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OLD BOY (2013) has some new tricks

1 Jan

OLD-BOY-2013

Spike Lee’s desire to re-interpret the critically acclaimed 2003 South Korean film, Old Boy for domestic audiences was a bold move because of the amount of criticism he would receive from audiences familiar with the original. I was eager to see how he would negotiate certain scenes and particular parts of the story that have made Old Boy a memorable, but uncomfortable film to watch. Technically, everything is in the movie, but done in a way that is more like a jazz musician riffing on a familiar melody than a replay of an old song. Some things worked really well, while others things did not. This version had more of back story, which made it easier for American audiences to understand, but it was too much because those moments of discomfort did not have the same impact. However, I enjoyed this movie and the choice to cast Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen as the principal characters was a strong choice.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

DRUG WAR cooks up something new

28 Dec

DRUG-WAR

America is no stranger to films about crystal meth and the dark characters that are associated with the narcotic, however, in mainland China director Johnnie To breaks new ground by cooking up an interesting gangster film that has a snitch willing to say or do anything to save his life with an undercover cop determined to bring a group of gangsters to justice by any means necessary. Police captain Zhang  (Sun Honglei) takes information from Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) and runs with it by impersonating different gangsters while at the same time pumping Choi for more and more information, until it leads him to the major players behind the drug trade. Choi’s integrity and loyalty are being tested while Zhang  battles with his ego and obsession. Both actors give strong performances that lead audiences along to an amazing climax featuring ultra violence from every possible direction. I liked the film, but buying into the cops’ sting was difficult for me.

WORD COUNT: 160

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Gravity is out of this world

7 Oct

GRAVITY-FILM

The most anticipated film for me this year was Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity.” With his first film since the 2006 sci-fi drama “Children of Men,” Cuaron has broken new ground here, creating an experience unlike anything audiences have seen before. When a routine repair job on the Hubble telescope goes awry, a medical engineer, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), and a mission commander, Lt. Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), must work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.

Believe the hype, this is one of the most visually stunning films ever, with its groundbreaking CGI that features jaw-dropping single-shot sequences. Clocking in at 90 minutes, Cuaron wastes no time in moving the story along. Bullock ventures outside of her normal orbit of roles and gives an amazing performance while Clooney is great in his supporting role. This is masterful technical achievement with Cuaron, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and Visual-Effects Tim Webber creating a movie going experience worthy of Oscar consideration.

WORD COUNT: 159

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Starlet shines

26 Sep

STARLET-FILM

The title hints to the world that will be explored in this film, but it does not prepare you from the reality of the situation, until you are fully invested in Jane’s (Dree Hemingway) likeable character. She is a working adult film actress that befriends an elderly woman, Sadie (Besedka Johnson). Initially, her motivation is fueled by guilt, but their relationship develops into something much more than an ordinary friendship. The given circumstances will appear strange and uncomfortable to mainstream audiences, but there is something about Jane’s character that allows audiences to forgive her poor choices, at least temporarily. Director Sean Baker makes some bold choices that most filmmakers would never consider, but he successfully executes his vision in a way that keeps people talking about the characters and their relationships, as opposed to reducing the film to a single scene. Starlet shines.

WORD COURT: 143

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B

WARNING: This film contains strong sexual content.

Zodiac is an elusive subject to capture

25 Sep

ZODIAC-FILM

Director David Fincher makes an attempt to capture the most elusive and mysterious figure in law enforcement history. He is no stranger to serial killers, but his interpretation of Zodiac by Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) gives audiences a front row seat to Graysmith’s obsession with the infamous case that terrorized Northern California and frustrated investigators for decades.

Fincher’s visual style and attention to detail are impeccable. He takes his time with the characters and attempts to replicate these events as accurately as possible from Graysmith’s perspective, but it does lead to a slow pace and a long run time. The cast is formidable, however, Gyllenhaal’s performance isn’t nearly as strong  as Mark Ruffalo as Detective Dave Toschi and Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery.  It is difficult to satisfy audiences with such an ending, but Fincher remains true to the story and keeps “Hollywood” out of it as much as possible.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B

Requiem for a Dream is a hard truth

24 Sep

REQUIEM-FOR-A-DREAM

Requiem for a Dream consumes your mind, body and soul like a drug and holds onto to you after the final credits are over. Your skin feels like something is crawling on you, but nothing is there. It is one of the most powerful films ever. Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Hubert Selby’s novel follows the lives of four different people, Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), her son Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). The film explores the direct and indirect effects drugs have on each of them and reveals their blossoming hopes turn into a state of moral and physical helplessness.

Editor Jay Rabinowitz perfects Aronofsky’s hip-hop editing technique. The drug scenes are ground-breaking and the downward spirals of each character is a gut wrenching experience that stays with you forever. Everyone in the cast gives powerful performances, especially Burstyn and Leto whose addictions are scary reminders of the hard truth.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Oblivion is a mixed bag

22 Sep

OBLIVION-FILM

Oblivion is a mixed bag that is going to receive a mixed review from FastForwardFilmReviews.com. On the one hand, Adam found the film to be unoriginal and disappointing on many levels. His major criticism is the story and its predictable twists, as well as the under utilized characters, Malcolm Beach (Morgan Freeman) and Julia Rusakova (Olga Kurylenko). Anytime a film has to rely on flashbacks it is in trouble and Oblivion finds itself pressing rewind in many places. On the other hand, Chuck did not mind the story and doesn’t think it clones other films. Joseph Kosinski’s riffing on common sci-fi subjects is not a big deal. Oblivion is noticeably slow-moving and Chuck agrees with Adam about the supporting cast. However, he did not see the twist coming, which has him liking the film much more than Adam, although Chuck was disappointed with the final product. Both agree the visual effects are amazing and Claudio Miranda’s cinematography is gorgeous.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: C+

Chuck’s Grade: B

Insidious: Chapter 2 is lost in the after life

17 Sep

INSIDIOUS-CHAPTER-2

James Wan may have now established himself as the King of modern horror with SAW, Insidious and The Conjuring under his belt. He knows how to keep his audiences on edge and screaming for more. The sequel to the 2011 surprise horror hit brings back the cast and pick up right where they left off at. The Lambert family (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) seek to uncover the secret that has them attached to the supernatural.

The film does give some better scares than the first one, but also makes some predictable choices that would bore the avid horror fan. Writers Wan and Leigh Whannell bring some welcomed creativity to the story but at the same time overreaches and leaves too many unanswered questions. John Leonetti deserves some recognition for his brilliant camerawork as he frames the film’s haunting atmosphere. Insidious: Chapter 2  will frighten audiences, but the story does not live on in the “after life” of Chapter 1.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: C+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The Dark Knight is a diabolical masterpiece

29 Aug

THE-DARK-KNIGHT

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight raises the bar and turns the sequel to Batman Begins into one of the most memorable action films of all time. It exceeded most audience’s expectations because of its complexity, rich story, exhilarating action, and Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as The Joker. No one should ever put on the white make-up again after Ledger’s diabolical performance. Gotham will never be the same and Batman (Christian Bale) had to use everything at his disposal to combat his arch-nemesis.

Even at a running time of over two and a half hours the story and characters have no problem holding audiences’ attention. The visual effects combined with adept sound design/editing elevate the film and become an integral part of the unforgettable masterpiece. The Dark Knight is not only the best superhero film, but one of the most entertaining and satisfying films of all time.

WORD COUNT: 146

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A+

The World’s End goes down like a good beer

26 Aug

AT-WORLDS-END

Fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will enjoy the hilarious and heartfelt, The World’s End. It concludes the Cornetto Trilogy, which refers to the color and flavor of ice cream in the film. Obviously, very important stuff and I will have to get a triple scoop with each flavor because Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s third installment ends the trilogy on a high note.

Twenty years after a failed attempt of a pub crawl called the ‘Golden Mile’ – 12 pubs, 12 pints, Gary King (Pegg) drags his childhood friends along to complete the hedonistic task. Not even aliens will deter them from this great achievement.

I was impressed with the film’s ability to mix genres and still spend the time developing each of these characters. Unfortunately, I did feel overwhelmed at times with the story’s sci-fi/action sequences and ending, but with repeated viewings I am sure I will grow to appreciate it like a good beer.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A