Showing posts from March, 2016

Snapshots - #42: Thor: Ragnarok, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, LBJ

Thor: Ragnarok (2017), (♦♦♦♦½): Thor has saved earth twice by now and has, for the last two years, wandered the universe searching for infinity stones. He hasn't found any. He has, however, become prisoner of an enemy of Asgard, Surtur, who tells Thor that his visions of Asgard engulfed in flames is a premonition of Ragnarok—the destruction of Asgard, which is already in motion. Thor frees himself and arrives at home to find Loki sitting on the throne, passing as Odin, and neglecting his duties to protect the Nine Realms. With Odin's exile, Asgard's enemies have been reassembling, but Odin's death may just free Hela, a goddess against whom neither Thor nor Loki are enough.
It was in Thor: The Dark World where Loki, an antagonist, first threatened to steal the show. He became the villain that Marvel fandom loves to hate. While Loki is at his most charming in this film, the director, with the help of a sparkling screenplay, has very much exploited the great chemistry of t…

Brooklyn (♦♦♦♦)

Young Eilis Lacey has no future in her small town in Ireland, thus her older sister pays for Eilis' passage to America where a job is waiting for her. After the initial homesickness every time she receives a letter from her sister, Eilis settles into her new life in Brooklyn, taking classes at night to become a book keeper and finding true love in the arms of an Italian young man. Little does Eilis know that the past is about to rear its head; and when things seem to be taking a lucky turn in her hometown, she will be forced to decide the future she wants and the man she wants to share it with.
Brooklyn can boast of being a classy love story with great direction, and a solid yet meaty screenplay that allowed the ensemble cast in general, and the three leading actors in particular, to make the most of it. I would have felt more comfortable had the movie been slightly shorter; I didn't find much sense in scenes at the dinner table when Eilis was living at the boarding house.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 (♦♦♦)

After the 75th Hunger Games went up in flames, the leader of the rebellion, President Coin, has kept Katniss as the unifying element of the revolution. Peeta and the victors who were kept hostage by President Snow in The Capitol, have been liberated but at what price?! They have been tormented and brainwashed.
The rebels are planning a final offensive against the Capitol, but Katniss decides to go rogue and makes it her mission to kill President Snow in his mansion. Little does she know that the stakes are higher than she has anticipated, and that President Coin's will to win at all cost will prove devastating for Katniss in particular, and for Panem in general.
Mockingjay, Part 2, the final installment in The Hunger Games franchise, is darker and grittier than any of its predecessors combined. It manages to keep the audience alert, something that wasn't achieved in Mockingjay, Part 1, but not to the point of excitement as was the case in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

The Big Short (♦♦♦♦)

Years before the housing market collapse, a minuscule group of people saw what everyone refused to accept: that the subprime mortgages had infested the financial world and major companies were capitalizing on issuing loans to people who were likely to default. Some of these wise men even made millions of dollars by betting against the US economy, and they were right, but as everyone knows, what ensued was the catastrophic collapse of the US economy and a worldwide recession.
I don't presume to be financially savvy, and probably, like most people, understood just the basics of the housing market collapse, but even though I wasn't a fan of the narration format of The Big Short, I think it helped me navigate the murky waters of the financial world.
I'm not even sure I understood everything they threw at me in this movie, and kudos to the production team as well as the screenwriters for even trying, but with the little I think I got, my blood boiled. It made me feel as when I sa…

The Danish Girl (♦♦♦)

Painters Einar and Gerda Wegener have a loving marriage in 1926, Denmark. Einar is very successful as a landscape painter, while Gerda, who paints portraits, hasn't yet made her mark. When a friend bails out as a dancer model for a painting that Gerda needs to put finishing touches to, she asks Einar to wear the female dancer attire and pose for her. Only Einar rediscovers a dormant passion, triggering a chain of events that will make him become a transgender pioneer with the support of his wife.
I have been noticing Eddie Redmayne on the big screen for years, and almost always I kept wondering when would be his opportunity to shine. He was the son of Angelina and Matt Damon, an inadvertent mole, in The Good Shepherd; he was Jack in the miniseries The Pillars of the Earth, the willing boy toy in My Week with Marilyn and his breakout role was in the musical Les Misérables as Marius, Cossette's love interest. Although he won an Oscar for Best Actor for his interpretation of Steph…

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley (♦♦♦♦)

IT specialist and amateur code breaker Sara Thomas, has always been protected by her first cousin Jacqueline who is in the publishing business. When historian Alistair Scott needs a code breaker to decipher a journal written in 1732 by second generation Jacobite exile Mary Dundas, Jacqueline presents Sara with the opportunity, and Sara, who is between jobs, accepts the partnership.
Twenty-one year-old Mary Dundas has had a protected and rather dull life making up fairy tales inspired by the ones written by a famous female author of the age. Little does she know that when her older brother Nicolas comes to claim her, he has in mind to offer her as company for a Jacobite exile who is running from the law due to a financial scandal in Scotland, and that Mary, over the course of five months in 1732, will travel through France and end up meeting aspiring king James Stuart VIII during his stay in Rome. During her voyage, Mary will face persecution and danger from the very people intent on ap…

Captive (♦♦♦)

A man named Brian Nichols, accused of rape, escapes from a courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, after killing two people and leaving one comatose. He steals four cars around the city and kills a federal agent before holding hostage a woman for seven hours. Ashley Smith, Nichols' captive, talks him down using passages of the book The Purpose Driven Life.
I remembered elements of this case, particularly about the woman talking to her captor about The Purpose Driven Life, so I recognized the story in the film.
A movie filmed almost entirely in interiors, may risk feeling claustrophobic, but Captive is dynamic and focuses less on where the story takes place and emphasizes the plot and the performances.
If David Oyelowo's Nichols is at times introspective and at other times rather volatile, Kate Mara's Ashley is the perfect balance, a strange mixture of fear, vulnerability, and poise. Those emotions may be hard to convey, but both Oyelowo and Mara do so brilliantly.

Saving Mr. Banks (♦♦♦♦)

After 20 years trying to lure author P.L. Travers to sign off the rights of Mary Poppins to Disney's Studios, Walt Disney invites Mrs. Travers to California to approve the script, but the uptight lady isn't too keen on negotiations after all this time. It takes Walt Disney to share with her the truth of his humble beginnings and the promise that he made to his daughters of remaining true to the vision of Mary Poppins.
Saving Mr. Banks is wonderfully acted by Tom Hanks (THF-I, THF-II) as Walt Disney, Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers, Colin Farrell as Travers Goff, and Paul Giamatti as the limo driver.
Uptight British manners played against American cultural differences with great humorous effect, bubbly music, and heartfelt portrayal of family life, are elements that contribute to make Saving Mr. Banks one of the most splendid films of 2013.