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Do we really need ANOTHER superhero movie?
As if we do not have enough superhero movies already with the steady flow of umpteen sequels and still new ones in the works (Ant-Man is due out in 2010, I wonder what will be next Larva-Man?), someone had to create a completely new, original 2008 superhero with no comic book pastHancock. Even with three strong performances, the film collapses from its' poor start and even worse end finale.
Will Smith has the title role of Hancock, a one-of-a-kind superhuman who works with the LAPD to catch criminals. Well, at least he is supposed to but he has become an alcoholic to deal with his constant mood of depression, and his inebriated antics have caused millions of dollars in damages to Los Angeles City. All of which has caused him to fallout out of the public's favor. Enter Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) a PR consultant who wants to help him repair his image. Before long, well actually almost immediately, Hancock agrees, and the two form an unlikely duo. The finale comes rather abruptly with one of the most surprising, confusing finale that is what ultimately ruins Hancock.
All three talented stars (Will Smith, Jason Bateman, and Charlize Theron) play their parts entertainingly well, but the story, script, direction, and camera work are what destroy it. The film clocks in at 92 minutes, leaving no time for character development and all the events happen so quickly and abruptly that it feels like an extended TV episodes with gazillion-dollar effects.
Another thing that I found particularly annoying was this constant "shaky", close-ups of who ever was in the scene. Almost as if the studio was trying to save money on set design so they kept the camera in really tight.
Once again the time and effort was put into wowing the audience with the special effects, which are quite remarkable, rather than entertaining with a strong story and developed characters. I would not even recommend it as brainless entertainment because it was rather boring. I still wonder why someone felt the need to go and create ANOTHER superhero movie.
Speed Racer (2008)
Speeds to success!
Remember back when you were a kid, and either you or one of your siblings got a Hot wheel racetrack for Christmas? Remember watching those little metal cars zip around on the track and trying to imagine what it would be like to be inside one? Speed Race gives you the opportunity.
The Wachowski brothers follow up their massively successful Matrix Trilogy, with Speed Racer. This time the story is PG-rated and appeals to children ages 7-11, but do not let that scare you away! It is enormously entertaining and the most fun I have had at the movies in a long time.
Speed Racer follows the story of a teenage boy Speed (Emile Hirsch), a born racer, who has just become extremely popular after winning a big race. His popularity has caught the eye of Royalton (Roger Allam), the owner and CEO of a gazillion dollar corporate conglomerate, who is bent on signing Speed onto his team of race car drivers. When Speed refuses to sign with him, Royalton goes about trying to destroy Speed's life as well as his parents (John Goodman, Susan Sarandon). Speed, feeling responsible decides to fight back; and to do this he must yes you guessed it RACE! The plot has many more intricacies to it but I will leave that for you to discover when you see it.
The casting was perfect, and everyone played their part flawlessly. John Goodman stood out the most as the passionate father, and relatively new Paulie Litt made quite an impression as Speed's younger brother.
Yes, the script and delivery of some of the lines were rather sappy, and there were the moments of that warm fuzzy-wuzzy father-son-family time; all which could be annoying in other circumstances but here they actually almost suited it.
Speed Racer does not disappoint and surprises you with how much you are drawn into it! The shots of the racer's POV, make you feel like you are on a theme park ride and take you back to your childhoodin a good way!
Iron Man (2008)
Summer gets an Iron Boost!
The Summer season is here and this year it gets an iron boost from finally a new marvel comic franchise hopeful. Having no expectations for Iron Man I was more than surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
This time the Iron Man-to-be, Tony Starks (Robert Downey Jr.), is a weapons manufacturing billionaire, not a nerdy college student. He doesn't need to buy a car to win over his childhood sweetheart, but instead has a super-sized garage with six cars and an assistant (Gwyneth Paltrow) who gets rid of his one night stands. In short, he lives it up in all the luxury one could dream of.
While visiting a US base in Afghanistan to sell more of his weapons, the humvee he is riding is ambushed and he is taken captive by Afghani insurgents. They force him to build them one of his famous bombs, but instead he builds a great big metal suit! A suit which he uses to escape back to America successfully, and once home starts building a better one. Seeing the destruction of his weapons when they fall into the hands of insurgents he wants to shut down his weapons company. This does not go over well with a few people and brings us to a climatic fight between a villain (I will let you be surprised who it is) and Iron Man.
The casting was perfect. Robert Downey Jr. plays his part as the fast-talking, careless billionaire who gets a reality check brilliantly, and Gwyneth Paltrow is immensely entertaining as Pepper Potts, his cool, calculated assistant. Together they have the perfect amount of chemistry that only increases your desire to see Iron Man II.
Iron Man is a strong beginning to what will hopefully, yes I am actually hoping for more, be a successful franchise. Unfortunately with it being a good beginning, is where it faltered, only a little. First you could really tell it was setting up for more as there are actually very few scenes of Iron Man flying around (there are actually many more scenes of Tony building and testing his Iron Man suit) and secondly the end battle was not as spectacular or even intense as most superhero climaxes and ended rather quickly.
Still Iron Man is a strong, very strong film to open the Summer Season, and does not disappoint. The mark of a good film is when, even with a running time of 126 minutes, it leaves you wanting more!
I'm getting out!
Director Kimberly Peirce ("Boys Don't Cry") brings another powerfully charged film of such raw emotion that upon later reflection of the movie I felt like I had witnessed real events.
Stop-Loss follows the fictional story of a soldier, Brandon King (Ryan Philippe), who has returned home after a tour in Iraq. His contract is up and he just about to get out when he is stop-lossed (a "fine-print" section in all soldiers' contracts that gives the President the power to extended soldier's contracts in time of war). He refuses to be shipped back to Iraq, and goes AWOL in search of his state's senator for help. What follows is his road trip to fight the stop-loss as well as showing the devastating affects his fellow soldiers (Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) experience from the horrible war. Its' acting, directing, and writing had such a feeling of authenticity, and combined with the fact that 81,000 of our brave soldiers have already been stop-lossed since Spetember 11,2001, this film feels like a true story.
One thing that made this film succeed so well was it's director was a woman, and she was able to make a movie were you could feel and see the emotions these guys were feeling even as they would desperately try and mask them.
The acting was extraordinary from the three main soldiers, most notably Ryan Philippe who is so gritty and real in his performance that he seems like he actually is a marine. Channing Tatum gives a genuine performance, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt's is the most haunting of the trio as a soldier who fights his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with excessive amounts of booze and slowly slips into a deep hole of despair.
This films is not a propaganda piece, it simply portrays something that is going on right now. It brings up many good points, but never bashes you with a certain viewpoint but leaves it to you to decide. This is such emotionally powerful, deeply moving film, the best film I have seen since the year started, and destined to be one of my favorites from this year.
Miss Pettigrew...Miss Pettigrew...Miss Pettigrew...
Welcome to a world of lavish delights. A world filled with fashion shows, cocktail parties, and the latest gossip. This is the world Miss Pettigrew finds her self swept up into, and where she lives her day
to the fullest.
Miss Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is a nanny that has just been dropped by her placement agency after being fired for the third time from another displeased client. In her desperation for employment she steals an address card to a new client, and is soon on their doorstep, posing as the new nanny from the agency. This new client turns out to be, Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), a young singer/actress wannabe who is competing for the lead in a big production play. She has no children and wants a nanny more as a secretary or "social secretary" as she later calls Miss Pettigrew. Within a matter of minutes of her arrival Miss Pettigrew helps Delysia outwit two of the three men she is seeing, avoiding a possible catastrophe. This makes Delysia worship Miss Pettigrew and before long she is whisking her away to a fashion show and salon before a cocktail party in the evening.
As the characters play with love like a fine chess game, Miss Pettigrew helps Delysia maneuver through this dazzling champagne 'n' strawberry-drenched world of revelries that the rich use in a desperate attempt to conceal the looming dread of WWII, meanwhile enjoying tidbits of luxuries she would never have dreamed of.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is an absolute delight to watch from the very beginning up until the final end. The production, directing, writing, and acting are all superb as they recreate the WWII era in England.
The acting, well Frances McDormand and Amy Adams as the two leads, need I say more. These two actresses work together so flawlessly. Frances McDormand masters a British accent and gives a performance of layers. Few actresses can play a character that "acts" fakily-sweet and still give such a realistic performance as Amy Adams. Her performance reminded me of her recent golden-globe nominated performance in Enchanted.
Overall this is a charming, delightfully entertaining film with wonderful performances and a sharp script.
The Bank Job (2008)
This is no Ocean's-style heist film
Despite a weak, B-rate feeling opening, The Bank Job manages to pull itself up and shape into a wildly engaging, gritty, realistic heist film that holds nothing back and does not have the comfy, playful feel of the Ocean's films. And here's the kick: its' based on a true story.
Yes that's right, it is based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street Bank robbery in England, considered to be one of the biggest bank robberies in British history. Terry Leather (played by Jason Statham) is in a spot of trouble. He owes money to some criminal bigwig, so when an old friend Martine Love (Saffron Burrows) comes along with a proposition for him and his two mates to rob a small bank's safety deposit box vault, he takes it. As they begin their job everything fits perfectly into place and moves along at a smooth pace an almost too smooth pace as very quickly the little proposition spirals madly out of control with secrets and double crossing being revealed, all before coming to a surprising ending.
I was disappointed that characters were not as fleshed out and developed as I would have liked. However, Terry is done very well and I feel Jason Statham, the most underrated action movie star, has an almost Bruce Willis-type presence.
The acting and dialogue was good, Saffron Burrows gives a bristling nuanced performance, and Terry's two mates Daniel Mays and Stephen Campbell Moore both bring a balanced energy to gang of criminals.
The Bank Job is a rough, somewhat violent heist film that does not have a fun feel to it, however as it picks up from the mediocre beginning it holds you with a raw intensity that rewards you even more once the credits roll as you read the real life aftermath of the characters.
10,000 BC (2008)
"Journey back to a time..."
The trailers for 10,000 B.C. says "
Journey back to a time of darkness, Journey to a world lost in time" and boy oh boy, do you journey. From the opening of the film you are swept up into a stone age village in the lofty peaks of the Himalayas, next a jungle filled with prehistoric creatures, then it is an African desert plain complete with a saber-tooth tiger, all before coming to the banks of the Nile to witness the building of the Great Pyramid. All this and more is delivered to you in the diverse locations covered in 10,000 B.C. a film about the beginning of time and civilization.
The film opens with narration from Omar Sharif and the story begins in a tiny mountain top village of mammoth hunters which is ravaged by "four-legged demons" (Hun-style soldiers on horses) who capture and kill most of the villagers, save for a handful. Among that handful is a man, D'leh (played by Steven Strait), whose lover, Evolet (played by Camilla Belle) was among the many dragged off as slaves. D'leh and two other warriors waste no time in setting off in hot pursuit of demon raiders. So the journey starts as they trek across every possible extreme landscape up until they find their villagers have been put to work as slaves to build the Great Pyramid. As the three warriors plan a way to free them they are joined by thousands of other African tribe warriors who have also lost loved ones to the slave-seeking raiders, and the final climax is one spectacular epic battle atop the pyramids including more mammoths (they apparently helped the Egyptians pull the massive stones to build the pyramids, debunking the long held theory that aliens did!).
10,000 B.C. is complete eye-candy with its' extravagant CGI, vast sets, detailed costumes, and sweeping cinematography. The acting is average, nothing amazing, but nothing bad. The script is very basic but it works because you would not expect our prehistoric ancestors to break out in eloquent or snappy dialogue.
Overall I was highly entertained and satisfied with outcome. Despite the film having less historical accuracy than even the recent atrocious flop, The Other Boleyn Girl, it still manages to be a good film that holds your eyes with its' magnificent visuals as well as your interest with its' characters that have just enough emotion and heart to be able to invest and connect with them (even if just slightly). 10,000 B.C. is pure exhilarating entertainment, and does what a film shouldlets you escape back to a time of darkness, to a world lost in time!
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
A tale of two sisters
Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, a bestselling novel, and an Oscar-nominated screenwriterall these elements should form a brilliant, talented collaboration, but unfortunately the novel is hacked into an incongruent muddle of scenes which are further ruined by the atrocious editing.
It is based on Philippa Gregory's bestselling novel The Other Boleyn Girl, and tells the story of two sisters, Mary (played by Scarlett Johansson) and Anne Boleyn (played by Natalie Portman), who bother vie for King Henry VIII's (played by Eric Bana) affection (if only they knew he was not the one-girl-type). It is a time in England when girls were as their mother lady Elizabeth Boleyn (played by Kirstin Scott Thomas) put it " Traded like cattle for the advancement and pleasure of men." The girl's father (played by Mark Rylance) wants to catch the eye of the King to secure wealth and status by "pimping" his daughter Anne to be the King's mistress. King Henry passes over Anne in favor of the quiet submitting daughter Mary, but once she is pregnant with his illegitimate child, he quickly turns back to Anne who has returned to the court scene with a newfound sensual, seductive confidence. As Henry falls hard for Anne, Mary is quickly swept aside so the stage is set for the inevitable conclusion.
I did read the book and loved it. However I generally enjoy film adaptations no matter how far they stray from the book. Film and book are two completely different types of storytelling, so with that said the reason I did not like this film was not its major detractions from the book, but the incredible dull, emotionless production.
The acting from Natalie Portman, Eric Bana, and Kirstin Scott-Thomas was top-notch, especially Portman's (I am convinced had this been a better production and release date she would probably be garnering nominations). The rest of the cast could not hold up. Scarlet Johansson's acting was cringe-worthy as she never removed the same complacent, angelic expression from her face (she didn't even cry when her sister's head was chopped off!) and spoke in the same tone the entire film.
The production itself was not bad, the sets, costumes, etc. were all quite exquisite. The problem with this film was it had so many good aspects it could not make use of them. The editing, I must point out, was the downfall of this great story. All the scenes were so disjointed and quick that you never had time to get pulled into the story. Helping it along was the frustrating script which had lines spoken so impassively and for the sole purpose to inform the audience what was going on that it was devoid of any eloquence or originality. I felt there were whole sections left out that I knew because I had read the book, but someone new to it would be thoroughly lost.
This is such an unfortunate botching of an intriguing tale, and once again feels like the producers did not know what to do with all the talent they had. It not only is a horrible adaptation, but a very poorly done film that moved through its' material so quickly it lost its' emotional depth on the way. At the end you are left still waiting for it to start, and are so detached you do not even care about the characters whose lives were so horribly ruined. The only reason I would recommend anyone to see this film is to see Natalie Portman's performance which is utterly fascinating to watch as she plays this illustrious historical figure.
Vantage Point (2008)
The all-seeing eye
As the Bourne series raises the bar for action films, and audiences balk at two-plus hour runtimes, the filmmakers of Vantage Point seem like they are trying to bring a fresh, new, unconventional take on the action/thriller genre. Though it may annoy some people, I felt the new take turns Vantage Point into a taut terrorist thriller.
The new take or approach is jumping right into the moment (everything is already planned out, people and weapons in place, etc.) of the action and then telling it from eight different points of view. This is where some people may be mildly irritated because after you see one point of view everything is suddenly rewound and shown from the next person's point of view (this is done six times) before they all converge into a thrilling finale filled with one massive adrenaline-fuelled car/chase sequence.
Because of the complex twists and turns of the plot and characters I will be brief, very brief actually, on the plot. It starts with a TV network covering a large gathering of leaders from all over the world (including the President of the United States) who have come together to form an alliance against the war on terror. At the beginning of this meeting the US president is assassinated as he takes the stage, and it begins replaying the assassination through all the different points of view. The editing must be commended in this film as it blends all the points of views so sophisticatedly you cannot help being engrossed, and the star-studded cast includes Dennis Quaid, Mathew Fox, Forest Whitaker, William Hurt, and Sigourney Weaver simply adds to everything.
In the theater I was watching some people called out their annoyance of "again?!" on the fifth rewind, which I find amusing as the filmmakers are simply trying to come up with something new in these sequel-ridden times. And probably as those same people say Hollywood is "out of ideas" they get angry when it tries something "different" and would rather go spend their money on Spider-man 8.
I felt Vantage Point was an intelligent thriller, and yes it had its' share of implausible plot points, but these were minor as the new technique makes you feel like you have an all-seeing surveillance system. I kind of felt like I was putting a puzzle together, piece by piece, and as you see a new point of view it adds more to the story and just when you think you have it figured out it changes again.
Mad Money (2008)
Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, Katie Holmes, and Callie Khouri (the screenwriter of Thelma and Louise) come together so perfectly in this entertaining crime adventure.
Bridget (played by Diane Keaton) is the wife a laid-off a corporate manager Don (played by Ted Danson) and when he tells her they will be downsizing (selling their beautiful house, living simpler, etc.), she looks for a job to desperately keep them in their respective status. Having not worked in years, the only job opening she is able to find is the janitor at a Federal Reserve Bank. As she watches the shredding of worn out bills day in and day out, she concocts a plan.
However for her plan to work she needs two people to help her, and before long she solicits their help. They are Nina (played by Queen Latifah) the shredder, and Jackie (played by Katie Holmes) the carrier. As everything goes according to plan they start smuggling out hoards of cash and before long they have everything they could want except for more. As they keep taking more, their actions catch the eye of the IRS, and their perfect plan starts spiraling out of control.
No, it doesn't have the intensely, complicated wit of other heist movies like the Oceans 11-13 or The Italian Job, but it is fiendishly entertaining. How nice to just sit back and enjoy this as entertainment, rather than try and figure out or follow all the intricate plot twists of other crime films.
It is refreshing to see a more "feminist" film from Hollywood, with all three leads as well as the director being women. I always wonder if women ever get annoyed at the lack of female lead roles in Hollywood films (especially since Jodie Foster only makes one film per year!).
All three actresses have great chemistry, and do well on their own. Diane Keaton is the queen of comic (yet not over-the-top) acting, Queen Latifah is sensible and sophisticated, and Katie Holmes morphs back into a teenage-twenty-something with flair.
This is an simple, enjoyable crime romp, with a great script that is just MAD FUN!
Le scaphandre et le papillon (2007)
A, b, c, d, e...
As The Diving Bell and the Butterfly opens (literally) with the blurred images seen through only one eye, it unfolds with a haunting dreamlike atmosphere that you hope is a dream, but very quickly realize it is reality.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly tells the true story of the Elle magazine editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a terrible stoke and is paralyzed from head to toe except for one eyelid. He suffers from "locked-in" syndrome where he can hear completely and see with one eye but cannot more or talk. Working with a speech therapist he is able to communicate, and eventually dictate his entire memoirs, by blinking.He also has two children from a girlfriend who visits him several times, and helps him contact a lover in a painfully emotional scene.
The director, Julian Schnabel, who recently won a Golden Globe for directing this film, masterfully handles the hard material. He blends flash-backs, voice-overs, and effective camera angles and shots to convey the utter horror of only seeing through one eye.
A lot of the shots are done with such an angle so you see Jean-Dominique's point-of-view, but these are blended with magnificent clips of nature imagery showing though his body is paralyzed his mind and imagination is not. This is very effective, yet almost too effective because after a while I felt a little exhausted from not seeing the whole picture.
I did not particularly enjoy watching this film, mainly because I wasn't able to connect with the characters as well as not being a huge fan of foreign films (it is in French). Still, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a piece of art. Its' vast blend of techniques make it a powerful and emotionally intense film and I give the high rating sole for the purpose of its' artistic creativity.
Its' jump falls short of great, and lands on moderate
It is finally herethe first mega-budget, CGI-laden, "blockbuster" of the year, but its' jump falls short of great, and lands on moderate instead.
David Rice (played Hayden Christensen) learns at age fifteen he as the ability to teleport anywhere, through anything, at anytime. He quickly learns how to harness his power and control it, and then before long he as robbed a bank and is on his way to the "good life". Fast-forward till he is older, he now has a dream apartment in New York and spends his days trotting the globebreakfast in Paris, surfing in Fiji, lunch on top of the Sphinx, one night stand in London, etc.you get the picture.
He returns home wanting to find his high school crush, Millie (played by Rachel Bilson). He finds her working at the local bar and obviously wants to share his dream-existence with her. There lies a big problem as she quickly suspects something, and before he has time to explain everything to her his "perfect" existence is suddenly threatened. It is threatened by a detective Roland (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who is investing the first bank robbery, and slowly starts tracking David. Roland knows about these "jumpers", and tracks them down to kill them reminding each one repeatedly "Only God should have the power ." As he gets closer to David and his loved ones, the film accelerates into a blinding pace of "jumping" action until the end which neatly setup a new franchise.
Because of its' poor script, direction, and editing, the special effects and settings are what make this film good. Yes we have seen other superheroes teleport, but I do not remember ever seeing Night-crawler lounging in a beach chair on top of the Sphinx's head or riding thirty-foot waves in Fiji. Watching him do everything you could ever want with this new power is what makes it entertaining, as you anticipate the next destination you will be whisked off to.
Hayden Christensen proves he really can act after, and he gives a solid performance, although Jamie Bell (playing another jumper) steals any and all scenes he appears in with his intense, energetic, comic-relief presence. Diane Lane's cameo is a pleasant surprise, and Rachel Bilson's performance as the girlfriend is sincere.
My main complaint was the ending, which is so happily clique and a blatant setup for a sequel it leaves you with the feeling "that's it?" I still liked it. Overall this is a pure popcorn, eye-candy thriller that is entertaining enough if you do not try to think about it to hard, and can hold you over till this Summer's "real" blockbusters!
Leaves you feeling dirty, appalled, and disgusted
The most terrifying part of Untraceable is not the scenes of suspense or gruesome torture; but the image this film left me withthis could be the next step in societies demand for "reality" entertainment.
Jennifer Marsh (played by Diane Lane) is a cybercrime FBI agent who fights online criminals most of who are stealing credit card numbers to buy a watch off eBay or downloading music illegally. She receives an anonymous tip about a new website that streams live features of victims being brutally tortured to death as the more people visit the site. Her job suddenly intensifies, and a heightened beat-the-clock investigation begins as the body count rises. Even with all the FBI computers, there is one small problem the killer is (hint it's in the title) untraceable.
I will admit it, I was engrossed. Director Gregory Hoblit (Fallen, Fracture) knows how to build suspense with a quiet, taut pacing, but unfortunately he lets it quickly spiral out of control as it shows every torture in gruesome detail, similar to the Saw and Hostel movies.
A big disappointment is that there is no "twist" as you see who the killer is fairly early on, and the motivation for the killer's actions is rather weak. Even as I write this review there are a myriad of "how did?"s, "why did?"s, and "that is not possible!"s Another aspect that bothered me, was the fact that this story felt hypocritical. It seemed almost to be a message of how horrible our ravenous appetite for "torture porn" is. Yet, its' portrayal of the general public who logged on to this site, as no better than the killer committing this inhuman crime, was pointless as you witness everything they did, making you feel no different than them.
I was sad Diane Lane was wasted on this film as she delivers a strong, intelligent performance despite the mediocre material, and Billy Burke (playing a detective on the case with her) holds his own well with her as their scenes are laced with attraction.
Untraceable shocks you with people's pitiless, inhumane reactions to the vile torture of another human being and leaves you feeling dirty, appalled, disgusted, and no better than the people who logged on.
The Bucket List (2007)
The two performances make it worthwhile
"There was a survey once, a thousand people asked, 'If they could know in advance, would they want to know the exact day of their death?'96% said no." This is the core base of this film as the two main characters find themselves pushed into the other 4%.
These two characters are billionaire tycoon Edward Cole (played by Jack Nicholson) and car mechanic Carter Chambers (played by Morgan Freeman) that are both terminally ill with cancer, have both been given less than a year to live, and find themselves sharing the same hospital room. During the weeks they spend at the cancer ward, Carter makes a "bucket list" for fun, but Edward takes it more seriously and wants to start checking things off. So, after a fight with his wife Carter and Edward embark on a luxurious tour of all the finest locations in the worldthe Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, a Safari, etc.as well as crazy stunts like: sky diving, racing sports cars, and even getting a tattoo.
This is one of those warm, cozy films that you can use for pure entertainment, and it works well. The script is horrible but you do not notice it as much since the performances from the two leads more than make up for it. There are plenty of "how could " (especially the fact that a billionaire would share a common hospital room in the first place) but to enjoy this film you have to take everything as it is presented.
The once thing that did upset me was the portrayal of Carter's wife as the nagging wife who only naturally would be devastated finding out your husband is leaving on a world tour just after hearing the news that he will only be around for about a year longer.
Still, this is one of those films that despite the poor production quality (it is really poor when the pyramids look like fake back-drops in our CGI-obsessed world) the performances by two of Hollywood's most veteran actors (both Oscar winners) make The Bucket List something you might want to add to your list of movies seen.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
The Most Overrated Film of 2007!
Paul Thomas Anderson once again fashions an original and ambitious film of layers filled with challenging themes that, despite producing an occasional scene of brutal realism, fails to be that good. This two-hour and forty-minute story of one man's greedy ambition and his unwavering quest for wealth at whatever cost, reminded me of a Charles Dickens story where all the characters are caricaturesand that is not a good thing.
Daniel Plainview is an oilman who is seeking to make a fortune by finding a piece of real estate with a profitable oil well. He has no family except for a baby boy he adopts and quickly turns into his young prodigy. He is approached by a boy, Paul (played by Paul Dano), who tells him of a ranch where there is such an abundance of oil it is seeping out of the ground. This is all Daniel needs to hear before setting off to find it. When he arrives he quickly goes about buying up the ranch as well as all the surrounding land and then with a crew starts drilling. He does run into some confrontation with Eli (also played by Paul Dano) the brother of Paul. Eli realizes the oil is worth something and wants a share of the profit for his church which he is minister of. Daniel agrees to this, but once he strikes oil and starts raking in money, he completely ignores his deal with Eli as his true colors are shown and he slowly turns completely bitter to everyone around him.
This is one of those films that seems to easily garner many award nominations and termed "masterpiece!", but when you go see it you are left wondering if you saw the same film. There were simply too many flaws in this film to be even close to a masterpiece.
To start, as I said before there are moments of true brilliance and some scenes were so engrossing that you would hang on every motion and line of the characters only to be shut back out the moment the scene was over or the acting would become so ferocious that serious parts were almost humorous. PTA, the director, seems to have this style of pushing his actors almost into the territory of over-acting (as was the case of Tome Cruise and Julian Moore in Magnolia).
The production was nothing new or magnificent. The cinematography was mediocre almost annoying at parts as it showed close-ups for extended periods of time. The score was a "nail-on-chalkboard" type with every note out of tune and absolutely no melody just repetitive clicking, banging, or stringing contrasted against the silence of the plains.
For the story to be almost three hours long it was too focused on the main character, so that the supporting characters (none of who are women) appear more like those extras who just have a few lines before they head to the next studio. Because of this fact I felt the reality was taken out of it as Daniel Plainview seemed to exist in his own world were there was no society and the people surrounding him were so vacant of any character that everyone did as he said. Also the lack of a female character (supporting or main) was a big mistake.
I give this film points for trying to bring a message, but there were too many messages and themes that got mixed together so at the end I was wondering if it was trying to show the affects of greed, money cannot buy happiness, capitalism vs. religion, etc. All of these themes are good but when they are not made clear enough.
Lastly I feel that since it is not an entertaining film, it is more a character study filled with different themes to critically analyze (which I LOVE) that the director should have chosen a different actor and story to illustrate those themes instead of oil drilling, Daniel-Day Lewis and nearly three hours of screen time (half of which has Daniel covered in oil beyond the point of recognition).
The Best Film of 2007
As Atonement opens with stunning images of the tranquil English countryside where everything is a picture of perfection and everyone appears content; you cannot help but feel the atmospheric foreboding as nothing perfect lasts forever in this tarnished world. Based on the bestselling novel by Ian McEwan, it is an unforgettable, beautifully haunting love story that slowly slips into a devastating flood of such raw, overwhelming tragedy that you can feel the emotional journey of the characters; and its' thought-provoking themes of forgiveness, atoning, betrayal, and love stay with you for days afterwards.
When Briony Tallis (played three different ages by by Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, and Vanessa Redgrave) misinterprets an encounter between Robbie Turner (played by James McAvoy) and her sister Cecillia Tallis (played Keira Knightley), she tells a lie that carries such shocking consequences that it completely ruins their lives. Briony spends the rest of her life seeking forgiveness for her appalling act. The story is told against the backdrop of WWII from the three points of view, along with beautifully rendered and perfectly timed flashbacks and forwards.
Director Joe Wright does a splendid job contrasting the two worlds. The beginning is filled with whimsical, pastel colors of the exquisite English Countryside drenched in glowing sunshine where everything has the sense of a timeless perfection; only to be followed by the dark, ominous, gritty images of a war torn France.
The acting from the entire cast is top-notch. James McAvoy gives a strong emotion-filled performance of great depth; Keira Knightley effortless glides into her role as the high-class daughter, and as only she can do, speaks each line with such eloquence that it is a treat to just listen. Saoirse Ronan is truly one of the best child actresses of late as she acts with such a profound maturity and intensity; and Vanessa Redgrave is so perfect in her small role as Briony in her older years that she still manages to make an impression and is able to convey such emotion solely through her expressions.
Every level of production is so perfect, it is an absolute triumph. Notably the cinematography which was dazzling, containing one of the most epic and complex single-take in movie history (yes it even toped Children of Men); as well as Dario Marianelli's magnificent, sweeping score filled with an original theme of simple yet exquisite beauty. Atonement truly is the best film of 2007.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is well
just read the title again and you should get the basic idea of what the movie is about.
The film is essential about the famed assassination. It starts out slowly, builds up slowly, and ends slowly but still manages to become an incredible peace of work. It is a very well-developed, methodically paced character study of two menJesse James and Robert Ford. This is not a busy story with lots of things happening. Robert Ford (played by Cassey Affleck) is entering adulthood (he is 19 but tells everyone he is 20). He is the youngest of five brothers, and seems like the one who was always teased mercilessly, never taken seriously, and never given any responsibility or respect. In contrast, Jesse James (played by Brad Pitt) is coming to the end of his infamous legendary career (he is 34). He always seems in control, does not show his emotions outwardly and is feared and respected wherever he goes.
The majority of the film is Robert attempting to get in the "in" group of Jesse's gang. He wants to be the close one to Jesse. He examines and imitates Jesse's every move and gesture with an intense obsession, like a crazed fan of a certain celebrity. His methodical, relentless observations of Jesse border on obsession and are laced with sexual longing overtones.
I never was hugely impressed with Brad Pitt's acting abilities until I saw Bable and now he produces another very real, stirring performance brining out more of his talent. Cassey Affleck delivers the best performance of the film as he is able to convey so much emotion, longing, and desire just with expressions and tones of voice. I am curious to see what he does next. I love long films, but I think this should have been shorter because some of the length of the film (2hrs.40mins. to be exact) comes from extended still shots of various people and scenes which, due to the simplicity of the story, bogged the film down and seemed unnecessary. None the less, this is sprawling, languid, beautifully fashioned film.
Michael Clayton (2007)
Tony Gilroy (the screenwriter of all three Bourne films) makes his directorial debut with Michael Clayton. It is a true masterpiece that elevates itself from the common lawyer/thriller genre into a classic. George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a burned out lawyer working for a respected law firm. He does not have a glamorous job. He is in his own words "a janitor". He cleans up messes of cases and runs around reassuring clients that their money has been spent wisely. He is also in debt, divorced, and has a gambling addiction. Michael is assigned to fix the situation of a defense lawyer, Arthur Eden (played by Tom Wilkinson), he knows, is arrested for streaking. Arthur has been working six years on a defense for a multi-billion dollar corporation, uNorth. One of Michael's duties include controlling the manic depressant Arthur as well as reassuring a uNorth corporate employee that everything is under control and that uNorth's $9 million worth of legal fees will not go to waste. Michael attempts to reason with Arthur to finish working on the defense, despite Arthur's protests regarding evidence that uNorth's products have and are killing people. One thing, among many, that make this film so good is that it does not rely on conventional thrills with car chases, shootouts, or dramatic courtroom showdowns; but has it's own unique atmospheric intensity to it that pulls you in from the opening sequence. The cast is a major driving force of the film. Every character is so well casted and acted. George Clooney delivers another powerful performance, Tom Wilkinson plays the manic depressant with a passionate vigor, and Tilda Swinton gives an astonishing performance as the corporate member dealing with insecurities but desperately trying to hide and control them.
The entire production of the film is so well done. The sharp, sophisticated script is remarkable, and filled with so many great lines. This is a moving, exceptional lawyer film pulsing with a brooding intensity.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Almost a decade later, director Shekhar Kapur follows up his critically acclaimed Elizabeth with Elizabeth: The Golden Age which includes the ethereal Cate Blanchett reprising her role as the famous regent.
Now firmly settled into her throne, this second film follows Elizabeth facing the crisis of the invasion of the famous Spanish Armada. In addition to this she also has to deal with an internal crisis as she starts having great affection for Sir Walter Raleigh (played by Clive Owen)a pirate staying at the court. She obviously is unable to marry him being that she is the Queen, and a queen who has already refused many offers of princes from all of Europe.
This is a glorious, sumptuous epic with award-caliber production. The cinematography is some of the best I have seen since Titanic, and the sets and costumes are magnificent. The sweeping score blends all the scenes together perfectly. Cate Blanchett's performance stands out from the star-studded cast as she reprises her role with a ferocious intensity.
I have only one complaint with the film. It is the fact that the director changed Elizabeth's character into a woman publicly longing and pursuing a man in ways that reminded me of a giddy love-struck teenage girl with their first crush. It seemed out of character for a regally mature, sophisticated queen who should already have experienced such things and outwardly have moved on. This film is quite different in tone as the other one. It is much tamer (garnering a PG-13 rating compared to the R rating of the other one) and more entertaining with the love story and the climatic battle at the end. Even with the change and the rather major complaint the film manages to be a stunningly produced, acted, and compellingly wrought epic piece of cinema. It makes me hope Kapur will make the third of his planned Elizabethan trilogy.
The Hunting Party (2007)
The Hunting Party
The Hunting Party is a cold, disjointed film that seems to be hunting desperately for a genre to fit into.
The Hunting Party is based on a true story about three journalists (played by Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, and ) who go on a mission to interview and capture one of the most wanted war criminals in the worldthe Fox. True story films usually seem to command a degree of respect, because as we watch it we know some or all of it happened to a certain degree. Despite opening with the line "Only the most ridiculous parts of this movie are true." I could not respect this film.
There were so many problems on so many levels I was left dumbfounded. The characters are underdeveloped, distant and impossible to relate to. The decisions they make seem almost trying to make us dislike them. The pacing and flow of the film was disorganized, chopped-up, and confusing. The entire film seemed to be random scenes of a true story tacked together to produce a story and Terrence Howard's calming narration added to the beginning and end to smooth it out and connect it. It seemed like it was trying to be an intense thriller, a true story about impossible odds, as well as a melodrama of two men who worked together and their experiences.
Unfortunately Gere's and Howard's talented performances were wasted in this messy mechanical, melodramatic film. I love true stories, but not all true stories were meant to be turned into films.
In the Valley of Elah (2007)
In the Valley of Elah
There have been many films about the aftermath of war, but never have I seen such a brutally honest and shocking depiction of the de-humanization of soldiers back from war. This is the underlying premise of the new crime thriller from academy award winning writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash).
Hank Deerfield (played by Tommy Lee Jones) is a retired veteran and military police officer searching for his son who has gone AWOL. A detective Emily Sanders (played by Charlize Theron) becomes interested in the case and starts helping Hank outside of her job. When Hank's son's body is found, the search suddenly turns into a search for the murderer.
One of the many aspects I appreciated was that director Haggis did not turn this into a typical Hollywood crime thriller and also not turn it into a political propaganda piece against the war and President Bush. Instead he mixes the two plots together seamless and subtle, letting you decide for your self.
Tommy Lee Jones gives the best performance of his long career as he plays a quiet, emotionless war vet, but still shows tremendous amount of emotion. Just watching his face as he sits in a diner and listens to one of his retired friends tell him about plans to go visit his grandchildren is heartbreaking. We can almost see the internal emotional struggle as he realizes he will never be able to do that. Charlize Theron does a wonderful job as the detective, and despite her small screen time Susan Surandon plays the grieving wife of Jones to perfection.
This film is such a moving masterpiece on so many levels it is simply wonderful to watch. The quiet pacing of the film building up to the climax is captivatingly intense in its own way. I am sure this will be a popular film at the Oscars this year, and if they gave out awards for best scene this would be sure to garner a nomination for a simple, poignant, yet profoundly moving scene when Frank tells the story of David and Goliath (which took place in the Valley of Elah) to the little son of detective Sanders.
The Brave One (2007)
The Brave One
Jodie Foster is like the "wild card" of Hollywood. She does not appear in the news for DUIs or sex scandals. She does not let her life be dissected by tabloids. She is 45, but still lands lead roles in major films despite Hollywood's obsession with youth. She generally makes one movie per year. So, when I saw her name appearing on posters and in trailers I was excited. I could not help but anticipate what film she would have picked after her massive hit Flightplan. After seeing The Brave One I felt she picked bravely, yet wisely.
The films opens with the crisp, clear voice of Foster narrating against montage of random shots of New York city, and we learn that she has her own radio show about New York. When she and her fiancé are brutally mugged while taking an evening walk in a park, she is left in a come for three weeks, while her fiancé is buried. When she finally does wake up from the coma and learns what has happened she descends into a deep, hopeless depression. Not recovering from the shock of the horrible attack she buys a gun for protection, but a trip to a convenience store has her already using it for the first time. After this brief incident she starts walking the streets at night to fight her insomnia and deal with the terrifying nightmares she has. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with the detective (played by Terence Howard) investigating her killings. As their relationship builds so does the suspense, which all comes to thundering stop in the final fight. Playing a woman who is in an impossible dilemma once again, Foster manages to bring something different to her role escaping a typecast. This time she delves into the psych of her character with a brooding energy. Terrence Howard (Crash, Pride) playing the detective does very well in his role. My only complaint with the film was the ending. It seemed that it was possibly a studio re-cut, because it had that feeling of trying to satisfy rather than braving the outrage of audiences that might have come had the ending been different. Despite that this was a very stirring, powerful film. I was greatly relieved as I watched it that it did not turn into a stylish action film with a death toll to rival Braveheart's battles, but dealt more with the reasons someone might turn to violence after being effected so cruelly by it. I also liked how it did not preach to us about our societies infatuation with violence, nor did it take a stand about whether the choices this woman made were right or wrong, but instead left it up for us to be the judge and decide. It almost leaves you wondering what you would have done.
Becoming Jane (2007)
Seemed to similar to the umpteen adaptations we have seen of her stories
I really must point out that the generous 7/10 rating is only there because of the beautifully enchanting opening sequence and simply perfect ending. Unfortunately the rest of the film was not exhilarating.
It is a fictional story of the life of Jane Austen one of the world's most beloved authors having written six best selling novels. There is not much difference to the story than one of the many, many films adaptations of her actual books. It follows the basic premise of Pride and Prejudice with an overly impertinent mother desperate to marry off her daughter Jane to a wealthy man. It is even more similar when Jane refuses a generous offer from one such man, and tension with her mother ensues. Jane meets a man, Tom Lefroy, who is young, attractive, and different most of the stiff and proper men she is surrounded by. As she falls for him and he for her well you probably already know they are unable to marry because Tom does not have any money. He is completely reliable on his Uncle's allowance for support, an allowance that will be taken away should he marry Jane. As they try to figure a way to marry and be financially stable a secret is revealed and the story comes to surprising conclusion.
I am sure Jane's life was an inspiration for her novels but this fictitious tale seemed to similar to the umpteen adaptations we have seen of her stories to make it interesting enough. Also the film is called 'Becoming Jane', I assume meaning Jane Austen becoming a famous author, but I felt like the story never really showed much of her writing and coming up with the ideas. There were occasions that this did happen but not enough for my taste. One enjoyable thing, like all Jane Austen movies, is the locations and scenery are always breathtaking and a pleasure to watch.
Anne Hathaway plays the young author very convincingly, and James McAvoy plays Tom Lefroy with an intense captivating energy. The wonderful supporting actors, which include Maggie Smith, Julie Waters, and James Cromwell, all do wonderful jobs but are heavily underused.
Overall a movie that uses the same things over again to many times. I still am sticking to my original 7/10 rating because of the ending which is just so remarkable and also the skillfully timed and edited beginning.
No Reservations (2007)
Pre-cooked fair we've had before, but still manages to be entertaining
No Reservation, although an entertaining film does not have the slightest trace of originality unlike the many gourmet dishes Kate cooks up. It follows the formula or outline of most romantic comedies so closely it feels pre-packaged and almost every scene is entirely predictable. It follows as story of a famous chef Kate, played by the always-stunning Catherine Zeta-Jones, who's sister has just dies in a car accident, forcing Kate to take in her sister's only daughter, Zoe (played by Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin). While taking time off to deal with the loss and adjust to having a child at home, a new chef, Nick (Played by Aaron Ekhart) is hired by the restaurant. Once Kate returns to work she feels threatened by the new chef, thinking he is trying to take over her kitchen and career. As the two work together they find themselves falling for each other. The cast does a fine job, Catherine Zeta-Jones sensually sophisticated, Aaron Ekhart well I have to admit I felt he was sort of picked because of his perfect "model" features but he still does a fine job. Abigail Breslin does a wonderful job reminding us why she received that nomination at such a young age. The main problem with this film was its' script. I thought the characters weren't developed quite enough. It almost seemed as an outline example for romantic comedies. As I watched the final scene I smirked having already figured it out a long time ago. One thing that helps partially salvage this movie is the pure fascinating culinary imagery, and despite all the negativity in this review it is still a moderately entertaining film for when you want something simple, brainless, and light. It does deliver some fresh laughs and let's face it Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Ekhart
need I say more
I mean talk about hot couples!
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
One of the best action/thrillers to come out in a long time...
Jason Bourne has returned to the big screen for the ending of the successful Bourne Trilogy
or is it the end
maybe I shouldn't use the word 'trilogy'. It is the so-called end and the filmmakers bring a large measure of closure to everything, but still leaving it open for a sequel. I mean who are we kidding, this is Hollywood. Anyway
The Bourne Ultimatum is one of the best action thrillers to come out in years. It does not disappoint and maintains the level of originality the other two. Director Paul Greengrass (United 93, Bourne Supremacy) assembles the film with a masterful craftsmanship, and builds the chase/action scenes with an almost Hitchcockian suspense. He effectively uses his signature "shaky camera" shots, but only to portray the utter chaos the characters are going through. The story follows Bourne on a quest for answers that spans the globe, staring in Russia and ending in New York. Matt Damon plays Bourne again, terrifyingly calm as always, but this time a little more hardened from the death of his girlfriend in the second film. The supporting cast all do superb jobs, especially Julia Stiles who has a bigger role. Veteran actor Albert Finney joins the cast and despite his small amount of screen time makes a big impression as the lead doctor of the Treadstone program. Joan Allen is wonderful again as Pamela Landey the operations director from the second one. John Powell's produces another wonderful score containing traces of the main themes. It compliments the suspense building scenes so well I can not imagine what it would be like without it. Overall an amazingly crafted thriller, and seriously one of the best in years
yes years. My only complaint was that I wished towards the end when you find out all the answers of Jason's past through flashback, I wanted to see more about his past. But it is a small complaint compared with the rest of the film. It ends the, okay I am going to use it, Trilogy very well and left me quite satisfied.