Arrival

Arrival

Rating: 4.85/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

Review:

Having heard about this movie and seen part of the trailer I had written it off as yet another sci-fi movie featuring aliens. There were people running around and being violent and aliens talking about weapons and an explosion and everything was frantic and I just did not feel like it was my cup of tea and that other similar movies have been made.

I could not have been more wrong and I am so glad I read a review on IMDB that changed my mind and made me want to watch it because that is so not what it is like. This is not just another movie about aliens. It is so much more than that. It is absolutely stunning. Mysterious and heartbreaking and everything comes around at the end. I honestly don’t understand why try to pass the movie as something it is not.

There are very suspenseful scenes indeed where you can feel the sense of urgency and it is totally justified but ultimately the vibe of the filme is awe-striking and somewhat dreamy, which has a reason why and is made clear as the movie comes to a closure.

The close-ups are incredible, moving, and the soundtrack blew me away. Oh my gosh. It gave an entire new dimension to the movie and completely involved me and intensified the alien atmosphere.

There is only one scene that I did not like because it felt like it did not belong, and the slow pace was a struggle sometimes, even if it was part of the movie’s charm, but overall this was an absolutely incredible work of art and I hope you will watch it. If you stick to the story and pay attention, it will stay with you and you will want to discuss it after sitting on it. I know I do!

Captain Fantastic

Captain Fantastic

Rating: 4.9/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

Review:

Well, I have to say this one blew me away.

Other than the opening scene where the CGI seemed fake and one scene where what happened was logistically impossible, there isn’t much I can point out that was wrong with this movie. I am still unsure whether the kids, apart from Bo who still lived the first years of his life in society, were even registered but maybe I missed that or it just wasn’t important to the story.

When I first read the blurb for some reason I figured this was a movie featuring wild children who pretty much only knew how to survive and whose parents maybe taught them how to read. Instead, I am presented to a father who does his best to, yes, teach them how to survive in the wild, but also educate them and get them to think for themselves. These children are cunning and some of their conversations left me dumbfounded.

The movie evolves with a series of emotionally packed scenes, particularly following their mother’s illness and subsequent death. Some events are full of teenage angst and you can definitely see the dynamics changing, with Ben keeping to his beliefs while being open to to something different as long as it is properly argumented.

Everyone is just plain brilliant in their performances, both main and supporting actors. Viggo Mortensen is amazing. You can clearly see this father’s struggle to come to terms with the fact that what he believed was best for his children may not actually be so.

Whoever cast these children – kudos. I was particularly awestruck with the eldest and the two youngest, but in general everyone was so darn expressive. I cannot even conceive how such young children could possibly memorize such lines while maintaining natural facial and body expressions. My chin actually dropped during some scenes.

I cannot really say much more without spoiling the movie for you. Captain Fantastic is simply amazing. It is shocking, at times even macabre, enthralling, thought-provoking and beautiful. You really need to watch it as soon as possible, don’t let this one slip by!

Doubt

Doubt

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A Catholic school principal questions a priest’s ambiguous relationship with a troubled young student.

Review:

Doubt was at the same time brilliant and exasperating.

There isn’t much I can say about this movie without spoiling it. I believe I have never watched a movie that featured such ambiguous dialogues, which for me was at the same time genius and nerve-wrecking.
It was a very powerful movie and there were scenes when the characters never said a word but you could feel a range of emotions coming through the screen. At times, the tension was palpable.

I am still trying to process it all. It is a solid film with impressive interpretations, a controversial main theme but so much richer than that, as it confronts the spectator with several serious issues to which you may never get a right or wrong answer.

In the midst of it all, I think I found Viola Davis’ character the most shocking and emotionally packed. Both Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman blew me away with their performances throughout the entire film, and the way they played their characters was brilliant, particularly Streep’s. Sister Aloysius sure goes through a troubling development.
However, Davis as the altar boy’s mother, in perhaps five minutes in the entire movie, was something completely out of any league, so disturbing and heartbreaking, and she was so freaking good.

I hope you will watch Doubt as it really is an excellent movie, but please know you may be disappointed in the ending. I know I was. I understand the conclusion and it was quite powerful in its own way, but I am still sad about it. I think with time I will learn to move past it and fully appreciate it for its brilliance.

Snowden

Snowden

Rating: 4.75/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
The NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency’s employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.

Review:

I went to watch Snowden with someone who was extremely well informed about the subject while I sadly wasn’t and while we had extremely different perspectives going into it, I believe it is safe to say both thought the movie was pretty darn awesome. From the former point of view, it appears some important things were left out, while I kept getting stuck on stuff like how does a guy who did not even finish high school and obviously really wants to make it in Special Forces turn out to be such a genius, only being self-taught.

The fact is the story enthralled me. Even if some things felt cheesy, especially the abuse of light surrounding the main character in key moments, the fact is due to such a strong issue and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s stellar performance (queue choir of angels – yes, I am biased towards this guy, sue me), this was indeed a memorable experience.

I mean, that guy obviously did such a brilliant character study. I cannot get past how he placed his voice. The facial expressions and ticks, the way he held himself, a lovely mixture of a fragile and strong young man with principles literally held me at the edge of my seat sometimes – I had to keep reminding myself to sit back.

Some things did throw me off besides what I mentioned above, such as the way he got the information out (the entire process just seemed oversimplified) – and really every single time he expressed his obviously dangerous points of view.

However, I had a terrific time watching this and I highly recommend it. Makes me want to watch the documentary, to find out what really happened and what is just in the movie.

Youth Without Youth

Youth Without Youth

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A love story wrapped in a mystery. Set in World War II Europe, a professor is changed by a cataclysmic event and explores the mysteries of life.

Review:

What an intriguing movie. It is not a fast-paced one, that’s for sure. It flows like a dream or, at times, a drug-induced hallucination.

When 70 year old Dominic Matei is struck by lightning, instead of dying, he rejuvenates. Not only that but he seems to have gained the ability of never ageing, so we accompany him throughout different times and places, watching him deal with his new abilities while having to make difficult decisions. When he meets Veronica things take an even more bizarre turn.

I was not sure what to make of Dominic. He certainly seemed to handle all the weirdness that was happening to him quite easily and some things did feel like devices to get the movie going in a certain direction, such as the fact that he would find such a nice doctor that would do anything for him and how the heck could he support such a lifestyle through the years if he wanted to remain low key? Where did his money come from, to what extent did he use his powers?

The story became so focused on the supernatural things happening to him and the people chasing him to their own advantage that I failed to see the man behind it all.

The resolution towards the end seemed rushed and nonsensical. The last scene was quite touching, though.

In the end, Youth Without Youth is definitely a thought-provoking movie that stands out from the rest but it is definitely not for everyone’s taste.

The Uninvited

The Uninvited

Rating: 3.75/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
Anna Ivers returns home to her sister Alex after a stint in a mental hospital, though her recovery is jeopardized thanks to her cruel stepmother. Her dismay quickly turns to horror when she is visited by ghastly visions of her dead mother.

Review:

The Uninvited is one of those movies where you reach the end and want to go right back to the beginning so you can view things from a different perspective. I have to admit I did not see the ending coming.

I was very surprised by the mystery, development of plot and the outcome, which are clearly its strong points. It was very interesting to see all the characters evolve and understanding where everyone came from, why they acted the way they did.
Also, the imagery and setting could be beautiful and eerie at the same time, which is a must have in horror movies, in my book.

On the other end, as a horror movie it did have its share of clichés, which got a bit cheesy at times. I kept thinking I had seen all that stuff before – the setting, the pacing, the camera plans – and certain scenes looked very rehearsed, the main character was not natural at all. I wish the director had taken those in a different direction, although there was clearly an attempt to tone that factor down while still making them suspenseful and frightening.

In hindsight, not every single thing made sense but I still find this a very entertaining, intriguing movie and I recommend it for fans of the genre.

Lolita – 1962

Lolita

Rating: 4.25/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A middle-aged college professor becomes infatuated with a fourteen-year-old nymphet.

Review:

Having just finished watching this movie I must say I am perplexed and still trying to digest it, as a lot happen throughout it.

At times I was quite confused because everything seemed to move so fast, especially in the beginning. I had hoped the transition to Humbert’s act on his desires would be more gradual and yet in one scene he is agreeing to live in the house and the next he is holding on to Lolita’s hands during a scary movie. The inability to keep track of time is something that stayed with me throughout the entire film.

I am pretty sure everyone knows this story. I did not think it would be possible to translate it to screen without ever being explicit but it was marvellously done.

All performances are stellar. I had not really thought of Lolita this way and it was astounding to see her evolve like that. On the other hand, you can’t help but almost feel sorry for Humbert. And Quilty… Boy, Sellars was truly amazing in that one.

I don’t think there is much more I can say without spoiling the movie but it is classic for good reason. I can’t say I remember the book very clearly after so many years but I do believe the adaptation was well achieved, even if quite lengthy.

As I mentioned I had a few issues with the pacing but I still believe it was well developed and there were a couple of scenes that brought a circular feel to it, which I quite appreciated. The film has depth on so many levels that you cannot help but be swept away by it, despite how deeply disturbing the story is.

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.

Review:

The opening scene of this movie had me laughing out loud and there were a couple of them which had the same effect. Most of all however I felt extremely sad for Florence’s character, who was just so very clueless. I guess it comes from a personal place as I know what it feels to be mocked and not realizing it at the time but yes it did upset me after a point.

On the other hand, the performances were superb. There are several interesting characters, all multifaceted and very well constructed, that were a joy to discover. Never was any information ever imposing at all, it was given progressively and at key moments and so it flowed so well, which is not an easy thing to achieve in a movie, especially these days. So yes, the screen writing definitely gets a big applause from me.

St Claire Bayfield was probably my favourite character. He is so devoted to Florence and yet he is still a man, so he has other needs. He struggles to find a balance between the two and that struggle shone through Grant’s performance – one of his best, I must say, certainly the best I have seen of him to date. He didn’t even have to say anything for me to feel for him.

Little Simon Helberg… Well, he blew me away. I had only known his work on The Big Bang Theory and never thought he was capable of pulling off something like this. His effeminate ways paired with his wavering between curiosity, maintaining composure and even his dignity all served to provide numerous humorous moments. He made me laugh most of anyone and he also made me care. That soft side of him truly moved me and provided a much-needed balance to the character and the entire story.

And Meryl Streep. Well. Not much to say about such an amazing actress. Stellar performance from beginning to end. Again, her story was told in the most organic, natural manner. There was never any info dumping and for that I was extremely grateful.

Florence Foster Jenkins is an interesting movie with a varied set of characters. It got quite a bit tiring for me at some points, there was some language that definitely did not seem fitting of 1944, and I honestly grew tired of Florence’s singing. It was one of those things that I felt were ok do it once or twice as it is funny, but do it much more than that it is just annoying and, again, sad.

I definitely recommend you watch it but for sure be prepared to both laugh and become quite emotional.

La Vita è Bella

La Vita è Bella

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
When an open-minded Jewish librarian and his son become victims of the Holocaust, he uses a perfect mixture of will, humor and imagination to protect his son from the dangers around their camp.

Review:

No, this is not the most historically faithful movie. Yes, there is no way most of this stuff could ever happen. It is still one of the most beautiful, inspirational movies I have ever seen. Throughout it I was never sure whether to be incredibly sad or amused and ended up being both at the same time, which left me an emotional wreck.

I have to admit I was put off in the first part of the movie because that machine-gun drivel style of talking gets tiring. Trying to keep up made my head hurt, but it is part of Guido’s charm, talking so much you can’t tell it’s all nonsense cause you don’t have enough time to process it all. And seeing all the seemingly pointless scenes come together in such funny sequences was very amusing.

Guido’s imagination had no end and that is where the strength of the movie lies. The lengths to which he goes to keep his son safe and rid him of all that is going on…
The kid was such a star, so expressive…
And the ending made me cry like a baby.

There really isn’t much I can say without spoiling the movie but I definitely want to make it clear this is one of those movies you need to watch at least once in your lifetime.

Disconnect

Disconnect

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A drama centered on a group of people searching for human connections in today’s wired world.

Review:

This movie approaches a multitude of situations any of us could encounter in today’s world.
We often think tragedy only strikes others, so it is definitely food for thought.

Disconnect addresses situations we are all aware of but probably don’t pay much attention to, as they are outside our little bubble. The movie confronts you with those awful situations and asks you what you would do in those characters’ situation.

The directing was very good. I can tell there was a lot of thought put into the set according to each particular characters’ situations and even filming each scene.

Pretty much the only downsides I found were the couple dealing with the loss of their son – they felt like strangers well before that event, it’s like the husband’s military past did not even happen up to that point, for example -, and the FBI being so inefficient felt like a plot device to get things to where they needed to be for dramatic potential. Also, I had trouble dealing with the slow pace.

It makes sense because there are several different stories happening at the same time and due to the reality of the situations. There are no car chases or big explosions here, this is real life.

The stories reach their climax in slow motion scenes but I just could not feel the impact as expected, for some reason. I guess I found the build up to some of them either too slow or that it did not have enough background/development or I just wanted more.

Still, Disconnect is a very heartbreaking, real movie. The ending was just as realistic and I believe it is something everyone should watch, from as young as teenagers.

Equals

Equals

Rating: 2.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
In an emotionless utopia, two people fall in love when they regain their feelings from a mysterious disease, causing tensions between them and their society.

Review:

The premise to this movie, although not new, was quite promising. A society where emotions are viewed as a disease and people actually do not question it throughout almost the entire movie made me curious enough to watch it.

However, it got overpowered by a romance where I could not even feel the chemistry. Kirsten’s face works well for the robotic layer of her character but when trying to convey emotion, let alone chemistry with her co-star, it just didn’t work.
Also, her excessive thinness and bags under her eyes truly annoyed me. Aren’t these people supposed to look healthy because they are free of pretty much all diseases?

Also, I have to admit, I dozed off from time to time. Granted, a restless night of sleep didn’t help but boy was this movie slow. There wasn’t even a climax, not really, no matter how high the director pumped the soundtrack’s volume up.

The first contact between those two should have been much more intense. Their reactions were pretty muted considering that supposedly they had never even touched anyone up to that point. Just holding hands should have sent sparks all over their bodies, being confined in such a small space and that close and all. Instead there was just a lot of eye, lips and hands close-ups and some panting but no actual emotion or passion that came across.

The development after the plot twist made me bat-crazy. I could not understand why the guy was running around, it just seemed ridiculous.

The ending was a major cliffhanger and did not satisfy me in the least.

I wish I had seen more of the dystopia, the world building, than such a major focus on romance.

It was okay but really, really slow and honestly not that interesting.