Last Summer — Review

Last Summer_

3Star

“A film that stands squarely on its own, unafraid of its craft, and from a director that has a keen eye for striking an absorbing atmosphere while staring into the void and asking questions about the future.”

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Instructions Not Included (No se aceptan devoluciones)

Julie (Jessica Lindsey) drops by with a surprise for Valentín (Eugenio Derbez).

Julie (Jessica Lindsey) drops by with a surprise for Valentín (Eugenio Derbez).

3Star

by Ken B.

The great British director Stephen Daldry once said something I didn’t quite like when I first heard it. He noted that when showing one of his films to test audiences, he observed how they would go along with it, enraptured by the plot and characters at every plot point. Then critics would see it, and write about how foreseeable and pointless a lot of those same elements were. He concluded that “regular” people were a far more accurate reading over the success of that film than critical impressions. At first, I dismissed this as another filmmaker slighting critics because they weren’t all writing the raves he thought he deserved. However, after watching more movies like Instructions Not Included, I sort of understand where’s he’s coming from. This is certainly a movie that works better if you haven’t seen too many movies. If you have, it may come off as overcooked, mawkish, and manipulative, and the heart and soul hidden behind the storytelling problems will be lost. Continue reading

The Book Thief

The Book Thief_

25Star

by Ken B.

The Book Thief suffers from two distinct problems – in the first two thirds, it is a bit disconnected with its details, but has its share of professional and efficient moments. In the last act, everything comes together and has much more clarity, but it becomes very emotional, and sometimes overdoes it. Brian Percival’s film is an undoubtedly mixed product, ultimately a grab bag of achievements and could-have-beens. The acting is usually good, the visuals atmospheric, and John Williams delivers with his iconic orchestra-based music, but the actual script is a bit of a mess, and hurts the movie’s impact as a whole, no matter how good the other elements may be.

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Romeo & Juliet (2013)

Romeo&Juliet

1-5Star

by Ken B.

Two of the more well known adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 straightforward classic, and Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 hyperkinetic modernization. They are both very good in their own respects, achieving their goals with ease. There have of course been many others, but no one really thinks of them when considering movie versions of the story. I feel like this, Carlo Carlei’s 2013 film, is destined to join them. This is a dull, unnecessary movie. It doesn’t have many new views on the story: it’s set in period Verona, which means nearly everyone has a stuffy upper-class British accent, and it essentially follows the storyline of the play to a tee. It attempts to be original by having screenwriter Julian Fellowes (creator of Downton Abbey) changing up much of the original dialogue with modified dialogue that sort of sounds the same, usually in the interest of shortening things for time. Unless you’re really paying attention, you don’t particularly realize any major differences, and when you do, you realize how awkward it is. Because I doubt that anyone literate enough to open this page wouldn’t be familiar with the plot, I’ll just start my review now.

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Oblivion

Oblivion_

2Star

by Ken B.

Oblivion is a movie that spends 124 minutes with a very nice look and using good actors, but ultimately muddles around in the story department and manages to kill your interest multiple times. There is plenty to admire, but also much to be disappointed with. It is a simultaneously enjoyable and regrettable experience. The film is set in 2077, when a large interplanetary war has obliterated much of the world and destroyed the moon. Most surviving humans are relocated to Saturn’s moon Titan, on a large base called Tet. Tet commands the humans left on Earth, who maintain drones to keep the attackers, known as Scavs (as in scavengers) at bay. One of them is Jack (Tom Cruise), who lives in a large base named Tower 49 with his partner (both professional and domestic) Vika (Andrea Riseborough). While Jack is out working in the dangerous uninhabited remains of land, Vika works back at Tower 49, keeping in constant contact with both Jack and a representative for Tet (Melissa Leo), making sure that everything is in order.  Continue reading