Thursday, September 30, 2010

Solitary Man (2009)

Director(s): Brian Koppelman, David Levien. Cast: Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Richard Schiff, Olivia Thirlby. 90 min. Rated R. Drama.

I'm usually suspicious of screenplays that appear written for a specific actor/actress (Jim Carrey has lots of them), and this is definitely a Michael Douglass vehicle. Needless to say, he does earn the honor, and I am a fan of the man's unique cinematic presence, but Douglass (and some good dialogue) are the movie's only saving grace. The film suffers from bad direction, as characters hurl lines at each other even before the other has a chance to finish their own. The directors think they've engineered an open-ended ending, while they already clumsily decide the ending on earlier repetitious scenes.

Mo says:

The "Red Riding" Trilogy (2009)

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974

Director: Julian Jarrold. Cast: Andrew Garfield, Rebecca Hall, Sean Bean, David Morrissey, Peter Mullan, Robert Sheehan. 102 min. UK. Crime/Drama.

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980
Director: James Marsh. Cast: Paddy Considine, Maxine Peake, James Fox, David Morrissey, Peter Mullan, Robert Sheehan, Warren Clark. 93 min. UK. Crime/Drama.

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983
Director: Anand Tucker. Cast: David Morrissey, Mark Addy, Peter Mullan, Sean Bean, Warren Clark, Robert Sheehan. 100 min. UK. Crime/Drama.

Inspired by the Yorkshire Ripper serial killer case of the 1970s, these three episodes are more about the downward mental spiral of the detectives and journalists probing the case rather than the killer - a monster who had investigators running in circles, with no end in sight. Each episode has a different directing style, and is dramatically more disturbing then the last, but I found the second part distinctly absorbing, probably due to Paddy Considine's harrowing performance as a police finding his personal life notoriously involved in the case. Highly recommended if you're in search for dark, gritty police drama.

(PS: You may want to watch these on DVD rather than Netflix's "Instant Viewing", as I found myself struggling with the thick British/Irish/Scottish/Welsh ... accents.)

(Update: Ridley Scott has already acquired the rights for a remake, to squeeze all three movies into one.)

Mo says:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'm one year old ... again!

Almost 180 movies in one year.

Still a few more to go.

Thanks for keeping me going. Let's start year 2.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Date Night (2010)

Director: Shawn Levy. Cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Ray Liotta, William Fichtner, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, James Franco, Mila Kunis. 88 min. Rated PG-13. Comedy.

A match made in heaven. This comedy with the best male and female comedians of our time truly delivers. Carrell proves his comedy genius again, being funny by mere silence/monotony (a technique he never grows out of), and Fey's improvisations makes you wonder at her power in giving the simplest moments a farcical side (watch her in the act during the end credits bloopers). The intermittent questions the script asks about marriage make some shortcomings (i.e. the implausible car chases) negligible. For the director of Night at the Museum and Cheaper by the Dozen, this is considered a major improvement.

(PS: This movie made me think: What is marriage?)

Mo says:

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Director: Nicolas Roeg. Cast: David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark. 139 min. Rated R. UK. Sci-fi.

Confession: I didn't get it. Or, I didn't get the point of waiting almost 2 and 1/2 hours. If there ever was an alien on Earth, I'm sure it would be David Bowie, but Roeg's story of an alien who comes here in search of water and is then seduced by man's greed and carnal desires, tries to play the deep philosophical sci-fi/art-house game along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and falls flat on the face, due to its multitude of lengthy irrelevant scenes. And the ending leaves you to dry like a raisin in the sun.

Mo says:

The Legend of 1900 (1998)

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore. Cast:: Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Bill Nunn, Clarence Williams III. 120 min. Rated R. Drama. Italy.

I'm not sure this Tornatore flick works. The famed director's familiar elements of endless nostalgia pouring out of a source that is ruined by the end (in Cinema Paradiso the theater, in Malena the village lady) are again present here in the form of an ocean liner; but the character that embodies this nostalgia (Tim Roth, a pianist who's been in the ship since he was born) has some significant flaws, making the viewer confused: Is he a hero, or a loser? Some great musical sequences, but Roth's ending speech creates an anti-climax to the film, rather than a climax.

Mo says:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ajami (2009)

Director(s): Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani. Cast: Shahir Kabaha, Youssef Sahwani. 124 min. Germany/Israel. Drama.

A stylish multi-chapter movie told in Pulp Fiction-like narrative format, directed by an Israeli Jew and a Christian-Arab, which attributes every single sin on Earth to Muslims, and paints Israelis as innocent bystanders. My question: what's the point? Arab-Israeli peace is as impossible as it gets, so why make a celebration of its impossibility? Curious how none of the reviews I've read so far (stressing on the sectarian violence aspect of the movie) points out the film's biased approach - but happy this year's Foreign Language Film Oscar went to its much more deserving competitor, The Secret in Their Eyes.

Mo says:

The Tillman Story (2010)

Director: Amir Bar-Lev. 94 min. Rated R. Documentary.

The tragic story covering the cover up behind the death of NFL player Pat Tillman (evidently the most "popular" soldier in Afghanistan), who was killed by fratricide - or friendly fire. The family goes all the way to the top, and even though from an American viewpoint their quest may have failed, from a Middle-Easterner's approach, the success of a regular citizen to bring the likes of Rumsfeld and Abizeid to court is something to cherish. Watching and supporting movies like this keeps the society healthy.

Mo says:

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

Director: Mike Newell. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina. 116 min. Rated PG-13. Fantasy.

Only if you're interested in glamorous brain dead junk at the end of a busy day. This is proof of how Hollywood corrupts genuine talent - in this case the reputable director of Donnie Brasco and Four Weddings and a Funeral. What worries me is the "colon" after Prince of Persia, which means other words will be substituting The Sands of Time ... in time.

(Interesting imdb trivia: In February 2008, Iranian star Golshifteh Farahani was invited to do a screen test in London along with Gemma Arterton for the role of Tamina, but she was arrested at the airport by the Iranian authorities & banned from leaving the country for six months because she had played in Ridley Scott's Body of Lies.)

Mo says:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Animal Kingdom (2010)

Director: David Michôd. Cast: James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver. 113 min. Rated R. Australia. Drama.

(Spoiler Alert!)

Incredible opening: two people sitting calmly on a couch in an apartment, and after watching them a few minutes, you realize one is dead. This Australian crime non-thriller in the Melbourne suburbs offers an innovative style: it sprinkles a very slow narrative rhythm with sudden bursts of extremely unexpected violence - which causes one to literally jump from one's seat at multiple shocking (but very appropriately placed) moments throughout the film, and gradually makes you incredibly vigilant for more. Jacki Weaver's "Godmother" role will become a strong Oscar contender.

Memorable quote: "You've done some bad things, sweetie."

Mo says:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Strangers (2008)

Director: Bryan Bertino. Cast: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman. 88 min. Rated R/Unrated. Horror.

Opens as one of the best horror movies of all time, then trends towards one of the worst ever. A young couple are terrorized in their isolated summer house by three masked intruders, and the rest is an avalanche of moments from other horror classics (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's opening scroll, The Shining's axe attack, Halloween's hide-in-a-closet, Scream's mask-behind-a-window, to name a few) . Protagonists make the most cliche/idiotic decisions, and villains perform disappearing/reappearing acts that are physically impossible. Merely saw it because Entertainment Weekly readers ranked it as the fourth scariest movie of the past decade. Losers.

Mo says:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Piranha 3D (2010)

Director: Alexander Aja. Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Steven R. McQueen, Jerry O'Connell, Ving Rhames, Kelly Brook, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dreyfuss, Eli Roth. 88 minutes. Rated R. Horror.

Embarrassed to say I enjoyed. One of those flicks that is so stupid, it's good. Regardless of the obligatory objects hurled at the viewer just because of the 3D tag (including vomit, among other objects I'd rather not "spoil"), the third episode of the trilogy (started by Joe Dante and James Cameron) leaves no stone unturned in the realm of gore, and puts the Saw movies to shame. I hadn't laughed so hard at a movie's innumerable idiotic moments for a very long time. Like Drag Me to Hell, watch this only if you know how to enjoy intentional stupidity.

Mo says:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Director: Clint Eastwood. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke. 135 min. Rated PG. Western.

This post-Civil War Eastwood western has some interesting twists, probably considered innovative for its time: The Union are not the good guys, a strong old Indian character is Clint's sidekick, and our hero does not wear a poncho (like in A Fistful of Dollars) nor a neck scarf (like in Pale Rider), but ... spits tobacco. Not much of a story here - so sit back, relax, and watch some old western glamor.

Mo says: