Friday, May 25, 2012

The Woman in Black (2012)

Director: James Watkins. Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds. 95 min. Rated PG-13. UK/Canada/Sweden. Horror.

In a Dracula-like opening, a young lawyer goes to a far-off English village to manage the sale of a mansion, where numerous child deaths have occurred. This is a textbook for horror movie cliches, from the once-you-see-'em-once-you-don't ghostly characters, to the "it's just a cat" sequences, to the obligatory shock shots. But wait. This movie also has appropriately beautiful sepia-colored cinematography, an actor who successfully escapes his own Harry Potter shadow, but most importantly, a story that takes itself seriously, with a memorable ending. So don't just blame the Mojo rating on my soft spot for old-fashioned haunted house movies.

Mo says:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Haywire (2011)

Director: Steven Soderbergh. Cast: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton. 93 min. Rated R. USA/Ireland. Action/Thriller.

Always fun when experts like Soderberg divert from their own art house projects, and venture into mainstream Hollywood territory; because the result is always a great little exercise in the genre. He gave thrillers a shot in the Ocean's 11-12-13 trilogy, and now he's on to the action genre, making MMA athlete Gina Carano the heroine of an old-fashioned spy thriller, surrounded by well-established movie stars. I don't think there's much of a future for Carano, but Soderberg's own beautifully choreographed action sequences and mastery of soundtrack (especially during an incredible hostage-rescue sequence), make this movie a pure delight.

Mo says: 

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Director: Lynne Ramsay. Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller. 112 min. Rated R. UK/USA. Drama.

When tragedies such as the Columbine massacre occur, the question arises: are some people natural-born murdering psychopaths, or is this related to their upbringing? This movie lays the two possibilities on the table, and forces you to think, because it shows the hell the mother (Swinton, in another crushing performance) goes through up until the moment she hears the devastating news - and how she lives with its aftermaths. Although I had difficulty believing how a boy can plan his life around torturing his mother, I believe after watching this, you'll refer to it whenever you see a spoiled child.

Mo says:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chronicle (2012)

Director: Josh Trank. Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan. 84 min. Rated PG-13. Sci-fi/Thriller.

Three high-school students encounter an alien entity deep in the Seattle forests, and suddenly gain telekinetic powers, which exponentially increase in magnitude as time goes by. Seemed like a mixture of Cronenberg's Scanners, one of the first Star Trek episodes ("Where No Man Has Gone Before"), and of course, Star Wars, where the more powerful you become, the more propensity you have to use your power for evil means. Told in a "found footage" handicam style, and entertaining throughout with great visual effects. But there's nothing profoundly new here.

Mo says:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

La Strada (The Road) (1954)

Director: Federico Fellini. Cast: Anthony Quinn, Giulietta Masina, Richard Basehart. 108 min. Rated PG. Italy. Drama.

The abstract strangeness of 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita prevented me from experimenting more in Fellini territory and watching such a classic for so long. But how wrong I was. La Strada is a beautiful, heartbreaking story of pure innocence struggling in brutal poverty. The movie pivots on Masina (Fellini's wife) as Gelsomina, the semi-retarded clown in a Chaplinesque performance, who jumps on every opportunity to enjoy life, until she's exposed to frank violence, and goes mad. Even Quinn as the cruel strongman is good at heart, but a victim of circumstance. A film to be watched many times.

Mo says:

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Avengers (2012)

Director: Joss Whedon. Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany (voice), Lou Ferrigno (voice), Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Harry Dean Stanton, Stan Lee. 142 min. Rated PG-13. Action/Sci-fi.

I wasn't expecting much; multiple protagonists in one movie mandates dividing screen time between them, leaving no room for character development. But boy ... was I impressed. Whedon solves the problem by a show of in-fighting among the four superheroes during the first half, then blowing you away by mind-boggling action-packed scenes during the second, sprinkled by comedic moments. Expected more focus on Hawkeye, the cool never-before-introduced Avenger, but then like always, the narcissistic Robert Downey Jr./Iron Man steals the show. Even Loki the villain God was cool, calm and intimidating. Then again, is there anything here that's not cool?

WARNING!: If you don't stay till the end of the end credits, you're nuts. No! I'm not talking about the 1 minute midway through the credits where they introduce "Thanos", the Asgard villain from outer space. I'm talking about the 30 seconds at the very end of the end credits, which is by far the best post-credits sequence of all Marvel movies.

Mo says: