Saturday, January 30, 2010

It Might Get Loud (2009)

Director: Davis Guggenheim. Cast: Jimmy Page, The Edge, Jack White. 98 min. Rated PG. Documentary.

I have no knowledge of the electric guitar, and am vaguely familiar with the three master guitarists featured here. But that didn't hinder me one bit from enjoying this documentary on the instrument. Watching Led Zepplin's Jimmy Page describe with his hands how beautiful the "Rumble" (the pivot of Pulp Fiction's soundtrack) is, or U2's "The Edge" show how to create world around four simple notes, or Jack White's fingers bleed as he plays nonstop for 15 minutes, are moments that create great respect for these artists. Watching the three play together at the end is a music-lover's dream.

Mo says:

Whip It (2009)

Director: Drew Barrymore. Cast: Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Zoe Bell, Jimmy Fallon, Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore, Daniel Stern. 111 min. Rated PG-13. Sports.

A bad director can ruin everything. Ellen Page (Juno, Hard Candy) has already shown considerable acting charms in her short career, but Drew Barrymore's weak directorial debut makes even Page boring. Too many idiotic shots, too many nonsense lines, and too many lame characters make this roller derby movie impossible to connect with. And during the end credits, we have the obligatory blooper reels - as though we care. In the realm of rollerskating, nothing matches Rollerball (not the 2002 version!).

Mo says:

Testament (1983)

Director: Lynne Littman. Cast: Jane Alexander, William Devane, Lukas Haas, Kevin Costner, Rebecca DeMornay. 90 min. Rated PG. Drama.

This is different from the usual post-WW III films (The Day After, Threads) that were common in the 80s. There's no huge mushroom clouds, no buildings evaporating, or humans disintegrating. Just a blinding flash of light - and the aftermaths of radiation exposure in a smalltown USA, while the people try to hold together in a post-apocalyptic world. This low-budget movie boasts some very bizarre moments (a mother sewing her own daughter's body in sheets), great acting by Jane Alexander, and Kevin Costner when he was still a nobody. Must have been a risky movie to make in those days.

Mo says:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

9 (2009)

Director: Shane Acker. Cast (voices): Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau. 79 min. Rated PG-13. Animation.

A typical example of animated digital effects at the service of ... nothing. 9 has no character development, the script has a weak story, and the plot has no goal. Just sequence after sequence of weird mechanical creatures fighting weird mechanical creatures. An animated rip-off of Terminator. A dark boring version of WALL-E. The DVD extras tell us this was actually an Oscar-nominated short animation, which was made into a feature-length movie. No wonder - there's not enough story here even to go beyond 80 minutes (including the end credits).

(Interesting how 2009 gave us three "nine" movies: 9, Nine, and District 9.)

Mo says:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Hurt Locker (2009)

Director: Katheryn Bigelow. Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Evangeline Lilly. 131 min. Rated R. War.

Watched it again after the theater experience a few months ago - and the tension was as fresh as ever. The story about the IED-defusing squads in the Iraq War, is far beyond your run-of-the-mill "should I cut the red wire, should I cut the blue wire" plot. No matter what your stance on the Iraq War is, it'll be utterly impossible for you not to sympathize with these soldiers. Although the main Oscars this year will probably go to Bigelow's ex-husband Cameron for Avatar, I believe The Hurt Locker has enough merit to be considered the year's best movie.

Mo says:

Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)

Director: Don Siegel. Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Clint Eastwood. 116 min. Rated PG. Western.

The movie's selling point is obviously the odd duo of Eastwood as the reckless mercenary and MacLaine as the heavenly nun - and it works. The attractive point of the plot is what the nun is (literally) hiding behind her robes, and it'll keep you guessing till the end when mystery is delightfully revealed. Not necessarily one of Eastwood's best Westerns, but man, can he deliver those lines. ("I'd sure as hell like to know what she did before she became a nun ...")

Mo says:

Departures (Okuribito) (2008)

Director: Yôjirô Takita, Cast: Masahiro Motoki, Tsutomu Yamazaki. 130 min. Rated PG-13. Japan. Drama.

Winner of last year's Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, "Departures" will you make you wish you were Japanese. The concept of death is welcomed in such a beautiful manner, any genuine confrontation with the dark subject suddenly becomes painfully heartbreaking. That's why every painful scene is followed by a comedic moment, just to ease the viewer. The ending is a little cheesy, but it's definitely worth the trip.

(Nevertheless, I still believe "Waltz with Bashir" should've won the Oscar.)

Mo says:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Julia & Julia (2009)

Director: Nora Ephron. Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci. 123 min. Rated PG-13. Drama.

If you love food movies, this movie is for you. Otherwise, I'm not too sure. Meryl Steep is brilliant (isn't she always?) at boasting Julia Child's voice and accent and gestures, but it's Amy Adams who once again shines as the rising star she's been in recent years. Other than illustrating the image of a true fan (by offering parallel stories of a protege 50 years apart from her master), I didn't get much of a message here.

Mo says:

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Head-On (Gegen Die Wand) (2004)

Director: Fatih Akin. Cast: Birol Unel, Sibel Kekilli. 121 min. Rated R. Germany/Turkey. Drama.

It won a bunch of awards, but I believe the love story between a bum and a suicidal maniac is not something many can relate to.
Mo says:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

If ... (1968)

Director: Lindsay Anderson. Cast: Malcolm McDowell, David Wood, Richard Warwick, Christine Noonan. 111 min. Rated X. Drama.

Before Columbine, before Virginia Tech, and before Alan Parker's The Wall or Gus Van Sant's Elephant, there was If ... - the Palm d'Or winner that introduced a young Malcolm MacDowell. His role as the young boarding school anarchist personified his most famous roles for the rest of his career. If ... is valuable as it defined how youngsters suddenly rebel against the system just to prove their dominance, even if it meant slaughtering their masters. But if you've already seen the brilliant Elephant (another Palm d'Or winner), you may be hard to impress here.

Mo says:

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Top 10 Films of the Decade

Here it is, my top 10 movies from the years 2000 to 2009, in the order of the year they were released:

1. “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)
2. "Kill Bill, Vol. 1", "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" (2003/2004)
3. "The Lizard (Marmoulak)" (2004)
4. "Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith" (2005)
5. "Grizzly Man" (2005)
6. "United 93" (2006)
7. "Persepolis" (2007)
8. "WALL-E" (2008)
9. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008)
10. "Avatar" (2009)

Agree? Disagree? Waiting for your top 10s ... or for your attacks!

(PS: Sorry Marty! Sorry Clint!)