Posts Tagged ‘Movie’

“Away From Her”, Finds Room to Breathe

January 24, 2008

away from her

The first thing I can firmly say after seeing the film Away from Her is that I’m in love with Sarah Polley, the writer and director. In a year filled with big movies by big directors and actors to see a tender and intoxicating film like this slide into the saddle of awards season is a breath of fresh air.

Tender because of the two warm and quiet performances at the middle of this sobering story and intoxicating because you cling to every word that’s spoken and hang onto every moment shown because each of those moments and words are that important to the characters.

The ravishing Julie Christie plays Fiona, a woman to young to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. And the opinion that I walked away from this film with is that any age is too young for this debilitating disease. Gordon Pinsent plays the husband Grant Anderson whose been left behind, if not in presence then in memory and thought. The moment he realizes that memory is no longer a part of the equation is heartbreaking.


“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”: Effective…but Great?

January 22, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

***There are minor spoilers throughout as this turned out to be more of a critique than a review.***

I’ve come to a conclusion over my limited years of movie viewing that there can be a difference, albeit a very abstract one, between a great movie and an effective movie. Both categories share similar qualities which makes it difficult to tell them apart sometimes. They share the skillful touch of a true craftsman, an absorbing musical score, lush visuals and fine performances, but in the end sometimes even the greatest movies lack in their effectiveness and vice versa effective movies aren’t always great ones.

For a great movie to be ineffective, the third act sometimes fizzles away, or it could simply be that certain elements don’t gel so the emotional connection is lost. A great movie might play more to the intellectual side of the viewer, relying on the audience to fill in the banks, consider this years Charlie Wilson’s War or perhaps There Will Be Blood (great movies, but effective only to a point.) On the other hand an effective movie will through the use of certain creative techniques force you to feel what the main character is going through. Sometimes the method used can be tedious, other times overwhelming and many times exhausting, but when done well can envelope you into the mindset of it’s protagonist. Of course when these two elements are combined you have an Oscar winning film…(right?) I would say Zodiac and No Country for Old Men fit into this category.

Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is an incredibly effective film, but I would argue against its true greatness. It follows the life of former Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) between the moment he wakes up from a coma to find that the only part of his body he can move is his left eye (called lock-in syndrome) to the publication of his book which the movie is based on.


Review of “Cloverfield”: It’s Not Donkey Kong Destroying the City

January 19, 2008


In a movie like Cloverfield it doesn’t matter what’s attacking the city, though it certainly helps if its larger than life and terrifying. In the end it could be anything. What matters is whether or not you give a damn about the characters. On Christmas Day Aliens vs. Predator opened and I didn’t give a stitch about a single person in that film. It ruins the magic, destroys the imagination if we’re not dealing with believable characters. One never feels afraid.

Cloverfield spends some time smartly developing the characters up front and this time is wisely spent because we feel the ripples throughout the rest of the film allowing each situation they find themselves in to be much more involving. They aren’t the usual B-Grade characters you find in movies like this. They’re grounded in a reality most people can relate to.

These young adults are generally smart, have a sense of humor and are affected by decisions they have made or will make. Sex actually has real emotional consequences between two of the characters. And the actors are affable, lending each character a likability that helps later on when the tension is rising.

Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David, who gives a particularly good performance) is leaving for Japan for a new job and his brother’s girlfriend Lily Ford (Jessica Lucas) has gathered a large group of people together to send him on his way: Rob’s brother Jason Hawkins (Mike Vogel) and Rob’s best friend Hud Platt (T.J. Miller) who ends up carrying the camera most of the film giving it the cinema verite look that drew people to the awful Blair Witch Project. Thankfully Cloverfield is more than just a gimmick.

Also along for the ride is Marlena Diamond (Lizzy Caplan also giving a performance that sticks long after the movie is over) who doesn’t look like she even wants to be at the party and probably ends up wishing she hadn’t, since she along with several of the other characters go on a mission to save Beth McIntyre (Odette Yustman) a girl who has made Rob’s life very complicated in recent weeks and will continue to make it even more so. But the mission is noble and you want them to succeed.


“Persepolis”: And the resistance dies quietly…

January 1, 2008


There are images in Persepolis that hold the emotional weight which most movies can’t force out of me in two hours. There’s haunting images, images of joy, of fear, sadness, hatred, beauty and because the imagery is so strong – it’s a black and white graphic novel style animation that accentuates the emotional struggle by exaggerating human characteristics, nuns that move around like snakes is a particular joy to watch (the image above) – and with this strong surrealistic style it heightens the feeling of what it’s like to have the country you grew up in┬átaken away from you and controlled by religious fanatics who are more power hungry than righteous. Then being uprooted from your suddenly morphing home and sent to another country where as hard as you try you can’t relate and the roots of your own life never quite break into the soil. This movie begs the question, who are we if where we come from has been taken away from us?

Marjane is the young girl in question and Iran is the country. What did I know about Iran other than what reporters bark at me and what our own religious fundamentalists would like us to believe. Iran is a bad place, right? Where their idea of God is skewed, right? And everyone there is exactly the same in their beliefs, right? Isn’t that the same way of thinking that allows terrorists to attack our country? Aren’t we religious zealots to them? I’m sure our own government doesn’t mind that the general public views the rest of the world under a simplified light, it allows them to go to war whenever they feel like it. What Persepolis does is add perspective. And it does it through the eyes of that young woman Marjane.


“National Treasure: Book of Secrets”

December 31, 2007

Book of Secrets

It takes a little while to get into it, especially at it’s just over two hours length (whew!), but once National Treasure: Book of Secrets starts chugging along it’s easy to over look the dopiness and enjoy the film. Again Ben Gates is off on a family matter. This time to clear his great, great Grandfather’s name from a charge that he helped assassinate Abraham Lincoln so that the confederates could have a chance at winning the Civil War. That or his great, great blah blah was tricked into helping the confederates find a lost city of gold to help them fund their cause, which his great blah blah had unknowingly deciphered a cypher for them but when he found out about Lincoln gave his own life to stop them from finding the lost city. Now in order to clear his great blah blah’s name Ben has to find the treasure himself. Well not just by himself, again he has his Father, Patrick Gates (Jon Vogt), his girlfriend Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), his “assistant” (Justin Bartha) and this time his Mother Emily Appleton (Hellen Mirren). They all have such awesome names, don’t they? Together they must find the lost city before Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) finds it for himself. But what is Mitch playing at exactly? We don’t find out until some absurd revelations towards the end that paint him out to be not as bad or as good as he should be, making him the least interesting character of the bunch. Since he’s not a character, Wilkinson acts mainly as an instigator for Ben and his crew to go searching for this city of gold. But Harris makes it as believable as he can. It is sad however to see Harvey Keitel relegated to such a thankless role, his police man always a step behind Gates.

On the way they run into a lot of obstacles and have to figure out clues. And it’s the puzzles and traps and spelunking that follow the clues that makes this movie as enjoyable as it ends up being. When a desk can be turned into a puzzle box, you know you’re in for at least some treats. Moments throughout are really quite inventive. The best sequence involves Ben Gates “kidnapping” the President of the United States (Bruce Greenwood – the interviewer in I’m Not There.) You can see Ben’s passion for exploring winning over the President, and in doing so winning us over. Greenwood plays the President as the kind of President I want leading this country. The other memorable moment is when Ben starts a fight with Abigail and the conversation afterwards…”When did you start realizing it was a real fight again?” Clever dialogue like this does not go unnoticed by my ears. And makes some of the more obvious, let me describe what we need to do right now dialogue that sneaks into Bruckheimer films sometimes. (more…)

“Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem”

December 25, 2007


I can take pretty much all levels of violence in cinema. Everything but one, pregnant women being brutally murdered by Aliens. If a movie has to stoop so low to push the envelope and get our attention then something else is obviously lacking. For Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem a lot of things are lacking.

I was never a big fan of the Predator. He’s sort of one note. It’s my belief if it hadn’t been for the popular run of comic books released by Dark Horse, Predator would have disappeared after the debacle of Predator 2. But I’m a giant fan of the Alien creature. It’s one of my favorite movie monsters of all time. And the first three and a half films are excellent movies dealing with pure carnal fear. Facing the unknown. The first 7 or 8 minutes of this new incarnation of the combined two franchises gives you hope for an interesting time. The directors, with a spoonful of geek pretension are calling themselves The Brothers Strause, but when they aren’t setting themselves up for a huge fall by making comparisons in name structure to the Brothers Grimm are separately known as Colin and Greg, and they immediately show us that they aren’t afraid to break some rules. They have a handsome visual flair and the special effects up front are pretty slick. The blacks in the film are bold, and the Predator looks pretty cool. Then we’re introduced to Generic Human Charater #1, then Generic Human Character #2 and they have a conversation and you realize that the first 7 or 8 minutes was just a trick to keep you from leaving, hoping that there might be another good 7 or 8 minutes worth sticking around for…and there really isn’t.

Just to give you an idea of who some of these Generic characters are. The first is someone stepping off a bus in Generic Rural Town, North America. His name is Dallas and he’s a felon getting out of prison who likes to spend his time in diners and bars, but isn’t against helping his brother make the right choice and saving the day if necessary (What say you ladies? Huh?) G#2 is the Sheriff, Dallas’s best friend from days gone past. Dallas has a younger brother who has to deliver a pizza to the hot, popular high school girl who has an a-hole boyfriend. Of course Younger Brother and Hot High School girl look like they’re actually 25 or 26, but I guess they’re supposed to be 18. And needless to say it’s obvious this film was written by fanboys for fanboys because he ends up with her at the high school swimming pool late one night kissing her in bra and undies. She’s way hot and we’re momentarily distracted from the badness of the film, but when the a-hole boyfriend and his flunkies make a grand entrance you really start hoping for the next 7 or 8 minutes to start.