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Monthly Report: December 2013

One last Monthly Report to fill out the last bit of 2013. A solid group of movies of different types, with both some strong showings and some disappointments. As usual.

I’m hoping to get my annual year end awards post up within the next few days, so if you’re waiting for that one, just hold on for a little bit longer.

Happy new year, by the way!

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
Few people can make movies that are as great to just listen to as Baumbach does. Frances Ha is no exception. More grounded and “real” than his usual collections of strange characters, this is a fun look into the life of a woman struggling to fit into her own idea of life. Greta Gerwig is great in the lead, while the script is smart and oddly touching.
4/5

One Last Thing (Alex Steyermark, 2005)
A teenager with cancer tries to get a date with a supermodel he fancies before he dies. This is a frustrating movie. The tone set by the awful poster is not indicative of what the film tries to be. The beginning is promising, as I found myself thinking “Oh, this is one of those movies that’ll be smarter than what it looks like at first glance.” It isn’t, though it certainly tries to be. It’s just kind of poorly put together. The actors do decent enough work – I particularly enjoyed Cynthia Nixon‘s turn as the mother – but there’s not enough time for the characters to get fleshed out enough for what the story tries to pull off with them. The film takes narrative shortcuts, skipping scenes that, while not crucial to understand what’s going on, are necessary from an emotional standpoint. There’s too much half-baked focus on religion and spirituality, and the climax just felt messed up to me. I wanted to like this film, but there’s too much getting in the way.
2/5

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Trust (David Schwimmer, 2010)
I wonder why this didn’t garner more Oscar attention for its actors, as it’s exactly the kind of “big” acting AMPAS usually loves. Just the wrong time and place, I suppose. The main trio (Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, and Liana Liberato) are all great, and the film has its emotional priorities straight. An interesting look at both how a young girl copes with sexual assault, and how her parents react. Strong movie.
4/5

Miss Representation (Jennifer Siebel Newsom & Kimberlee Acquaro, 2011)
This is a documentary everyone ought to watch. It’s not perfect by any means – tons of talking heads, some repetition, more of a light-shiner than a solution-finder – but the subject of female representation in media is a vital one that more people need to get into. And this is a good movie, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been thinking and reading about things like this for a while now, and this film still had a good deal of new insight in store for me.
4/5

Ghostbusters II (Ivan Reitman, 1989)
Strictly speaking not a new watch, as I have seen it one a great many years ago. I didn’t remember much of anything about it though, so whatever. It’s easy to come down hard on this one due to the existance of the original Ghostbusters. The first one is indeed superior in every imaginable way, mostly thanks to sharper dialogue and that whole “originality” thing. The sequel doesn’t bring much new stuff to the table, but it does have its moments, and Bill Murray as Peter Venkman remains a very fun character. It makes the passing grade – if not by a huge margin – but there’s no reason to watch it when you could be watching the 1984 movie.
3/5

(A)sexual (Angela Tucker, 2011)
Solid doc on asexuality, a subject which I knew very little about before seeing this film, learned a lot about through seeing it, but was left with a lot of questions afterwards. The movie is short, clocking in at 75 minutes, and I feel like they could have gone deeper without sacrificing pacing. Some of the stuff that was included felt a bit fuzzy too, like the whole “multiple quasi-romantic relationships” thing. Still, a movie that lets me learn new stuff, and does so in a well put-together manner, deserves credit.
3/5

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His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
The rapid fire dialogue took some getting used to, but this turned out to be a really funny movie with a bit of an edge to it. I wouldn’t mind watching more stuff like this.
4/5

Our Idiot Brother (Jesse Peretz, 2011)
Obvious but harmless.
3/5

Inseparable (Dayyan Eng, 2011)
Chinese movie in which a guy attempts suicide, only to get interrupted by a strange dude (played by Kevin Spacey, intriguingly enough) who tries to get his life back on track. Naturally, this involves becoming a superhero. There’s a bit more to this story that what first meets the eye, but while it’s all handled fairly well, there’s little here that hasn’t been done before in films like Defendor, Special and Kick-Ass. The addition of Spacey to the otherwise largely Chinese cast is ultimately more of a distraction than anything, even though he of course puts in a fine performance.
3/5

Sightseers (Ben Wheatley, 2012)
Wheatley’s follow-up to the intriguingly baffling Kill List offers a similar sense of bizarre and Britishness, but blends it with some down-to-earth comedy. The thick mood is still present too, offering a sense of things just being really off. It’s the stand-out quality of the film, but the acting is nothing to scoff at either. Wheatley makes films like few others.
4/5

Paradise: Love (Ulrich Seidl, 2012)
Middle age woman goes on vacation to Kenya hoping to find a man, at least for a night or two. The subject matter is of course uncomfortable, so this is not what you’d call an enjoyabe viewing experience. The film does get its points across though, and the acting is solid. Very European.
3/5

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Upstream Color (Shane Carruth, 2013)
The man who brought Primer to the world returns with an equally confusing but far less entertaining film. I have no idea what this one was even about, and I couldn’t wait for the credits to start rolling. The sound was good though, I’ll give it that.
1/5

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Peter Jackson, 2013)
It looks good, and there are enough cool action scenes to bring the score up to a passing grade. You pretty much know what you’re getting yourself into with a film like this. But man, this trilogy is really starting to run out of steam. Stretching out the relatively modest-length novel to three movies was worrisome enough, but then they have to stretch out each individual installment too just to make it “epic”, and it’s beginning to show some tearing. There is quite a bit of padding, many scenes just run way too long, and the flow of the story is bumpy indeed. At this rate, I’m not even sure I’ll be going to see the closing chapter next year. Also, fuck Legolas.
3/5

Total # of new films seen: 13
Average score: 3.2 / 5
Best film of the month: Frances Ha
Worst film of the month: Upstream Color

 
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Posted by on 2 January, 2014 in Monthly Report

 

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14 actors I really dig

There’s a bit of a meme going on in Swedish film blogging circles. The idea is simple: list your seven favorite male and female actors. I’m participating too, although loosely. I’m not saying these are my very favorites, as that tends to change from day to day and I might have forgotten someone. These are, however, seven men and seven women whose work I really enjoy, either because they constantly deliver great performances, or because they possess some hard-to-define quality that makes my brain happily go “ding!” whenever I spot their names on a cast list.

First, some honorable mentions…

Kevin Spacey: Had I written this post 10 years ago, he’d be a shoo-in for sure. Alas, he hasn’t had many truly great roles lately.
Kirsten Dunst: She has been underrated ever since she lit up the screen in Interview with the Vampire in 1994, and only recently has she started getting the critical acclaim she deserves.
Al Pacino: Another one whose heyday is behind him, Pacino has tons of maniacally energetic performances on his CV.
Rosario Dawson: Effortlessly charming, possibly the hottest woman on this planet, and probably with her best work still ahead of her.
Jason Statham: The bona fide action star of the millennium.
Ellen Page: At 25 years of age, she has already amassed a number of impressive lead and supporting roles. What does the future hold for her?

On to the list proper. This is in randomly generated order.

MV5BMTMzODkzOTU4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzU0ODE5NA@@._V1._SX640_SY920_Catherine Keener

When I watch Keener play one of her evil characters, I can not imagine here ever being good. When I watch her play one of her good characters, I can not imagine her ever being evil. Her impressive range is perhaps her strongest quality and she has proven to only get better with age. When she got her first Oscar nomination for playing manipulative seductress Maxine in Being John Malkovich, she was already 40 years old. Since then – and before – she has kept putting in affecting performances no matter how small or large a part she plays.

3 great performances
Living in Oblivion – pulling off the difficult task of acting like you’re acting, both badly and well.
Being John Malkovich – toying with John Cusack with equal measures of bitchy and funny.
An American Crime – playing one of the most despicable abusive mothers in recent history.

Anthony_Hopkins_0001Anthony Hopkins

While there is a lot to be said for physical transformations and chameleon actors who are nigh-unrecognizable from one film to the next, perhaps even more impressive is someone like Hopkins. He always looks more or less the same, and yet he disappears into roles like few others. A master of mannerisms, body language, and voice, Hopkins portrays clearly defined characters utterly convincingly. Never one to turn down a paycheck, he appears in many films that might not make full use of his talents, but you will never see him slumming it or sleep-walking through a role. Hopkins always delivers.

3 great performances
The Silence of the Lambs – somehow making a mere 16 minutes of screen time into the one thing people associate the film with.
The Remains of the Day – redefining “emotionally restrained”.
The World’s Fastest Indian – completely inhabiting a man jovially dead-set on accomplishing his dream.

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Posted by on 18 January, 2013 in Misc.

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1994

1994 tends to be one of those years people refer to as great film years. It’s hard to disagree too vehemently with such a statement, as it had plenty of quality movies to offer in a wide variety of genres. About half of these films are long-time favorites of mine, wheres the others are newer acquintances that I’ve seen for the first time within the last few years.

As always, this is going by listed release year on IMDB.

Honorable mentions: Ace Ventura – Pet Detective, Airheads, The Crow

10 – SWIMMING WITH SHARKS (George Huang)

“You are nothing! If you were in my toilet I wouldn’t bother flushing it! My bathmat means more to me than you!”

While Kevin Spacey recently played a horrible boss in the aptly named Horrible Bosses, this was hardly his first outing as that character type. In Swimming with Sharks, he plays a movie mogul who takes great delight in putting his new employee Guy (Frank Whaley) through all kinds of torment. Spacey is teriffic in the part, but praise should go not just to the delivery but to the material as well. A well-written black comedy with a brutal ending.

9 – HEAVENLY CREATURES (Peter Jackson)

“It’s all frightfully romantic.”

What’s really interesting about Heavenly Creatures in hindsight is how it encapsulates everything else Peter Jackson had done or would go on to do. There’s drama, there’s fantasy – in dream sequences -, and there’s bloody murder. Based on a true story, this harrowing tale of the obsessive friendship between two teenage girls is one that sticks with you. Also notable for being the film debut of Kate Winslet.

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Posted by on 27 August, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1995

As usual, this goes by release year as listed on IMDB.

Honorable mentions: The City of Lost Children, Copycat, Heat, Senior Trip, Welcome to the Dollhouse

10 – CLOCKERS (Spike Lee)

“Who the fuck is Rosa Parks?”

The plot of Clockers may be about a murder mystery, but it has a wider scope than that. Not surprisingly when it comes to Spike Lee, the film deals with black people in New York. There’s tension going on between them and the white cops, but also under the microscope here are the crimes the African-Americans inflict upon each other. It’s an intriguing film thematically, but it’s also some of Lee’s best story-telling that I’ve seen, and it all comes together through his trademark audiovisual style, with bright colors and an effective use of music. There’s also a pretty great Harvey Keitel performance in here. Clockers is not the director’s best movie, but it definitely deserves to be talked about more than it is.

9 – GET SHORTY (Barry Sonnenfeld)

“Rough business, this movie business. I’m gonna have to go back to loan-sharking just to take a rest.”

There’s a lot to like about Get Shorty. The numerous movie-related references and meta-jokes are sure to tickle the fancy of most cinephiles, but the humor is still broad enough to appeal to anyone. Having wonderfully constructed dialogue lifted straight from the Elmore Leonard novel helps too. Throw in a twisting plot of a loan-shark trying to get his foot – and more – into the doorway of Hollywood, and you have one hell of a fun ride. Has John Travolta ever been cooler than in this one?

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Posted by on 14 June, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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Monthly Report: April 2012

Looks like this will be a recurring feature after all! Here are the films I saw for the first time during the month of April, along with mini-reviews and ratings.

Horrible Bosses (Seth Gordon, 2011)
There are a few fairly funny lines in this one, but the real reason it (barely) succeeds is the cast. They have fun with their characters and find the right tone for the material – Kevin Spacey in particular is spot-on as one of the bosses. I have some pretty big problems with the plot, which is contrived in a non-funny way and feature more logic gaps than what’s easy to swallow. Overall, I guess the movie was okay, but I don’t see myself ever revisiting it.
3/5

Pleasantville (Gary Ross, 1998)
It’s always a delight when a movie grows as it goes along and becomes something richer than you expected. I had figured this one would be merely a fun-poking of old 50s sitcoms, and it looked that way at first. But then it changes and evolves, finding nuances in unexpected places and bringing up thoughts and ideas I though would be left unexplored. And what a stunning blend of black & white and color! Wonderful stuff. I wish I had seen this one before I made my Top 10 of 1998 list. It would have made the cut for sure.
5/5

We Bought a Zoo (Cameron Crowe, 2011)
Very formulaic for sure, with few surprises to behold to anyone who has seen this kind of drama-comedy before. But it’s sweet, it’s charming, it offers a surprisingly high amount of laughs, and the cast all put in solid efforts – from Matt Damon and Thomas Haden Church to Angus Macfadyen and Elle Fanning.  We Bought a Zoo might not be Cameron Crowe’s most daring work, but it has a lot of heart.
4/5

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Posted by on 30 April, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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Monthly Report: March 2012

This is the start of what might turn out to be a recurring feature on this blog. Many of my fellow movie bloggers do something similar. The concept is simple: I talk briefly about all the films I saw for the first time this month. Mini-reviews, if you will.

The Abyss (James Cameron, 1989)
The Special Edition, for the record. Yet another impressive outing for Cameron, with the underwater setting providing most of the film’s memorable moments. The claustrophobic atmosphere is palpable, putting us right down there with the crew of oil-drillers on the ocean floor as they try to determine what caused a submarine to crash. It’s a great action film overall, though the ending feels a tad drawn-out and anticlimactic.
4/5

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011)
Considering my extremely limited experience with old silent cinema, I’m probably not the intended demographic for this nostalgia-trip. I’m sure there’s a lot of allusions and homages in this one that I didn’t fully catch. Fortunately, this one can survive regardless based on its charm alone. The story isn’t anything special by itself – though intrensically linked with its style – but it’s a pleasant watch with what should in a fair world be two star-making performances from Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.
3/5

Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
I was a bit wary of this film when I sat down to watch it. I had heard it could be a bit “difficult” and “strange”, and my previous experience with Bergman (Through a Glass Darkly) hadn’t quite knocked me over. Well, this one did, and with gusto. Wonderfully acted and thematically rich, but more than anything else, this may well be the most beautifully shot black & white film I’ve seen so far. I’m finally starting to see what Ebert is on about when he keeps praising B&W over color. Persona might well turn out to be the most significant movie-watching I do this entire year.
5/5

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Posted by on 2 April, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1998

You know the drill by now. These are my 10 favorite movies of 1998, going by release year listed on IMDB.

Honorable mentions: Dark City, The Interview, Rushmore, Run Lola Run, There’s Something About Mary

10 – FOLLOWING (Christopher Nolan)

“You take it away to show them what they had.”

Before there were the multi-million dollar blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Inception, there was Following. Nolan’s first film was made on a budget of $6000, shot in black & white and with no bells and whistles. The story thus becomes the focal point, and it’s a good one indeed. Telling the non-chronological tale of a writer (Jeremy Theobald) who after following people on the streets eventually finds himself led into a world of crime, this neo-noir is filled with twists, turns and intrigue. Not quite a masterpiece or anything, but definitely well worth checking out to see where the seeds for Memento were planted.

9 – THE CELEBRATION (FESTEN, Thomas Vinterberg)

“Here’s to the man who killed my sister. To a murderer.”

The Celebration is perhaps most significant for being the first (and, alongside Lars Von Trier‘s The Idiots, arguably the most well-known) movie of the Dogme 95 movement, a philosophy that emphasises realism throughout the whole film production and was started in reaction to big costly Hollywood fare. However, it’s also a captivating film in its own right, showing the dark secrets hidden away beneath the facades of a wealthy family. It’s a fitting subject matter for the style, which all leads to some chillingly stark scenes and moments. A powerful film.

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Posted by on 29 March, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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