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Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Book of Eli (2010)

"Stay on the path."

Upon first viewing the trailer I was immediately giddy to see a new post-apocalyptic film in the vein of The Road Warrior. Being a fan of the genre, one must get used to the repetitive "lone wanderer" theme so prominently used. I figured this film would go through the same formula, but prepared to enjoy myself.

Yes it did use the lone wanderer as a driving plot device, and yes it did bring the arbitrary twist. Yes all the survivors are short on t-shirts, but live in a wealth of leather and goggles. Yes everything in this film looks like and feels like a typical post-apocalyptia. But the substance of the story is far more powerful then I could ever have expected.

Without giving away too much, yes the film is essentially a Christian metaphor. Eli seems to be protected by some mysterious force, guided by "God" to head west. But it's what the meaning behind this admittedly bizarre plot that makes this film so great. It truly is a film about faith and believing in one's self. Using the dreary post-apocalyptic backdrop, the film is able to contrast this powerful message with the harsh landscape. Even amidst such despair, one can rise and accomplish anything. In a world slowly becoming apocalyptic itself, this message is much welcomed.

The other aspects lending to the power of The Book of Eli are its technical aspects. The cinematography is simply beautiful. Moody slo-mo shots abound with wonderfully toned colors. Everything looks dark and dead, the sun beating down endlessly on the dusty dunes. The soundtrack adds immensely to this feeling, using soft ambient chords and blasting action-scene drums when necessary. Overall The Book of Eli is an excellent film itself and an excellent spin on the post-apocalyptic genre.

Oh yeah, and Denzel Washington actually manages to pull off the part of a wizened, old bad ass.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Amélie (2001)

"These are hard times for dreamers."

Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain' finds its charm in the little things. The story about Amélie (Audrey Tautou) is a modern day fairy tale and that is exactly how it looks the entire film.

We have a wonderful story about Amélie who decides to help people around her, making them happy. Not by doing great big things or giving money, but by little things. She helps her father by making him believe that his gnome from the garden is on a trip around the world, she helps a lonely neighbor by just visiting him, she helps a stranger by returning something she found in her home. On the way she falls in love with Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) who's hobby it is to collect photos from automatic photo booths. Photos that were tossed away because people thought they didn't look good enough. He puts all those photos and pieces of photos in a big book. There is a little mystery in the book as well, of course I will not spoil that for you. The story is not only sweet and charming, it has some great moments of comedy as well.

The movie looks colorful and bright almost constantly. Even the sad parts from Amélie's life, her youth for example, look almost strangely happy. In this world, Paris actually, Audrey Tautou is the perfect inhabitant. She has one of those faces that seem to smile the entire time. She looks like she just pulled a joke and she is waiting for you to find out what it is. In a way her character is really doing that here so it does not feel strange.

In short 'Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain' is charming, funny, romantic bright and full of life. This is the perfect lighthearted movie.

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Departed (2006)

" And I thought that I was the liar!"

A remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, Scorsese's 'The Departed' is a haunting film, so effective, that I still have a hang-over of it. Scorsese actually shatters himself by getting into a world of blood, back-stabbing and cruel intelligence. For those who haven't seen this box office smash yet, take time out from other non-sense, and watch this!

This Masterstroke takes place in Boston, Massachusetts, where Irish Mob boss Francis "Frank" Costello played by Nicholson plants Colin Sullivan played by Damon as an informant within the Massachusetts State Police. Simultaneously, the police assign undercover cop Billy Costigan played by DiCaprio to infiltrate Costello's crew. When both sides realize the situation, each man attempts to discover the others true identity before being found out. The original Hong Kong flick was a masterstroke! And this is a true and best remake possible! Scorsese has made so many remarkable films, that I've lost count by now. He's at his fiery best and his executes the subject with tremendous ease. A True Legend! His biggest accomplishment was, that, He was finally respected by the Academy-Awards for his work here! Halleujah! Michael Ballhaus's Cinematography is eye-catching. William Monahan's adapted screenplay is marvelous.

In the acting department, Mark Wahlberg steals the show with a brilliant performance. The rawness and overdose of abusive language help the talented actor steal the show in this multi-starrier. Nicholson, as always, is flawless. Leonardo DiCaprio is superb, he lives his character from start to end. Matt Damon is amazing. Martin Sheen proves yet again he's a talent that we'll never forget. He's exceptional. Alec Baldwin is in command after a long. The veteran scores! Vera Farmiga is perfect. Ray Winstone does full justice to his part. Anthony Anderson leaves a mark as well.

'The Departed' is a winner all the way! The film keeps you at grip from start to end, and will leave you thinking about it for a long, long time

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Social Network (2010)

"Drop the "the". Just "Facebook". It's cleaner."

I went into this film with little or no hope. By the time the movie was over, with the Beatles' "Baby, You're A Rich Man" playing over the end credits, I had a huge smile on my face. I literally cannot wait to watch this again during it's wide release.

The lighting and camera work here is beautiful, every scene and sequence is a joy to watch. If Fincher hasn't already proved himself time and time again with his great films, this one might be the one to seal the deal for him. One sequence in the middle of the film features a boring rowboat race. Fincher sets up the photography so beautifully, that it feels like you're watching a painting come to life.

All the performances are excellent. Jesse Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg as a fast-paced, nerdy, kind of jerk-ish attitude, and Andrew Garfield is his best friend, Eduardo, who at the beginning didn't mean much to me, but I found myself rooting for him by the end. Justin Timberlake is easily the weakest one of the three, but he still does a decent job.

And oh, man the soundtrack. Trent Reznor deserves some kind of recognition for this. It is amazing. A lot of people say the movie sounds boring. They cite "The invention of facebook" as an uninteresting topic. I say don't believe that talk, and check out this interesting, funny, thrill ride by Fincher and co.

Monday, 18 October 2010

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

"I wanna live again!"

Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like It's A Wonderful Life.

Does it take me back to that place in my heart, that makes me long for everything that once was great and it could be again? Does it remind me of my childhood, Christmas in my home? No. Maybe it's just simply what I always wanted from life and every man I want to be.

Everything about this film is well for lack of better words, perfect. No question to it any longer, the best performance by an actor I have ever seen. It's more than just beautiful, timeless or fair. All of Stewart is revealed. Everything coming together for Capra. Lionel Barrymore at his best, which seems to be his worst.

Sometimes I think there is a reason why somethings happen. And I'm pretty sure there is some magical reason why this film was made. I'm 27 years old and saw it for the first time Christmas Eve of this year. I've watched it 3 times since. The only movie to ever make me cry. I probably wouldn't have all the answers for you, if you asked me why. I'm still trying to figure Stewart out and just how beautiful was Reed.

What can I say? This movie is a life changing experience.

Makes me feel good to be alive. What a wonderful little world it is. And if I waited my entire life, it would not be a waste of time.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

"I am not complete."

Many people say the cried at the end of this movie... Huh! Knowing the plot already, I (a grown up man) can barely hold my tears from the very beginning whenever I watch it. Much more than just a "cute and sad fairy tale", this movie is a true piece of art. This is one of those rarest cases when a bunch of talented and truly, but truly dedicated people set out to create something beautiful, some chemistry occurs and ... a miracle happens. Fortunately for all of us, this miracle immortalized on film.

Throughout the human history, the wisdom of generation was conveyed through fairy tales. This tale is no exception. This story, told in magic simplicity, actually has some deep philosophical meanings. While mercilessly debunking the true nature of human beings, this tragic story really tears your heart, and yet it fills it with hope. That is the true and, perhaps, the only purpose of art, if you ask me.

Why do we need music, painting, theatre, poetry? Is there a real excuse for their existence? To me, the only purpose, the only excuse is to help people go on, to give them hope. And it's well worth it!

To sum up, easily Tim Burton's best, this film is a masterpiece, my favorite American movie, and probably one of the best movies of all times.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Memento (2000)

"Now... where was I?"

Christopher Nolan's "Memento" is truly a rare and exceptional achievement in modern filmmaking in that it manages to be new, fresh, hip, and exciting without ever tiring its audience out - unless you're walking into this film without the desire to participate and actively analyze the mysterious details.

If that's the case, then this is DEFINITELY not a movie you should see. If, on the other hand, you are open-minded, creative, and alert, you'll definitely appreciate and get a kick out of this one. "Memento" is an old-fashioned "film noir"-type mystery thriller with an intriguing, ingenious twist: outfitting the entire film with a style that mirrors the protagonist's own mental condition while giving the poor viewer(s) his own perspective as well. It is masterfully filmed and edited in such a way that it is chronologically presented backwards (with two initially separate, parallel storylines - the main one, shot in colour, is the chronologically-backwards story with scenes that intercut with those of the other story, which is filmed more like a documentary, shot in black & white, and mostly takes place inside a motel room with the main character narrating, talking about the effects of his condition, etc.) While the average viewer may already be put off by such a complicated, confusing format, it is a very original premise that is well worth the struggle to figure out.

Acting is solid across the board, as is the writing, directing, etc., but special kudos must be extended to the very talented editor Dody Dorn, who successfully managed to put all of these fragments together and help them flow in a smooth, healthy manner that is not easy to pull off.

One of the most "memorable" (sorry, couldn't help slipping in the bad joke) films you're likely to ever see, "Memento" is an instant classic due to its groundbreaking narrative style and impressive dramatic undertones. For those jaded moviegoers who seek something to keep them awake, interested, and constantly thinking, there couldn't be a better choice than this film.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The Town (2010)

"Beware the Nuns"

I was wrong about Ben Affleck. I never believed that Affleck was ever a star. I never saw him as a director-type. I do admit I was wrong, though. Ben Affleck was truly incredible as Doug McCray, and I've never seen him work his acting at such a high level. As far as the plot of the film goes, it's very engaging. The trailer doesn't give this film justice as it's very intense and romantic at times.

Jeremy Renner is quite intimidating and Blake Lively is sexy, Ben Affleck is gripping and the supporting cast is incredibly powerful. I think the movie was powerful and not at all predictable. I couldn't wait to see what would happen and if Doug would get away. It's such a greatly crafted movie. From writing to acting this film is wickedly astounding.

I thought that the sex scene was over too quickly, but it was made up with all the action. I thoroughly enjoyed the chase scenes. I thought the action sequences were well-drawn out. I loved the bank robbery scenes of the blue masks and the nun outfits. I especially liked Ben's scenes with the sledge hammer and the scene where he says, "if I think anything might happen to her, I'm gonna kill both of you." It's a clip from the trailer, but it's so much better when it happens in the film.

It's driven as an action film with drama and romance on the side. There's a few chuckles along the way, but pretty much sparse. I thought the romance was done just enough and I felt the drama was perfectly done and drastically added to the plot, as well as the tone of the film.

It's certainly the best heist movie I've ever seen. In comparison, if you called Inception a heist movie, this movie is a better heist movie. I really think this is the Heat of the decade. I truly believe that Affleck is in his peek of his career and this is his greatest performance, directing, writing and acting. I'm overjoyed and excited to see his next piece of work.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Rope (1948)


"Rope" is one of Hitchcock's most unfortunately overlooked films. It doesn't have the depth of some of his other works (such as "Vertigo" or "Psycho"), but its just as engrossing and entertaining. Hitchcock could take such a seemingly simple premise and effectively stretch it out to a feature length and have none of it seem like filler. "Rope" is one of the most innovative film experiments of the decade, and it never feels gimmicky. Hitchcock, the master of suspense, is at the top of his game here. The film may be mostly nothing but dialog, but its always fascinating.

The acting is very good, as usual when working with Hitchcock's skilled direction. John Dall is absolutely spellbinding as one of cinema's scariest villains, an intellectual whose disregard for human emotions and morals verges more on fascism than the sub-Nietschze philosophy he proclaims. James Stewart is also superb as the voice of reason throughout the tension. The rest of the cast is good if occasionally awkward in delivery, but both Dall and Stewart turn in phenomenal performances.

Another interesting aspect of the film is the homoerotic subtext. I'm surprised it made it past the censors of the day, but to modern viewers its obvious there's something more to Dall and Farley Granger's relationship than just roommates. "Rope" is an absolutely fascinating film from the master of suspense, and even if its not his masterpiece, this is probably my personal favorite of Hitchcock's next to "Vertigo".

Monday, 4 October 2010

District 9 (2009)

"Get your fokkin' tentacle out of my face!"

I considered many others. The Hurt Locker. Up. Fantastic Mr. Fox. I haven't seen Avatar yet, but my brother assures me it's worthy of consideration at the very least.

District 9 is an unbelievable achievement. Visually, it is mind-blowing. Blade Runner, Dark Knight, 2001, and Clockwork Orange type mind-blowing. 'The 9' takes a social commentary and spins it into one of the most original and thrilling science fiction adventures of our time.

Neil Blokamp jumps forward in movie-making-plausibility and creates something fresh, something new, something cinema needed, and something that shouldn't have been able to be pulled off - and he does it without missing the mark even once.

Sharlto Copley breaks through in his big-screen debut as an MNU(Multi-National-United) representative sent to inform the aliens of their re-location. The humans seem to have a limited knowledge of their visiting friends - even though their ship has hovered above Johannesburg for nearly 20 years. Every human act is calculated, spun to their advantage, and the aliens are misunderstood,.. mistreated.

Copley's character, Mr. Van De Merwe, will be forced to re-think his position. He will find out more in a matter of days than the rest of us have in years. He will attempt to save himself and an alien species, and he will come under attack from his own kind.

Each scene is fantastic. As the movie goes from scene to scene the plot dives deeper and deeper, until, just like every good sci-fi film, it would take many years to come to it's actual conclusion. Like 2001, and Logan's Run, District 9 needs another 2 hours and 100 million to finish the story - but its almost better that it doesn't. The future, unknown. The story, incomplete. The moment, breathtaking. The message, the importance of understanding and compassion. District 9 is hands down the best film of 2009

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Gran Torino (2008)

"Gran Torino - They don't make them like they used to...."

Mr. Eastwood has a knack for storytelling. Instead of being preachy or having an all to obvious agenda, he lets his viewers make up their own minds. His characters don't have a message, they have a life and make no excuses for who they are. In so many subtle and intelligent ways we are allowed to make our own choices. Like with Kowalski in the movie, you are not confronted with a role model hammering home all those "life's important messages", but rather with a movie saying "Look! This is the way it worked out for me. And I think I know a few tricks that might help you, but in the end it's your own life. However, you have to trust me when I say that there are a some things you don't want to see or experience!". Some people will leave this movie entirely untouched, others will certainly be crying their guts out. Not because some people "get it" and others "don't", but because it is a brilliant piece of entertainment reaching out to every viewer in its own specific way.

Eastwood's acting is top notch again, although the years have not been very kind to his voice. The rest of the cast are fine, but one can certainly spot their more amateurish backgrounds here and there which is the main reason why I could not give this one a 10/10.

Apart from that there is little to criticize. It's not an action movie, not a drama movie and certainly not a comedy (even though you get a few laughs out of this one). It's simply a good story about life.....and death.