Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Motherless Brooklyn (4/5)

A solid comeback from Edward Norton both as lead Actor and Director in a 1950s neo-noir film in a conflicted New York where corruption and racism dominates the streets.

Edward Norton's great comeback after being far away from the big screen for a few years is a delightful homage to the 'film noir' genre where mystery and crime are at the heart of the story. Supported by a fantastic cinematography, the 1950s New York shows its dark soul with black alleys, dark corners and threatening figures that walk around like ghosts ready to attack the few sparks of resistance against its embedded racism and corruption. 

The key pillar which makes this film unusual is the complexity of its screenplay: mixing real-events where New York City was looking to eradicate poor black community neighborhoods and the following local resistance (with the legendary Jane Jacobs at its head), and a classic crime mystery which will lead Edward Norton's character into the dark corridors of power where political decisions have only the face of power and greed. Amidst all this, a quite unusual lead character who suffers a condition that brings a comical but also a dramatic tone to the overall portrait. 
The fantastic cast along with the very good soundtrack (led by the magistral Jazz musician Wynson Marsalis) makes the complex script shine, even if the length of the film and the different clues of the mystery plot do not seem to intertwine quite clearly. Overall, a good watch. 


Wednesday, 23 October 2019

The Joker (4/5)

A dark and thought-provoking story-telling on the origins of one of DC's darkest supervillains. Get ready, you are going for an unsettling ride that will caress your darkest thoughts.

Joaquin Phoenix is the Joker. The physical and mental metamorphosis of this character starts immediately in the first scene of a film that will constantly flirt between a politically incorrect morale and a liberal apologetic analysis of someone's transformation into a popular anarchist symbol. The heart of this film is this 44 year old actor, clearly the performance of a lifetime, who is able to lead a quite weak script but whose performance makes this major flaw go unnoticed. He makes us explore a plethora of feelings with great intensity, from feeling pity to be afraid of him, that we cannot remember last time we were so blown away by a performance of this level. 

 Todd Philips takes us into the darkest streets of Gotham City even though this could be in any large city where individualism, selfishness and anger is at its paroxysm. Gotham City becomes a reflection of the turbulent times of the 21st century (particularly in the US) with Government budget cuts, high-homicide rates, strong social inequalities and especially, an angry society. Despite quite cliche scenes and predictable outcomes,  the wonderful score by Icelandic Hildur Ingveldar Guðnadóttir as well as the fantastic photography privileging faded colours and shaky shots make the film an actual bumpy ride! 

This original re-imagination of how the Joker became who he is will set a new benchmark for Marvel and DC studios. Maybe the time will come for Supervillains taking the throne from Marvel superheroes denouncing a capitalist, egocentric and individualist society that prefers to ignore people asking for help helping to generate monsters that do not only feel self-pit but also who wants to watch the whole world burn. 

Monday, 30 April 2018

The Avengers: Infinity War (4/5)

 The first part of the long-awaited epic battle between Thanos and the Avengers fulfills its main purpose of entertaining people in thirst of explosions and epic battles but undermines dramatic elements that could have made it one of the best superheroes film of the decade.

Ten years after the start of 'Marvel-Phase 1' (with the very good Iron Man), comic-fans long awaited day for the final battle that will determine the future of (many) galaxies has arrived! After plotting a wide-range of non-Machiavelic strategies to destroy the strongest superheroes on planet Earth ( remember the final battle of the first Avengers?), Thanos decides to confront everyone himself. After all, he is the big bad guy.

Based on this quite simple plot - and after 18 Marvel films - we are still surprised by the creativity of directors Anthony & Joe Russo to provide an incredibly rich film in spectacular action sequences and many (many) surprises in regards to the destiny of many lead characters. The Russo brothers make it clear right from the start: after directing one of the best Marvel films, Captain America: Winter Soldier, they are here to take us to a ride we have never experience before. Suspense and outstanding visual effects are definitely part of the epic ride.  However it has a strong weakness: a failed attempt to bring dramatic components to the same level.

As any concluding chapter in a saga, strong dramatic twists are part of the experience. Even if we are familiar with the characters (it has been 10 years!), little empathy has been felt with the characters. The Russo brothers have tried to replicate the effectiveness of Lord of The Rings: Return of the King but it is not solid enough. This said however, it is only Part-1. We will have to see what Part-2 reserves.

Being able to cross-over so many superheroes in a 160min length film is quite impressive and does not fall into the dullness of films such as Batman and Robin and Suicide Squad. We get what we ask for and it is a visual delight. This film is the perfect Friday/Saturday night-out to the cinema. Our final verdict: do not expect anything spectacular, just expect having fun.


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