Tag Archives: Steve Carell

Quick ‘n’ Dirty: January at the pictures

In a vain attempt to keep up with all the films I watch I came up with this new series of posts. The idea is to bundle up speedy reviews of the movies I saw at the cinema and at home for which I have neither the time nor the inclination to write a full critique. The posts will be distinguished in two types: “at the pictures” and “at home”. So, without further ado, here’s January selection of films:

 

The Lobster: intrigued by a quirky trailer and some good reviews, I went in with high expectations for a captivating indie movie with a great cast. I came out sorely disappointed and confused. The film starts with an engaging premise of a near future society with a little twist in its social mores but, then, it loses momentum making the plot more complicated and without a clear direction or thesis. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz gives solid performances but it’s not enough. Missed opportunity —4/10

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Black Mass:  it aspires to be a new Goodfellas but doesn’t have the guts to go all the way. Irish mob in the seventies fights the competition with the help of complacent FBI agents: it sounds good on paper but it doesn’t fully deliver. Johnny Depp’s chameleonic transformation into James “Whitey” Bulger, who ascends from petty criminal in South Boston to FBI’s most wanted status, is convincing but lacks bite. Notwithstanding the efforts of a great cast, Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch in particular, the film has an uneven pace and not enough tension to win me over. I wonder what Scorsese would have done… oh wait, he made The Departed! No guts, no glory —6/10

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2: typing this long title makes me already weary! First off: splitting the last part of a trilogy in two just to milk every possible dime from the audience is not cool, especially when there’s no real need for it. The story picks up exactly where it left off but a year of waiting it’s way worse than commercial breaks to get back into the rhythm and care for the characters. So Katniss and her ragtag gang of heros need to kill President Snow to finally end the civil war in Panem and it seems that they go at it all the wrong ways; I haven’t seen so many useless deaths since George Clooney’s in Gravity. Anyway, the good guys wins but there’s a price to pay…duh! It felt flat and unengaging and the multiple endings do not help.  Watch on TV —5/10

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The Big Short: Adam McKay takes on the not easy task to explain the root causes of 2008 financial crisis using as a starting point the eponymous book wrote by Michael Lewis. He takes a few liberties with the source material but he succeeds in getting through the most important facts and information with clever and funny breaking-the-forth-wall speeches and using Ryan Gosling’s character as guide for the audience. With a stellar ensemble cast at his disposal, McKay skillfully tells the story of a few individuals who saw the end of the real estate bubble coming and all the problems connected with financial derivative products. Despite the complicated and, some might say, dull subject the film is well-paced and funny with convincing performances. Special kudos to Christian Bale! Relevant and entertaining —7.5/10

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Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher

Director: Bennett Miller; Main Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo;

The Academy really likes film based on a true story and, this year in particular, the theme of fame and pushing beyond one’s limits. This movie has both, so it’s not a surprise that it was nominated, however it feels distant and detached notwithstanding the quality of the performance of the three leads. Steve Carell (with a fake nose, hideous teeth and dark eyes) is John DuPont: billionaire with a passion for wrestling and severe mommy issues. Channing Tatum is Mark Schultz: Olympic wrestling champion with low self-confidence, always in the shadow of his older brother. Last but not least, Mark Ruffalo is David Schultz: charismatic, well-adjusted and legendary wrestler. All three are impressive and they admirably carry the story and the film on their shoulders but they somewhat fail to engage the viewer.  The story of how DuPont created and sponsored the Foxcatcher wrestling team to prepare for the 1988 Olympic games feels like the tantrum of a petty child: bullied in school because he wasn’t good at any sport? Probably. Needing to prove to his overbearing mother that he can be a wrestler? Certainly. The film has an ominous, slow pace that goes well with the unravelling of DuPont’s psyche and, after the first half, the viewer has the feeling that something will go terribly awry. However it is not enough to achieve (cinematic) greatness, isn’t that ironic! Chilly —6.5/10

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Despicable Me

Directors: Pierre CoffinChris Renaud, Main Cast (voices): Steve CarellJason SegelMiranda CosgroveDana GaierElsie Fisher

despicable-me

Gru is a criminal mastermind with a mad scientist as associate, tiny yellow minions and a vast secret lair under his suburban house. But his life is not all rainbows and two-headed puppies, there a new up-and-coming villain, Vector, who stole the pyramid of Giza and made him look bad. Gru has a new amazing plan to put every other evildoer to shame: steal the moon! To do that he needs money to built a rocket and steal a shrink ray device, easier said than done… his troubles are increased by three little orphan girls that he adopted to forward his devious scheme. Needless to say children will change his life for the better and greater good (?) will prevail. I love the details of both lairs (Gru’s and Vector’s) and, of course, the little yellow minions, but the villain that finds out his true heroic nature is old. Sweet and charming but not amazing. —6.5/10

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The Way, Way Back

Directors: Nat FaxonJim Rash, Main Cast: Liam JamesSam RockwellSteve CarellToni ColletteAllison Janney

14-year-old Duncan (James) goes on vacation with his mother Pam (Collette), her boyfriend Trent (Carell) and his daughter. They are staying in Trent’s summer house in a small town on the coast of New England, in a well-to-do neighbourhood. Duncan is rather introverted with low self-esteem and matters are made worse by Trent’s overbearing and unkind attitude. His mother is not particularly helpful, being submissive and too involved in a “spring break for adults” with Trent and his friends. Duncan finds some solace in his lonely bike rides, during which he meets and befriends Owen (Rockwell), the manager of the local water park, who is an easy-going guy with a great sense of humor and a kind streak. Owen gives Duncan a job at the park and helps him to come out of his shell and build his self-confidence. This film might seem a rather typical coming-of-age story but the balance between drama and humor is so well calibrated, the cast, starting with young James, is just brilliant that is much more than that. Faxon and Rash are great at both writing and directing, I’m curious to see what they will come up with next. A nice surprise and heartwarming treat. —8.5/10

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