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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

[5.75/10] Bel Ami (2012)

Bel Ami (2012)

Brief review: Hitting US theaters on June 8, "Bel Ami" is based on Guy de Maupassant's 1885 French novel of the same name, and directing duo Declan Donnellan / Nick Ormerod's first movie in 15 years. Even though it's sexy, provocative and erotically-charged, the movie fails to engage on an emotional as well as dramatic level, due to a lackluster execution and stagy script. The main problem with "Bel Ami" is that it feels quite forced. Everything works out way too easily for the main male character, and even the accidental happenings in the movie seem contrived. As a result of all that, the otherwise interesting story becomes less exciting and plausible as the movie progresses. Teen idol, Robert Pattinson, tries to redeem himself from his terrible roles in the cheesy "Twilight" franchise, and although there's a slight improvement in his acting abilities, he's still incapable of expressing any genuine emotions. Pattinson's so-so performance aside, the acting is excellent, especially from the alluring female cast involved. Uma Thurman does a great job as the wealthy and quietly powerful wife-turned-widow, Madeleine, Christina Ricci is captivating as the naughty and seductive Clotilde, and Kristin Scott Thomas gives a sensual performance as Virginie. Also, the film is beautifully-shot and fascinates with the authenticity of its exquisite set design, gorgeous costumes and truly ravishing cinematography.

Overall summary: Despite its sexy, fantastic female cast, sophisticated visuals and provocatively lusty nature, Donnellan & Ormerod's "Bel Ami" ends up being a moderately engaging mixed bag of a period drama, that is as beautiful on the outside, as it's emotionally empty within.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

[5.00/10] The Vow (2012)

The Vow (2012)

Brief review: Based on the true story of real-life couple Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, "The Vow" is director Michael Sucsy's very first theatrically released movie in his career. While the film's plot is inspired by one touching and truly heartfelt story, unlike this real story, the movie fails to make a big impact, because, strangely and ironically enough, it feels fabricated and improbable. The main reason for this paradoxicality lies in its banally-written script, filled with cliches, cheesy romance and trite dialogues, we've seen and heard million times before. Further more, "The Vow" is so obvious, you don't need to be Nostradamus to predict each next scene and pretty much every line. On a positive note, there are some moving moments that actually work, but those are very few and far between. The main cast is incredibly appealing, no doubt about that. Rachel McAdams is full of talent and possesses a true natural charisma, but sadly the weak script doesn't allow her to shine at all. Even the character she plays is not that likable. Channing Tatum's handsomeness works in his favor as usual, but his dramatic acting skills have yet to be developed. Fortunately, the chemistry between the two leads is strong enough, at least most of the time. Sam Neill and Jessica Lange's screen time is way too limited, the supporting cast is instantly forgettable, and Michael Sucsy's generic direction is nothing to write home about.

Overall summary: Aside from a couple of moving moments and Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum's good on-screen chemistry, "The Vow" is just another forgettable romantic dramedy, that suffers from its dated, hackneyed premise, flimsy script and complete predictability.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

[6.25/10] The Dictator (2012)

The Dictator (2012)

Brief review: After the critically acclaimed "Borat" and the somewhat amusing "Bruno", this is the third collaboration between director Larry Charles and comedy star Sascha Baron Cohen, who, of course, also wrote the script for The Dictator". If you liked the previous two Charles / Cohen movies, you'll love with this one as well. It's done in the same idiotic fashion, and it's super-duper-funny for all the wrong reasons. It features tons of racist jokes, gender jokes, terrorist jokes and gross-out gags, and they're all rude and vulgar to the point of outrageous. Larry Charles' direction is kind of all over the place, lacking any cohesion whatsoever, but maybe it's meant to be like that. Who knows? The goldenish tint of the cinematography screams 'oriental', the enjoyable Punjabi music score adds an ironic authenticity to the movie, plus, the production design of the palace in Wadiyan is lavish and gorgeous. Sacha Baron Cohen is an incredible comedian, because he manages to maintain funny pretty much constantly. His character, Admiral General Hafez Aladeen, is silly, crude, lewd, childish and despotic, but still, you can't help but enjoying his crazy persona doing embarrassing stiff. Anna Faris does her thing as usual, delivering an amusing performance as the naive activist, Zoey, and the supporting does a solid job as well, with Jason Mantzoukas and Ben Kingsley being the most memorable.

Overall summary: Much like both, "Borat" and "Bruno", "The Dictator" is embarrassing to watch and at times even crudely brutal, but it's also outrageously hilarious and laugh-out-loud funny, and works despite its offbeat pacing and Larry Charles' wildly incoherent direction.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

[4.00/10] 388 Arletta Avenue (2012)

388 Arletta Avenue (2012)

Brief review: Premiered at last year's TIFF, but theatrically released in 2012, "388 Arletta Avenue" is a voyeurish Canadian thriller that unfolds around a young couple, disturbed by a mysterious stalker. The movie is conceptually creative, as it tries to avoid the overused gimmicks, typical for the 'found footage' genre, and boldly puts a new spin on the POV shooting style, using hidden cameras instead of shaky handy cam. But, hidden camera automatically means no camera movements and less variety, and there are mostly static camera shots, taken always from the same angle, which becomes quite tiresome after a while. Furthermore, "388 Arletta Avenue" quickly loses credibility, because in real life, it's pretty much impossible someone to put so many hidden cameras in the most unbelievable places for such a short amount of time. For a movie labeled as thriller, "388 Arletta Avenue" has far too little thrills, let alone suspense, and that makes it a boring experience most of the time. Is it disturbing? Yes, maybe a bit, but it never manages to get under your skin or really freak you out. The final scene 'reveals' that the mysterious stalker actually doesn't have any real motives for ruining people's lives, and does all that just 'for fun', which is as much underwhelming as it's predictable. The cast is mediocre at best, with Nick Stahl doing a so-so job as the confused James, determined to find his vanished wife.

Overall summary: It's fairly disturbing and it takes a slightly different approach to the POV genre, but sadly, "388 Arletta Avenue" ends up being a rather dull voyeuristic thriller, lacking in tension, that feels more like a failed cinematic experiment rather than a proper movie.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

[6.50/10] Dark Shadows (2012)

Dark Shadows (2012)

Brief review: Based on the gothic horror soap opera of the same name, "Dark Shadows" is yet other Burton / Depp collaboration that has its moments of genuine fun, wit and amusement, but it's also full of intentional silliness that never quite works right. Due to its unbalanced script, the film fails to blend comedy, horror, and romance properly, and as a result, "Dark Shadows" is amusing but far from hilarious, interesting but hardly intriguing, and somewhat creepy yet never scary. The visuals of the film are nothing short of fantastic - the location is perfectly-chosen and grim, yet pretty, and that combined with Delbonnel's beautifully murky cinematography creates a splendidly gothic atmosphere, plus, the glorious old mansion, where most of the action takes place in, has so many amazing features, it will take your breath away. However, despite the stunning visuals and Tim Burton's unsurprisingly polished direction, the movie still lacks that extra special something that would have made it more memorable. The entire cast delivers. The main focus is on Johnny Depp and he gives yet another outstandingly amusing performance as the 200-year-old well-mannered vampire, trying to break his curse. Eva Green is devilishly sexy as the manipulative witch, Michelle Pfeiffer does a solid job as the charismatic Elizabeth, but Helena Bonham Carter and Chloë Grace Moretz are those who truly stand out from the rest.

Overall summary: It's a bit silly, and its director struggles to find the right balance between horror, comedy and family affair, but Burton's "Dark Shadows" makes up for these shortcomings with a top-notch cast, stunningly atmospheric visuals and some gorgeous settings.

The visually-stunning "Dark shadows" is yet another collaboration by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. If you like watching great movies from this duo, then why not join lovefilm.com. Get a one month free trial and check out the entire Burton/Depp collection online.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

[5.00/10] American Reunion (2012)

American Reunion (2012)

Brief review: Back in 1999, the sexually-charged teen comedy, "American Pie", was a huge hit, and still remains as a classic. Well, sort of. It was followed by two hugely successful sequels in 2001 and 2003, and now in 2012 it's time for the "Reunion". Even though it has written nostalgia all over it, this forth sequels fails to meet expectations big time. The hardcore fans of the franchise won't mind the same old jokes, immature behavior and embarrassing situations, but for the rest of the audience, the "American Reunion" doesn't offer anything new, fresh, clever and even remotely original script-wise. Yes, there are a couple of hilarious scenes, and one or two laugh-out-loud moments, but overall there's no wit whatsoever. On the other hand, "American Reunion" kind of redeems itself near the end with an unexpectedly sweet, touching and heartwarming conclusion, that will put a smile on your face, plus, it features the long awaited 'sex revenge' of Stifler, that has something to do with one of the other characters' 'MILF' mom. Despite their age, the grown-up characters are still immature and horny, and haven't changed a bit. Jason Biggs still has that charming awkwardness about him, Chris Klein and Thomas Ian Nicholas are watchable at best, Alyson Hannigan, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari and Dania Ramirez are all likable as the girls, but Seann William Scott still plays the same annoying, silly jerk.

Overall summary: The last 20 minutes are surprisingly heartfelt, but apart from that, "American Reunion" is just a derivative, mildly funny installment, that would appeal only to the nostalgic fans of the franchise, who would be happy to have more of the same juvenile stuff.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

[4.75/10] Gone (2012)

Gone (2012)

Brief review: "Gone" is Brazilian director Heitor Dhalia's first English language film in his career, but sadly, it falls short, despite its talented cast and decent direction. Maybe if it was made 10 years ago, "Gone" would have been a lot more successful, but for a 2012 movie, it feels dated, unoriginal and at times extremely copycat-ish. Although it's still watchable and mildly engaging, and keeps you wondering the whole time whether the female protagonist has been abducted for real or she's just being paranoid, this 'kidnapping' thriller never gets particularly tense, thrilling or suspenseful, and Allison Burnett's script is contrived to the point of being annoying. On a positive note, the twist in the end is pretty decent and it saves the film from being an absolute disaster. Dhalia's direction lacks creativity and is pretty by-the-numbers, but at the same time, it doesn't have any major flaws about it. The almost monochromic cinematography has some style about it, and creates a somewhat bleak atmosphere, but it also give a rather moody feel to the visuals.. maybe too moody. Considering the weak script she has to work with, the fascinating Amanda Seyfried does a pretty solid job as the bold and fearless Jill determined to find her missing sister and face the abductor, who had kidnapped her too two years ago, but her character's actions are too daring and keen to be realistic and believable enough.

Overall summary: Seyfried does her best with the given material and the stylish photography captures the grim tone of the story, but "Gone" is a soulless and suspense-free thriller that tries hard to be clever, but instead it feels like a rip-off that is very soon to be forgotten.

Monday, May 7, 2012

[5.50/10] Brake (2012)

Brake (2012)

Brief review: TV series director Gabe Torres hasn't made a feature film since his debut movie "December" back in 1991, and now he gives us "Brake" - a low-budget thriller, that sounds quite promising on paper, but ends up being a bit of a mixed bag. Conceptually, the film is way too similar to 2010's "Buried", starring Ryan Reynolds, and for that reason alone, "Brake" does not win any points for originality. That being said, the premise is still intriguing, the script is well-written and the curveball climax of the film is clever and makes up for lots of flaws. The problem with "Brake", however, is its limited, if truly claustrophobic, setting. Since almost the entire movie takes place in a trunk of a van, director Torres can't really impress us with gorgeous scenery or great visuals, therefore he relies on the amazing use of lighting and as much variety of camera angles as possible to make his movie looks slicker. Even though, he achieves that, the setting itself is just too boring and monotonous and that really brings the film down. Stephen Dorff has enough skill and talent to hold our interest throughout, and manages to carry the entire movie on his shoulders, but sadly, he's pretty much the only 'physical' character in the movie, and despite his tense and convincing portrayal as the confused and despaired, yet tough secret service agent, watching just him the whole time becomes way too tiresome at some point.

Overall summary: Despite the shockingly effective double twist in the end, and Stephen Dorff's exceptionally convincing 'one man show' performance, "Brake" gets too tedious too soon, because of its insanely limited setting and complete lack of supporting characters.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

[9.75/10] The Avengers [3D] (2012)

The Avengers [3D] (2012)

Brief review: Sorry "The Dark Knight" fans, but Marvel's superhero gathering, "The Avengers" easily outshines every other entry into the popular genre. The effectiveness of the otherwise familiar story lies in the ideal balance of its script. Not only the script is smart, humorous and wonderfully-written, but it allows each of its many characters to develop equally and shine on their own. The pacing is quite brisk, yet slow when needed, but the movie never loses its steam and remains engrossing from start to finish. Technically, "The Avengers" delivers and then some. Whedon's direction is so stylish, diverse and accomplished, it's hard to belive that this is only his second feature film. Some of the scenes seem impossible to shoot, but at the same time they feel effortlessly-executed. There's one particular scene during the final battle (where the camera skillfully 'jumps' over from one Avengers member to the next, showing them kicking asses with style), that is so exciting and brilliantly-shot, it will literally blow you away. The rest of the action is first-rate as well, and the CGIs are astoundingly polished and pretty much flawless, apart from the 3D, which is good, but rather unnecessary. The cast is superb in their roles. Hemsworth, Evans, Ruffalo, Johansson and Renner all do a stellar job, but Robert Downey Jr. is the one that steals the show. Hiddleston also turns in a strong performance as the malicious villain, Loki.

Overall summary: Clever, amusing, perfectly-balanced, skillfully-shot and jaw-droppingly action-packed, "The Avengers" is the ultimate dream come true for every single fan of the genre, and arguably the best and most spectacularly entertaining superhero movie ever made.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

[7.25/10] Battleship (2012)

Battleship (2012)

Brief review: Hitting US theaters on May 18, "Battleship" is "Hancock" director Peter Berg's latest sci-fi flick, that may not win any awards for originality or strong writing, but will certainly deliver on its promise, which is to entertain all the action junkies out there. While its plot is quite by-the-numbers, and there aren't really any big surprises along the way, "Battleship" never takes itself too seriously, and uses its awesome ridiculousness to its advantage. The dialogues are often dumb, however, there's enough humor and funny jokes to make up for the overall silliness of the script. On a technical level, "Battleship" delivers and then some. The pacing is brisk, Peter Berg's direction is energetic, and the camera work is pretty impressive, featuring great variety of angles and moves. If you thought "Skyline" and "Battle L.A." had amazing special effects, wait to see the CGI work on this one. The alien ships are incredibly detailed and look as realistic as possible, and the aliens themselves are competently designed and somewhat cool, especially their shiny costumes (Imagine an Iron Man costume, but an advanced one). The action is epic, with each scene being more stupendous that the last. Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson and Brooklyn Decker all do their best with the given material, the supporting cast does a pretty good job as well, and pop star Rihanna is one hell of a badass chick here.

Overall summary: Sure, it's unoriginal and at times quite ridiculous, but "Battleship" manages to compensate with light humor, eye-popping special effects and startlingly explosive action scenes, and the end result is a brainless, yet immensely entertaining sci-fi popcorn flick.