Dredd – Slow Down the Motion

Dredd is an one hour and a half action movie directed by Pete Travis, and written partially by Alex Garland (28 Days Later 2002, Never Let Me Go 2010). Among the cast we have as principal characters: Karl UrbanLena Headey mostly known thanks to Game of Thrones, as Cersei Lannister, “the one sleeping with her brother yeurk”, and Olivia Thirlby (known for some second roles as in No Strings Attached 2011 or in Being Flynn 2012).

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The movie is based on the comic created in 1977 by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra who worked with Alex Garland on the script for Dredd 2012. Danny Cannon directed the first film about it in 1995, starring Sylvester Stallone, named Judge Dredd. Cannon’s Dredd had kind of bad feedbacks,; Stallone wanted to show his face whereas in the comic the Judge’s face is never supposed to be shown  (maybe it was a marketing trick so that people would say “OH MY GOD THIS IS ROCKY” or whatever, and run to see the movie). However it did quite a flop in the United States that year. So when Travis’ Dredd came in, people had low expectancies (and I was one of them). That’s why I was agreeably surprised when I saw it.

Basically the story is about the conflict between violent criminals and justice, in a futurist and dystopian America. It takes place in a metropolis: Mega City One, where a drug; the Slo-Mo, is in circulation. The name is explaining the effect of the drug; coming from Slow Motion, the Slo-Mo slows the perception of time to who’s using it. The Judge is then asked to arrest (or kill) Madeline Madrigal (Lena Heardey, Ma-Ma of drugs) who kills by forcing her victims to take the Slo-Mo and then throws them away through a window. To do that, the Judge has to team up with new recruit, Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) who possesses quite astonishing skills. And there we go, the hunt is launched!

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The graphics are great, we are kind of thinking we’re watching the story running when we start a video game. A lot of colors, futurist images and right away, we are introducing to the Slo-Mo. We’re seeing The Judge on his bike, chasing a couple of guys in a car, using the drug. And Pete Travis, filmed the effect of the SM (sounds wrong…) using well… a strong slow motion.  And further in the movie, a scene will become cult (and was before even the movie was projected, thank you, YouTube); a violent shootout. The Judge and Cassandra enter in an apartment where people (linked to Ma-Ma) are using, and begin to shoot them. The scene is filmed in order to let us see from the eyes of the judges, and the dealers.

Well, globally, this is not the best film ever, but it allows you to kill some time, enjoying the graphics and the Slo-Mo scenes. And for those who saw Judge Dredd, seeing Dredd now, could be a nice surprise.

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This Boy’s Life – A young brilliant DiCaprio

One of the greatest roles of Leonardo DiCaprio as a kid, was the one of Tobias Wolff, in a cinematographic adaptation of the author’s memoirs; This Boy’s Life. His performance, literally gave life to the pretty monotonous movie, that seemed unfinished, or missing pieces.

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The actors are all outstanding, and we can’t reproach them anything. The real problem is coming from the mechanism of change: from book to film. Director Michael Caton-Jones, chose to focus on the relationship mother/son plus external father figure appearance. Indeed, it is the story of a boy who never had the opportunity to live with his rich father, nor his brother, but rather had to stuck to his mother, the brilliant Ellen Barkin, and saw her being mistreated by her boyfriends, while living modestly. He wanted to escape this kind of life, taking as  models his non existent male figures, trying to do great in his studies and build his future professional life. However he had this tendency to fall into some vicious circles of quaint youth, and not caring about school. And this came simultaneously with the arrival of Dwight Hansen, his mother’s new lover.
His extreme behavior, mixing continuous anger and feeling of inferiority, pushed Tobias to seek for rebellion and for a total detachment from reality.

He wanted to be called Jack, a more boyish name, tougher, reminding those adventurers, brave and strong, and element, paradoxically put with his ambiguous relationship with another boy. He was hanging out with a bunch of thugs, smoking, and acting really immature, but also joining the Scouts. He hated Dwight but was getting closer and closer to him, behaviorally speaking, as being his daily and only father image.

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However, the movie stays moving, recalling the importance of family bonds. And each characters brought a special asset, helping shaping a good film. DiCaprio was a talented kid at that time, and his talent never stopped rising.

The Bling Ring – Those Spoiled Kids

Sofia Coppola has this ability to film, and use the camera, like a wizard would use his wand, enchanting not only her actors and environment, but also the spectators.

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There’s a palpable hallow, glowing, shaping the actors, that seems to represent the essence of freedom and youth belonging to each of her characters.

What I truly admire in her work, is not really about the content and script, it is more about the photography, the motion of the actors, the way the camera’s setting. Each of the scenes, seemed to have been an indisputable moment to catch and embellish.
In The Bling Ring I found what Virgin Suicides had; a boy’s narrative – but not only is he peeking into girls’ world, but is part of it – and also the way how, while watching them, everything around seems to stop. Sofia Coppola used slow motion and this dream-like photography, that really bewitched me.

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The movie is taking place in L.A., in the middle of stars’ lifestyle, and filming teenagers having drown themselves into this. Drugs, party, sex… and clothes. Those elements are the symbol of richness and a youth completely under the spell of those movie stars, and obsessed with them, slaking every bit of their quotidian life. A violation of privacy, that will reach a higher level; because seeing those celebrities in nightclubs, on the news, or on internet to get daily inspiration (dress code, behavior) wasn’t enough. Then began the burglaries.

Excitement, experience, money, clothes, cars and drugs. That’s what the four teenagers got. And if the trial wasn’t developed that much in the movie, it is because, for them, the more important thing wasn’t that, it was all the things done before.
Spoiled, naive, influenced children, seeking attention, admiration and celebrity style, with blind, disconnected and not caring parents. A contemporary youth, with new objectives, but same behaviors as all that preceded.

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Inspired by an article dealing with Hollywood teen thiefs, Sofia Coppola wanted to do a critic of rich people and their environment? No. Of how parents lack parental intuitions? No. Of the influence of movie stars on teens? No.
Everything combined? Maybe.
Buy the most appreciable aspect of The Bling Ring, will stay its photography and the way it was filmed.

Child’s Pose – The Love of a Mother

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Cornelia Kerenes, brilliantly played by Luminița Gheorghiu, is a haughty, liar and oppressive mother. Her son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) is avoiding her, and does pretty good at this, until he hit a 14 years old boy, and kill him on the road, while trying to overtake a car.

As a mother, she uses her haughtiness, her well highly placed contacts and easiness to lie, in order to strangle against her son’s arrest. But her goal is pretty hard to achieve considering the harsh relationship she is maintaining with Barbu. Nevertheless she doesn’t seem this concerned about fixing the mother-son bond, she’s just preoccupied by get him out of here. Now, the reasons why she’s doing this, are quite blurry, indeed, we’re not able to say, if she acts like every mother would act, or she acts for saving the appearances.

Her sort of disturbing and ambiguous behavior brings up the incestuous side of the love a mother has for her child, and the obvious link we can do, is to compare Luminița Gheorghius to the outstanding performance of Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom. Both of them are strict, even a little bit scary, reflecting the image of the strong mama and established this special relationship mother-son that is powerful, and looks like the one two lovers could have.

Thus, despite this aspect of the movie, the director, Călin Peter Netzer, painted there this sort of, “work-class conflict”, that is to say, the wealthy family of Barbu and the coming from low-social class family, that lost their child, encounter. A political implicit critic is made, calling for justice, a justice that would, for once, punish the rich and not allow him to escape the law thanks to his wealthiness. The grieving father has this anger, that is really heartbreaking and grab you the throat, pushing you to empathize with him and not with the other family.

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However, Barbu is pretty much shaken for running into the child, this event shocked him, like it would shock anyone and, the director proved that no matter what, there’s humanity in all people. Being rich and wealthy doesn’t automatically mean, that you don’t care about the poor. The last scene, in particularly, is very powerful and poignant, and resume in its totality the movie and the message engaged in it.
I am glad for having watched Child’s Pose as my first Romanian movie.

The Internship – Free publicity

If you ask me what is my favorite comedy, I would tell you Wedding Crashers. From the beginning to the end, I loved every bit of that movie, and what I loved the most, was Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson duo. So I was pretty excited when I saw the cover of The Internship at the DVD store.

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Directed by Shawn Levy, the movie deals with two guys, Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson), who’s company just shut down, and who are, now, searching for a great opportunity to be fulfilling their dreams.From that point, I was just picking up the similarities between Wedding Crashers and this film.

Billy came to see Nick and convinced him to do this nuts thing that can’t be pass through; an internship at Google. He enrolled them into an online university and thanks to their craziness and constant blahblah giving headaches, they’ve been retained. Now, they’re old, and the interns are 21’s young brains, however they’ll have to team-up and win challenges, to get jobs in the company. And, God, the movie’s a big publicity buzz for Google, and it might limit itself to just that.

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If The Internship is -my heart is hurting- a pretty pointless movie, thanks to the duo, some charm is added to it. Both actors have such a charisma, an easiness to share emotions and laughter, and they have this bond, that everyone would wish to have with someone. Together they’re invincible, and they’re so eager to succeed and believe in their dreams, that no matter what you think globally of that film, the duo will make you dream, and they make you feel good about your future. One day, you will be achieving your goals, what you really wanted to do, but you’ll have to put your guts in that and truly believe in.

Thus, even if Google had this too-much great publicity, about how great the work conditions were, the spirit kept in the company, the diversity, and the values shared etc. and if the beginning the middle and the end, had been written the same exact way Wedding Crashers had, deny it or not, you had a good time watching that pointless film. ‘Cause if in their movies Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, play great orators, and engaging personalities, this is also the kind of actors they are. And they saved that lame movie, and made it enjoyable.

A Hijacking – Sea Piracy

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A Hijacking, (original title: Kapringen) is a danish movie directed by Tobias Lindholm (who wrote with Thomas Vinterberg, the screenplay of The Hunt), who’s dealing with sea piracy. A danish ship is highjacked by Somalis, requesting a ransom of $15m and basically this is when the game begins. Four long months of negotiation, between the pirates and the company owning the ship. It is a hazardous game, such as the ones we could play in a Casino, blackjack or poker. You bet, you’re right, you win, but if you bet but you’re wrong, you lose, and in this case, the loss is pretty consequent. If there’s not a lot of action, there is plenty of tension and stress nourishing our excitement and keep us captivating. And the movie is directed the way a documentary would be, accentuating the feeling of reality, drowning us into a pretty anxious state of mind.

Both principal actors Søren Malling and Johan Philip Asbæk, plays perfectly their role, with seriousness, and humanity. They expressed a close-to-reality behavior, poignant and which contributed to the gripping aspect of the story. That’s a specificity of the danish movies, having this little sparkle of humanity, and psychological survival issues. In The Hunt, Festen, and A Hijacking, values and human principals are approached in a slow but poignant way, and show how people deal with psychological situations, most of time by keeping in mind or hang on to some memories giving them hope, and strength to keep fighting.
A wedding ring, and his family are those elements in A Hijacking, that Mikkel (Johan Philip Asbæk), holds on to.

A Hijacking is utterly convincing, compelling, and very beautiful. A great humanistic thriller to add to your top cinematographic experiences.

I’m So Excited – Sex, Drugs, and The Pointer Sisters

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It’s been a long time since Pedro Almodóvar didn’t direct a comedy. After a series of drama movies, thrillers etc. he came back with I’m So Excited (original title: Los Amantes Pasajeros), an offbeat, demented, sexually liberated and colorful film. And I freaking loved it!

The story takes place on a plane flying to Mexico, but which can’t land there, nor anywhere else, due to some odd activity down on Earth. Thus, the movie will focus on the passengers, and more especially the ones in the business class and in the cockpit, considering the fact that the economical class, and stewardess have been drugged, so they’re basically, immersed into a deep sleep.

The situation, is not very taking seriously by the crew; the stewards are continuously drunk, and seeking drugs, and pilots were more concerned about their pretty bizarre relationships with guys, and some of them happened to be the stewards actually. In a nutshell, this is a quite big mishmash of sex-relationships and discoveries, and little by little, you learned that the whole crew is actually the fucking gay community reunited!
Now, among the business class, we’ll find a couple going on a honeymoon, an old luxury prostitute, a hitman on a mission, a running away business guy, an unfaithful actor, and a 40years-old virgin psychic, and, they were all panicking.

What should we do when people are panicking? Of course, dancing on “I’m Sot Exited” of the Pointer Sisters!

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The stewards performed a choreography in order to relax the atmosphere, but of course, that didn’t work, on the opposite it made things a little worse, accentuating the belief of their lack of professionalism among the passengers. But the grotesque and ridiculous scene was quite funny, and really showed the craziness of Almodóvar’s work. However, the icing on the cake was when drugs were found: mescaline, which is the drug of luve. It was the honey moon guy, who furnished the stewards, and these ones put some in the drinks, and very quickly, everyone was banging everyone. And I must say, there were two scenes when I thought and almost yelled: “what the hell is wrong with you people?!”; the virgin, walked into the economical class, and abused a young sleeping guy and the honey moon girl, who was sleepwalking, had sex with her husband. That’s basically the spirit of Los Amantes Pasajeros, and I think we should not ask ourselves a lot of questions while watching it. Or maybe think that it is just trivializing sex in general.

Nonetheless, what is interesting in the movie, is that all characters have something particular, something special to add to the whole nuts comedy. Indeed, throughout the film, you discover about those people lives, as they do themselves, trying to fix little by little what’s wrong about them, and they’ll soon develop friendly relationships, with no judgmental behaviors, and this will create all the madcap beauty of Los Amantes Pasajeros. And yes, the film is grotesque and might seem a little bit too gay stereotyped? or too sexually liberated? to be funny, but, it is necessary, in my opinion, to watch the movie, as an offbeat comedy, that is pretty much not caring at all about real life codes or fitting into some pre-conceptualized spanish comedy.

The genius of Almodóvar, is proved by the fact that, not only the script is coherent, but the crazy elements are perfectly fitting into it. And well, all the actors, are just flabbergasting and they brought some fresh air, and credit to the director piece of work.

Once again, not disappointed by Pedro Almodóvar, and I think I will never be.