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Recent Movie Reviews#8874
Brooklyn is a film about Eilis, who crosses the Atlantic to America in the 1950s. She is a mildly career-motivated young Irish woman who is handed a dream opportunity without ever asking for it. Contrary to what typical immigrant protagonists are like, she neither really works her way up to success nor once finds herself in a life-and-death situation. Rather, this film shows us that a woman of just a usual background can tell an important story that is surprisingly relevant to us all.
The main contributor to that surprise is the lead actress, Saoirse Ronan, who plays her role meticulously while also constantly owning the tone of the film. Her delicate and sincere portrayal makes all Eilis's issues, however selfish or insignificant they may seem at first, materialize in your mind, and makes you hope that her pain will somehow ease. Already a one-time Oscar nominee, Ronan reaffirms her acting strength with this exceptional performance. Of all emerging young adult lead actresses, she is likely the most charismatic one in 5 years since Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone.
From start to finish, Eilis feels just like a girl-next-door. That homey feeling extends to Emory Cohen's Tony, an Italian plumber she meets in the New World. With their small height difference, she almost towers over him in her shoes as they stroll outside, which, helped by their natural chemistry, gives them the authenticity of a couple that you might actually know in real life, as opposed to one of Hollywood's ideal.
This film is a remedy for anyone who is losing faith in good filmmaking. It is a splendid reminder that you can tell a great story without resorting to excessive twists and effects. With the remarkable performances from the entire cast, there is hardly a dull minute in the film, and it only gets more interesting towards the end. Speaking of the end, Eilis's tips to a new immigrant she meets at the end still hold very true today. They are not only the best advice that you could ever hear from anyone, but also evidence that America is and has always been the land of opportunity.
Brandon's life is almost perfect: a steady job, a nice apartment, good friends and women adore him. But something prevents Brandon from having a relationship that lasts more than four months, this incapacity is due to the fact that Brandon is a sex addict: to casual encounters with strangers and prostitutes, to pornography (both during and after working hours), to masturbation. And to some extent he seems to have his addiction under control, until her sister Sissy arrives unexpectedly looking for a place to live for a while.
British director Steve McQueen delivers a fascinating character study that explores how modern life (in which new technologies play a major role), increasingly isolates people and makes them unable to establish emotional bonds with others. In Brandon's case, a hunter in search of pleasure and not love, the arrival of his sister will turn him into a prey of his own emotions and will make him face his reality.
One aspect that has caused controversy is the way so raw and explicit to show Brandon's sexual encounters, however this becomes a necessary element, since it is through them that you can see Brandon's need and desperation as Sissy is more involved in his life. Special mention deserves the dynamics established between them, since it is fully nuanced and can even be uncomfortable to witness but is devastatingly emotional (especially in the last minutes of the story).
However, the most important element for the success of the film lies in the performances: in the hands of less committed actors Brandon and Sissy's conflicts would be unconvincing, but McQueen wisely chooses Michael Fassbender (both had previously worked together on Hunger), who literally bares body and soul to take Brandon's emotions to the limit and does it so impressively in a brave and courageous performance (and unfortunately the Academy possibly considered too intense for consideration in their nominations). Meanwhile Carey Mulligan proves to be one of the young actresses with the best prospects and acting range nowadays: her rendition of the classic song New York, New York is an utter delight as well is one of the best scenes in the film.
Shame, in the end (as in most character studies) does not seek to create empathy for the characters, but rather wants us to reflect and ask ourselves how we would react in similar situations.
Perhaps foolishly, I took my peers' overwhelmingly positive feedback in good faith and went to see this film at the cinema. After doing so, I feel that it is my duty to dissuade others from doing the same. The following contains minor spoilers, but nothing more than can be inferred from the trailer, or guessed minutes before it happens whilst watching.
The protagonist (Brent), a teenage boy who has lost his father in a car accident and has consequently transformed into the long-haired, self-harming, heavy-metal-listening stereotype that we are all too familiar with, is kidnapped by his rejected date to the 'school dance'. The girl, with the help of her father, abducts him while he is out in the Australian outback being angsty, takes him back to their quaint home and does an assortment of cringe-worthy violent acts, aimed primarily at tapping into the niche market of gore enthusiasts under the pretext of a twisted ritual that the two have developed over the years. (A concept or technique that is likely to arouse interest, and indeed, garnered my own, is used as part of this 'ritual' (from which the head-drilling seen in the trailer becomes necessary), though it is not the brainchild of the Sean Byrne (writer and director), but the notorious American serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer.)
An attempt is made at subplot: the boy's socially awkward friend and his 'date' get intoxicated, make a small scene at the school dance and then have sex on school property. While this offers comic relief to an extent, it fails to add anything to the story as a whole.
With the relentless accents, shots of the wilderness, Utes and endemic phrases such as "wadda you lookin' at?", the audience is simply not allowed to forget that the film is Australian, as though this fact is imperative to their enjoyment. It seems to me as though Byrne, aiming to create a cult-classic, examined other Australian titles to reach this status (namely Wolf Creek), took elements from that (the Australian outback, accents and violence), added a bit of controversy in the form of incestuous relations, ensured not to cast the main character as anyone unfortunate looking and figured that he had it made.
The characters are cliché and translucent (though John Brumpton does a convincing job playing the girl's father), there are no plot twists, nothing is withheld from the viewer in order to be excitingly revealed later in the piece, the film has practically nothing to maintain one's interest; it's straight-forward from start to finish. To top it all off, a Hollywood-tainted ending is stuffed down our throats and we are expected to walk back to our cars feeling emotionally satiated. Little more occupied my mind other than a list of infinitely more enjoyable things I could have done with $14.
As I was driving to the movie theater to see "Dope" (R, 1:43), I was thinking about how that word is usually used as a slang term and in one of three main ways. Then, as the movie opened, those three definitions appeared on the screen. (Thank you, filmmakers, for making it so easy for me to decide how to open this review.) In short, dope can mean a stupid person, something really cool or refer to an illegal drug. All this begs the question, which of those definitions applies to this film? Short answer: all of them.
The movie centers on highly intelligent black high school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his two friends, multi-racial Jib (Tony Revolori) and lesbian Diggy (Kiersey Clemons). Now, I only use these labels because these characters use them for themselves. (They also refer to each other using the n-word, a situation which is used both for laughs and social commentary.) Here's another label the three use for themselves: geeks. Malcolm, Jib and Diggy geek out over 1990s-era rap and hip-hop. They see the 90s as a golden age for these kinds of music and they dress accordingly. In their spare time, however, we see them practicing in their punk rock band. Yup, the three main characters use lots of labels, but they defy them at the same time. For example, even though they see themselves as geeks, it doesn't mean that they're not cool or are incapable of getting along with non-geeks. In short, these labels describe the characters, but don't define them. And that distinction is really what this movie is about.
"Dope" takes place in one of the rougher neighborhoods in L.A., another circumstance that Malcolm seems intent on rising above. He is just hanging out with his friends and working at getting into Harvard when a chance meeting with a neighborhood drug dealer named Dom (A$AP Rocky) gets him invited to Dom's birthday party at a local club. The party doesn't exactly go as planned. Malcolm ends up leaving with Nakia (Zoë Kravitz), a girl who Dom thinks belongs to him, but seems more attracted to Malcolm for being "different from the others" (and maybe because he can help her pass her GED). The next day, Malcolm discovers that he has also left the party with a significant amount of Ecstasy (aka Molly) and a gun that does belong to Dom. When a cell phone in the bag rings, the caller demands the drugs. Before Malcolm can hand off the contents of his backpack, the cell phone rings again. It's Dom, calling from jail and warning Malcolm not to turn over the drugs to the other caller. Malcolm is caught in the middle.
He receives instructions from Dom as to where to take the drugs, but he and his friends are still being pursued by that first caller (Amin Joseph). Malcom, Jib and Diggy take the drugs to a fancy house where Dom sends them and they meet their contact's young adult children (Keith Stanfield and Chanel Iman). Daddy's not home, so the five of them decide to hang out. Things don't go much better at the house than they did at the club the night before, so Malcolm and his friends are forced to improvise. They concoct a plan to get rid of the drugs with relatively little risk to themselves and the possibility of some significant rewards. They enlist the help of an old acquaintance from band camp (who also happens to be both a druggie and a hacker) by the name of Will Sherwood (Blake Anderson). Their audacious plan may solve all their problems, or it may land them in jail – or worse. No matter what happens, the three friends seem destined to shed at least some of their labels, and maybe gain some new ones.
"Dope" reminds me of the inner-city-set films of the 90s (the very period with which the three main characters are obsessed), but with less violence and more laughs. The movie uses humor to add entertainment value to the story, but also as a different way of approaching some very important issues, including ongoing problems in our inner cities and the use of labels in our society at large. The film's pedigree certainly contributed to its effectiveness. "Dope" is produced (and partially narrated by) Forest Whitaker, while Sean Combs and Pharrell Williams share executive producer credits. It also doesn't hurt that the movie is so well-written and well-directed by Rick Famuyiwa ("Brown Sugar", "The Wood") and has a strong, though little-known cast.
Malcolm and his friends are appealing and sympathetic characters, but make some morally questionable decisions. While the script makes light of their circumstances, it also slyly comments on them, but without suggesting definitive right and wrong answers. This is a coming-of-age movie that is both enjoyable and thought-provoking. There are a few too many loose ends for my taste and I found much of the plot to be a little too morally ambiguous, but this is still one of the best urban dramas in the past 20 years. To sum up this review, let me suggest some slightly altered meanings for the film's title: Dope can refer to some of the movie's main characters, the curse of their neighborhoods or anyone who won't at least consider seeing the film because of labels they may have already assigned to it. "B+"
Very few directors have tapped the clown in Tom Cruise the way Doug Liman has. He had directed Tom in Edge of Tomorrow which was humorous and was set amidst a post-apocalyptic alien invasion. American Made is just as humorous and is also set amidst an invasion of sorts except this movie is a true story. Captain Barry Seal had the adventure of a lifetime before falling prey to a monster of his own doing. But what an adventure it might have been for this man to smuggle contraband into and out of the States.
I felt Tom Cruise did a great job portraying the pilot in an extremely light-hearted and funny way. Cruise is known for playing roles that ooze oodles of dare-devilry. But most of those roles are of fictitious characters. For once Tom plays a real man whose daring knew no bounds. Captain Barry Seal was like a real-life Ethan Hunt. Hence I feel casting Cruise as Seal was an extremely appropriate decision and should help in filling Universal Studios Entertainment's coffers.
If you were awed after seeing the aerial sequences in Dunkirk, wait until you have seen this film. The planes are subjected to go through some intense acrobatics which will please you. If you were disappointed with Cruise after watching The Mummy, I can assure you that you will heave a sigh of relief after watching this film. The film's story is not only engaging but also witty and hilarious. There are hardly any stagnant moments so the probability of you getting bored is very low.
A very ironic thing about American Made is that in 1986 when Barry Seal must have gone through whatever turmoil he did, a young Tom Cruise played a pilot in Top Gun which released that year. Did he know he would pay a real-life pilot who was very relevant during those days almost 31 years later ?
Watch American Made . Don't watch it for Tom Cruise's stardom. Watch it because you deserve to watch an entertaining and great film on the big screen that coincidentally has a superstar playing the leading man. I humbly apologize for the length of this post but sometimes I just can't control myself from pouring my thoughts out
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