Monday, October 29, 2007

Films of the Weekend

Movie name: Gone Baby, Gone
Year of release: 2007
Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Synopsis:
Ben Affleck manages to create with his directorial debut, a film that is impeccably acted and near pitch perfect. Adapting the Denis Lehane novel (also responsible for Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River"), in his native Boston, Ben Affleck creates a gritty look of his city, one where the streets aren't sunny and where the residents aren't definitely smiling in your direction. This is a city where the Police has hidden agendas, and where a young couple trying to find a missing girl have to come to terms with what really matters to them and to the life of others. The acting is terrific with highlights going to the wonderful Casey Affleck and the amazing Amy Ryan, who steals each and every scene she's in.

Movie name: Lust, Caution
Year of release: 2007
Director: Ang Lee
Stars: Tony Leung, Joan Chen, Tang Wei
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
Ang Lee is a director that doesn't like to be "cornered". After the award winning "Brokeback Mountain" he goes back to Taiwan and shoots this near 3 hour epic about the occupation of Shanghai by the Japanese forces during the Second World War. The story puts in front and center a young woman coming to terms with her life, sexuality and love - working for the chinese resistance she has to seduce and expose a collaborator/traitor. While the film doesn't bring anything new (Paul Verhoeven's "Black Book" had a similar storyline), it does allow Ang Lee to film an elegant, delicate story, punctuated by love scenes that are intense and beautifully enacted. This is a film worth checking out, but not as well balanced as Lee's previous efforts, namely "The Ice Storm" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".

Movie name: The Darjeeling Limited and Hotel Chevalier
Year of release: 2007
Director: Wes Anderson
Stars: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, Natalie Portman, Camilla Rutherford, Bill Murray
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
Wes Anderson continues to build his quirky universe with these two opuses ("Hotel Chevalier" being the short that comes before the main film). I am personally a huge fan of "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou", a film where I think Anderson's vision came to an almost perfect realization, from the cast, to the beautiful photography and the wonderful soundtrack. Working from a script co-written with Roman Coppola (Sofia's brother) and Jason Schwartzman (Sofia and Roman's cousin), The Darjeeling again traces a family story, of people trying to find themselves within a familiar unit. While continuing to develop his themes, Anderson in this film doesn't bring the sense of freshness and difference that marked his previous efforts. His cast is great as usual (Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody are both terrific), and the photography by Robert Yeoman is stunning. A film definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Films of the Weekend

Movie name: Michael Clayton
Year of release: 2007
Director: Tony Gilroy
Stars: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Sydney Pollack
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
"Michael Clayton" marks the directorial debut of Tony Gilroy, the celebrated screenwriter of the Bourne trilogy and also Taylor Hackford's Proof of Life. The film is very much a revision of much of the themes that were explored in the 70's - the conspiracy suspense thriller. The film uses a superb cast, with George Clooney excelling as a "fixer" with problems in his life and Tild Swinton as a woman with not many scruples.

Movie name: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Year of release: 2007
Director: Andrew Dominik
Stars: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Mary-Louise Parker, Paul Schneider, Sam Rockwell, Sam Shepard
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
After "Chopper", which revealed the talent of Eric Bana, Andrew Dominik returns with the troubled "The Assassination of Jesse James...", starring and produced by Brad Pitt. While the film is certainly beautiful to look at, there are definitely pacing problems and this is a film that would certainly benefit of a revised editing. Though Brad Pitt does a good job (and won an unexpected best actor award at the Venice Film Festival), the plaudits are mainly to Casey Affleck, who creates a seedy and volatile character in Robert Ford. The underrated Paul Schneider (known for his work with David Gordon Green) also shines in a small role. Another important note is the beautiful camera work from Roger Deakins - the photography is stunning and memorable.

Movie name: 30 Days of Night
Year of release: 2007
Director: David Slade
Stars: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior, Mark Rendall
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
David Slade best know thus far as the director of the underrated "Hard Candy", creates a gritty and suspenseful film with the graphic novel adaptation of "30 Days of Night". It's a film that walks a thin line between some grounded attempt at depicting a group of people isolated from everything and everyone, and the more "gorey" part associated with horror films. The film benefits from creepy performances by Danny Huston and Ben Foster, while Josh Hartnett as always proves to be a disappointing performer. All and all a film worth checking out.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Film of the Weekend

Movie name: In the Valley of Elah
Year of release: 2007
Director: Paul Haggis
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon, Jason Patric, Frances Fisher, Josh Brolin, James Franco
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Synopsis:
After the surprise hit that was "Crash", Paul Haggis returns with a truly solid and beautifully accomplished film, anchored in solid performances by remarkable actors. "In the Valley of Elah" starts by being an investigation into the disappearance of a soldier recently returned from the Iraq war, but quickly evolves to something deeper than that. What the father, played with an incredible restraint and quiet intensity by Tommy Lee Jones, seeks is the salvation of the nuclear foundation of his family, that has slowly been devastated by the effects of wars. This is also something hunting the lonely detective that Charlize Theron so perfectly embodies. A moving film shot beautifully by the remarkable Roger Deakins (usual collaborator of the Coen brothers).

Monday, October 8, 2007

Films of the Weekend

Movie name: Eastern Promises
Year of release: 2007
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Muehler Stahl, Sinead Cusack
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Synopsis:
"Eastern Promises" marks the returns of David Cronenber after the wonderful ""A History of Violence". Working from a script by Steven Knight (who also penned "Dirty Pretty Things"), Cronenberg once again plumbs the depth of a microcosms, in this case the Russian Mafia in London. The film follows Naomi Watt's character, Anna a midwife that unveils a lot more than the thinks when she helps a young woman have her baby. Boasting terrific performances from all the cast, this is a solid and exquisitely accomplished film. Don't miss it!

Movie name: The Heartbreak Kid
Year of release: 2007
Director: Bobby and Peter Farrely
Stars: Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan, Malin Akerman, Jerry Stiller, Danny McBride
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3

Synopsis:
The creators of There's Something About Mary are back with another R rated comedy, starring Ben Stiller. This update of the Neil Simon comedy ends up being poor on the laughs, with the radiant Michelle Monaghan being the highlight of the whole film. Running almost 2 hours, this is a comedy that after a while you're just wondering how come the fun factor is so non-existent.
A sad waste of talent for everyone involved.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Film of The Weekend

Movie name: Resident Evil: Extinction
Year of release: 2007
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Stars: Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Mike Epps, Matthew Marsden
Genre: Action / Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Synopsis:
The year of the trilogies adds Resident Evil to it's already full pantheon (following the disappointments that were "Spider Man", "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Shrek"). Whereas the previous film went in an over the top direction that left everyone scratching their heads, the main person behind these films, British helmer Paul W. S. Anderson, tries an apocalyptic look and feel for this venture. The film ends up being far more entertaining than the previous and with some cool action set pieces prepares the entry for another sequel. Where will the story of Alice lead her...