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Rating History

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

¨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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Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation
7 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

"Every one of the attacks you attributed to the Syndicate, the IMF was there."

It's been nearly 20 years since the first time Tom Cruise played IMF agent Ethan Hunt, and after this fifth installment of the franchise there is no sign of him stoping any time soon. Like good wine, these movies seem to get better the older Cruise gets. The weakest link in the series is by far the first sequel directed by John Woo, but J.J. Abrams managed to reinvigorate the franchise in the third Mission Impossible film with Philip Seymour Hoffman's memorable performance as the main villain and the introduction of Simon Pegg's character who brought the much needed comic relief. Brad Bird continued what Abrams started with Ghost Protocol and introduced Jeremy Renner to this world, and now it was up to Christopher McQuarrie to continue the hot streak. McQuarrie had previously worked with Cruise in Jack Reacher, a film I seem to have enjoyed more than everybody else. In Rogue Nation he followed what the previous directors brought to the series and continued to build on it with a similar tone during the action sequences that once again took us around the globe. There is a fantastic opening action scene involving Cruise jumping on a plane while it's about to take off, then it is followed by another wonderful sequence at a Vienna Opera house, and it is topped by another one involving a heist in Morocco that ends with a spectacular motorcycle chase. If there is anything negative I can say about Rogue Nation is that the film opens in such a spectacular fashion and maintains such a steady pace that by the time the bike sequence in Morocco ends the film seems to overstay its welcome. There was just no other way to top those action sequences so the final thirty minutes were a bit of a letdown with the predictable twists that any fan of the franchise could see coming. Other than that this was a fantastic ride which proves once again what a star Tom Cruise really is.

Upon receiving instructions for his latest mission, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), discovers that it has been compromised by a rogue organization that he refers to as the Syndicate. He is captured by its leader, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). While held captive, right before being tortured a mysterious woman known as Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) helps him escape. Ilsa claims to be a British Intelligence officer who has gone deep undercover to infiltrate Lane's Syndicate and win his trust. Meanwhile, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), is forced to testify in front of the US Chairmen committee in response to the agency's latest dealings which haven't been accounted for. CIA director, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), wants IMF disbanded because he believes Hunt is a liability. The committee decides in Hunley's favor convinced that the Syndicate doesn't exist and that Hunt is behind it all. IMF is disbanded so Brandt and Benji (Simon Pegg) are forced to work for the CIA and bring Hunt in. So Ethan is left on his own to try to stop this dangerous organization, but he always finds a way to get his crew back together and accomplish the impossible. Ving Rhames is also back for a fifth time as Luther Stickell as he and Cruise are the only characters who've been here from the start.

The screenplay for Rogue Nation which was written by McQuarrie himself hits pretty much the same beats as the previous two films in the franchise. It has a similar tone and it's surprising how similar these films are to each other considering they've been directed by different directors. You know what direction these spy stories are heading, but the ride is what you are here for. Rogue Nation opens with a spectacular first half and ends in a weaker note, but it is still one great experience thanks to those spectacular action sequences and Cruise's charm. McQuarrie also manages to do two things right: first of all making Sean Harris's Solomon Lane a threatening villain and second giving Rebecca Ferguson a strong female character with some great choreographed fighting scenes. These two additions provide the franchise with the freshness it needed to go along with the familiarity of what the rest of the cast always brings. Besides the three action sequences that stood out for me in this film, there is a cool moment where Ethan receives instructions for his latest assignment that is perhaps the best in the franchise. Similarly to what many action films are doing now appealing to the past and our sense of nostalgia, Ethan receives his instructions in a vintage record store in what was one of the most memorable scenes in the film and a great way to introduce the villain of the story. The early escape scene is also quite thrilling, but it was spoiled by the trailers. Rogue Nation proves once again that this franchise is very much alive and that Tom Cruise isn't getting slower despite his age.

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Unfriended
Unfriended (2015)
7 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"Online, your memories live forever... but so do your mistakes."

In a time when most teens spend hours staring at their smartphones or in front of a computer screen, Unfriended introduces us to a pretty interesting concept: a film that takes place entirely in a computer screen through a chat room. That minimalist found- footage premise is the most interesting thing about this low budget horror film and one of the reasons why it's worth checking out. That is the only unique thing about Levan Gabriadze's Unfriended since its story is rather predictable and it's not hard to guess what the outcome will be. It hits pretty much every beat in the familiar haunted story genre and the characters aren't likable at all. Inspired by the real life suicides of Amanda Todd and Audri Pott, Unfriended has a heavy anti cyber-bullying message, but there is not much more to it. A girl is videotaped in a very compromising position and somehow that video went viral and as a result she began to receive hateful messages like "kill urself." The bullying led to her suicide which was also caught on camera.

The entire film unfolds over a computer screen and the first image we see is a viral video of a teen named Laura shooting herself in front of a crowd. Apparently it is the anniversary of her death. We immediately find out that it's Blaire's (Shelley Hennig) computer that we are seeing when she receives a Skype video call from her boyfriend, Mitch (Moses Storm). The two begin to have an intimate conversation when all of a sudden they are interrupted by a group chat with some of their High School friends: Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz), and Ken (Jacob Wysocki). They soon realize that there is a sixth guest listening to their conversations, but they believe it is just a glitch. As they are chatting, Blaire begins receiving some bizarre texts from Laura's Facebook account. By the time Val (Courtney Halverson) joins in on the conversation they begin to realize that this unwanted guest is someone who knows their darkest secrets. The guest, writing under the name of Billie and claiming to be Laura, begins threatening them and forcing them to play games. This guest threatens their lives if any of them abandons the chat or losses the game. It soon becomes apparent that each one of these kids had something to do with Laura's death, and someone wants them to pay the price.

At first the entire focus on one computer screen seemed too limited and restricted, but eventually the suspense and the story began to pull me in. If only the characters were a bit more likable I would've enjoyed this more, but it was still interesting enough to keep me watching. I wasn't familiar with the cast, but they did deliver convincing performances. The film managed to hold my attention without doing too much so I'd say it was effective in a way. It does become a bit repetitive and overstays its welcome. The horror scenes aren't all that great either, but the plot does have you wondering for a moment what each one of the kids was responsible for. Unfriended uses a fresh gimmick and it tries to exploit a familiar and relevant issue in today's society about bullying, but that is about it so many might leave the film unsatisfied with what it was trying to accomplish.

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Wet Hot American Summer
7 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

"Hey, let's all promise that in ten years from today, we'll meet again, and we'll see what kind of people we've blossomed into."

Its been almost 15 years since David Wain's Wet Hot American Summer was released and I honestly had never heard of it. This was Wain's first feature film but it bombed at the box office and wasn't warmly received by critics either. Somehow over time it has become a cult teen comedy thanks to its wonderful cast, and now Netflix is about to release a comedy series with the same cast in the form of a prequel. The series will revolve around the first day of Summer camp in Camp Firewood in 1981, while this film focuses on the last day. The comedy plays out as a satire of camp films from the 80's and it honestly feels like a movie made in that period. The actors wear tight shirts, colorful short shorts, and long white tube socks with eighties hair styles. The look and style of the film itself is worth a couple of laughs and Wain's love and homage for these campy films transcends the screen. Unfortunately I didn't find much else worth recommending other than a couple of hilarious scenes, but as a whole I found the absurdist humor a bit lame. This is a very different comedy than what we are used to seeing and it's hard to point out any other film that has a similar style. That is why I believe it has become such a beloved cult comedy. Wet Hot American Summer is a parody in which you have no idea what direction the story is going to go and it constantly shifts its tone and introduces plenty of twists. Even though this film is basically a satire of camp films it doesn't miss the opportunity at gleefully playing with familiar genre conventions such as teen rom-coms and sport cliches. These individual scenes work extremely well but they don't make up a whole movie. That is why despite not being a fan of this film, I'm looking forward to the Netflix series because in shorter segments this could work well and the characters are worth revisiting.

On the final day of Summer Camp there is still so much things to look forward to such as the camp director, Beth (Janeane Garofalo), falling for an astrophysics professor played by David Hyde Pierce. There is also a romantic triangle formed between camp counselors Coop (Michael Showalter), Katie (Marguerite Moreau), and Andy (Paul Rudd). Katie is worried about Coop not having hooked up with anyone during the Summer and she promises to help him find someone special for him before the end of the day. What she doesn't know is that Coop is in love with her, but she is currently dating Andy. Andy however doesn't seem to care too much for her since he cheats on her with Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks). Susie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Bradley Cooper) are focused on directing a musical for the talent show later that night, while Gail (Molly Shannon) is struggling to teach her arts and crafts class because her husband has recently left her. Victor (Ken Marino) and Neil (Joe Lo Truglio) are in charge of taking another group of kids water rafting, but Victor is eager to get back to camp so he can make out with Abby (Marisa Ryan). This is just a small sample of the many activities that are taking place on this final day with plenty of surprises and twists along the way, including an innocent escape into the city by a group of counselors that degenerates into something crazy and unexpected.

David Wain's most successful film to date is probably Role Models, but Wet Hot American Summer has been growing on people ever since. Paul Rudd has collaborated with Wain in all his films and here he plays a cocky and egocentric character to perfection. There isn't one main character, although if I was forced to pick one I'd say it is Michael Showalter's Coop which isn't really a surprise considering Michael co-wrote the screenplay with Wain. There are also some funny scenes involving the chef played by Christopher Meloni who is still suffering post traumatic stress disorder from the Vietnam War. The cast is fantastic here but there are so many characters that they don't actually get much screen time. Bradley Cooper is now an Oscar nominated actor, but this was his first film so he doesn't get much screen time. Marguerite Moreau was fantastic as well and it's a shame she hasn't really had much success after this. I recognized her from The Mighty Ducks franchise and it was fun to see her in a different role like this. The performances from this recognizable cast is probably the highlight of the film, but there are also several individual scenes that stand out such as the trip to the city and a hilarious motorcycle chase sequence.

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Conviction
Conviction (2010)
7 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"I'm sorry you wasted your life on this. Your brother killed that woman."

Inspired by a remarkable true story in which a sister practically gives up almost two decades of her life in order to save her brother who has been convicted of murder and has been sentenced to life in prison. It's an amazing and inspirational story, but unfortunately the film suffers from being overly manipulative at times and too conventional. Conviction has Oscar bait written all over it, and despite having a heavy clichéd script the excellent cast elevate the film and make it worth recommending. Many people remember Tony Goldwyn from his villainous role in Ghost, but he has also directed a couple of rom-coms. This is the first time he directs a fully dramatic film and it suffers from being overly sentimental at times (the score is way too melodramatic).

The film is saved however by its excellent cast. Hillary Swank is amazing as this working mother who decides to put her personal aspirations aside to help save her imprisoned brother. In order to do so she decides to finish High School and go through law school. Not an easy task considering Betty Anne has two children to maintain. Sam Rockwell plays Betty's brother, Kenny, who was arrested in 1983 for a brutal murder. Betty and Kenny had been very close since they were young because their mother was constantly working so we get several flashbacks of them spending their childhood days breaking into nearby homes and dreaming of a better life. This always got Kenny into trouble with the local authorities. Years later, when a woman was found brutally murdered in a trailer near to Kenny's place he was the first suspect. After some incriminating evidence against him he is sentenced and that is when her loving sister decides to dedicate her life to free him. The degree of devotion she has for her brother is unprecedented and truly inspirational.

The question one asks throughout the film is how far Betty is willing to go to help her brother considering it has led her to lose her husband and any attempt to have a life of her own. It has even affected her relationship with her two children, played by Owen Campbell and Conor Donovan, who feel neglected at times. There isn't one second in which she questions what she is doing and takes it more as a responsibility and a debt she has for her brother. Swank gives a powerful performance and her devotion to Kenny is completely believable. Rockwell is also great as Kenny in both the prison scenes and in some of the flashback scenes where we see some of his wild behavior. He plays his character extremely well, up to the point where you are never really sure wether or not this guy is guilty for the crime he has committed. The only person who seems convinced about his innocence is his sister and that made the film all the more compelling.

Minnie Driver plays Abra Rice, one of the law students who befriends Betty and helps her on the case. Her relationship with Betty could've been explored a bit better, but the entire focus of the film was on Betty's devotion and effort to try to free her brother so she is only introduced as this friend who helped with the case. The family dynamics between Betty and her children and between her and her ex husband is barely touched upon because the filmmaker's devotion was focused on the relationship between the two siblings. It didn't hurt that they were played by Rockwell and Swank, two extremely talented actors. I'm a huge fan of Sam Rockwell and I could personally watch anything he does so I might be a bit biased but their relationship in this film is what sold this movie. Melissa Leo has some small scenes in the film, but her presence is always welcomed. The film has its flaws and at times the pacing of the film does begin to drag and feel repetitive, but the performances more than make up for it at the end.

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