Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Proposal

Movie name: The Proposal
Year of release: 2009
Director: Anne Fletcher
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White, Denis O'Hare, Malin Akerman, Oscar Nunez, Michael Nouri
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Synopsis:
"The Proposal" follows the story of Margaret Tate, a senior executive at a publishing house in New York. Margaret is Canadian, and is facing deportation since she didn't take care of her paperwork in time, and as a last minute resort she decides to forge a fake marriage with her personal assistant Andrew (blackmailing him to it). Andrew comes from a small town in Alaska, where his family is very well off, and both travel there to inform his family of their decision.
This is basically the premise for "The Proposal", the new film from Anne Fletcher who directed previously "27 Dresses" and "Step Up", and whose main career has been as choreographer for several films. This film in particular follows all the formulas and traditional plot points of what is commonly referred as "chick flick". What is interesting is that Peter Weir tackled a similar plot line in 1990 with his "Green Card", which was a lot more interesting and had good performances from Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell. Anne Fletcher ends up conforming to the usual cliches of the genre, and the reason the film is watchable is due to the performers, in particular Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds and Betty White. It's sad to see actors of the caliber of Mary Steenburgen waisted in such supporting and barely there roles, but in the end, this is a film that only allows for some mild chuckles, and that doesn't add much to the genre itself.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 123

Movie name: The Taking of Pelham 123
Year of release: 2009
Director: Tony Scott
Stars: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli, John Benjamin Hickey, Gary Basaraba
Genre: Action, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Synopsis:
This is the 4th collaboration between Tony Scott and Denzel Washington, following "Crimson Tide", "Man on Fire" and "Deja Vu". With the exception of Crimson Tide, they all pretty much look and feel alike. Tony Scott has a background in commercials and video-clips, and that is something that comes across in all his films - the jump cut editing, the over saturated photography. If he sometimes produces interesting results, such as "The Hunger" and "True Romance", most of his films are mediocre where style is always treasured over substance. "The Taking of Pelham 123" is a remake of a film from 1974 with Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, and follows the events that unravel when a train is taken hostage in New York. The highjackers demand a huge ransom and if their demands aren't met, they will start shooting every hostage. Walter Garber the person coordinating the train schedule and routes that day ends up being the negotiator in the entire process, and the game of cat and mouse that starts ends up with unexpected results. The film is pretty standard in it's approach, and Tony Scott tries to infuse some life to the story by fast forwarding and inserting graphical cue cards, but no matter what, the film feels stalled and lifeless. His usual visual style doesn't help the story and the actors end up being the rescuers of the whole thing. Denzel Washington, John Travolta and James Gandolfini save the film from total oblivion, but can't really make very interesting.

The Hangover

Movie name: The Hangover
Year of release: 2009
Director: Todd Philips
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Sasha Barrese, Jeffrey Tambor, Ken Jeong, Rachael Harris
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
Looking at the previous films from director Todd Philips' career, it comes as no surprise that "The Hangover" is another of his films. What surprises is the fact that this is actually a really funny and well done comedy. The film starts with a group of friends getting together for a bachelor party in Las Vegas. They all decide to have the time of their lives, but after the first night they wake up in their trashed out penthouse without any recollection of what happened to them. Inside the penthouse they find a baby, a tiger and not a trace of one of their friends. What they try to do is trace their actions of the previous night in order to get their friend back for him not to miss his wedding. The film could have easily been another toss away raunchy comedy about a bunch of friends in Las Vegas (Cameron Diaz was in the terrible film "What happens in Vegas", which is a good example), but Todd Philips and his writers go in a different direction. They opt with placing a group of average looking characters, all of whom are out of their wits towards what happened to them. The situations are just smartly created and the laughs come from the reactions of the characters and how over the top the situations they are involved all are.
Zach Galifianakis makes a memorable character out of sheer awkward moments. A very funny film worth checking out!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Land of the Lost

Movie name: Land of the Lost
Year of release: 2009
Director: Brad Silberling
Stars: Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel, Jorma Taccone
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 1

Synopsis:
Brad Silberling is an interesting talent. He oscillates between more personal and independent films and big blockbusters, usually with big stars (and mediocre results). "Moonlight Mile" was a fantastic and personal film for Silberling, but since then his output has been irregular, with "Lemony Snicket's" being just an average family entertainment and "10 items or less" barely registering. "Land of the Lost" based on the TV show, is his latest offering and quite possibly is worst film. The film follows the story of Dr. Rick Marshall, who has a theory about alternate space and time and who gets ridiculed by his peers. Upon the visit of a young British scientist he sets out to investigate an area where they believe can prove his theories. Alongside Will, the responsible for a decrepit amusement park, they all end up in a parallel space and time, where they meet all sorts of interesting creatures. The problem with this film starts with the story/screenplay, that shoots off in different directions, never really creating any sort of engaging scenarios or situational comedy for that matter. The actors are somehow expected to carry the story and make something out of nothing, but even for Will Ferrell that's a lot to expect. He can only stretch idiocy so far. The film tries to showcase good special effects and a sense of humor, but both fail abysmally - the effects look cheap and the humor barely registers. The only point this gets is for Dion Beebe's photography and Bo Welch's production design. This is a film to forget.

Drag me to Hell

Movie name: Drag me to Hell
Year of release: 2009
Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza, Chelcie Ross, Reggie Lee
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
"Drag me to Hell" is the latest effort from Sam Raimi, fresh off his big budget films that were the Spider Man trilogy (so far). This is in a way going back to his roots, since Raimi started his career directing the "Evil Dead" trilogy back in the 80s. "Drag me to Hell" follows the story of Christine, a young bank assistant who is vying for a higher position within the bank. She has competition from a young, ruthless colleague who just joined the bank. Christine is also trying to impress her boyfriend's parents, who vie for a woman of wealth for their son. When an elderly lady comes to the back to ask for a postponement on her mortgage, Christine decides to take a tough decision and denies the application, in hopes that will help in her bid for a higher position. The elderly lady ends up cursing Christine who has to find help in order not to be dragged to hell. The film is surprisingly well done and achieved, since Raimi knows exactly which keys to press. It breathes the spirit of B-movies, unlike the horror that is done these days which relies mostly on gore ("Saw" franchise, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and so forth). Alison Lohman plays a likeable Christine, and embarks on the trip that Raimi creates, one that is populated mostly with shadows and suggestions, presenting scares and frights with humor, as always been his trademark. This is a film well done worth checking out.

Friday, June 5, 2009

UP

Movie name: Up
Year of release: 2009
Director: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
Stars: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Delroy Lindo, Bob Peterson, Jerome Ranft, John Ratzenberger
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Synopsis:
After the fantastic "Wall E" from 2008, the new Pixar release is a smaller story in scope, but every bit as engaging as the previous release. The film follows the story of Carl Fredricksen, a 78 year old widower who recently lost his wife and who decides to embark on a trip that he and his wife always wanted to take but never managed to. Following an altercation with a construction worker, Carl decides to make his trip happen and for that he populates his house with balloons in order to take off. Much to Carl's surprise, he finds out that when he took off, he had a small passenger with him, a young boy scout named Russell. Their adventure takes them to South America and to find a dog with a special collar and an unusual bird that develops a strange affection for Russell. The story is simple, but filled with the metaphors and analogies that have been the standard of Pixar. Their sense of humor is also fantastic, without resorting to simplistic overtones. What is consistent in Pixar films is the quality of the screenplays and the beautiful animation, which is again dazzling and superb. This is a film definitely worth watching!