. We all know the fate of the second queen, what is interesting is the characters’ study and the political maneuvering. This mini-series is a six-part adaptation of two of Hilary Mantel’s novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and it leans more towards the Reform, presenting the Catholic Church and his chief defender and champion, More, in a rather harsh light. It also doesn’t pull punches when it comes to look at family relationships of the rich and powerful with their perpetual scheming and always selfish motives. It’s hard to find a character to root for, even Cromwell comes across mostly as an ambitious man who needs to prove his worth to the world. However he’s not without redeeming qualities and it is exactly these shades of grey that makes the story more captivating. The acting is top-notch, in particular, Mark Rylance gives a very nuanced performance and Lewis brings the right gravitas as Henry. The settings and costumes are a great complement to a slow-burning but engaging tale. Enthralling —8/10

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Oldies but goldies: The Molly Maguires (1970)

The-Molly-Maguires

Director: Martin Ritt; Main Cast: Sean Connery, Richard Harris, Samantha EggarFrank Finlay;

Martin Ritt takes us back to 1876 and the harsh life of Irish immigrants in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. He focuses on the social drama of the early struggles between workers and company owners and, in particular, on the rather violent methods adopted by both sides. Written and co-produced by Walter Bernstein, this film is based on a novel by Arthur H. Lewis. We follow the actions of Jack Kehoe (Connery) and James McParland (Harris): the former a hardened worker and leader of the titular secret society, the latter an undercover detective of the Pinkerton agency, employed by the local police to infiltrate and unmask the Mollies. In a stunning opening scene of almost fifteen minutes, without any dialogue, we are made acquainted with the grueling work of the miners and the trenchant approach of the Mollies to battling exploitation. I must add that the score by Henry Mancini is not only very effective in the opening scene but a nice complement to the whole film. We meet then James McKenna (McParland’s undercover identity), new in town and looking for a job in the mine, of course his first stop is at the pub for a pint and a brawl (there will be more of both down the line), the Irish way to present oneself as a potential friend? Well, it works… sort of… slowly but surely James gets closer to Jack and in the inner circle of the Mollies. At times, the viewer might doubt where his loyalty really lies (kudos to Harris for playing very well the ambiguity) since James and Jack are both  working class immigrants from Ireland with essentially the same aspiration: advancement in this new society. In the end, however, the law will prevail but it is a sour victory, James is left with the weight of his betrayal, although he tries his best to shake it off and justify it as a mean to an end. It was promoted more as a Connery’s film since he was fresh from his stint as 007 but, to me, this is a Harris’ film, he has the lion share of the story and the acting chops to carry it. The supporting cast is solid and Ritt has some inspired directing choices. To add more Irish flavour to the tale there aren’t only pints and bar brawls but a heated rugby match and a few traditional songs in the score (played with period instruments), so it makes for a perfect St. Patrick’s day film if you are not looking for light entertainment. Satisfying —7.5/10

This is my contribution to The Luck of the Irish Blog o’thon hosted by Diana & Connie at Silver Scenes, you can read all the other entries here:

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Extraordinary Tales

ExtraordinaryTales

Director: Raul Garcia; Main Cast: Roger Corman, Guillermo del Toro, Christopher LeeJulian Sands;

Raul Garcia brilliantly assembles a collection of five animated stories adapted from Edgar Allan Poe. Each segment has its unique style of animation, colours and narrator with very different yet impressive results. The stories in question are: the Fall of House Usher, the Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, the Tell-tale Heart, the Pit and the Pendulum and the Masque of the Red Death. The grim and foreboding atmosphere that permeates each tale, and it’s so characteristic of Poe’s dark universe, is translated very effectively to the screen with the help of an apt music score and a perfect voice cast. As a curiosity: Garcia went to great lengths to recover old Bela Lugosi’s recording in order to have him “narrate” one of the segment. I particularly appreciated the nice touch of the interludes with the dead writer, represented by a crow, conversing with Death while hopping among the statues and the tombstones of a cemetery. This omnibus is quite an accomplishment just by an animation point of view: its mixture of 2D and 3D techniques, diverse textures and rendering methods suit well the mood and tone of the tales. In addition, the source material is excellent and Poe’s fans can definitely enjoy this new approach. Riveting —9/10

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Il Capitale Umano

capitale-umano

Director: Paolo Virzì; Main Cast: Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Matilde Gioli, Valeria Bruni TedeschiGuglielmo PinelliFabrizio GifuniValeria GolinoLuigi Lo Cascio;

Stark and unapologetic portrayal of Italian middle and upper class through the story of two families: the Ossola and the Bernaschi, their fortunes collide after a terrible accident on a night before Christmas. The film has a Rashomon’s structure with: a short prologue showing a cyclist being run off the road by a dark SUV late at night, the previous six months leading to the night in question told by the point of view of three characters and an epilogue. Firstly the audience meets Dino Ossola (Bentivoglio), he is a small time real estate agent, his business is in crisis but he wants to make the big bucks no matter what. As it happens his teenager daughter Serena (Gioli) and Massimiliano Bernaschi (Pinelli) both attends a posh private school and are dating, perfect way for Dino to insinuate himself into the life of powerful financial banker Giovanni Bernaschi (Gifuni) and get involved in high risk but highly rewarding investments. He lies and cheats to try and get what he wants, not caring that he’s risking his children’s future. As time goes by and the financial crisis tightens its grip, things start to look grim for Dino and the ones closest to him are none the wiser: his second wife is too involved with her work as psychologist for troubled kids and his daughter has her own problems to deal with. Cue to Carla Bernaschi (Bruni Tedeschi), once an actress, she married up and lives now a cushy life among the well-to-dos, busing herself with shopping. Her life seems rather aimless until she finds a new interest: save the local theatre from being converted into condos. After getting the money from her husband, she organises the renovation and put together an artistic committee that will manage the activities of the theatre. Carla pours herself into the work and makes a tight connection with Donato (Lo Cascio) since Giovanni is too busy and worried about his business and her son too self-absorbed. The last charter is Serena’s point of view, it sheds light on a few tricky details of the story and makes it all clear about what really happens the night of the accident. I don’t want to give away the ending so I’ll just say that she ends up being the strongest character, more determined and selfless than the rest. Although adapted from a an American novel, Paolo Virzi manages to give a scary picture of the opulent and self-serving upper-middle class that lives in the small towns north of Milan, with a sharp eyes for details and social nuances. The film keeps the viewer engaged and interested to the very end, however it does leave a bitter aftertaste and a gloomy outlook of Italy nowadays, perfectly exemplified by Carla’s last line: “You bet on the downfall of this country and you won”. The cast is spectacular: from Fabrizio Bentivoglio’s rendering of Dino, unctuous, mellifluous and down right repellent to Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s pitch perfect interpretation of Carla, so lackadaisical and passive but ready to do what is necessary even if it’s despicable. Special mention to Matilde Gioli, her Serena is impressive and very relatable. Provocative and compelling —9/10

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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 seen 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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