Review : American Made

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“A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.”

This is one of those movies, where at best, its a Wolf of Wall Street, and at worst they just come off as unauthentic, cheesy, and boring. This movie is pretty much in the middle. It stats Tom Cruise, who as always, is totally committed to his role and plays it very well, the movie on a whole however, is what maybe holds it all back. Its not to say that this movie isn’t good, or isn’t entertaining. Its certainly funny enough, dramatic enough, the acting is good enough, its all enough yes, but the real issue is that its just enough. Nothing here is special, nothing here takes this movie into a category above, where movies like the Wold of Wall Street live. It gets kind of bogged down in mediocrity that make it great probably for an at home stream, but nothing about it says come see me in the cinema. Also, a lot happens here, and it all needs to happen, but it can almost feel a bit overwhelming sometimes, as the movie often needs to keep up a bit of a break neck pace to get from where the story starts, to where the movie ends it. All in all though, this movie is two things combined. Its Tom Cruise being the consummate professional he always is (the man is never bad EVER), mixed with a rest of movie thats good but not great, and I feel like with this story and talent, it could have been GREAT.

Review Score : 7.5 out of 10

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TTFF 17 Review

Today we really got some good ones!

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Chocolate (Short\Dominican Republic 2016)

“Yan gets stood up by his date, and ends up meeting his friend at a local club. To get Yan out of his distress, his friend challenges him to talk to a girl who is standing across from them. Yan uses different tactics to try to lure her.”

Chocolate is one of those shorts, that gets inside you, and sticks with you. Its only 11 minutes long, but it has everything a great story needs. It has compelling characters (even with enough back story that you feel for them and where they are in life), it has beautiful story telling, its funny, its emotional, and it manages all this in just 11 minutes. I can’t say too much about it, as it is only 11 minutes and there is only so much of its story I could tell without telling it in its entirety, but this truly is a master class in telling  a story with no fat on it. There isn’t a wasted shot, frame, or sound here, and thats from the start to the very, very end. If you can see this short film anywhere at any time, please take the time and give it a look.

Review Score : 10 out of 10

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Nadie Nos Mira: Nobody’s Watching (Argentina 2017)

“Nico is a rising young actor in his native Argentina, but he wants to make it big in America —  and he’s running from some demons at home. He has some good friends in the US, and success dangles almost within reach as he makes some promising contacts. But unless those promises are fulfilled, he’s just another illegal immigrant struggling to make not only a living, but also to find a sense of home.”

Nadie Nos Mira or Nobody’s Watching is a hard film to watch. Its not that its not good, its very good, its just maybe a little too real. Like a short film I watched yesterday, this movie also has a big theme of “home”, and to a lesser extent family. It tells the story of a well known actor in his native Argentina, who for reasons I won’t spoil, leaves to pursue a greater career in New York. A big part of this movie is also the LGBT community, and the impact that still has on so many people across so many facets of life. This movie has a real, “real” feel to it, it really makes you feel like you’re right next to these characters in an almost voyeuristic way, which is part of the reason this movie is so hard to watch. There are some very intense scenes in this movie also, and they all fell warranted and earned, and not just done for shock value. This movie is very slow though, it almost trudges along, slowly pulling you through the snow to and ending you hope is better for these characters than the lives they currently live.

Review Score : 8 out of 10

Cartel-de-Melocotones.

Melocotones: Peaches (Dominican Republic 2015)

“For their anniversary, Diego has planned a repeat of his first weekend with his girlfriend Laura. In fact he’s planned it too exactly, and Laura is bored by his lack of spontaneity. Luckily Diego, an inventor, can rejig his Sexotron machine, travel back in time and make everything different. Filmed in Technicolor hues, this sex/science-fiction comedy has a 1950s look, and the gadgets have a distinctly antiquated air. So Diego’s scientific experiments have some unexpected and hilarious outcomes.”

Honestly, Peaches (Melocotones), is one of those movies that you almost have to see to believe, and if you have any sense of humor at all, you will be so glad you did watch it. The film takes a lot of its inspiration from Technicolor, and 1980’s cinema, down to the wonderful synths throughout the entire score of this movie. From the jump, this movie shows you that it doesn’t take itself very seriously, and you shouldn’t either. Even though this movie is done is very serious way, its shot, edited, and everything else perfectly, and it knows everything its doing because its doing them on purpose. Even in the story itself, which takes what would be a very serious sci-fi- premise, and flips it on its head with a level of absurdity that juxtaposes the traditional tropes of such a genre. Peaches is one of those movies that doesn’t need to much to be said about it, it just needs to be seen, and I highly recommend seeing it.

Review Score : 9 out of 10

Review : The Cutlass

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“Inspired by true events, THE CUTLASS is a dramatic thriller set in the tropical wilderness of Trinidad and tells the story of a young woman who falls into the grasp of a dangerous sociopath. She finds herself isolated and musters the courage to emotionally battle the unsettled mind of her abductor.”

As the summary implies, this movie both takes place and was made by and in Trinidad and Tobago (so if you’re not from or in the Caribbean you might not be able to see this one). Its written by Teneille Newallo, and directed by Darisha Beresford, and it boasts a genuinely diverse cast across all levels. The movie itself is definitely more good than bad, but first, the good. Arnold Goindhan who plays the antagonist here, has the meatiest role, and the most heavy lifting, acting wise to do here, and he does a pretty good job. He does come across as sincere in his more vulnerable moments, and when he keeps his portrayal subtle, he really shines. He does this across from Lisa-Bel Hirschmann, who definitely keeps her acting as subtle as possible, but for the most part doesn’t have as much to play against. Her most emotional scene however, is done really well, and she does tug on the heart strings with her performance there. I do think some of the cinematography does lack a bit of imagination, as I think it would have allowed for some more powerful scenes with some better framing. I also did have some problems with the sound, not in that it was bad, or not done properly, there just were a few times when I felt in either the ADR, or straight audio mixing of the audio, that some dialogue didn’t feel like it was happening in the situation, but sounded more like a voice over. The score I also wasn’t too impressed with, for the most part it was very subdued and subtle, and thats fine, but I felt like when it really needed to swell and help impart some emotion or suspense, it came off a bit lack luster. And lack luster is how I would define the ending of this movie, for most of it, everything in the movie is building towards to a head, towards some kind of resolution, and you just never get it. There is an ending here, and there are definite resolutions in the script, but things don’t feel resolved, they feel like what we invested in before, was fully paid off. I know I probably sound like I really don’t like this film, but I did like it, the things that it did well, it genuinely did. There are some problems here yes, like any movie really, but this movie definitely shows the raising levels of Caribbean film making. Production wise this is one of the best local (local meaning Trinidadian) films I’ve seen. All in all, I do encourage anyone who has the opportunity to check this movie out to do so, supporting local industries is important for growth, and there is definitely enjoyment to be had in this movie.

Review Score : 7 out of 10

Review : The Beguiled 

“The unexpected arrival of a wounded Union soldier at a girls’ school in Virginia during the American Civil War leads to jealousy and betrayal.”

The Beguiled 2017, not the be confused with the 1971 movie of the same name, is the latest from Sofia Coppola. The movie even won nabbed her the coveted best director award at the Cannes Film Festival. And honestly, that shows because this movie is really a directors showcase. That’s not to say that there isn’t great acting on display here, there certainly is, but this movie is all about directing and directorial choices. The first two acts of this movie as completely soundless, in terms of musical score or the like, all we get is either dialogue or something like birds chirping. When we get to the third act however, the reason for that decision becomes clear as when the first horn blast hits us, it really rocks us, in a way it wouldn’t have if we had it all movie. And that really is the corner stone of this movie in its strong, purposeful, and definite directing choices. It’s also a really hard movie to review in terms of trying to rate it. It deliberately paced, but it’s also only about 90 minutes. It has distinct directing, but great subtle acting (most of the time). This is a movie I think that’s really made for certain people. Some people will see this movie as boring and a bit silly, others will see it as tense, suspenseful and unnerving, and in there somewhere is this movie. All in all, The Beguiled is a real showcase of directing, with enough great acting on there too for good measure, and a story that’s definitely something else.

Review Score : 8 out of 10

Review : War for the Planet of the Apes

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“After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.”

I don’t think back in 2011, with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, that I would have ever though that movie would be the start of one of better trilogies to be had in a long time. Rise, and then Dawn, and now War, have all set up and advanced the same plot for the last 6 years. War brings us to the conclusion of a body that was set into motion in 2011, and is finally built up a full head of steam and looks to come crashing down on humanity. The story follows the titular Caesar, played masterfully by the ever amazing Andy Serkis (who really should just have an oscar by now for this) who fully becomes the messianic figure that his legend will tell years from now in the apes history and lore. This movie also portrays an extremely conflicted Caesar, mirrored by a conflicted world around him. He is entrenched on each side by both sides of humanity. The larger and more obvious side lead by Woody Harrelson, and the smaller but equally as important opposite side showcased almost entirely by Amiah Miller’s Nova. The movie also leads the story of the apes forward closer to the point where the classic movie takes us to. This movie is also something to behold with its special effects. There is honestly never really a point in this movie where you would or could ever question if what you were seeing was real or not and thats really impressive seeing as how many apes there are in this movie. That matched with some wonderful and intriguing cinematography, and some real haunting imagery, help this movie do a lot of its story telling without characters ever saying a word. All in all, War for the Planet of the Apes is a great movie and fitting end for this Apes trilogy, and definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

Understanding Rotten Tomatoes

Launched in 1998, Rotten Tomatoes has become one of the largest websites in the world in the space of movies and movie reviews. But even with its 20 years in the business, many of us still don’t fully understand how the site and its metrics work, which isn’t a great thing. Over the last few years especially, the ability of Rotten Tomatoes to add to or take away from movie’s box office revenue has only increased, and seems to keep doing so. This increase in the “power” the website has on the average movie fan, is one I think is both good and bad. It’s great that audiences see it as a tool, that empowers them to avoid Hollywood’s less than best works, while in turn giving those films they deem deserving of, that extra boost. This power however, can be used unfairly, and it is especially used that way when its numbers are played against many peoples ignorance of the way the site really works. So how does it really work, and what do the numbers really mean?

To start with, the most fundamental thing to be understood about the site, is that it is an aggregator for reviews, and does not itself review anything. What that means, is that the site itself collects reviews from reviewers that it approves, and brings all those reviews to one place that is easy to find for anyone who’d like to see what these critics have to say. All of these reviews can be found along with some audience reviews on every movie that they score.

The second thing we have to discuss is the “Tomatometer”, which is where the site gets its famous percentage “scores” of films, only its not actually a score. As we stated earlier, this is an aggregator site, and the Tomatometer score is just that, its and aggregate of all the reviews the site recognizes, which it then converts to a simple and easy to see percentage out of 100. The way the site does this is two fold. First it must judge every review as either “Fresh” or “Rotten”. For a score to be granted a fresh, it must simply register as 60% or higher on its scale (3 or higher out of 5, 6 our higher out of 10 and so on). Conversely, any review that score 59% or less, is granted a Rotten. Now, once all the reviews are categorized as either fresh of rotten, they are all tallied together, and the ratio of fresh to rotten reviews is represented as a percentage, which represents the numbers we have grown accustomed to attaching to a films worth. Lets take two films to example.  The recent Wonder Woman movie currently has a Tomatometer score of 92% and is considered Certified Fresh (this just means it received over a certain of scored reviews). Many people may think, that this score means, the movie is 92 out of 100 in terms of reviews or in quality, but that isn’t the case. If we look at the break down from the critics, we see that the movie has had 298 official scored reviews, of which, 274 were considered fresh, or over 60%, and only 24 where considered rotten, or under 60%. So we can get a better understanding, that that 92% means that 92 out of every 100 critics, had a positive review of this movie, but if we look at their averaged review score, the movie is rated at 7.5 out of 10 based on all the reviews they tallied. 92% and 75% are not insanely off of each other, but you can imagine the headlines if this movie’s Tomatometer score was 75%. Our second example is The Mummy, which currently has a 16% rating. With 215 reviews, 34 of which were fresh and 181 rotten, we get our 16 out of ever 100 critics gave this movie a less than positive review, however, if again we look at the average review score we get a 4.2 out of 10. 42% is more than double 16%, and it certainly looks a hell of a lot better than 16%, no matter if each is still a failed grade.

So I hope we can see that while the Tomatometer and Rotten Tomatoes on a whole is a great and powerful tool, that we can have a better understanding of how it works, and why sometimes we should be less concerned with simply attaching a Tomatometer rating to a movies quality, and thats for better and for worse. Did you know how the Tomatometer and Rotten Tomatoes worked before, or is this all new information to you? Comment and let me know what you think about their system and how much power they should or shouldn’t have on audience opinion of movies.

 

Cheers.