Bridesmaids – Review

Bridesmaids (2011) 

Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Kristen WiigTerry CrewsJessica St. Clair 

After those terrible bridal icecold showers like “Bride War” or  Runaway Bride or even “Father of the Bride 2” you might forgive me for going into the theatre with a sense of dread… expecting the worse: a chick-flick with bride in the title is usually a synonymous for shamefully bad film and basically a recipe for disaster!

Well, I am happy report that my fears were unfounded and that I was plainly wrong! This might be the exception that confirms the rule.

Yes, it is about the usual 30-something women going through a life-crisis and yes, it is about weddings, finding the right dress, being without a boyfriend and so on, but believe me it’s not half as empty or insulting as most of the movies out there (especially “Sex in the City 2”). In fact for the most part it avoids all the usual female stereotypes as it embraces situations which could easily be played by a male ensemble. But most crucially, it manages to be both rude and over the too and yet heartfelt and cute at the same time.

Some of the set pieces don’t always work as they should and some of the laughs are a bit of a hit-and-miss (the stuff with the room-mates, for example, is very flat and unfunny and ends up being completely redundant) and considering that the film is a touch too long, they should have probably made some trims here and there.

The moment everybody will be talking about is obviously the one involving some various bodily fluids, which is indeed quite funny and lavishly gross (as we’ve come to expect from a Judd Apatow production), however  it is actually the smaller, low-key moments and even more dramatic episodes in the film that make it worthwhile: the tender scenes with the policemen, the shared unspoken history of friendship between the brides and bridesmaid, the relationship between mother and daughter, and of course the depiction of the handsome narcissist and incredibly creepy (and funny!) Jon Hamm (“I really want you to leave but I don’t know how to tell you”).

The director, Paul Weig has made his name working on TV shows like “Nurse Betty“, “The Office“, “Weeds” and even Arrested Development , all very good shows which interestingly seem to share the same mix of rude humor, touching drama, uncomfortable moments and great acting: a blend which he was able to translate onto the big screen.

The whole thing gets elevated by the very good ensemble cast led by  Kristen Wiig who brings enough sensibility to make her character likable and strangely believable, despite the absurd situations. She can be both extremely funny and very touching at the same time in the same way Felicity Huffman from Desperate Housewives is (in fact she did remind me of her a lot). Hopefully we’ll see more of her in the future.

Bridesmaids is certainly not groundbreaking, nor is a game-changer in comedy movie history, but at least it gives back some credibility and integrity to this type of films and in this never-ending season of too-many-sequels, tired franchise and un-funny sterile and unoriginal comedies (Hangover 2 just to mention the most recent one), it is quite refreshing to find one that not only makes you laugh but at the same time it makes you care for the characters on the screen (I don’t think I am asking for too much, am I?!).

7/10

 And talking about bad comedies: check out my review of  THE DILEMMA

Senna – Review

Senna (2010) 

Directed by Asif Kapadia. Starring Ayrton SennaAlain ProstFrank Williams

As a proper moviegeek, my interest in sport in general is very limited and when it comes to Formula 1 my ignorance is even greater. I can’t really tell a Ferrari from a McLaren, nor I would be able to tell you anything about pole positions, paddocks or sidepods (In fact I had to look up these words!). Not only that, but up until the other day I didn’t even know Senna was Brazilian nor I was 100% about his fate… You get the idea…

And yet, none of this mattered while watching this documentary. In fact, the film is a real piece of bravura in story-telling and emotion-stirring and if it managed to grab the attention of somebody like me (ignorant to the bone) it must surely mean something!

One of the reasons why it works so well is because it’s essentially a film about human emotions, real people, politics, corruption, obsessions and goes way beyond the boring technical details of a car race.

Ayrton Senna is depicted as an incredibly determined man. He’s strong, religious, sincere, funny and even cheeky… Well, at least that’s how he is depicted to us by  film-makers who are clearly quite keen in making sure we like him. The use of archive footage, especially during the first half of the film, is always carefully selected and edited to show us a rather sweet, sincere, honest and innocent image of this Brazilian hero.

It is obviously quite a bias version of Senna’s character and his family must have certainly been involved behind the scenes (as it’s clear from the use of private home footage and interviews with close relatives). However none of this really matters and certainly doesn’t take anything away from the fact that these are compelling stories and beautifully told.

On a technical level the film looks really terrible. Of course none of it is not its fault and I’m certainly not blaming it for that, but it’s a reminder of how bad videos from the 80s were. And yet instead of avoiding the problem or trying to hide it, director AsifKapadia, recognizing some of the real gems at his disposal, decides to embrace it and sticks with it all the way through the film. He even avoids cutting away to the so-called “talking heads” of the people who are being interviewed and instead he only uses their voices over the ugly-looking footage. By doing this he forces us to watch the images, focussing our attention and getting us even closer to his hero. In fact about 10 minutes into the documentary you actually forget to even care about how bad it all looks… which is, once again a proof of the strength of this film.

It is a great achievement of editing too as the film manages to tell quite a complicated story or corruption, antagonism, determination, obsessions and human emotions without the use of any external commentary, but just with archive footage and few interviews. And it’s not just all very clear, but it’s also succeeds in being both funny and moving.

I’m not quite sure how it would play to somebody who knows anything about Senna, but I certainly bough it up completely.

If I have one complain it has to be with the ending (which for the people who are as ignorant as me, I won’t give away), as it felt quite heavy-handed (I’m referring to the use of music, the over-stretched final sequences and the slightly gratuitous flash-backs): it obviously works (in fact I was a real wreck by the end of it), but it is one of those occasions where the hand of the film-makers was way too visible.

Other than that, this is clearly a labour of love, made by a very competent film-maker who knows how to tell a story  and grab his audience’s attention, even the ones who are clearly not interested.

8/10

Raiders of the Lost Ark – 30th anniversary Review

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Harrison FordKaren AllenPaul Freeman

Call me childish, call me narrow-minded, call me a “blockbuster-junkie”, call whatever-you-want, but to me this is the perfect film!

Such a bold statement might require some explanation (which hopefully I will be able to give in this post) and certainly begs the question: what makes a film perfect? And, is this really one?

The answer to the second question is a simple and resounding YES.

I believe a perfect film is one that can be watched over and over again: a film that you never grow tired of and that whenever is on TV and you stumble across it, you end up watching. A perfect film is one of those where you struggle to pick up one favorite scene, because they’re all so good. A perfect film is one of those you really wouldn’t change anything about it and where all its elements (story, direction, acting, music, cinematography, editing and so on) come together in a such a way that it’s virtually impossible to choose one over the other.

Raiders of the lost Ark is 30 years old this month, but still shines as if it were made yesterday… except that it wasn’t because, as we all know “they don’t make them like this anymore“.

I still remember going to the movie theatre when it first got released (Yes, I’m giving away my age: clearly I’m not a teenager!) and being absolutely blown away by it. At the time there was nothing like it  (and arguably, that’s probably still true today).

Ever since then people have been trying to  imitate its winning formula, and, needless to say, most of them failed miserably. Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about (and to prove my point), just think of Lara Croft, Prince of Persia, National treasure, The Mummy Trilogy and even those films inspired by the Dan Brown‘s books: well, those are the most successful ones… Enough said. I won’t even go into the list of endless B-movies.

I find quite hard to write about “Raiders”, mainly because I’ve seen it so many times and I know so much about it, that I almost feel compelled to write every single details filling up pages and pages… But don’t worry, I won’t.

Right from the word “go”, from when the summit of the Paramount logo dissolves into a Peruvian mountain (a Visual device which will become the trademark of the entire series), you know you’re in for something which is not only original but clever and handsomely made.

What follows that logo is probably one of the best first sequences of any action movies ever made. The mysterious forest, the haunting music, the bloody  statue, the group of explorers, the old map, the hidden cave, the pulsating tension, the crawling spiders, the giant web, the deadly traps, the decomposed body, the big scares, the golden idol, the sliding  door, the traitor, the whip,  the rolling boulder, the French baddie, the wild Hovitos, the arrows, the chase across the fields, the swinging vine, John Williams‘s “raiders theme”, the snake on the plane, the jokes breaking the tension: and all this is just within the first 10 minutes!!! It is such an incredible edge-of-your-seat beginning that after that the film can afford to launch into a very long scene with some massive exposition

And I haven’t even mentioned the hero himself, Indiana Jones.

Harrison Ford deserves a lot of credits for the success of this film. Who knows what would have happened if Tom Selleck had played the role: he was the first choice, after all (I will be eternally grateful to Magnum PI).

Harrison Ford manages to make Indiana Jones strong and frail at the same time, funny and sad, invincible and weak. Indy is a hero but he gets hurt, tired, dirty and sweaty. It doesn’t matter how far-fetched and over-the-top the action might be, Ford makes it feel real.

Spielberg directs it all with clockwork perfection but he’s also able to improvise on the spot and use it all to his advantage (most famously, the now-classic scene where Indy shoots the sword-man, which as we all know by now, was pretty much improvised on the spot). He orchestrates it all with a mastery that’s never showy and always serving the story and the action as he uses all the tricks in the film-maker book: long lens shots during a chase sequence, a tracking shot across the desert to show the scale of the landscape, a single one-take shot during a drinking competition.

He also knows exactly how to pitch the film: helped by a carefully crafted script, all the improbabilities are always levelled by humour, the action is always counter-balanced by actual dramatic scenes, the magical sense of wonder is always routed to reality and however cartoony some of the characters might be, they’re always incredibly detailed.

Paul Freeman‘s Belloq is not just a baddie. There’s so much more to him: the care and attention he has for Marion, and whole untold back-story and a passion for archeology he shares with Indy are enough to give him more depth and somehow make him more scary. He also gets one of the best lines in the film: “we are only passing though history, this… this IS history”

What started off as a tribute to those Action Saturday Matinee that Spielberg and Lucas loved so much, here becomes a rollercoaster of sheer invention, cracking action and incredible fun. So many scenes are now become classic iconic moments in movie history, whether it’s to do with snakes in  “well of Souls”, or ghost-like creatures during the opening of the ark, running though the streets of Cairo, or fighting with a bald guy by a plane out of control, in a secret chamber underground, or in a massive warehouse with thousands and thousands crates (incidentally, one of the best “last shots” of any movie!!).

This is so much more than just pure escapism: this is a manual of “storytelling with pictures”.

10/10 

Here’s there’s a great fan-made running-commentary of the film. A real work of genius and love for the film made with great care and attention. Well done Jamie!

Raiding The Lost Ark: A Filmumentary By Jamie Benning on Vimeo.

Super 8 – Review

Super 8 (2011)  

Director/Writer: J.J. Abrams Stars: Elle FanningAmanda MichalkKyle ChandlerRiley GriffithsGabriel Basso

To say that I couldn’t wait to see this movie is an understatement: ever since the trailer was released a few months ago “Super 8” smelled like the best Spielberg with whom I’ve been growing up during my childhood: it looked like a mixture of E.T, The Goonies, Poltergeist, Gremlins and all those Spielberg classics from the early 80s I used to love, but also it had something from Stand by Me, or It (a terrible movie but a great book).

All the elements seemed to be there: the teens friends, the suburban environment, the secrets “grown-ups” are not supposed to know about, the bicycles, the fat kid, the bad US army, the single parents, even the same time period (1979) and the same style of cinematography (night-time flares on the lens) and big soundtrack (a rousing score, mixed in with gentle and intimate piano cues).

But are all those elements enough to reach the perfection of films like E.T.- The Extra-Terrestrial? If you were cooking from a recipes book and you had all the right ingredients, would you still get it the cake right? You can easily guess the answer.

J.J. Abrams is certainly a talented man. His TV credentials are some of the most solid ones of the last decade (Alias, Lost, Fringe), his Mission: Impossible III brought some credibility back to the franchise (and some pretty amazing action sequences), his Star Trek was not only very reverent to the original but also engaging enough for the newbie injecting some new energy on a series which was on the verge to becoming just about OK for the Trekkies out there.

Unfortunately with “Super 8” that energy seems to have faded away a little. Despite all the good intentions and this being a sort of love letter to the Spielberg he too admired, J.J. hasn’t been able to replicate that sense of wonder and discovery, nor the exciting action and edge-of-the-seat thrills of those early classics. There are some really good scenes in the first act between all the kids (and some very good acting!) but after a while it all felt too much by-the-book and gave us nothing new or unexpected.

It’s as if everything was a bit too calculated and clinical, even its sincerity and honesty and its well-observed sense of nostalgia (not just for the era, but for a certain kind of film-making) was not enough and never really went beyond the ovbious clichés you would expect from this sort of story. The kids did everything they were supposed to, the army was bad as you would expect and it all worked as a well-oiled-machine.

Even its film-making style, though handsomely made,  wanted to ape those 80s classics so much that it in the end it forgot to give us the kind of magic  those films were really great at: in the end I can’t quite point out a single memorable “cinematic” imagery or moment out of “super 8” (there was definitely no bike flying over the moon, nor mash potatoes shaped like a mountain but not even some classic line like “they’re here….!”).

There was really nothing massively wrong with Super 8 (the film is well done, well acted, is even under two hours and I’m sure it will please most of the crowds out there), but sadly there was also nothing original or surprising either: even the big monster, so much teased throughout the whole movie, once it’s finally revealed cannot be anything else but disappointing. But most crucially the film seemed to lack that humour films like Stand by me or even the Goonies had.

Maybe my expectations were too high, but from a duo like Abrams and Spielberg I wanted something a bit more than just a half life-less homage.

Once again, I’m not saying that “Super 8” is bad (in fact I wish all the summer blockbusters were as honest, pure and simple like this one: thankfully this was a film that cared about its characters more than just explosions and one-liners!!), but despite loving its intentions and its heart, and its style, I couldn’t quite love it as a film… Or maybe I just wanted to like it too much…

6.5/10

If you liked this, you might be interested in reading about my review of STAND BY ME or my post A REAL MOVIEGEEK or a TIRED OLD CINIC

The Tree of Life – Review

The Tree of Life (2011) 

Directed by Terrence Malick. Starring Brad PittSean PennJessica Chastain.

What really makes me angry about this film is that behind the preposterous, pretentious, tediously slow, shockingly simplistic muddle of philosophical clichés, there was actually a good story waiting to be told by a potentially great director.

Those scenes with the kids for example (whose acting was particularly graceful and natural) were indeed nicely handled and gave you a little hint of how much better the film could have been if only director Terence Malick had been a little bit less full of himself.

Instead he decided to cram it all with heavy, pretentious, superfluous, confusing and rather conventional voice over, plastered all over the soundtrack, preventing his audience from any emotional response to the film.

All that was enhanced even more by the constant choral musical score (including requiem from Bach, Mozart, Gorecki, Respighi, Holst and God knows how many others) which gave the film the same monotone feel throughout.

It’s as if there was only one gear controlling the pace of this film.

The parallel with Kubrick’s 2001: A space Odyssey comes quite natural: in a way this film has the same ideals and touches most of the same grounds as Kubrick’s classic and because of that, dare-I-say, falls into the exact same faults: the sketchy narrative, overblown abstractions and the slow pace.

By while in Kubrick’s’ case, those “faults” were also counterbalanced by the gripping relationship between man and machine and a strong sense of wonder towards heaven and earth, in the case of Malick’s Tree of Life, there’s a certain pompousness which makes it really annoying. Also it is both too inaccessible and too obvious. Finally Malick’s detatched style makes it really hard for anyone to care: in my very humble view the film should have been much more focused on the central story.

There was absolutely no need to show us the beginning of the Universe, nor the end of the dinosaurs age (incidentally, the dinosaurs looked better back in 1993 when Spielberg made Jurassic Park!). In fact, there was probably not even need for Sean Penn to be there at all: everything the film wanted to tell us was right there within the central story of the American family in the 50s.

And there was definitely no need for that terribly smultzy and contrived final sequence which was supposed to show the end of the world and give us a vision of “heaven” but  actually ended up looking more like some outtakes from the actual film’s wrap party, with all the actors re-uniting again and congratulating each other on how good they all were. Or was it just Malick’s own version of the finale of the TV series LOST?

Everything in the film is heavily soaked in symbolism and religion. I read somewhere that Brad Pitt’s character was supposed to symbolise the “Old Testament” and his wife was the “New Testament”. I did noticed that the two of them were never shown talking to each other, and if they were it was always through a glass or from far away or  even off-camera, preventing us from hearing their dialogue or to see them interacting with each other.

But does all this stylish trickery and heavy subtext really make the film any better? Certainly not for me.

In fact it  is all too disappointingly literal and frustratingly patchy that in the end it just comes out  as cold and distant. So much so that I just couldn’t really care about anyone in this film… and for a film that’s about life and love that is a terrible fault.

All these attempts to elevate the small-scale, intimate family drama by intercutting cosmic sequences of the beginning of the universe in order to give a deeper meaning to the soul-searching of the characters are finally not enough to compensate for a lack of dramatic involvement and in the end, they just overwhelm the actual story.

Even the beautiful cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (where everything seems to be filmed at magic hour) becomes self-indulgent, repetitive and tedious. There’s only a certain amount of trees, waterfalls and shots of glinting sun flaring at the lens you can take.

It’s hard to believe that this is only Terence Malick’s 5th feature film as a director since 1973. The Tree of Life has all his distinct signature trademarks (the beautifully photographed shots of nature, the use voice over and music and the themes of the film themselves), but are they just trademarks or is he  actually making the same sort of film over and over again?

Whatever the answer is, apparently all this was enough for the judges in Cannes to assign it the Palme d’or, back in May 2011.

Some people in Cannes said that Malick is more of an “artist” then a film-maker. But as somebody once also said “to make art is to fail” and he clearly does fail with this film, mainly because he just tries too hard. If only he hadn’t aimed so high, he would have certainly made a better film, but as it stand “The Tree of Life” is an epic failure…

5.5/10

Green Lantern – Review

Green Lantern (2011) 

Directed by Martin Campbell. Starring Ryan ReynoldsBlake LivelyPeter Sarsgaard.

I should probably start by stating few facts about my position with Green Lantern and superheroes in general.

First of all my only little knowledge of Green Lantern came actually from an episode of “The Big Bang Theory“, other than that, I didn’t even know there was such a comic until I read that Martin Campbell was going to make a movie. In other words, I wasn’t really a fan (and let me spoil you the surprise: I’m still not one!!).

However,  I always try to be as open-minded as possible, in fact I was quite excited to learn something new about a new superhero. The fact that I hardly knew the existence of Green Lantern had nothing to do with me not liking the film: I wasn’t a fan of Thor either, and yet I did manage to enjoy the film for what it was (here’s my Thor review) and as far as the X-Men I knew next to nothing when the first Bryan Singer movie got released and still liked it. Finally, I should also point out that I have nothing against comic superheros either (in fact I still consider Spiderman 2 one of the best action movies of the last few years!).

Green Lantern opens with a very confusing prologue, visually unoriginal and heavy in exposition, characters and soulless CGI. And as it got louder and louder, more and more frantic the whole thing got even more confusing.  I must confess, the film lost me right from the word “go”,  but I decided that it didn’t really  matter: “It’s a comic! How hard can it be?” I said to myself. Thankfully I was right and when finally the action cuts to planet Earth I was able find my bearings again, though the feeling of boredom stayed with me throughout.

Once we are finally introduced to our hero, played by Ryan Reynolds,  I realise that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t really know how to take this film. Reynolds seems to be just as confused as he plays the character sometimes with a complete straight face and sometimes with a smirk irony as if he knew that the whole thing is just preposterous. He’s likable enough, but sadly lacks of any emotional depth. The only thing left to marvel at, is his perfect body which only made me even more annoyed and jealous: in fact it distracted me even more as my mind started to wonder “when was the last time I actually went to the gym?”

Director Campbell, never really seems to be in control of what’s going on and instead he decides to cram the film with as much noise as possible  hoping it might distract his audience from thinking that this is actually all a bit of a mess… The result is that sometimes even some of the dialogue gets lost (though I’m prepared to bet that despite those 4 writer being credited, I didn’t really miss much). Campbell clearly feels uneasy with this universe and doesn’t quite know what to make of it. The whole philosophical side is just ridiculous, the action scenes are too messy, the special effects underwhelming and the love story is so flat that it becomes redundant.

The pace is completely off and for a film of this kind which lasts just under two hours, I found myself looking at my watch way too often.
The editing is just as uncertain just like the rest of the film, as Stuart Baird seems to be randomly cutting to wide shots and close-ups, irrespective of what the action would require and not taking into account that a film in 3D should really hold its shots for much longer, otherwise the 3D effect is lost on its audience. But then again, who cares about 3D! This is another of those films that’s been converted into 3D after it was filmed (and my God, it shows!!) and I suspect will have a very short life in this form: many people will probably watch it on DVD or on TV anyway, so why bother cutting it for the 3D format. Those action scenes, particularly at the beginning, are so fast that you really have no idea what’s going on.

It doesn’t really help the fact that there are way too many characters, obviously introduced to us because of a possible sequel (clearly set up in the end credits with a silly plot twist): after all today it’s all about franchises, isn’t it? (Bloody hell, Warner, aren’t you happy with your 8 Harry Potter films and your never-ending Batman?! Do you really want to embark into another franchise? ).

Peter Sarsgaard plays a sleazy over-the-top baddie without a proper script to allow him to actually be one of those really good baddieMark Strong is pretty much wasted, not to mention Tim Robbins in what is possibly his most forgettable role in years. Angela Bassett plays is as if she’s been told “you’re not allowed to show any emotion, in fact deliver those lines thinking of something else…”. Even Geoffrey Rush who probably had a couple of hours spare in his schedule was just happened to pass by the film set, lends his voice for one of the character sounding pretty much like one of those Owl from that film by Zack Snyder.

Finally James Newton Howard‘s film soundtrack (who I usually really like) is as derivative as all the rest. Not bad, but certainly unremarkable, just like the film itself.

In the end, this is probably out there with some of the most disappointing comic book movies of all times (Elektra, Daredevil, Spawn, The Avengers, the 1998  versions, just to mention a few…). Its main crime is that it thinks is a lot better than it is… and that it must have cost a lot of money too!!

One positive note: I did like the costume…

4.5/10

If you enjoyed this Review you might like the ones on THOR, HARRY POTTER 7.1, INCEPTION, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, TRON: LEGACY

Check out more reviews here

 

 

 

Life in a Day – Review

Life in a Day (2011) 

Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Produced by Tony Scott & Ridley Scott.

Last year (2010) YouTube launched a campaign, supported by executive producers Tony and Ridley Scott, asking everybody with a camcorder to record a day in their lives. Fast forward a year to 2011 and director Kevin Macdonald and editor Joe Walker (never an editor has been more crucial to the making of a film), release their documentary to the world and to the same people who actually filmed it.

Apparently 80000 videos for a total of 4500 hours were submitted from 126 different nations.

The result is a film that tells the story of a day on Earth, and precisely the 24th of July 2010: 24 hours in the life of ordinary people. Their stories, their images, their thoughts, all linked together by an incredible work of editing and a rousing soundtrack by Harry Gregson-Williams

You can argue that some of it might  be slightly heavy-handed (a shot of a cow being killed on camera is then, non very subtlety, cut together with a man eating from a bowl of spaghetti), but some of the choices are absolutely inspired (montage sequences of people getting up in the morning or having breakfast or simply walking). It’s the amalgamation of all these little snippets of life that makes the film an incredible watch and eventually it ends up actually telling a whole story as the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

The film starts at midnight as people are still asleep in most places: some night shift workers are already at it, some wild party animals are still up from the previous day, but generally speaking it’s a quiet start. Within a few minutes, we are treated by a sunrise montage from all over the world as people are getting up in the most remote corners of the globe. They have breakfast, some of them go to work, others stay at home, somebody shaves for the first time (a very funny scene!), somebody decides to lay in bed for a bit longer, and somebody else begins a new “empty” day: loneliness might be just around the corner…

Despite the sometimes over-indulgent choice of editing and the ever-present soundtrack the film still manages to capture that pulsating realism of modern life through simple gestures, looks, words and silences as the similarities and (many) differences are exposed.

But just when you are about to think “is this film going to be just a long montage sequence?”, then the film suddenly slows down and you are actually treated to real moments into people’s life (well, I say “real”, obviously there’s a camera filming so I suppose it’s “a version of reality”, but that doesn’t diminish its value nor its emotional impact on the audience).

For example, quite early on a little boy of probably 4 is woken up by his dad who’s filming the whole thing (I seem to remember they were in Japan or thereabout): we stay with them for a while as they talk about seemingly mundane things: the boy is incredibly sweet,  the house is strangely messy. Then dad says “let’s go and say ‘hi’ to mom”. They move to a corner of a room where we see for the first time a little shrine with a picture of a woman. Together they light an incense and pay their little morning tribute to the mom.

It’a quiet moment that tell a thousand words: no need for commentary or any explanation. It’s clear these two have been doing this for a while. It’s clear they are incredibly close to each other. Mom is gone. They are both alone, but they have each other… We fill the gaps in an instant. It’s an incredibly poignant moment. This time there is no music playing underneath. The director knows when to manipulate its audience and when he should take a step back and let us make our own mind and feel what we want to feel.

Life in a day is full of simple moments like this one. So simple and yet so powerful.

Don’t worry, there are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments too.

Generally speaking the film is edited in such a way that shows a certain optimism that comes with the beginning of a new day and yet is some cases, this fades away for some as we approach sunset and go through the night by which time loneliness takes over the weakest ones. It’s a beautifully constructed device, which might be a bit contrived but it works perfectly.

In the end, this is a film about everything: rich countries and poor countries, smiles and tears (quite a lot in my case, I must confess), day and night, life and death, animals and humans, man and women, whites, blacks, gays, straights, children and very old people, happiness and desperation.  We are all there, with our fears, our idiosyncrasies, our routines, our doubts, our weaknesses…

Everybody will come out of it and will probably remember something different. Each of us might identify with a different moment in the film. One thing is certain: you will never forget it.

It might not be a complete masterpiece, but there is so much good stuff in it that makes you forget the slightly sugary moments and the most heavy handed ones.

This was my favorite film of the year so far and definitely the most intense emotional experience I’ve had in a long time.

YOU CAN NOW WATCH IT ONLINE:  http://www.youtube.com/lifeinaday

9.5/10

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Thor – Review

Thor (2011)   6.5

Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Chris HemsworthNatalie PortmanTom HiddlestonAnthony HopkinsStellan Skarsgård

I must confess I was never really a huge fan of the comic Thor (but then again, are there really many Thor fans out there?) so I went into this not only with the lowest of expectations, but also with pretty much zero knowledge of this viking-looking superhero. And maybe because of that I came out pleasantly surprised and I actually liked a lot more than I thought I would.

In a time of heavy-handed and preposterously dark movie adaptations of comic book heroes, full of calculated allegories and deep symbolism, it is actually quite refreshing to find a film that knows exactly its boundaries and never really takes itself too seriously: I mean, after all we are talking about Thor!

This will probably not find a permanent place in cinema history, but as a pre-summer blockbuster, it was plain fun! And while it worked as a stand-alone adventure, it also paved the way for the eagerly expected (well, among comic book fans at least) “Avengers“, a film which has been in the pipeline for a long time and it’s going to re-unite Thor, Iron Man, Captain America (to be released in July 2011), the Incredible Hulk and other Marvel heroes in what promises to be one of the biggest comic book adaptation yet. In a very calculated marketing campaign, there are plenty of references, in-jokes to other marvel heroes and several hints towards the forthcoming “Avengers” peppered throughout this film, including a semi-hidden sequence right after the end-credits which made even a non-believer like me looking forward to the summer of 2012 when the actual film will finally be released.

This is probably film-making by committee, thought of  by marketing campaigners and executive producers with big fat cigars, but mercifully Kenneth Brannagh has been able to inject it all with enough mischief and fun. In the end it might not work as well as the first Iron Man, and it certainly doesn’t have the invention or heart of the first couple of Spiderman movies but it’s polished,  fast and short enough to get away with it.

The Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth, most famous until yesterday for playing in the TV soap Home and Away, looks like he was born to play this role. he not only fits the part perfectly but somehow he manages to make the potentially dull Thor into a likable and sympathetic character.

The film does look great too: production design, costumes, photography and special effects are of very high standards. Unfortunately the conversion to 3D, once again, is not among the best. Generally speaking it is quite unnecessary and aside from a couple of instances becomes fairly forgettable pretty soon and in the end it just serves to make the film a little bit duller in colors… (I’m seriously wondering how long this 3D-mania is going to last for as it seems to be fading out already. But this is a subject too long to be taken here).

I saw this film almost a month ago and I’ve already forgotten about Natalie Portman‘s performance in all this. That should tell you all you need to know about her role in “Thor”. But then again, if she had been really bad I would have probably remembered it…

Finally you’ve got high calibre actors like Anthony Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgård to give it more credibility.

If you asked me in another couple of month to tell you about any sequence in Thor I would probably not be able to remember much of anything, but while I was with it I’m sure I never looked at my watch and I had more fun than I was ready for.

6.5/10

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