Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Thank You For Smoking (2005)

Genres

Comedy, Drama

Director

Jason Reitman

Country

USA

Cast

Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright, Katie Holmes, Maria Bello, David Koechner, William H. Macy, Robert Duvall, J.K. Simmons, Marianne Muellerleile, Kim Dickens, Rob Lowe, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott, Todd Louiso, Dennis Miller

Storyline

It follows Tobacco industry lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) as he promotes smoking in a time when its health non-benefits are well known while trying to be a role model for his teenage son (Cameron Bright). 

Opinion

I saw Thank You For Smoking a long time ago and moreover, it was in Spanish - I don't know why but I saw it at Spanish class at high school. I didn't remember much of it so I figured it was time to rewatch it and now I'm not sure at the time I really understood what the movie is about.

Although it's the story of a Tobacco lobbyist and it revolves around him promoting smoking and talking a hell of a lot about this huge industry - and it's a pretty well-done and solid story -, Thank You For Smoking isn't really about smoking.

What the movie really does is glorify the art of talking by showing that you are never on the wrong side of an argument if you can support your facts or if you can prove the other person wrong - which is basically all Aaron Eckhart's character does in the movie and Eckhart gives such a great performance in this role, it makes me want to cry. 

Thank You For Smoking is also a quite wonderful satire of people and their(our) choices. Through its story, the film isn't either trying to convince people to smoke or to convince them not to smoke. All it does is asking us questions. Are we capable to choose what's best for us? Do we know/understand what the effects of our choices or actions may be? Shouldn't we be held responsible for our actions?

So kudos to Jason Reitman for being able to incorporate those questions into the movie without making it too heavy but still pretty light and enjoyable. The credits for that also go to some of the quite-exaggerated, caricature even, supporting characters, from Rob Lowe's  Hollywood producer to William H. Macy's Senator who fights against the Tobacco industry to Robert Duvall's Captain of the Tobacco industry. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Jaws 2 (1978)

Genres

Horror, Thriller

Director

Jeannot Szwarc

Country

USA

Cast

Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Joseph Mascolo, Jeffrey Kramer, Collin Wilcox, Ann Dusenberry, Mark Gruner, Susan French, Barry Coe, Gary Springer, Donna Wilkes, Gary Dublin, John Dukakis, Marc Gilpin

Storyline

Four years after killing the shark, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) once again must hunt a man-eating great white shark as the animal begins terrorizing the swimmers.

Opinion

Jaws is a fantastic piece of filmmaking basically because of the man behind it, Steven Spielberg, and Jaws 2 is the utterly proof of that since there's no Spielberg involved and the film is pretty disappointing. Still, it could have been way worse.

The plot is basically the same of the original. Still very simple and predictable and manages to be even more silly that before. It starts off pretty slow and it isn't as interesting as the original, but eventually the pace gets better and the story gets a little engaging.

However, Jaws 2 doesn't rely on suspense, tension and the right atmosphere to engage and entertain like its predecessor did. This one entirely relies on the action. It's as if the filmmakers didn't give a damn about making a scary movie so they did an action flick instead. But at least the non-stop action is nice. Sure, there's a lot of blood and guts, and cheap horror movie sharks, but it somehow manages to be a bit compelling.

And that's pretty much it. Like I mentioned above, the special effects are pretty cheap and not that effective. The acting also leaves a lot to be desired and the absence of Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss can be easily noticed.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Your Name. (2016)

Original Title

君の名は。Kimi no na wa.

Genres

Animation, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Director

Makoto Shinkai

Country

Japan

Voice Cast

Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa, Etsuko Ichihara, Ryo Narita, Aoi Yūki, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Kaito Ishikawa, Kanon Tani, Masaki Terasome, Sayaka Ohara, Kana Hanazawa

Storyline

Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), a girl living in a small mountain town, and Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a boy living in Tokyo, are complete strangers until they suddenly switch places, with Mitusha waking up in Taki's body and Taki waking up in Mitsuha's body. A connection forms between the two, but distance won't be the only thing to keep them apart.

Opinion

Anime isn't really my thing so it was no surprise that when Your Name. was suggested to me on Twitter I had never heard of it. But since I was looking for an animated film to watch and this happened to be released on DVD pretty recently I decided to watch it. And I'm glad I did because it is one of the most emotionally draining animated films I've ever seen. Yes, I consider that a good thing.

Easily one of the most striking aspects of the film is the story. It is complicated right from the beginning so it requires you to pay a lot of attention - and I think that's when the subtitles come handy. It is very well built and interesting. It could have done with a little more complexity but it is devastatingly beautiful. It's a dramatic story that manages to keep a lighthearted tone most of the time. 

It's also the kind of story entirely driven by its main characters and their relationship and it's great since Your Name. has some pretty good, well-developed and interesting leading characters that really make you root for them. You know I don't like romances, but this one, I loved it. And it made me cry. 

There also are some nicely done and equally interesting supporting characters. There are some clichées, both in story and characters, but it isn't that bothering.

Less of a surprise was the animation. If there's something I've learned watching those few anime flicks is that the animation is always spot on and Your Name.'s is no different. The drawings are very beautiful; the details of the Japan sceneries and architecture are unbelievable; the colours are very vibrant. And to complete the very atmospheric visuals there is a stunning musical score that fits each scene to perfection. 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Okja (2017)

Genres

Action, Adventure, Drama

Director

Bong Joon-ho

Country

South Korea, USA

Cast

Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Byun Hee-bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je-moon, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Choi Woo-shik, Giancarlo Esposito

Storyline

It follows Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), a young girl from South Korea who risks everything to prevent a powerful multinational company to take away from her Okja, a gigantic pig as well as her best friend.

Opinion

I spend way too much time on Netflix and their original series and movies are my favourite things to watch. So I was pretty excited when Okja finally came online - also because it's from the same director of Snowpiercer which I loved - but didn't watch it because it seemed like a pretty heavy film and you have to be in the mood for it. But I was wrong. It isn't that heavy. Actually, it has the perfect balance between comedy and drama. It's plenty of happy and funny moments but it also has a lot of deeper and emotional ones and chances are you'll laugh one minute and cry the next one only to laugh again the next one.

One of Okja's greatest strengths is Bong Joon-ho's original story. It is very simple and yet very interesting and exciting, but most of all it's really effective in engaging you in the wonderful journey of the young girl and her wonderful relationship with an animal. It is a pretty familiar story and yet it will surprise you with some very unexpected turns.

Other than being engaging, exciting and entertaining, the story also carries an important message. While (successfully) attempting at making us sympathise with animal-rights advocates and environmentalists, it shows how the meat industry works, and the things we, humans, are willing to do in order to keep feeding ourselves with animals. It is pretty accurate and sad picture of what the world has become. Some may say it's too preachy to be entertaining, or that it tries to make people go vegetarian/vegan, what I think is that it raises awareness towards this problem, from animals rights to GMO foods. 

But enough with the heavy stuff. Let's talk about the visual aspect of the film. Simply amazing. It isn't the photography nor the colours nor the costumes - although they all are pretty amazing. No, I'm talking about Okja, the GMO pig. She is so beautifully done, she looks real. It's the proper use of CGI that makes the film so emotional and gives to it so much soul.

Still, the pig wouldn't be anything without the young Ahn Seo-hyun who gives a strong performance as Mija and whose chemistry with the fake animal is truly astonishing. The rest of the cast is also very strong, with a special mention for Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Friday, 18 August 2017

East of Eden (1955)

Genre

Drama

Director

Elia Kazan

Country

USA

Cast

James Dean, Julie Harris, Raymond Massey, Richard Davalos, Burl Ives, Jo Van Fleet, Albert Dekker, Lois Smith, Timothy Carey, Harold Gordon, Nick Dennis, Barbara Baxley, Richard Garrick, Lonny Chapman

Storyline

In and around WWI, Cal Trask (James Dean) compete against his brother (Richard Davalos) for the love of their father (Raymond Massey). In the meantime, he tries to reconnect with his estranged mother (Jo Van Fleet) and falls in love with his brother's girlfriend (Julie Harris).

Opinion

When I think about James Dean, my mind immediately goes to Rebel Without a Cause for two reasons: first, it is one of my favourite movies of all times; second, it was the only film with James Dean I saw until watching East of Eden days ago. And this is definitely the film that's going to come to my mind now because both Dean's debut and Elia Kazan's film are impressive.

As everybody knows this film is based on John Steinbeck's novel. I haven't read it so I won't be able to tell whether it is an accurate transposition or not, I sure can say that it's one of the most beautiful, emotional coming of age story I've seen and one of the greatest sibling rivalry stories ever. I know that it's basically a modern-day version of the Bible's Cain and Abel, but I've read the Bible (I'd like to point out that I'm not a religious person, I just read it to see how much nonsense there was in it. And FIY it's a lot) so believe me when I tell you Cal and Aaron's rivalry is way more interesting.

However, the best feature of East of Eden is easily the characters. Although they could have done with a little bit more development and their motivations could have been explored a little better given the two hours running time, the characters are very complex and intricate and you will easily find yourself reflecting about them long after you see the film.

The characters wouldn't be as great as they are if it wasn't for the cast. Most of the actors are so natural it doesn't even feel like they are actors, but the most impressive is James Dean. His performance is so intense and dramatic and at times it almost feels like he was aware of his upcoming tragic death. There's something in his eyes, a veil of sadness and bitterness, that captures the drama of Cal beautifully.

At last but not least there's the masterful job Elia Kazan did. The use he makes of subtle camera movements and Dutch angles enhance the drama to perfection.