Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Crazies

Movie name: The Crazies
Year of release: 2010
Director: Breck Eisner
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, Preston Bailey
Genre: Action, Horror, Thriller, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:Breck Eisner's third film, following the mediocre "Sahara" is a remake of the George Romero film of 1973, also named "The Crazies". The film focus on a small town in Iowa, one where crime hardly occurs. When some of their locals start losing their mind, the sheriff starts to investigate and finds out that a military airplane has crashed in one of the surrounding lakes and it's content has spilled over to the water supply of the city. Those chemicals start generating throughout the city a number of deranged and violent people, something that the army tries to contain. The sheriff and his wife, the local doctor, try to escape the nightmare.
Breck Eisner is intelligent enough to keep this film focused on the tension that the situation creates, making this a taut and exciting suspense film. The gore is kept to a minimum and the film smartly goes from situation to situation in a smartly written way. The director knows this story is a good metaphor for the way power and corruption is everywhere, but in good B-movie fashion, creates a horror film that elevates this state of discomfort to alert levels. The cast is good and believable, with Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell doing a good job. Worth checking.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shutter Island

Movie name: Shutter Island
Year of release: 2009/2010
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Max Von Sydow, Jackie Earle Hayley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, Robin Bartlett, Christopher Denham
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Synopsis:The new Martin Scorsese film, following his hugely successful "The Departed" is a return to his "Cape Fear" territory: the thriller/suspense reinvention. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (author of "Mystic River" and "Gone baby Gone" to name but a few), the film follows the story of US Marshall Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule. Both men find themselves going to Shutter Island, a facility for criminals with mental disorders. Both men are investigating the disappearance of Rachel Solondo, a patient who unexpectedly disappears though she's closely observed. When both marshalls appear in the island there's a strong resistance towards them and no one appears to be willing to cooperate with the investigation, particularly the enigmatic Dr. Cawley. Teddy Daniels starts digging through the clues, while his personal life starts unraveling before everyone, threatening his sanity.
The film, much like "Cape Fear" breathes a lot of the classics for inspiration, each frame and the editing joined in a way that makes the tension grow with each beat. Scorsese knows how to create a tense atmosphere and this film gradually builds it since the first frame. Teddy Daniels is our main focus, through his eyes we witness what he has seen and experienced, the horrors of the liberation of the concentration camps, the passing of his wife. When the unraveling of the story presents itself, the questions that are posed are as crucial for the main character as they are to the viewer. Scorsese knows this all too well and he keeps building the crescendo until the final frames. The film benefits from another fantastic and intense performance of Leonardo DiCaprio, who infuses Teddy Daniels with a pain and sadness that are haunting. Ben Kingsley creates an equally chilling and menacing character as is usual. Highlights also go to the editing of Thelma Schoonmaker and the beautiful cinematography of Robert Richardson. A fantastic film to be seen!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Messenger

Movie name: The Messenger
Year of release: 2009
Director: Oren Moverman
Stars: Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, Jena Malone, Steve Buscemi, Brendan Sexton III
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:Oren Moverman's directorial debut follows the story of a sergeant from the army, a war hero who is assigned a new position, while recovering from war wounds. Will Montgomery joins a veteran captain in a position that is basically giving the news that soldiers have passed away to their respective families. While giving the news to a young wife of a deceased soldier, Will connects to this woman, much to the disbelief of his captain.
Oren Moverman initially carved a name for himself as a screenwriter of independent films such as Alison Maclean's "Jesus' Son" and Todd Haynes' "I'm not There". "The Messenger", which made it's debut at the Sundance Film Festival, is a film that tries to show a realistic approach towards the way war affects people's lives and relationships. Will Montgomery is a young man whose life has been forever affected by what he experienced in war and is finding it difficult to connect to a civilian life that has moved along without him. On the other spectrum his captain, has on the surface learnt to deal with the pain and suffering that comes from war and navigates on auto pilot through life and people. However these two men end up colliding in (un)expected ways. Oren Moverman's film is an interesting exploration of a familiar theme, but doesn't really showcase anything that hasn't been seen before. Where it does provide a different glimpse is in it's actors powerful performances, particularly Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson (who is seriously getting typecast as the regular repulsive and misogynistic with a heart of gold). Interestingly enough, films like "Deer Hunter" and "Coming Home" dealt with similar issues, but relating to different wars. It's interesting to compare them all.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Best Films of 2009

2009 is the year that saw the big crowds moving to 3D. James Cameron's "Avatar" made a big splash and in the process has become the biggest moneymaker (until the next one comes out that is). But the real interesting film making came from smaller films, some from female directors as Kathryn Bigelow and Jane Campion, some from eternal indies such as Wes Anderson and Steven Soderbergh and some very good debuts from Tom Ford and Marc Webb.
Here is a list of the films that had an impact, from authors who wanted to communicate something and who accomplished it using film as their canvas.

Bright Star
Director: Jane Campion
Cast: Abbie Cornish, Ben Wishaw, Paul Schneider, Kerry Fox, Edie Martin, Thomas Sangster, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Gerard Monaco

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson

The Hurt Locker
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Christian Camargo, Evangeline Lilly

Inglourious Basterds
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger, Daniel Bruhl, Jacky Ido, BJ Novak, Omar Doom, Mike Meyers, Julie Dreyfus, Martin Wuttke

Un Prophete
Director: Jacques Audiard
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Hichem Yacoubi, Reda Kateb

A Single Man
Director: Tom Ford
Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult, Ginnifer Goodwin, Teddy Sears, Jon Kortajarena, Paul Butler, Keri Lynn Pratt

Up in the Air
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Melanie Lynskey, Amy Morton, JK Simmons, Sam Elliott, Danny McBride, Zach Galifianakis

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Lily Tomlin, Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jonas

Los Abrazos Rotos
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Cast: Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portillo, Jose Luis Gomez, Ruben Ochandiano, Tamar Novas, Angela Molina, Chus Lampreave, Kiti Manver, Rossy de Palma

Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso, Dileep Rao, Matt Gerald

Films also worth highlighting are Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are", Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant!" and Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist".