To tell the movie one of the greatest stories of humanity, what is expected is a great movie. And “Noah” only pretends to be one. The actor is a household name, with Oscar and all. There is technology and money to create the giant ark and the flood. All narrated in epic tone, right? But Russell Crowe is lousy, the ark is only a crate floating in a bathtub and the history, simplistic, have battles that seem to have rejected by the “The Lord of the Rings“.
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The Need for Speed series is famous for stylish vehicles in races held in unusual locations, allowing the player to drive around in the middle of a hint of illegality. Yes, because clandestine disputes and police leaks are constant figures in games of the series. Given the overwhelming success of the Fast & Furious franchise, it seemed natural that a big-screen adaptation arise anytime. What was not expected was that the movie was so sloppy in such crucial issues.
The story and the setting of the main characters are not good. Everything revolves around Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad series, very apathetic), the good owner of a workshop practicing some illegal races in their free time. One day, he receives an invitation from a disaffected (Dominic West) to assist in the construction of a mythical car, aiming at a future sale. Needing the money, he stumbles. Service done, the two end up dueling in decisive splits… and a great partner of Tobey dies. Result: the hero goes to jail and two years later, resurfaces willing to participate in an illegal race. Of course, the villain of the story will also be in contention.
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The beginning of Pompeii is not encouraging. A man emerges from somewhere and soon guesses that this is the villain because he lets a child die. Then another one appears, in slow motion, and you can know that this is the good guy, because it is strong, beautiful and takes care of helpless animals. Even comes a beautiful girl, who immediately looks at the strong gladiator, and both fall in love at first sight. She also says some catch phrase like “I can see the goodness in your heart.” These moments do not inspire confidence, but the film makes up for the lack of subtlety and little intelligence script with an impressive visual spectacle.
Director Paul W. S. Anderson seems to have so much fun with the camera and with the potential of this plot. Incidentally, that is the history of the Italian city and the volcano Vesuvius is mere backdrop for director massacring an entire population in less than two hours. The title could also be “A million ways to die in Pompeii“: Anderson creates deaths by sword, chains, asphyxia, lava volcano, tsunami, crushing, stonin… all with the pleasure of a child playing with dolls and dreams of the massive destruction of imaginary scenarios.
This sadistic show is shot with force: the director uses and abuses of air planes, images of buildings collapsing and cracking, and gets to put a camera in view of the fireballs spewed by the volcano. The various action scenes that follow each other without dead times in the script, are sewn by a rapid assembly and feature a generous amount of sound effects. In an exciting time fighting (the scene of the “massacre” of the gladiators), the direction of sound overlaps the noises of swords moans of the actors, the ovation from the crowd, the noise of the fire in the volcano, the noise of the blade penetrating the flesh combatants and an insistent percussion on the soundtrack. Everything is exaggerated, but done in a way to print an intense and effective pace.
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Side Effects is a movie that blindsided me. From its subdued opening to the far-reaching and nearly over-the-top conclusion, this is a film that never steps wrong, not for a scene or line of dialogue. Perfectly capturing the tone that has eluded the likes of Brian Depalma, and even lesser filmmakers for the last 40 years. Steven Soderbergh has quietly delivered one of the year’s best films, and if this is his last feature (as widely reported), it’s a graceful bow-out. Two years ago Contagion appeared on my Top 10 Best of the year list, I have a strong suspicion that Side Effects may top-line that list this year. Featuring a star-studded cast doing career best work, Soderbergh has concocted a twisted crime-thriller that delivers one of the years best head-trips.
Emily (Rooney Mara) is severely depressed due to a loss of lifestyle that has sent her into the dark recess of her mind. Things should be brightening up, her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) has recently returned home from a four-year prison sentence and the couple appear to be headed back to financial and marital bliss. Yet, Emily attempts suicide by running her car into a concrete wall. She survives the ordeal and is ordered to undergo psychiatric care under the watchful eye of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). Sensing that Emily needs different medication her prescribes a new anti-depressant hitting the market.
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Now You See Me is a silly magic-themed heist picture that works in the moment but evaporates on further inspection. This is a movie that positions itself as The Usual Suspects lite, sharing more in common with the Ocean’s Eleven pictures than The Prestige or The Illusionist. A group of four freelance street magicians, who specialize in different arenas of the art form, are brought together by a mysterious benefactor to pull off the greatest trick in history. The group, now dubbed The Four Horsemen, will rob a bank while never leaving the stage of a Las Vegas showroom.
The troupe bands together to perform sold-out shows on the Las Vegas Strip. During one of these performances, they claim to have robbed a bank in Paris without leaving the center stage. This of course grabs the attention of the F.B.I., who assign a skeptical agent (Mark Ruffalo) on the case. Aiding the Federal agents is Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), an outcast in the community for his televised specials revealing ‘tricks and illusions’ to the public. Yet, even he is baffled at the intricacies of the heist. This builds over a series of well-written scenes in a script from Ed Soloman and Boaz Yakin that is greatly aided by delivery from some of today’s best actors.
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