Friday, July 31, 2009

The Hurt Locker

Movie name: The Hurt Locker
Year of release: 2008
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Christian Camargo, Evangeline Lilly
Genre: Action, Drama, War
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Synopsis:For such a gifted and interesting filmmaker, Kathryn Bigelow has had a low output since her career began. If her more recognizable films are "Point Break" and "Strange Days", her other efforts, namely "Near Dark" and "Blue Steel" are cult films. "The Hurt Locker" premiered at the 2008 Venice Film Festival to fantastic reviews and applause. Deservedly so - it's another fantastic film from an artist that has always tried to be original and daring in all her work.
The film follows a group of troops in Iraq that specialize in defusing bombs. The leader of the team suffers a fatal accident and his replacement, Sergeant William James, introduces a new dynamic in the way the tasks are approached. Most of the men on the team are looking forward for their rotation so they can return home. Their hopes are mostly of staying alive to go back.
The film follows the lives of these soldiers up close and personal. The film breathes the tension, fears and hopes of these young men as they risk their lives in a foreign land. The pacing feels real and does the wounds that these men suffer - we feel their anxieties and worries. The film is realistic in it's approach, but never sensationalistic. It touches you with it's emotional core and intelligence. A great film from a very underrated director.

Public Enemies

Movie name: Public Enemies
Year of release: 2009
Director: Michael Mann
Stars: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Jason Clarke, David Wenham, Rory Cochrane, Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Lang, Lili Taylor, Leelee Sobieski, James Russo
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:Michael Mann is one of the most interesting directors working these days. After the overlooked "Miami Vice" in 2006, Mann turned his attention to John Dillinger and to the crime wave of the 1930s (Mann has approached crime with great results in "Heat" and "Collateral"). John Dillinger had been the subject matter of John Millus' film from 1973, "Dillinger" with Warren Oates, Michelle Phillips and Cloris Leachman. The film introduces us to John Dillinger as he is breaking some associates of his from prison. Dillinger himself had been arrested for a considerable time, and goes on a bank robbing spree in Chicago. In one of his nights out, he meets Billie Frechette for whom he develops an immediate infatuation. His criminal undertakings end up bringing a lot of attention upon himself, forcing J. Edgar Hoover to declare him, public enemy number 1 and force the creation of a special task force to deal with him (and that type of crime). Leading that task force is Melvin Purvis, a resilient and resorceful agent. What follows is a game of cat and mouse, with Purvis trying to reach Dillinger as fast as possible.
"Public Enemies" has a lot going for it, from the artistry and perfectionism from the director, to the fantastic cast that has been assembled. Particularly Johnny Depp imbues the character with a mix of steel-eyed coldness and vulnerability that makes the character more three dimensional. The problems of this film are also very evident, starting from the screenplay, that introduces characters which are discarded as quickly as they appear. Some characters are also quite uni dimensional, from Melvin Purvis to Billie Frechette. You never know much about them, besides their cardboard definitions (police and girlfriend respectively). The film ends up living from the sense of urgency that creates and the impeccable production values. Worth checking out with some reservations.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Movie name: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Year of release: 2009
Director: David Yates
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Bonnie Wright, Geraldine Somerville, Jessie Cave
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Harry Potter number 6 finds the main characters grown up, going through adolescence, and under the grim and menacing threat of the dark lord Voldemort. The principal of Hogwarts, Dumbledore, continues to prepare Harry for a confrontation that he knows will be dangerous for him. These events lead to a sad and tragic demise at the school.
The "Harry Potter" franchise has been thus far directed by different filmmakers, with decidedly mediocre results. The films have always primed more for the production values, than for any ideas of film making. In their attempt to be so faithful to the books, the films have always felt stalled and in some cases, downright academic. Chris Columbus who directed the first two, set a pretty low bar, however David Yates with the previous "Order of the Phoenix" and particularly with this film, has managed to create a film that is entertaining and mature enough to hold interest. Again the production values are fantastic, starting with the stunning photography of Oscar nominee Bruno Delbonnel (who usually works with Jean Pierre Jeunet) and the score of Nicholas Hooper. The acting is very good, with highlights going to Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon and Helena Bonham Carter. This is a film that manages to balance the entertainment that is expected of the series, with a sophistication and expertise from a solid filmmaker. Worth checking out!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Movie name: Bruno
Year of release: 2009
Director: Larry Charles
Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammersten, Clifford Banagale
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Sacha Baron Cohen is back with another provocation-film, following the huge success of "Borat", also directed by Larry Charles. Also based on a character he created as part of the "Ali G Show", Baron Cohen invests in a format close to the one that proved so successful for "Borat". "Bruno" follows the life of fashion stalwart Bruno, who is fired from his Austrian TV show after a disastrous presence in a fashion show. Bruno decides to come to America and attempt to revive his career and life and in the process become a celebrity. Accompanied by his assistant Lutz, Bruno embarks in a series of interviews and attempts at stardom that culminate in his decision to shed his "gay" persona and embark in a "straight" lifestyle. Unlike "Borat" that had a very documentarian look and feel to it, "Bruno" definitely has more of a narrative oriented goal, and the hybrid solution makes the final product lack in filmic interest. It's an interesting film in the sense that it pushes buttons, makes the viewer think and is funny in certain sections, but as an overall film experience, it leaves a lot to be desired. Sacha Baron Cohen is without a doubt a great talent, but "Bruno" is not the best showcase for it.