Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hereafter

Movie name: Hereafter
Year of release: 2010
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Matt Damon, Cecile de France, Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren, Richard Kind, Thierry Neuvic, Marthe Keller, Derek Jacobi
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:Clint Eastwood is back with his yearly film, following the well received "Invictus. Reuniting with Peter Morgan, the writer of films such as "The Queen", "Frost/Nixon" and "The Last King of Scotland", Eastwood tackles a different territory for him. The film introduces us to three main stories that finally intersect into one. George Lonegan is a psychic who has stopped doing readings since his talent of looking into the after-death was alienating him from having real relationships. Marie LeLay is a french journalist who while vacationing is one of the victims of the Tsunami and literally dies for some seconds, before being brought back. Her life and experiences change after that. Marcus and Jason are twins, extremely close living in London with their substance abuser of a mother. Upon the death of Jason, Marcus finds himself alone and in foster care, desperately trying to establish contact with his brother. All these characters end up interconnecting, through a series of random events in ways that bring a new direction to their lives.
Clint Eastwood is a director that allows actors to create believable characters. He allows the situations to develop and his attention to detail is always on every frame of his films. "Hereafter" is possibly one of the least expected themes in his work, since it focuses on the afterlife and the fantastic elements of the story seem removed from his usual work. But the main focus ends up being George, played with a quiet intensity by Matt Damon (who just keeps getting better and better). Like most of Eastwood's heroes, he's a man at odds with a reality where he doesn't fit anymore. Much like William Munny from "Unforgiven", George wants to have a quiet life, away from the "fame" he once had. He longs to meet someone and not feel labeled as a freak. The encounters that he has with the other characters, liberate him and give him a new hope. The film is anchored in the fine performances of the cast and a special highlight should be given to the special effects depicting the Tsunami. A very solid film from a master.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Movie name: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Year of release: 2010
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Josh Brolin, Freida Pinto, Antonio Banderas, Pauline Collins, Lucy Punch, Ewen Bremmer, Anna Friel, Meera Syal, Roger Ashton-Griffiths
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Synopsis:Woody Allen as usual comes out with a film every year. "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" was shot in London and has a fantastic cast, another staple of any Woody Allen film. However, another staple of his career lately is the meager results that the film has.
The film follows different couples and their relationship entanglements. There's Helena and Alfie who after 40 years of marriage have divorced. Helena is desperate and has a nervous breakdown. She turns to the advice of a psychic in the hopes she will tell her what her future holds. Helena and Alfie have a daughter, Sally, who married an American with a degree in medicine but who decided to become a full time writer, without much success. Into this equation comes Sally's new boss, an art gallery owner with whom she becomes infatuated and Dia, a beautiful young woman who moves across Sally and Roy's apartment and with whom he becomes enamored. All these crossings of different paths have unexpected results in the lives of all these characters.
Woody Allen as usual focus on a microcosms of characters to dwell on the meaning of relationships and lately on the meaning of mortality. Sadly though, this plot and story feel like something he has done before with a more incisive bite and meaning. Lucy Punch's character feels like Mira Sorvino's character (Linda Ash) from "Mighty Aphrodite", whereas Anthony Hopkins' character feels a bit like Martin Landau's character from "Crimes and Misdemeanors". The problem with the film is the lack of depth or wit for that matter - there are moments of insight and a lot of it is brought by the quality of the actors, namely Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones and Naomi Watts, but they barely scratch the surface and by the time they do, the film is over. This decade has definitely been a difficult one for Woody Allen - from all of his production, "Match Point" is possibly the only film to deserve to be part of his best ones yet. A missed opportunity.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Town

Movie name: The Town
Year of release: 2010
Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Chris Cooper, Pete Postlethwaite, Titus Weliver, Slaine, Owen Burke, Dennis McLaughlin
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:Ben Affleck's second directorial effort, after the great "Gone Baby Gone, has another impressive cast, but unlike his feature debut, Affleck is now also in front of the cameras, as the main character and narrator. The film adapts the novel "Prince of Thieves" and takes place in Charlestown, a suburb of Boston, well known for being the robbery capital of the world. The film follows Doug MacRay, a young man who's being involved in a few robberies and who's trying to end his criminal ways. After robbing a bank, Doug and his accomplices, decide to take a young woman as a hostage (the bank manager) to make sure they have a security getaway. Upon releasing her, Doug starts following the young woman, initially trying to gather what she knows, but eventually the relationship evolves to something more romantic. Trying to quit his old habits and start a fresh life with this new love, causes Doug to crash with his friends/associates. A final job appears that allows for everyone to make way for a new life, if all goes according to plan.
Ben Affleck definitely has talent as a director, even if there are certain tendencies to create scenes and situations that are very much "award bait" style. But staying close to his home, Boston, has been fruitful for him, since his first film, the wonderful "Gone Baby Gone" also took place in the same area. However where "Gone..." was devastating and almost acidic in the way it showed that slice of life, "The Town" doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table. These are all characters and situations that have been displayed in other films, the difference in this case being the setting and the good actors that bring these characters to life. Jeremy Renner exudes an air of menace that stays with him and Chris Cooper in the few scenes he has, proves as always how fantastic he really is. A good film worth visiting.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Never Let Me Go

Movie name: Never Let Me Go
Year of release: 2010
Director: Mark Romanek
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Izzy Meikle-Small, Charlie Rowe, Kate Bowes Renna
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:Mark Romanek has established himself as a commercials and music videos director, before embarking in his film-making path. His first film "One Hour Photo" with Robin Williams and Connie Nielsen was an interesting look into the alienation of one person. He was next going to tackle "The Wolfman", but after disputes with the studio, he abandoned that project and embarked on "Never Let Me Go", based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro (who also wrote "The Remains of the Day", brought to the screen in 1993 with the direction of James Ivory). The film follows the story of three friends, Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. We're introduced to them as children, living and attending a private school. Kathy and Tommy form a bond that Ruth, out of jealousy, tries to break by starting to court and ultimately developing a relationship with Tommy when they are both older. There is a sense of doom in the lives of these young men and women, as Kathy narrates her and her friends story.
The film has a pace that is contemplative, but also allows for the characters to be understood, particularly Kathy, the narrator and main focus of the film. The bleak premise of the film, makes her a perfect conducting figure, since she seems to be so at peace with herself. Her anguish for knowing that Tommy isn't with her, when he's the one she knows belongs in her life, dissipates as she matures and begins a different phase in her life. When they do get back together, there's a sense of completion and acceptance in her life. The film is nonetheless quite tragic in what it displays. Even if the story is somewhat implausible, the touching (and fantastic) performance from Carey Mulligan does echo throughout the entire film. The cinematography and attention to details in the shots, are a proof that Mark Romanek knows that in a story such as this, the small things mean so much. A film worth watching.

Red

Movie name: Red
Year of release: 2010
Director: Robert Schwentke
Stars: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Karl Urban, Rebecca Pidgeon, Richard Dreyfuss, James Remar, Ernest Borgnine, Audrey Wasilewski
Genre: Action, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:Robert Schwentke has made a name for himself thus far with two films that were hits at the box office, namely "Flightplan" with Jodie Foster and "The Time Traveler's Wife" with Rachel McAdams. "Red" is an adaptation of a graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner and it stands for "Retired and Extremely Dangerous" (as in operatives of the CIA who are retired). The film follows Frank Moses, an ex-military man, who lives by himself and who calls Sarah Ross, a social security worker, every month concerning his pension, just in the hopes of talking with her and potentially asking her out. His plans are thwarted when he suddenly becomes the target for an assassination plot, alongside Sarah, whom he has to pick up and keep safe in order to discover who is behind the attempts to have them both killed. Along the way, he seeks the aid of his former friends, also retired operatives.
The major strength of this film is obviously the fantastic cast that Robert Schwentke has assembled: every single actor is more than accomplished and it's a delight to see them bring to life characters that are little more than cliches. But, they do relish and have fun with the roles and the film embarks in a tone that can best be described as light comedic with a strong action undercurrent. The tone of the film is very much coherent with the graphic novel style, but where it does earn extra points is in the fact that it adds a light and comedic tone to it. The actors are of course uniformly good, from Bruce Willis, to Mary Louise Parker to the award winning ones like Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and of course John Malkovich who is always a treat. A hightlight goes to Florian Balhaus, the cinematographer, son of the fantastic (and retired) Michael Balhaus, who is a fantastic cinematographer. An entertaining film worth watching.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Social Network

Movie name: The Social Network
Year of release: 2010
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Joseph Mazzello, Rooney Mara, John Getz, Rashida Jones, David Selby, Brenda Song
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9

Synopsis:By now David Fincher's name is well established as one of the most interesting film-makers currently working. His name is associated with films that are daring, well written and impeccably thought and executed. After the fantastic films that were "Zodiac" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", Fincher decided to tackle a contemporary story, with a screenplay from Aaron Sorkin (who made his name as the creator/writer of "The West Wing"), about the creation of the huge behemoth site that is "Facebook".
The film introduces us to Mark Zuckerberg, a young student at Harvard, who is quite brilliant, but has problems relating to others and developing friendships. Mark's ingenious and brilliance as a programmer, gets him in contact with three individuals who want to create an online network for people who are within the circle of Harvard University. However Zuckerberg goes a step beyond and starts creating something that expands to other universities, including institutes all around the world. In the process this network starts getting more and more attention, from the people who initially hired him and want part of the gain and from Sean Parker, creator of Napster who can see the potential that the project has. In the middle of all this, his friendship with Eduardo Saverin, his initial financial backer crumbles.
David Fincher's film has an energy that is relentless - the film goes through different time frames and different perspectives, in an attempt to understand how the site got launched and the issues that were created as a consequence of it. The multiple lawsuits that Zuckerberg goes through, start peeling away the whole genesis of the site, but ultimately provide some insight to whom those people/intervenients are. The film is built upon layers, with each one providing some further knowledge of why the site is so controversial. In the end, it proves that greed is indeed a main motivating party for a lot of these people. The film has great performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Rooney Mara, who in the few scenes she has, gives a gravity and strength to the role that resonate throughout the entire film. Also to highlight the beautiful cinematography from Jeff Cronenweth. A fantastic film!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Let Me In

Movie name: Let Me In
Year of release: 2010
Director: Matt Reeves
Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Cara Buono, Elias Koteas, Sasha Barrese, Dylan Kenin, Chris Browning, Ritchie Coster
Genre: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:Matt Reeves first made his name with the film "The Pallbearer", which starred Gwyneth Paltrow in 1996. Since then he has been a collaborator of J. J. Abrams with whom he worked on the successful TV show "Felicity" and the monster film that was "Cloverfield". "Let Me In", basically follows the screenplay from John Ajvide Lindqvist - in a small town in New Mexico, lonely young Owen sees his life changed by the arrival of new neighbors, in particular of the intriguing Abby, a 12 year old girl who only shows up at night. Owen and Abby strike a good friendship, with Abby providing counseling on how Owen should deal with bullies and Owen introducing her to a series of toys and assorted candy. Owen finds out that there's a lot more to Abby than it's apparent.
Matt Reeves attempted to create his interpretation of the screenplay of John Ajvide Lindqvist - he transposed the story to New Mexico in 1983 and displayed more of the vampiric/monstrous side of Abby. The film ends up being simultaneously similar and different from "Let the Right One In": Matt Reeves is a talented film-maker and directs the film with an attention to detail that certainly gives his film the difference and distance from the original swedish version. Even though the events and how the story progresses are very similar in the two films, the dynamics between the actors feels more developed as does some of the action scenes that populate the film. A good remake, worth watching!

Låt den rätte komma in/Let the Right One In

Movie name: Låt den rätte komma in/Let the Right One In
Year of release: 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Stars: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Karin Bergquist, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord, Mikael Rahm
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Synopsis:Oscar is a young and lonely boy who lives with his mom in a suburb of Stockholm. One evening Oscar notices the arrival of new neighbors, who end up living in the apartment right next to his. The neighbors, an older gentleman and a young girl, are rarely to be seen, but Oscar strikes an unusual friendship with the young Eli who only comes out to play at night. As Oscar tries to know more about Eli he becomes more and more suspicious that there's more to her than meets the eye.
Tomas Alfredson shot "Let the Right One In" from an adaptation of the book with the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, also responsible for the screenplay. The film could have easily descended into the vampire frenzy which is currently on display with the "Twilight" saga, but instead, the film slowly builds the story and introduces the characters, before presenting it's more fantastical elements. The director smartly chooses to suggest more than to show - the viewer knows who Eli is and what she has to do to survive, but the film never falls trap of showing the more horrific moments. The relationship between the two young children are the center stage and that is shot so delicately and so candidly - their warmth and tenderness burns through the cold air of the Winter that surrounds them. The film is intelligent in it's choices and ends up being a very good film, always rewarding upon multiple viewings.