Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Son of Ranbow

Movie name: Son of Rambow
Year of release: 2007
Director: Garth Jennings
Stars: Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Jessica Stevenson, Jules Sitruk, Neil Dudgeon, Anna Wing
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:Following the disappointing "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", Garth Jennings comes back with a terrific film, very much autobiographical, but alive with imagination and nostalgia. "Son of Rambow" follows the relationship between two young boys, Will Proudfoot and Lee Carter, in England circa the early 80's. Will is imaginative, creative and isolated, because of the passing of his father but also because of the religion that his family is a part of. Lee is a troublemaker, that has been "left off" with his older brother, while his mother is in Spain with her lover. Both these young boys come together and start working on their own version of the film "Rambo", the Sylvester Stallone film that has had such a huge impact in their lives. The film is a little story about growing up, learning to have friends and just generally learning to cope with loss and accepting who you are. It's beautifully well done and the actors are perfectly well cast. This is a gem worth watching.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Movie name: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Year of release: 2008
Director: Steven Spielber
Stars: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Igor Jijikine
Genre: Action, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis: After almost 20 years (the last Indiana Jones film premiered in 1989) and so many rewrites, Steven Spielberg and company return with another adventure of the famed archeologist. At this point one might thing what would be the point of picking up a character that was so embedded within the 80's culture, however the film is an ode to the talents of Steven Spielberg as a filmmaker. Though at certain points the film borders on the risible, Spielberg is still peerless as an entertainer and storyteller. The acting is uniformly good, with Cate Blanchett doing a very good villain, Jim Broadbent picking up where Denholm Elliot left off and John Hurt is always a pleasure to watch, even when he's on auto-pilot. The team that Spielberg usually assembles is impeccable, starting out with Janusz Kaminski that shoots the film beautifully and with the production design of the wonderful Guy Hendrix Dyas. All and all, this is a film that continues what the other films have set in motion, keeping the entertainment value high, even if at certain points the film seems to falter. A good watch.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Movie name: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince of Caspian
Year of release: 2008
Director: Andrew Adamson
Stars: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, Liam Neeson, Eddie Izzard, Sergio Castellito, Peter Dinklage, Vincent Grass, Pierfrancesco Favino, Damián Alcázar
Genre: Action, Family, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Synopsis: Following the unexpected success that was the first installment of CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, Disney jumped immediately on production of the following films (more sequels to come). Whereas the third film will have Michael Apted as a director, the first and second films fell on the lap of Andrew Adamson, previously known as the helmer of the Shrek films. This turns out to be the biggest weakness of the first film and now, "Prince Caspian". The first film tried desperately to be a follow up to the "Lord of the Rings" concept and look, something that this film also aims at, however the results have fallen flat and uninspired. Whereas Peter Jackson breathes life to his adventures, Adamson feels too uninspired, which falters the film (particularly considering the huge means he had available in this film). The actors have evolved from their wooden performances in the first film (much like the kids of the "Harry Potter" films), yet the scene stealing goes to the wonderful Tilda Swinton that manages to breathe some menace in the few minutes she's on screen. The film had a lot of potential, and you almost wish there was more to it, but the film feels lackluster and ultimately not very satisfying.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Speed Racer

Movie name: Speed Racer
Year of release: 2008
Director: Andy and Larry Wachowski
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Paulie Litt, Rain, Roger Allam
Genre: Action, Family
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

5 years after the critical and public meltdown that were the two final installments of the Matrix trilogy, the Wachowski brothers return with a new film and surprisingly it's a family oriented film, based on the cartoon "Speed Racer". The film starts by introducing us to Speed, a young boy that has the gene of race car driving - his older brother is a race car driver also and his father builds the cars that they use. After a dramatic family event occurs, we see Speed as an adult running and being hailed as the great new talent of race car driving. He is proposed a contract by this evil corporate conglomerate, that upon his refusal sets out to destroy his career and his family's opportunities.
This is a film that has been shot almost 100% with green screen, which means the work with post-production has been extensive and the special effects and eye candy will be a major driving force. Whereas the visual side of the film is almost overwhelmingly beautiful (the colors, the framing of the shots), the film ends up faltering in it's premise to be a family film. The screenplay is far too complex at times for a child to understand. The premise promised a lot, and while visually the film is powerful and impressive, the screenplay, the acting in general make it an uneven experience. Christina Ricci ends up being the real sparkle in the midst of all that glitter - all the other actors are either playing too serious, or too over the top - she finds the beat for a film that is about only one thing - having fun! This film is almost pop-saturated art at it's best - see it for what it is, and experiment!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Iron Man

Movie name: Iron Man
Year of release: 2008
Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Leslie Bibb, Clark Gregg, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Bill Smitrovich
Genre: Action, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Jon Favreau is a director that has demonstrated thus far that he can be very eclectic. From "Swingers" to "Zathura" he has helmed films that are mostly light comedies, but with "Iron Man" he has managed to accomplish a very entertaining action film, that is not paper thin on characters like so many other comic book adaptations ("Ghost Rider" springs to mind). Working with a wonderful cast, particularly the wonderful actors that are Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow, Favreau makes a film that is intelligent, exciting and filled with enough eye candy to induce a light diabetic coma. Definitely worth checking out!

Hors de Prix

Movie name: Hors de Prix / Priceless
Year of release: 2006
Director: Pierre Salvadori
Stars: Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Marie-Christine Adam, Vernon Dobtcheff, Jacques Spiesser
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Following "Apres Vous" Pierre Salvadori returns with another small comedy, with the pretty Audrey Tautou and Gad Elmaleh (who was also in Francis Veber's "La Doublure"). This is a comedy about mixed identities and finding true love. Tautou plays Irene, a woman that tries to find the right older man to bank her exquisite tastes and have a life full of privilege (aka a gold digger). When she mistakes Jean, a modest barman at a hotel, for a millionaire, she ends up giving him more than a night to remember - the poor man falls in love with her. Following this special night, Jean decides to keep the charade going, till all gets discovered - what follows is a comedy of mistaken identities and each one of these "fake and ruthless" gold diggers trying to find the easiest solution. The film always stays in a very docile and sweet tone, never really going to the places it could've have gone, but it is nonetheless an enjoyable comedy (which hopefully won't get remade with Ashton Kutcher).

Baby Mama

Movie name: Baby Mama
Year of release: 2008
Director: Michael McCullers
Stars: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Sigourney Weaver, Greg Kinnear, Romany Malco, Dax Shepard, Steve Martin, Maura Tierney, Holland Taylor
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

"Baby Mama" is the first directorial effort for Michael McCullers, though not necessarily a first in the themes that it deals with - the odd couple and the pregnancy for a career woman (that immediately springs to mind Charles Shyer's "Baby Boom" from 1987 with Diane Keaton). The film however scores highly as it doesn't try to be something that it isn't - it's aspirations are modest, and it scores most of them mostly thank to it's great cast, starting with the terrific comedian that is Amy Poehler. Poehler has made some easily forgettable films bearable, thanks to her natural comedic timing (witness Mark Waters' "Mean Girls"), and here she is paired with the equally talented Tina Fey (as the career, straight laced woman that can't get pregnant). The cast also ads the hilarious Sigourney Weaver as an oddly mature fertile woman and Steve Martin as an ecological CEO (and these two alone could have a film just for them). The film ends up living of the combination of the two central women, how different their lifestyles are and how they both learn something from each other - but the real score comes from watching these talented comedians going at it with all they have. Worth checking out.