Creed (2015) review

*Holy shit, finally a review. I know, it’s been a while*

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By Franz

It’s weird, you hear about a Rocky spin-off featuring Apollo Creed’s son trained by Rocky and it’s not panned as a terrible idea and a terrible movie. Well okay, maybe it was panned as a terrible idea but when it came out, it was actually hailed as one of the years best. Maybe we should have guessed that it wouldn’t be terrible, it wasn’t directed or even written by Stallone and the series had a new creative vision behind it. But, I was, like everybody, highly skeptical, the trailer wasn’t anything special and Michael B. Jordan hasn’t really shown a lot of greatness (yet). But, the film, maybe like the original Rocky, exceeded the expectations and it turned our pretty fucking awesome. So, let’s talk about it.

Southpaw came out earlier this year, the Jake Gyllanhaal boxing movie that everybody forgot, and it was absolute shit. The problem with that film was that it was just so generic, basically ripping off every boxing movie cliche in the book and doing nothing with it’s talent, making it a boring, un-inspired film that felt like any other Hollywood sport film. Creed is basically the original Rocky, almost exactly the same story. But why is Creed better than Southpaw when on paper it sounds like they have the same problems? Well, take the original Rocky for example: even at it’s time, it wasn’t really original, just a standard Hollywood rags-to-riches tale of a boxer with some romance. Why did that work and still does? Because, like Rocky the character himself, it had a shit ton of heart and charisma. Sure, it was basic in terms of story and themes, but the characters were relatable and it was emotional. Southpaw doesn’t hit those emotional tones because the characters aren’t interesting, we know basically nothing about them and the story-telling is just awful (it spends way too much at the start and just skips the whole underdog part), Creed doesn’t do that. Creed has heart, it has innovation and energy, sure it follows a lot of the same beats as the original movie, but it uses them correctly.

The main reason Creed works is because it tells the underdog story correctly. Jake Gyllanhaal’s character in Southpaw is flawed, like Adonis is here, but making him a drug addict isn’t relatable nor interesting. Adonis’ flaw in this film is that he doesn’t want to be treated as the son of a great boxer, he’s wants to be proud without using his fathers name, but since people do treat him like that, it makes him a little violent. Now, that’s relatable because we like to think that we are independent and proud, most of us aren’t rich drug addicts. That’s where Southpaw fails, it makes the main character an asshole and pretty boring, and Creed success, Adonis isn’t perfect but we forgive his flaws more easily. Now sure, Jake LaMotta in The Raging Bull is a terrible human being, but Raging Bull isn’t a sweet rags-to-riches story, like these two films are.

Almost every single performance here is good, Michael B. Jordan is very charismatic and natural, just a fantastic performance, sure he’s cocky but not in an arrogant way. Everybody has been hyping up Stallone’s performance, and yes he is fantastic, but he was pretty fantastic in Rocky Balboa (Rocky 6). I mean okay, Rocky Balboa isn’t a fantastic movie, but it’s surprisingly decent and Stallone delivers an equally emotional performance in that. But yeah, his performance here (especially that one fucking scene) did almost bring out some manly tears. Honestly if I had to bring up one performance that wasn’t great that would be Tessa Thompson, who was pretty good but her character was kinda boring. I get it, she’s this films Adrian, but Adrian was a bit more interesting and fairly un-usual love interest. Bianca is just kinda of bland, but Thompson herself does deliver a sympathetic performance.

The cinematography is mostly good, the montages were all excellent, some funny, some intense, good use of music and great editing, no problems there. Everybody has been talking about that one long take and yeah it’s awesome, even if there was some digital tricks there. It’s a great concept, the first big fight, all in one very long, but energetic, almost Scorsese-like, take and they execute it so well. If nobody had said anything about it, I don’t know would have I noticed it, a good long take is the one you don’t notice, but it was nevertheless amazing.

Like I said, I only have one problem with this film and that’s just it takes a bit too much from the original. Especially from a film that wants to be it’s own, stand-alone film, it borrows one too many. But it doesn’t butcher the first film’s emotional peaks and it delivers the same amount of punch it had. It’s a thrill to watch and I did get goosebumps in the final fight, especially when the music drops there. It’s all a bit too familiar, but it’s all done so well. It’s a 8/10 from me.

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The Martian (2015)

mörtiän

I know I haven’t been very active lately, I just haven’t had the time to review a lot of stuff. But, finally I’ve made me glorious comeback to film writing. So, what am I going to review? Well I just saw Luis Bunuel’s classic 1961 film Viridiana. And I also saw James Marsh’s Man on Wire, oh and also Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu. But I know most of you don’t care about those films, so I also saw Ridley Scott’s The Martian. So, I guess I should review that one, since it is a new, big budget film.

I was hyped for this, I didn’t read the novel, but I like Scott’s work and the trailer looked really good, like absolutely fucking good. I was so hyped, I actually went to the the theaters to watch this, and I rarely go to the theaters (no time, no money, you know). And to my surprise, it was okay. I want to stress that I haven’t read the novel, so I have no idea how the film differs from it, I’m judging this as a film, not an adaptation. So, let’s start the review:

Characters/Performances

This film has a lot of characters and a lot of famous actors: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Donald Glover, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels and the list goes on. But really there’s only one main character and that is of course Matt Damon as Mark Watney. His character is a smart, wise-cracking, joe-schmoe-with-a-degree-in-botany and Damon does a decent job. He’s very likeable with his sarcastic remarks and his tough human spirit thing, but I didn’t really think he’s all that special. Sure, he’s a lot of fun, he’s the everyman (kinda) so it’s easy to relate to him, but as somebody who prefers complexity over everyman-status (in most cases), I can’t say that I found the character to be anything more than a popcorn film star. I mean, Damon is very natural in it and he has a lot of charisma so nothing feels awkward at all and Watney is a very sympathetic character, it’s very easy to root for him and his comments are often chuckle-worthy.

dömen, my man

I’m not saying he’s a bad character at all, but we rarely see him anything more than a sarcastic smart-guy. There’s like two scenes, where he’s desperate and thinking he’s going to die, now, you could argue he doesn’t indulge into fears like that because he’s a trained astronaut, but that’s a bit stretching to say, considering NASA probably doesn’t train astronauts to survive alone in a planet. So, I would have hoped to see a bit more desperation, a bit more of him losing his sanity. Most of the problems are solved fairly easily and not a lot of problems even come. I was expecting something awful to happen constantly like in Gravity, but really only one (albeit majot) bad thing happens, which again, is solved pretty quickly. There is a wonderful scene where we do see Watney scared, which is the little moment when he is looking at the MAV (I would give more detail, but I don’t want to spoil it). That was a quite stunning, subtle scene. But, basically right after he goes back to the headquarters, after almost dying and his crew leaving him, almost right after he’s like “I’m not going to die”. Which was strange, I mean, you’ve been there like two hours, you should be thinking “I am going to die here”. But, anyway, Watney’s likeable enough, nothing special, but whatever.

Like I said, this is filled with recognizable faces and most of them are pretty good. Daniels as the douchebag authority is fine I guess, though his character is a bit cheap, he brings some charisma. Donald Glover as the quirky scientist is decent, I liked Glover in Community where he was pretty damn hilarious, but here he’s the standard quirky nerd type which doesn’t really fit him, so at times his delivery is awkward, but overall he was very decent. Kristen Wiig was surprisingly forgetable in this, which is strange, ’cause she’s a very good actress. I don’t even remember what her character was doing in the film. Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena and the rest of the crew of Hermes are all just cardboard cut-outs, they have no personality other than Pena who is the “bro” for Watney. But the rest are just so basic and boring, I found them the dullest part of the film. Sean Bean was fine, I guess, he looks like he’s about the cry in every scene he’s in, but fine I suppose. Chiwetel Ejiofor (totally had to look how to spell that one from IMDB) is good. He’s very natural in his performance, though his character is average and borderline boring, Ejiofor brings charisma to it.

Basically the only stand out performance was the lead, sadly. Though it’s an impressive cast, I can’t say many of them were very unforgetable. Glover sticks out in my opinion, but probably just because I’m a fan of Community. While nobody was terrible, nobody was really spectacular either, which was a disappointment to me, since I was hoping a lot more from this cast.
Click to page 2 to read the rest

Film Review: Amour (2012)

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*I know, fucking finally a new review. Sorry boys and girls, I’ve been busy and shit like that, enjoy this review now*

By Franz

I’ve seen only four movies by Michael Haneke, but I must say I’m absolutely loving his work. I adored the ambiguous brilliance in Cache, Funny Games US was an entertaining and thought provoking film about violence and while I didn’t love Benny’s Video, I do respect that film for what it’s trying to say. And his 2012 film about love and the pain of losing someone, Amour, might be my favorite of his. Amour was just about the last 2012 film that I wanted to see, but hadn’t, until recently and somewhat surprisingly, it’s probably my second favorite of the year, behind P.T. Anderson’s The Master. It’s one of the most difficult films I’ve ever seen emotionally and one of the most perfect I’ve seen.

While some complained that the film is “cold”, since Haneke directs it very objectively, rather than trying to emotionally manipulate you into feeling something. The subject matter is sad, heart-breaking and something we can all relate to, either you have experienced what the main character is experiencing or you will. And even if you haven’t, it’s still a powerful emotion. So, Haneke’s objectivity can throw you off, thinking it’s a cold film, but it’s not, it’s simply trying to show something “real”, without wanting to sugar-coat it, showing you the harsh reality. If the film could be described with one word it would be “real” or “humane”, at least in my opinion. If this was an American movie or simply a movie by a lesser director, there would be big, emotional crying scenes and a happy ending of somewhat. But Haneke does almost the exact opposite. For example, when Anne has her first stroke and goes to the hospital, we expect a hospital scene, something right before the surgery or something, but no, Haneke skips that. And almost every “big” moment, Haneke doesn’t show, rather he decides to show their everyday life, showing her decay slowly and the impact of their normal day to day life. And that’s a lot more effective than having a tedious hospital moments. And another thing, Haneke shows them as humans, as real people, they aren’t perfect. We slowly see how the husband starts getting sick of her, you feel his pain as his wife is slowly dying and as each day passes, she isn’t the same person anymore. And of course the ending is something you wouldn’t see in a classic tear-jerker movie. Haneke shows his characters as honestly as he can, as flawed people, which to me makes the film so heart-breaking and humane.

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanualle Riva are both fantastic, of course both are excellent actors, who worked with some of the greatest directors of all time like Bertolucci and Alain Resnais, they’r one of the main reasons why this film works as well as it does. Of course everybody talks about Riva’s great performance as Anne, and she is heart-breaking and so real and most definitely should have won the Oscar, but Trintignant is great as well, showing how difficult it is to let go and showing so much restraint through out the movie. Riva is amazing as well, the embarrassment and humiliations on her face is so painful to watch at times, she’s just so real in the role and especially the shower scene is one of the most difficult scenes of all time. And those two are pretty much the only people in the film, sure their daughter is in this too, and she’s fine, but she has like three scenes. However the character is still very interesting, wanting to keep her mother alive but knowing how it will end and how soon that will be. She’s frustrated and shows it a lot more than the much more frustrated Georges. But she doesn’t have a lot screentime, so she’s not really worth talking about. So it’s basically just Riva and Trintignant, and Riva doesn’t really talk after the first hour so basically they have to carry the movie and they do it amazingly well.

The film is slow and if you don’t like slower paced movies, you shouldn’t watch this, especially the last ten or so minutes are very slow and even I’ll admit it went on maybe a minute too long. But the pacing didn’t hurt the overall, the slower style suits the film, like Cache, it creates a fantastic atmosphere rather than bore the audience. I guess you could say that about every Haneke film, though my only big complaint about Benny’s Video was that I thought it way too fucking slow, un-bearably slow at times. But Amour, even if the last ten minutes are very quiet and slow, never gets boring, the acting and Haneke precise camera work kept me interested through-out and even if the film doesn’t show “big” moments, the day-to-day stuff is still so heart-breaking. It’s a very quiet film, of course one of Haneke’s trademarks is he doesn’t use music that isn’t “in the story”, only music here is when it’s featured in the film, for example they go to a concert in the beginning and we hear the piano. And that’s effective, somehow the lack of emotional violin music in the film, actually make the film more emotional. Even the camera work is so naturalistic and subtle, Haneke doesn’t waste his time with expensive jerking-off shots or even beautifully lit moments, rather he prefers realistic settings and subtle cinematography. Everything seems so realistic and down-to-earth. Some could argue that Haneke doesn’t have a “style” but I would disgaree. People who say that are probably the people who say Zack Snyder has his own “style” because his films look slightly different, but that doesn’t make you an auteur. Haneke’s style isn’t visual, rather story-telling, always being objective and realistic, leaving the moral questions to the audience to decide for themselves. His visual ques are mostly subtle, every edit and angle are just about perfect and it seems like he knows why to shoot a scene with angle like this or that, rather than just doing a nice angle for the sake of having a nice shot. Every shot and cut seems meaningful and honest. Ps, I’m not ripping on Snyder, he’s fine, not unique in any way, but fine as a director.

If you don’t mind a little slower pace, you’re going to fall in love with Amour (pun intended?), it’s heart-breaking, emotional, humane and most importantly, honest. It’s a tear-jerker, but not your traditional one, it’s shows the pain of the characters very objectively and doesn’t force you into liking these people, but it’s asking you to understand them. They’re flawed people, who are trying to do the best they can, but sometimes they can’t, because of human error. It’s one of the most beautiful films ever made, with some of 21st century’s most realistic performances. If you have a heart, this is going to break you down and probably depress the shit out of you. It’s a masterpiece: 10/10.

Thoughts on: Southpaw (2015), Maps to The Stars (2014) and Cache (2005)

By Franz

Yeah I know, long time no new content. But, like I said about five times now, I’m working on a screenplay with a bunch of friends so that has been keeping me busy. But since I think I’m some what comfortable with the progress so I can take a brake from worrying about how big of a piece of shit it will be, I thought I should review some films I’ve seen recently. I thought I would give each of these their own review, but I’m too lazy and honestly only one film here actually deserves a lengthy review and that is Cache, because it is a brilliant film, but I think it has been analyzed to death, so I’ll be brief (or try to be) with these.

fuck faqua

So up first is the brand new Jake Gyllenhaal boxing movie Southpaw aka Rocky 7: The Revenge of Adrian. I was fucking hyped for this movie, Gyllenhaal coming straight from Nightcrawler, where he played a skinny weirdo, buffing himself up to be an aggressive boxer, it looked and sounded great. But then the trailer hit and it sucked. But I thought “Well, I shouldn’t judge based on the trailer”, but my judgement was completely right; it fucking sucked. While movies like The Fighter and Warriors are cliche in the story and even in their characters, they get away with those because of the acting and most importantly: they seem genuine. They seem like they were passion projects and aren’t just some heartless studio hack stuff, but sadly Southpaw is just a cliche, boring hack-eyed and lazy film that suffers from terrible directing and sup-par performances and characters. If you ever said to yourself “Hey, I would love to see Rocky 1, but with more melodrama, even more cheesiness and the villain from Rocky 3” then you’re probably a fucking mongoloid. Practically everybody’s terrible in this, sadly even great actors like Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams (okay, not a “great” actor but still). However there is a somewhat saving grace here, and that grace goes by the name Jake Gyllenhaal. But, kinda disappointingly, it’s a good performance, but not a great one. It should be a great one, it should be his show, but somehow he never reaches that intensity and power he showed in Nightcrawler, which isn’t his fault, since there were plenty of scenes were he acted his ass off, the script just wasn’t very good.

Short Term 12 (2013)

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*Repost from TSW

By Franz

I wanted to see this film for a long time, but it wasn’t coming to the theaters here in Turku (my hometown here in Finland) but now I finally found it online. And it did not disapoint at all. I just loved this film, probably one of the best of 2013, I would maybe even put this in my top 5 or even top 3 or 2013, this was one fucking great film. And like always (well, most of the time), I’ll separate the review in 3 parts: Acting/performances, directing/cinematography/etc and overall, so let’s start with…

Acting/performances

The main character, Grace, is played by Brie Larson and I’m shocked that she wasn’t even nominated, ’cause her performance was fucking excellent. The character is fascinating, Larson’s performance is emotional gripping, she’s just brilliant. I love the character of Grace, she seems normal enough but as we see more of her life, we find out just how broken and tired she is at life. On the outside, she’s a balanced normal girl with a loving boyfriend, a nice job and a great future. On the inside, she’s struggling with borderline suicide, she’s a emotional mess, she’s confused at what’s she’s going to do, she has no plans and shes not even sure about her relationship with Mason. She keeps it all inside, not even talking to Mason about her problems, as she feel he couldn’t understand and she might be right. She does start opening up to a girl, who she feels is going through the same experience as she did and they do find comfort in each other. Grace is one of the most natural, one of the most human, characters I’ve ever seen on screen.

Also her boyfriend, Mason, played by John Gallagher Jr. is wonderful as the loveable, sweet boyfriend. Really, this guy is like every mid-20’s women’s dream, loving, caring, knows how to cook, he’s cute etc. But he’s not portrayed as perfect neither, he’s a pushover and he’s not always sure what does Grace want of him. Gallagher as well should have been nominated, like he probably wouldn’t have deserved to win the Oscar, but at least a nomination.

Other’s were just as good; Rami Maled as Nate (who I kinda like, kinda don’t, he’s was kinda great in The Master, but kinda weird, he’s kinda cute, kinda isn’t, but in this he brings nice nuanced comedic moments which the film did need), Keith Stanfield as Marcus (damn, his rap was actually pretty good and goddamn the scene where they shave his head was fucking tear jerking) and Kaitlyn Dever as Jayden (who at first seemed kinda cliche, but managed to pull off surprisingly strong and emotional performance). Click page two to see the rest of the review

Mouchette (1967)

fuck bresson

By Franz

For years now, people have been hyping this one, telling me it’s one of the greatest films ever made and Bresson is one of the greatest directors. So, I finally saw this, and this was my first Bresson film, and I hated it. This film fucking sucked. And before somebody says “Go back to your Star Wars films!”, I want to make it clear that I love art film and I don’t mind slower paced films, 2001, The Master, Le Plaisir, Last Year at Marienbad and Walkabout all belong in my top 20 and I would hardly call those “fast paced”. So it’s not like I didn’t like this film because I’m not used to watching films like this, I grew up watching films like this! But this film sucked ass, and I’m going to explain why. This isn’t going to be a standard review, because I just couldn’t.

Nadine Nortier plays the lead, Mouchette, and she is extremely boring. She’s so goddamn bland, she has no personality aside throwing mud into the faces of other girls and being sad (I guess?). I have no idea where people are coming from when talking about her performance as “heart-breaking” or even emotional, I didn’t see any of that. Bresson is known for using amateur actors, and sure that’s a nice idea, but it also means you’re going to hire some terrible actors, they’r not amateurs for no reason. And the rest of the cast was as bland and terrible as she was, the guy who rapes her is trying to be drunk, but I didn’t even realize he should be drunk before he said he is, that’s how bad he was.

There isn’t a lot of talking in this movie, it’s to the point of making it stylized. However, it’s one of the things Bresson gets wrong completely. If you’re going to do something as stylized as that, yet trying to pass it off as real world, well, it’s not going to work. There are two directors that came to my mind, who may or may not have been influenced by this, but did it better: Jean-Pierre Melville and the greatest Finnish director of all time Aki Kaurismäki. The films of both directors are known for their sparing use of dialog, but they know how to make it work, they have never made “realistic films”. Melville’s movies have always been fantasy like, at times they were ridiculously naive and fantastic, because he made homages to the films he loved (American film-noirs), but he stylized the shit out of them. And when he made a more realistic movie, like Army of Shadows, he played by real world rules, it wasn’t stylized, it was gritty and ugly and people talked normally. And Kaurismäki has never made “real world” films, he’s made extreme realism, which is a term I just made up, meaning his films are something where we can mistakenly say that it’s like real world, but once we look at it for a while, notice nothing in it makes any sense in the real world. Nobody talks like his characters do, nobody acts like them, but he always gives us the world where these characters would and it makes sense.

Those directors created worlds where sparing dialog works, but Bresson doesn’t create a world, which is fine if you’re going to play by real world rules, but he doesn’t. Nobody talks, when they should be talking, people do things nobody would unless they’r retarded, it’s like Bresson is trying to both create a world but is so lazy he stops mid-way and in my mind, it fucks the movie up. The world should be realistic, but it isn’t, and it left me cold. I have no idea where Bresson was going with this film, I didn’t see anything he was trying to say with this film, it felt like an empty film. I’ve always said that I think that Godard is a self-indulgent asshole, but at least he was always trying to say something (I guess?), but I didn’t see what Bresson was trying to say with his boring, overly slow paced story? Was he trying to make us feel apathy in the rape scene because he didn’t develop the character at all? Maybe, but it seems like a lazy cop out. I don’t buy it, feels like he just didn’t know how to develop a character, you could have made it really interesting by showing that maybe Mouchette isn’t a very likable person, make her terrible, so the apathy in the rape scene would have been so much more interesting as we, the audience, wouldn’t know what to feel. Also, during the rape scene (which is terrible directed), she puts her arm on his back, showing she wants him, now that’s interesting, but since we know basically nothing about the character, I don’t what to say about it, every time it was beginning to get somewhat interesting, it killed itself because there was no character, they were just made out of cardboard.

Starred Up (2013)

o connell m8

By Franz

I heard about this movie from somewhere, maybe it was the Cinefiles podcast or maybe it was some list of 2013 films, I don’t remember but I bought this because six euros for a blu-ray is a steal. I wasn’t expecting a lot from this, but while it was flawed, it still blew me away. This was so goddamn great, if a couple of things would have been fixed, it would have been a masterpiece and would probably be my favorite film of 2013. So, let’s review David Mackenzie’s Starred Up:

Spoilers, probably. Yeah, fuck it, spoilers. If you don’t wish to be spoiled, just go to the overall section near the end of the review, at page 4.

Characters/Performances

Everybody has been praising Jack O’Connell’s performance as Eric and I have to agree, he steals the movie completely. Sure, everybody is amazing here, but O’Connell really shows his talents. This is one of those star-making roles, not as a leading man type or anything, but kinda like Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Freddy Quell in The Master, showing the world that he’s not just a alcoholic, drug abusing maniac, but that’s he’s a fucking great actor. I’ve been a fan of O’Connell ever since I saw him in the teen series Skins (the British version). I watched that show when I was kid and really enjoyed it and one of the stand alone performance in that was O’Connell, though his character wasn’t the greatest and most complex, O’Connell showed tremendous power as an actor. Okay, at times he was a bit over-the-top in that, but still he showed a lot more skill than most of the other actors. But I really figured he’s going to be a great actor after his role in the surprisingly under-rated horror film Eden Lake, which isn’t perfect but as a low-budget British horror, it’s pretty damn good. And again, O’Connell somehow stole the film, even with Michael Fassbender in the lead role. However, this film shows he’s a force to be recon with. Not only pulling the most difficult role in the film, he does it with raw power and subtlety.

O’Connell’s character, Eric Love, is a 19 year old man who is moved up (starred up) to adult prison, because of his violent behavior. And his dad is there too. Wonderful. Eric is a violent, bitter, angry young man who really doesn’t know anything other than to survive. His whole life he’s been struggling, living without a father figure, having a shitty mother and even an encounter with a pedophile and eventually lead him to murder. We’re never told a lot about him, sure we hear about the pedophile and his relationship with his father, but his mother is almost completely surrounded in mystery and what happened at the last prison. The film mostly focuses on Eric and his struggle with violence, as he is trying to get away from it. Hi relationship with his father is fascinating, at one hand he hates him, as he feels he abandoned him and almost blames him for his violent nature. But he also loves his father, in a way, because he knows he cares for him. His father feels the same way, he’s almost disappointed to even be his father at times, but he’s also his son and he’s just trying to help him survive.