I Married a Witch

I Married a WitchI Married a Witch: while the high concept of René Clair’s romantic comedy is interesting enough, and the central characters are attractingly played by Veronica Lake and Fredrich March, this film unfurls too quickly, too suddenly for it to be fully enjoyable. There are certainly many interesting moments, but the story seems almost an afterthought. Visually, the film has a cute solution on how to present the characters, which match perfectly the overall feeling.

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Safety Last!

Safety LastSafety Last!: while this film has just a sliver of a plot, what matters the most is that the character played by Harold Lloyd is both engaging and relatable; a common man with some of the physical prowess of Buster Keaton and the mischief of Charlie Chaplin, but somehow still quite unique. Nevertheless, the set piece at the center of this film is what makes this iconic; extremely well-done (shot and edited beautifully), taking turns being hilarious and thrilling (quite often, both at the same time).

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Boyhood

BoyhoodBoyhood: Richard Linklater shows in this film that he is well aware that the most special effect is the story; furthermore, that the story can be unadorned, as long as it’s earnest and well-told. There’s nothing that is as rich as life itself, after all; there’s nothing that suggests more how engaging this film is than the fact that the periods that aren’t on the screen are missed. The tenacity behind this project is incredible, but that wouldn’t amount to much if the result was not this rich and consistently good. Ellar Coltrane is uniformly great as he grows; Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are also great presences; the acting, like the film, is not about big moments, but such subtlety is more than welcome.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the ApesDawn of the Planet of the Apes: Matt Reeves’ is a great accomplishment in many levels. The most obvious one is, of course, the special effects that create such level of authenticity with the ape characters; it’s hard to know when the special effects end and when the motion-capture performances of Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell (just to mention the two that have more to do and therefore stand out the most) begin. Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman are good presences in the human side of the fence, as well. It’s a good story, with its heart in the right place and some interesting things to say; however, almost inexplicably, the film was a bit cold, unemotional, somewhat hard to connect to.

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Life Itself (2014)

Life ItselfLife Itself: before getting into the film itself, a note: I wasn’t much a Roger Ebert fan, as I always thought that his reviews were, for the most part, spoiler-heavy and opinion-light (to be fair, that is something that plagues the great majority of mainstream critics). Steve James’ film reinforces the notion that Ebert loved films, obviously (something I respect and relate to, in spite of); but it goes beyond that, and informs much about the subject, his relationship with cinema and with other people, without becoming a hagiography. In that sense, it certainly serves its purpose as a documentary; furthermore, it is also both funny and touching at times. Visually, it’s somewhat dull, but the content makes up for it.

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Obvious Child

Obvious ChildObvious Child: despite the courage to deal with a hot-button issue, Gillian Robespierre’s film story is very simple and generally unremarkable. The central character is not very relatable (part of it comes from the brand of humor her stand-up comedy sketches displays, a reflection of her sense of self; comedy tastes are rather personal, but fart jokes are generally easy and unfunny) or well-defined; Jenny Slate’s performance doesn’t add much, and neither does the rest of the cast. Visually very dull, but it must be commended by avoiding the use of handheld camera.

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Begin Again

Begin AgainBegin Again: in spite of the simple, old story, John Carney’s film is an interesting watch; it is driven by the passion of art (music in particular) that, for being so earnest, is very relatable. The great looking cast (Mark Ruffalo is a great presence, Hailee Steinfeld and Catherine Keener good additions for the time they are on, but it’s Keira Knightley, who has a nice singing voice, who is the highlight) and the nice songs go a long way to make it a pleasant ride. By the other hand, visually the film uses the bane of many indie features: the unjustified (for the most part) handheld shot selection; the reason is not stylistic, it’s economical.

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Snowpiercer

SnowpiercerSnowpiercer: an interesting action film; Joon-ho Bong executes with great measures of violence what is a great concept of a dystopian world, one which violence is far from being simply a concept; as it so ofter happens with good science fiction, this one has also something to say about our present times. Set design is an important part of this film, and it’s quite well executed. The cast is generally interesting (and refreshingly mixed), but Tilda Swinton in particular is fun to watch.

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22 Jump Street

22 Jump Street22 Jump Street: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s film is not devoid of laughs, but they are few and far apart. Channing Tatum and Ice Cube are the main reason for them; Tatum, in particular, if for no other reason he is given more to do and has more screen time. As in the previous entry to the series, the story is almost an afterthought (and, in a much self-referenced bit, basically the same one told in the first film). Visually, it’s a rather nondescript affair, but that’s not unusual in the genre.

Read also: 21 Jump Street

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Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers: Age of ExtinctionTransformers: Age of Extinction: this film presents strong evidence (if there wasn’t enough already) that Michael Bay is a firm believer that “more is more, and if there is more, it’s also better”; only that can explain the repetitive, noisy and excessive action scenes (if they can be called that; the lightning fast editing allows only the explosions to register, not what is actually going on) and the inane dialogue (so many lines are purely a description of what is happening, it feels like they are merely cues for the FX team on what to do next that were not excised). Of course, the exception to that rule is related to story and character: the assault to the senses mask the fact that the plot makes no sense, as don’t most character decisions. For what it’s worth, the use of Chinese locations brings some small variety to the endless destruction.

Read also: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

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