Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Roma (2018)

Image is property of Netflix, Participant Media and Esperanto Filmoj

Roma – Film Review

Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira , Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Synopsis: Charting the life of a middle class family and their two maids, living in the Colonia Roma district of Mexico City in the 1970s, as social turmoil threatens to tear their peaceful lives apart…

Review: The name Alfonso Cuarón, much like his other two compatriots Alejandro G Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro, is so synonymous with the big budget Hollywood productions. This particular side of Hollywood is one that all of the three Amigos have dabbled in at one point in their careers,a nd all have achieved remarkable success in doing so, with some remarkable films. However, rather than continue on that trajectory for his next film, Cuarón goes much more personal and humane in his latest feature film, and once again, he has made something rather special.

There is a beating heart at the centre of the latest film, but it is not Cuarón’s, it is that of his main character Cleo (Aparicio), a character loosely based on Cuaron’s own nanny as a child. In many respects, this is a film is very much autobiographical as the events seen on screen are based on Cuaron’s own experiences growing up in the Colonia Roma district of Mexico City. Cleo’s life is very much grounded in the routine of her job, looking after the children of a wealthy middle class family, tending to the kids’ needs, and being that figure of support in . This is until a dramatic change of events turns Cleo’s life upside down, and ensuing turmoil in the area runs the risk of tearing her life, and the lives of this family apart.

For someone who has never acted before, Yalitza Aparicio is nothing short of astonishing as Cleo. Her performance is so raw and emotional (as is just about every performance) that it feels like you are not watching a film, but real life, which in many ways you kind of are. With each scene, the work that must have gone on behind the scenes to recreate 1970s Mexico, and the way that Cuarón shoots these scenes brings such authenticity, as well as incredible humanity to this film. Granted, the pacing of the film can be a little sluggish at times, but there is a moment when everything changes. You will know it when it happens.

Shooting entirely in black and white enables Cuarón to add a layer of authenticity to the events on screen, again capturing that affectionate feel to them, and grounding them in reality. Cuarón served as both cinematographer and director, and through it, his skills in both crafts to really come to the fore. It feels as though every frame here was worked on intensely like a rare exquisite piece of artwork, and it pays serious dividends. His direction is breath-taking, with a couple of one take moments in a few scenes that will just leave you speechless in shock, and will also likely to reduce you to a blubbering wreck.

There are certain moments in life that just make you stop and think about the things that are most important to you, and Cuarón captures these moments with so much emotional weight. Going on this extremely emotional journey with these characters is one that everyone should experience, simply due to the profound impact that it should have on the audience. With Hollywood awash with prequels, sequels and the like, such rare and outstandingly beautiful pieces of art like this need to be watched, and above all, they need to be celebrated for what they bring to the medium of film.

With an outstanding central performance at its core, Cuaron has crafted one of his finest films and something truly special in Roma. A personal and profound masterpiece.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

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Image is property of Warner Bros Studios and Heydey Films

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Synopsis: In his third year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter is facing a new threat, in the form of the dastardly Sirius Black who escapes from Azkaban Prison and is believed to be after Harry.

Review:  The Harry Potter fandom are certainly a passionate bunch, and although there are those out there who may not have enjoyed what he brought to the franchise, every Potter fan ought to raise their wands to Chris Columbus. The director behind the first two films brought a steady hand to both movies and ensured the solid foundations of the franchise were laid. For the third outing to Hogwarts however, Columbus chose not to direct. Instead the director’s wand was passed to Mr Alfonso Cuarón, and what an inspired choice that turned out to be.

After his brave battles in taking down You-Know-Who on the back of a man’s head and You-Know-Who again in his younger self, Harry has plucked up the courage and decided enough is enough with his ridiculously evil muggle family, and escapes into more familiar and friendly terrain, in the company of his best friends Ron and Hermione. Yet before he goes, there is a hilarious incident with another member of his nasty muggle relatives. He soon finds himself back on that train to Hogwarts for the commencement of his third year, and it’s on that train when the viewer realises, that this year at Hogwarts, things are going to get darker and creepier than ever before, not least with the sinister Dementors that are lurking around Hogwarts.

Cuaron is certainly an outstanding visual director, and with this film he shows off his considerable talent in more than a few brilliant sequences. The film’s visual qualities have certainly taken a big leap forward when compared to the first two movies, and the film takes on a considerably more darker tone which is epitomised by the presence of these Dementors who are at Hogwarts because of the man who has escaped from Azkaban and is said to be coming to kill Harry, this would be one Sirius Black, played excellently by Gary Oldman. Kloves is again penning the screenplay, and he understandably does have to axe some material to streamline the script, yet the translation from  page to screen remains at a consistently solid level. Additionally, the action is much more intense in this instalment and incorporates some very exciting elements such as time travel into the story.

The acting from the main trio remains at a steady pace, they’re certainly not Oscar worthy, but their performances are assured and it’s clear that they are growing in confidence. The performances of the veterans if you will such as Rickman and Oldman certainly help bring the acting standard up a couple of good pegs. This is further aided by the tremendous work of David Thewlis playing new Professor Lupin, and the introduction of Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, having taken over the role from the late Richard Harris, proved to be another excellent casting choice. The film’s effects are also for the most part, considerably improved, except in the case of the werewolf, well the less said about that the better, it could and should have been so much better.

Nevertheless, Azkaban marks a noticeable improvement in quality from Philospher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets. The shift to a much darker, more ominous tone is immediately noticeable, and it helps to deliver a really engaging and gripping story that helps set the wheels in motion for the franchise. This is because as we all know, a certain dark wizard, thought to be long since dead, is stirring…

Darker in tone from the word go, but with plenty of humour too, Cuaron delivers terrific visuals and a really gripping story that can delight, and maybe intimidate, viewers of all ages in equal measure.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Gravity (2013)

All image rights belong to Warner Bros, Esperanto Filmoj, Heyday Films
Image is property of Warner Bros, Esperanto Filmoj, Heyday Films

Gravity – Film Review

Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney , Ed Harris, Amy Warren, Phaldut Sharma, Basher Savage, Orto Ignatiussen

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Synopsis: When a medical engineer and an astronaut are working together on a mission in space, disaster strikes as a space shuttle is destroyed in orbit and the two of them are left adrift in space. In order to survive, the two must work together to ensure they both return safely to earth.

Review: Out of this world brilliance. This film is 91 electrifying minutes of cinema that you are unlikely to forget in a hurry.  The film begins in a light hearted fashion as Ryan Stone, (Sandra Bullock) so named because her father wanted a boy  and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) along with a team of astronauts are working on the Hubble telescope. The opening captions of the film remind the viewer how deadly space can be as there is no oxygen, no air pressure and nothing to carry sound. The final caption on the screen reads “Life in space is impossible.” Thus, providing the viewer with a chilling message for what is to come.

The crew are initially a jovial team of astronauts as they work on the telescope. Kowalski in particular floats around without a care in the world. Yet for Dr Stone, she is not as cheerful as the death of her four year old daughter due to an unfortunate accident has taken its toll on her. However disaster strikes when a load of debris flies towards them at frightening speed, the consequences are lethal and Sandra Bullock finds herself 375 miles from home and it’s a long way back. Right throughout the film, you find yourself on edge as you root for her to find her way back home. You can see the death of her daughter has made her a determined woman to get through this horrific ordeal.  Bullock gives an incredible performance and it should land her nominations for Best Actress next year. Likewise Clooney is also on great form here and award nominations could definitely come his way next year as well.

The Computer Generated Imagery on show here is simply fantastic. It makes you feel like you are actually in outer space. Seeing the film in 3D definitely enhances the brilliant effects that you see and it definitely makes the film a lot more enjoyable, which is something that 3D has not always done since it made its return to popularity when 2009’s Avatar came along.  While awards season is still a few months away, I am predicting that Gravity will scoop awards for its special effects, they are spectacular.  The score that was composed by for the film by Steven Price is also wonderful and it without a doubt adds to the drama and suspense of the film.

After seeing this film I certainly have no plans to ever go into outer space. However, take nothing away from Gravity, as it was 91 minutes of complete perfection. It had terrific acting, enthralling drama, breath taking CGI and was accompanied by an outstanding score. Bullock gives one of the best performances of her career and the film has every potential to be a big success in next year’s awards season. This is a must see and is one of the best films of the year.

Visually incredible, with Bullock on the top of her game, and masterfully directed by Cuaron, one of 2013’s best films without a doubt.

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