Sunday, November 28, 2010

127 Hours (2010)

Director: Danny Boyle. Cast: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Treat Williams. 94 min. Rated R. USA/UK. Drama.

Based on the true story of a Colorado hiker in 2003, whose arm was pinned behind a boulder, and after five days amputated his arm free. I was mainly looking forward to the ending, to see how the clever Danny Boyle handles the arm-cutting scene. The movie delivers with expertise (depicting delusion, fear, anger, acceptance) all the way up to the ending, and the climax is as gruesome as should be. Still, there's not enough material here for a feature-length film, and I was expecting more self-reflection about life, and the purpose of living. Not sure about the Tomatometer's 92%.

PS: Check how ingeniously the movie's title appears ... 20 minutes into the movie.

Mo says:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love (2010)

Director: Ryan Murphy. Cast: Julia Roberts, Billy Crudup, Viola Davis, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem. 133 min. Rated PG-13. Romance.

A critic once said: "If nothing happens during the first ten minutes, nothing will happen till the end." I waited 50 minutes, and still nothing happened. Rarely do I stop watching a movie halfway through, but the utter lack of a story here was unbearable, and I didn't think I could keep on wasting my life for the entire 133 minutes.

So this was my first review of a movie I didn't watch to the end. Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

Mo says:

The Expendables (2010)

Director: Sylvester Stallone. Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis. 103 min. Rated R. Action.

Boooooooring! Stallone goes into such tremendous effort to gather up all the big muscle men of our times, but then creates such a mainstream, no-risk, repetitious action fare, that doesn't challenge the viewer even once. I was hoping for something in the lines of Arnold's 1993 Last Action Hero, where the action star satirizes his own fame and identity - but no ... the times when Stallone used to direct intelligent screenplays are long gone. Like always, Micky Rourke provides the only noteworthy moments of a movie. I fast-forwarded the last 20 minutes of action scenes. Go figure.

PS: I admit this exchange between the three main hunks - Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis - was memorable:

- "What's his f***ing problem?"
- "He wants to be president."

Mo says:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You Don't Know Jack (2010)

Director: Barry Levinson. Cast: Al Pacino, Brenda Vaccaro, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Danny Huston. 134 min. Unrated (TV). Drama.

The life and times of the famous/infamous euthanizing physician Jack Kevorkian, a.k.a. Dr. Death. The brilliant aspect of the film, is that it neither portrays the man (played by the great Pacino) as a hero, nor a villain. It leaves that decision up to you. And the main question the movie asks its viewer, is not whether you approve euthanasia or not, but rather if the time comes, and you are in the deplorable health situations these people are in, ... would you want to be euthanized? I probably would.

(PS: Watch Danny Huston. He'll get an Oscar someday.)

Mo says:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tape (2001)

Director: Richard Linklater. Cast: Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Uma Thurman. 86 min. Rated R. Drama.

Linklater is again here doing what he does best: placing two or three characters in a shabby motel room, having them confront each other for 90 minutes in real-time, and create miracles. The number of ethical situations that sprout from such a simple setting are endless. And how can one ignore the radiating power of Hawke and Thurman as two of the three perfomers? A large amount of dialogue is likely improvised, which makes the scene even more "hyperreal", as is Linklater's specialty. Worthy of repeat viewings.

Mo says:

Halloween II (2009)

Director: Rob Zombie. Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Brad Dourif. 119 min. Unrated. Horror.

Raw brutal violence. Rob Zombie knows the terrain, and has the skill to disturb the viewer. He doesn't create Friday the 13th-like farcical violence, and doesn't joke around with it like Tarantino. Every scene angle and lighting aspect skillfully contributes to the agenda. He plans it as repulsive as possible, and succeeds. So regardless of morality in movies, he deserves credit, as even I who consider myself desensitized to such brutality on film (not in real life), had difficulty stomaching it. If Zombie's purpose is to show how sickeningly self-gratuitous violence has become, he certainly makes a point here.

Mo says:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Director: John Hughes. Cast: Mathew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey, Charlie Sheen, Ben Stein. 103 min. Rated PG. Comedy.

Classic or no classic - what's so funny here? Jokes as old as the Charles Chaplin days, where the villains foot gets stuck in the backyard garden mud? When teenagers go into all this trouble to skip school, you expect them to do something wild. But no, not this movie's heroes. Of all places, they go ... to the museum! Or sing at the local parade! Or go to the Sears Tower - sightseeing they could have easily done on a weekend. That's quite lame, even by 80s standards. The humor of this film was completely lost on me.

Mo says:

Inside Job (2010)

Director: Charles Ferguson. Narrator: Matt Damon. 120 min. Rated PG-13. Documentary.

The incredible feat Inside Job accomplishes, is that it makes the 2008 financial collapse understandable - and then uses that understanding to make you angry. The moments of guilty self-reflection the culprits of the collapse (mostly college professors) demonstrate when confronted with the intentions and consequences of their own greedy economical theories, are some of the brightest moments ever documented on film. The question still remains: if the system is legally corrupt, why blame the people who benefit from it? And why shouldn't we expect this calamity to happen again?

Mo says:

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Director: Grant Heslov. Cast: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Robert Patrick. 94 min. Rated . Comedy.

This is one of those movies where at the ending scene you say: "Oh, so that's what their goal was." And as I'm writing this, I've forgotten what that goal was. A friend once said George Clooney's policy is one for me, one for you: alternating one smart intelligent piece of art that has a specific thoght-provoking agenda in mind, with one brainless idiotic joke that only targets the box office (and fortunately fails at that). Guess which category this movie is. But I'm surprised Bridges, McGregor and Spacey were all in on it too.
Mo says:

Friday, November 12, 2010

High Plains Drifter (1973)

Director: Clint Eastwood. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Geoffrey Lewis. 105 min. Rated PG. Western.

One of the better Eastwood westerns, with an iconic ending sequence: the hero literally fighting the villains in the bowels of hell. But its the disturbing story undertones that create a lasting effect, as the people of the town are the ones responsible for the hero's deep desire for vengeance. This concept was later perfected in Lars Von Trier's Dogville, where the whole village is (rightfully) massacred. Here, Eastwood prefers to leave the people live in their filth.

Mo says:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Triumph of the Will (1935)

Director: Leni Riefenstahl. Cast: Adolf Hitler, Josef Goebbels, Rudolf Hess, Heinrich Himmler. 114 min. Germany. Documentary.

The most famous film of history's most famous documentary filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, a cogwheel in the Nazi propaganda machine. Imagine a movie with Hitler, Goebbels, Hess and Himler as its main stars - and by "stars", I'm not being sarcastic. This skillfully-edited footage of the Third Reich's 1934 Nuremberg Party Rally literally presents Hitler as a mythological god-like figure, depicting his oratory expertise amidst an ocean of followers, and illustrating with chilling clarity how Germany fell under his spell. A haunting image of how even today the media can be used to mobilize the masses for any goal deemed necessary.

Mo says:

Entre nos (Between Us) (2009)

Director(s): Gloria La Morte, Paola Mendoza. Cast: Paola Mendoza, Sebastian Villada, Laura Montana. 80 min. Drama.

For 80 minutes, its just a lame repetitious story of a poor homeless Colombian lady with two kids in Queens looking for cans and bottles during the day and sleeping on benches at night - with its skilled cinematography the film's only noticeable feature. But then at the very end, a few subtitles suddenly gives the story a whole new meaning, making the time you spent watching it worthwhile. Amazing how just a few written words in a black background can save a lost movie.

Mo says:

Re-Animator (1985)

Director: Stuart Gordon. Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale. 86 min. Rated R. Sci-fi/Horror.

Typical 80's sci-fi gore-fest, taking the Frankenstein legend to whole new levels you don't even want to know about. Desperately trying to copy Sam Raimi's style of gory horror-comedies, the story throws so many twisted ideas, after awhile it's just not funny anymore. Easily imaginable for this to have had a cult following - but I'm not sure I'm interested in watching the sequels, Bride of Re-Animator (1990), Beyond Re-Animator (2003), House of Re-Animator (2010), etc etc etc ...

Mo says:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Director: Tod Williams. Cast: Brian Boland, Sprague Grayden, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat. 91 min. Rated R. Horror.

They've done it again. They've ruined the beauty of the original by a sequel. Whatever scared us witless in last year's incredible low-budget masterwork is just ten times louder this time, insulting our intelligence. Yes, there are some clever plots elements here, but I'm still working on why a demon would get a kick out of dangling a toddler in mid-air. As the events are temporally parallel to the first movie, Katie makes a few visits to her sister's home here, but she's haunting even before going wacko - making the the spillover from the original the sequel's only entertaining moments.

Mo says:

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Luftslottet som sprängdes) (2009)

Director: Daniel Alfredson. Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre. 147 min. Rated R. Sweden/Denmark/Germany. Drama.

Finally, the Millenium Trilogy is over. Lisbeth Salandar wins our hearts full circle, and proves no matter how apathetic or how bizarre one's appearance, one can be a hero to sympathize with. The third episode of the trilogy is the weakest, as Lisbeth looks like Lisbeth only during the last hour, and is in action only during the last 15 minutes of this overlong movie; i.e. this episode really drags on. But maybe the anti-climactic approach is intentional, as the very rare moments Lisbeth and Mikael share a scene sparkle like a jewel. Hope the Swedes make more of these.

Mo says:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Winter's Bone (2010)

Director: Debra Granik. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt. 100 min. Rated R. Drama.

Common 17-year-old Missouri girl living in one of the most primitive places on Earth (let alone the US) searches for her crack-cooking father who's jumped bail, to avoid losing her home - and is prepared to confront every risk imaginable. Sound too simple? It should, because this is a profound exercise in simplicity. Watching these people interact and live makes one wonder about the impossibility of survival in such places. But no matter how disconnected we feel, the movie does put us in the midst of the situation, making us worry for the young heroine. In itself, that's a miracle.

(Trivia: This was this year's Sundance Film Festival's winner of the Grand Jury Prize and Screenwriting Award.)

Mo says:

Splice (2009)

Director: Vincenzo Natali. Cast: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac. 104 min. Rated R. Canada/France/USA. Sci-Fi.

What's up with the Canadians, and their slimey-gooey sci-fi flicks? Cronenberg was the innovator of such human/beast Frankenstein-like deviations (The Fly, Dead Ringers), and now another Canadian (Polley) stars in a movie set in Toronto about splicing human and fish/bird/reptile/(I lost count) DNA together, showing a very possible future in which humans create new species, and herald numerous bizarre ethical dilemmas. For instance, is copulating with your own spliced creation considered incest? Correct: this movie is not for the weak of heart. But it will make you think, and cause an urge to wash your hands when it's over.

(Trivia: Brody and Polley share character names (Clive and Elsa) with actors of the 1935 Bride of Frankenstein, Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchaster.)

Mo says:

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)

Director: Werner Herzog. Cast: Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe, Chloë Sevigny, Udo Kier, Grace Zabriskie, Brad Dourif. 91 min. Rated R. USA/Germany. Drama.

When Werner Herzog (master realist) and David Lynch (master dreamer) make a movie together ... we got a problem. The outcome is neither as thought-provoking as the former's other works, nor as enchanting as the latter's. Not sure how Lynch got the idea to produce a Herzog film, but the resulting concoction of contradictory film-making styles obviously doesn't work. Using Michael Shannon (the intelligent nutjob in Revolutionary Road) and Grace Zabriskie (who stole the show in the chilling opening of Lynch's Inland Empire), is adding insult to injury. Herzog has great hits, and great misses. This is a great miss.

Mo says: