Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saw VI (2009)

Director: Whatever. Cast: Some people.

The latest entry in the already outdated "torture-porn" genre, has scruples about Obama-care, and people defaulting on mortgages. Interesting, since the jigsaw killer supposedly died years before the economy crashed in 2008. But the most bizarre aspect of the Saw franchise, is that the creators are founding each episode's story on the previous one - as though they expect us to remember such intelligent and profound tales. Still, admittedly the Saw movies have always shown the flaw of my scoring system, as I watch each episode attentively till the very end. So disregard the Soso score for this incredible junk.

Mo says:

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Wolfman (2010)

Director: Joe Johnston. Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, 103 min/119 min (R-Rated/Unrated). UK/USA. Horror.

Naaah. I was looking forward to more. Turning a blind eye to Del Toro's non-British facial features was one thing, but I was hoping for a post-modern rendition loyal to an original story (if there is one) and old-fashioned special effects, in the lines of Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Still, the beautiful Gothic production design (and of course, Anthony Hopkins) make this repetitious tale watchable. Needless to say, the ending prepares for an obvious sequel.

PS: An American Werewolf in London is still my favorite wolf-man movie.

Mo says:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hunger (2008)

Director: Steve McQueen. Cast: Michael Fassbender, Stuart Graham, Liam McMahon. 96 min. UK/Ireland. Political/Drama.

WOW!!! An entire feature film ... without dialogue?! Hitchcock made Rope without any editing, and Kiarostami makes films by eliminating crucial story characters. But how is it even possible to make a movie without dialogue - especially when of all subjects, it's based on a true political event? I defy you to watch this visually unrelenting (and at times repulsive) movie, and say you were bored. About Bobby Sands' hunger strike in a British prison, it even contains a 20 minute indiscernible conversation between two characters - and you still don't miss the story. Don't you want to try something different?

PS: Look it up on Hunger won a crazy number of awards.

Mo says:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Director: Lee Unkrich. Cast (voices): Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Laurie Metcalf, Bonnie Hunt, Whoopi Goldberg, R. Lee Ermey. 103 min. Rated G. Animation.

Unbelievable. From the very first minute, as Randy Newman sang "You Got a Friend in Me", I had a deja-vu of the pure innocence and honesty I first experienced fifteen years ago. Toy Story 3 accomplishes the rare feat of being as good as (or even better than) the original. A cartoon targeted for grown-ups, with some intense (and dark) moments, I was surprised it got a G-rating. It will touch your inner core, and demonstrate the heartbreaking meaning of loss, impending death, and sticking together till the very end. Pixar has done it again.

PS: Be warned. You will cry.

Mo says:

Tetro (2009)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola. Cast: Vincent Gallo, Maribel Verdú, Alden Ehrenreich, Klaus Maria Brandauer. 127 min. Rated R. USA/Italy/Spain/Argentina. Drama.

After all these years, true to form, Coppola still continues his experimentation with cinema. The beautiful black and white cinematography (with some strange emphasis on flashing lights), and the soundtrack (at times synchronized with the characters' facial gestures!) prove a grandmaster is at work here. Apparently the story is Coppola's semi-autobiography, but autobiographers should know that their life stories may not be as interesting to others as they are to themselves - and that is where Tetro fails. The Almodovar-like ending, where some strange hateful family relationship is revealed, was hard to stomach. But I still loved the cinematography.

Mo says:

Pirate Radio (2009)

Director: Richard Curtis. Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Emma Thompson. 116 min. Rated R. UK/Germany/USA/France. Comedy.

During the 60s, ships off the England shore would broadcast banned rock music to listeners, the government trying to shut them down. Add to that a mid-movie "I'm Spartacus!" scene, and a Titanic ending, and that rounds up the entire story. Although Pirate Radio has its moments (the comically poignant breakup of an innocent 17-hour marriage, by a hottie who wants to be with the ship's main DJ), I was expecting much more creativity from the creators of Notting Hill and Love, Actually. Watch this only if you're a fan of the era's music, as the movie has plenty.

Mo says:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coco Before Chanel (Coco avant Chanel) (2009)

Director: Anne Fontaine. Cast: Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain. 105 min. PG-13. France. Drama.

A movie about a famous fashion designer should leave at least some kind of visual impression on you. This film left me none - or any impression, visual or otherwise. And I've never seen an Audrey Tautou movie that I could connect to. Too cold-looking.

Mo says:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Women Without Men (زنان بدون مردان) (2009)

Director(s): Shirin Neshat, Shoja Azari. Cast: Shabnam Toloui, Orsolya Tóth, Essa Zahir, Pegah Ferydoni, Arita Shahrzad. 95 min. Germany, Austria, France. Rated

A bold and powerful story, unfolding during CIA's 1953 coup in Iran (which destroyed any chance of democracy in the region till this day), the film's narrative of four women representing Iran's social classes of the time, initially presents as a dark feminist criticism of male oppression. But look again. Ironically, the society is culturally demolished, not by the "imperialist" aggressor, but by the victims of aggression. The most poignant metaphor is a mute prostitute (as the personification of freedom), raped several times a day by her own people, and finally dying as intellectuals dine with army generals next door.

Mo says:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

11'09''01 - September 11 (2002)

Director(s): Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran), Claude Lelouch (France), Youssef Chahine (Egypt), Danis Tanovic (Bosnia Herzegovina), Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina-Faso), Ken Loach (UK), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Mexico), Amos Gitai (Israel), Mira Nair (India), Sean Penn (USA), Shohei Imamura (Japan). 134 min. Unrated. Drama.

Eleven perspectives on 9/11, by eleven directors around the world (just look at the list). Whoever invited these filmmakers for their short features on the subject probably thought this was going to become a compilation of sympathy for America, but I couldn't imagine a collection more critical of the phenomenon known as USA. Penn's section is insanely scathing, Gita's was the most amateurish, Iñárritu's and Loach's are definitely thought-provoking, but I found Lelouch's feature (about a foreign deaf mute begging for recognition by her American boyfriend) the most intriguing. After all, the French are master filmmakers.

Mo says:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Director: Guy Ritichie. Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong. 128 min. PG-13. USA/Germany. Action.

I find it offensive when a director treats his viewers like idiots, corrupting a classic figure like Holmes and turning his story into an action-packed farce, riddled with explosions and Kung Fu style fights, just to fulfill a Hollywood glamor complex. Downey Jr.'s fast-talking acting skills are a treat, but I don't remember Holmes ever getting involved with supernatural geeks or the occult. At least Ritchie has the honesty to admit that Holmes and Watson are characters merely "named" in Conan Doyle's stories. Unfortunately, this confession comes too late, during the end credits.

Mo says:

The Book of Eli (2009)

Director(s): Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes. Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Jennifer Beals, Malcolm McDowell, Michael Gambon, Tom Waits.

This post-apocalyptic story with a prophet-like Washington aiming to deliver "the book" to the West coast, at first glance looks like a commentary on how religion can be abused by rulers, but then downgrades itself into preaching how Jesus Christ is your only savior, making the film worthy of Sunday school lessons. Full of predictable moments, I kept scratching my head on why in this futuristic world, compared to "the book", The DaVinci Code is easier to find. Or maybe I just missed that part.

Mo says:

Edge of Darkness (2010)

Director: Martin Campbell. Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston. 117 min. Rated R. UK/USA. Action.

Call me nostalgic, but maybe watching the original BBC miniseries of the same name during my first medical school year (directed by the same director, with a superb Eric Clapton soundtrack) is the reason I love this father-bent-on-revenge story of governmental nuclear conspiracies. Gibson and Winstone do an excellent job playing the late Bob Peck and Joe Don Baker's roles from the original, and Huston is as menacing as ever, but the story ending has been changed, favoring the personal revenge aspect rather than the conspiracy expose. Still, any film illustrating Gibson's rage is not to be missed.

PS: Lethal Weapon, Braveheart, Ransom, The Patriot, Signs, Edge of Darkness. Mel Gibson has become the expert in avenging his relatives' misfortunes.

Mo says:

It's Complicated (2009)

Director: Nancy Meyers. Cast: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski, Rita Wilson. 120 min. Rated R. Comedy.

The thing I hate about Nancy Meyers romantic comedies (Something's Gotta Give, What Women Want, I Love Trouble), is that she always appeals to the public's lowest common denominator. There's no brain-work involved in her stories, and It's Complicated is no exception. Characters come and go, falling in and out of love over and over again, making afternoon soap operas look good - and garnishing the film with Streep or Martin's charms is no saving grace. If you enjoy this movie, you're either a divorcee, or postmenopausal.

Mo says:

Extraordinary Measures (2010)

Director: Tom Vaughan. Cast: Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford, Keri Russell, Dee Wallace, Courtney B. Vance. 106 min. Rated PG. Drama.

Films like Awakenings and Lorenzo's Oil have set the bar on the enzyme-deficiency genre so high, any similar attempt would pale in comparison - even if Harrison Ford plays the scientist. Ford is famous for making almost any role believable, but even he cannot save this cliche-filled tearjerker of a movie, about people desperately searching for a cure for Pompe's disease before the movie's child hero dies. The dialogue gets so boring and predictable at times, I would recommend you pass on this one, and instead, watch Awakenings again.

Mo says:

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Director(s): Phil Lord, Chris Miller. Cast (voices): Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr T., Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris. 90 min. Rated PG. Animation.

Not too bad for a movie in which the villain is ... junk food. The plot is successful in making food look quite menacing, and if the point of the animation is to make kids think twice before they gobble up the next slice of pizza, it works. Don't be fooled by the "cheesy" appearance of the film; the entertainment offered here may be worth your time.

Mo says: