Better than most critics say it is...judge for yourself...
I intentionally waited a long time to see CHANGELING (as long as three months after its release) due in large part to the lukewarm reviews it received. I now believe that such reviews were given due to Clint Eastwood's long list of recent successes. While CHANGELING is not quite as good as his latest offerings, it is still a worthwhile and memorable watch.
The style of CHANGELING (reminiscent of the 'early decades of the 20th century' style used in L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, CHICAGO and CHINATOWN) is visually stunning, and Eastwood manages to infuse an element of film noir into the Motion Picture that I happen to really admire.
The story is a quite compelling and engrossing one, as expected of films of this nature, but in my opinion, there was too much focus on the secondary story and not enough on the primary one.
Angelina Jolie's acting is not as outstanding as many make it out to be, but it is still a fine piece of work. It's just that she seems lost in the role (not in a good way) and comes off as uncomfortable with such a difficult character to portray. Her Best Actress nomination seemed undeserved when compared to other strong performances that year that didn't make the final cut (most notably Kate Winslet in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD). The rest of the acting is quite excellent, as even the secondary characters deliver solid performances, and manage to outshine Jolie in many instances.
All I'm saying is that CHANGELING deserves a chance, regardless of its reviews. If you are a fan of CHINATOWN-styled film noir, you'll probably appreciate this. 9/10. 3.5 stars (out of 4). Should just about enter my Top 200 at 198. Highly recommended.
Fine acting, excellent screenplay, and a quite compelling story...
Stephen Daldry's THE READER is another fine showcase of the acting range of Kate Winslet. Her performance here is breathtakingly wonderful as she manages to portray one of the most complex cinematic characters of 2008 in fine fashion. It is no real wonder she won the (long-overdue) Oscar for Lead Actress, but in my opinion, the award would have probably been more suited for her much under-appreciated work in the widely snubbed-for-no-real-reason REVOLUTIONARY ROAD.
THE READER's nomination for Best Picture came as a bit of a surprise but upon closer inspection one would realise that the direction, screenplay, and story were simply top-notch. Some credit must also go to young David Kross who performed his role admirably well. Ralph Fiennes is also as solid and reliable as ever.
My only real problem with THE READER was the way in which the story was told; in my opinion, there was no real need for the non-chronological, fragmented approach, as it would have been just as effective (and less annoying) if it was told in a more straightforward manner. Moreover, the film starts to lose its initial appeal after the first 2/3.While the events that occur in the last third of the film are somewhat important, they do little to progress the story. What was done in 35 minutes could have been achieved in about 15-20.
THE READER is a rare gem of a Motion Picture. Worth watching even if it's only for Kate Winslet's stunning performance. 8/10. 3.5 stars (out of 4). Should enter my Top 250 at 232. Highly recommended.
Not quite the Guy Ritchie of old, but there is some healthy progress...
Guy Ritchie burst onto the scene with the fast-paced and amazingly brilliant LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, followed by the equally impressive SNATCH. Both films rank highly in my Top 20, and for that reason I absolutely adored, admired, and praised Guy Ritchie. Then came Madonna. And she ruined everything. Guy Ritchie was never the same after the marriage, directing the monstrosity that was SWEPT AWAY (with Madonna in the lead role, no less), followed by the garbled mess that was REVOLVER. ROCKNROLLA is supposed to represent Ritchie's return to his roots following the high-profile divorce, but it feels more forced and contrived than free-flowing and natural. Too much of the script feels borrowed and clichéd. It just doesn't live up to the promise of the first 10 minutes or so.
Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction, and is something to build on. There was simply too much focus on the uninteresting sub-characters. The sub-characters in LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and SNATCH. were at least interesting and captivating, and invoked a genuine cause for concern. That is not the case here. There is just not enough screen-time for Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, or the stunning Thandie Newton. Rocknrolla himself is not well-developed, save for a few scenes mildly reminiscent of the style of the Guy Ritchie of old.
Again, the movie seems unnatural and forced. The ending is unsatisfactory and there is no real catharsis a movie like this may warrant. It's nowhere near as brilliant as his first two. But it's nowhere near as sickening as his previous two. 7/10 is quite generous, but I remain optimistic about what the future holds for Ritchie, now that he has gotten rid of the old (the very old) ball-and-chain. 2.5 stars. May appear on my Honourable Mention list. Maybe not. Hopefully, in the absence of Madonna, Ritchie can use this film as a stepping stone in the right direction. Rumours of a sequel cause me to salivate...but not much...
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON works best when thought of as a sort of fantasy or fairy tale rather than a complex science fiction about the Chaos Theory and Time. It is essentially a heartwarming and compellingly engrossing Motion Picture that one surely has to see to believe. There is no wonder that comparisons have been made with FORREST GUMP, as they are essentially similar-type movies. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON takes a life of its own, however, especially after the hour mark, when Brad Pitt appears. FORREST GUMP was perhaps a better film overall, but THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is more thought-provoking, and there are various hidden elements and undertones pervading the wonderful story and script.
David Fincher infuses his own dark style of direction that many have come to love (myself included; both FIGHT CLUB and SE7EN feature well in my Top 20) though this may be his most lighthearted film to date. His nomination for Best Director was undoubtedly deserved.
Brad Pitt is adequate but not really outstanding, and I can think of a few performances that should have been given the nomination over his. It is not for a lack of effort on his part; it's just that he lacks the requisite range for such a complex character. His portrayal of the young Button is youthful and energetic, but not as an old and experienced man trapped inside a young man's body. Likewise, his portrayal of the old Button is that of a feeble and weakened man, and not that of a young man trapped inside an old man's fragile body. The story of Benjamin Button is supposed to be a melancholy one in hindsight, and Pitt lacks that sense of melancholy that such a unique and difficult character should exhibit. His nomination did not come as a surprise but it is unlikely that it will result in victory.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON stands a better chance of winning the technical awards rather than the acting, directing, and writing ones. The movie is simply beautiful, and should not be missed. The screenplay is intelligent and well-constructed. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is an excellent film that warrants discussion. 8/10. 3.5 stars (out of 4). Should enter my Top 200 at 192. Unreservedly recommended.
Technically superb and complex Coen Brothers offering, but not without flaws...
The Coen Brothers have touched upon so many film genres and combinations that it's getting harder and harder to keep track. Their follow-up to Best Picture of 2007, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, is a delightfully complex comedy noir/thriller (that's the best description I could come up with) that won't win any awards but will live long in the memory.
The plot is complex, as expected, and filled with numerous twists (also expected), and most are done in an intelligent and complex manner. The cast is brilliant, with George Clooney (who seems to save his most hilarious performances for the Coen Brothers and Steven Soderbergh) leading the line in fine form. Frances McDormand is equally superb. Tilda Swinton apparently reprises her ice-queen role from THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. John Malkovich takes advantage of his (apparent) semi-retirement to produce a quite captivating performance. Brad Pitt is good, but in my opinion there was a degree of (warranted?) overacting to his role.
BURN AFTER READING is not a masterpiece. At its worst it is an entertaining ride, full of unexpected plot twists and intertwining characters. At its best it can make for a delicious study of comedy noir/thrillers. The Coen Brothers rarely (if ever) disappoint. 8/10. 3 stars (out of 4). Recommended, simply because it's the Coen Brothers, and it's (therefore) unique.
TROPIC THUNDER is the movie that all the horrendous EPIC MOVIEs, DATE MOVIEs, SCARY MOVIEs, etc. wanted to be. It is perhaps the best and funniest spoof of Hollywood made thus far. The manner in which it is done is technically brilliant, as there are very few outright/direct spoofs; much of the humour comes from the subtext. Everything from movie trailers to awards nominations are tackled head-on, but done with taste and intelligence (something comedies of this ilk lack) and not catered to derive cheap laughs from brainless morons.
Ben Stiller knows enough of Hollywood to know how the system works, and in his directorial role, he uses almost every bit of that knowledge to poke intelligent fun at Hollywood's operations.
The film's cast is star-studded, as expected, and there are enough cameos to keep the avid viewer alert. Ben Stiller himself is hilarious, as is Jack Black. To me the real standout is Robert Downey Jr., who continues his career revival in one of the funniest roles seen in a long time. Another standout is the almost unrecognisable Tom Cruise (in fat suit), who steps out of his comfort zone, and shows his willingness to poke fun at himself, to deliver a memorably hilarious performance. It is worth the admission price by itself. I must admit here that I was unaware that it was Tom Cruise until the ending credits rolled. Needless to say, I felt a bit embarrassed and shocked at the same time, and immediately saw the movie for a second time. The only out-of-place actor is Nick Nolte, who seems to take his role a bit too seriously.
My only complaint here was the running-length of the film. Comedies that stretch over the 95-100 minute mark usually overindulge or include material that seems superfluous. This is the case here, but it's only a small gripe, given the overall quality of the film. 8/10, 3 stars (out of 4). Should garner a place on my Honourable Mentions list. Highly recommended.
Technically superb dramatisation of one of the most important events in American Presidential History...
Most people are familiar with the term 'Watergate'; it is indelibly etched in most Americans' minds, and any political wrongdoing/scandal is almost immediately given the suffix, '-gate'. A film of this importance, documenting the highly influential Nixon/Frost interviews following Nixon's resignation from High Office, needed to be helmed by a director of Ron Howard's experience. Howard arguably tends to be a bit manipulative and compulsive at times, and a few of his traits are seen here, but in small doses. However, the script is intelligent and compelling, and its brilliance makes this film worthy of viewing. Note that this is by no means a hard-and-fast documentary, as many liberties are taken with some dialogue/events. Nonetheless, the facts are presented as accurately as possible, and one will learn a thing or two from this intriguing film.
The cast is superb, and it is this brilliant casting that makes the film work. Michael Sheen (best known for playing Tony Blair in THE QUEEN) is quite impressive as David Frost. Frank Langella is simply outstanding as Nixon; he takes while to develop this influential and difficult character, but by the time the interviews get rolling, he almost becomes Richard Nixon. The synergy between the main characters plays out like a chess match, or a boxing match, with each character countering the other's moves. The interaction is technically superb and really accelerates this film into greatness. The rest of the cast is above adequate, with Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, and Sam Rockwell playing memorable roles.
FROST/NIXON's nomination for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Lead Actor (Frank Langella) are well-deserved. 9/10. 3.5 stars (out of 4). Should enter my Top 200 at 176. Unreservedly recommended.
If only more directors of today had Gus Van Sant's courage and vision...
The story of Harvey Milk is one that very few are aware of, but it is arguably one of the most important and controversial stories in the recent History of the United States. Gus Van Sant successfully and competently brings the story of the first openly homosexual man elected to office, and does so without infusing any degree of pretension, hypocrisy, or melodrama (which would have been easy to do in a biopic of this nature). Indeed, viewers are treated to a smart, emotional, and historically-accurate portrayal of one of the most influential characters in the history of the Human Rights Movement. The story is supported by numerous historical/archival clips dealing with, and related to the key incidents of the story.
The ensemble is impeccably cast, with Sean Penn in perhaps his best bit of acting following MYSTIC RIVER. Again, Penn avoids the expected pretentiousness and melodrama that a role like this may entail, to excellent effect. The nomination for Best Lead Actor was well-warranted, and may very well result in a victory. Josh Brolin's nomination for Best Supporting Actor was equally well-warranted, as he does more in his expressions and mannerisms to portray his character's dilemmas and tribulations than many of today's actors can. Emile Hirsch and James Franco are equally impressive.
The screenplay (written directly for the screen), direction, and cinematography are quite excellent, and serve to make this technically one of the best films of 2008. It is no surprise that MILK was nominated for Best Picture, thought the controversial subject matter, coupled with a strong field may well prevent it from achieving ultimate victory. It is also my fear that IMDb ratings and box-office numbers will falter due to the raw subject matter.
9/10. 4 stars (out of 4). Will enter my Top 150 at 148. Unreservedly recommended.
As intelligent, complex, troubling, and disturbing a film as one will see...all under 110 minutes...
DOUBT is where an impeccable and sensitive storyline meets strong and compelling acting, with the intelligent inclusion of countless little unspoken occurrences that serve to enhance the film. DOUBT's story centres around child molestation within the Church, while simultaneously tackling race relations. But it is nowhere as simple as it may sound. The story is a complex and diverse one, and there are so many little things occurring that have significant implications and hidden meanings that it may take more than one viewing to fully digest. This film will make an excellent study at film school at almost any level. The mood created by John Patrick Shanley is profoundly morose and cold, with the sense that something is always looming on the horizon, threatening to boil over. In life, there are rarely any simple answers, and such is the case with DOUBT. Those searching for gratification at the end may find very little. All that comes long after the film has stopped rolling.
The acting is top-drawer, good enough to garner no less than four nominations, and could very well win two of them. Meryl Streep gets better with age and experience, and her portrayal of the head Nun and Principal is flawless. Of course, the movie may not have worked well with a weak opposite, and Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance is anything but weak,as he holds his own against Streep in every scene, and sometimes outshines her. Supporting roles from Amy Adams and Viola Davis are similarly impeccable. Adams is solid and reliable throughout and is the easiest character to associate with. Davis, in her one and only scene is simply outstanding, and will silence the audience into submission. Her scene is also one of the more important in terms of story development.
So much can be said about this excellent film, all of it good. 9/10. 4 stars (out of 4). Should enter my Top 150 at 140. Unreservedly recommended.
When I first heard of the premise of GRAN TORINO, I was convinced that it would be a strong contender at the Oscars. I was surprised when it was subsequently snubbed, but when I saw it, I understood why. GRAN TORINO is a bit too over-the-top and predictable for serious Oscar consideration. It is watchable, yes. But is it a modern-day classic? No. Clint Eastwood's acting is good, but not great, as he conjures up memories of Dirty Harry with the ever-present scowl and occasional growl. There is even one scene where he could pass for Bruce Banner, just prior to transformation. His character arc and eventual conclusion is a bit flawed, and not well developed. There is no real progressive change, but the development takes place in stages. Nonetheless, his acting is quite watchable. I am still not quite sure of what to make of the supporting actors Bee Vang and Ahney Her. In some instance, the acting is amateurish, while in some scenes, they are rather fantastic. Their acting will likely garner mixed reviews as a result.
The story itself is a good one, worthy of watching. It speaks volumes about race relationships, even if some of the events and characters are stereotypical and overdone, in an effort perhaps to engage as much of the audience as possible.
Overall, GRAN TORINO is not on par with Eastwood's latest offerings. It is still a good movie, but viewers have come to expect more from his movies. There are simply too many amateur mistakes in the plot and character development. 8/10. 3 stars (out of 4). Recommended.
Excellent character study with strong acting, and an interesting story...
Darren Aronofsky's fourth film as director is not nearly as strange or unorthodox as his previous three, but is more straightforward, and is dependent on the story and the main character rather than atmosphere. THE WRESTLER is all about Mickey Rourke, who gives the best performance of an otherwise mediocre career. It is a performance worthy of a Best Lead Actor nomination, perhaps not a victory. Rourke portrays the aging wrestler who has lost touch with almost all humanity. He works a dead-end day job, and struggles to make the rent. All his money is spent on performance enhancers, legal and illegal. His only daughter has disowned him and his only meaningful relationship is with a stripper who is also nearing the end of her career. His other 'real' relationship is with his hordes of bloodthirsty fans.
Rourke does not take the easy way out, playing the role with melodrama, or begging the audience for pity and sympathy. Instead, he is a proud man, disconnected form humanity, cut off from the rest of the world. All he knows is wrestling.
The film goes to some length to give a behind-the-scenes view of mainstream wrestling. As most people are aware of by now, much of the violence is simulated and exaggerated, and most of the fight is scripted. I have long stopped watching (about 10 years now), abandoning the violent soap opera that calls itself professional wrestling.
Much must also be said about a smoking hot Marisa Tomei, who is perhaps reason enough to watch the film, not only for the obvious visceral pleasure, but for the intelligent way she portrays her character. Her nomination for Best Supporting Actress was well-deserved.
THE WRESTLER is a fine Motion Picture. It is still a bit strange to see Aronofsky take the straightforward route, but to his credit, it works in his favour. 8/10. 3.5 stars (out of 4). Should enter my top 200 at 173. Highly recommended.
Powerfully and compellingly depressing film about the emptiness of Suburbia...
Sam Mendes, in an effective follow-up of sorts to American BEAUTY (I say follow-up because both films touch on the same subject matter), has created a film that is amazingly realistic and compelling, and examines life in Suburbia to the extent that most directors are afraid to go.
The acting by Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet is astounding and is reason enough to watch the film. It amazes me how neither of these performances was nominated for Lead Acting Oscars. DiCaprio portrays Frank Wheeler in a powerful yet laid-back manner, while Winslet as April Wheeler is simply stunning. By themselves, they are fantastic, but together they forge a combative and forceful on-screen relationship that is in no way comparable to the overly romantic one seen in 1997's TITANIC. The excellent acting is not only confined within the lead roles, as Kathy Bates and Michael Shannon do more than adequate jobs in their supporting roles. The latter was actually nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
Not much has been said by critics in terms of story/character development, but in my opinion, this is one of the most engrossing films I have seen for the Awards season. Likewise, not enough has been said about the score, which is effectively low-key with a hint of deep-set and ominous gloom; perfect for setting the overall mood of the film as it creates an uneasy atmosphere. The cinematography, camera-work, set design, and costume design were all remarkable, and the viewer would have felt engrossed in the 1960s atmosphere presented.
Overall, a truly captivating Motion Picture; one that should not be missed. 8/10. 3.5 stars (out of 4). Should enter my Top 200 at 166. Highly recommended.
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is Judd Apatow's first real foray away from the romantic comedy (if you can call his offerings by that dreadful moniker) and into the more 'male-appreciated' buddy/stoner comedy. Helmed by David Gordon Green, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS achieves what so many recent buddy/stoner comedies fail to do: make the audience laugh genuinely while not giving in to the temptation of cheap laughter.
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is full of laugh-out-loud moments and memorable one-liners, and is worthy of multiple viewings. This film is not a typical comedy; it is full of violence and crime, and has its 'dark' moments, even though almost all of these end in laughter. The bottom line is that PINEAPPLE EXPRESS never takes itself too seriously, and that is why it works so well.
The Seth Rogen/James Franco duo is quite hilarious and it is refreshing to see Franco in a comedic lead role, as he does brilliantly well. My only real problem with PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is its run-time which exceeds the optimal length for a comedy by about 20 minutes; a more ruthless editor would have probably cut out large portions of the over-the-top action sequences.
Overall, a solid 7/10. 2.5 stars (out of 4). Recommended.
It is difficult to encapsulate SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE in any single comment/review, as it is a much too powerful Motion Picture to concisely summarise, blending together so many elements of human emotion and humanity, all done in a stylish manner characteristic of Danny Boyle. It is a film that begins with quite dark elements, leading the viewer to believe that it is a film noir, but as this excellent film progresses and unravels, the viewer slowly begins to understand the non-chronological plot.
The basic premise of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is Destiny, for those who choose to believe in such things. For it is only human to embrace the concept of Destiny; that someone is truly destined for something or someone else, and that the Universe tends to unfold as it should in order to facilitate such.
The cast is impeccable, as even the younger unknown actors/actresses do incredibly well. Special note must be made about Dev Patel, who it seems was born to play the lead role. He is extremely likable (almost too likable, one might say) and it is inconceivable to think that any audience will be rooting against him. Anil Kapoor is also quite superb as the game-show host, bringing a sense of deceptiveness and deviousness to go along with his charm and personality. Freida Pinto also deserves credit for her part as the eldest Latika. In all, this is quite easily one of the best ensembles to grace the theatre in 2008, and is another compelling argument (for) that Best Ensemble should be added to the Academy Awards.
The story is an engrossing and uplifting one, full of redemption and victory following struggle and hardship. It is perhaps one of the most inspirational films of the decade, and of all time.
As of early February, much awards buzz has been surrounding Danny Boyle's masterpiece, and it is easy to understand why people gravitate towards this finely-constructed story. I will be posting this review well before the Academy Awards, but I am confident that this film will deservedly walk away with the Best Picture and Best Director awards, just to name a couple.
Unreservedly recommended. 9/10. 4 stars (out of 4). Even on first viewing, this film should enter my Top 100 at 77.
Intelligent and complex multi-national espionage thriller...
With 2008's highly anticipated BODY OF LIES, Ridley Scott has followed in the wake of smart, mature-themed films such as SYRIANA and JARHEAD, infusing enough thought-provoking and compelling material into its 120-minute run-time to warrant multiple viewings and kick-start many intelligent discussions.
BODY OF LIES, set in no less than seven nations across Europe, Asia, and North America, manages to raise the bar in terms of what a film of this nature should deliver, and a director with a long list of powerful Motion Pictures has another one to add to his collection.
As mentioned, the storyline is deep, complex, and multi-faceted, and it will require a second or third viewing in order to fully absorb the plot. The story, being mostly character-driven/based, is dependent on the two lead characters, and the script enables them to remain in focus for the majority of the film. The acting by Leonardo Dicaprio, following his magnificent performances in BLOOD DIAMOND and THE DEPARTED, and more recently REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, is excellent, and on par with his recent successes. Russell Crowe is perhaps not as strong, but is effectively solid in a role that seemed catered for his range. If anything, the performance by Mark Strong is perhaps the finest the film has to offer, and may be the only one worthy of acting accolades.
Overall, the brilliance of BODY OF LIES manages to shine through in the end. Scott does not seem to take sides, but instead presents the story as unbiased as possible. A movie of this quality should not be missed, and should not be left forgotten. 9/10. 3.5 stars (out of 4). Should enter my Top 150 at 148. Unreservedly recommended.
It is difficult to comment on/review a comedy flick without being almost exclusively subjective; such is the nature of comedy. Some people just don't 'get' certain comedy acts. In terms of a classic comedy-fest such as MONTY PYTHON, I find it hard to believe that people still don't get comedies that are as irreverent and intelligent as MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. Even almost 35 years after its release, the jokes remain fresh, and while they won't bring about the same spurts of laughter they do on first viewing, the viewer will undoubtedly chuckle at various instances, out of sheer admiration.
The concept of such funny and gifted comedians such as John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin (all playing multiple roles) spoofing British history/legend is simply hilarious, and their thick British accent just add to the humour.
There are numerous sketches in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL that will live long in the memory, and many have seen the film enough to be able to quote these scenes, line for line.
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL is comedic genius. Simple as that. 8/10. 3 stars (out of 4). It is difficult to give movies of comedic nature any higher than 3 stars due to their subjectivity. Should enter my Top 300 at 283. Highly recommended.
In my opinion, Martin McDonagh's directorial debut can easily be classified as a resounding success. From the opening sequence, straight to the (almost too far-fetched) ending, IN BRUGES is full of energy and intrigue. The screenplay is quite brilliant, especially for the first 80-85 minutes or so, mixing elements of comedy, drama, and thriller in a quite enjoyable Motion Picture. The last 10-15 minutes, however, arguably seem rushed, as if McDonagh had almost felt as if he had written himself into the proverbial corner. Some of the events that occur here seem a bit too improbable (at least two such events come to mind) and out-of-touch with the deliberate pacing of the rest of the film. Nonetheless, the Academy saw it fit to nominate his work for Best Original Screenplay, and I personally applaud the nomination, despite the aforementioned flaws.
I have always been a fan of Colin Farrell for his performances of unorthodox roles/characters, and this has to be one of his best portrayals in years. Brendan Gleeson is also fantastic as his more level-headed companion, and the synergy between the lead characters is quite awesome. Ralph Fiennes reprises another villainous role, and does so quite superbly. In all, the casting was excellent, as the characters manage to enhance the already brilliant screenplay. Moreover, the cinematography and score are very good, with the scenic shots of Bruges enhancing the overall atmosphere of the film.
IN BRUGES is full of memorable scenes and lines, undoubtedly accentuated by the Irish tongues of Farrell and Gleeson. Worthy of multiple viewings. 8/10. 3 stars (out of 4). Should enter my Top 200 at 183. Highly recommended.
RED is one of those low-budget, narrow-release Canadian films that is full of emotion, and encourages the viewer to think, and to feel. I was guilty of dismissing this before viewing as another mindless revenge flick, but directors Trygve Diesen and Lucky McKee and writer Stephen Susco manage to do a powerful job of piecing the story together such that it flows extremely well.
The acting by Brian Cox is quite impressive, as he portrays the picture of calmness, while exuding a deep-set sense of having a troubled past. The unlikeable Tom Sizemore reprises the role of the even more unlikeable Michale McCormack, while Noel Fisher plays his wayward and hateful older son.
RED sets off as a simple Motion Picture but evolves quite well as the story progresses, touching upon various facets of human emotion and family relationship within a relatively short run-time (about 90 minutes). My only regret here is the ultimate lack of closure (in some departments). Apart from that, RED is quite impressive and surprising, deserving of a solid 7/10 and a 3-star rating (out of 4). May just about clinch a spot on my Honourable Mention list. Recommended.
Proof that Aronofsky was a genius even before REQUIEM FOR A DREAM...
It is only human nature to question existence, and to try to find some patterned order in the seemingly random chaos that is life. For Mathematician Max Cohen, the universal language of Mathematics is the only rational way to find the order in the chaos.
In a wonderfully fresh and unique film, Darren Aronofsky explores the nature of chaos and one troubled man's relentless pursuit to find some answer to it all. Shot in black-and-white to give the film a more artistic impression, the cinematography is quite brilliant, as is the score, which fully conveys the overall mood of the film. Sean Gullette is perfectly cast as Cohen, and he fits into the character extremely well. Almost too well. To me the real star is an up-and-coming director named Darren Aronofsky.
PI is a wonderful and freshly weird Motion Picture that will appeal to most. 8/10. 3 stars (out of 4) A marvellously ambitious effort by a director who seems unafraid to take challenges head-on. Should enter my top 300 at 264. Highly recommended.
John Schlesinger's Best Picture winner is where great acting by two (then) up-and-coming actors meets a solid and ultimately emotional script with great cinematography and a decent soundtrack. Perhaps not the best film to pick up the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay treble, but it is effective and solid.
It is difficult to summarise MIDNIGHT COWBOY's implications in a single short review/comment as it touches on a vast array of emotions, thanks in part to excellent use of flashback scenes and daydream scenes, which reveal unspoken elements of the main characters.
Best Actor nods for Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight were well-deserved, as was the nod for Sylvia Miles for Best Supporting Actress.
MIDNIGHT COWBOY may not be described as a superbly great movie, and is perhaps not one for the ages, nor is it an epic. But as mentioned, it is solid and effective. 3.5 stars (out of 4). 8/10. Will enter my Top 250 at 244. Highly recommended, even if it's just because it is a Best Picture.
A multi-perspective heist movie that turns into so much more
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD starts off promisingly, setting up a simple heist that goes awry, told from varying perspectives (in RASHOMON style). At around the hour mark, Sidney Lumet transforms this film into something that is so much more than the sum of its parts; it eventually morphs into a multi-faceted family drama, exploring the full realm of human emotions/relations, as the story comes to its chilling climax.
As is the case with Lumet, he manages to coax exceptional performances out of his star-studded cast, without any notion of over-acting or hyperbole. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his best roles, is a complex, mysterious, and interesting character, and oftentimes dwarfs Ethan Hawke, who plays his brother, Hank. That's not to say that Hawke is not bad; in fact he is quite above adequate, in a troubled role that suits his style. Marisa Tomei is excellent for her relatively short appearance (the fact that she bares her flesh adds to this). Albert Finney's character (Andy and Hank's father) is the most intriguing, and in my opinion, he deserved a bit more screen-time. Amy Ryan also performs her job adequately.
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD is not an exceptional movie, but it proves that Lumet is still near the top of his game at the (apparent) twilight of an illustrious career. Many of his characteristics and trademarks appear here, not least of which involves the use of his characters. Infused with a killer script (no pun intended), smart dialogue and pacing, and a decent score, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD is a must-see. A truly underrated gem. 8/10. 3 stars (out of 4). Should just enter my Top 250 at 248. Highly recommended.
Not your typical vampire horror film and that's a good thing
30 DAYS OF NIGHT is for those who have become fed-up of Hollywood's tendency to cast vampires as pretty-boy, emo, tortured soul types with whom the audience is supposed to sympathise. The 'vampires' in 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (at least we are made to assume that they are vampires) are nowhere near worthy of sympathy, and are some of the most horrific and frightening monsters seen on film in recent years.
The movie is continually adrenaline-filled, and is paced well in order to maintain the tension. The story itself is a decent one, and while maintaining the requisite visceral appeal of a film of this nature, begs a critical question at its core: "How much would one sacrifice to save the one(s) he love(s)?" This question becomes apparent and palpable during the last hour or so of the Motion Picture, leading to the chilling climax, which blends together aspects of beauty and of horror.
The cast is adequate, and Josh Hartnett manages to shine in his protagonist hero role. Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it remains to be seen whether this film will withstand the test of time 8/10. A solid 3 stars (out of 4). May garner a place in my Honourable Mention list. David Slade's follow-up to the tasteless HARD CANDY is quite recommended.
To classify SUPERBAD as a teen sex comedy is to do a fresh and funny film a great disservice. SUPERBAD, helmed by Greg Mottola of the Apatow gang, while creating a funny and somewhat raunchy (but not over-the-top) comedy with numerous laughs, manages to bring the characters into the focus and keep them there; not an easy task for a movie of this kind.
Michael Cera's deadpan and sarcastic approach to his character never seems to get stale, and Jonah Hill provides the ultimate opposite, forming a dynamic and funny duo. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is perhaps the most hilarious of the three, as the now infamous McLovin. Seth Rogen is also quite good as the dysfunctional police officer. My biggest gripe here is that the film is too long for its nature (~110 minutes). A more stern film editor may have opted to omit some more superfluous scenes involving the police officers, while concentrating more on the central duo/trio.
SUPERBAD is meant to bring back high-school memories to persons of any age who have had similar experiences, and does so in a relatively tasteful and nostalgic manner, getting most of the key elements right. Not quite comedic genius, but more of a coming-of-age tale. Comedy itself is rather subjective in nature, and a lot will undoubtedly depend on the viewer. Another gem from the Apatow gang. A solid 7/10 and 3 stars (out of 4). Should just about appear in my Top 300 at 277. Recommended.
The winner of the 2004 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film could have easily been a strong nominee for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay had it been in English, such was the quality of the work.
Alejandro Amenabar's directorial prowess works at full capacity to produce a Motion Picture about a subject as taboo as human euthanasia, with enough wit and intelligence to captivate audiences of any type. There is no hint of melodrama or pretentiousness (qualities that are common in films of this nature) and audiences will not feel insulted.
Amenabar produces valid arguments for and against self-assisted suicide, but never draws any distinct conclusion, instead opting to let the viewer follow his/her heart.
The cast, led by a superb Javier Bardem (who outshines most male lead performances for that year with an emotionally riveting and realistic portrayal) is quite good, comprised mainly of actors/actresses previously unknown to American audiences.
MAR ADENTRO contains great direction, excellent acting, intelligent writing, and breathtaking cinematography showcasing the beauty of the Spanish countryside. 8/10. 3.5 stars (out of 4). Should enter my Top 200 at 188. Highly recommended.
A surprisingly intelligent film; a reflection on Japanese culture...
Many have been quick to dismiss BATORU ROWAIARU as a tasteless gore-fest with little or no class or intelligence to speak of. The fact that the violence involves mostly teens adds to the sensitive/controversial nature of the film. Those who understand the position of Japanese society at the turn of the century will understand the deep-lying social implications of this film, and will revel in its ultimate brilliance. At the turn of the century, many Japanese adults were fast becoming afraid of the youth, who were becoming more and more uncontrollable and rebellious. This Motion Picture is a fantastic extension of the concept of Japanese teen violence.
The movie is an altogether superb one, and is not as tasteless as many make it out to be. There is a reason why film great Quentin Tarantino lists this as one of his favourite films of all time.
The acting, especially by relative newcomers Aki Maeda and Tatsuya Fuliwara is quite excellent, as is the story, direction by Kinji Fukasaku, and the overall atmosphere of the film.
Thankfully, I saw the subtitled version, and not the dubbed one (if there is such a thing). Overall, a quite visceral and cerebral feast. 8/10. 3 stars (out of 4). Should enter my Top 150 at 145. Highly recommended.