Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Crisp Criticism - "Room", "Joy", "The Good Dinosaur", "Suffragette"

Julien Faddoul

Room ***

Held captive for years in an enclosed space, a woman and her 5-year-old son, whom she had with her kidnapper, attempt to gain their freedom.
Uncomfortable, incredibly moving and sensitive depiction of parents and children and the universe of love and animosity they create with one another. It dips here and there, but it conveys a potent subtlety on such trauma and the performances are uniformly exceptional.

d – Lenny Abrahamson
w – Emma Donoghue   (Based on the Novel by Emma Donoghue)
ph – Danny Cohen
pd – Ethan Tobman
m – Stephen Rennicks
ed – Nathan Nugent
cos – Lea Carlson

p – David Gross, Ed Guiney

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, William H. Macy, Tom McCamus

Monday, December 28, 2015

Crisp Criticism - "Steve Jobs", "The End of the Tour", "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip", "Youth", "Listen to Me Marlon"

Julien Faddoul

Steve Jobs ***

Set backstage at three iconic product launches in 1984, 1988 and 1998, Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs finds himself involved an endless stream of unpleasant conversations with people who hate him.
A film with a final 15 minutes that is so horrendously misguided it threatens to ruin what came before. What comes before is a dynamically mounted (albeit very stagey), well-acted piece of razzmatazz. The adverse and inflexible aesthetics of the writer and director is at times jarring, but ultimately this paints a fascinating portrait, however inaccurate, of an admirable monster in a monstrous culture.

d – Danny Boyle
w – Aaron Sorkin   (Based on the Book by Walter Isaacson)
ph – Alwin H. Küchler
pd – Guy Hendrix Dyas
m – Daniel Pemberton
ed – Elliot Graham
cos – Suttirat Anne Larlarb

p – Scott Rudin, Danny Boyle, Guymon Casady, Christian Colson, Mark Gordon

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston, Makenzie Moss, Sarah Snook, Adam Shapiro, John Ortiz, Perla Haney-Jardine

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015/US)

Julien Faddoul

* (1 star)

d – JJ Abrams
w – Lawrence Kasdan, JJ Abrams, Michael Arndt   (Based on the Characters Created by George Lucas)
ph – Dan Mindel
pd – Rick Carter, Darren Gilford
m – John Williams
ed – Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey
cos – Michael Kaplan

p – JJ Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Bryan Burk

Cast: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Kenny Baker, Gwendoline Christie

It feels strange calling Star Wars: The Force Awakens a movie. As of the day I write this, it postures as a gargantuan event. Walking into the cinema was one of those experiences when you look around, see the various kinds of characters inhabiting it, and wonder how potent their lives are; what was the path they took that lead them here, all in the same place? But as with all movies that posture, they are beholden to the parameters of time – time being the ultimate film critic – and once all the hysteria and adrenaline dissipates, and the rumours and spoilers and reviews (especially this one) are all forgotten, all we’ll be left with is the movie itself.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Retrospective: The Star Wars Films

Julien Faddoul

Star Wars ****

Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a wookiee and two droids to save the universe from the Empire's world-destroying battle-station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader.
An attempt to combine the feel of Flash Gordon serials with Japanese military mythology resulted, with impeccable timing, in one of the most stylish movies ever made. Its engrossing chivalry, along with its inoffensiveness, ensured its global success. Nothing here is particularly shrewd, but it contains more imagination in single sequences than most entire films.

wd – George Lucas
ph – Gilbert Taylor
pd – John Barry
m – John Williams
ed – Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew
cos – John Mollo

p – Gary Kurtz

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, James Earl Jones

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Crisp Criticism - "In the Heart of the Sea", "The Night Before", "Truth"

Julien Faddoul

In the Heart of the Sea *

Based on the 1820 event, a whaling ship is preyed upon by a sperm whale, stranding its crew at sea for 90 days, thousands of miles from home.
Old-fashioned ocean drama that confusingly assembles a large amount of spectacle with a blaring lack of luster. All attempts at generating some kind of human element fall flat.

d – Ron Howard
w – Charles Leavitt, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver   (Based on the Novel by Nathaniel Philbrick)
ph – Anthony Dod Mantle
pd – Mark Tildesley
m – Roque Baños
ed – Mike Hill, Dan Hanley
cos – Julian Day

p – Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Joe Roth, Will Ward, Paula Weinstein

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker, Ben Whishaw, Tom Holland, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sumpter, Frank Dillane, Joseph Mawle

Friday, November 27, 2015

Creed (2015/US)

Julien Faddoul

*** (3 stars)

d – Ryan Coogler
w – Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington   (Based on the Characters by Sylvester Stallone)
ph – Maryse Alberti
pd – Hannah Beachler
m – Ludwig Göransson
ed – Claudia Castello, Michael P. Shawver   
cos – Antoinette Messam, Emma Potter

p – Robert Chartoff, William Chartoff, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King Templeton, David Winkler, Irwin Winkler

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew

When it was announced that Ryan Coogler would be directing the next film in the Rocky franchise, many were nonplussed. Looking at Mr Coogler’s only previous film Fruitvale Station (2013), which was a small, serious film about racial potency, one would not assume he’d be interested in this series of macho sports films. Of course, one should never decree they know an artist fully when they’ve made only one previous film. An artist is free to do whatever he or she pleases with their work despite their past creations. And a boxer should be able to make it on his own despite the status of his name, if he or she pleases.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Crisp Criticism - "By the Sea", "Our Brand is Crisis", "Love the Coopers", "The Program"

Julien Faddoul

By the Sea **

In mid-1970s France, a former dancer and her husband travel the country together and slowly grow apart.
A fascinating film, partly due to the cultural consciousness that its husband/wife filmmaking team bring to it and partly due to its confused if charming aesthetic, with its writer/director borrowing heavily from, of all people, Michelangelo Antonioni. The fact that the culmination is fairly unsatisfactory doesn’t detract from its eminence as a curious cinematic artifact.

wd – Angelina Jolie Pitt
ph – Christian Berger
pd – Jon Hutman
m – Gabriel Yared
ed – Martin Pensa, Patricia Rommel
cos – Ellen Mirojnick

p – Angelina Jolie Pitt, Brad Pitt

Cast: Angelina Jolie Pitt, Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Melvil Poupaud, Niels Arestrup, Richard Bohringer, Laurence Rickard

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Crisp Criticism - "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2", "Secret in Their Eyes", "99 Homes", "He Named Me Malala"

Julien Faddoul

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen must bring together an army against President Snow.
The conclusion of a series of films that want to celebrate heroism and at the same time denounces imperialism; this final chapter is mostly clutter, becoming more dull and repetitive as it goes along.

d – Francis Lawrence
w – Peter Craig, Danny Strong   (Based on the Novel by Suzanne Collins)
ph – Jo Williams
pd – Philip Messina
m – James Newton Howard
ed – Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa 
cos – Kurt and Bart

p – Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Paula Malcomson, Stef Dawson

Friday, November 13, 2015

Crisp Criticism - "Tangerine", "Absolutely Anything", "Z for Zachariah", "Appropriate Behavior"

Julien Faddoul

Tangerine **

A transsexual prostitute tears through Los Angeles on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart. Meanwhile, her working girl cohort prepares for a music performance and a cab driver, a regular customer of theirs, tries to hide his sexual secrecy from his family.
Raw, droll comedy that connotes the works of Wong Kar-Wai, Pedro Almodovar and John Waters, with a simple plot and a fascinating set of characters. Notorious for being shot entirely on an iPhone 5S outfitted with an anamorphic lens adapter, there is clearly an enormous amount of cinematic expertise on display despite the film’s low budget. But its story strand of the Armenian cab driver feels frustratingly conventional and not as formative as the rest of its world.

d – Sean S. Baker
w – Sean S. Baker, Chris Bergoch
ph – Sean S. Baker, Radium Cheung
ed – Sean S. Baker
cos – Shih-Ching Tsou

p – Sean S. Baker, Shih-Ching Tsou, Darren Dean, Karrie Cox, Marcus Cox

Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O'Hagan, James Ransone

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Spectre (2015/UK)

Julien Faddoul

** (2 stars)

d – Sam Mendes
w – John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth   (Based on the Characters by Ian Fleming)
ph – Hoyte van Hoytema
pd – Dennis Gassner
m – Thomas Newman
ed – Lee Smith
cos – Jany Temime

p – Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli

Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Alessandro Cremona

Earlier this year when I reviewed Furious 7, I expressed my disappointment in how a once singular series of films had been frustratingly systematized by the current Hollywood cinema surrounding it. Comic Book films are the dominating market for Hollywood, which means serialized, referential storytelling is the preeminent command. Each film is a sequel to the previous one, with information stacking together to give succeeding moments higher volume and to mitigate fans who are paying attention to every detail.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Crisp Criticism - "The Last Witch Hunter", "The Dressmaker", "Sleeping with Other People", "Mistress America", "Freeheld", "No Escape"

Julien Faddoul

The Last Witch Hunter

The last remaining witch-hunter battles against an uprising of witches in modern day New York.
Conceptually, so ludicrous that it’s kind of enjoyable. In execution though, the cheerless bombast is agonizing, with its star showing how little his range truly is.

d – Breck Eisner
w – Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless 
ph – Dean Semler
pd – Julie Berghoff
m – Steve Jablonsky
ed – Chris Lebenzon, Dean Zimmerman
cos – Luca Mosca

p – Mark Canton, Bernie Goldmann

Cast: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Michael Caine, Lotte Verbeek, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Allegra Carpenter