Archive | film RSS feed for this section

Instructions not Included

13 Aug


Instructions not Included
By Eugenio Derbez

Do not let subtitles draw you away from this film!

Instructions Not Included is about a man, Valentin with a playboy lifestyle whose life gets turned around when he is tasked with raising a baby. Not knowing what to do, Valentin sets off to find the child’s mother and ends up on an adventure in fatherhood.

I also liked how this movie reflects the characters in the juxtaposition of the two lifestyles of NY vs LA; structured lawyer vs. fun movie stuntman. And though Valentin is a loving, wonderful father, his life LA still reflects some of his carefree, fun times of his past.

This film is a story about life. Life is beautiful. Life is a gift. Life is not a constant; it is ever changing and unpredictable. This film spans all ranges of emotions, fear, love, laughter, sadness, surprise.

One of the things I love about film and storytelling is its ability to transcend all languages and convey a message to the audience and this movie aces it!

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but this is a hidden gem and a must see!


There’s something about Mary

14 Jan


Saving Mr. Banks
A film by John Lee Hancock

 “Winds in the east, theres a mist comin’ in, 
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and ’bout to begin. Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
 But I feel what’s to happen all happened before”

We all know the infamous prologue to the beginning of the beloved story of Mary Poppins

After I heard that there was a film being made about how Mary Poppins became a Disney classic I was excited for the release.

I could think of no two people better to play Mr. Walt Disney himself and PL Travers the author of the Mary Poppins storybook, than Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.  These actors are by far some of my favorite, and some of the best actors in Hollywood.  They nailed it!

The supporting actors were well cast too! B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman who played the songwriting Sherman brothers. Bradley Whitford who played the writer Don DaGradi, Paul Giamatti as the driver, and Colin Farrell as Mr. Travers.

I really found it enjoyable that Disney made a movie about how one of their classics came to be. As a lover of the backstory within filmmaking and character development, I found the idea for the film something new and refreshing in the film world.  My only one tiny criticism but not even a real one, is that I wanted to know more of how they ended up with Dick Van Dyke and some of the other points that Mrs. Travers was so adamant about not having.

I loved all of the subtle tributes to the film Mary Poppins with hints of character names like Uncle Albert, and the nod to the carousel, to more upfront acknowledgments like the songs and the sketches of the characters.

One of my favorite executed sequences was the “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank” song scene.  I like how the montage was edited cutting between the studio and presenting the song to Mr. Travers giving his bank speech at the fair. More than that I liked how you could see the hurt and possibly one of the low points in Mrs. Travers childhood. Though it is a sad scene, it is a scene that humanizes Mrs. Travers, seeing her at a very vulnerable moment, you can see the love she had of her father and perhaps some loose ends that she never tied up from her past.

True to Disney form, this movie has its sad moments but as always has a redeeming quality at the end that leave you feeling happy and filled with the magic of Disney.


After watching the film, I later read an article in The Richmond Times, written by Rebecca Keegan.  One note that I found interesting in the article was that critics found that the film was “…too hard on Travers and too easy on the company’s founder.”  My point is that yes, though Travers does seem to be a bit harsh and difficult, having a past and a childhood like that I can see why she would be that way. However, the article also mentions that the film is more about her and how her story became to be a film and not so much on Walt Disney.  The article goes on to point out that, “A lot of children’s authors create these characters from places of tragedy and darkness,” a statement of which I would agree.  Furthermore, I found it interesting that when presenting the script to Disney, the fear was that the Walt Disney character would be changed to be presented in “Disney light” as I will call it and that there would be so many rules to follow—Similar to a P.L. Travers you might say.  Just goes to show that everyone is a critic in their own peculiar way.

Everyday I’m Hustling

30 Dec


American Hustle
a film by David O. Russell

Over holiday break, my family and I decided to go see American Hustle. After seeing all of the previews and trailers, I was very excited to see this 1970s comedy/ crime drama. Leaving the theater 2.5 hours later I was still deciding whether or not I thoroughly enjoyed the film or not. For me, the trailer made the film look exciting, like the con pulled off in Oceans Eleven. I found the movie to be rather enjoyable in the beginning and end of the film but in the middle there were definitely some lags and some slow pacing which were probably due to the length of the movie.

What I did find enjoyable, and perhaps a redeeming quality of the film was the music and the actors/acting and what looked like an ever so subtle nod to Saturday Night Fever. The crazy, at times ditzy, and unpredictability of Irving’s wife (Jennifer Lawrence), The wild yet still naïve at times, FBI agent Richie (Bradley Cooper) the seductive and cunning Edith/Sydney (Amy Adams) and finally the brilliant but at times acted like a pushover, Irving (Christian Bale). Bale’s character was a success to the storyline and the onscreen dynamic between his character and Cooper’s character was funny and entertaining.

Though Silver Linings Playbook is my favorite O. Russell film, I would still give this movie a go-see, even if you go just for the music.

The Great Gatsby-Part 2

29 May


Finally! I have seen the new, remade Gatsby.  I know it has been a while but it was worth the wait.  I really, really found this remake to be well done and I am a fan of Baz Luhrmann’s style.  I loved the raw, grittiness and the intensity his style brought to the film.  Luhrmann’s unique film style played really well in setting the scenes and portraying the dirty, and urban feel of the “Valley” of the city.

Another element that I loved was the soundtrack! It fit so well with the updated telling of the story and had the perfect mix of new contemporary music with the jazzy feel of the era.

Though most people who are fans of the original film will say that no one was a Greater Gatsby than Robert Redford, I found Leonardo DiCaprio was well suited to play Mr. Gatsby.  In fact I found the whole cast to be rather a perfect fit for their roles.

While I did not find the original unenjoyable, (I actually liked how it followed the book and was narrated by Sam Waterston) I preferred this Gatsby much more than the original for the pacing of the story.  The remake was much better paced as the quickness of the film mimicked the moving and changing the beat of the city and also mimicked the story itself, spiraling out of control.

I also enjoyed how in this Gatsby film the viewer was able to see more into Jay Gatsby’s past, as well as in to Nick Carraway’s memories,  and really see character backgrounds and character development, creating a stronger bond between the audience and the characters unlike the original where I just felt like someone viewing a movie.

The only real negative that I had with this remake was the overuse of the phrase “Old Sport.”  I definitely do not remember Robert Redford saying “Old Sport” so many times.

Overall I think that this Gatsby film was successful and was able to modernize Fitzgerald’s story in a way that did not lose the identity of the original story.

The Great Gatsby

17 Apr

As a follow up post to upcoming films I want to see, I forgot to include The Great Gatsby.  This adaptation from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, this is actually a remake of the film “The Great Gatsby” which starred Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan.

Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the same director of Moulin Rouge and Romeo+Juliet, I now see the similarities of cinematographic style between the three films.  As a big fan of his adaptation of Romeo+Juliet, I am very excited to see how he takes on the Gatsby film.

Though it has been a while since I have seen the first Gatsby moive, I remember the pacing of it being rather slow and dragging along.  Just from the preview of this movie, it seems like pacing has picked up and the drama, sex, love, violence, and scandal have been amped up as well.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, Toby McGuire as Nick Carraway, and Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan.  I think that DiCaprio and Mulligan are excellent choices to take on these roles.

Also the sound track to this film seems great, very modern but fitting to the time/setting of the movie.

I cannot wait to see this in theaters May 10, 2013!

Looking forward to…

11 Apr

42The Jackie Robinson Story: Opening tomorrow this is the true story of Jackie Robinson and how he broke the major league baseball color barrier by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.  I have never been one who is a fan of baseball or baseball films for that matter, like The Natural, but this movie looks like it has potential to be a great baseball flick.  see trailer

TranceNow playing, a psychological thriller about a conspiracy to steal artwork at an auction and the use of hypnotherapy to recover a memory about where to find the missing art.   Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, the opening Olympic ceremony, 127 Hours) and featuring Rosario Dawson, James McAvoy, and Vincent Cassel.  I love stories like this, ones that are very twisted and complex where everyone is playing each other, this looks like a very “edge of your seat” movie—though I may have to look away with some of the torture scenes because they look really gross and bloody.  see trailer

This is the EndComing in Summer 2013.  Featuring a great ensemble cast of James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel and appearances by Emma Watson, Aziz Ansari, Rihanna, Michael Cera, Mindy Kaling and so many more.  It is about six friends trapped in a house after some strange happenings occur in LA and all the crazy happenings that follow.  Looks hilarious!  see trailer

Les Miserables

7 Apr

les miserables

Les Miserables
by Tom Hooper

After all of the hype surrounding this film I finally sat downto watch to see what all the commotion was about.  I was weary at first with watching a film called “The Miserable” knowing it would defiantly be depressing.

From Guys and Dolls to Footloose, Billy Elliot, and more recently Hairspray and Mama Mia, it is always interesting to see crossover from books to film and sometimes even more so from theatre to film (and the other way around with theater and film).  The story mainly follows the life of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) and through his interactions with the other characters we learn more about his life, the lives of the other characters and the hard times in 19c France.  I did enjoy how each of the different stories intertwined and all the characters were connected; a six-degrees of separation kind of story if you will.

Though I have never seen this as a play before (but I have seen plays), I think that the way this was filmed added a new element of viewer engagement that a play could not have done.  For me, what worked well about this, as a film was the use of camera angles and how the viewer could better see symbolisms.

For instance, when the camera follows Valjean’s torn up parole paper in the wind we get a birds eye view of France, setting the overall stage—the master shot.  Though it seemed that some people did not enjoy the singing-en-scene, to the camera, I thought that made it more organic and felt more like a play.  Also I liked that it added the element of making the viewer feel like a character in the film, thus engaging them more in the story.

Similarly, by having the camera move around and act like it is hiding in the bushes or moving about the house (when Carter and Cohen are singing “Master of the House”) we feel like we are there in the scene following the action as it unfolds and not just watching it in the audience.

Also, by bringing this story to film we are better able to see symbolic elements that perhaps we could not get from a play.  Many times we see Javert walking on the edge of buildings, and it may seem strange at first glance, but the film allows us to see his struggle, he is constantly walking a thin line.  Likewise, the use of the pan-up shot shows his power and authority, while the pan-down shows is insignificance in the grand scheme of things.

I really enjoyed the cast, and thought that all of the actors were well fitting, even Mr. Russell Crowe—I found him to be better than the suggested negative reviews out there.  I was also impressed at the emotion that came through while singing; I really felt the sorrow of Anne Hathaway as she sang “I Dreamed a Dream,” and when Hugh Jackman sang as he faced multiple hard decisions, and when Eddie Redmayne was singing after the barricade fight scene and when Samantha Barks (Éponine) sang about her unrequited love.  However, after all of the buzz around Hathaway, I was a little bummed at how little we see of her in this film.

Also, I really enjoyed the comic relief of Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thénardier) and even Sacha Baron Cohen (Thénardier).  Though I am not one for Cohen’s comedic style I found him to be the perfect fit for the role.

The only thing that I found to be un-enjoyable (other than the depressing tone) was the pacing; it was rather strange.  It was like the story itself moved fast and slow simultaneously.  Sometimes the scene would change rather quickly and it was like “wait a sec, what just happened how did we jump to this point in time” but other times it was like “ok move on, what is next?”

Though seeing this film once was probably enough for me, I did appreciate the uniqueness that Tom Hooper brought to the telling of this story.

Carytown French Film Festival: Short Films—Part Deux

25 Mar

I unfortunately missed the first two shorts on both days but I did catch the end of Je t’attends toujours (Day 2) and it seemed to have a good mix of thrills, drama and an exciting storyline.  However I wan not sure if it was a true story or a mocumentary.


Day 2.

Un week-end a Paris: (A weekend in Paris):  Not too sure of what this was about because my French is very limited and there were no subtitles, but the girl in this film was adorable.  I think the premise was something like they pretend to go to Paris but go elsewhere in search of something—but of what I am not sure.  It was rather slow paced in the beginning and though it was strange how most of the beginning was exterior shots of buildings and scenery accompanied with voiceover, I think that subtitles would have clarified this situation.  So due to lack of subtitles, I give this a B-.


La Baleine et moi (The Whale and me): A documentary about a former free-diving champion and her encounter with a whale and its baby.  I found this documentary to be rather eccentric and rather atypical of a usual documentary.  In a way I found it to be kind of incomplete or lacking something that I cant quite put my finger on.  Though I really liked the film of the whales, I give this a C+ for incompleteness but an A for the whale footage and underwater scenes.


Dead: Another kind of strangely unique film like Je veille sur vous from the first day.  I think that the dad (the leading man) in this is dead/a ghost, but it could be that he is just not around as much and now wants to be a better father? Not too sure.  The special effects were well done and the story kept you on the edge of your seat of what would happen to the baby.  I give it a B.


Monsieur Leroi: Very fitting film for the time of unemployment and the stresses of interviews.   A man Mr. Grabin has finally got an interview after a long time of searching for a job.  What starts as a typical day, turns in to a rather odd interview.  Comical, unique, and peculiar, I give this film A+.


Palmipedarium: I found this film to be rather weird and not that enjoyable.  It seemed rather dark and kind of scary.  There were times where I thought I might have the story figured out and other times where I was surprised by what happened. The animation however was satisfactory as well as the editing.  So for animation and editing I give this an A but overall I say C.


Time to split: Though it was a rather usual story, about a couple with a child who split up and may or may not get back together, I love split reality films showing things happening for two people at the same time! I liked how the line dropped down through the film and split the story.  This was so well filmed and edited, and I like how the way it was divided split screen made each segment look like frames in a filmstrip.  Overall I give this an A+.


*flim descriptions taken from this year’s festival program*

Carytown French Film Festival: Short Films

25 Mar

Another great year of shorts! While each film shared its story differently, some common themes among the films were humor, love, life and death to mention a few. Some films were very well done, others were strange and still others felt kind of out of place, yet all were entertaining to watch.


Day 1.

Je veille sur vous (I’m watching over you): I will say that the cinematography and audio were well done.  However, I was not really sure of the storyline.  I think that the man was living through memories of his past.  His wife had certainly died but I wasn’t sure if the kids were his kids and had died young or if they were his kids and had grown up and left him or if they really were neighbor kids.  It was a little strange and creepy but it was cool to see how he remembered things through recordings and then painting silhouettes to make it seem like there were people in the house.  It was an interesting film concept, but make take more than one look to fully understand, I give it a B.


Micha Mouse: It started out a little slow, but picked up as the story moved on.  The old age makeup was definitely noticeable but I think that overall it worked with the extreme makeup and costumes (and hair) that are seen in the flashback.  *Set in NYC during the late 1920s, this biopic recounts the life of a certain Walt, a cartoonist, and the real life of one of his fictional characters.  It was very entertaining and enjoyable to watch. Not really a spoof, maybe more of a homage, but it was certainly a new perspective on how a very recognizable character came to life.  I give this film an A.


Catharsis: Great acting, filming and editing.  Had an Inception feel, movie about a movie/dream within a dream.  But it also kind of reminded me of Fellini’s 8 ½ a little bit.  A man so tortured by his unfulfilled dream to be a director causes great unrest and makes for tremendous internal conflict.  With moments of humor, drama, thrill, sadness the film shows his struggle to find sanity and get back to reality and to the girl he loves.  I give it an A.


Les Perruches (the Parakeets): A bittersweet story about two friends, Laura and Lili, who has cancer.  Lili, troubled by the loss of her hair and uncomfortable with the hospital wig cannot bring herself to go out.  Laura gives here a makeover and dresses up as well so Lili won’t feel alone.  Feeling rather out of place a first the two walk the streets and run in to some rather unusually dressed men and it changes their course of events.  I truly loved everything about this movie and the message how one small change can alter your look on things.  I give this an A+


No comment: A 4-minute comedy about a girl’s encounter with two very different men and her thoughts about men picking up women etc.  Though the filming looked a little amateur (like it was being shot handheld) and the audio was a peaking a little in places the story still was still terrific and I give it an A.

Bonjour! French Film Festival: Carytown

21 Mar

The French Film Festival, in its 21st year, has returned to Carytown, RVA.  Put on by two local colleges, University of Richmond and VCU, this annual Film Festival draws in huge crowds to the Byrd Theater and Carytown.  With Master Classes to attend and films from feature films to documentary and short films, there is much to see and do at the event. 

I first attended the festival last year and was blown away by the event.  Not only did I enjoy the movies that I saw, but also I loved experiencing an aspect of French culture and learning more about film history and French film history.  I could talk, and talk, and talk about my time at the event but I will just mention some of my favorite highlights of the event.

At last year’s event, they showed a special piece of film history—George Méliès’ The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.  The film was restored and it was really fascinating to see a film from one of the first filmmakers.

While at last year’s event, I attended the 20th Anniversary Special Screening of Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Cyrano.  The premise of the story was interesting, minus the fact that Cyrano and Roxane were cousins, it was an interesting twist on a love story.  Cyrano is very much in love with Roxane but is sure that she will reject him because of his rather large nose so he expresses his love for her anonymously in a series of letters on behalf of his friend Christian.  For me the film was nice to see how this crazy love mix-up unfolded but the film was rather slow paced and some scenes were very drawn out.

Another interesting feature film was Poupoupidou, a mashup of a JFK and Marilyn Monroe story mixed with a murder case.  A writer, Rousseau is a best selling crime novelist with a case of writers block.  Candice Lecoeur is a local beauty that believes she is a reincarnate Marilyn Monroe.  She is found dead in this small, rather cold village in France and declared dead by suicide but Rousseau does not buy that and uses the case for inspiration for his book. 

However, I think that my favorite films of the event were the short films.  All of them were very well done—specifically Voûte plantaire.  It is about 

“ [A] rich, orthopedic surgeon [that] has decided to end his life.  Unfortunately, his plans are thwarted when he meets Julie and Camille, two young sisters who come out of nowhere and show him a very different outlook on life.”

What started as a normal, semi-comical film (drama-edy), became weirder and twisted (in a good way, sparking more interest) making the story more complex as the film progressed.  What made this film great was the ending!  I won’t give anything away, but it was like a complete 180, pulling a Chris Nolan Memento-esque moment.  My review, in one word, Brilliant! I love movies like this that make you ponder the unknowns and the “what ifs” like Run, Lola, Run or Sliding Doors.

Another favorite was a short comedy called It is MiracuľHouse.  It is about a man whose mother is in the hospital and she wants to be examined by Dr. House, from the TV show House.  Her son desperate to cure her finds a look alike, Stéphane Freiss, to imitate Hugh Laurie as Dr. House.  A terrific comedy with a genius cast made for a very enjoyable story. 

I enjoyed all of these films so much because their underlying stories translate in any language.  Love, desperation, happiness, acceptance, loss, comedy so on and so forth, are all emotions that anyone can understand and relate to. 

I am very much looking forward to this year’s Film Festival and cannot wait to see the short films 🙂 !


*film synopsis gathered from last years program*