Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tyson (2008)

Director: James Toback. Cast: Mike Tyson. 90 min. Rated R. Documentary.

Mike Tyson? Crying? Yeah, I was surprised too to see tears swell up in his eyes, remembering his late coach. The picture we've seen of this man (the wife abuser who bit off an opponent's ear during a match) is probably of one of the meanest athletes ever. But think again. "Tyson" offers the professional boxer's human side, and makes you wonder how being mean was probably the only weapon he had to survive childhood. And Toback's cut-frame photography helps prevent this from becoming a boring, 90 minute interview. Give it a try.

Mo says:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Director: Michael Bay. Cast: Shia Labeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro. 150 min. Rated PG-13. Action/Sci-fi.

OK, Michael Bay has completely lost it. After a good start ("Bad Boys", "The Rock", "Armageddon"), he's forgotten that in the old days, explosion after explosion after explosion were fun when they were in the context of a story - not because the explosions were the story. Although the only reason to watch this is to watch the special effects in a theater (which means if you haven't already seen it in the theater, don't waste your time on the DVD), two and a half hours of the madness is still too much.

Mo says:

Friday the 13th (2009)

Director: Marcus Nispel. Cast: whatever. Horror ... the horror.

Forget it. Just Forget it. If you want to watch "Friday the 13th", go for the original 1980 version. At least that was funny. This isn't even funny. And the killings are just more creativity from sick minds.

Mo says:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sin Nombre (2009)

Director: Cary Fukunaga. Cast: Edgar Flores, Paulina Gaitan. 96 min. Rated R. Mexico. Drama.

Boy, am I happy I don't live in Honduras. In the same lines of "City of God", apparently in some countries, survival without being part of a ruthless street gang is impossible - and your chances aren't much better even when you are part of them. The story of immigrating to the paradise called America, literally on top of a train, with all its friendships and betrayals, gives the concept of "road movie" a broader meaning. Another example of how cinema exposes an otherwise intangible world, "Sin Nombre" is a very different experience, but not for the weak of heart.

Mo says:

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)

Director(s): Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper. 96 min. Rated R. Documentary.

Embarrassing confession: This documentary about the madness the cast and crew of "Apocalypse Now" went through to make the 1979 movie, is more interesting than the overlong movie itself. Coppola puts it best: "There were too many of us, we had access to too much equipment, too much money, and little by little, we went insane." This is the story of going to movie-making hell and back. Most baffling section: The night before the movie's young star, Martin Sheen, had a near-fatal heart attack. For those interested in the back story of movies, this is a must see.

Mo says:

Earth (2007)

Director(s): Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield. Narrator: James Earl Jones. 90 min. Rated G. UK. Documentary.

Based on Disney's hype, I was expecting more from this. Sure, the visuals are breathtaking (and you keep asking: "How'd they do that?"), but in this day and climate (no pun intended), you expect such a documentary to be about global warming. The problem is that "Earth" is just about ... animals. Most of the sequences end up pretty depressing, with our cute hero rabbit/deer/elephant/rattlesnake getting killed by its predator. The only sequence that tangentially touches the global warming issue is the daddy polar bear story, but he doesn't fare any better than the others. Best seen in a theatre.

Mo says:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Director: David Yates. Cast: Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, David Thewlis, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane. 153 min. Rated PG. Fantasy.

I used to be indifferent to the whole Harry Potter concept, but I have to admit the darker the stories become, the more I'm getting involved. This episode is (literally) more than two hours of darkness, both visually and conceptually, to the point of becoming scary at times. The film still suffers from the common problem of all Potter movies: sequences that do not contribute to the story, and can easily be eliminated. Staying away from the books led to a surprise from the tragic ending. Not perfect, but the best Potter movie yet.

Mo says:

The Queen and I (Drottningen och jag) (2008)

Director: Nahid Persson. Cast: Farah Diba, Nahid Persson Sarvestani. 90 min. Unrated. Sweden. Documentary.

I don't know if non-Iranian viewers will enjoy this as much as I did. Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the documentary follows interviews between the director, a Communist who fought the Shah of Iran before the revolution and fled the country thereafter, and Farah Diba, the legendary former Empress of Iran, also in exile. The film is neither pro-Communism nor pro-monarchy, but is about the benevolent heart and naive mind of an untouchable figure: a Queen. Watch this movie, and you may want to forgive people for their shortcomings.

Mo says:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Director: Bob Rafelson. Cast: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black. 98 min. Rated R. Drama.

Recommended by a friend as "the best movie I've ever seen", Nicholson's pre-Oscar days film doesn't fail to impress. The story of an intelligent loser may be one that many of us could sympathize with, and the best quote comes at the end, Nicholson telling his ill, mute father: "I'm trying to imagine your half of this conversation... My feeling is, that if you could talk, we probably wouldn't be talking." Can't stop thinking of Nicholson playing the piano on a pick-up truck, and then being driven away into oblivion, just because for a moment, he was doing what he loved.

Mo says:

District 9 (2009)

Director: Neil Blomkamp. Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope. 112 min. Rated R. Sci-fi.

Blomkamp's directorial debut (based on his own story, written in his 20s in South Africa) is an intelligent mix of sci-fi, politics, sociology, action, and special effects. The gore and tragic tones may be depressing to some, but the creativity of the story is truly impressive, and becomes an incredibly thought-provoking approach to xenophobia. The ending clears the path for a definite sequel, and this is one of those rare instances where I'm eagerly waiting for one. If you have a problem with sci-fi, don't let the ads prevent you from seeing this great piece of cinema.

Mo says:

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Director: Quentin Tarantino. Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger. 153 min. Rated R. Action/War.

Our beloved Tarantino is back: the same postmodern look at an old genre, the same humor-filled violence, and the same long engaging dialogues, but this time with a "WWII According to Quentin" approach, surprising on how he sees the War ended, or should have ended. Beautiful acting by newcomer Waltz as the evil Lt. Landa
(definitely to achieve an Oscar nom, or even a win). The theater scene at the end will linger in your mind for days, and the fact that the violence is worse than "Kill Bill" should by no means deter you from seeing this masterpiece.

Mo says:

I'm back!

After 3 years, which included finishing my radiology residency, doing a Body Imaging fellowship in Manhattan, and moving to Northern California for radiology practice, I'm back on the blogging road.

This time around, I'm planning on making it more efficient, so I can post a higher number of movie reviews. I'm limiting my movie reviews to a maximum of 100 words, with no movie stills added. Just me, my reviews, and my old "Mo-score"s at the end.

So let's not waste any more time, and restart the fun. Can't wait to hear your comments!