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Gekkô no sasayaki (1999)
One of those films that could only have come from Japan
Gekkõ no sasayaki it's one of those films that could have only come from Japan. It's a psycho-sexual drama about two young teenagers who start dating. Their relationship begins innocently enough but when Satsuki(girl) learns that Takuya (boy) is into sadomasochism she labels him as pervert and leaves him. However, Takuya keeps pursuing Satsuki and as time passes by, Satsuki is drawn back by the power Takuya's fetishes give her over him.
This is definitely one of those subjects that Hollywood wouldn't try to tackle, at least not with the subtlety that is so often seen in Asian films. And don't take me wrong, it's subtle but it's also extremely powerful. it's just that everything arises from character development and interaction and not from gimmicks.
The plot is well thought out and the acting was pretty good. I just wish the director had explored Takuya's reasons and motives a little more and also a bit more focus on Satsuki's inner conflict (Her enjoying the s&m games but at the same time feeling it's wrong). Still, it's a good film and probably worth checking if you like Asian cinema.
Drive Angry (2011)
Over the top and absurd and not in a good way.
John Milton (Nicolas Cage) is a criminal who has broken out of Hell to kill Jonah King (Billy Burke), a cult leader who tricked Milton's daughter into joining his followers in the wake of Milton's death, only to kill her and her husband and steal their baby daughter - Milton's granddaughter - to be sacrificed in a Satanist ritual.
Drive Angry is a mix of exploitation film and grindhouse and although it can be entertaining, the film is mediocre at best. There's the usual over the top and absurd action, and Amber Heard serves as marvelous eye candy but other then that, the film hasn't that much going for it. This kind of films have a very specific target audience, and if you're looking for a film with something more, a little substance, this is definitely not for you. This is one of those silly pop-corn flicks you watch on a Friday night with your girlfriend.
This one is definitely a pass. And ignore the fact that it's in 3D, that's a gimmick that doesn't make up for a very flimsy plot and overall mediocre film.
Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his wife Liz (January Jones) arrive in Berlin for a biotechnology summit. Upon arriving at their hotel, Martin realizes he forgot his briefcase at the airport. He takes a taxicab driven by Gina (Diane Kruger), but on the way to the airport, the cab crashes off a bridge into the river after narrowly avoiding a refrigerator that falls off a delivery truck. Martin is knocked unconscious upon impact, but Gina saves him from drowning before fleeing from the scene. On Thanksgiving day, he comes to at the hospital after being in a coma for four days.Martin returns to his hotel, only to discover that his wife who proclaims to not know him, is with another man who says he's Dr.Martin Harris.
Unknown has a tremendous premise and a great actor in the lead role, Liam Neeson. However, this film did not succeed and the main reason is because of its execution. The plot is, in fact, quite interesting, there's quite a bit of action and the acting is pretty good. And I must say that the twist was not at all what I expected and it will be extremely difficult for anyone to predict it.
Having said that, the way all these bits were put together did not make a very good film. It has a lot of potential but it never really reaches and ends up being a very mediocre thriller. Much inferior to Liam Neeson's last action thriller, Taken, for instance.
Lately I've been watching a lot of Korean films and really liking them. They're completely different from what I'm used to and quite a breath of fresh air. Recently I came across Confessions and I must say, it's not just Korean films,Asian cinema in general seems to be fantastic. Kokuhaku aka confessions was directed by Tetsuya Nakashima and revolves around a grieving mother turned cold-blooded avenger with a twisty master plan to pay back those who were responsible for her daughter's death. The first thing she does is mix her husband's HIV contaminated blood in the culprits's milk. Don't worry, this is not a spoiler, this is truly the beginning of story and it turns into something much bigger and much more complex. I just want to give you an idea of how twisted the plot is.
As in most Asian films, the main theme here is revenge but there's quite a bit of social commentary going on as well. Be aware that Confessions is bleak and depressing and definitely not a film for the squeamish. Visually, the film is absolutely stunning. The cinematography is probably the best I have ever seen in my life and I'm not exaggerating. There's a lot of slow motion and some clever conceptual scenes. Every shot is a small work of art and there's not one wasted scene. The look is very minimal which I love. The soundtrack is truly mesmerizing and fits the dark atmosphere perfectly. The acting was great, specially considering the cast was mainly composed by kids and I have no idea how they were able to play such dark characters.
I also have to mention the direction and vision of Tetsuya Nakashima which is astonishing. I'll be sure to watch his previous movies. I'm in shock still. Still trying to take it all in. Confessions is an amazing sensory experience, just an incredibly piece of work. It really is one of those films you'll be thinking about long after you watched it. Asian cinema is pretty extreme but this film is almost unlike anything I've seen.
Jisatsu sâkuru (2001)
Nonsensical and incoherent
Suicide club starts with 54 smiling, singing high school girls inexplicably link hands and jumping onto the tracks of an oncoming bullet train. Their deaths seems to trigger a wave of suicides all over Japan. A detective sets out to discover the root of all the deaths, but discovers something more disturbing..
I heard some good things about this film and how it had a cult following but I have to say that I regret my decision to watch it. Asian cinema is pretty extreme and this film is no exception, lots of gore, blood flying around, body parts being cut, animals and people being killed, people getting skinned and so forth, this is definitely not a film for squeamish people. Having said that, I have no problem with extreme films and that is not the reason why I disliked this film so much. Simply put, Suicide Club is one of the most nonsensical, incoherent and disordered films I have seen. The story is incredibly convoluted and makes very little sense. Yes, you can draw some parallels and see the film as a big metaphor for the value of life but still, the all thing is really far-fetched and disjointed. The acting was pretty decent actually. The camera work however was a bit nauseating.
Any conclusions that you take from this film will be very loose because there's not much support in the story. It really is a question of how you want to interpret this film. And I don't have anything against ambiguous films but this one is truly open to any kind of interpretation and that doesn't make for a very good film in my opinion.
No Strings Attached (2011)
Portman is great, the rest not so much
In this comedy, Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are life-long friends who almost ruin everything by having sex one morning. In order to protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep their relationship strictly "no strings attached." "No strings" means no jealousy, no expectations, no fighting, no flowers, no baby voices. It means they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever public place they want, as long as they don't fall in love. The questions become - Can you have sex without love getting in the way? And can their friendship survive?
Now, let me start this by saying that I'm a huge fan of Natalie Portman. She's, in my opinion, the best actress out there, by a long shot. Every film she's in is that much better because of her and she has given some amazing performances throughout her career. Suffice to say I have seen everything she has done so far and felt obliged to watch No Strings Attached as well. However, I had really low expectations for this film. Let's be honest, comedies usually suck, let alone romantic comedies starring Ashton Kutcher. Honestly, I was entertained by the film but it's your run of the mill rom-com. The plot is extremely predictable, the jokes for the most part are silly, childish and not clever at all, and the film uses the same formula of every comedy that has come from Hollywood in the last decade. There's even the goofy sidekick to provide comic relief.
Regarding the acting I thought Kutcher did an OK job but he never truly gives himself into the character. In short he was a bit wooden. Portman on the other hand, can do no wrong. I think the reason why I was able to somewhat enjoy the film was definitely her presence and with any other actress this film would have been much worse. All in all, it's a formulaic rom-com that benefits from one of its lead actors but it's still a very weak effort.
Could have been a masterpiece
Sunshine takes place fifty years from now; the sun is dying, and mankind is dying with it. Our last hope: a spaceship and a crew of eight men and women. They carry a device which will breathe new life into the star. But deep into their voyage, out of radio contact with Earth, their mission is starting to unravel. There is an accident, a fatal mistake, and a distress beacon from a spaceship that disappeared seven years earlier. Soon the crew is fighting not only for their lives, but their sanity.
Dany Boyle,the director, has mention 2001, A Space Odissey and Solaris as two of the inspirations behind Sunshine and it shows. The film can only be described as an epic sci-fi extravaganza. Everything about it screams epic, the sets, the special effects, the atmosphere, the soundtrack, everything. It's one of those films that aims at being something more then just a film. I'm not saying it manages to do so, but it certainly tries hard. And the film is never pretentious in any way. I think Boyle was trying to create something beautiful but despite his efforts the film felt somewhat short. Let me be clear about this, Sunshine is a great piece of work, just not the masterpiece it seems intended to be.
Some of the criticism has been related to the fact that Sunshine turns into something similar to a slasher film in its final third. At least for a little bit. And I have to agree with this criticism. It seemed a little out of place with the overall theme of the film. Apart from that, there's not much you can criticize. Clearly a lot of thought was put into this film and the direction is impeccable. The cinematography is awe-inspiring and the soundtrack extremely fitting. The acting was superb as well, real solid work with Cilian Murphy standing out.
Some have interpreted Sunshine as an atheistic film while others have labeled it a spiritual odyssey. There's certainly no denying that the film is about the origin of the universe despite it being masqueraded in a very entertaining and well-put together sci-fi plot. As an interesting side note, I read that Boyle is religious and he interpreted the story as a triumph of faith over science while Alex Garland, the main writer is an atheist and saw the film as a triumph of science over faith. I, myself I'm an atheist but I think the film can be interpreted both ways and because of that will probably please a lot of people. All in all, it's not the masterpiece it could have been, but I highly recommend Sunshine. Certainly a must-see for sci-fi fans.
Waiting for Forever (2010)
Sweet little story
A unique love story about friendship and a view of the world from different perspectives, Waiting for Forever explores the connections people make in the face of life's changes. Best friends while they were growing up, Emma (Rachel Bilson) and Will (Tom Sturridge) lost touch a long time ago-as far as she knows. To Will, Emma never stopped being the most important person in his life. Believing them to be forever linked, he goes wherever she goes. Will doesn't have a home, a car, or a "real" job. He survives on his talent as a juggler and entertainer-talents honed through years of showing off for Emma. When her father gets sick, Emma returns to their hometown, trying to leave behind her complicated love life and failing career as a TV actress. Will follows her and decides to once and for all talk with Emma about his feelings.
Waiting for forever is a sweet little independent film. Perfect to watch with your girlfriend or boyfriend, it's probably a great choice for a first date but it's not much more then that. I kept waiting for the story to took off, for the film to get real and deep, profound but it never happened. It's a very simplistic story and although it is entertaining and moves at a good pace there's never real insight into the characters. In fact, most characters are two-dimensional.
As for the acting, nothing outstanding here but overall satisfactory. Rachel Bilson's acting skills are very limited but she always does an OK job. On the other hand,Tom Sturridge was great. His character was not an easy one but he played it very well. Again, the script is to blame for the character's flaws because as far as the way the role was played, it couldn't have been better. Richard Jenkins and Blythe Danner did the best they could with what they were given. I should also mention the soundtrack which was very good and fitting. Overall, it's a sweet little love story but you shouldn't watch this film with high expectations.
Source Code (2011)
Entertaining but not great
Source Code is an action-thriller directed by Duncan Jones (Moon) also starring Michelle Monaghan (Eagle Eye, Due Date), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, The Departed), and Jeffrey Wright (Quantum of Solace, Syriana. When decorated soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. In an assignment unlike any he's ever known, he learns he's part of a government experiment called the "Source Code," a program that enables him to cross over into another man's identity in the last 8 minutes of his life. With a second, much larger target threatening to kill millions in downtown Chicago, Colter re-lives the incident over and over again, gathering clues each time, until he can solve the mystery of who is behind the bombs and prevent the next attack.
I watch this today and there's no way I can say that it is a bad film. The acting was great and it was damn entertaining. And on top of that, I like sci-fi, specially if there's a human story amidst the action. And this is a film that has the potential to make you reflect about life, reality, philosophy and all that which is great. However, I left the theater feeling a bit disappointed, maybe even cheated? And here's why... In my opinion the film was doomed from the beginning. I'll elaborate; emotionally the ending was quite satisfactory, but in order to have a emotionally satisfactory ending, I feel that the story was compromised.
Why was it compromised? Because the ending was too far-fetched. Granted this is sci-fi, you had to suspend your disbelief from the get go but the ending was just too convenient if that makes sense. Even for someone who's somewhat familiarized with multi-verse theory and things like that. It's a bit hard to talk about this film without spoiling it and I don't want to give anything away so, in conclusion, it's probably a film worth seeing for all sci-fi fans but for everyone else it might be just an average piece of work.
The Roommate (2011)
Run of the mill thriller
Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) is starting her freshman year of college at ULA. Upon arrival, she meets Tracy Morgan (Alyson Michalka), an avid party-goer, and Stephen Morterelli (Cam Gigandet), a drummer who plays in a band for a fraternity who later begins to date Sara. After a party at Stephen's fraternity house that lands Tracy drunk, Sara arrives back at her dorm late at night and meets Rebecca Evans (Leighton Meester), her new roommate, whose parents live only 20 minutes away and who is great at drawing portraits of people. Initially, the girls begin to bond very well as Rebecca learns more about Sara's life. Sara had an older sister, Emily, who died when Sara was nine. She keeps a necklace that belonged to Emily as well as her sister's name tattooed on her chest.
She also has an ex-boyfriend, Jason (Matt Lanter), who keeps calling her to try to get back together with her.The history behind their breakup is that Jason and Sara agreed to both go to Brown University or not, and when only Sara got a spot, she declined it and chose ULA. However, when Jason got accepted to Brown at the last minute, he accepted to go without Sara, reneging on their agreement. Against dorm regulations, the two girls secretly adopt a stray kitten which Sara found. As time goes on, though, Rebecca begins to become more obsessed with spending time with Sara and wants to have her all to herself. She is willing to keep at bay anyone who wronged Sara or who she thinks is stealing Sara away from her....
The Roommate is your run of the mill thriller. There is absolutely nothing new or original here. The film slowly builds up to reveal that a certain character is the "bad guy", well, it builds up to reveal how bananas the character truly is because, you know from the beginning where each character stands, and then comes the action which is predictable and not very exciting. The acting wasn't bad although I wish Minka Kelly had a little more personality.She's great too look at but she's also somewhat boring. Leighton Meester did a fine job. All in all it's a decent little film, but I wouldn't waste my time on it.
The United States of Leland (2003)
Outstanding piece of work
The United States of Leland is about a meek teenage boy named Leland P. Fitzgerald (Ryan Gosling) who has inexplicably committed a shocking murder. In the wake of the killing, his teacher in prison (Don Cheadle) tries to understand the senseless crime, while the families of the victim and the perpetrator struggle to cope with the aftermath..
I just watched The United States of Leland for the second time and it is an outstanding piece of work and it's close to being one of my favorite films of all time. Why it was so poorly received by critics is beyond me because I think it's a good example of great film-making in all accounts. The backdrop of the film is the crime that Leland committed and from then on, the film becomes a character study giving us insight into Leland and also showing the viewer what happened prior to the murder trough flashbacks. But, despite being a character study, the film does so much more then that; it poses very interesting questions about good and evil, about life, about our nature and humanity and so forth.
The film was beautifully shot and the soundtrack couldn't be more suiting. These two things combined with an impeccable direction resulted in a great ambiance. The acting was absolutely fantastic with the exceptionally talented Ryan Gosling delivering an Oscar-worthy performance. The entire supporting cast did a good job but if someone hold its own with Gosling, that was Jena Malone. I was very, very impressed with her.
This is not a happy film, it's sad and melancholic and that will push some people away. Maybe you have to have gone trough depression or extreme sadness to relate to the film, that would explain why some people just can't connect with this story, I don't know. Either way, I think this is a truly amazing film and I hope Matthew Ryan Hoge returns to the business at some point.
Piranha 3D (2010)
I know it's an exploitation film but still, pretty bad
After a sudden underwater tremor sets free scores of the prehistoric man-eating fish, an unlikely group of strangers must band together to stop themselves from becoming fish food for the area's new razor-toothed residents...
Piranha is obviously an exploitation film and that says a lot about the film's goal and message, or lack of message. But still, an exploitation film can be good if it meets a certain criteria. An interesting and solid story is a good start. Unfortunately, the plot of the film is silly, ridiculous and boring actually. When it comes to the exploitation part, the film delivers, there's plenty of gore and nudity. A scene where a Piranha eats a human penis and then spits it out comes to mind. There's also a lot of shots of the beautiful Riley Steele's body.
Having said that, the backdrop for the film is absolutely awful. It all comes down to a lot of angry piranhas in the sea and a lot of people in town because it's spring break and that's it. You know from the start that some people are gonna be bitten, some will get ripped to pieces, some will die but ultimately, the "heroes" will survive. The story is just not satisfying, at all..
In conclusion, I love Riley Steele's ass as much as the next guy but if that's the best thing Piranha has to offer, wouldn't the viewer be better off watching one of her porn scenes? It takes less time and it will probably be a better experience.
East of Eden (1955)
Interesting story and stellar performance by Dean
In the Salinas Valley, in and around World War I, Cal Trask feels he must compete against overwhelming odds with his brother Aron for the love of their father Adam. Cal is frustrated at every turn, from his reaction to the war, to how to get ahead in business and in life, to how to relate to estranged mother. The film is loosely based on the second half of the novel East of Eden by author John Steinbeck.
The story is obviously a modern take on the Cain and Abel biblical account and I quite enjoyed it. I found the film interesting, well paced and very emotional towards the end. The direction was pretty good as well. I specially enjoyed the way Abra and Cal's relationship was developed and handled. As in most "old" films, some things are a bit hard to relate but the core themes are very much timeless.
Raymond Massey and Julie Harris who played Abra and Adam Trask respectively, were both great but, the film belongs to James Dean. He was exceptional in the role of Cal and stole the show. He had a lot of charisma and good presence. It's worth noting that his role is very similar to the role he played in "Rebel Without a Cause" which leads me to think that he has an "affinity" with that kind of persona, the young angry outcast.
Overall, it's a very nice watch with a stellar performance by the icon, James Dean.
Knight and Day (2010)
Knight and Day is an action-comedy centered on a fugitive couple (Cruise and Diaz) on a glamorous and sometimes deadly adventure where nothing and no one - even themselves - are what they seem. Amid shifting alliances and unexpected betrayals, they race across the globe, with their survival ultimately hinging on the battle of truth vs. trust.
I'm not gonna fool anyone, Knight and Day is 100 % pure formula. It has been done countless times and for the most part, it is corny and campy. At the same time, it's silly harmless fun and that's why I was able to enjoy it. Having said that, with any other two leads, this film would have been absolutely terrible. It works, mainly because Cruise is incredibly charismatic and truly, a movie star.
As in most films trying to be everything at the same time, Knight and Day has an identity crisis. The comedic parts are not that funny and the action sequences, and there's quite a few of them, are not that impressive, specially if you consider some Cruise's previous work. In fact, I would say this is probably one of Cruise's worst films and yet, he's the reason why the film is watchable. Cameron Diaz reprises her role as the silly and ingenious blonde which is basically all she ever does. Peter Sarsgaard has a very small role and isn't even worth mentioning.
Overall, Knight and Day is only watchable. It's one of those pop-corn flicks where you have to turn your brain off if you have any intentions of having a good time.
The Killer Inside Me (2010)
Very interesting but incoherent story
Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is a pillar of the community in his small west Texas town, patient and apparently thoughtful. Some people think he is a little slow and maybe boring, but that he is nevertheless ordinary and dependable. Nobody knows about what Lou calls his "sickness": He is a violent sociopath with a taste for rape and murder. It nearly got him put away when he was younger, but his adopted brother took the fall for his crimes. But now the sickness that has been lying dormant for years is about to surface again and the consequences are brutal and devastating...
The story of The Killer Inside Me is actually pretty damn interesting. The film is delightfully nasty and brutal with one scene where Lou beats up a prostitute clearly standing out. Is it gratuitous? Some will probably think so, I disagree. Sometimes you do have to shock people to get your point across. Would the viewer truly comprehend how vicious Lou's acts were if we were shown a glorified death scene where the someone gets killed but there's little to no blood and the dead guy looks great? No, of course not. It's not the case with every film but in this one, graphic violence is an important device that serves the story.
The acting was pretty great, specially Casey Affleck. His performances are always subtle but at the same time extremely powerful. I was reminded of his great work in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford ". I wouldn't be surprised if he gets nominated for an Oscar. Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson and the rest of the cast, all did a good job. The production values are great and the film was beautifully shot.
Why only 6.5 ? Because there's too many inconsistencies in the story, too many things remained unexplained and some scenes, specially towards the end, leave the viewer completely puzzled. Apparently, a lot of things that were in the book were omitted in the film and the result was a very interesting but incoherent story. In conclusion, it's a nice watch but The Killer Inside Me could have been a tremendous film.
Predators follows Royce (Adrien Brody), a mercenary, who wakes up finding himself falling from the sky into a jungle. Once on the ground, he meets other people who have arrived there in the same manner, all of whom have questionable backgrounds, except for a doctor (Topher Grace). As the film progresses, the group discovers that they are on an alien planet that acts as a game reserve to which they are being hunted by a merciless race of aliens known as Predators.
Here it is, yet another addition to the Predator franchise, a series of films that I'm well aware of its existence but had little contact with. Despite that, I decided to give this one a try, after all, a film should stand on its own. If I was afraid of not getting the story, that fear disappeared right away. It only took 5 minutes to see how incredibly flimsy the plot was. Absolutely no effort put into it and the beginning of the film felt extremely rushed with the characters taking the crazy scenario extremely well and not asking any kind of pertinent questions. But who watches a film called Predators because of the story you ask...and you're right. The film's strength is clearly the tense atmosphere and the action sequences.
The problem is, I've seen it all before. The film brings absolutely nothing new to the table. It's a group of humans being hunt by a group of monsters or aliens or whatever you wanna call it and for the first 20 minutes or so you don't get a clear look at the aliens so that there's a real sense of danger. Eventually, we get a glimpse of them, and yes, they're incredibly ugly and disgusting and then it's the same old, same old...countless shots of the predators walking very slowly towards their prey, the humans, with the humans somehow escaping. From time to time one dies but in the end we all know what happens right? There's a few moral questions thrown in the mix to add a little more depth like should one care for others or just ignore his humanity and fight for survival but this is a very brief storyline.
I don't necessarily think that the acting was bad but the characters were paper thin and completely stereotyped. Having said that, Adrien Brody showed once again that he can serve as lead and Alice Braga looked beautiful as always. Overall, it's not an awful film but it is a pretty weak effort and it has been done countless times.
Not superbad but definitely not that great either
Superbad came out over 3 years ago but I guess it's better to watch something later then to never watch it. I heard a lot about and it is clearly THE film that launched Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill, Emma Stone and it kinda revamped the comedic genre and gave super stardom status to Judd Apatow, who served as producer.
It revolves around two co-dependent high school seniors (Hill and Cera) who set out to score alcohol for a party, believing that girls will then hook up with them and they will be ready for college. But as the night grows more chaotic, overcoming their separation anxiety becomes a greater challenge than getting the girls.
To tell the truth, I was a bit disappointed by Superbad. Maybe disappointed isn't the right word because I wasn't expecting something that great, after all, great comedies are few and in between but since there was so much talk about it and since it was so well received by the critics, I was expecting something at least one notch above most comedies.
Now, I'll admit that Superbad has some truly hilarious moments but these are undermined by the usual raunchy jokes and the very flimsy story lines. When it works, it really works but when it doesn't, it stinks. For instance, the bit with the 2 cops, played by Bill Hader and Seth Rogen was so silly, so over the top, it just wasn't funny at all and worst then that, it went on for way too long. The acting was actually pretty good, and the entire cast did a good job with Jonah Hill really standing out.Now, don't get me wrong, Superbad is a perfectly nice film to watch if you want to have a laugh but it is far from having reinvented the genre.
Solitary Man (2009)
Superb film about a man who was once on the rise and is now falling down
Solitary Man tells the story of Ben Kalmen (Michael Douglas), a car magnate who has to watch his personal and professional life hit the skids because of his business and romantic indiscretion. The story seems very simple but the subject however, it's quite complex. Solitary Man is much more then a quirky little comedy or small well written drama. While it combines elements from both genres, it's a journey of self-discovery that makes the viewers think...think about life, about themselves, about aspirations and desires and so forth and I really enjoyed it.
I guess this is my favorite kind of film, a very personal story about every day life that focuses on the characters and their struggles and eventually tackles some big questions. So much better then a special effects bonanza without any real value or one of those A-list star studded comedies. Anyway, the script is pretty great and the film was extremely well directed. It has a great pace, very entertaining and never gets boring and more importantly, it's a clever film. One that you may actually think about a little after the credits roll.
Having said that, this film wouldn't been the same without the acting. Imogen Poots and Jenna Fischer were great and then there's Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary-Louise Parker and Jesse Eisenberg who all had smaller roles but made the best out of it. And of course, the always charismatic Michael Douglas. He delivered an amazing performance that really made the film. Absolutely expectational work by the veteran actor. Overall, a great film that probably won't reach wider audiences and yet, this is the stuff good films are made of.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) at his side, must forge new alliances and confront powerful enemies..
Iron Man was a breath of fresh air in the super hero genre. While it was still a blockbuster and therefor lacked any true depth, it was fun, entertaining, enjoyable and definitely one notch above anything else we had seen in this category. Iron Man 2, the sequel, doesn't quite follow up. The one thing that remained is the great performance by Robert Downey Jr., he is one of the most charismatic actors today and the role of Tony Stark suits him like a glove. I would go so far as to say he's basically playing himself. Unfortunately, in all the other fronts, the film falls flat. The plot is extremely simplistic, too simple in fact, the new characters, Natalie Rushman, Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer are paper thin and the action sequences, although enjoyable, just aren't impressive at all.
Regarding the new additions to the cast, I thought both Don Cheadle and Mickey Rourke did an OK job considering what they had to work with. Scarlett Johansson felt a bit underused. Maybe underused isn't the right word, I just though her character had no real purpose, if anything, she was eye candy. Sam Rockwell was pretty good but again, the material just wasn't that great. Overall, Iron Man 2 is not a terrible film but it's pretty inferior to its predecessor and nothing more then your typical summer blockbuster.
Pleasant little indie
Ondine tells the story of an Irish fisherman named Syracuse (Colin Farrell) who discovers a woman named Ondine (Alicja Bachleda) in his fishing net, whom he believes to be a selkie or a mermaid.She says her name is Ondine, which means "she came from the sea". His daughter Annie (Alison Barry) comes to believe that the woman is a selkie, a magical seal/woman creature, while Syracuse falls helplessly in love. In the Celtic myth, a selkie is able to become human by taking off her seal coat, and can return to seal form by putting it back on. However, like all fairy tales, enchantment and darkness go hand in hand. Annie hopes that Ondine has come to live on land for 7 years and that she can use her selkie wish to cure Annie's kidney failure. Whenever Ondine is onboard Syracuse's fishing boat, she sings a siren song, and his nets and lobster pots are full of fish and seafood in tremendous numbers hard to believe. However, being Irish, Syracuse is mistrustful of good luck, with it comes bad. Is Ondine really a selkie, will she stay, can love be trusted? What is Ondine's real secret? And who is the menacing man lurking around town spying on her? Is he her selkie husband come to claim her back to the sea?
I have to say that Ondine is a very pleasant little film. Definitely sweet and has a certain charm. The director toys with this idea of Ondine being a mythical sea creature and much of the allure of the film is, well, not a really a mystery but more of a indecisiveness in regards to what's real and what isn't. As a viewer I felt I didn't need to know the answer, and I loved the vagueness of the first half of of the story. Eventually it starts to move at a more steady pace and becomes a bit more serious. The film takes place in some very gloomy locations and yet it looks absolutely beautiful. It was incredibly well shot too. My only complaint would be about the ending which felt a bit rushed and out of place. Both Collin Farrel and Alicja Bachleda did a great job and the little girl who plays Syracuse's daughter, Alisson Barry, was amazing, specially considering how young she is. Ondine's far from being a masterpiece but this little indie is a very nice watch.
The Experiment (2010)
Not nearly as good as the original.
The Experiment is a 2010 American thriller film directed by Paul Scheuring and starring Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker,Cam Gigandet and Maggie Grace.The film is also a remake of the 2001 German film Das Experiment, which was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. The experiment begins when 26 men are chosen to participate in the roles of guards and prisoners in a psychological study that ultimately spirals out of control. $14,000 for two weeks, it is easy-earned money. The study examines aggressive behavior in an artificial prison setting. At first the tenants are divided randomly into prisoners and guards, but soon a spiral of violence begins.
I had some hope for this film because I remember seeing the original Das Experiment more then a year ago and enjoying it. Although brutal the film was brilliant in the way it explored human nature, human instincts, and one's moral compass. It's actually quite surprising that it took such a long time (9 years) for Hollywood to assassinate, pardon me, remake this very interesting story which is actually based on the Stanford prison experiment that took place in 1971 and was highly criticized afterwords. The problem with this remake is that, as in most things Hollywood, it's all about big name actors and big fights and nice camera angles. What's most important, the characterization and the character development which are the things that make this story, were completely thrown aside. One of the consequences of doing so is that the film felt extremely rushed and therefor the payoff wasn't that great. I didn't think there was real tension, and the film lacked that gritty look of the original, instead it looks sharp and polished.
Also, it's one thing to put your own spin into a story but this remake eliminated an entire dimension of the original film. I'm talking about the people behind the cameras, the scientists watching and conducting the experiment. They played a big part in the original and in this remake they are nowhere to be seen and it truly diminished the story. Regarding the acting, I thought Adrien Brody did a pretty good job and Cam Gigandet was delightfully nasty as he usually is. On the other hand, Forest Whitaker was absolutely awful. In almost every film that see him in, he acts like he has a speech impediment and to be honest, it adds nothing to his performance. Overall, The Experiment it's somewhat enjoyable but not nearly as good as the original.
Tour-de-force by Jolie makes Salt watchable
CIA agent Evelyn Salt interrogates a Russian defector, Orlov, who tells her about "Day X", an operation organized by a powerful Russian since the Cold War, which will lead to the destruction of the United States. Orlov mentions that at the funeral of the late Vice President in New York City, the visiting Russian President will be killed by Russian spy Evelyn Salt. Salt, shaken at the accusation, attempts to contact her husband Mike, a German arachnologist, fearing for his safety. Meanwhile, Orlov escapes, prompting Salt to escape — causing the CIA to think she is a spy but is she? And if so what are her motifs ?
I was looking forward to watching Salt, I really like the spy genre even tough it's hard to find a great film in that category and, when I saw the trailer, I was instantly reminded of Jennifer Garner in the amazing TV show Alias. It seemed right up my alley. Something about sexy girls kicking ass, maybe? Unfortunately, Salt disappointed me. Not that it's a terrible film but it's average at best. The premise is great and holds a lot of potential but it evolves into something completely ridiculous and over the top. The plot is so flimsy, so far-fetched that, if you're going into this film expecting a smart, well-constructed story, then you're going to be just as disappointed as me. I'm not even going to talk about that final scene. See it and judge for yourself.
I have to say that regarding the action, the film delivers in spades. There's plenty of chases, stunts, fighting sequences and so forth. And for the most part it was all very nicely choreographed; there's a bit of cgi in the mix and the usual cuts but still, it looks great. And so does Jolie. Not only does she look gorgeous but she did a terrific job considering all the physical stuff she had to do, and overall, she delivered a strong performance. Granted, it's not enough to make this into a great film but Jolie may very well be the reason why Salt is watchable.
Visually stunning and has a powerful message but the pace is almost unberable
Maze Prison in Northern Ireland, 1981. The infamous H-Blocks is where Irish republican prisoners are on the Blanket and No-Wash protest. It is a living hell for both prisoner and prison officer as the H-Block leader, Bobby Sands, pursues various tactics to help his fellow republicans re-establish their political status. In order to create real change, Bobby leads a Hunger Strike to protest for special category status for republican prisoner.
I won't deny that Hunger is masterfully shot. Despite all the horrific incidents and situations depicted, visually, this film is beautiful. There's no question about that. It has a sleek and polished minimalistic look that I love. Also, the message of the film is very powerful and the story (which I wasn't familiar with) deserves to be told, at least so that people are aware of it and therefor there's less of a chance of such a tragedy happening again. Plus, the acting is absolutely superb. Regardless of all these positive aspects, the film is very uneventful and the pace is almost unbearable and that, completely diminished my experience watching this film. I was constantly reminded of Gus Van Sant and his painfully long shots.
Clearly, I'm part of the minority because Hunger was critically acclaimed. But that doesn't surprise me, shock is a very effective tool. And while sometimes shock is absolutely necessary to make a point or convey a specific message, in this case, I think there should have been perhaps a little more focus on the plot itself because in the end, Hunger feels more like a disturbing sensory experience then a story per se.
Rogues Gallery (2010)
Not that funny and a bit amateurish but still, quite entertaining.
Somewhere beneath Washington, D.C., an intense rivalry is heating up between two opposing teams of government assassins. The hired killers in the organizations take their names from Tarot cards. The Fool (Joe Anderson) is the latest recruit. Reporting for his first day on the job, The Fool is shocked to find that his boss is dead, and the office is on lockdown. To make matters worse, the building has been rigged with explosives, and it's going to blow soon. Now, in order to get out alive, The Fool will have to root out the killer in his midst, and make a quick escape before his co-workers catch him in their crosshairs.
Operation Endgame, a satirical workplace comedy with a slick action twist is not without it's flaws. The plot is convoluted, most of the dialog is incredibly silly and the whole thing isn't that funny. Having said that, the film is damn entertaining. The cast is composed, among others, by Zach Galifianakis, Emilie de Ravin, Maggie Q, Rob Corddry, Ellen Barkin,Bob Odenkirk, Ving Rhames. There's plenty of star power here but, while some of the actors were delightful, others were completely underused. Being a battle royale of sorts, the deaths kept piling up and therefor some brilliant actors like Bob Odenkirk (who has been phenomenal in the TV show Breaking Bad) had very little screen time.
In the end, it's all about what you're expecting. Operation Endgame is no Oscar contender. This is mindless fun with a bit of action and gore in the middle and the film clearly doesn't take itself too serious and in my opinion it succeeded in what it intended to do which is, to entertain.
The Ghost Writer (2010)
Has an amazing atmosphere but grows tiresome quickly
When a successful British ghostwriter agrees to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, his agent assures him it is the opportunity of a lifetime. But the project seems doomed from the start—not least because his predecessor on the project, Lang's long-term aide, died in an accident. The ghostwriter flies out to work on the project, in the middle of winter, to an oceanfront house on an island off the U.S. Eastern seaboard. But the day he arrives, a former British cabinet minister accuses Lang of authorizing the illegal seizure of suspected terrorists and handing them over for torture by the CIA—a war crime. Lang faces prosecution by the International Criminal Court, unless he stays in the U.S. or goes to another country that does not recognize that court.The controversy brings reporters and protesters swarming to the island mansion where Lang is staying with his wife, Ruth, and his personal assistant (and mistress), Amelia. As the ghostwriter works, he uncovers clues suggesting his predecessor may have stumbled on a dark secret linking Lang to the CIA and that somehow this information is hidden in the manuscript he left behind.
The Ghost Writer is, for the most part, a very nicely executed political thriller. It has an incredible atmosphere and there's enormous tension throughout the entire film. In the midst of all the mystery, there's a real sense of danger and that's what makes the film so appealing. The direction is extremely stylish which is something I very much appreciate. The beautiful shots of the beach (the one in the study was actually computer-generated) and the modern minimalistic sets really made this film a visual feast. The musical score was superb as well and matched the ambiance really well. The plot however, as interesting and relevant as it is, grows tiresome quickly, probably due to the constant change of pace. What really kept me going was undeniably the atmosphere and the visual aspect of the film.
At one point, the main character connects the dots and finds some clues simply by scrolling through pages of Google search results. I mean, we're talking about connections between a Prime-Minister and the C.I.A. Not exactly the type of thing you'll find on the internet. That scene was laughable and although it may have served to quickly move the plot forward, it's a good example of how flimsy some of the plot is and why the story is mediocre. The cast was somewhat uneven. Ewan Mcgregor was great as the "ghost" and Olivia Williams was convincing as the Prime-Minister's wife. Pierce Brosnan and Kim Cattrall on the other hand were pretty awful, especially Cattrall who kept over-acting. The Ghost Writer is not a bad film by any means, in fact, most of the production values are expectational. The plot however is very unbalanced and in that regard the film doesn't deliver.