12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 Years a Slave
Director: Steve McQueen
Writer: John Ridley
Based on: Solomon Northup‘s memoir
Cast: Chiwetel EjioforLupita Nyong’o, Quvenzhané Wallis, Kelsey Scott, Michael K. Williams, Scoot McNairy, Adepero Oduye, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt

Plot:
Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is one of the few free black people in the USA. Or rather he used to be until he took a job offer that turned into a kidnapping. Suddenly Solomon finds himself removed from his family, mistreated and enslaved. As he goes from owner to owner, he tries his best to not only survive, but be free again.

12 Years a Slave is one hell of a film. It has a great cast, is beautifully shot and has an awesome soundtrack. It’s also a film that hurts pretty much all over and will stay with me for a very long time.

12-years-a-slave

Continue reading

Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Aaron Guzikowski
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette, Zoe Borde

Plot:
It’s Thanksgiving and the Dovers are celebrating with their friends and neighbors, the Birchs. But when the little daughters of both families suddenly disappear, the festivities are quickly interrupted. As Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is called, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) quickly loses his temper. And when suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is apprehended to be released soon afterwards, Keller decides to take justice into his own hands.

Prisoners has a rather similar theme as Big Bad Wolves, so it’s hard not to compare the two and in that comparison, Prisoners stays a bit behind – but that’s just because Big Bad Wolves was that exceptional. Prisoners is, in fact, a really good movie.

prisoners

Continue reading

Ruby Sparks (2012)

Ruby Sparks
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Zoe Kazan
Cast: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Toni Trucks, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Aasif Mandvi, Steve Coogan, Deborah Ann Woll, Elliott Gould

Plot:
Calvin (Paul Dano) wrote a critically acclaimed bestseller when he was very young – and has been stuck ever since. He can’t really write anything, he’s afraid that he won’t live up to his own reputation. But then he starts writing about Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) – the perfect girl for him – and literally falls in love with his own creation. That is, until she actually shows up in his kitchen. At first, Calvin believes that he’s finally cracked, but other people can see her, too. And so Calvin doesn’t question it, instead starts enjoying their relationship. But how long can anybody remain perferct?

Ruby Sparks is the perfect take-down of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. And not only that, it is also a wonderfully charming, touching and funny movie with an extremely excellent cast.

ruby_sparks

Continue reading

For Ellen (2012)

For Ellen
Director: So Yong Kim
Writer: So Yong Kim
Cast: Paul Dano, Jon Heder, Shaylena Mandigo, Jena Malone, Margarita Levieva
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Joby Taylor (Paul Dano) is a rather successful rock musician about to get divorced from his already very estranged wife Claire (Margarita Levieva). In fact, Claire has been bringing up their daughter Ellen (Shaylena Mandigo) while Joby’s been gone and now they’re only talking through their lawyers. In a last attempt to salvage something, Joby refuses to sign the divorce papers unless he gets to spend time with Ellen.

For Ellen was an extremely nice and sweet and touching and cute and absolutely wonderful film. It was one of those films that I wanted to see again the minute it was over.

Continue reading

Looper (2012)

Looper
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Noah Segan, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Pierce Gagnon, Qing Xu

Plot:
Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper – gangsters from the future send the people they wish to kill back in time, where the loopers dispose of them. The last person they will dispose of that way will be their older selves, and thereby fulfilling their contract. As it happens, most loopers’ contracts are starting to get closed. But when it’s Joe’s turn, Old!Joe (Bruce Willis) won’t play along and makes a break for it.

Apart from one inconsistency, Looper is an expertly crafted and engaging time travel story. While it is not the greatest film ever made, I did enjoy it a whole lot.

[SPOILER]

Continue reading

The Girl Next Door (2004)

The Girl Next Door
Director: Luke Greenfield
Writer: Stuart Blumberg, David Wagner, Brent Goldberg
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano

Plot:
Matthew (Emile Hirsch) is a senior in high school and just applied for a scholarship to Brown university (given to students with special moral fiber). He’s rather geeky, though his best friends Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (Paul Dano) are even geekier. But that changes when Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves in next door. Matthew falls hard for Danielle and isn’t even deterred when he finds out that she’s a porn star. But she quickly turns his whole life upside down.

I was pretty sure that I would hate this film, Manic Pixie Dream Girl and all, but in the end it really wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. Though that doesn’t make it any good, either.

Continue reading

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

Cowboys & Aliens is the newest film by Jon Favreau, written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg‘s comic book, starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell and Paul Dano.

Plot:
Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the desert, without his memories but with a weird bracelet on his arm that he isn’t able to remove. He makes his way to the town of Absolution where he is recognised as a wanted fugitive when he gives Percy (Paul Dano), the son of the local head honcho Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), his due. Before things can go really bad, Absolution is attacked by space ships and many of the town inhabitants are abducted, among them Percy and the town’s barkeeper Doc’s (Sam Rockwell) wife. That’s when Jake’s bracelet kicks into action and shows some really special features. So, a search party heads out to find the missing people, including Jake, Woodrow, Doc and the mysterious Ella (Olivia Wilde).

Cowboys & Aliens is a well paced action flick with a good sense of humor and a very good cast. I liked it a lot.

[SPOILERS]

Continue reading

The Good Heart (2009)

The Good Heart is the newest film by Dagur Kári, starring Paul Dano and Brian Cox.

Plot:
Jacques (Brian Cox) is a misanthropic bar owner, Lucas (Paul Dano) a homeless young man who is nice to everyone. They meet in a hospital after Jacques suffers from a heart attack and Lucas recuperates after a suicide attempt. For some reason, Jacques settles on Lucas to be his successor. He takes him in and teaches him the way of the bar: basically, be as unfriendly as possible to everyone.

The Good Heart could have been really good. It’s got great actors and nice cinematography, unfortunately it also has a crappy script, a ridiculous storyline and Dagur Kári really did not convince me as a director.

[SPOILERS]

Continue reading

Meek’s Cutoff (2010)

[Viennale.]

Meek’s Cutoff is the newest film by Kelly Reichardt, starring Michelle Williams, Will Patton, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Rod Rondeaux.

Plot:
A small group of settlers turn from the Oregon Trail to take a shortcut, led by the grandtalker Meek (Bruce Greenwood). When their water starts to run out in the middle of the desert, they don’t really know what to do and neither does Meek. But they notice that there is a Native American (Rod Rondeaux) following them. After Emily (Michelle Williams) makes first contact with him, they both run off. But the men decide that he should lead them to water and capture him.

After Wendy and Lucy*, I expected a lot from this film. So much that I watched it, even though I really couldn’t care less about the genre itself, actually. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I had to fight to stay awake several times and was generally pretty bored.

[SPOILERS]

Continue reading

Knight and Day (2010)

Knight and Day is the newest movie by James Mangold, starring Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano and Jordi Mollà.

Plot:
June (Cameron Diaz) bumps into Roy (Tom Cruise) on her way home. She then ends up on the same flight as him, which is nearly empty. They start flirting, but while June goes to the bathroom to amp herself up, Roy goes ahead and kills all of the passengers – and the pilots – who happen to be spies trying to catch Roy who seems to be a rogue spy himself. Things go only downhill from there. A plane crash and approximately 5 conspiracy theories later, June is thoroughly tangled up in Roy’s world and has to tag along, rather reluctantly.

I didn’t expect much from Knight and Day – though the trailer did make me laugh – and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not a great movie, but it’s good entertainment and I laughed actually quite a bit. Though there were a few things that bothered me, altogether the film was pretty enjoyable.

Continue reading