MovieGeek is Back!

Dear friends,  neighbours, strangers, lovers and haters,

many of you may have been wondering “what the hell has happened to Moviegeek?”, “Has he decided he hates writing for this blog!?!”, “Did he decide that he had enough of movies?”, “Did he fall asleep during a screening of  The Tree Of Life and never woke up again?”.

Well, the truth is much simple.

Yes, true: I haven’t been updating these pages for quite a while (The last entry goes back to a year and a half ago). Those who are lucky (or unlucky) enough to have an insight into my life, know the real reason: I now have a son!

For many people this simple sentence is probably enough to understand everything.

And yet, despite the sleepless nights, the countless nappy-changes and all the rest that comes with having a new baby (don’t take me wrong: it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me! And yes, before you ask, even better than watching E.T. in the cinema for the first time), I still managed to find some time to catch up with the latest releases and I’m pretty much up-to-date with everything out at the moment.

I just haven’t had any time all to write about a whole year of cinema releases. And it’s a shame because I really wanted to tell you how blown aways I was by Gravity, how delightful I found Saving Mr. Banks, how much I laughed during The Wolf of Wall Street and how I didn’t care it was so long. And then how I thought The Kings of Summer was a little gem that people should really try to seek, how pleased I was to re-discover Woody Allen with his Blue Jasminehow I found Prisoners absolutely terrifying, how I thought Matthew McConaughey‘s turn in Dallas Buyers Club was truly Oscar worthy (… and guess what? he actually won one!), how scarred I was by The Act of Killing and I thought they should have given Tom Hanks a special Oscar just for that last moment in Captain Phillips, possibly the best acting he’s ever done, and finally how I cried and cried and cried from beginning to end during Like Father, Like Sona film which I will find some time to talk about in more depth within the next few days, but that for I’ll just say: I loved!

You’ll be able to find a quick list of some of my favourite films of last year (2013) here.

Flight – Review

Flight (2012) – 

Director: Robert Zemeckis. Cast: Denzel Washington, Kelly ReillyNadine VelazquezBrian GeraghtyBruce GreenwoodJohn GoodmanDon CheadleJames Badge Dale.

(SOME SPOILERS AHEAD)

After a long 12 years hiatus during which he only directed animated features (The Polar ExpressBeowulfA Christmas Carol) director Robert Zemeckis is finally back to live action film-making. I say finally because I must confess I have always had a bit of a soft spot for his films:  Back to the Future has of course been on the top of the list of my favourite films since 1985, I have also fond memories of a both Romancing the Stone and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I cry every time Tom Hanks looses his ball in Cast Away,  and despite its many flaws, I still think Contact is a marvel when it comes to camera moves… and then of course the multi-Oscar winner Forrest Gump, a film many people adore (and from which I’ll distant myself, because I seem to be the only one who has some serious issues with it). So basically, I came into this with a certain trepidation, having only seen the trailer once on the internet and thus expecting a slightly different film than the one I actually got.

Flight opens with a gritty, dirty, squalid and pretty-realistic sequence featuring our Denzel Washington definitely not looking at his best, surrounded by all sorts of alcoholic beverages and a naked lady wandering about a soulless hotel room near an airport. Once the first few lines of dialogue start, they include straight away some f**k and s**t . It’s as if Zemeckis is almost trying to prove right from the start to his audience that he’s really left the kids stuff and 3D animated wizardry of his last few years behind and this is a now a serious film for grown-ups.

After this new signature intro we move on to what this film is going to be remembered for and possibly one of the most harrowing, nail-biting flight-disaster sequence since… well, probably Zemeckis’ own Cast Away! I’m not saying that we haven’t seen this sort of things before, of course (Final destination, Alive, Fearless, just to mention a few) but the prolonged nature of this flight-disaster sequence makes it somehow even more powerful and harrowing than I was expecting. Whatever other issues I have with the rest of the film,  this is a first class sequence. Zemeckis has always known how to stage action set pieces and keep his audience glued to the screen and crank up the tension to almost palpable levels and in the end this sequence becomes certainly no less memorable than the one where a DeLorean is speeding through 88Mph to get to the clock tower in time for the lightning to strike (hope you’re with me with this parallel… and if you’re not, what on Earth are you doing on a site called MovieGeekBlog?!).

However very little after that, Flight slowly (in fact quite slowly as the film clocks at around 138 minutes) becomes something quite different and actually turns into a rather conventional film about a drinking addiction and predictably starts to go through all the motions and the classic steps of the genre: lots of drinking, denial, hitting rock-bottom, relapse and of course redemption (this last part incidentally is the one I have more problems with). Don’t take me wrong, there’s nothing here that it’s bad, but I do wonder if it hadn’t been for Denzel Washington’s exceptional performance whether this film would even be considered for the forthcoming award season. Indeed Washington hasn’t really been this good since his Oscar-winning performance in Training day  (In fact I would argue this is a much more difficult part to pull off).

John Gatins’ script is a mixed bag: on one hand it manages to craft a whole series of interesting and carefully calibrated moral ambiguities (this is really the winning part of the film: do you treat Denzel as a hero for saving many lives, even though he was drunk while doing so?). On the other hand, the film is also peppered with some shameless (even rather effective) melodrama. Unfortunately the story moves almost in fits, as it starts and stops and constantly loses its momentum as various characters come in and out sometimes quite randomly (including an interesting but very redundant sequence with an almost unrecognisable James Badge Dale playing a hospital patient dying of cancer). The film shifts even into parody and almost slapstick with the admittedly very funny John Goodman, but he’s only there for a couple of out-of-place sequences and once he’s gone the film goes back to its original pace.

Finally, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood all give the movie some great support power despite some of them being terribly underwritten (particularly so in the case of Kelly Reilly).

The soundtrack is made of a fairly restrained score by the director’s favourite Alan Silvestri and a whole series of older classic songs, something which worked perfectly on Forrest Gump. But while on that one it made perfect sense to have such a top-of-the-pop for the decades, here it felt to me just like an excuse to sell its soundtrack CDs and it’s all quite random.

Eventually, the climax feels a bit overblown and its resolution all too clean and feels quite inevitable. The film also has an extra coda (something to do with Denzel’s son) which I could have definitely done without, and where the old Zemeckis sentimentality from again Forrest Gump seems to resurface.

But it’s hard to dismiss this film altogether: it’s got the heart in the right place, it’s well made, perfectly acted and, for most of it, it’s well handled.

Ironically the film really seems to fly when with the crashing of the plane, but where it should actually be uplifting and soar, it can’t quite take off.

6.5

Toy Story 3 – Review


TOY STORY 3 –  (2010)

Directed by Lee Unkrich. Starring Tom HanksTim AllenJoan CusackNed BeattyDon RicklesMichael KeatonWallace ShawnJohn RatzenbergerEstelle HarrisJohn MorrisJodi BensonBlake Clark.

I’ve been meaning to talk about this film for a while, so what better excuse than its release on DVD and BluRay?

We’ve heard so much about this one in the last few months, that it’s hard to come up with something new and original to say. Everybody seems to love it: critics and moviegoers from everywhere. And recently there’s even been a campaign to try to push it as best motion picture for the Oscars.

Rotten Tomatoes gives it a resounding 99%, and at this exact moment the film features in the Top 20 favorite films of all times on the Internet Movie Database (also know as: THE MOVIE BIBLE!).

So let’s just start from a safe place and assume that this film is good. Because it is indeed.  The film works on so many levels.

The story about growing up and having to abandon your childhood toys is so universal that it’s hard not to sympathize with it. The film-makers have been very clever to show you the story from all possible point of views: from the toys themselves, who are about to be given away, from the point of  view of the boy who has to grow up and leave of all that child stuff behind, and the from  the mother’s prospective who has to watch her son going to university and leaving the nest. In other words, whatever your age is, you’re pretty much screwed: you’re bound to see some of yourself in that film, you’ll understand all those emotions at stake, and by the end of it you WILL end up crying like a baby!!… Or at least I did, more than once.

Furthermore, this is the third of a trilogy that started over 15 years ago. Pixar is all too aware of how we’ve sort of grown up with these characters and it plays on that to perfection, so that by the end of the movie, it is all even more poignant just because of this attachment over the years.

This is the main power of Toy Story 3. Pixarunderstands exactly what we liked about  the first “toy story” films, what we love about those characters and they give us precisely that. The mixture of drama and comedy. The classic jokes (The whole Ken and Barbie stuff is pretty inspired), the spooky characters (that doll stills gives me the creeps!!), the nail-biting/edge-of-your-seat action scenes (up there with the most accomplished action movies), the beautiful colorful animation, the perfectly pitched score and a story which works for adults and kids.

Being the third of some of the most beloved movies in the history of animation, or generally being a sequel or a threequel (is there such a word?) can be a bit counterproductive and most of the times could end up being massively disappointing. But not when it comes to a Pixarfilm. Somehow we are all come to expect only masterpieces out of that Company. And even though I don’t think this is out there with the originality of the first one, and both in terms of story and script, but it is damn close.

The jokes are a little bit more forced than in the first one, (All the stuff with Buzz speaking Spanish is probably funny once, but it does go on for a bit too long, almost like the joke of the dog with a squeaky voice in “up”) , and let’s face it, the story itself is not too far from “Toy Story 2“. Even the use or the songs by Randy Newman, is used in the same context as the first film… But hey, I’m really picking needles here, maybe because I care so much about Woody and his friends!!

I wish all the films were this good, not just cartoons!!

Of course, the animation has improved massively since 1995 and Pixar has grown up too and understands what animation should really do. In the first Toy story, we were all in awe at the realism of the rendering of the toys themselves and the landscapes and interior of those houses. Yes, within that, the humans always looked a bit like plastic and actually rather freaky. On this one the makers have learnt the lesson and decided to make everything a little bit “less real”  and the humans more like caricatures than real people. So now the final effect is less jarring than it used to be.

So, the question now is: is this the animation that’s going to break free and actually win an Oscar for Best Film? Well, sadly I don’t think we are ready for that yet, though I would really love it to do so. In the same way as the third Lord of the Rings was awarded for the whole trilogy a few years ago, I do think Toy Story 3 should be recognized and awarded for giving us probably the best constantly good trilogy in movie history…  In 10 or 20 years times what film are we going to remember most? “The King’s Speech” or “Toy Story” trilogy.

Enough said.

8.5/10

 Check out my review of Tangled

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