Review: Prisoners

FJ Rating: Renter

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano

Director: Denis Villeneuve

R, 2 hr 33 min

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his family are spending a quiet Thanksgiving at their neighbors’ house just down the street, when their peaceful holiday takes a turn for the worst: Keller’s six-year-old daughter and her friend go missing.  After a lack of evidence forces the lead detective on the case (Jake Gyllenhaal) to release their only suspect, Keller decides to take his daughter’s fate into his own hands.

I think “Prisoners” is definitely worth renting.  The film kept me guessing, and had me playing my own role as lead detective to the case.  Hugh Jackman did a great job at portraying the terror and sense of urgency that (I’m sure) goes along with having a child who’s gone missing, although you’ll think (more than once), he’s taking this wayyyy too far.  Maria Bello, who plays Hugh Jackman’s wife, did a fine job playing a mother whose life gets put on hold when her daughter’s whereabouts are completely unknown.  As for Jake Gyllenhaal’s role in the film,  I have never felt completely blown away by his work; I’m pretty impartial to him as an actor.  I thought his performance in “Prisoners” was okay.  All in all, “Prisoners” kept my attention throughout the film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself watching it again on a Friday night.

Reserve your copy of “Prisoners” at Redbox!

40 days until the Oscars!  Have a great Tuesday, FFLs!

-FJ

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Review: The Act of Killing

FJ Rating: Renter

Cast: Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin, Ibrahim Sinik, Yapto Soerjosoemarno

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

R, 1 hr 56 min

“The Act of Killing” tells the chilling real-life account of gangsters-turned-death squad leaders in Medan, Indonesia.  After the Indonesian government was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his friends went from scalping movie theatre tickets to killing Indonesia’s so-called “communists.” Through dancing and make-believe gangster scenes, ‘The Act of Killing” captures the reenactments of these death squad leaders’ memories of mass murder.

This film was incredibly powerful and eye-opening.  At the same time, watching a film about a country whose people praised death squad leaders in the killing of innocent people, it was incredibly hard to watch.  This film took me back to a feeling I experienced the first time I read a book about the Holocaust; this uneasy, surreal feeling.  Sometimes, amidst the work day and watching “reality” television on my couch at home, I forget about some of the terrible shit that happens around the world. “The Act of Killing” brought me back down to a place of actual reality, not the kind you see on Bravo or E!  I thought Joshua Oppenheimer did a great job at capturing the reality of what actually happened, through the tellings of Anwar and the rest of the death squad leaders’ haunted memories.

The reason I rated “The Act of Killing” a Renter is because I would much rather watch this film in the comfort of my own home over a theatre full of strangers, due to the subject matter of the film.  Although I think the film is a top-contender to go home with an Oscar win for Documentary Feature, there are still a few of the other documentary features I need to see.

“The Act of Killing” is available on Netflix and On Demand (check your cable service provider), but there are some other ways to watch it listed here.

-FJ

41 days to go!

Happy Monday, FFLs!  I hope everyone had a great weekend, filled with lots of movie reviews to share.

My weekend was jam-packed with movies.  Friday night I watched the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing,” Saturday my family and I rented “Runner Runner” (Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake), and last night I watched “Enough Said” (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini) and the Oscar-nominated film, “Prisoners.”  Since “The Act of Killing” and “Prisoners” are both up for an Oscar, I will post more in-depth reviews later today.  As for “Runner Runner” and “Enough Said,” I will give you guys a little snippet of what I thought:

Runner Runner – I thought “Runner Runner” was okay.  I think it’s worth seeing once, but I probably wouldn’t care to watch it again.  The acting was fine, but I didn’t think it was great, and I found myself confused throughout parts of the film.  I just didn’t really get it.

Enough Said – I haven’t seen much of James Gandolfini’s work, but it really is a shame the industry lost him at such a young age.  From Sopranos to “Enough Said,” James Gandolfini had a wide range of talent.  His likability and softer side shined through in this film, and the chemistry between him and Julia Louis-Dreyfus was undeniable.  I loved this film; it was cute, witty, touching, and real.  It made me think about life and the changes that come with aging.  I would watch this movie again and again.

Photo credit: IMDB.com

Photo credit: IMDB.com

I’d love to hear your reviews from over the weekend, so feel free to comment below!

Stay tuned for my reviews of “The Act of Killing” and “Prisoners.”

-FJ

Review: Her

FJ Rating: Big Screener

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara

Director: Spike Jonze

R, 2 hr 0 min

Her” tells the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely and heartbroken man who makes a living writing love letters for other people.  While he tries to get over his failed marriage, Theodore becomes fixated with his new operating system, “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson), and the two eventually form a bond much stronger than friendship.

I will start off by saying I very much enjoyed the film.  Joaquin Phoenix is such a talented actor, and after seeing the film I really understood why people were raving about Scarlett Johansson’s performance.  I will admit that before seeing “Her,” I thought the concept of the movie seemed a little weird and I chuckled when I heard talk about how great Scarlett Johansson was as the voice of Samantha.  I just didn’t get how someone could really call a voice performance Oscar-worthy. However, after seeing the film, I get it.  Scarlett Johansson makes Samantha likable and convincing.  She really does bring Samantha, an operating system, to life.  I found myself hoping that Samantha would somehow come to life in the physical form and that her and Theodore would live happily ever after.

The film just had the right amount of everything.  It made me laugh, it made me sympathize for the characters, and it definitely got me thinking about the influence of technology and what’s to come for the future of the modern world.  The film takes place in a futuristic, not-so-far-down-the-road Los Angeles.  Theodore (and everyone around him) wears an earpiece and carries a device used when needing to see something visually, and with a simple spoken “delete”, an email is magically wiped off his hands.  The film created the future of the modern world as being completely driven by technology, and to be honest, it seemed more realistic than far-fetched (not to say that that isn’t somewhat depressing).  It made me wonder if the world will eventually get to a place where people fall in love with a Samantha.  Scary thought, isn’t it?  The film was great, the acting was great, let’s just hope people continue to fall in love with other people and not operating systems.

EXTRA: Kristen Wiig does the voice of SexyKitten, and Spike Jonze does the voice of the alien in the video game.

Check Fandango to see where “Her” is playing in your area.

Have a great Wednesday, FFLs!

-FJ

Review: American Hustle

FJ Rating: Renter

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K.

Director: David O. Russell

R, 2 hr 9 min

American Hustle” tells the story of con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who finds himself caught between his unpredictable wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and his mistress/charming partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). After being caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), the two are forced to work together with the FBI to help take down some of Jersey’s most powerful political figures, one being the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner).

I didn’t dislike “American Hustle,” but I didn’t leave the theatre ranting and raving about the film either.  If I’m being honest, I thought it was okay.  This may have been partly due to the fact that so many people have been putting it on such a high pedestal, that it just didn’t live up to the expectations I had for it.  The film felt slow to me at times, and I did catch myself wondering how much time was left towards the end.

As for the performances, I will start out by saying I am a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence.  So many people raved about Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in “American Hustle” and I guess I just didn’t get it.  I didn’t find anything exceptionally special about her performance in the film.  I thought she was great in “Winter’s Bone” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” and is perfect for her role as Katniss in “The Hunger Games” films, but I just wasn’t fully-satisfied this time around.  As for everyone else, I thought Christian Bale was great – the look and feel of his character was very convincing.  I thought Amy Adams was great as well – one of her more impressive roles to date.  Bradley Cooper’s performance was pretty good, and Jeremy Renner was so-so.  Overall, I thought the film was entertaining but a little too long.

Check Fandango to see where “American Hustle” is playing in your area.

Have a great weekend, FFLs!  Lots of posts to come in the next few days following my absence.

-FJ