Monday, April 14, 2014

Emily Watson: The Book Thief (2013)

Another excellent performance by Emily Watson, playing Rosa, the adoptive mother of our main heroine Liesel. She sheems very strict at first, lacks motherly warmth and is reluctant to bond with the girl, but as time passes by, we see that she has a big heart, a soft side and a smile to die for :) They make a great couple with Geoffrey Rush and share a number of sweet family scenes. It's a quiet performance but an important one for the story.

Grade change: 63--->65. A sizable supporting part in a successful and well-reviewed movie.

Review: The Book Thief (2013)

Emily Watson grade sheet

Image: Paramount Pictures

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Geoffrey Rush: The Book Thief (2013)

Geoffrey Rush is such a versatile actor that seeing him play the kindest man in the world shouldn't surprise you even if you remember him vividly as a ruthless pirate, brilliant yet haunted pianist (Oscar win in Shine) or Marquis de Sad among many others. He is one of the best character actors working today, and naturally this is a perfect casting.

Geoffrey plays Liesel's adoptive father Hans, who instantly makes her feel at home and loved. He is soft-spoken and kind and instantly recognizes Liesel's desire to learn. He creates an improvised vocabulary on his basement walls and encourages his new daughter to write down words and memorize them. He is also a decent accordion player, a loyal husband and knows how to keep his word. Basically a perfect human being. Geoffrey has many adorable scenes with Sophie Nelisse and his on-screen wife Emily Watson. There is comedy, there is romance, there is drama - it's a wonderful part and a wonderful performance.

Starting grade: 70. Too high? Look at his recent resume and tell me I'm wrong :)

Review: The Book Thief (2013)

Geoffrey Rush grade sheet

Image: Paramount Pictures

Geoffrey Rush


Current grade: 70


70 (The Book Thief)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: The Book Thief (2013)

The Book Thief is a sweet yet realistic look at civilian life in Nazi Germany. It's not a fairy tale. People die. people suffer, books are burnt and houses bombed. And yet, at its core it is a very optimistic story. It shows that not every German believed in Hitler's nonsense, not even close. Sure, there were many fanatics and blind followers, but there were normal, good-hearted, empathic people too.

The main heroine, young girl named Liesel (wonderfully played by Sophie Nelisse) is both very unlucky and very lucky. Losing her family at such young age is always a tragedy, but when your own mother can't support you and is ready to give up parental rights, not ending up in an orphanage is quite a fortunate turn of events. And her new adoptive parents are so wonderful that it does start to look like a fairy tale for a while.

Not for long though. When the movie is narrated by Death, you just know that things won't be shiny for long. Liesel will know joy and she will know sorrow, but those scary, hungry, dangerous years might be the best time of her life because she is surrounded by people she loves and is loved by them as well. It's not exactly a feel-good movie, but it shows that even dark times don't have to be hopeless.

The plot is rather thin, and the actual book stealing is not central to the story. Liesel loves to read, she has vivid imagination. which she learns to transform into words with help of her friend - a young Jewish man who is hiding in their basement. She describes outside world to him and discovers what it feels like to be creative and how her words can make people feel something, make them better, make them forget about the horrors of the war.

And that's it really. A simple yet compelling story of a young girl's life in Nazi Germany. There are no battles, no blood, no true horrors of Holocaust, and I think it's for the better. It's honest without being violent, and it's not an easy thing to do in a movie about war.

Box office: Very solid.

Should you buy this movie and make me rich? Yes :)

Image: 20th Century Fox

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Keanu Reeves: Man of Tai Chi (2013)

Keanu Reeves keeps having a bad...decade? Seems like it. Every movie he's been in lately has flopped, and his performances have been equally uninspiring. Man of Tai Chi is not an exception. It wasn't cheap to make (25 mil.) and it didn't go very far during its limited release. Keanu played the main villain who made some speeches, did some villainous stuff and fought the main hero in the final confrontation. An OK performance but nothing special - his character seemed pretty bland to me.

The movie itself, however, is actually pretty good. Keanu directed as well, and his directional debut can be considered a success quality-wise. Man of Tai Chi is not a martial arts masterpiece, but it's very well done. The fights are fast, brutal and exciting, the plot is moderately intelligent, and the main hero (Tiger Hu Chen) can actually act. And that's enough, really, to satisfy me at least :) Apparently not enough to earn enough money to cover its budget though. I guess modern movie-goers need something more from a kung fu movies. Or they've simply grown tired of kung fu movies altogether. 

Grade change: 62--->60. A supporting part in a relatively expensive flop.

Image: Universal Pictures

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Matthew McConaughey: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Matthew McConaughey has only around 10 minutes of screen time, but it's more than enough to make quite an impression. He plays an experienced senior broker who teaches young Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) how to make money in this business, handle clients, stress and then...make even more money. His short launch break lecture is enough to inspire Jordan and make him a firm believer in Wall Street lifestyle. Cocaine and hookers :)

Matthew is great here. So great that I wished he'd star in a Wall Street spin-off. Quirky, confident, colorful and loud, a bit of a madman - that's the character type he is very good at playing. A couple of years ago I would have said that it's a typical over-the-top McConaughey performance, but after the year he just had I'm not even sure what's typical for him anymore. He's dramatically expanded his acting range, and his work has been of the highest quality lately. Let's hope Interstellar turns out great (and with Christopher Nolan at the helm it seems more than likely), and he continues his ascension.

Grade change: 80--->81.

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Matthew McConaughey grade sheet

Image: Paramount Pictures

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jon Bernthal: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Jon Bernthal doesn't have a big part here, but at this stage of his career the mere fact that he is in a Martin Scorsese movie is a huge deal. And it's not like he is a glorified extra. No, he is very noticeable in quite a few scenes, including a hilarious, loud and public one with Jonah Hill. He doesn't play one of the brokers - instead he is more of a street guy, who helps transfer Jordan Belfort's dirty money and holds stock in his name. He is big, strong and hot-tempered, but compared to all the obnoxious and constantly drugged out of their mind people around him his character actually seems quite reasonable. Surprisingly so given his appearance

The Wolf of Wall Street is not going to become Jon's breakout movie, but it's still a great line in his growing resume. I thought he was pretty good in Snitch as well, and even though I haven't seen Grudge Match yet, 2013 looks like a very solid year overall. Shame about Mob City though - it got cancelled before I had a chance to check it out.

Grade change: 35--->37. A noticeable supporting part in a successful, well-reviewed and Oscar-nominated movie.

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Jon Bernthal grade sheet

Image: Paramount Pictures

Monday, April 7, 2014

Margot Robbie: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Margot Robbie is a stunningly beautiful young actress who is just starting out her movie career. She is not a complete newcomer as she's been on TV for a few years, but for me it's too early to tell whether she has long-term potential. I found her pretty bland on Pan Am, but to be fair the show itself was mediocre at best and got quickly and deservedly cancelled. Neighbours? No idea, I've never watched that soap.

The Wolf of Wall Street is the first major big screen role for Margot, and I think she did just fine. She plays Jordan Belfort's second wife, who catches his eye at a random party and proceeds to seduce him in a very straightforward way. They don't seem to have much in common except appetite for luxurious life, but it's enough to fuel their relationship for quite a while. Life with an unfaithful junkie can be a challenge, however, and when kids come into picture, big house, sexy cars and expensive jewelry just don't cut it anymore.

It's not the most original "millionaire's girlfriend with second thoughts" part, but Margot got to play a sexy, seductive girl with purring voice and willingness to do anything for her rich and handsome boyfriend and then show the same woman a few years later when the novelty wore off and she realized what kind of life she's chosen. Nothing special, but confidently played. Now I'm looking forward to seeing more of her on the big screen. And not necessarily just in nude scenes. Although those are very, very welcome :)

Starting grade: 20

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Margot Robbie grade sheet

Image: Paramount Pictures

Margot Robbie


Current grade: 20


20 (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jonah Hill: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

This is the second Oscar nomination for Jonah Hill and a well-deserved one. He is absolutely stunning here. And stoned :) A lot. His character is probably best described as a smart weirdo. Unnaturally white teeth, married to his cousin, erratic behavior and drug abuse, but he is not as simple as he seems. There are a couple of scenes that suggest a keen business eye and strong character, and, compared to Jordan, Danny seemed like more stable guy, relatively speaking.

Jonah has always been excellent at playing characters who are very into drugs. Let's be honest - this is kinda his specialty. But it's usually been weed, and he didn't have to show such a wild range of intoxication :) It's pure madness here. And even when he is sober, hilarity often ensues, especially in his scenes with Jon Bernthal. He also has great buddy chemistry with Leonado DiCaprio, and the two clearly had a lot of fun filming some of the wilder scenes together. A great, over-the-top performance by Jonah Hill, and obviously an amazing part career-wise. Well done.

Grade change: 65--->71. A sizable supporting part in a successful Martin Scorsese movie + Oscar nomination.

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Jonah Hill grade sheet

Image: Paramount Pictures