Monday, April 21, 2008

My Blueberry Nights

Movie name: My Blueberry Nights
Year of release: 2007
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Stars: Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, Frankie Faison, Cat Power
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Following "2046" and his collaboration on "Eros", Wong Kar Wai went to the US and shot "My Blueberry Nights" which marked the acting debut of singer Norah Jones. Though most reviews have pointed out how thin the story is, the fact is from "Chungking Express" and " Fallen Angels" to the beautiful "Happy Together", Wong Kar Wai has always been a visual storyteller. His films don't usually have very elaborate screenplays, but rather rely on his visual sense and approach (which is precisely what gave him his fame in the early 90's, and made his director of photography Christopher Doyle very well known - he is replaced in this film by the wonderful Darius Khondji). "My Blueberry Nights" follows the story of Beth, who is trying to recover from a bad breakup, and that meets and forms a connection with Jeremy. Trying to escape her routine, she goes on a road trip hoping to find herself, along the way meeting different characters and dealing with mixed situations. Norah Jones composes a nice character, even if a but muted, but Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman steal the show. They both create interesting characters that add the much needed life to the whole story. This is a small film, beautifully shot, definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Street Kings

Movie name: Street Kings
Year of release: 2008
Director: David Ayer
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Naomie Harris, Jay Mohr, John Corbett, Terry Crews, Common, Amaury Nolasco, Martha Higareda
Genre: Crime, Thriller, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Following "Harsh Times", David Ayer returns to the directing chair, handling a story of the wonderful James Ellroy (who is responsible for the books "LA Confidential" and "The Black Dahlia" to name a few). David Ayer became well known for writing "Training Day" which garnered a second Oscar for Denzel Washington. This film doesn't stray too far, again focusing on police corruption in LA, but though Ayer has a great cast to work with, this film feels like a story that has been told before (and with better results). Though this isn't a bad film, the results never stray of mediocre, mostly because the director doesn't have the bite to really take it and make it into something indelible. The film could use a director like Martin Scorsese or even Steven Soderbergh, who would make this story their own. The actors walk a fine line between contention and overacting. Keanu Reeves does a good job, but the real downfalls are the wooden acting of Chris Evans and the overacting of Forest Whitaker (sometimes less is more, and not all characters can be like Idi Amin, for which he won the Oscar in "Last King of Scotland"). All and all this film delivers, but could've reached heights that otherwise are just too far away.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Ruins

Movie name: The Ruins
Year of release: 2008
Director: Carter Smith
Stars: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson, Sergio Calderon, Dimitri Baveas
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Ben Stiller appears connected with this small film in the quality of producer. Unlike the comedies for what he is well known, this is a suspense/horror film, with the traditional young cast that suffers several horrible situations, one of them coming out alive in the end. Where this film actually ends up being interesting is in the sense that adapts a novel of Scott B. Smith, and the way it mixes the elements of suspense with traditional folk stories. The film doesn't go for the usual gore feast (which is a positive point), allowing for the characters and situations to develop (though not enough). Though not as painfully bad as the remake of "Halloween", this is a film that could've benefited from a more developed approach as far as characters and situations are concerned.