Silence (2016)

Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay By: Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese

Cinematography By: Rodrigo Prieto

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver & Tadanobu Asano

Runtime 161 minutes

Silence is Scorsese’s newest movie. It’s really tough to watch. People like Scorsese for a lot of reasons and I think that many fans will find this to be an extremely difficult movie to get through, I did. It is not a nice movie for audiences. It doesn’t let you sit back and watch mobsters hustle or gangsters rise to prominence. It doesn’t have Joe Pesci giving spitfire comedic dialogue. It doesn’t have De Niro or Leo. Silence is a brutal film, both for its audience and it’s characters. Silence is also a spectacularly beautiful film.

Scorsese has mastered the image. He has, plain and simple. Scorsese’s movies are always in some way about movies themselves. What movies can be, what they should be, how they can operate on multiple levels. Silence is no different, but it is not about movies in the way we usually understand them through Scorsese. Silence is not about long dollys, steadicams, or quick cuts. Silence is about stillness. Silence is about the image. But more importantly Silence is about the meaning images can convey.

Silence is brutal because of it’s subject matter. It is hard to watch arrogant people believe they are right and that is exactly what the Jesuit Priests were, in my opinion. It is harder to tell what Scorsese believes but they may ultimately be the point. Scorsese does not spoon feed us what to think or feel, he wants us to experience these things on our own. He wants the movie to do what a movie should do, make its audience think. For me this was a tough movie to get through, not because of it’s pacing but rather because I cannot stand these missionaries. I cannot stand what they preached, what they believed, and how they went about doing it. But that doesn’t mean it’s a movie I shouldn’t see or that it was a movie I regret seeing.

I believe that there is also a strong parallel of the Jesuit Priests in Japan to Scorsese as a filmmaker. The Priests in Japan died for their cause yet accomplished nothing. Scorsese is at a point in his career that he too must be looking back and wondering what he has accomplished. Even with so much praise and success what impact has he had on new filmmakers? Are new filmmakers understanding what he loves so much about movies? Do they understand why movies are impactful and how this can be done? Or even though he has worked so hard and brought us to many terrific films, is it essentially all meaningless?

Silence will test you as it tests its characters, but I assure you this is worth seeing on the big screen.

God Bless America

La La Land (2016)

Directed By: Damien Chazelle

Screenplay By: Damien Chazelle

Cinematography By: Linus Sandgren

Starring: Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling

I’m already getting into fights with my friends on this one but they are wrong, not entirely, but they are wrong. This is not a good movie. It’s a fine movie, but it isn’t good.

The biggest problem with this film is consistency. This movie does not know what it is. Is it a musical? A dance movie? A jazz film? A nostalgic ode to Los Angeles and movies of the past? I really couldn’t tell you, and trust me, it’s not all of them although it sure tries to be.

The movie starts off with a big opening number and then has two more musical numbers relatively quickly but then it starts repeating. How many times do we have to listen to the same refrain? To me that’s not a musical. Well what about the jazz pieces? There’s a moment when we get a Whiplash inspired sequence but that ends short too and never really comes back. Instead we get four notes on repeat for the rest of the film.

I’m going easy too cause I think this movie was extremely miscast. I love Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as much as the rest of America, but the two of them are not good singers in this movie. Someone has told me that Emma Stone has been in stage musicals and there is a moment when she really belts it, so maybe it comes down to bad songs. Either way, it seems like they’re both trying really hard not to completely suck at singing. I call it as I see it (and hear it), and they both did not sound good or even just even appear to have confidence on the screen when they were singing.

There’s a grit to Whiplash that La La Land does not have. And you might say, “But this is a romancing of a situation, there can’t be grit” well go read Shakespeare, or watch West Side Story. Love stories can pack a punch, they can be dirty and grimy, soul crushing, and when talking about two people supposedly at their lowest points in Los Angeles these two have it pretty good. They needed to feel more, want more, that if they don’t find success they will die!

I will say the production design for this movie is spectacular. Some of the camera work and directing decisions are exactly the creative decisions that Hollywood needs right now. But this movie is inconsistent. The styles change a bunch. The movie doesn’t know exactly what it is. There are really good scenes throughout but they don’t feel like they all belong to the same movie or are even from the same time period. The costumes are way nicer than what two people of their status should be wearing. I never felt I understood where these characters were coming from or who they were because of all the inconsistencies. I knew what they wanted, success, but ultimately you’re watching two of the most successful movie stars in the world and I did’t buy any of it.

I think this was a noble effort by Chazelle and I look forward to him making more movies, but I just refuse to drink the koolaid on this one.

God Bless America

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Directed By: Kenneth Lonergan

Screenplay By: Kenneth Lonergan

Cinematography By: Jody Lee Lipes

Starring: Casey Affleck & Lucas Hedges

This is a really good film. This is what more movies should try and be. I’m not saying everything needs to be super depressing, but time is given to the characters and the audience to allow the story to actually matter. We get to witness a situation unfold. We get to understand nooks and crannies of a man’s psyche. It is beautifully shot and gives an importance to the image that isn’t always seen nowadays.

While people have been talking about how depressing this movie is, there is also a lot of humor in it. Lucas Hedges hits every line that he needs to to make us laugh but also perfectly juxtaposes for us how broken his uncle is.

Because of the location and shot selection, even the lack of dialogue from the main character, I found Manchester by the Sea to have a strange soothing quality. Like that of a sad man who has gone to the shore to watch the waves roll in and out.

This is a very lovely film. It is not the best film, it’s not the most beautiful, but it sets a standard for filmmaking and storytelling that people should take notice of.

God Bless America

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Directed By: Gareth Edwards

Screenplay By: Chris Weitz & Tony Gilroy

Cinematography By: Greig Fraser

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen & Wen Jiang

My expectations for Rogue One weren’t all that high, but I was expecting to have a fun time going back to a Galaxy far far away. And ultimately I did. My biggest problem is that they tried too hard to tell too much. I was really hoping for a movie purely about the Rebels but that is not what this movie is about. This movie is about an orphaned girl saving her father’s name by helping the rebels; choosing fight instead of flight.

The character development while not so much lacking is just rather typical. Maybe the most interesting part of Jyn Erso’s story is that she is so connected to her father (cough cough Luke/Leia and Darth Vader). Star Wars has always been about children and their parents but as it’s not a part of the main stories, Rogue One had an opportunity to be about something else.

The most interesting characters were Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus, played by Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang. The two of them had a tremendous amount of chemistry and their stories were much more intriguing than the rest of the characters. Of course we don’t get to find out much about them.

Rogue One is at it’s best when it finally gets to the part in the story that we came here to see: The Rebels capturing the plans to the Death Star.

I don’t know if this is Gareth Edwards’ fault for not being able to create much depth to the whole story but it does have a similar feel to his Godzilla, where the it seems like it should all be there but ultimately leaves almost no impression on the audience.

God Bless America

R.I.P. Carrie Fischer

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Directed By – Matthew Vaughn

Screenplay By – Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn

Cinematography By – George Richmond

Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson & Mark Strong

129 min.

Kingsman is pure fanboy entertainment. It follows the comic books pretty accurately which is nice. The changes they made work well, but there are strange moments of raunchiness and absurdism that come from left field every once in a while and I’m not sure if they help the movie or detract from it, although they definitely add humor.

Samuel L. Jackson gives a refreshingly fun performance and every time he’s on screen I had a smirk on my face.

Lastly, the scene in the church with Colin Firth is the most mind-boggling scene that has come out of Hollywood in a long long time and it was fucking banana-pants crazy!

God Bless America

Focus (2015)

Directed By – Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Screenplay By – Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Cinematography By – Xavier Grobet

Starring Will Smith & Margot Robbie

105 min.

Eek! The writing in this movie was plain ole bad. It felt more like a Hallmark movie than a studio production. Every once in a while there was a nice twist or turn that you expect from a confidence movie but overall I got to say this was a dud. Will Smith and Margot Robbie’s chemistry wasn’t where it needed to be. If felt like the two were cashing in on a nice payday without reading the script beforehand, because both actors gave weak unprepared performances but they also weren’t give anything good to work with.

Maybe give Focus a watch when it’s on Netflix but don’t pay extra to see this one.

God Bless America

P.S. Margot Robbie is super hot but still not sure if she can act. Looking forward to seeing these two in Suicide Squad.