Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Movie Review

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the story Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a young American boy who lost his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) in the 9/11 attacks. Trying to cope with the passing of his father, Oskar, who happens to be a very inquisitive boy, tries to make sense of the world. Feeling disconnected with his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock), Oskar sets on a quest across New York City to find one last clue that his father might have left him in a blue vase, which he finds among a stach of things he collected of his father, including his father’s last phone messages on an answering machine he never shared with his mother. The last “hint” is one involving a key and the last name Black, to which he will spring up one last quest involving 472 people with the last name Black in NYC, hoping he’d find the lock which fit the key.

As the movie opens, Oskar, who’s implied to have Asperger’s, says: “If the sun were to blow up, we would still have light and warmth for eight minutes; I feel like my eight minutes with my father are running out.” Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is Oskar’s quest to cling to those eight minutes as long as he could.

Many have called this movie trite and over-indulgent. I disagree. My main problem with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was not the subject matter, which you cannot but appreciate, but it was that the main character, Oskar, is more often than not grating, making it difficult for many to relate to his struggles especially when at a moment he snaps at his mother, telling her he wishes it was her in that tower instead, simply because she couldn’t explain why his father had died. It might be how the character was written but Oskar isn’t likeable at most of the movie’s run. There are moments, though, when he’s at his most vulnerable that his child-self shines through. It is then that you appreciate the performance by Thomas Horn, who does a good job, despite his character’s flaws.

Sandra Bullock is great and saddening as the mother trying to protect her son while receiving his bashing for things out of her control. She provides much realism to the movie. Tom Hanks, in the little screen time he gets, embodies the role of the caring dad trying to break his son out of his shell and into the world through little quests in search of ordinary things sparsed throughout New York City, requiring his son to interact with people.

While on his quest, Oskar will cross paths with an old mute man renting at his grandmother’s place. This old man (Max Von Sydow), whose name is never revealed, will help Oskar on his quest by helping him rise above his fear of ordinary things such as trains and shabby-looking bridges. In doing so, Max Von Sydow gives a great performance without uttering a single word.

In a way, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is not really about 9/11 as it is about coping with death. It focuses less on the American tragedy of a country and more on the tragedy of the Schell family. Its main shortcoming is in the fact that with trying to aim for universality, it comes off short from hitting the mark within its niche. Some of the movie’s sequences seem forced. Some are even out of context and irrelevant to the overall flow. In a way the whole sequence with the old man could be removed without affecting the storyline one bit. The movie is not seamless. It feels rickety at points. And that’s a shame because it could have been so much more.

6/10 

 

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Just some German Family Drama

The following actually happened. It’s straight out of a soap opera and it’s simply hilarious. It’s also very sad. In short, this picture is the life of two German couples – or six months of it:

At least this is more interesting than many movies churned out by Hollywood. Also, 72 times… that’s some dedication for someone who’s not enjoying it, don’t you think?

Game Of Thrones

I recently finished watching the first season of HBO’s newest series: Game of Thrones, based on the book series “A Song of Fire and Ice” by George R. R. Martin.

The series is a fictional medieval drama, set in the seven kingdoms of Westeros. Each section of those kingdoms is ruled by a different lord, all of whom have to obey the king who sits on the Ivory Throne.

The show’s main protagonists are the Stark family, one of the noble families of the Kingdom, and the rulers of the North. Lord Ned Stark, the father, is soon appointed hand of the king, Robert, when the former hand dies in mysterious circumstances and is, therefore, forced to leave his family and relocate with his two daughters to the kingdom’s capital, leaving his wife and oldest son to care for his people in the North. But in a world where treason is a way of life, where insincerity and lies keep you alive, Ned Stark doesn’t fit – especially when he learns the truth about the king’s son.

Another storyline taking place in the show happens at the far North of Westeros where Lord Stark’s bastard son (yes, he is referred to as such in the series) joins the Night’s Watch, a brotherhood that protects the built barrier in that location against “The Others” that exist beyond it.

Moreover, in the neighboring realm of Essos, the two remaining members of House Targaryen strike a deal with vicious barbarians in order to reclaim the Iron Throne, which was taken away from them when king Robert took charge and exiled them. Princess Daenerys soon finds herself leaving the fragility of her former life and assuming the firm role of Khalissi, head queen of the barbarians and my favorite character. But her family heritage remains in her blood, making her a hybrid between both cultures, and another claimant to the Iron Throne.

This is Khalissi:

Game of Thrones is, in the bigger sense, the game between the different Lords to claim the Iron Throne. It is a show about power struggles and about the basic human nature quality of striving for more power. It showcases how badly some people handle the power given to them and the cruelty that may arise when such people reach powerful positions.

The show is highly engaging. And at ten episodes for the first season, proceeds rather quickly with its plot. One of its strong points is its ability to focus on the many storylines taking place without it getting stuck on one of them. Moreover, there’s an impeccable element of professionalism in the series: the cinematography, art direction, locations… everything is chosen with the utmost consideration of details, making the series beautiful to look at as well.

Game of Thrones is, as every HBO production I’ve watched, a raunchy series. The episodes are filled with many sex scenes where more than basic human anatomy is revealed. However, unlike other TV shows where such scenes are only used for shock-effect, in Game of Thrones, they serve the plot and are, at some points, pivotal moment for the plot’s advancement and serve as a way to reveal hidden motives with many characters.

All in all, Game of Thrones is a highly recommended series. You will enjoy it even if you’re not even remotely interested in medieval shows or blood and gore (yes, there are way too many bloody scenes of decapitations and the like). However, it remains a show with an impeccable storyline that feels more cinematic than TV-like. The makers’ decision to translate the books into a TV series, not a movie, is a great decision and will allow them to remain true to the books and include more and more details that we, as viewers, would have missed otherwise.

Brothers – Movie Review

Brothers is a war-drama movie centered mainly about the importance of family, specifically brotherhood, when it comes to severe hardships.

Sam Cahill (Toby McGuire) is a Marine soldier set to be deployed to Afghanistan. His brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is imprisoned for an armed robbery and is released shortly before Sam’s deployment. Tommy isn’t liked by almost anyone in the family circle: his own father, Sam’s wife Grace (Natalie Portman)…

While on his mission in Afghanistan, Sam’s helicopter is hit by insurgents and it crashes. Supposed to be dead, his family back in the US begins its mourning process. And soon enough, his brother Tommy decides to take up the mantle to redeem himself in the eyes of those that matter to him.

However, Sam isn’t really dead. He’s been captured, along with another soldier, and they are both submitted to severe torture methods, be it mentally or physically, so when Sam is rescued, he has to deal with the demons of his capture, putting a strain on his marital and familial life.

The performances in this movie are top-notch. Toby McGuire really impressed me, especially since the last movie I watched in which he had a leading role was Spiderman 3. He completely gets rid of the Peter Parker persona for this and assumes his character with strength. He is absolutely frightening at times.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman are, naturally, also very good at what they do. Gyllenhaal’s shift from irresponsible to responsible is done extremely well, while Portman is so subdued as the wife that it’s sad sometimes to watch.

The movie itself is enjoyable but not ground-breaking. What works for it is that it focuses more on the family dynamics of the story, more so than the war aspect, similarly to The Fighter (you can read my review of that here).

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The Social Network – Movie Review

Who hasn’t heard of this movie? Or at least what the movie’s about?

Facebook.

A movie about Facebook could easily have been boring. After all, many of Facebook’s users are boring: useless status updates, posey-pictures, pointless comments…

But get an interesting topic, a director who has already given a cult-hit (Fight Club) and a very, very strong screenplay and the result is riveting.

The movie tells the story of Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and how he made Facebook, the details of his invention, all the “dirt” that we don’t know about, the enemies he made along the way and his ingenuity.

It’s ironic that the person who made Facebook – the most active and important social network today – is really, not a douchebag as the movie portrayed him in some instances to be, but mostly socially awkward.

The movie’s screenplay, written by Aaron Sorkin, is snappy, smart, fast and really engaging. The first few moments of the movie: a conversation between Mark and his girlfriend is purely based on that: dialogue. It’s such an intense dialogue that those few minutes draw you in and from there forward, there’s no dull moment. The movie is mainly talk-driven. And it doesn’t get unbearable.

The movie jumps around time periods. It does not follow the order of how everything happened chronologically but it’s very easy to understand what’s happening. I mean, this is David Fincher, the guy who brought the world Fight Club we’re talking about.

Even though, as I said earlier, Zuckerberg is not portrayed in the best of fashions, he makes up for a riveting character portrayed very well by Jesse Eisenberg. This is his breakthrough role no doubt.

And for those who thought Justin Timberlake was not capable of serious acting performances, this movie will prove you somewhat wrong. He’s not brilliant but not atrocious either.

Andrew Garfield, portraying Zuckerberg’s best friend Eduardo, does an immense job at that. The contrast between his character and Einsenberg’s is so obvious that it’s difficult to think how the characters are friends in the first place.

The soundtrack is hypnotic. Not my favorite soundtrack of the year but a pretty great one no doubt by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Several songs in the movie are not featured in the soundtrack, the main one being the song played in the California night club scene. So if you’ve been searching for it, it’s Sound of Violence by Dennis De Laat. The soundtrack has already won the Golden Globe.

The Social Network is up for 8 Academy Awards, including best picture. It has already won the Golden Globe for best motion picture – drama. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year – and it’s a must watch for every Facebook user.