Monday, April 23, 2007

Little Children: Big Success

WORTH-IT: This movie was a real delight to see. I don't know what I was actually expecting, but it included the idea of something dark, disturbing, and saddening. What I experienced was something beautiful, something genuine, and something enlightening. First of all, the film is a perfect mix of emotion that you can't help but compare to real life. I laughed out loud as much as I shifted to the edge of my seat, as much as I held my breath. It could have simply been a story about two people trying to blend into their stereotypical suburbia, but instead adapted to several themes of sex, lust, boredom, independence, and maternity. The bottom-line (stated by the narrator) was that where our past was forever going to be bad, the future was what mattered. All the characters' struggles are because of the past, and through their 'little children,' they see a brighter future. But underneath, the film is much more complex. It deals with sex, adultery, and violence, but if you can get past the graphics, the story can really take you deeper. Whether its your story or not, empathy plays a part. No one is really the bad guy, so you have to identify in your own mind (or heart) with the feelings of the character. Its an effort to paint the lives of ordinary people through this small town. So, see this movie. Appreciate it for its simplistict surface, but reach into its complex weave of personality and life. Let it affect you. Let it entertain you. And amidst it strong thematics, don't hold back your laughter.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Blood Diamond: You may think you want a rock...

WORTH-IT: (Edward Zwick) Wow. This movie slid under the rug during Oscar season. It was ridiculously intense, emotional, beautiful, and REAL. Zwick (Legends of the Fall) spared no blood, no heart, no soul for the reality put forth in this film. Based on true events, Blood Diamond captures the tragedy behind diamond harvesting in South Africa. "TIA" is what the Africans repeat, standing for "this is Africa," as a way to explain their violent existence. In a state of civil unrest, the people of South Africa are ripped apart, burned, and stolen by refugees illegally sending diamonds across the border to be sold to "young American women dreaming of a storybook wedding and a big rock on their finger." Leo DiCaprio does a phenomenal job as the heartless smuggler out to use and abuse to get his ticket out of the war zone, a 100 carat blood diamond. But the spotlight belongs to Djimon Hounsou. His character is the face of the crisis, and his performance grips you from the beginning. He's a father, a husband, a partner, a prisoner, and a hero. I can't find many negative things to say for the film, other than its gory and violent, so be wary if you can't handle that. It's a very real film, that hits close to home for anyone with a taste for diamonds, and may prove to violent to endure for some. I could have done without the Leo-Connelly love-fling, as it did nothing for the film but give Leo's character an outlet to reveal his softer side. And her character's inconsistency was distracting. But given a chance, this film tells a story that deserves publicity. And its done well. It reaches the heart, it pleases the eye, and it touches the soul. Djimon should have won the Oscar. His voice and his drive serve as the power source for the movie's impact.

Stranger Than Fiction: Not your typical Ferrell

WORTH-IT: (Marc Forster) This is a quiet movie. Writer Karen Eiffel, a worn-out Emma Thompson, narrates the life of Harold Crick, an independent and dedicated Will Ferrell. Movie-goers should first and foremost throw out your previous Ferrell opinions- whether it be you like him or not, because this is a step in the opposite direction for him. After clearing your mind of these predispositions, you will most likely enjoy the film. It provides an entertaining romp through the "last" days of Crick's life, as narrated by Eiffel. Humor surfaces often, the characters grow and change, and the story is unpredictable. I will admit it is slow, but that speed comes with an aesthetic flair in this film, as the slow passage of time reflects the monotony of Crick's life, Eiffel's struggle with writer's block, and the pangs of waiting for time to pass. Essentially, the story is all about waiting: waiting for ideas, waiting for the bus, and waiting for your death. But the beauty of it is that through the waiting, you might discover a life you weren't expecting, and then time may pass too quickly. I enjoyed this movie, and recommend it to ones who want a solid entertainment, easy on the mind, and simple for the emotions, yet fantastic in story-telling. (As for comparison to Forster's other work... Finding Neverland remains my favorite)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Post Oscars: Make sure you see these!

The Oscars receive a lot of fire for their lack of substantial film, poor presentation as an awards show, and biased Academy selections. I disagree 100%. I absolutely love the Oscars. They fire me up to see new films, enlighten my scope for Foreign Language films, and encourage me to formulate my own opinions. Every year, I try to see all the nominated films, familiarize myself with the nominated actors/resses, and make my own guesses. This year's lot contained some gems, which you MUST see. Take to heart my recommendations. Appreciate each film for the intended way. Watch the movie how the director created it, not how Hollywood has taught you to perceive good entertainment. There are few happy endings, few moral characters, and little English, but each was deserving in its nomination, and most, in their win.

VOLVER: MUST-SEE (Pedro Almodovar) Phenomenal. Emotional. Beautiful. Cruz comes across as I have never appreciated her before. The storyline is not a typical American one, but engulfs your soul into the a mother/daughter/family intimacy. I loved it. Most beautiful scene- Cruz (lip) sings a song her mother taught her, amidst a film-crew wrap-party painted with vibrant colors, elated spirits, and an overwhelming sense of emotion.

PAN'S LABYRINTH: PHENOMENAL (Guillermo del Toro) This was my favorite Oscar Nominee. I was pleasantly surprised by the plot, the characters, and the creativity that went into the characters. Pan's voice is hypnotic. The character's are inspiring. It is Alice in Wonderland for the grown-up. To spar the negative reviews: NO, this is not a children's movie. No one proclaimed it to be. There is death, dying, war, and torture. It IS in Spanish, so understand you'll be reading subtitles. But get over subtitles. Film in Spanish is the most beautiful way to hear a script. You may feel overwhelmed in the beginning, but five minutes in until the end, you'll have forgotten you were reading the lines flying through your head.

NOTES ON A SCANDAL: MUST-SEE (Richard Eyre) Cate Blanchett rocks this film. Once again, not a traditional American plot, so don't watch with a closed mind. Let yourself be touched by these characters, and you'll be blown away by their magnitude.

DEPARTED: MUST-SEE (Martin Scorsese) Forget they're using the "F-Bomb" so often, otherwise you'll miss this incredible Boston-mafiesque story. Pay attention as well. It's a tricky plot. But see it. Vera Farmiga is incredible. Leo surpasses expectations again, and Jack continues to please (although looks worse than ever).

HALF NELSON: MUST MUST-SEE(Ryan Fleck) Touching. This movie really touched my heart. I can't think of a less cheesy way to put it. All "Notebook" haters, do not discard Gosling's performance in this one. The story is about two people, of opposite backgrounds, learning to love themselves through loving each other. But platonic love. There is no pedophile story here. A young girl helps her teacher see he can do better, while he encourages the same for her. There are drugs.There is sex. But its depicted in a way to educate and illustrate the genuine struggles involved with life on the hard road. It breaks your heart; but in a realistic way, that makes you clutch your heart rather than wipe your tears.

HAPPY FEET: MUST-SEE (George Miller) This was the best animation film, (although MONSTER HOUSE and CARS were must-sees as well). A sweet story that enlightens children and adults of global issues. The environmental issues were just right in their intensity. And Mumble's voice is to cute to hate. The music provides laughter and chills, and the animation is often more realistic than cartoon. Don't forget Robin Williams makes an appearance and brings his famed humor to the screen,making this flick irresistible.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

300: A Beautiful Satisfaction

MUST-SEE: (Snyder) This film was beautiful! A digital playground. Not since Hero have I been so blown away by the digital wonders of a film. And despite several critics who have argued against the lack of genuine cinematic credibility, because it is so digital, I beg the audience to appreciate the technological masterpiece it exists as, and not what a critic thinks it should be. Director, Zach Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) created the entire film in a warehouse. It took 60 days to shoot. He used real people, with real muscles, and real voices. Other than that, and for the next year, the whole film is thanks to computer polish, and the finished product is mind blowing. First of all, the plot is driven solely by the battle (unlike Troy's sex, lies, etc.). Secondly, all the emotion stems from the heart and soul of the Spartan warriors, dressed in nothing but capes, leather briefs, and their rediculous muscles. From the first scene, which recounts how each Spartan boy becomes a "real man," you become engrossed in the spirit of the warriors. They are the defnition of bad-asses. Thirdly, the variant time-speeds play with your eyes, working with powerful music to hit your soul through your senses. The blood paints a warm color scheme throughout each battle, making violence art. Aside from the eye candy, King Leonidas' (Gerard Butler) voice booms with authority and wit, keeping you in awe, and often chuckling. 300's mix includes a 9-foot golden clad King Xerxes, computer-generated rhinos and elephants, mutilated ogres, and adolescent sex toys. The sky is always dark, thunder always claps, and the spears are kept sharpened. For the UFC fan, this movie will motivate you to work out and fire up your fighting spirit. For the aesthetic oriented, the digital creation surpasses your wildest dreams. And, finally, for the graphic novel lovers, Frank Miller's original provides the inspriation for this adapted script. It's hard to point out bad parts to the film, but my only complaint is the scene in which a young female "dances" in an oracle trance, obviously holding her breath under water. The mistake distracted me from one of the most fantastic scenes of the 2 hours. But, that is my only complaint. I loved the story. I loved the theatrics. I loved the battles. I loved the muscles, and I loved the humor. See this movie. And see it in IMAX!