Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Brood (1979)

Director: David Cronenberg. Cast: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle. 92 min. Rated R. Canada. Horror/Sci-fi.

Another one of those corny 70s gooey horror-thrillers by Cronenberg, about another bizarre fictitious medical-mental disorder, this time called "psychoplasm", a disease where a female bears deformed children and controls their minds remotely to commit gruesome murders. Yuck. But that doesn't mean I was bored or anything - especially during a climactic cross-cut sequence at the end, which is still thrilling/scary after more than 30 years. Further research shows this movie has achieved cult status.

Mo says:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lincoln (2012)

Director: Steven Spielberg. Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader , Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris. 150 min. Rated PG-13. USA/India. Drama/History.

Another one of those movies that 100 words would be a great disservice to describe. Let's just say after watching so many films, again, this one came along and changed how I thought about humanity, specifically politics, and politicians. About how morally ambiguous the whole process is, and how while trying to do good, politicians step into a dark abyss, and commit actions that haunt them for the rest of their lives. Spielberg performs miracles again, by upgrading a somewhat simple segment of history (passing a Constitutional Amendment), to cinematic masterpiece. Expecting this to be the year's main Oscar winner.

PS: How about stating with this great article? Thanks, JZ.

Mo says:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mirror, Mirror (2012)

Director: Tarsem Singh. Cast: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham, Sean Bean. 106 min. Rated PG. Comedy/Adventure.

The best description I can come up with for this version of the Snow White story, is "cute". After all, Julia Roberts (as the Queen) is utterly unable to play a villain, and the dwarves are here just to (successfully) fill the movie with comedic moments. As expected from one of Hollywood's most visually entertaining directors, Tarsem Singh creates family-friendly sceneries of lavish costumes in panoramic CGI backgrounds that never fail to mesmerize, so much in contrast with the disconcerting violence of his masterpiece, The Cell (2000). Recommended only if you're looking for something light.

Mo says:

Get the Gringo (2012)

Director: Adrian Grunberg. Cast: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Peter Stormare. 96 min. Rated R. Action/Crime.

Midnight Express meets A Fistful of Dollars meets Coma, ... in Mexico. Gibson as the "man-with-no-name" ends up in a hell-on-Earth Mexican prison, and lures two rival gangs running the prison into demolishing each other. Wish there was more credibility to the technical/medical aspects of the organ transplant theft subplot, because it's always nice to see Mel Gibson back in action.

Mo says:

The Sessions (2012)

Director: Ben Lewin. Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy. 95 min. Rated R. Drama.

A 38-year old quadriplegic hires a sex surrogate to help him experience intercourse for the first time. Based on (or probably just "inspired by") the real-life story of Mark O'Brien, previously documented in the 1996 Oscar-winning short, Breathing Lessons, I found the story and characters very hard to believe - especially the relationship between the therapist and her husband, who is jealous of a quadriplegic sending his wife love poems (Hello? Any idea what your wife does for a living?). Hawkes is great as O'Brien, but again, that's nothing compared to Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot. Significantly over-hyped.

Mo says:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Director: Wes Anderson. Cast: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban. 94 min. Rated PG-13. Comedy/Romance.

First, just read the introductory statement I wrote here. Read it? OK, I can't connect with Wes Anderson films, I don't find his humor funny, and I don't know why everybody praises his films. I believe his style is just a ploy to look artistic, and to win critic admiration, à la "The Emperor's New Clothes": critics says it's good because they don't understand it. I hope I never put time into watching another Wes Anderson movie again.

Mo says:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Director: John Madden. Cast: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton. 124 min. Rated PG-13. UK/USA/UAE. Comedy/Drama.

A dream cast of some of greatest British actors alive tell the story of seven Englishmen/women who lose all hope in their own lives in the UK, and venture out to live in a dilapidated retiree home in Jaipur, India. Crafted by the director of Shakespeare in Love, the movie has an engaging rhythm filled with thought-provoking one-liners, and I was expecting a somewhat cliche ending ... but not that cliche. The story takes almost no risk at the end. Splendid acting by Dench, Smith and Wilkinson, as always.

Mo says:

In Darkness (2011)

Director: Agnieszka Holland. Cast: Robert Wieckiewicz, Benno Fürmann and Agnieszka Grochowska. 145 min. Rated R. Poland/Germany/Canada. Drama/War.

A war-profiteering weasel in WWII Poland decides to make some money out of hiding Jews in the sewers, and finds himself risking his life for them along the way. This Oscar-nominated film from Holland, the famed Polish director, is actually a "Schindler in the sewers" - which is why it loses it's kick halfway through: Spielberg already told this story 20 years ago. But you still may need nerves of steel to get though this one, especially if you have kids.

Mo says:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bernie (2011)

Director: Richard Linklater. Cast: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey. 104 min. Rated PG-13. Comedy/Drama.

A kind small-town Texan mortician whom everybody loves befriends a millionaire widow, but on sudden impulse (Spoiler Alert!) shoots her to death. So here's the question: should the court be lenient towards the killer, just because he's "nice"? If I see someone being too nice to me for no reason, I usually run for cover. But that's not how the people of this town felt, and apparently, this is based on a true story. Unexpected great performance by Jack Black, but I didn't think there's enough material to warrant a feature film, even from a great writer/director such as Linklater.

Mo says:

Ryan's Daughter (1970)

Director: David Lean. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Sara Miles, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Leo McKern. 195 min. Rated R. UK. Drama/Romance.

Would I have the audacity to give a David Lean film a "Soso"? Well, this almost got a "NoMo" score, if it weren't for an unbelievably thrilling storm sequence. Lean's usual incredible panoramas are the backdrop for this sprawling three-hour plus movie ... about a very simple love triangle. Which means only the cinematography kept me from getting bored to death. But as this major critic wrote forty years ago, every great director's movie is worth seeing at least once.

Mo says:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Skyfall (2012)

Director:  Sam Mendes. Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw. 143 min. Rated PG-13. UK/USA. Action/Adventure.

During the past three movies, the James Bond franchise has become almost unrecognizable from the prior 20 films. Bond looks different, he acts different, the villains are not caricatures, and the Bond girls are not just tag-alongs. So if we accept this new territory, Skyfall is a significant achievement; especially after the dismal Quantum of Solace. The opening sequence is a huge thrill, Craig continues the superb character revival he started in Casino Royale, Bardem creates one of the most sadistic megalomaniac villains, and Dench couldn't get any better as "M". Even Adele's title song is one to be cherished.

Mo says:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Flight (2012)

Director: Robert Zemeckis. Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Nadine Velazquez. 138 min. Rated R. Drama.

Back home many years ago, I remember someone recommended me to watch a film, but "just the first half hour is good". What did that mean? Leave the theater after the first half-hour? Funny part was, he was right. That's exactly what happened during Flight. The first half hour has this unbelievable plane crash sequence that will blow your mind away (and proves what a great director Zemeckis can be, "if he puts his mind to it"), but then the rest of the movie is just a drag about alcoholism. You can leave the theater after the first half hour.

PS: OK, one credit: John Goodman's few minute presence here deserves a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Just amazing.

Mo says:

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Director: Colin Trevorrow. Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni. 86 min. Rated R. Comedy/Sci-fi.

Amateur journalists follow a rural guy to check out whether a time-travel ad he's posted in the local newspaper is authentic, or he's just a nutcase. The movie does a good job at keeping the viewer guessing throughout its entire length between these two possibilities, and offers some genuine laughs and heartfelt moments along the way, but I don't buy the 94% on the Tomatometer. Not at all.

Mo says: