Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Last Exorcism (2010)

Director: Daniel Stamm. Cast: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum. 87 min. Rated PG-13. Horror.

If you've been up-to-date on the horror genre, this opens with a very absorbing [REC] or Quarantine style narration (where a few unassuming documentary filmmakers run into genuine horror), and continues in The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity mode, creating some moments of true terror. But then at the end, suddenly dumbs everything down with a contrived ending copied from of an old Polanski classic, and leaves the viewer speechless at what a great horror movie opportunity had been wasted. Great acting by Ashley Bell. But what a waste.

Mo says:

Battle for Haditha (2007)

Director: Nick Broomfield. Cast: Elliot Ruiz, Matthew Knoll, Yasmine Hanani. 97 min. Rated R. War.

One of the most childish movies made about the Iraq War - or any war. No question how tragic what occurred in Haditha (where 24 men, women and children were massacred when an IED killed an American troop) was, but this is by no means an intelligent analysis of how such atrocities suddenly happen out of the blue. The dialogue is written for an audience who's been living been under a rock for the past decade, and the semi-documentary feeling the hand-held camerawork tries to impose is rather insulting. Avoid this if you have any respect for your movie-wise intelligence.

Mo says:

Tapped (2009)

Directors: Stephanie Soechtig, Jason Lindsey. 97 min. Documentary.

Another environment-conscious documentary in the vein of The Inconvenient Truth and Food, Inc., this time trying to make a case against the bottled water industry. By depicting corporate America as the monster (instead of targeting human greed), the film makes the same mistake Michael Moore's Roger & Me made; after all, these companies aren't doing anything illegal. But the movie makes a strong argument why we should be preferring tap water, and created the same everlasting effect about bottled water as Supersize Me did about McDonald's - and therefore deserves recognition.

(PS: reviewers call the film "extremely biased". Up to you.)

Mo says:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mother (Madeo) (2009)

Director: Joon-ho Bong. Cast: Hya-ja Kim, Bin Won. 128 min. Rated R. South Korea. Suspense.

A friend recently told me sometimes critics like a foreign movie ... just because its foreign. I guess the South Korean Mother (with its 95% Tomatometer rating) is a good example. Nothing wrong with the story of a mother who's bent on doing anything (and I mean anything) to prove her mentally-challenged teenage son innocent of murder, but this movie can benefit from editing out a good 20 minutes or so. My cautious point: I did not find anything special here. For a much better movie by the same director, watch The Host.

Mo says:

The Runaway Train (1985)

Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy. Cast: Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca De Mornay, John P Ryan. 111 min. Rated R. Thriller.

An oldie but goodie. Based on a screenplay by Kurosawa, Voight and Roberts are two escaping convicts who accidentally end up on a runaway train in the Alaska cold, with the jail warden hot on their tracks. Interestingly, both the protagonist and the villain (Voight and the warden) are true maniacs - a rarity in the movie realm. Voight's acting skills can almost be described as "disturbing", as in one scene, he looks more like an animal than human. The last scene will put you in a trance.

Mo says:

A Prophet (Un proph├Ęte) (2009)

Director: Jacques Audiard. Cast: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup. 155 min. Rated R. France/Italy. Drama.

Any Mafia movie is good - even the ones about an Arab gangster in a French prison. A Prophet is a very informative picture of how a naive 19-year-old can enter a prison, and "train" to become a ruthless killer and professional criminal. But the movie has also something new to add to the genre: as the proportion of Muslims in France grow, Arabs are gradually taking the reigns of the crime business from the old, arthritic French gangsters. One of the must-sees of 2009.

Mo says:

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Director: Lisa Cholodenko. Cast: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson. 106 min. Rated R. Comedy.

Of all gay/lesbian movies out there, this was the very first to gain my sympathy. The Kids trusts and respects its audience enough to ask the difficult questions (how do homosexual couples feel about their kids being homosexual? does every child need a father? is there value in the traditional nuclear family? and last but not least: is homosexuality by chance, or choice?), and leaves them unanswered. Starts as a comedy - ends as a tearjerker. Watch it with a group of friends, as this is guaranteed to create discussions. Bening may win her first Oscar.

Mo says:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kick-Ass (2010)

Director: Matthew Vaughn. Cast: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage. 117 min. Rated R. UK/USA.

This was one of those rare films in which I was disgusted by the violence. The filmmakers' think they've portrayed funny Tarantino-style violence, but they have so much to learn. I'm not sure where this disgust comes from; maybe because I find it extremely annoying for a child to be acting like an adult, and applying such insane brutality. This is not what superhero stories were about, and Cage plays one of his most unsuitable roles ever. I couldn't wait for this movie to be over. Unfortunately, they've left room for a sequel.

Mo says:

Snow Angels (2007)

Director: David Gordon Green. Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Michael Angarano, Griffin Dunne, Nicky Katt. 107 min. Rated R. Drama.

A cold depressing account of a small Canadian town's reaction to a tragic local event. The problem is, the movie takes too long to reach that event, and when it does, the characters' reactions (especially the mother's, played by Kate Beckinsale) is not very plausible. I liked the bitter message at the end: life goes on ... because nobody really cares.

Mo says:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Waking Life (2001)

Director: Richard Linklater. Cast: Wiley Wiggins, Kim Krizan, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Caveh Zahedi, Adam Goldberg, Steven Soderbergh, Richard Linklater. 99 min. Rated R. Animation.

Strange. This profound philosophical animation about dreams by the great hyper-realist Linklater, hits every chord the recent Inception has (and even more, including the subject of death); while Inception's sales are shooting sky high as an "original" story nine years later, and Waking Life is a no-namer. A pure example of how communicating with the masses makes a difference, no matter how convoluted the subject matter is. And why is it that a conversation between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy is always the best part of a movie?

(PS: Thank you Armin, for the recommendation.)

Mo says:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Director: Steve Pink. Cast: John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Crispin Glover, Chevy Chase, Lizzy Caplan. 99 min. Rated R. Comedy/Sci-fi.

Like Snakes on a Plane, I've always felt a morbid curiosity to watch movies with idiotic names, and to its credit, Hot Tub Time Machine does offer some very good laughs. By Crispin Glover repeating his old George McFly character, at least the movie is honest enough to admit its a Back to the Future rip-off. So don't expect anything beyond that for your f-word-filled weekend popcorn entertainment.

Mo says:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vincere (2009)

Director: Marco Bellocchio. Cast: Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Filippo Timi. 128 min. Italy/France. Historical.

Question: If you're "madly" in love, should you be committed to a madhouse? Vincere follows the story of Ida Dalser, who was supposedly Benito Mussolini's first (and abandoned) wife. The script repeatedly plays games with the viewer, making us question: Are her love stories about Mussolini true, or is she just delusional? Don't expect a history lesson here. Considering how the movie delves into the origins of Fascism starting from World War I, take it as A Beautiful Mind meets the Italian verion of The White Ribbon.

Mo says:

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) (2009)

Director: Daniel Alfredson. Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist. 129 min. Rated R. Sweden/Denmark/Germany. Thriller.

Great story, great story, great story - and none else. The second episode in the Swedish "Man Hate Woman" trilogy written by the late Stieg Larrson follows the intriguing chronicles of the young computer-hacker Lisbeth, and the joy of watching her brutalizing her aggressors couldn't be more entertaining. Obviously not as original as the first episode, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but still can't wait to see the third (already produced in Sweden) - especially since this one was "To Be Continued".

PS: It would be fun to watch all three episodes of a trilogy - in the same year!
Mo says:

Chloe (2009)

Director: Atom Egoyan. Cast: Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfreid, Liam Neeson. 96 min. Rated R. USA/Canada/France. Drama.

This is a good movie gone wrong. What starts out as an attractive story about marital relations with exceptional acting and interesting conversations, suddenly flips into a Fatal Attraction-like travesty, and after that, the story falls apart. Mainly predictable, but boy, can Julianne Moore act.

Mo says: