Filmfanatic11

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Reviews

The Theory of Everything
(2014)

Redmayne is brilliant!
James Marsh's film, "The Theory of Everything," as a whole has some narrative and directorial flaws. However, it inhabits two amazing Oscar worthy performances by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

Redmayne is stellar as the afflicted genius Stephen Hawking from beginning to end. The actor has been on the cusp of a breakout for years and this is it for him. Redmayne should win Best Actor for this portrayal. He captures the mannerisms and flat out embodies Hawking to the nth degree.

Jones holds the film together. She imbued Jane Hawking with the love and patience necessary with the role and beautifully expresses the desperation and despair Jane feels after decades with Stephen.

David Thewlis is solid in his supporting role as Dennis Sciama. Charlie Cox is also good as Jonathan Hellyer Jones

Good movie and often emotional. Great work by the two leads.

Still Alice
(2014)

Heartbreaking and terrifying
I caught this film at a film festival and I'm so glad that I did. The Oscar buzz for Julianne Moore is more than warranted. I think and hope she'll win the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Dr. Alice Howland.

Moore brilliantly and subtly charts the decline of her character's mental state. The rapid progression of her disease makes her an unreliable narrator and the directors use the camera's focus or lack there of to illustrate her episodes. There are so many touching moments and scenes in the film and it's all treated honestly and sensitively. Personally, Alzheimer's has struck my family and Still Alice captures the different reactions of it beautifully.

The supporting cast is truly supporting. There are no co-leads. Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart are the two standouts as John and Lydia. John's desire to ignore the reality and further his career, while deeply loving his wife hits home. Lydia's character is initially portrayed to be a rebellious aspiring actress and morphs into Alice's best caretaker. It's really quite touching and heartbreaking. Kate Bosworth is also strong as the Type A eldest daughter, Anna Howland-Jones. Lydia and Anna are very believable as sisters. Hunter Parrish's role as Tom is tiny, but he's good in it too.

Glatzer and Westmoreland did great work on this film.

Camp X-Ray
(2014)

Camp X-Ray is a great Sundance drama
Peter Sattler did good with "Camp X-Ray." Sattler utilized a bipartisan script that is brought to life with two amazing performances from Kristen Stewart and Payman Maadi.

Pfc. Amy Cole and Ali Amir are two completely different characters with completely opposite backgrounds, yet they reach an understanding. Cole develops a better understanding of the humanity behind the detainees and Ali gains perspective of an MP guarding him. There are lingering questions over Ali's innocence or guilt or whether he is manipulating a vulnerable soldier.

The tenuous friendship is so intriguing because it should not exist and it's not quite a friendship. "Camp X-Ray" is a slow-paced drama that builds up to an incredibly tense third act. The acting is tremendous and the attention to set design is impressive. I've seen documentaries of life at Camp Delta and it looks very similar.

Stewart and Maadi have a great on screen dynamic that the director wisely captures with close ups. Lane Garrison as Cpl. Ransdell is solid as the main antagonist of the film.

I recommend "Camp X-Ray" to anyone. It's a good film that doesn't preach right or wrong.

Snow White and the Huntsman
(2012)

Great interpretation of the Snow White fairy tale
Snow White and the Huntsman is my favorite take on the Grimm's Brother classic. The atmosphere is perfectly brooding and the special effects are endearing. You'll know what I mean if you watch the film.

Grown-up Snow White's (Kristen Stewart) introduction is very well done and Sam Spruell is amazing in his creepy role of Finn.

Snow White's goodness emanates from her and her connection to nature and animals came across very well.

Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is thoroughly mad and Theron portrays that well; but in my opinion, the screaming was a bit on the overacting side. Ravenna is a good take on the evil queen archetype.

Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) has bluster and a sad back-story (all the characters do, really), but he's a good person despite his temporary status as a mercenary for the queen.

The dwarfs feature an excellent cast (McShane, Hoskins, Frost, Harris, etc.) and they're a great addition to the film once they're introduced.

Prince William (Sam Claflin) is perfectly earnest in his regret and longing for Snow White.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful costume designs of Colleen Atwood and the lovely songs "Gone" and "Breath of Life." Excellent.

A few critiques I have of SWATH are the shaky cam for some of the battle scenes and the somewhat open ending.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and it's a great summer popcorn flick.

K-11
(2012)

Better than expected
I had super low expectations going into this film, but I surprisingly liked it.

The characters feel very real and damaged. Raymond Saxx Jr.'s plight is uncomfortable and unfortunate for him.

D.B. Sweeney is solid as the waste of space Lt. Gerald Johnson. Goran Visnjic gives a sympathetic portrayal of record producer Saxx who got too deep into drugs.

Kate Del Castillo as Mousey is not bad. She has flashes of brilliance as the trans-gender. Portia Doubleday is unnerving and heartbreaking as Butterfly.

Obviously, the film is low-budget, but I'm confused why the critics trashed it like they did. I bet some of them never bothered to watch the film. Although, this is not the type of film critics would love. It's not an amazing film, but it's hardly exploitative...so take it for what it is. I enjoyed the ending and I would watch it again if I saw it television. An interesting directorial debut for indie director Jules Stewart.

The Angels' Share
(2012)

Another great Loach film
"The Angels' Share" is the first Scottish film I've seen and it's a good one.

The film is adept with its tonal shifts. The transitions between lighthearted to dramatic are skillfully done.

Paul Brannigan's acting as the young Robbie is very good and he plays the regretful thug who just needs a second chance exceedingly well. The friendship between Harry and Robbie is tangible, but not over done.

Paul Laverty's script is very strong and often hilarious. The cast makes the most of it and the ending of the film is pretty much perfect. The only criticism is the use of an American stereotype towards the end, but it doesn't detract from the rest of the film.

Overall, you can't go wrong with this film. You may not love it, but I think few would dislike it.

L'heure d'été
(2008)

Touching and well written
Olivier Assayas wrote and directed this film and it's a very good one.

The film, in my opinion, directly addressed fading culture and the homogenizing of it. However the film is more about the loss of sentimental items due to necessity and economics. The Marly family is stuck together out of obligation and don't visit the matriarch like they should.

The acting and the directing is more than solid. Juliette Binoche and Charles Berling play off each other well. The one who stuck out to me is Edith Scob. She played Helene beautifully. The audience felt her tiredness with life and her ultimate acceptance. She came across an amazing woman who had seen and done many things in her life.

I recommend this to anyone who hasn't seen an Assayas or Binoche film.

On the Road
(2012)

Great adaptation of a great Kerouac novel
I love the book and seeing it on screen was amazing. The characters are manic and crazy and Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley captured Dean and Sal very well. Hedlund is manic perfection. Riley is the perfect observer. Kristen Stewart is excellent in her scenes as the young Marylou. She imbued the young wife/ex-wife/muse with strong and lively emotion. The audience feels her exuberance in the "love dance" scene and her pain when she knows what Dean is going to do. The amazing supporting cast is well...amazing. Amy Adams and Viggo Mortenson play the strung out Bull Lee and Jane subtly and nuanced. Tom Sturridge is a passionated Carlo Marx and very good. Steve Buscemi's small role of a salesman is a bonus.

It has been considered an "unfilmable" work for like 50-something years, but I think Walter Salles did more than a fair job. There are numerous cuts of the film, as the Cannes/French version is a lot longer than the rest of the world's.

The cinematography is absolutely stunning and very striking. You definitely believe it's the 1940's.

Overall, the film is light on plot. It's mostly character study and exposition. However, that's On the Road. The film is based on a Kerouac stream-of-consciousness novel. It's about his hero worship with Dean and the ultimate disillusionment he feels with him. The conflict and resolution isn't your typical climax and ending of a film.

I recommend this film to everyone. A faithful adaptation the novel and I'm very glad it got made.

Tabu
(2012)

Excellent film and sadly touching
Honestly, the film started out slow and I wasn't sure where it was going in the first part.

The second part cranked up fast and the audience becomes quickly engrossed in Aurora's past and her life in Africa. One completely understands her melancholy and longing for her past when you compare her farm on Mount Tabu to her life in Lisbon.

Aurora's verboten romance with Gian Luca quickly builds up and the audience can feel the longing and how Aurora felt trapped with her pleasant husband.

The saddest part for me was when Gian Luca played the drums to the Ronette's song and his entire demeanor is crushed and devastated.

The film ends satisfactorily although the tragic ending of Gian Luca's romance with Aurora is well... sad and unfortunate.

Miguel Gomes did an excellent job in this film and the actor Carlo Carlotta did wonderfully as did Ana Moreira. Teresa Madruga did great as the audience's eyes and ears.

Lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed the use of black and white cinema for the Africa part of the film. It threw modern Lisbon into relief and made it seem even more drastically different.

The Runaways
(2010)

Watch! Solid and well acted biopic
"The Runaways" is an amazing slice of the 1970s and depicts the unexpected rise of an all- girl rock and roll band. This was in a time when women weren't really considered or allowed to be rockers.

The main three actors: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, and Michael Shannon are each excellent in their portrayals as Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, and Kim Fowley. Stewart encapsulates the tension, edge, and desperation that was a teenage Jett during the time she was frantically trying to make her career happen. Jett lives for the music, whereas Currie did not and that came across beautifully. Shannon acted as the eccentric and off-the-wall, and often vulgar legendary record producer to a tee. Stewart and Fanning have that electric and elusive "chemistry" that Hollywood always seeks for. Their relationship in the film is poignant, and well past believable. The roller rink kissing scene, in particular, where they shotgun a joint is thick with sexual tension. The casting director got this one right.

The supporting cast: Tatum O'Neal, Scout Taylor-Compton, and Riley Keough to name a few were each outstanding in their small roles as family members and for Taylor-Compton portraying metal legend Lita Ford.

However, the music is naturally the driving force behind this film. Stewart, Fanning, and Co. all sang and played very well and very accurately. The "Cherry Bomb" performance is on point and Stewart's roller rink performance of "I Love Playin' With Fire" is the epitome of Joan Jett. The "Dead End Justice" performance is equally well done. No bones about it. The rest of the soundtrack is great. Suzie Quatro's "The Wild One," Bowie's "Rebel Rebel," Nick Gilder's "Roxy Roller," and The Stooge's "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Gimme Danger" are all excellently placed and suit the scene very well. The inclusion of Jett's post-Runaways songs, "I Want You," and "Crimson & Clover" and "I Love Rock N Roll" are great too.

Despicable Me 2
(2013)

Underwhelming, but cute
I really liked the first film, so I was definitely looking forward to the sequel. I thought it to be one of the best animated movies the summer box office would offer.

I can't say this movie is bad whatsoever. I can say it was overwhelming and the plot practically nonexistent.

Despicable Me 2 is the epitome of cute, but hardly thought-provoking like the first film or features like PIXAR's (most of them).

Gru and Lisa had an adorable meet-cute and Agnes, Edith, and Margot are equally adorable. However, the villain and the ending of the film before the last scene was anti-climactic and leaves questions.

Overall, not a misfire and a moneymaker. Will I watch again? Probably not. Honestly, I kept thinking I was getting too old to enjoy films like this, but I do love many animated films. This was not one of them.

La Bamba
(1987)

A favorite
I flat out love this movie. The cast is solid and great. Lou Diamond Phillips did an impeccable job portraying the late Ritchie Valens and all his potential. You can't go wrong with this film and I recommend that everyone should watch it at least once to learn about the 1950's sensation who was unfortunately a part of "the Day the Music Died." The dialogue is strong. Esai Morales and Phillips capture the often contentious and ultimately loving brother-brother relationship quite well. Morales nailed the heart-wrenching final scene of the movie and conveyed the vices and struggles of Bob. The supporting cast do an excellent job in playing Ritchie's mother, his girlfriend Donna, and the music producer Keane. La Bamba is an important film because it exposes the audience to a sad and true rags-to-riches story that ends abruptly and tragically. The music is amazing and well done, much like the original songs, which is a crucial component of why La Bamba is a classic among biopics, in my opinion.

Walk the Line
(2005)

Excellent biopic
Walk the Line is one of my favorite biopics. The film has pretty much everything: great acting, believable sets, cast chemistry, and a solid script and good editing. Joaquin Phoenix absolutely nails it as the hulking persona of Johnny Cash. He captures the voice, mannerisms, and general personality quite well. Reese Witherspoon deserves the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as the lovely and charming June Carter. Her portrayal is on point and she plays the Southern lady who was a woman before her time and fell in love despite herself. The love story of Johnny and June is legendary and Walk the Line depicts it well. The events that occurred in the film are not 100% accurate, but the spirit of the story is preserved and is mostly true excepting a few details.The supporting cast in Shooter Jennings, Waylon Payne, Johnathan Rice, and Tyler Hilton to name a handful is superb. They're genuinely performing their characters' songs and are talented musicians themselves. Overall, a film that is more than worth re-watching. Phoenix and Witherspoon are dynamite and the rest is an added bonus.

Adventureland
(2009)

Adventureland is a must-see
I absolutely adored this film after I saw it. Everything about it is done well. The script is strong. It's often simultaneously funny and touching. The casting is damn near perfect, if not perfect. The set, the 1980's, is far from cheesy and is very authentic without screaming,"THIS IS THE EIGHTIES." It's almost criminal that Greg Mottola's Adventureland wasn't a bigger box office hit due, in large part, to confused (is it Superbad part 2?!) marketing. Mottola's eye for casting is amazing. Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Ryan Reynolds were cast as the leads before each of their careers skyrocketed. The three are more than solid in their roles as the awkwardly earnest James, self-loathing and grieving girl-next-door Em, and the caddish Connell. Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Martin Starr's characters are great comedic relief and solid fleshed out supporting characters. Adventureland is a must-see and a well-crafted period film that is preserved through several viewings. There are numerous one-liners and vibrant ideas and emotions expressed by the cast that anybody could relate to. It's an excellent coming-of-age film to be sure.

Welcome to the Rileys
(2010)

Recommend
I thoroughly enjoyed this little indie drama. However, given the subject material, perhaps "enjoyed" is the wrong word. The cast: Stewart, Gandolfini, and Leo were all more than believable and often heart wrenching in their roles. Kristen Stewart's portrayal as Mallory is very touching and authentic. She played flighty and wary to perfection and never let Doug (James Gandolfini) or the audience forget that at the root, she is a good person who's been damaged. Gandolfini played the watchful friend of Mallory's and the good influence who's still reconciling with his own personal grief, irritation, and depression with aplomb. Melissa Leo's Lois is amazing with her conveying the character's reaction to the aforementioned grief. The three of them could be a believable and nice little nuclear family had their been different circumstances in the film. All in all, director Jake Scott's second feature set in New Orleans is a sadly overlooked independent film, despite it's debut at the Sundance Film Festival. "Welcome to the Rileys" is not a perfect film and is flawed, but the plot and the acting are not among them.

The Lone Ranger
(2013)

Avoid!
The Lone Ranger is absolutely dreadful and a complete waste of money. The terrible characterization and portrayal of Native Americans in this adaptation is cliché at best and terrible at worst. The cast didn't have much to work with to start, and what little they had was squandered. Johnny Depp is out of depth with this role as Tonto. Great actor who's been getting his character portrayals muddled as of late. Armie Hammer's performance in this film is nothing to write home about. This film is too long and it's not even worth it. I can't believe Disney sunk so much money into this film. It's John Carter all over again. Shouldn't have let myself get dragged to this movie. I heard it was pretty bad from several critics and people I know. The hearsay is correct, in my opinion. The critics got it completely right on this one, and I often disagree with them. This is a 2 on it's first viewing and less each time after that. But as to why someone would want to watch this more than once is beyond me.

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