Based on a true story, Lawless is about the infamous bootlegging siblings, the Bondurant Brothers, who were notorious in prohibition-era Virginia. When a new deputy comes into town, these brothers are threatened, putting their loyalty and livelihood to the test. John Hillcoat's prohibition tale is a gritty, violent drama that has its moments but never reaches the heights of his earlier films from either an atmosphere or storytelling perspective. This is a solid film, with great performances all around, especially Tom Hardy, as Forrest Bondurant, clearly the man who is ultimately in charge of their whole operation. Hardy demands every scene he is in with his intense, piercing presence. He is a brutal character, whose cold demeanor doesn't grasp the concept of intimacy. His character is a great contrast to his youngest brother Jack, who personifies innocence in the film. In a way, Lawless is a coming of age film for Jack and Shia LaBeouf impresses in the role. A complaint against the quality of the movie is unfair, but I was disappointed in how little screen time was allotted to Gary Oldman's Floyd Banner, a gangster who also ultimately threatens the Bondurants. The love story between Jack and Bertha feels unnecessary but it does strengthen the innocence of Jack's story. Ultimately, I wish the film spent more time establishing the world of the film, really giving the viewer time to explore and get accustomed to the Bondurant's operation. Hardy's Forrest was the most interesting character in the entire film and I wish he was the central character. Lawless is a good, not great film that is kinda disappointing given it's John Hillcoat, but still worth your time.
Celeste and Jesse are best friends who got married too young, ultimately leading to divorce. Afterwards, the two remain inseparable, enjoying each others company like nothing has ever happened. When the two begin to pursue other people, feelings are thrown into question. Celeste and Jesse Forever is so focused on the close knit friendship between Celeste and Jesse to the point where we never actually feel an intimate connection between the two of them. They are shown as great friends and we understand that but you never really see the spark between the two of them. The film just goes through the motions and assumes the viewer can relate to this type of relationship without ever really giving us much to care about from an emotional level. The story is just thrown at the viewer with no real concern of character development leading it hard to get invested. Maybe I'm being too harsh but I just found this whole film to be a simplistic dissection of close friends vs. love that was ultimately uninteresting and rushes to it's conclusion. Rashida Jones is the highlight of the film from an acting standpoint but the same can not be said for her screenplay. I never found myself falling in love with the characters, leaving myself rather disinterested in their entire story. Celeste and Jesse Forever simply lacks the emotional core to grab the viewer - the cookie cutter story ultimately disappoints given a promising concept.
In a small town, children are vanishing without a trace, being abducted in the middle of the night. The people of the town gossip about a mysterious man they refer to as "The Tall Man'. The town nurse is extremely skeptical of this "Tall Man" until one dreadful night when her young son David is abducted. Pascal Laugier's The Tall Man takes advantage of the primal fear which every parent has, in discovering that your child is gone. Early on the film plays like a ghost story with mysticism surrounding this "Tall Man", but the whole film inevitable falls apart due to an unnecessary amount of plot twists and turns. The story in general leaves a lot to be desired and given the subject matter, it's pretty sad how little this film interested me on an emotional level. Pascal Laugier is a pretty talented filmmaker, who really does his best to make this film as interesting as he possibly can. His style serves the story well, picking its moments in establishing a nice creepy atmosphere. Given that the film is full of narrative twists I can't really discuss the story, but it all just comes off as a little too absurd and ultimately uninteresting because of that fact. The Tall Man isn't really a thriller or horror film, but a rather poorly done social critique that doesn't really work in the context of the film - with the one exception possibly being the final sequence, in which the critique is spelled out for the viewer.
Master jewel thief Melina Mercouri comes up with a plan to steal an extremely expensive Jewell encrusted dagger from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. In concocting a plan, she enlists a rather disreputable group of team members including Arthur Simpson, a small-time con-man who is simply brought on to unknowingly smuggle some tools into the country which will be needed for the heist. Due to passport issues, things don't go as planned for Arthur, a bumbling putsy man, who ends up being caught in-between the world-class jewelry thieves and Turkish intelligence, who suspect the worst. Coming many years after his crime-caper classic Rififi, Jules Dassin's Topkapi is a much different type of caper, playing with the genre conventions in creating an extremely entertaining, comical film that relies heavily on an extremely well done cat-and-mouse game. The opening sequence of the film is a somewhat surreal sequence which perfectly sets up the type of film which the viewer is about to experience. It's a very playful, colorful sequence where Melina talks directly into the camera, explaining her true profession - a Jewel thief. It makes a lot of sense that Elizabeth Lipp, who plays Melina, was Dassin's wife, as she is very much portrayed as the consummate sex-symbol throughout the film. Dassin seems infatuated with perception of beauty and how this woman uses it thoroughly to her advantage There are tons of great little comedic details throughout, which really enhance the character's personalities, in a way making the characters much more relate-able to the viewer. Dassin's direction is incredibly assured, using all sorts of camera movements - quick pans, slow pans, tracking shots, etc. to create a film that is incredibly suspenseful one second, and belly-laughter inducing the next, showcasing Dassin's underrated comedic timing. Topkapi absolutely deserves to be mentioned as one of the very best caper films ever made because of how well it balances the characters, laughs, and tension in delivering a highly enjoyable film.
A young novelist who achieved a phenomenal amount of success with his first novel is currently struggling with writing his next. His social life is not much better, as Calvin is a very sheltered home-body type, whose only real friend is his older brother. One night Calvin has a breakthrough in the creation of a character, Ruby Sparks, who inspires him. Things take a turn for the strange when Calvin discovers that he has somehow manifested Ruby, as a true, living-breathing human-being. Initially terrified by what he has created, Calvin quickly begins to fall in love with Ruby in real life, much like as the character in his latest novel. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' Ruby Sparks is a mix of 'Stranger Than Fiction' and 'Eternal Sunshine of A Spotless Mind' in that it uses unbelievable circumstances to tell a very human story. It's a hardly original concept, but the film is packaged well, with some great character work by Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan who really bring the story to life. My biggest critique of the film is that it simply doesn't go far enough in exploring the character of Calvin, an introverted intelligent mind whose failures in his past and current relationships mostly stem from his inability to accept the some things he simply can't control like his writing. The whole meta-fiction based relationship between Ruby and Calvin is a nice parable about the acceptance and understanding which is necessary in a relationship as well as commenting on the notion in which no one is perfect. The film just seems to wrap up too quickly, and I wish the film would have spent more time simply exploring the faults of Calvin, a young man whose past demons seem to haunt him. Regardless, Ruby Sparks is a refreshing film that is both creative and compelling enough to warrant your time.
Samsara, the latest effort by the filmmakers who made Baraka, achieves even a higher level of success due to its ability to not only illicit emotion purely through images, but also tell a story through these images, touching on so many different issues like consumerism, our reliance on technology, poverty, wealth, violence, etc. You name it, this film touches on it in painting a beautiful, transcendent look at life itself. This doesn't mean that Samsara has a structured narrative, instead being a series of vignettes,neach touching on all sorts of issues that capture different variables which make up life as we know it. The imagery is absolutely hypnotic, transporting the viewer into worlds which they have never seen, though also finding the beauty in both the grandiose and miniscule. Within these images, both big and small, the viewer will find themselves lost in the scale of the images. Samsara is a beautifully hypnotic experience that is a visual ballet of sound and image. In all its grandiose ambition, the film shows a unique ability to both show the connections which people from all walks of life have in common while still celebrating the culturally differences that make us all unique. Samsara goes beyond mere Visual art, transcending the viewer into an intoxicating celebration of life.
Taking place directly after the Kossuth Rebellion, Hungarian police round up all the likely suspects, a bunch of outlaws, taking them to an isolated imprisonment camp. While in imprisonment these men are subjected to sophisticated forms of psychological torture in an attempt for the police to find the leader of the outlaws, who is believed to have organized the rebellion. Miklos Jancso's The Round-Up is a cold distant film, that captures the hopeless atmosphere of these imprisoned men. The outlaws are essentially play things for the authoritative regime, as they are constantly submitted to different traps and psychological tests, tormenting these men both physically and mentally. There is no way out for these imprisoned men, no hope, with every potential exit just leading to another trap set-up by the police in an attempt to break their spirits. Jancso's visual palette of black and white cinematography, slow tracking shots, and extremely wide compositions effectively create this cold, hopeless atmosphere - using contrasting black and white imagery to perfection. The vast empty landscapes parallel the hopeless/emptiness of these men's souls, who are completely at the mercy of their captors. A slow-paced film that's primary accomplishments are of the technical and intellectual variety, Jancso's The Round-Up is not what many would deem an an entertaining watch. Sadly, I believe that my lack of knowledge about the Hungarian history being depicted left me much less engaged than I could have been, leaving me to simply marvel at the technical achievements in creating an atmospheric film where little hope exists.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.