Tag Archives: Alfonso Cuaron

Children of Men (2006) Review

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language and drug use
Cast:
Clive Owen as Theo Faron
Julianne Moore as Julian Taylor
Clare-Hope Ashitey as Kee
Michael Caine as Jasper Palmer
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Luke
Charlie Hunnam as Patric
Pam Ferris as Miriam
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

When infertility threatens mankind with extinction and the last child born has perished, a disillusioned bureaucrat (Clive Owen) becomes the unlikely champion in the fight for the survival of Earth’s population; He must face down his own demons and protect the planet’s last remaining hope from danger.

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I’ve been meaning to rewatch Children of Men for a while. I watched it years ago and I remember myself finding it to be good. As I was watching Alfonso Cuarón’s films recently however (Roma and Y Tu Mama Tambien), I had an urge to see this movie again, just to refresh it in my mind. I’m not quite sure why I wasn’t in love with this movie when I first saw it, but Children of Men is truly spectacular. As acclaimed as the movie is, I still feel like it isn’t as appreciated as much as it should be, it needs to be talked about a lot more.

I actually didn’t know of this until recently but Children of Men is based on a book of the same name. The writing here is excellent. They really created a unique dystopian concept and made it feel and seem so real. Unlike some other sci-fi movies, much of what happens here feels very plausible, making it a very timeless and relevant film today over a decade later. At the same time, they also deliver on creating a deep and emotional story, with very real, greatly written and fully realised characters. It takes less than 10 minutes to already invest you in this world. You feel a sense of dread throughout and the stakes are high, however it’s in a way that feels genuine and human. This film is under 2 hours long and from start to finish (at least on my rewatch) I was hanging onto every single moment. I’ll even admit that the last 20 minutes of the movie had me quite emotional, Children of Men is very powerful throughout but it is particularly in this portion.

As previously mentioned, all of the characters are very well written and memorable, and the cast are all great playing their respective roles. Clive Owen gives one of his all time best performances here, if not his best. Here he’s playing a reluctant hero character of sorts, forced into getting involved with a cause bigger than himself. We’ve seen this with lead characters many times before but with the writing and Owen’s fantastic performance, it just feels so real here. Julianne Moore is really good in the screentime that she gets. Clare-Hope Ashitey is also really great as the only woman in the world who isn’t infertile and is currently pregnant, holding possibly humanity’s last remaining hope for survival. It’s also fun watching Michael Caine as a hippie character of sorts, and he too does add to the movie quite a bit. The rest of the supporting cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam also are great in their roles.

Alfonso Cuarón as usual directs incredibly well, and this is probably his best film to date. The story and setting already feels very plausible but add upon the fantastic production design and it really feels timeless. His work with cinematographer Emmanuelle Lubezki was spectacular, there are so many phenomenal cinematic moments, most of them featuring long tracking shots, that you just wonder how exactly they managed to shoot it. A famous example being in the first quarter of the film, featuring a very long tracking shot that takes place in a car. Another example is a very long shot following Clive Owen for a very long time towards the end of the movie, really all of it is amazing filmmaking, it’s overwhelming at times.

Children of Men isn’t just one of the best science fiction films released, it’s one of the greatest films of the 21st Century. I’m not sure why it didn’t receive more awards attention, because it really deserves it. Everything here is perfect, the characters and cast, the fully realised story and world, and the fantastic direction by Alfonso Cuarón. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure that you see it as soon as possible, it’s a masterpiece.

Roma (2018) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, nudity, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo
Marina de Tavira as Sofia
Fernando Grediaga as Antonio
Jorge Antonio Guerrero as Fermín
Marco Graf as Pepe
Daniela Demesa as Sofi
Diego Cortina Autrey as Toño
Carlos Peralta as Paco
Nancy García as Adela
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

A story that chronicles a year in the life of a high-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s.

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There had been a lot of hype for Roma for a little while. Alfonso Cuaron has made his mark on cinema with films like Children of Men and Gravity. His next film is very different, a very intimate movie. I deliberately stayed away from the hype, with so far with myself finding all the critically acclaimed movies this year that I’ve seen great, I didn’t want to be in a position to let myself down with it due to my own anticipations. Thankfully, Roma more than delivered.

You do have to go into Roma expecting what kind of movie it’ll be. Most of the movie just seems to be following this family as life goes by really. Personally, I was invested in the movie and what was going on, and they did a good job keeping you constantly interested despite some of the things that happen seemingly being mundane and normal things. The movie felt quite real, with the events that happens as well as the dialogue, it all just feels really honest and personal, Cuaron did a great job with the script. I was really liking the first half of the movie but it didn’t really seem to have much of a point, it was around that one hour mark that I was wondering when the movie will really pick up. Then without spoiling anything, the second half is one big emotional hit, and it all really came together, that’s what I’ll say. I can see people being rather bored with Roma, the movie is 2 hours and 15 minutes long. With that, you really have to be in the mood to sit down and watch the movie from start to finish, you can’t just put it on at any time and just enjoy it no matter what.

The acting all around is great, with the actors playing the family being really good. The stand out performance of the entire movie however is Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, the lead of the movie who plays a maid of the family. She practically carries the movie and her performance just feels so natural and real. It’s also worth noting that this is her first film role. Definitely deserving of a lot more praise than she’s been receiving.

Alfonso Cuaron’s direction is immaculate, you could probably tell that that was going to be the case already though. This is a stunning looking movie, AC did the cinematography himself and it looks beautiful, really placing itself in Mexico City (and other locations) in the 70s. Cuaron is known for having some stand out long tracking shots, like that famous tracking shot early in Children of Men, or multiple shots in Gravity. Roma on the other hand doesn’t have any stand out tracking shots really, but he does use a lot of smaller long takes. They are rather subtle and not particularly showy but very effective. For example, sometimes a shot lingers or a shot slightly follows some characters and you see things happening in the background. Things like this are very effective visual storytelling and it also adds to the immersion of the movie. I’m not entirely sure if the movie needed to be in black and white, but in some way it actually kind of worked. Roma is a Netflix movie but has gotten so much acclaim that some cinemas are showing it. If you can watch in a cinema, try to check it out there, not that there’s anything hugely wrong with watching it on Netflix. I say this because not everyone is fortunate enough to have nearby cinemas that show it, and also because I just decided to watched it on Netflix anyway and I nonetheless had a great experience with it.

I can see some people watching Roma and not really loving it. It does require a bit of patience and it doesn’t really seem to have much of a point until the second half of the movie. On top of that, all the hype and praises of it being apparently one of the best of the year could diminish people’s enjoyment of the movie, especially considering that Roma is very lowkey and never really showy at any point. While halfway into the movie I was liking it, by the end I came out it loving it. With the performances and the wonderful direction by Cuaron, Roma is a beautiful film that is worth checking out at the very least. While I’m not sure if I’d consider it one of my favourite movies of the year and I don’t see myself revisiting it, I can say that Roma is one of the best films of the year.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) Review

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Scary scenes and mild language.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Harry Potter’s (Daniel Radcliffe) third year at Hogwarts starts off badly when he learns deranged killer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison and is bent on murdering the teenage wizard. While Hermione’s (Emma Watson) cat torments Ron’s (Rupert Grint) sickly rat, causing a rift among the trio, a swarm of nasty Dementors is sent to protect the school from Black. A mysterious new teacher helps Harry learn to defend himself, but what is his secret tie to Sirius Black?

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Interestingly, Prisoner of Azkaban for most of the general audience is the best Harry Potter movie. I knew though that a lot of die hard Harry Potter fans had some mixed feelings about the movie. As I hadn’t watched the movie recently and in a while, I was curious to see what my opinion of the movie would be. I’m glad to say that I lean on the side that considers Prisoner of Azkaban to be one of the best Harry Potter movies, with Alfonso Cuarón’s direction playing a big part in this.

If I had to guess one of the main reasons why this movie stuck particularly with the general audience more than the other Harry Potter movies, it might have to do with the fact that the story is much more personal for Harry and didn’t clearly feel like it was setting up for later movies. It’s like the only Harry Potter film to not have Voldemort to deal directly with the plot (outside of maybe Half Blood Prince). There are some differences from the books, most of them didn’t bother me too much and worked okay enough for a movie (such as Harry learning the spell Expecto Patronium really quickly) as opposed to the book where it took a long time. Some of the differences, particularly with how the spells work, are a little distracting. For example, Expecto Patronium here is not quite like it was in the book, and Expelliarmus here seemed to be used as both a disarming spell and a stunning spell. There are also some bits from the book that would’ve been nice to see in the movie. The humour in this movie worked really well, while the previous movies had some hit or miss humour, all of it works here. Prisoner of Azkaban is shorter than the previous two Harry Potter movies at 2 hours and 20 minutes long and is really paced well, even better paced than Philosopher’s Stone. You never feel bored, and you can’t pick out really a scene that could’ve or should’ve been removed for time or for the benefit of the story. Almost everything in here is needed.

There isn’t really any problems with the younger cast acting from this point forward with the films. Once again the friendship between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) is even stronger. Radcliffe particularly gets a lot to do, especially in the second half. I mentioned in my Chamber of Secrets review that Ron Weasley comes across as being a little useless and underused at times, and the same goes for Prisoner of Azkaban, particularly in the third act (then again it was in the novel as well). The rest of the returning is once again good as well, particularly Alan Rickman as Severus Snape and Maggie Smith and Minerva McGonagall. Most of the new additions really worked. David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher (the best in Harry’s period at Hogwarts), was a perfect casting decision, I can’t see anyone else in the role (I’m so glad Thewlis got this role instead of Professor Quirrell in Philosopher’s Stone). Gary Oldman works really well as Sirius Black, once again he transforms completely into his role. Conveying a lot of craziness, yet also completely convincing as the true character that’s revealed later on, Oldman is absolutely fantastic as usual. Timothy Spall was also perfect for his role that’s revealed later in the movie. One new cast addition was for the role of Albus Dumbledore, as Richard Harris died between the second and third films. Michael Gambon takes on the role now and while I’m aware there are mixed feelings about him, I think he’s fine here. He’s not quite fitted into the role of Dumbledore yet but he works fine, even if he does feel like he’s trying to act like Richard Harris. At least he fares better here than he does in Goblet of Fire. Other additions like Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawny were good as well.

Alfonso Cuarón’s direction is jarringly different from Chris Columbus’s, however considering the massive tonal differences that the later stories would have and seeing how they have changed, I can say that the changes was worth it and I’m glad that it happened in this movie before it was too late in the series. His direction of the movie is probably why so many people love this movie so much over the others, and for good reason. The way everything looks, his storytelling, pretty much everything works excellently. His attention to detail was great, particularly with Hermione and her use of the time turner. The cinematography by Michael Seresin was fantastic, it really looks great. When it comes to visuals, this is probably the first of the Harry Potter’s to have effects that actually still do hold up really well. Certain magical things like the Marauder’s Map particularly looked really nice on screen. Of course there are some moments where you can tell would need a green screen or something to be completely created in CGI and then you can really identify the green screen and tell that the CGI/magical object isn’t actually there, but nothing more than that. The look of the Dementors are great, shadowy, dark and really effective, I’m not sure why their design changed in Order of the Phoenix. This film has some truly magical and wonderful sequences, such as the flight(s) of the hippogriff Buckbeak and Harry facing off against the dementors. There are some weird looking sequences though, like the Knight Bus moment, where they seemed to up the insanity for a little bit, I guess that’s what they were going for but it did feel out of place. The production design was once again really great. I will say however that with this movie following the previous two, I can’t tell what year this takes place in. In fact one of the biggest problems with the Harry Potter movies is the time period is never locked down. It’s a slight distraction but doesn’t negatively affect the movies too much. Also whereas the first two movies had the main character wearing robes pretty much all the time, here they start wearing more casual clothes and this would become more prevalent over time as the movies would continue, I think it works for the movie but again it can be a jarring difference. Every director also keeps changing what Hogwarts looks like and again, jarring but you get over it. The score by John Williams is also great, in fact some of the best themes in the Harry Potter movies were introduced/featured in Prisoner of Azkaban.

Before re-watching Prisoner of Azkaban recently, I wasn’t sure where I would rank it among the Harry Potter movies, but now I think it’s at the very least among the best in the movies. The great pacing, the storytelling, the acting but most of all Alfonso Cuarón’s excellent direction, makes this a really great film. I can definitely see now why so many people consider it to be the best film in the entire series.

Gravity (2013)

GRAVITY

Gravity

Time: 91 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language and content that may disturb
Cast:
Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone
George Clooney as Matt Kowalski
Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission is with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who is in charge of the Shuttle Explorer’s STS-157 mission to repair the Hubble Telescope before retiring. After a while, Houston control aborts the mission warning that a Russian missile hit a satellite, causing a chain reaction and now there is a storm of debris coming upon them. This results in Stone and Kowalski losing communication with Mission Control and leaves them completely alone – tethered to nothing and spiralling out into the blackness.

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The movie has a simple premise but it’s the execution of the movie that’s most impressive. The pacing is set right for the movie it’s trying to be. One of the first things you need to know before going into this movie is know that despite it being a thriller, it has many moments where the movie slows down. I’ve heard of many other people who have watched this movie and walking out feeling disappointed saying that it was boring. Don’t expect an action movie, it has thrills but also has many slower moments.

Film Review Gravity

Sandra Bullock is great in this movie. Over time you do learn some things about her character in some of the slower parts. The whole movie follows her journey to safety so if she wasn’t good, the movie wouldn’t work as well. She was convincing as someone stuck in space which is unique in a special effects movie. George Clooney isn’t in the movie as much and you don’t get to learn as much about his character but he was also good in the movie.

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The camera work was mind-blowing. There are very few cuts in the movie, the first cut only happened after like 10 minutes. That first shot is started from a distance at Earth, then after a while the camera zooms in on the satellite being repaired. By the time the first cut happened, I felt like I was in space. In most CGI movies there are usually at least one scene that you can tell are CGI, this movie never had any of those moments. The special effects are the most believable effects I have seen in a while. The movie looks absolutely beautiful. Gravity is best experienced in IMAX 3D, it’s very rare for me to come across a movie that I can say that about. I haven’t experienced the 2D version so I don’t know how both versions stack up against each other. Some people might say this film is just special effects and nothing else, but real time and effort has been put into this movie to make it feel like it’s in space.

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The soundtrack composed by Steven Price is perfect for this movie. It goes from wondrous and thoughtful to incredibly loud and intense, in fact it’s the soundtrack that makes the chaotic scenes even more intense than they already are. The sound effects work for the movie; for example, when things are getting torn apart in space, there is barely any audio. Even less chaotic moments such as a drill unscrewing a bolt sound exactly if you are in space.

Gravity is a visual masterpiece; it is a movie that you can only experience. I watched this a few times and I still enjoy it but there may be others who find that the magic of this movie can only be experienced once. This is the best portrayal of space I’ve ever seen in a movie. I don’t know how accurate the movie is of portraying life in space but it looks very realistic at least to me. The special effects paired with the soundtrack, Bullock, Clooney and the cinematography help to make one of the best thrill rides in a while.