Category Archives: Film Summary

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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Everyone of us is a little fucked up mentally. But Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) are two crazy people (quite literally) who are in weird situations. Pat has lost everything – his house, his job, his wife. He’s moved back in with his parents (played by Jacki Weaver and Robert DeNiro.) And he’s vowed to turn his life around and do anything to get his wife back. Then when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with troubles of her own, things get even weirder. And complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll return the favour. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond grows between them, and silver linings appear in both their lives. ‘

Actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence deserve a round of applause for their incredible performances in this movie. They both play people who have mental disabilities, albeit different kinds, and they do it convincingly. Cooper is the film’s greatest surprise – he evinces his character’s manic episodes with just the right amount of panic, fear and stress without ever overplaying his hand. However, it’s Lawrence’s turn that’ll have you talking as you exit the theatre. The young actress plays her character with an engaging aggressiveness that lets her dominate every scene she’s in, whether she’s wildly charging out of the side of the screen while Pat is on a run or shutting down Pat Sr. when he suggests that she is “bad juju” for the Eagles.

David O. Russel’s direction reflects the film’s themes and tones perfectly. He mixes tones brilliantly, and is able to orchestrate emotions with soft and jagged camera movement. Throughout the film he makes a point of having the camera come rushing up to actors until its right in their faces. It’s sometimes disorienting, but it creates an atmosphere for the movie and makes you feel as though you’re watching the story through the eyes of the characters.

There’s a thin line to walk when crafting a comedy film revolving around mental illness, to be sure. Going about it in the wrong way could not only result in something insensitive, but also foolish and overdone. But Russel didn’t let that happen.

Silver Linings Playbook is probably one of the most romantic modern films I’ve seen. The plot has a unique outlook, with interesting characters, it’s never overdone and it most definitely is not a typical love story. It has a subtle quirkiness to it that makes it seem that much more real and raw.

What I love most about this film: In the end, they fall “crazy in love” with each other. Get it?

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Gangster Squad (2013)

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Gangster Squad is set in Los Angeles, 1949. Ruthless, mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) takes over and runs the show in this town. He reaps the ill-gotten gains from the drugs, the guns, the prostitutes and – if everything goes his way – every wire bet placed west of Chicago. And he does this all with not only the help of his own paid goons, but also with the police and politicians under his control. It’s enough to intimidate the bravest, most street-hardened cops around… except for the secret crew of LAPD outsiders led by Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who come together and decide to stop at nothing to destroy Cohen. This movie is action-packed and full of beautiful scenes of a film noirish Los Angeles.

The atmosphere of the film – the cinematography was stupendous. The overall “film-noir-in-colour” theme was perfect. But what made the movie wasn’t just the cinematography and costumes and old school cars.

The plotline was filled with action, surprise, romance (between Jerry and Grace) -and the whole “good vs. evil” theme which was carried out perfectly at the story’s climax in the scene where Sgt. O’Mara and Mickey Cohen wrestle it out with their bare fists. No guns. (Interesting when considering the fact that the entire movie had gun shooting in every other scene). The transitional cuts and scenes are smooth and well done, making the movie flow perfectly. Clever, witty, and funny lines throughout the film keep the audience laughing and rooting for the kick-ass Gangster Squad cops.

Let’s move over to one of my personal favourite aspects of film watching. Observing the actors. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and the extraordinary Sean Penn. These three right here, demonstrated what it really means to act. Josh Brolin plays the perfect hero cop, who would much rather burn down a pile of dirty money than pocket a dollar. He acts perfectly as the macho Sergeant. Ryan Gosling’s acting in this film was also really incredible – he was able to pull off a completely different character, complete with mannerisms and speaking ticks, beautifully.

But Holy F****** Shit. Sean Penn steals the god damn spotlight from everyone in this movie. He makes the audience feel intimidated, anxious, and uncomfortable every time he appears on screen with his droopy, uninterested, and condescending facial expressions. He forces the audience to absolutely and entirely loathe him. Penn doesn’t just have an angry face – he has the face of a cold-stone killer in this movie. He portrays an ultimately evil character, and he pulls it off brilliantly. And his bursts of angry violence are totally believable because they’re done so well.

In my opinion, the man deserves yet another Oscar. That’s just my opinion, sure, but watch the movie and we’ll see if you’ll see it differently.

Fantastic acting. Fantastic action. Fantastic plotline. Brilliant and truly entertaining movie.

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The Departed (2006)

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Packed full of gripping action, adventure, suspense, thrill, and brilliant storytelling, this movie is a treasure in terms of fine entertainment. It keeps you on the edge of your seat right at the beginning with its clever premise and then for the duration of the rest of the movie, and has shocking moments throughout the film that keeps you wanting more and pondering about what could possibly happen next after THAT just happened?

Beautifully and intricately written screenplay by William Monahan, it won him a WGA award and an Academy award for best adapted screenplay.

Then there is the magnificent Martin Scorcese who directed this movie perfectly in my eyes. Scorsese has truly directed a classic. Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, “best-of” list, saying, “If they’re lucky, directors make one classic film in their career. Martin Scorsese has one per decade (Taxi Driver in the ’70s, Raging Bulls in the ’80s, Goodfellas in the ’90s). His 2006 Irish Mafia masterpiece kept the streak alive.”

Then there is the acting. Simply amazing. There wasn’t one major actor who fell short of portraying their role to its highest potential. Leonardo DiCaprio was magnificent in illustrating perfectly the kinds of inner psychological struggles his character was going through along with evoking emotion in the audience. Jack Nickolson is great at everything he does, but he brings Frank Costello, the mafia boss/FBI informer, to a whole other level. Matt Damon was astonishingly successful in making me hate him, something I thought was impossible while also bringing dynamic to his character. Mark Wahlberg was convincing as a dick in the beginning of the movie, and then was great at altering our perception of him toward the end making us root for him. And even Alec Baldwin had some good acting moments in this film.

Overall, this film works on multiple levels for not just fussy cinemagoers but general audiences as well. It never feels slow or self-important.

And this isn’t even an ‘awards seeking’ kind of personal arthouse film like some of Scorsese’s previous movies, rather “The Departed” is simply and purely a thoroughly entertaining mainstream blockbuster designed more to be enjoyed than to be analysed. Yet, much like Chris Nolan did with “Batman Begins”, it’s one of those great examples of the difference that a visionary director can bring to relatively conventional material – making a solid movie into something far deeper and more rewarding.

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Pride & Prejudice (2005)

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The most lushly romantic film I’ve seen so far, and it’s done so brilliantly that I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. As I’m not one to like or watch many romantic movies, this is speaking volumes. Perhaps it’s the mere fact that it’s an adaptation of Jane Austen’s great novel and the way it reveals the many social issues of 19th century England that makes me like it so much, as I’m highly interested in social issues. And although this story is set in the past, it retains a fascination amongst its modern readers/viewers because it can relate in one way or another to today’s complex social issues regarding romantic love and maturation (growing up) in general.

This particular adaptation of Pride & Prejudice presents the story gloriously. Elizabeth Bennet (Knightley) meets Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfayden) and she believes he is the last man on earth she could every fall in love with. However, as their lives intertwine in unexpected events, she finds herself captivated and entranced by the very man she swore to loathe for all eternity. Pride & Prejudice focuses on the prejudice between the 19th century classes and the pride that would keep lovers apart. This is a classic tale of love and misunderstanding that sparkles with romance, wit and emotional force.

The cinematography in this adaptation is stunning throughout the entire film, keeping your eyes glued to the screen. The actors are marvellous, with noted actors such as Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfayden, Judi Dench, and Donald Sutherland.

Memorable quotes:

Mr. Darcy: Miss Elizabeth. I have struggled in vain and I can bear it no longer. These past months have been a torment. I came to Rosings with the single object of seeing you… I had to see you. I have fought against my better judgment, my family’s expectations, the inferiority of your birth by rank and circumstance. All these things I am willing to put aside and ask you to end my agony.

Elizabeth: I don’t understand.

Mr. Darcy: I love you. (Pause) Most ardently.

***

Mr. Darcy: So this is your opinion of me. Thank you for explaining so fully. Perhaps these offences might have been overlooked had not your pride been hurt by my honesty…
Elizabeth Bennet: *My* pride?
Mr. Darcy: …in admitting scruples about our relationship. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your circumstances?
Elizabeth Bennet: And those are the words of a gentleman. From the first moment I met you, your arrogance and conceit, your selfish disdain for the feelings of others made me realize that you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.
[they look at each other for a long time as though about to kiss]
Mr. Darcy: Forgive me, madam, for taking up so much of your time.

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Julie & Julia (2009)

Julie & Julia is a light comedy that takes us on Julie Powell’s journey of becoming a published writer. More specifically, we follow Julie as she decides she wants something more out of life and begins a year-long project in which she takes Julia Child’s cook book and cooking lesson videos, cooks up all her recipes in her first book, and then blogs about it everyday. We also get to see Julia Child’s start in the cooking profession and the struggles she faced in publishing her book.

The show is stolen entirely by Meryl Streep, since her acting skills are impeccable as she portrays the vibrant Julia Child, right down to her mannerisms and speaking ticks. She was cast alongside Stanley Tucci, who plays her husband Paul Child. These two work brilliantly well together, and Tucci also brings something of his own to the table in his performance. Amy Adams also did a good job acting as a blogger, showing us different mood swings and generally providing us a sense of what it felt like for the real Julie Powell undergoing the ups and downs in her project.

The cinematography was well done, especially in the flashback scenes. It added a certain sense of nostalgia, which was necessary as we were going back in time to see the real story of Julia Child unfold in front of our eyes.

The storyline was rather unique, in the sense that this has never been done before. The story is light, funny, and provides an overall feel-good movie. At the very end, however, I felt a sense of disappointment when Julia said she didn’t like Julie’s blog and that Julie and Julia never even met in person… but although it left me kind of dissatisfied with the ending, I guess that disappointment really illustrated what the character of Julie was feeling, and in that way I’m glad the film stayed in the realms of reality, as this was based on true events. The dose of reality is the added touch of this film, creating a certain atmosphere that leaves the viewers thinking about how this may relate to their own lives, which is something everyone can take away from Julie & Julia.

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Diaspora Film Festival – Calendar (1993) by Atom Egoyan

Two nights ago I volunteered at the Diaspora Film Festival in Toronto. (For those of you who do not know what Diaspora means: Diaspora is the dispersion of people from their original homeland. And so these movies are primarily about these kinds of people, and these movies are made all over the world, lots of which are in different languages with english subtitles.) We watched Calendar by Atom Egoyan, which is a movie about a photographer who is sent to Armenia to take pictures of churches for a calendar. He slowly begins to realise that his wife, an Armenian translator, is falling in love with their driver and unofficial guide, Ashot. They grow more and more distant from each other and finally separate. Later, at his home in Toronto, he uses an escort agency to invite a number of women to dinner, finally settling on the one who looks and sounds most like his wife.

I actually enjoyed this movie, regardless of it’s slow progression. The non-HD effect actually added to it’s cinematic texture and worked well with the context of the film.

The style of the film is what really intrigued me about this work. The film is narrated by the photographer. Interactions between the photographer, his wife, and their driver were largely improvised. The story is told almost entirely from only three locations: In Armenia, at the photographer’s dining room in Toronto, and by the photographer’s answering machine.

Every scene in Armenia is viewed from behind a camera as the photographer prepares to take pictures of the churches; his wife and driver speak to him while looking directly at the camera. The scenes were shot with a video camera, which makes the experience seem more authentic. I liked seeing the characters speak directly towards the camera, because it seemed like they were talking directly to us – the audience.

The scenes in the dining room feature the photographer having dinner with women from the escort agency. Each date follows almost exactly the same pattern: The photographer and his date converse briefly, the photographer pours the wine, and the date excuses herself to use the telephone in the next room while the photographer listens. It is revealed on the last date that this pattern was set up prior to each date, and that this is his way of finding a woman who sounds like his wife, although his motives for doing so are left ambiguous.

The photographer’s answering machine sits beside the Armenian calendar, which marks the passage of time throughout the movie. We learn of the state of his marriage through the messages left by his estranged wife. Another thing I noticed about the Armenian churches as the movie progressed, was the fact that each one was more destroyed than the last. Later on, when we got to speak to the director, I found out that these churches symbolized the disintegration of the narrator and his wife’s relationship/marriage.

I did some research on the critical reception of this film, and most of them were positive. It has a 100 percent rating at Rotten Tomatos and was nominated for Best Achievement in Direction and Best Screenplay at the 1993 Genie Awards.  Stephen Holden of the New York Times said of the movie,

“If Calendar, like such earlier Egoyan films as The Adjuster and Speaking Parts, has to be pieced together backward, it is so finely constructed and beautifully acted a movie that its game of detective is quite enticing. Seamlessly edited, the film sustains a visual rhythm that is as confident as it is edgy.”

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