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Rating History

Chinese Take-Out (Un cuento chino)
4 years ago via Flixster

¨I`ve got a Chinese guy living in my house who doesn`t speak a word of Spanish.¨

Ricardo Darín has starred in two of my favorite Argentine films: El Secreto de Sus Ojos and Nueve Reinas. Darín is a great actor and he has proved he can do very different roles and manage them well. In this film he plays a quiet grumpy and lonely man whose life turns around when an unexpected visitor changes his every day routine. Un Cuento Chino was written and directed by Sebastian Borensztein, a director I wasn't familiar with until now. He has made a well crafted film by mixing the right amount of comedy with drama. The movie shines thanks to the original script and Darín`s performance, along with two good supporting performances from unknown actors Muriel Santa Ana and Ignacio Huang. The film claims to be based on a true story, but actually it is just loosely based on an unexpected incident which had to do with a cow falling from the sky and sinking a Japanese ship. This story actually begins with a Chinese couple in a River who are interrupted when a cow falls from the sky. From that moment on you know that you are in for a very different movie, but there is a perfect explanation for the event. The cow falling from the sky is the only true event about this movie which is a fictionalization about a relationship between this lonely man played by Ricardo Darín and a Chinese immigrant in Argentina. Their failure to communicate is what makes this film so funny.

Roberto (Ricardo Darin) is a hardware store owner who lives on his own in the city of Buenos Aires. He is very grumpy and always complaining, but also seems to live a very quiet and routine life. His house is behind the store so he spends most of his time indoors keeping to his self and collecting newspaper clips of bizarre and rare stories in order to prove that life is meaningless. He goes to bed exactly at 11pm and wakes up the next morning to the same breakfast: coffee and bread. He seems comfortable living on his own. He seems to have had a short relationship with the sister in law of the person who always brings him the international newspapers. Her name is Mari (Muriel Santa Ana) and she lives in the countryside far from Buenos Aires, but happens to be visiting again and is very much in love with Roberto. His life changes when he runs into a Chinese immigrant named Jun (Ignacio Huang) who is thrown out of a cab after being mugged. Jun has nowhere to go and doesn't speak Spanish so Roberto decides to help him. He takes Jun to the address he has tattooed on his arm, but the person living there claims that a Chinese man sold the house to him several years ago. Roberto takes Jun to the Chinese Embassy where Jun can finally communicate his intentions: He has come to Argentina to find his uncle since he is the only family he has left. Despite the inconvenience Roberto decides to take Jun in for a few days until his uncle shows up. This will change Roberto`s routine and affect his life.

Darin`s character might be grumpy and mean, but he is also nice and has a big enough heart to accommodate a foreigner into his home. He will never expect how this relationship will dramatically change his life, but this relationship is exactly what makes the story work. There are other funny moments like some of the paper clips that Roberto finds and how he recreates those bizarre events in his mind, but the center of the story revolves around him, Jun, and Mari. The story moves slow at times, but it works really well because it shows us exactly how Roberto lived before Jun shows up. Once Jun is with Roberto everything changes and that is what makes for the funniest moments. Un Cuento Chino is a very rare film, but a good one with memorable characters and an unlikely pairing between Darin and Huang that works really well. The film has a feel good feeling to it and once the credits begin to role it`s impossible not to leave with a smile in your face. I absolutely recommend this movie which won Best Argentine Film and the Goya for Best Iberoamerican Film in 2011.

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The Finest Hours
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

"In the coast guard they say you go out, they don't say you gotta come back."

Director Craig Gillespie and Disney team up once again following their 2014 film, Million Dollar Arm. This time the true story is based on the 1952 Coast Guard rescue attempt at Cape Cod. The film counts with a stellar cast starting from the always charismatic Chris Pine, and including some strong supporting performances from the likes of Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Holliday Grainger, and John Magaro. The Finest Hours captures the fifties with delicacy while also remaining old school. The film is by the books and told in a way that most movies based on true events are, so it doesn't stand out. The effects are believable but they never accomplish much visually. There are some thrilling moments and the film slowly builds the tension during the final act, but it does take a bit too long setting the premise and trying to establish a love story that doesn't seem to be all that interesting or relevant.

The Finest Hour begins by introducing us to the hero of the story who is about to go on his first date with the woman who will eventually become his fiancée. Chris Pine is Bernie Webber, a shy man who follows orders and likes to do things by the books, while Holliday Grainger is Miriam, a woman who is set on going after what she want. The love story lacks emotion and therefor it is the weakest link in the film. It is the reason why the first half of the film didn't work for me and why I wished the film focused more on the events taking place in the split oil tanker during the storm. Pine is playing against type here since his character is rather timid and that takes away a lot of his charm. I will give him credit for trying to play a different character, but I don't think he was the right choice for the part. Casey Affleck is the true standout, playing one of the crew members in the oil tanker fighting for their survival. He reminds us what a great actor he is and I wish the film focused more on his character. The rescue mission is exciting and thrilling, but the film takes too long to set itself up.

Perhaps The Finest Hours is one of the better films being released in January since this is considered the dumping ground for most movies, but it still isn't good enough to get a fresh grade from me. The film has its moments and Casey Affleck should be getting bigger roles, but other than that the movie does fall flat and lacks the emotional depth other rescue films have. I'm usually a fan of Chris Pine, but I didn't enjoy his performance here and this is one of the few films from him that I haven't liked. If you are nostalgic for old-fashioned adventure films than this might be the right film for you, otherwise skip it.

The Revenant
The Revenant (2015)
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe... keep breathing."

It's only been a year since Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu delivered the award winning Birdman and somehow he managed to deliver another visual masterpiece in record time. To follow up such a groundbreaking film like Birdman, with an epic adventure film like The Revenant is mesmerizing. But Gonzalez doesn't deserve all the credit, his films have stood out because of Emmanuel Lubezki's groundbreaking cinematography. The best thing about The Revenant is without a doubt its visual style. And the same could be said about Lubezki's previous efforts: Gravity and Birdman. In three years Lubezki has delivered some of the most beautiful looking films of our decade (and I'm not even including The Tree of Life which he worked on in 2011). This man is pure genius and will without a doubt win his third Oscar in a row. I hope the two continue to work together and deliver more visually inspiring films.

Leonardo DiCaprio deserves all the accolades he's received for his physically demanding performance here. From the very first scene we see him face one obstacle after another as the opening sequence takes place while he is being attacked by a group of indians during a fur trading expedition. It's not much later when the much commented bear mauling scene takes place, but that is only the beginning of his struggles. DiCaprio gives it his all and even though this isn't the best performance of his career, it will finally be the one that gives him the Oscar. Tom Hardy also delivers a fantastic supporting performance as John Fitzgerald, the man who wants to leave him behind. The film ends up feeling like one long chase in a similar way as Mad Max Fury Road, although at a much slower pace. A survival/revenge film like this has never looked so beautiful. The film is a bit too long and it eventually begins to wear down, but it's a constant feast to the eyes despite the exhaustion.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"You call yourself a free spirit, a "wild thing," and you're terrified somebody's gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you're already in that cage. You built it yourself."

Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of those classic films that has stood the test of time and turned the lead protagonist into a fashion icon. Audrey Hepburn will forever be remembered for her role here as Holly Golightly, the New York socialite that made everyone fall for Tiffany's. Her performance is so iconic that sometimes we forget everything else about the film: the original song, "Moon River" which continues to be included in many modern day movies, the adapted screenplay from Truman Capote's novel, one of America's most revered writers, and Blake Edwards's comedic direction which still stands today as one of his funniest films. Not even the love story is as effective as Hepburn's presence, and what seemed to be a miscasting for some producers ended up being the major strength of the film. Everything about Breakfast at Tiffany's is now resumed in two words: Audrey Hepburn. Her presence even makes us forget about some of the weak elements in the film, such as Mickey Rooney's performance as Mr. Yunioshi (a terrible casting decision). We forgive anything that doesn't work in the film because Hepburn's presence simply takes over the screen and she makes the film such an endearing one.

Room
Room (2015)
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

"When I was small, I only knew small things. But now I'm five, I know everything!"

It doesn't feel right to call Lenny Abrahamson's latest film a small one because it is such a rewarding and emotional experience. Yes, it is a low key and small scaled film, but it has such a profound impact on the audience that it is far from being small. The first half of the film takes place in a very confined space, which makes the second half of the movie even more rewarding as the world around these two protagonists expands. Very few times in film has a director captured such an interesting and authentic mother and son dynamic as we find here with Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay's performances. Larson is guaranteed to win the Oscar for her lead role here and she fully deserves it as this mother who has endured the worst of times, but found a means of surviving through her son. She truly lives a nightmare, but Abrahamson doesn't focus on that as much as he does at making us experience their world through the young son's eyes. He is innocent and has never seen the world outside of the small room in which he unknowingly has been held captive since his birth. His mother has done everything she can to give him a happy and normal life despite the situation. Tremblay delivers an equally impressive performance, and his young age shouldn't have been a factor when it came to voting for the best performances of the year. He was outstanding and held his own in each scene he shared with Larson. The two performances are the main reason why Room has achieved such greatness.

Room is based on Emma Donoghue's best selling novel about a 5 year old boy who experiences the world in the confined space of a small room. The only person he has direct contact with is his mother. His only contact with the outside world is through a small TV, but his mother has told him that the images are of other universes far from theirs. Jack also knows there is one other person that exists in their world, as some nights a visitor comes into the room from a locked door, but his mom orders him to keep away from him and stay in his wardrobe. Jack's mother has done her best to give him love and nurture, but as his curiosity begins to grow there is only so far she can go with her story. What will happen when young Jack realizes that there is actually more to the world than the small room in which they have been confined in? What follows is a deeply emotional and profound thriller that shook me to my core.

Lenny Abrahamson is known for delivering original and unconventional stories. Previously to Room he had directed Michael Fassbender in Frank, a film in which the main protagonist wore a giant paper-mache mask throughout the story. Room however goes a step further delivering a thriller in a very unconventional way as we get to experience the harrowing events through the innocence of a five year old boy and the depths his mother goes through to give him a normal life. From the very opening scene we know there is nothing normal about their lifestyle, but at the same time the film avoids the typical atmosphere we are used to seeing in crime related films. I don't want to say too much about Room because the less you know about it the better, but the second half delivers even more thrills and engages the audience with even more to ponder about. Finding freedom is only have of the battle, and most of the time these films fail to focus on it, but Room manages to deliver on both ends. This is an effective and powerful film and I'm finding it incredibly hard to put into words how much it affected me.