Archive for January, 2013

director: Derek Cianfrance

actors: Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta

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When Luke (Ryan Gosling), a legendary motorcycle stunt-racer finds out that his ex-girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes) gave birth to his  son, he decides to provide for them by using his motorcycle skills to assist in a bank robbery. Of course, not everything goes a planned… Bradley Cooper plays the over-motivated cop who tries to catch him. I’m a fan of Gosling and Cooper, so,as far as I’m concerned, a very promising cast, directed by Derek Cianfrance, who worked with Gosling before in the 2010 romantic drama ‘Blue Valentine‘. Release date for the US and most of Europe is end march.

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Actors: Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu

Director: Tony Kaye

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From American History X- director Tony Kaye, comes a dark drama about a  teacher named Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody). Henry is a substitute teacher who wanders from school to school, never staying very long in the same place and that suits him fine since it keeps him from having any emotional attachment to his students and colleagues.

Henry is a man you grow to like, he’s got a certain sadness over him, tries to stay sane and to do the right thing despite the fact that the world around him is anything but a happy place. His grandfather is dying, most of his colleagues are on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the school he’s working at falls victim to a completely failing school system. On top of that his students have no hope for the future and seem to have lost all sense of decency and values. Still, willing or not, he seems to get trough to some of them. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Brody’s performance is without any doubt the major strong holder here. The movie itself might not dispose of the same magnificence as, let’s say ‘The Pianist’, but his performance sure as hell does. Brody confirms he is an exceptional actor, in a role that is somewhat different than what we’re use to see from him. This flick isn’t going to leave you with a smile, but it will leave an impression and resonate in your head for quite a while.

Director: Amy Berg

Actors: Damien Wayne Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin, Eddie Vedder, Henry RollinsPeter Jackson

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I didn’t really think I was going to talk about documentaries here, but that was before I found out about the ‘West Memphis 3‘, a few months ago. The West Memphis 3 were three teenagers from West Memphis, Arkansas, who were wrongfully convicted for the murders of three 8-year old boys, back in 1993. ‘West of Memphis’ is the fourth documentary dedicated to this case. The first one dates back to 1996 (Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills). I stumbled upon it by coincidence and after seeing it I immediately watched part 2 and 3 as well. (Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000) and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2011)). The three teenagers’ sentences ranged from life imprisonment to the death penalty. Because of the documentaries, the case got even more media coverage and caught the attention of a few celebrities like Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Peter Jackson who started giving their support to the defendants  . Finally, the West Memphis 3 were released last year.

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All four documentaries basically cover the same issues, though new facts appear and are added to the story over the years: three teenage boys (Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin) are accused and convicted of a triple child-murder without any real evidence against them. Damien Echols was held accountable by the  local police and justice department, based on a forced confession and his interest in the occult, the two others basically because they hung out with him. The murder of the three boys was, according to local authorities, a satanic ritual. The catastrophic incompetence of the local authorities is exposed: evidence against other possible suspects is overlooked or simply ignored, judges and prosecutors try to make a name for themselves at the expense of the defendants. It is the ultimate example of a modern-day witch-trial. I’m not going to sum up all the facts that are presented, that would be too much, you can find all of that on the web. I will say this though: the story of the West Memphis 3 and the child murders at Robin Hood Hills is one of justice failure, abuse of power and ignorance, but also about courage, solidarity and standing up against injustice. Of course, all of that doesn’t bring back the 3 young boys who were killed, and on top of that, their killer is still out there.

To fully comprehend the entire story and background of this case, one should watch all four documentaries. Not only to get all the facts, but because they are spread out over such a long period of time (from 1993 until 2012) it gives you a genuine feel of how long this flagrant injustice went on. You see the three boys as teenagers in the first parts, when they are finally released, they are men in their thirties.

Actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna KendrickAnjelica Huston

Director: Jonathan Levine

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A movie about dealing with cancer, death and the life lessons that come with it… with Seth Rogen in one of the major parts? You have to admit it sounds quite odd, but I guess that’s why it caught my attention and made me curious. And I must say, my curiosity was rewarded. Seth Rogen’s performance isn’t much different from anything else he played before: the goofy teddy-bear-like chubby with a certain lack of finesse. But is works great, even in a movie like this.

When Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes to a doctor because of a persistent backache, he is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. Not only is the ground swept from under his feet when he hears the news, Adam also quickly learns that a live-changing event like this also has an impact on the people around him. Through his illness, he learns he didn’t know some of the people close to him as well as he thought.

I can imagine what this story tells about dealing with cancer comes pretty close to reality for some people. You might think differently because there’s quite a bit of comedy in it. But if anything, that comedy somehow makes the story even more genuine. After all, isn’t humor also a way of dealing with the set backs of life? Don’t get me wrong, this movie also depicts the fear, the helplessness, the disbelief, the anger and a few other things that come with dealing with something of this magnitude. But that’s the beauty of this film: comedy and drama come together in a balanced way. It also tells a story about how, even a major mishap can lead to enrichment in one’s life. 50/50 will put a smile on your face at times, but it might just as well immobilize you on occasion.

Check out this scene where Adam, with the help of his friend Kyle, decides to overrule one of the symptoms of his chemotherapy and shaves his head bold.

A new Danny Boyle flick is always something to look forward to. ‘Trance’ is a thriller featuring James McAvoy as an art auctioneer who becomes involved in the heist of a Goya masterpiece with a group of ruthless, underworld criminals led by the ever-intense Vincent Cassel. Rosario Dawson co-stars as a highly-intelligent psychotherapist Elizabeth, hired to coerce the location of the priceless painting after Simon double-crosses his mobster partner. After ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘127 Hours’ and last year’s Olympic Opening Ceremony, Boyle takes on yet another genre with this drama-thriller. I’m eager to see Boyle’s take on this on since he always manages to be original and genuine in whatever he does.  A release date is still to be confirmed but is expected to be somewhere around the end of March.

Actors: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman

Director: Ben Affleck

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Honestly, I did not know what to expect when I went to see this movie. The little that I knew about it came from the trailer I saw on TV, and Ben Affleck as a director? That was new to me too. But it was Saturday night and so, off to the movies I went. I didn’t know what I was going to get for my money, but what I got exceeded every possible expectation.

Argo is based on a true story about the rescue of 6 American diplomats who had evaded capture during the seizure of the American embassy in 1979, in Tehran, Iran. A CIA operative named Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) travels to Tehran with a seemingly unimaginable plan to get them out: the six and himself will pose as a Canadian film-crew that is looking for locations to shoot a Sci-Fi movie named…Argo (remember, this is a true story!).

Affleck takes on the principal part and does so very well. But it’s mainly Alan Arkin and John Goodman, who play two Hollywood veterans (one’s a producer, the other a make-up artist) who steel the show. They are hired by Mendez and the CIA to help them create “a real fake movie” and everything that comes with it: a script, actors, press coverage, money, a fake production company,… everything is provided. Towards the end none of all those things turn out to be superfluous.

I’m not sure it’s because this movie is based on a true story, but from the very first minutes it grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go anymore. If anything, it only tightens its grip. Even though you more or less know what the outcome of this story is going to be, it is one of the most suspenseful films I saw these last few years. It was announced today that Argo is nominated for 7 Academy Awards, I would not be surprised if it scoops up the biggest one: best film.

Actors: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell

Director: Lynne Ramsay

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‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ tells a story of a mother trying to cope with the horrendous doings of her son and their aftermath. Eva, a once successful and free-spirited writer, finds her life disrupted by becoming a mother and being stuck in suburban life. Not only does motherhood stop her from leading the exciting life that she had, her son seems to be anything but a normal child. As a baby he cries and screams continuously, as a toddler he refuses to speak and only seems out to make his mother’s life a living hell. As he grows older, Kevin’s behavior becomes more and more vicious, until it finally climaxes into the unthinkable…

The story shows Eva as a broken woman, living alone, in a constant state of disbelief over the horror her son has inflicted. She goes looking for answers in the memories of her life with Kevin and her family. Through her memories we see how Kevin, from a very young age, seems infused with evilness. As I was watching this movie, I felt more and more uncomfortable as Kevin ‘evolved’ from a small child, (out to test, resist and hurt his mother) into a young adult, applying his intelligence and cunning to attain the one devastating goal he seemed to have planned out for himself since he was barely able to walk. I caught myself thinking several times: “No, he didn’t…”. But he did. And the worst was yet to come. And though Kevin’s evolution is disturbing and unpleasant to observe, not watching the rest of it isn’t an option, because you know it leads to something even more monstrous. I guess it is part of human nature to want to know, even when the outcome is disturbing.

The acting performances of both Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller and their interaction is incredible. Miller, skinny, dark-haired and dark-eyed, puts on a really chilling performance while Swinton probably plays the role of a lifetime. I can’t imagine anyone else nailing this one the way she did. ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ is a modern, superb, psychological horror-drama, linked to present-day reality. This is a movie you won’t easily forget.