Friday, July 23, 2010

Salt

Movie name: Salt
Year of release: 2010
Director: Phillip Noyce
Stars: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, August Diehl, Hunt Block, Andre Braugher
Genre: Action, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis: Australian director Phillip Noyce has had an interesting career, one that mixes big budget action films, such as "Patriot Games" and "The Bone Collector" with more personal material such as "Rabbit-Proof Fence" and "The Quiet American". "Salt" finds him tackling material that is similar to what Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass tackled in the Jason Bourne films: a spy that is trying to clear his/her name from accusations of wrong doing. "Salt" follows the story of Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent, who gets accused of being a russian spy by a defector of that country. Evelyn goes on the run, trying to clear her name and protect her husband. We soon realize that things are not as what seems and that there is indeed more to Evelyn than what was initially presented.
The film is compulsively watchable, mostly due to the fact that the action keeps propelling the film forward. The film doesn't really care for the improbability of it's stunts, it keeps it's hero going forth on her quest, fighting all odds, doing impossible feats, but always with a wink and a hint of surprise. Angelina Jolie brings her usual intensity to the role, adding that extra ambiguity to the character, someone whom the viewer never knows is in fact a spy or just a victim of a larger scheme. Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor are good companions for her, but this is her film through and through. A very good paranoid thriller worth watching.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Movie name: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Year of release: 2010
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Alfred Molina, Jay Baruchel, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci, Toby Kebbell, Alice Krige, Omar Benson Miller, Jake Cherry
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 2

Synopsis:After the incredibly successful "National Treasure" films, director Jon Turteltaub reunites with his lead actor from those films, Nicolas Cage, and tackles the classic Disney story of the magician and his apprentice (which was in Disney's "Fantasia"). The film follows the story of Balthazar, a magician who was trained by Merlin himself and who has been looking for a young man through centuries, a chosen one who will be able to defeat the dark forces of magic embodied by Morgana and Horvath (once one of Balthazar's best friends). Once Balthazar discovers Dave, a physics wiz, he tries to convince him that he is indeed the chosen one, much to Dave's dismay and surprise. It's up to Balthazar and Dave to protect the world of the dark forces that are approaching.
Jon Turteltaub tries really hard to imbue his film with a right dose of humor, magic and bewilderment, but sadly this film fails on most of those levels. The screenplay as usual, tackles the sweet loner/loser with low self-esteem, who loves the beautiful young woman and who through sheer persistence, against all odds, comes to realize his worth, save the world and get the girl. Nothing really new, nothing really innovative. The film tries to compensate that through impressive special effects, but even that ends up being quite underwhelming to sustain a story that is unoriginal. Nicolas Cage again proves his poor choice of roles - another mediocre performance to add to his array of walk through in big budget films of no interest (namely "Gone in Sixty Seconds", "National Treasure" and so forth). Jay Baruchel adds nothing to this film - he basically repeats the awkward young man routine he did for "Knocked Up". The only actors to actually walk away with some charm are the always reliable Alfred Molina and the funny Tobty Kebbell. A very mediocre film.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Predators

Movie name: Predators
Year of release: 2010
Director: Nimrod Antal
Stars: Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:"Predators" from director Nimrod Antal, follows it's concept directly from John McTiernan's 1987 blockbuster "Predator". Unlike Stephen Hopkins' sequel (from 1990 with Danny Glover), the film is shot as a descendant of the original film that introduced the lethal predator. We are introduced to a group of strangers, who do not know each other and who find each other lost in a jungle. Each of them we come to realize are "predators" themselves, people who have killed in different contexts, but killers nonetheless. The characters soon realize that they are no longer on Earth and that they have been brought to a different planet to be game to a different species, the lethal "Predator". What follows is a game of cat and mouse of everyone trying to survive as long as they can.
Nimrod Antal became well known for his film "Control", but his films in the US have mostly been in the realm of the suspense/action, namely "Vacancy" and "Armored". "Predators" manages to succeed in creating an environment of menace and suspense and as such the film works. The director infuses the film with a lot of the look and feel that John McTiernan's film originally created - the menacing Predator that can be anywhere unseen, the resilient team that fights back and the final ones that survive. The film is not as linear as the original "Predator" was, but it also gives more screen time to each of the characters of the team trying to survive. The characters are never really more than paper thin, but they are all elements created to allow for the Predator to create it's sense of menace and doom. Adrien Brody who at first glance would be an odd choice for this film, creates a believable action hero, the same going for Alice Braga. Topher Grace sadly proves his shortcomings as an actor, but this is overall a competent action and suspense film.

Inception

Movie name: Inception
Year of release: 2010
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Pete Postlethwaite, Lukas Haas
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9

Synopsis:Christopher Nolan is a director that oscillates. Between directing massive films (budget-wise) such as "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight", he directs smaller projects, namely "The Prestige" (without forgetting the film that really made him well known, "Memento"). "Inception" follows the story of Dom Cobb, a man that specializes in entering people's dreams and stealing ideas and valuable secrets. In this world of high espionage, Cobb is a master in what he does, but also a target. When Cobb is offered a risky assignment, to plant an idea in someones subconscious, in exchange for having his life back to a sense of normalcy, he and his team must undertake one of the most challenging jobs they ever took.
"Inception" is quite possibly one of Christopher Nolan's best films thus far. The film presents itself as a Russian doll - each layer that peels off, reveals another and another. It's a film that has a difficult concept and that presents a challenge: how to represent the dreamworld and it's potential. Alfred Hitchcock and Salvador Dali collaborated in the film "Spellbound" (beautifully) to represent the dream world, but Christopher Nolan chooses to create a dreamworld that is anchored in reality, since that's what his (anti) hero does - he uses his skills to make an illusion of reality/dream and steals what he needs. The film has an action/thriller/suspense line, that keeps building as the team gets wrapped up in it's impossible quest, but the artistry with which Christopher Nolan weaves these whole elements together, proves what a great director he has become. The cast is uniformly wonderful, but the highlight and praises go to Leonardo DiCaprio. Once again he proves what a fantastic actor he can be: his Dom Cobb is paralyzed by guilt and suffering, but he propels himself forward, trying to bring back ghosts and ultimately his life. Ellen Page does a great job as the precocious student as does Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy. A fantastic film worth watching and re-watching.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Knight and Day

Movie name: Knight and Day
Year of release: 2010
Director: James Mangold
Stars: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Jordi Molla, Paul Dano, Viola Davis, Marc Blucas, Maggie Grace, Falk Hentschel, Dale Dye, Celia Weston
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:"Knight and Day" follows the story of June Havens, a young woman on her way to Boston, to attend her sister's wedding preparations. She accidentally bumps into Roy Miller, a dashing man who turns out to be a secret agent, being chased by an agency, all because of a small invention that will revolutionize the concept of modern energy. Roy and June start a whirlwind chase around the world, trying to keep the invention and the young inventor safe, all the while falling in love.
James Mangold's new film, following "3:10 to Yuma" and "Walk the Line" is close in tone to one of his previous films, "Kate and Leopold" as far as the romance part is concerned. The film however also inserts a whole dimension of action - 007/Mission Impossible equal parts. James Mangold is clearly a talented and inteligent director and knows that the film has to rely more on the cleverness of the screenplay and the way the interaction between the main characters unfolds. The film doesn't set out to be a reinvention of the action picture: it's a romantic and action film, in the tradition of Robert Zemeckis' "Romancing the Stone". The main actors are very much at ease in what they're doing. Tom Cruise is back to his more frantic and loose self from "Jerry Maguire" and Cameron Diaz is basically playing her usual part. "Knight and Day" is ultimately an unpretentious and entertaining film (it's industrial entertainment executed by a very talented film-maker).