Dec 31, 2012

December recap & Resolutions

December was quite an eventful month, so I didn't get to see that many movies- I wanted to read more, so I focused on that. Here's a short recap:

Movies 5
Silver linings playbook [2012]
Beasts of the southern wild [2012]
Amour [2012]
Perks of being a wallflower [2012]
Sideways [2004]

Books 5

Now that we're very close to the end of 2012, I decided to re-check my 2012 resolutions that I set at the very beginning of the year. Here they are, plus my FAIL/SUCCESS markings.


1. Watch at least 150 movies- FAIL 125 movies seen

2. Out of those 150, at least 60 will have been released before 2010- SUCCESS 60 before 2010 :)

3. At least 15 will be foreign movies- SUCCESS 15 foreign films seen :)

4. Review or summarize/write about every movie I see- SUCCESS I have a 90% rate, that qualifies for green, right?

5. Do 2 marathons based on a director's portfolio- SUCCESS I did, on Coen brothers and a little bit on Paul Thomas Anderson and Cronenberg

6. Mantain my 18 posts/month for the blog-  FAIL, especially during the second part of the year

7. Have more then 20.000 views by the end of the year 2012- SUCCESS just surpassed 50.000

8. Rely less on piracy and more on cinema and festival viewings- SUCCESS, although I can definitely do better

9. Improve my writing (Longer reviews, with more depth and a better vocabulary)- SUCCESS i really do think I have improved, but you are the best judge to that

10. Diversity for the blog posts  (more essays, special features, monthly round-up etc)- FAIL I need to work on this one


I am happy to see so many SUCCESS marks and I hope next year I can say the same! Check back tomorrow for my 2013 resolutions!

Until then, I wish you a fantastic New Year, full of happiness, accomplishments and fun times!

p.s. Did you have resolutions? how many did you tick off?

Dec 29, 2012

Best of 2012- FILMS

Thinking about the past year, I actually think it wasn't a strong one for movies- I wasn't impressed or moved by most of them, and the few who succeeded that had other flaws that made me reconsider the overall opinion. I, personally, think there was no film in 2012 to take the masterpiece or instant classic prize, although some came close to it (Moonrise Kingdom, Holy Motors, Silver Linings Playbook or Perks of being a wallflower), but there were definitely some very good films that need to be showcased and seen by most people. I still haven't seen many of this year's late releases, like Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Django Unchained or Zero Dark Thirty, but my list would probably look almost the same.


As you know, I don't like to make a top 10 or 20 or give specific marks, so I will just name my favorites of 2012. In no particular order (maybe just release date), here they are:


Avengers Assemble- because of its amazing characters, action scenes and overall entertainment factor


Moonrise Kingdom- quirky, funny, sweet, visually beautiful and wonderfully scored. One of my favorites this year

Searching for Sugarman- a sweet, moving, rather interesting and unbelievable documentary that is definitely worth seeing

On the road- a personal and subjective choice, because of the book it is based on and the people involved. I was probably one of the few who loved it

Holy Motors- crazy, unpredictable, imaginative and wild. Totally different from most releases this year. A must see

Anna Karenina- a masterpiece in set and costume design, not to mention art direction. Visually stunning.

Sightseers- a British gem that is not showcased enough. Dark and violent, but surprisingly hilarious!

ParaNorman- probably my favorite animation of this year, even better than Frankenweenie, in my opinion. Verry funny!

Beyond the Hills- a Romanian masterpiece and one of this year's best all around. I am so proud of Mungiu and his work.
Skyfall- James Bond at its finest- amazing action sequences and surprisingly good script.

Argo- very good in almost all areas. A well-deserved contender for Best Picture

Cloud Atlas- I am, probably, one of the very few who loved it. From the greatly directed action scenes, to the characters and storylines and the way it was build, it's one of my favorites this year

Silver Linings Playbook-perfect example of a simple, yet moving and entertaining movie that can deal with delicate themes and get out of it successfully. Surprisingly good performance from Bradley Cooper!

Perks of being a wallflower- it made cry like I haven't cried in a while. A wonderful and realistic coming-of-age story that I wish everyone would see. The soundtrack and Logan Lerman & Ezra Miller's performance seal the deal.


Other notable mentions: Hunger Games, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Ruby Sparks, Amour


Do you have a number 1 of 2012? Which is it?

Dec 26, 2012

Best of 2012- MUSIC

2012 was a very good year for music, in my opinion, but I am be biased because this year I listened to and discovered a lot of music, especially rock, alternative, indie, folk and guitar- I've learned to appreciate and love it even more, and I will definitely pay more attention to it in 2013.

I won't make a classic top 20 singles or albums of this year- I will just highlight and talk about some of the artists I have been listening to in 2012.


Ben Howard- I've been hearing about him a lot, especially during spring and festival season, so I decided to give him a try and boy, am I glad I did, because his songs are simple, sweet, and calming. His "Only Love" is still one of my favorites and I listen to it frequently.

Daughter- still new on the music scene, this family band is the quiet, mystical type, but their tunes are worth a listen. I usually go for "Candles" or "Love"

Florence and the Machine- miss Welch and her lovely band are a little bit special to me. Not only do I love them and their music very much, but they were also responsible for introducing me to The Maccabees, and I will always remember the connection between them (incidentally, the two bands are best friends in real life and have toured together). "Ceremonials", the late 2011 release, is a fantastic album, full of amazing lyrics and grandiose music, my favorites being "What the water gave", "Leave my body", "No light, no light", "Only if for a night" and "Shake it out".

Bombay Bicycle Club- another indie love, these young Brits have a wonderful, clear and eerie sound, folksy and sweet- they were my go to music during my dissertation writing sessions. Top BBC: "Lights out, words gone", "You already know", "The hill" and "Motel Blues"

Jeff Buckley- I forgot how I actually discovered him, but I am so happy I did, he is definitely one of my favorites this year and it's too bad his life was too short. There used to be a time when I would obsessively listen to "Lover, you should've come over" and "Everybody here wants you"

Frank Ocean- A critics darling and a chart topper, Frank Ocean got under my skin, too, especially with "Thinkin' about you"

Spector- I listened to a lot of Spector during my Spotify era (when it was free and I still lived in UK). My top songs were: "True Love (for now)", "Celestine", "Chevy Thunder"

Bastille- I first saw them on a BBC program during one Brit music festival and they immediately got my attention- indie electronic with a sentimental feel and lovely vocals. On my playlist: "Bad blood", "Overjoyed", "Flaws"

Jessie Ware- Because of the Maccabees, I found out about Jessie Ware, a childhood friend, whose soulful voice is now loved by many, all over the world. Her album can be seen on most Top Albums lists, and I am no exception. Current favorites: "Wildest moments (acoustic)", "Night light", "110%"

The Vaccines- for me, their music is quite punk, but I like it and it's pretty cool to dance to. The first album had some great songs on it ("If you wanna", "Post break-up sex"), but their new one is also cool. My picks: "Always knew", "Teenage Icon"

And now we get to the band taking the top honors, and if you follow my blog and/or Twitter, you know who it is:

The Maccabees- I discovered this amazing band in February/March, I think, after watching a video of Florence and the Machine dancing like crazy at their NME awards performance of "Pelican". I thought the song was catchy, they looked hot, so I checked them out and have been "slightly obsessed" with them ever since then. I simply love almost everything about them and I think they are a talented band, one that continues to grow and evolve its sound with every album. Most call them Indie, but with their latest effort, "Given to the wild", they have gone into deeper, more complex sounds and they are great. The album was nominated for a Mercury and it, too, appears on a lot of Top Albums of 2012 lists. Please give it a try and listen to "Pelican", "Go", "Child", "Went away", and from previous records, check out "First love", "Lego", "William Powers", "Love you better", "Wall of arms".


Now that 2012 is finished, it's time to look into the future, but also discover classics. In 2013, I want to listen more of:
- The Smiths
- Bob Dylan
- The Beatles
- The Clash
- Joni Mitchell


Any suggestions for me?
Also, what have you been listening to this year?

Dec 23, 2012

Amour [2012]


Amour is a French film, winner of Palme D'or in Cannes this year. Directed and written  by Michael Haneke, the movie is close to a masterpiece, with its subtle performances, emotional story and wonderful direction.

Amour has a touching script, a sad, often desperate and lonely script that makes this movie ten times more effective and beautiful than it already is. It tells the story of an old couple who have to fight with the sudden illness of Anne, the wife, whilst Georges takes care of her the best way he can. It features funny moments, but also melancholic ones and sad ones and desperate ones, all mixed with normal, sometimes boring scenes like a guy waiting or a woman cleaning the house. That being said, I don't think the screenplay was one of the film's strong points- it had very few moments of action, but a number of intense ones; it was, however, immensely helped by the performances, but more about that later.

Number two on my favourites list of Amour was the wonderful direction. I love Haneke's style-it's so simple, a little peculiar at places, but beautiful and interesting to watch, with rarely any close-ups, just only in the important moments. There was no music or score, and that made even more bleak than it already was, but it was nice to hear only classical, piano songs when it was needed.

Number one on my favourite list of this movie was the acting. Many have raved about Emmanuelle Riva and her portrayal of Anne, the sick woman, whose condition worsens over time, but my heart went to Jean-Louis Trintignant , the man playing the husband. His performance was heartbreaking, realistic and interesting, and in my opinion, his part was much harder than Riva; it had so many small details and little expressions that offered ten times more to the audience than a phrase would. I loved how he played the old man who was so in love with his wife, that he would do any usually embarrassing thing in order to keep her happy and safe- he took care of her better than most nurses would, but her sufferance forced him to darker things and, as weird as it may sound, I understood him and why he did what he did.

The ending was incredibly subtle and mysterious- was it Haneke's way of showing us he followed her into a new place? Has his guilt and sorrow overtaken his sense of reality? Maybe, and it was a very moving scene, as ordinary as it seemed. I would have much preferred this to the actual last scene with the daughter.

Amour is a stunning movie that deserves attention, but not as incredibly emotional as advertised. It's very well acted and interestingly directed, but its bleak course of action cuts some of its high points. Still, I highly recommend it, especially to film lovers.

Dec 18, 2012

The Christmas List (blogathon)

Christmas is coming and on my mind, lately, have been only presents- for my mom, my dad, my sisters, the nephews, the brother-in-laws and so on. I'm not particularly good with presents- I am picky and I take so much time trying to find something nice, not very expensive, that I know they would like, use or, at least appreciate, that I always end up not being satisfied with what I got for them!

So that made think- if I could, what would I buy my fellow sweet bloggers? if time/location/money wouldn't be problem, what would they find nicely wrapped underneath the Christmas tree?

Here's what I came up with- THE CHRISTMAS LIST:

Alex from And so it begins- since Alex is one of the very few people who has seen almost every movie out there (I am exaggerating, but you know what I mean), I would probably get him a Criterion gift certificate or maybe this Early Bergman Criterion collection, if he doesn't have it yet.

Nikhat from Being Norma Jean- she is lively, bubbly, sweet and fond of very nice things; we have a lot of things in common, but I know how much she loves Doctor Who, so I would get her this amazing mug and this poster, or maybe a Johnny Depp DVD collection.

Anna from Defiant Succes- I would think long and hard before getting her something- she is one of the smartest, sarcastic, interesting bloggers I've seen/read. But I would choose Old Hollywood for her, since I know she likes it: maybe a Glamour Portraits photo book or something for her British love

Stevee from Cinematic Paradox- now, Stevee is a smart girl, but also one who loves photography and interesting people like Ezra Miller or Jessica Chastain, so I would go for either this fantastic book of Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage or a lesser-known Ezra Miller film on DVD

Margaret from Cinematic Corner- if you know her little obsessions, you know what to get her. Let's see: Lana del Rey's new deluxe album, anything Idris Elba (maybe a poster?), or something funny for her lovely dog, Gustav?

Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle- I would pre-order Cloud Atlas for him, since I know he liked it as much as I did

Ruth from Splendid and Lovely- I love how passionate Ruth is about audio and sounds, so I thought this book about Sound Effects would be very interesting for her; plus, I'd top that with an Amazon gift card, to choose what she wants to see/listen/read!

Andy Buckle- I know how much he likes music, so I would probably get him a subscription to NME or Rolling Stones, 2 great music magazines.


The list could continue for ever and I wish I had the money to buy everything for them, but I guess it's the thought that counts, right? That's what my mom always says and, in this case, she is right!

As for WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO RECEIVE this year....well, the list is endless, but here are some ideas:
- a new notebook/agenda that I will use for my job, starting January :)
- Amazon/Book depository/iTunes gift certificates
- chocolate, lots of chocolate :)
- work/office clothes
- DVDs
...and so on!


I'd love to see what you would buy/do for your fellow online friends! Please write a post with your Christmas list (presents for other and/or what you would like to receive) and send me the link, I'll post it here!

OTHER CHRISTMAS LISTS

Anna from Defiant Succes CLICK
Cat's got culture CLICK
Stevee from Cinematic Paradox CLICK
Margaret from Cinematic Corner CLICK
Steven from Surrender to the Void CLICK
Ruth from Flix Chatter CLICK

Dec 15, 2012

Beasts of the southern wild [2012]


Beasts of the southern wild is a 2012 production which premiered at Sundance and gained immense success throughout the year, especially for first time director Behn Zeitlin. It tells the story of a young girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhan√© Wallis), who lives in an isolated part of the world with her father, Wink, and a handful of people who refuse to leave their homes, in spite of the incoming water rise that is threatening to destroy their houses and lives.

Beasts is a very good movie, with a touching story, interesting direction and fantastic performances, but still it failed to completely move me. I think it's because the script was not the strongest point of the film. It started out strong- I was taken aback by the wild, dirty and unexpected aspect of everyday life south of the Levee, but also containing something beautiful and natural that you are attracted to, no matter what. I loved the fact that the people were celebrating life even when they didn't have anything else but those houses, when all hope was lost, when they knew the storm is coming. The Bathtub (the town) was made of survivors, and Hushpuppy was the first and strongest of them, despite her age. Wink, her father, is tough on her, but mostly because he wants her to succeed, so he treats her bad enough to make her strong and resilient. But this where the story mostly lies in- survival- and it doesn't go much further than that, unfortunately, which is a pity. Also, a thing I didn't quite get or see the relevance in the end, is the monster deal, although the confrontation was interestingly made.

That being said, the rest of the aspects of the movie were pretty flawless. The direction was beautiful and suited the wild nature of the environment, especially with its shaky camera and, sometimes, not very focused camera shots, and the set design was very well made and incredibly realistic. I also loved the score of it, and I think it should be rewarded somehow. What we should really talk about is the casting, and especially the performances of the actors. Quvenzhan√© Wallis was flawless and, for such a young girl, she delivered much more than expected. Dwight Henry was also very good and played the part of the father with the right amount of love and toughness, and the rest of the supporting cast was great.

Beasts of the southern wild is a wonderful film from many points of view, but in the end, it fails to make a real difference or, better said, fails to impress and give a lasting impression over time. It is a well made film, beautifully shot, but just not....enough.

"I see that I am a little piece in a big, big universe, and that makes everything right!"

Dec 11, 2012

Cloud Atlas [2012]


Cloud Atlas is a 2012 production, based on a David Mitchell novel and directed by two sets of directors: some parts were mastered by the Wachowski brothers, and others were done by Tom Tykwer. It tackles different themes like love, betrayal and hope, across thousands of years and including characters of all sizes and appearances.

One of the most discussed aspects of this film is the level of complexity of the script: it is, indeed, a bit difficult to explain each story and the connection between them, but one thing I have to mention is the fact that it is not that hard to understand. I have read many posts saying some scenes don't make sense or that they found it difficult to grasp the links between the plots, but I wasn't in the same situation: for me it was pretty clear and, moreover, I was engaged and interested in each storyline and the sequences of scenes. Even the almost 3 hours passed by quickly, with the exception of some small parts.

I loved the idea of illustrating a specific theme or feeling across different time periods, showing that it is similar in so many ways, no matter the current status. Love, hope, survival, betrayal and instinct, all are feelings experienced in any situation, in any part of the world, and in the end, Cloud Atlas is a great way of showcasing humanity in all its forms. My favorite storylines involve the 2141 Neo Seoul time, and the music composer one, with the lovely Ben Whishaw, who was criminally underused.

From a filmmaking point of view, it looked amazing- the action and future scenes looked intriguing and interesting, shot in a dynamic way, while the past or present ones were done in a more simpler, subtle way, but not lacking beauty. I particularly liked the score, and I thought the sets and costumes from the future looked very good.

As for the acting, there's not too much to say. All did their job well, some even exceeding, like Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent or Hugo Weaving, but no one stood out from the cast. I definitely think Tom Hanks and Halle Berry were overused, and I wished Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw were more present, but overall it was well acted.

I strongly believe that Cloud Atlas is an underestimated movie by most and I don't know why-usually, the complex and star-studded films get rave reviews, but this one is different. Maybe it's the sci-fi. Or because it's directed by the Wachowskis. Or maybe people just don't like to bother with complex storylines. Who knows? I just wish more people would love it. I definitely do, and I highly recommend it. (Expect even a spot in my best of 2012 list)

Dec 7, 2012

Silver Linings Playbook [2012]


Silver Linings Playbook is a 2012 production directed  and written by David O.Russell, based on a novel by Matthew Quick. It tells the story of a recovering mental illness hospital patient (Bradley Cooper) and his struggles to get back his old life. Things get interesting when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

I was pleasantly surprised by SLP and interestingly enough, 30 minutes into the film, I was already thinking it was one of the year's finest. The script is definitely one of the best things about the movie- it's realistic, on point, with no-bullshit or overly dramatic sequences, and most importantly, it manages to be both emotional and funny, both unsettling and easygoing. I also thought the main theme, that of mental illness, was well represented, even if they overreacted in some cases; moreover, since there have been so many people affected by it in the last decades, that depression or anxiety symptoms are common knowledge, unfortunately. The good thing is the film gives it a happy ending and enforces the idea that people can get past it, that you can survive and live a normal, happy life with it, if you just fight hard enough.

One of the SLP strong points was definitely the cast, starting with Bradley Cooper- who knew he could act? I never paid too much attention to him, I always considered him to be just another Hollywood heartthrob, but he was outstanding in this role and I sincerely hope he will be nominated at least for some awards. Jennifer Lawrence was amazing, as expected and she is definitely on her way to stardom, although I wouldn't actually say she is Best Actress material, but close enough. Even the supporting cast delivered, starting with Jacki Weaver, who I love, and continuing with Julia Stiles, her husband, played by John Ortiz, and even Chris Tucker. Robert de Niro was also exceptionally good and worth of its inevitable nomination, but not enough for a win, at least in my eyes- I think the supporting category is very strong this year and will be won by either a Les Mis actor or by DiCaprio.

The direction was very good, although I wasn't a fan of the often shaky, dynamic shots that Russell used, but I did love the close-ups. The music was particularly interesting, especially the Alt J song which I will definitely look up soon, and there's nothing good or bad to say of the sets and costumes- they were perfectly fine for the film.

In the end, Silver Linings Playbook is, indeed, one of 2012's best films and you should definitely see it, for its strong story, approachable characters and way of dealing with a delicate theme.

Nov 30, 2012

November recap

I really don't know how November passed so quickly...again! It just seems like time is running out, hurrying to get somewhere and is not stopping for anyone. Maybe I am just getting older!

Anyway, November, for me, was...uneventful! I did do a lot of reading and spend some days at the mountain side, where I relaxed, but no big developments, although I am now involved in an interesting project! At least I know the second half of December will be interesting!

Before we enter the month of snow, presents and carols, here's my list for November:

Movies 10
James Bond 007: Skyfall [2012]
Like Crazy [2011]
Argo [2012]
Expendables [2010]
Sound of my voice [2011]
Breaking Dawn 1 [2011]- re-watch
Breaking Dawn 2 [2012]
Ruby Sparks [2012]
The Mask of Zorro [1998] re-watch
Cloud Atlas [2012]

Books 10 (The Mortal Instruments series- 5 books, The Infernal Devices series- 2 books, and some other infamous, unimportant, rather embarrassing books...but still, all in English, so that must count for something, right?)

What have you been up to? Any plans for December?

I wish you all a lovely day and month!

Nov 27, 2012

Sightseers [2012]


Back in September, at the FDA showcase event in London, I had the chance to watch Sightseers, a very interesting, quite distinct film, directed by Ben Wheatley (of Kill List fame), and written by the two leading actors, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. It tells the macabre story of a couple who go on a romantic cross-country trip, only for her to discover Chris is a serial killer.

You have to see Sightseers- it's one of the best, most creative and funny movies I have seen in a while, despite its violence and gory details. The script is a definite highlight of the film- it features realistic and approachable characters in strange, highly unlikely situations, and most of all, it tells a story. What I admired most about the script was the perfect mix between darkness/violence and humor  done in a funny way, but also balancing it properly to create a good film to watch.

One of the other things I liked about Sightseers is the fact we can see a definite transformation, on both accounts, especially personality wise, although the action is also thrilling. The man tries to adapt and hide his condition, but ultimately can't hide back his true nature, while the woman starts as an innocent person, who is faced with a horrifying truth and has to decide what to do next- her future actions are quite shocking. The two actors, Alice and Steve, work perfectly together and deliver their lines in a fun to watch manner, the dialogue and setting making it unmistakably British. Side note- favorite line: "he's not a person, love, he's a Daily Mail reader".

From a filmmaking point of view, I thought it was well-made and realistically portrayed a violent nature of humankind, knowing when to shock and when to hold back, especially when it came to the actual deaths. I did find the slow motion use for the dramatic scenes a bit weird at the beginning, but I got used to it by the end.

Sightseers is one of this years' best British films, in both story and characters, and I highly recommend it- I enjoyed myself and I hope you will, too.

Nov 23, 2012

Ruby Sparks [2012]


Ruby Sparks is a 2012 comedy written by Zoey Kazan about a writer to creates a perfect woman character who loves him, and somehow transforms her into reality. Directed by the talented duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, it stars Paul Dano as Calvin, the young prodigy who creates Ruby Sparks (Zoey Kazan) on paper, the seemingly perfect woman for him. It's a sweet, unconventional, very funny and interesting love story that it's worth seeing. 

One of the key strong points of the movie was definitely the script, one that perfectly blends humor with love and deeper themes like loneliness, selfishness, desire and control. Zoe Kazan, a first time writer, I think (I may be wrong), does a good job in creating a story with heart and delivering realistic lines of dialogue and characters (such as the girl who gives Calvin her number and then meets up with him at the coffee shop, or his brother), but mixing it with a little bit of fantasy and quirkiness (the parents, the idea of making Ruby come true and others).  There are many things that I loved about the film and I don't know a better way than just write them down, one by one. And so, I loved: 

- the first scene and the lighting
- the more practical older brother (Chris Messina)- "women are mysterious creatures"
- the therapist- "I love it when you say stupid things"
- the scene describing Ruby
- the mother and her Spanish partner (Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas) and their quirky house 
- the acting all around, especially Paul Dano
- " you're real"
- "I want to be what's making her happy, without me being the one who's making her happy"

The last part of the film was a bit surprising for me and I think that made me reconsider my whole opinion on it. Although it is a fun movie, it wasn't afraid to go dark and explore the bad side of Calvin, with his need of control and love. At some point it gets too far and that scene where he makes her do so many crazy things definitely proves that. This set me off and the ending felt the same because, well...because it was sweet and...too good to be true? Maybe it was just me, but considering the innovative and interesting way it was written, I had expected more, but then again, it is a Hollywood movie...

In the end, I think it is one of 2012's best and you should see it- a nice, funny indie that dares to go deeper and darker, in a creative and sweet way. Please do see Ruby Sparks!

Something is missing...maybe the end was unsatisfactory

Nov 19, 2012

Breaking Dawn I & II [2011 & 2012]


Last week, my sister took me to see Breaking Dawn I & II, as she is a big fan of the books and series (she is 7 years older than me). I didn't like the first part last year, but I said OK now just to see how things will develop and have a clear view on the whole situation. After the screenings, I can still say I don't like BD1, but 2 is a rather good ending to a very successful franchise.

Breaking Dawn 1 starts with the illustrious wedding, which was done in a very tasteful, beautiful way- I loved the dress and the very awkward speeches, but the dialogue was still incredibly cheesy. They obviously consume their honeymoon, and Bella soon realizes she is pregnant, which, with a vampire being the baby daddy, it's practically impossible. The rest of the movie consists of Bella getting worse by the day as she refuses to give up the baby that is slowly killing her. As expected, it ends with the birth of Renesmee and Bella as a new vampire.

Why I didn't enjoy it? Although I understand why they split the book in two movies, the second half of BD1 still dragged on, even though they cut a lot of scenes. On another note, as usual, I really didn't like the dialogue and its delivery by the actors- it's weird, because I loved the book and on paper it was better than what it sounded on screen. Still, the supporting characters were downright hilariously bad, especially Jackson Rathbone and Kellan Lutz, and their look is still unconvincing. High points? Wedding, honeymoon, Bella's look and the transformation into vampire.

Breaking Dawn 2 was much better, which was curious, considering it was directed by the same man and in the same time as 1- maybe the story moved a little faster than the first part. But don't think I loved it, because I still found many flaws to it- let's just say I liked it overall and it gave a nice ending to a series of books I used to love. BD2 follows the Cullen family in their happy days as the young girl grows and Bella gets used to her new state, but the clouds come in when the Volturi find out about the child and decide to kill her. The ending features a violent fight between the Cullen's friends and the Volturi clan, which has a surprising turn that I quite liked. The last scene is, of course, very romantic and a sweet wrap-up of the now famous love story.

I know most men will hate BD2, but I thought it was fine. It was slightly better than most Twilight films on all accounts and the fight scene was very cool, including its conclusion. If I could object to one thing, and that could apply to all the franchise movies, is the hair and make-up of the vampires- they never ever got it right (with the exception of Robert Pattinson, of course, and Kristen Stewart in the last one), it all looked absolutely horrible and cheesy.

Should you see Breaking Dawn 2? Well, if you watched all previous 4, than yes, you should, just to see how it all ends, no matter how painful in might be. If you skipped through Twilight films, and saw just one or two, just forget it, it's probably not for you.

Nov 15, 2012

Sound of my voice [2011]


Sound of My Voice is a Brit Marling movie (written, acted and produced by her) about a cult revolved around a young woman who claims to be from the future. Peter Aitken, a late 20s guy, infiltrates into the group with his girlfriend, Lorna, in order to make a documentary about Maggie, the mysterious woman, and show to the world she is just a fraud. The situation changes when he is suddenly attracted and intrigued by Maggie, in spite of his earlier doubts.

One of the things I love most about Brit Marling is her ability to create such curious stories, with sometimes unbelievable ideas (mostly science fiction), that blend together and form a type of film that you are, without realizing, drawn into and inexplicably fascinated of, although it doesn't seem that interesting on a first glance. This story has a little bit of everything: drama, mystery, character development, philosophy, and sci fi, but what ties it together is the performances of the main actors, Marling, Denham (Peter Aitken) and Vicius (Lorna).

Christopher Denham, playing Peter, the man who is keen to show the true Maggie to the world, is quite the revelation, as he suffers the biggest transformation, all starting to change after the absolutely fantastic scene of the apple, my favorite. Nicole Vicius offers an equally great performance, as the girlfriend who takes the exact opposite path to Peter: she starts up intrigued by her, almost believing, but ends up plotting against her. But hands down, the best part was played by Brit Marling, the very talented woman who is simply mesmerizing- I don't know if it's just looks or something else completely, but she draws attention in every form and gives a credible and sometimes realistic performance. I expect great things from her in the future.

One of the reasons I wasn't overly excited about Another Earth (her previous film) was the directing, but Sound of my voice is much better, and as a whole, it works and looks very good. I loved the part where she told her story, or the first time we see them taking all the precautions to get to the safe house, and especially, the apple and confession scene, fantastically played by both Denham and Marling. As for the ending, I equally loved it and hated it- it made you realize that maybe she is not lying and is from the future, but also it made you imagine the next step for Peter- will he follow her or not? will he help her escape or not? will he believe her?

So yes, you do have to see Sound of My Voice, because of the script and because of Marling's mesmerizing performance and talent in all accounts. I recommend it and hope you'll like it, too!

Nov 12, 2012

Argo [2012]


Last week, on its first day of release in Romanian cinemas, I went to see Argo, Ben Affleck's latest directorial and acting effort. Written by Chris Terrio and based on a true story, it tells the story of 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran. It's a very well made film that has mostly high points, although it is not as perfect as some might say.

The true story set in the 1979/1980s recalls the conflict between the US and Iran over the extradition of former Iranian leader, which led to a hostage situation and even a revolution in the Arabic country, and that's the main trigger of the script. Tony Mendez, played by Affleck, comes in as an extraction specialist to help get out 6 embassy employees who managed to get out of the building before the people marched in and took control. As much as it is a suspense and thriller story, it is also an emotional one, and the end will keep you on your toes on all accounts. The screenplay is quite good and manages to mix different themes and characters without creating confusion or being too cliche. Maybe this where the movie's success lies in, in the interesting and qualitative combination of story, character development and emotional deliverance, one that has proven hard to accomplish lately in cinema.

But things aren't perfect all the way through; one thing that I particularly didn't like was Affleck's direction. It felt, in most cases, too dynamic, too fast, and it did not have a clean and fluid shooting style- some scenes were rather hard and visually tiring to watch. I know he is mentioned in many awards predictions of Best Director, but I think there are better ones on the list that should have the prize. Other than that, the rest of the filmmaking elements were pretty good, especially the score and cinematography, but also the set design.

Casting wise, Argo was flawless. I, personally, thought Ben Affleck was a better actor than director here, although I have seen better performances from him in previous years. I also don't get why people are pushing Alan Arkin for a Supporting category; if it would be my choice, I would go for either Bryan Cranston or John Goodman, these two shined much more than him. The actors portraying the 6 embassy employees were also well chosen and I particularly loved the woman playing Cora Lijek, Clea DuVall.

Since we are already talking about awards, I can definitely see it nominated for Best Picture, Director (although I don't agree), Cast, maybe Script, and I can see it being a worthy candidate for Best Picture, most likely.

Argo is a very well made film that deserves all the attention is getting, but it is not the masterpiece some are claiming it to be. It is a film that will appeal to many and I wouldn't mind it that much for it to win Best Picture, it would be a safe and predictable choice. Definitely see it!

Nov 8, 2012

Beyond the Hills [2012]

Cristian Mungiu's second film, after the acclaimed 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days, is yet another drama, this time, with an even more interesting, tragic theme: religious fanaticism and exorcism in orthodox churches. Based on a true story written by Tatiana Niculescu Bran, it is, as expected, a bleak, yet extremely well made and fascinating film, that you must see. It tells the story of Alina, a woman who comes back to Romania to take Voichita, her best friend from childhood, with her in Germany to work, but realizes that the young girl is not the same person, as Voichita is now living in a monastery and is deeply religious. She tries to convince her otherwise, but the situation gets out of hand when Alina suddenly gets sick and starts scaring people around her, especially the nuns and priest.

Most would argue that one of the highlights of the film is definitely the script- it did, after all, win the Best Screenplay award in Cannes-but I am not that convinced, although I do think it is very well written. What I admired and loved about Mungiu's script most was that he didn't take sides or focus on a specific theme or idea: he didn't actually pinpoint the fact that it was a mental problem, or it was really the need for an exorcism; he didn't show us a clear relationship type between the two women- they could have been friends or lovers or something else entirely. And he didn't blame it directly on something- that is what impressed me the most: Mungiu let us believe and interpret the actions in our own way, according to our own beliefs, and I believe that is not only a wise thing to do, but a difficult one, as well, and he should be celebrated for it.

I think the script maybe wouldn't have been such a success if not for the performances of the two leading ladies: Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur. They not only had great chemistry with each other, but with the other actors, as well, but they individually shined, as two completely different people, both equally complex and troubled. Alina, played by Cristina Flutur, is the more direct, strong type of girl, but who now faces a sad, even depressive moment in her life, as she feels lonely and misguided, and that's why she comes back after her friend. Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), on the other hand, is a shy, kind and static type of person, who only wants to help and be peaceful, and she thinks she has found that with God and the monastery, a situation that Alina does not understand. This situation creates a tension between the girls, but also in themselves, as Alina tries to come to grips with Voichita's change, while the younger woman wants to make her friend follow her lead. Both were challenged in different ways, as they faced horrible decisions and facts; in the end, it was Voichita who had the power to change Alina's fate, but didn't or she did, but much too late. It may be a little confusing for you now, as you read it, but after you see the movie, you will understand- I just don't want to give too much away. Let's just saw that Stratan and Flutur are well worth of their acting award in Cannes, as they gave one of the year's best performances.

Moving on to the filmmaking part, I can say that Cristian Mungiu's typical direction visibly evolved in a more mature, complex way, but still having its visually appealing traits like the wide and close-up shots, or following the individual with camera from behind, and rather unusual shot frames. It worked for 432 and it definitely works here, maybe even better than his first feature. There are also some interesting and sometimes funny shots in Beyond the Hills, like the nuns transporting the girl to the church, or the scene in the end, in the car. He is fast becoming one of my favorite directors out there, alongside Steve McQueen, who I find to have a similar style of directing. 

As for the other elements, I loved the cinematography, and again, the sets and costumes, as they were completely realistic and well done. Not much of a score (maybe none at all), but trust me, the film will not bore you- the tension is there most of the time and the script helps it move forward in an interesting way. 

Talking to other people about it, I noticed one thing that could cause a problem for viewers, especially non-Romanians. I have been told that there are many subtleties, many small details and knowledge factors that could confuse people, as they are not familiar with the religion or the customs here, and I have to say, I agree, in some parts. That doesn't mean that the script alone, or the relationships and actions revealed are enough to make the film a fantastic one, but you should know it's not as easy to see as an American one, for example.

Overall, Beyond the Hills is yet another big accomplishment, not only of Cristian Mungiu, but also of the Romanian cinema, and I am proud of it. I hope you will like it, too, and I urge you to see it. Just like you saw A Separation last year, or White Ribbon years before that, see this one- it might be an Oscar Foreign Language nominee- at least I hope it will.

Nov 3, 2012

James Bond 007: Skyfall [2012]


Skyfall is the newest James Bond installment, directed by Sam Mendes, based on the Ian Fleming characters and written for screen by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. After a failed mission, Bond disappears and is believed dead, until he shows up in M's house, after a bomb attack in the MI6 headquarters. The film follows Bond's efforts to keep M safe, but also to reconnect with a secret agent lifestyle he no longer wants.

I must say I was impressed with Skyfall, I was expecting worse, for some reason. There are few flaws to it, and mostly everything ties up together in a very sleek, action-packed and dramatic way, that works very well on screen. I think one of the strongest points of the movie was definitely the script, in my opinion. Firstly, I loved the fact that we got to see a vulnerable side of Bond- he is human, after all, and Skyfall proved that in more than one occasion. Secondly, I admired the fact that, this time around, the females were not omnipresent or didn't form the obligatory storyline- there was no unnecessary love story, something that usually downgrades or takes the focus out of the Bond franchise's scripts. I also liked the M storyline and the fact that it wasn't an action-based plot, with bombs and unheard of gadgets- it was based on characters, relationships and feelings, and it had meaning and reason. One last thing I will mention, script-wise, is the introduction to Ben Wishaw's Q, but also Fiennes' upcoming presence in the Bond franchise- they don't have too much to do in Skyfall, and their presence wasn't that noticeable, but I think we can expect more from them in the future films.

The script also provided very interesting characters and I loved the fact that we could see a clear development of them, in a good or bad way. It's not often you see Bond in a vulnerable state, miserable and drunk, and you also don't usually see M react in an emotional way. Both Daniel Craig and Judi Dench gave wonderful performances and I think they helped rise Skyfall to another level. The villain, played by Javier Bardem, was in accordance to the story and provided exactly what it was needed- a deranged, intelligent, with seemingly logical reasons, but most definitely a mad person, who is capable of the worst and who doesn't fear away of anything. Bardem was spot on for his character, although his hair made me chuckle the first time I saw him on screen; but that really doesn't matter and certainly, it doesn't take away the fact that he can play a villain like no one else can.

From a filmmaking point of view, it was very well done. The direction and cinematography suited the secret agent world and there were some standout scenes that were a delight to watch: the sneaking up on the mercenary in Shanghai, the deserted town part, and my favorite, the sunset/night scenes in Scotland- those were fantastically done. I enjoyed the action scenes and I thought they were beautifully executed, without the usual exaggeration in this types of situations, plus the score helped set the tone and make things move in a much more dynamic and appealing way. Adele's theme was the perfect match for the opening sequence, and it was much better than I originally thought and heard- her voice and the dramatic sound of it definitely suits this type of movie. The sets and costumes were great, and London being in the spotlight was a highlight for me- I loved seeing some of the tube stations and places in town, but a touch of melancholy hit me, as well: I miss it so much!

I came into the theater expecting a good popcorn movie and I ended up enjoying myself much more than I thought. It isn't top 10 for 2012 material, but it sure is a great movie that I highly recommend you see in cinemas. I hope you will enjoy Skyfall as much as I did!

Oct 31, 2012

October recap

October has past, yet again, as fast as the last few months- time is running out and I feel like I am loosing it on useless things. Take October, for example- I was busy almost every day of the month, but I haven't actually accomplished anything important. I did chores for my parents, I met with the some friends, but I didn't get a job or write on the blog.

That's one of the things I regret and feel very bad about: not being too active on the blog, when I had the time. As you can see below, my movie count is shameful, and I hate it. But lately I don't have the mood to either see or write about a film, which is weird, because I used to love it before- I still do, but it's proving to be more difficult to do. God, I am such a lazy person, I need to change things quickly this November, and I will start by making a day by day schedule I will have to keep up with- mandatory tasks regarding job search and movies. I know that if I keep at it, I will definitely reach some of my goals- I am an organized person, but I also need motivation to get things done, and that's hard to have sometimes. But no, I am determined to have a much more productive November. Focus Diana! :)

Anyway, let's stop whining and start November on a much better vibe. Until then, here's my very short list for October:

Movies
ParaNorman [2012]
Devil wears Prada [2006] re-watch
Traffic [2000]
4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days [2007]
Children of Men [2007]
Beyond the Hills [2012]

Books 2

How were you this month? lazy, active, did anything interesting? 

Oct 29, 2012

Children of Men [2006]


Children of Men is a 2006 dystopian film directed by Alfonso Cuaron and adapted for screen from a novel by P.D.James. It features Clive Owen in the part of a lost, sad man who is suddenly thrown in a world of conspiratorial events and death, but also hope and survival. It is definitely one of the best films of its genre and deserves all the praise and attention it has gotten.

The premises is simple, yet tragic and heartbreaking: in the year 2027, the world is facing chaos, death and violence, but especially infertility, something that has left the Earth population in a grey, unhappy and with no ounce of help state of mind. Theo is contacted by his ex wife and asked to help transport a refugee, Kee, who proves to be much more precious than expected. The end is both positive and negative, and leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth. The script has a very interesting concept, with a great mix of drama, love, action and existential themes. That's actually one of the films' strongest points: its ability to create a dystopian world without overreacting or relying too much on sci-fi or science. Children of Men talks more about people, the evolution of mankind and relationships, and less about new technological developments or unseen gadgets, and that gives it more soul and ultimately, impacts you on a much deeper level.

Alfonso Cuaron is perfect for this type of movies. He has a very dynamic shooting style and that works here, especially in the running scenes. There are many details that I loved and appreciated: the blood on the camera, the close-ups, the shaky camera in some points. The dark cinematography complemented the direction very well, as did the sets.

The casting was probably one of my favorite things in Children of Men. Clive Owen in one of his career's best parts- he gave an amazing performance as the sad, miserable man who finally finds a reason to live and fight, 20 years after the death of his son and separation from his wife. He has always been a favorite of mine and I always wonder why doesn't he get more roles, or better ones, to say so, considering this performance and the one in Closer. Another standout was definitely Michael Caine as the wacky, adorable old Jasper, and of course, Julianne Moore also impresses in her short time on screen. One mention I have to give is to Oana Pellea, the woman playing Marichka, the gypsy  who is actually Romanian- when you were hearing her talking rubbish in a weird language, that was actually Romanian. It was quite cool for me to recognize that- she is a loved and appreciated actress here. 

In the end, Children of Men is definitely a must see for all film lovers and dystopian aficionados. Very well made, visually appealing, wonderfully acted and with existential themes like hope, survival, love and humankind, it is highly recommended. 

Oct 24, 2012

Private Peaceful [2012]

Last month, at FDA showcase event, I had the pleasure of seeing a number of new movies, some I haven't even heard of before. One of the more pleasant surprises was Private Peaceful, a very well made war movie, considering its budget and casting. It's the story of two brothers who fall for the same girl while trying to cope  with the pressures of their family life, the war, and the price of courage and cowardice. Based on a Michael Morpurgo novel, written for screen by Simon Reade and directed by Pat O'Connor, this small film should be on your radar in the next following months.

The story is not overly creative or unknown- two brothers like the same girl, and as they grow old, the girl eventually chooses one of them, while the other is left hurt and abandoned, and so he decides to join the army in order to forget about her. The situations worsens when both brothers end up in war, and get in trouble for disobeying orders. I won't give up too much details of the plot, but it is a touching story, with approachable characters and a steady, yet intriguing storyline.

One of the things I appreciated and remembered was that, for such a small budget and unknown names, it had surprisingly good quality in both acting and filmmaking. The cinematography was beautiful and used simple, yet effective techniques, the direction was on point and didn't overreact on certain occasions (see War Horse) and the sets, costume and music helped the story come across in a much more realistic way.

The casting was definitely one of its strongest attributes. Starting with very good young cast (Izzie Meikle-Small, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Samuel Bottomley) who set up the movie, and its high class supporting cast, starring Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour, and ending with the three main leads, Alexandra Roach as Molly, the girl who wins both of the men's hearts, and the two brothers, Jack O'Connell as Charlie, the older, smarter and more charismatic brother, and George MacKay as Tommo, the younger, more sensitive and heartfelt boy. There are some things I noticed about them and their acting that I want to mention. First, interestingly enough, younger Molly was much more interesting and appealing than older Molly, as Roach was quite bland in her part (or maybe the script didn't allow her to shine). Second, George MacKay gave, probably, the best performance out of the three, with his sweet nature, misunderstood character and brave facade. Third, Jack O'Connell, the guy who played Charlie, very much reminded me of Anton Yelchin.

In the end, Private Peaceful is a very good British war movie that proves that you can make a wonderful film without enormous amounts of money. Some might say it is a more normal, less dramatic, low budget, version of War Horse or Saving Private Ryan, and I think I would agree. You should see it!

Oct 18, 2012

Romanian Cinema (2): 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days [2007]

My second attempt to discover and examine Romanian cinema was the Cannes Palme D'Or winner, 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days. I was extremely surprised, in a very good way, of the quality of the film, from all points of view: direction, cinematography, acting, script and so on. Set in 1987, the prime time of Communism in Romania, we witness a day in the life of two young women: one about to have an abortion, and one helping her with this delicate situation, meanwhile trying to survive her own demons.

First things first, the script was quite outstanding. Seemingly simple and static at times, it simmers in emotion, fear and uneasiness. We see the life of two young women ruined within a day, and mostly because of a heartless man, a merciless creature who only cares about money and his own safety. For me, this was one of the scariest and dangerous types of villain I have ever seen, although he technically didn't kill anyone, or shoot/strangle someone directly. His insensitive behaviour towards the girls was evil enough to qualify him as an villain in my eyes. I was also stunned about certain script decisions I did not see coming: I don't think I have ever been so surprised by a change in story like the moment they went from fighting over money to taking their clothes off, or the fact that Mungiu or the script meant to show us the detail in the bathroom at the end.

Filmmaking wise, I absolutely loved it. I could literally write paragraphs after paragraphs about Mungiu's directing style and favorite scenes. For example, I liked the constant moving of the camera, but choosing the right moments to stop it and let the subject move away, or the way he puts the camera on the counter in the hotel, or how he stills the camera for minutes while a whole conversation is happening. His style reminds me a lot of Steve McQueen and I love the former, so Mungiu just reached the top 3 current directors list for me. I can't wait to see Beyond the hills next week. The cinematography was beautiful and it was interesting to see how he used dark or very dark tones for some scenes. As for music, there was no soundtrack, but I didn't need it, the normal background noises were loud enough to compensate for the lack of music.

Another thing I have to mention, because I thought it was brilliantly executed and helped me appeal and understand the whole situation better, was the realistic feel of the feature. Mungiu absolutely got it right-most of you probably don't realise, but everything in this film delivers a Romania in the communism era- from the way they talked, to the cars and buses, to the interior designing, everything. It's weird, but also nostalgic and appealing to most nationals, including me. Starting with the first shot: all the little, seemingly unimportant, but spot on, Romanian things, like Doina, the usual make up remover/face cream/mask for women those days, the blanket on the bed with the standard model, the ASOS cigarettes, or the soup in the container. Moreover, the conversation between the adults at the table near the end is EXACTLY what happens in a normal Romanian dinner party. Speaking of this particular scene, I also liked it because we could see the decay of the girls' state of mind, the sadness in her eyes, the worrying for Gabita and everything else crowding her mind, all whilst the adults were talking about food and children.

Another strong point was, of course, the casting. Although it features very few actors, they do their job wonderfully, all delivering awards worthy performances, especially Anamaria Marinca, playing Otilia, the much more open and daring friend, who does all the "dirty" work for her friend. She shines throughout the film, because we see the biggest change in her actions and feelings: she is, at the beginning, the no-bullshit, let's get things over, type of girl, but by the end, she is more vulnerable and sad than Gabita, the woman having the abortion, will ever be. I also have to mention Vlad Ivanov, who played Bebe, the ruthless man performing the "medical" act, who gave a standout and quite chilling performance.

As I think I said in my previous instalment, Romanian filmmakers are good at dramatic features...so good, that they very rarely stray out of tragedy or drama genres, and when they do venture into comedy, it's not always pleasant. 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days is one of the best dramas I have ever seen, in national or international cinema and I am very proud because of it. It's just sad it took me so long to see it.

I urge you to watch it, even if you're afraid of foreign movies. This one is worth the trip, especially if you appreciate and love outstanding films.


I am very curious to find out what you thought of it, if you have seen it! What was your take on the story, the direction, the sets and vibe of the film? Please share your thoughts or link me to your review, if you've written one!

Oct 15, 2012

Traffic [2000]


Traffic is probably one of the best dramas, or better said, best political/addiction dramas I have ever seen. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Stephen Gaghan (but based on a miniseries), it focus on drugs, more specifically on a conservative judge who is appointed by the President to spearhead America's escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is an addict. Winner of multiple awards, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director at the Oscars, Traffic is unmissable.

The script, an intersection of stories and characters, is quite intricate and political, but it works perfectly by the end of it. When I noticed this, I thought it would be hard to follow, or it will make me loose the interest, but they connected things very well. My favorite storyline was the main one, that of the judge and the daughter, just because it had so much to provide and prove, and the ending of it was both touching and memorable, as the man who's job was to fight the war, had to quit it in order to survive that same war for and with his daughter.

Another strong point for Traffic is definitely the casting: not A listers, but good, talented actors, who are not in the front of the line, but still do their jobs to the T; people like Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman, Dennis Quaid and others. Benicio del Toro, as Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez, delivers one of the strongest performances of the cast- what I liked most was his way of showing so much emotion and care without overacting or letting on his feelings in a visible way. Other standout performances were those of Catherine Zeta Jones, a woman who I have never seen have a bad day acting, and Michael Douglas, of which I can say the same thing, but also Erika Christensen, who provided the surprise as a young addicted woman who takes the wrong turn in life.

From a filmmaking point of view, it was quite spectacular. Soderbergh's direction was spot on, giving the story a very realistic feel and showing us all the sides of the main topic, without being too subjective on one or another. Shocking and moving examples are most of the scenes with the young woman, like when the teenagers were taking drugs, or the moment in the dirty hotel room with the black guy, but also some of the scenes in Mexico. Similarly, I liked how the cinematography, colors and editing were different according with the set up and the cities (special elements for Mexico, or the blue motif for some of the scenes). All together, the technical elements worked beautifully with the performances of the actors to give us a film worth watching.

Overall, Traffic is a fantastic movie, not only because of the story, its delicate theme and how it was made, but also because it manages to provide a realistic and sometimes shocking view over the drug war. That's probably why I liked it so much- because it told the story of drugs from all points of view: those who buy it, the users; those who sell it and produce it, the cartels; and those who try to stop it, the force. Traffic is a drama you should definitely see, if you haven't already.

Oct 11, 2012

Frankenweenie [2012]


Frankenweenie is the newest Tim Burton production, inspired by a 1984 short film he made for Disney, but ended up being rejected. It tells the story of Victor,a young man passionate about science and his dog, Sparky, who also is his best friend. When it dies, the kid suffers, but after an inspiring and interesting lesson of mister Rzykruski, the science teacher, he decides to bring his dog back to life by using electricity. He keeps him a secret, but after a classmate finds out, more youngsters decide to do the same with their pets and things get out of control when some don't turn out to be as cool as Sparky.

* Before going into details, let me explain the conditions of my viewing. 9 am, got there late, I was very hungry, slightly sleepy, and the very cold room I was in made me feel very uncomfortable and again, sleepy, so I might not be the best or most objective reviewer, especially when it comes to my overall opinion.

Moving on to the actual film, Frankenweenie is Tim Burton's return to his golden age; he comes back to a more interesting, less flashy side of art, and creates a funny, yet dark story for people young at heart. Although the entire process of making the movie is long, complicated and intricate, the setting and direction seem to be quite simple and smooth. It doesn't try to be more than it is, visually speaking, because it puts the focus on the story and the characters, but doesn't stop in offering the viewer a visually beautiful film, in all its darkness and simplicity, and the black&white definitely helps put across the story better.

One of the strong points were definitely the characters- they are awkward, they are quirky, and they are dark, but somehow you feel for them and understand their actions, although it's not something you see day to day. My favourite has to be the Weird Girl and her furry white cat- they stole the show for me (can we have a spin-off, mister Burton?). The science teacher, Edgar and Elsa are also highlights, in great cast.

But here's my problem and overall observation. Is Frankenweenie a good film? Yes. Is it very well made, with good direction and script? Yes. Is it visually beautiful? Yes. Was I excited about it afterwards? No. Did it touch my heart or move me emotionally? No. Do I think ParaNorman is better? Yes. Why? Because ultimately, it's funnier and more appealing.

In the end, do I recommend Frankenweenie? Yes, but only because it's Burton at its finest and it will probably be one of the animations most people will see this year.

Oct 8, 2012

ParaNorman [2012]


Bucharest has, from time to time, some very cool events, and one just started a couple of days ago: Animest, an international film animation festival. The event's premiere on the first day was ParaNorman, a Laika studio production. Written by Chris Butler and directed by him and Sam Fell, it tells the story of a kid who can see and talk to ghosts, for that being considered a freak in school. Things get complicated when a weird old man entrusts him with the vital task of stopping the witch's curse over the town.

ParaNorman turned out to be a fantastic film, one of the best animations I have seen in a long time- might even crack my top 2012 film choices, and that is surprising, considering I don't particularly like animated movies.

Let me tell you why you should see this. First and foremost, it's extremely funny most of the time, and that we can "blame" it on the script, a definite strong point of the film: its lines and hilarious situations make you laugh out loud. Moving on, we also have a lot of action, some scary moments, and great, lovable, down to earth characters, with slightly exaggerated traits to make it more funny. Mix that with fantastic visuals, dynamic direction and an appropriate soundtrack and score, and you've got yourself a hit.

I enjoyed this much more than Frankenweenie- maybe because of the use of colors (as opposed to F, which was Black&White), or because of the much funnier script, with the more realistic and hilarious characters, but overall, in my eyes, ParaNorman is a class above Frankenweenie, not to mention much more entertaining than the Tim Burton film.

Please go see ParaNorman, I think you will like it! 

Oct 5, 2012

Now is good [2012]


Now Is Good is a typical teenage movie based on a novel by Jenny Downham called Before I Die, about a 16 year old girl with leukemia who decides to give up on treatment and live the little time she has left. She makes up a list of things, wild things she wants to do, including sex, stealing and taking drugs and sets out on a journey of accomplishing them, together with her friend Zoey (Kaya Scodelario) or her brother, Cal. Of course, a hot boy enters the picture, Adam (Jeremy Irvine), and things get complicated.

Now, the cancer story has been done quite a lot in the recent years- 50/50 is the first to come in mind, but I am sure there are others, too. The problem lies in the fact that Now Is Good doesn't accomplish what 50/50 did: it doesn't move you emotionally, it doesn't show a different side of the story or new, unusual reactions. This film follows the classic, and I am mean classic in the sense that it is the classic way cancer is portrayed in movies: girl is depressed, takes it out on the parents or friends, although they are not to blame for. She does stupid things and refuses treatment or help because she thinks they pity her, and so on. Adam coming into the picture already gives you an idea of how things will follow (they fall in love, they don't want to let go of each other, teenage angst...you know the drill). Please don't think that I am underestimating or not understanding the effects and problems of cancer- I know these things actual happen in real life and I am not trying to criticize the story, but I think they could have done it better.

Take A Walk to Remember- it still gets me to this day. Maybe it's the actors, maybe the script, maybe the sad, although some might say, cliche ending. Still, I always cry at the end of it and I will always want to re-see that film (it's kind of my Notebook). But Now Is Good fails in that department and it's a shame, because the book is ten times more effective and emotional, especially the ending, which had me bawling my eyes out when I first read it. By contrast, the film didn't: when the credits started rolling, I said to myself "ok, nice movie, when do I have to be in X place?".

Filmmaking wise, I don't really know what to comment- nothing stands out, good or bad about most aspects. I do have the mention the soundtrack and score, which are pretty good.

As for the casting, I quite liked it. It featured a rather convincing Dakota Fanning (both in accent and acting), and a very pretty, but not quite there yet Jeremy Irvine- he plays his part, but it just seems so amateurish, I don't know, I wasn't convinced, but then again I can't say anything bad about him either. Maybe it's the script, maybe I'm too picky. Just forget about it, he is handsome and does his job. Paddy Considine is a wonderful actor that, despite the idea and the script, did a fantastic job in portraying a father desperately trying to somehow save his daughter from an imminent death. Him and Olivia Williams, who plays the mother, are the standouts, acting wise, of the film and once again, prove their worth.

In conclusion, I wouldn't warmly recommend Now Is Good, especially if you don't like romantic comedies or teenage movies, although it isn't a bad movie to say so. As you might have guessed, I wasn't overly excited about it, but I think I let the book raise high expectation for the film. It was a good adaptation, but it just didn't hit the emotional level I was expecting. If you ever have a choice between this and A Walk to Remember, got for the latter.

Oct 2, 2012

Holy Motors [2012]


I've been struggling with this review for over a month, for several reasons: first of all, the film was a little complicated and, at times, unbelievable; second of all, I still find it hard to explain and understand the premises and meaning of the movie myself; third of all, all of that just put me off wanting to write it. But I really do have to, so this is my attempt (sorry if I screw it up).

Holy Motors is directed and written by Leos Carax, about...well, here's where things get complicated. The official synopsis on IMDb says: "From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shadowy character who journeys from one life to the next. He is, in turn, captain of industry, assassin, beggar, monster, family man..." I believe that it is about a man who gets payed to fulfill other people's dreams and wild imagination, living this fantasy for different period of times(5 minutes or a while night). Basically, that is what he does all day: running around Paris, whilst being driven by an older lady in a white limo, from job to job, doing crazy, unexpected and sometimes, confusing things.

Despite its madness and WTF factor, Holy Motors is definitely intriguing. You are fascinated by the crazy actions, and although, at some point, you might have the tendency to give up, it still keeps you asking questions: is that girl really his? who is Kylie Minogue's character and what does she mean to him? Is it all a dream? Who is the agency? and so many more like that. I won't even talk about the end, because it mean to spoil the film for you, but let's just say that it 1. Clarifies the name for me but 2. Confuses me even more on a more general level of the story. Again, wtf?

From a filmmaker's point of view, it was quite good. Interesting direction, to match its course of action, the score fitted it very well and special props to the make-up department for some of the scenes. Denis Lavant as the main character, Mr.Oscar, is fantastic and I am surprised he hasn't received more praise for his work, but then again, I also think Holy Motors, because of its originality, will, most likely, be left out of the awards season, so ultimately, it doesn't surprise me. Eva Mendez and Kylie Minogue play their parts to the T, but don't get overly excited, there's not too much going on for their characters, in terms of complexity or action.

I know a lot of people didn't have the patience or, better said, were not drawn into the story enough to stay focused or give a shit by the end of it, but for me, it was definitely interesting to watch and experience. I was outraged, shocked, confused, but ultimately, intrigued by it. I can't and won't say too much of it (because I don't want to and, as I said before, I can't)- you need to experience it yourself, but I believe you should give it a try when it comes to your cinemas or local DVD store. Curious to see what you think of it.

Sep 30, 2012

September recap

This September started off very strong, but dosed off after the first week. Let me explain why: I handed it my dissertation on the 30th of August, then, from the 1st of September, I think, I got to participate the Fall Preview organised by the Film Distributors' Association, where I got to watch a lot of great movies. 15 out of the 16 viewed this month were because of this event.

After 4 days of intense film viewing, I packed by bags and went back home to Bucharest- I was sad to leave London, it wasn't actually by choice. Anyway, the next 3 weeks were spent adjusting to the new life and my time and mood for movies were practically nonexistent  but thank God I have a good final balance, and I have to thank the London event for it :)

Anyway, here's the list!

Movies 16
Madagascar 3 [2012]
Hope Springs [2012]
The Knot [2012]
Private Peaceful [2012]
Holy Motors [2012]
Anna Karenina [2012]
The Sweeney [2012]
Untouchable [2011]
Sister [2012]
Rust and Bone [2012]
End of watch [2012]
Frankenweenie [2012]
Lawless [2012]
Sightseers [2012]
Now is good [2012]
The Apartment [1960]

Books Sadly, I haven't had time to finish any books this month :( Hopefully, I'll be more successful the next one!

As usual, I ended disappointed in my September, but I'm not going to promise or hope for a better month- que sera, sera! :)


What did you do/see/read this September? anything good?