Friday, July 30, 2010

Inception (2010)

Director: Christopher Nolan. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas. 148 min. Rated PG-13. USA/UK. Sci-Fi.

Mark my word: Inception will be considered a groundbreaking pioneer in storytelling for many years to come. The more I think and the more I read about it, the more I am baffled at how many profound levels it works on the concept of dreams, stories, cinema, reality, emotions, the human mind, and life. That's why comparing it to The Matrix would probably be a disservice to it. Even pointing out the subjects mentioned would be impossible in a 100-word review, so I'll leave any discussion up to you. Comment away, and I'll post my opinion on whatever you please.

PS: This great review may act as a good discussion starter. Watch out - huge spoilers.

Mo says:

Predators (2010)

Director: Nimród Antal. Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo.107 min. Rated R. Sci-Fi.

A disappointment. I was expecting more from producer Robert Rodriguez. The premise is interesting (humans are thrown into a wildlife preserve planet to act as game for the alien Predators), but the plot opportunities provided are not used to their fullest, and Adrien Brody is no action star. Laurence Fishburne makes a nice entrance as a cuckoo Ben Gunn-like character, but even that ends up nowhere. And remember that great scene from the trailer with tens of triangle red beams pointing at Brody, preparing to demolish him to pieces? It's not even in the movie!

Mo says:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Secrets (Ha-Sodot) (2007)

Director: Avi Nesher. Cast: Ania Bukstein, Michal Shtamler, Fanny Ardant. 127 min. Rated R. Israel/France. Drama.

Elaborating upon two different approaches to a strict Jewish (or any religious) belief system: emotional blind "faith", which may initially appear as erratic behavior but eventually leads to passionate respect for mankind; and well-researched "logic", which actually becomes a tool to justify the illogical aspects of religion. The first approach wins the heart, and the second dies in utter loneliness. For the Muslim version of the same concept, 2005's Paradise Now is a convincing (and somewhat frightening) parallel to this movie.

Mo says:

A Single Man (2009)

Director: Tom Ford. Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore. 99 min. Rated R. Drama.

Oscar nominee or no Oscar nominee, this was way too slow. Directed by a fashion designer, A Single Man is visually stimulating, but boring and definitely not worth the time. For a better rendering of the same concept (grasping the beauty of life rather than committing suicide), watch the 1997 Palm d'Or winner, Taste of Cherry.

Mo says:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Road (2009)

Director: John Hillcoat. Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce. 111 min. Rated R. Drama.

I was surprised when I first heard a film was being produced based on Cormac McCarthy's bleak, dark, depressing post-apocalyptic novel. Just never thought it was "filmable". Taking that into account, The Road is a decent adaptation, and is able to conceptualize the most disturbing sections of the story into visual form. There was no participating mother figure in the book; apparently for good reason, as flashbacks of Theron as the mother are complete throwaways (maybe she's there just to lighten up the mood). But if you're not into gloomy movies, even reading this review was a waste of time.

(PS: Here's to you, Alex. Thanks for recommending the book.)

Mo says:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cyrus (2010)

Director(s): Jay & Mark Duplass. Cast: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener. 92 min. Rated R. Comedy.

Why lie? Always been a fan of both Marisa Tomei and John C. Reilly (rarely have I seen them in a weak film), but Cyrus is primarily a Jonah Hill vehicle. A 21-year-old with an unusually close relationship to Tomei as his mother, he steps in to prevent Reilly as the newfound boyfriend from stealing the show. The incredibly intelligent and initially comedic dialogue between Hill and Reilly builds the emotional tension to a level bordering on a horror movie. The story is about lying, but rarely have I seen a more honest movie. Expect an Oscar nomination for Hill.

Mo says:

Restrepo (2010)

Director(s): Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger. 93 min. Rated R. Documentary.

A flurry of great Iraq/Afghan war movies have started, but Restrepo is not necessarily one deserving the incredibly high accolades. Surely, a documentary chronicling life in Afghanistan's Korangal Valley is a noble effort, but watching the imagery, I didn't perceive this as the "deadliest place in the world", as the movie claims (conceptual profoundness doesn't equal cinematic excellence). The footage and interviews are more concerned with the aftershocks of violence in the region, rather than the violence itself. Worthy of note how alien the Afghani locals look to the American troops, as though we're watching conversations between two different species.

(PS: Make sure you listen to NPR's interview with director Tim Hetherington, where he breaks down midway through the interview while reminiscing his experiences.)

Mo says:

The Last Station (2009)

Director: Michael Hoffman. Cast: James McAvoy, Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti, Kerry Condon. 122 min. Rated R. Germany/Russia/UK. Historical.

The problem with watching any Russian-based story, is that the Cold War cinema made us so biased towards these characters (forcing us to expect unemotional people living in gloomy landscapes), nothing appears to be Russian enough. Regardless, the story which is based on Tolstoy's final days, is able to grab attention, and is triumphant in proving that love is truly selfish. The past years have made me wonder what an incredible actress Helen Mirren is. But this movie makes you wonder: Was Tolstoy really like that?

Mo says:

Green Zone (2010)

Director: Paul Greengrass. Cast: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendon Gleeson, Yigal Naor, Amy Ryan, Khalid Abdalla, Jason Isaacs. 115 min. Rated R. France/USA/Spain/UK. War.

Put Matt Damon and the director of two Jason Bourne movies together in Baghdad, and the formula is set for "The Bourne Insurgency". Not that there's anything wrong with that, and actually placing the high-octane action in the setting of multiple failed attempts to find WMDs in Iraq gives the chase after chase scenes an entertaining semi-fact based thrust. Yigal Noar (Saddam in "House of Saddam") plays an interesting Iraqi villain again - this time as General Al-Rawi, fictionally based on another character from the Most Wanted deck of cards.

Mo says:

The Crazies (2010)

Director: Breck Eisner. Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell. 101 min. Rated R. USA/UAE. Horror.

A new interesting twist on the zombie genre: a small American town accidentally comes into contact with a biological weapon virus that transforms people into insane killers. The twist, is that the insanity occurs slowly - making an affected person difficult to distinguish from our heroes who occasionally act crazy under stress. Full of predictable shock shots, but also a few plot surprises. George A. Romero is the executive producer; apparently every zombie movie requires his blessing.

Mo says:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Bridge (2006)

Director: Eric Steel. 94 min. Rated R. UK/USA. Documentary.

The Golden Gate Bridge, an epitome of glamor in America's most over-indulgent state, becomes the symbolic site for those disappointed in the American dream. Interviews with families of people who chose to jump off the Bridge and "go out with a bang", serve as a wake-up call for many who lack a realistic view of life. Among these, the most mesmerizing is an interview with a youngster who actually survived his suicide attempt. The voyeuristic footage of actual Bridge suicides borders on a snuff film, but that's the only semi-offensive concept of this strange movie experience.

Mo says:

Stranded: I've Come from a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains (2007)

Director: Gonzalo Arijon. 130 min. France. Documentary.

Based on the 1972 crash of the Uruguay rugby team in the Andes mountains, Stranded features interviews with 16 of the survivors some 40 years later. Contrary to the terrible 1993 feature Alive!, which focused on the survivors' cannibalism off the dead bodies to stay alive for 72 days, this documentary is about human endurance and the fight for survival, with cannibalism as a side-note. At that, it succeeds. Watch it with a friend; you are guaranteed to be discussing after the movie whether you would do the same in the same situation as these survivors did.

Mo says: