Monday, September 29, 2008

The Women

MUST SEE for women: (Diane English) Pour Hollywood's favorite sweethearts into a 1930s classic, don't allow any men on the bill, make it about the best and worst qualities in females and you've got the recipe for The Women, one of the most enjoyable, light-hearted, yet emotional films that anyone with a va-jay-jay will appreciate. Aside from loving to laugh and cry, women love to watch train wrecks, see imperfection in action and soak up good clothes. English brings back the success from 1930s original and packages it into a 2008 version of why we love being women. What began over a decade ago as a vision between Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts has twisted and turned to 2008, leaving Ryan as the lead, Roberts passing completely, and Eva Mendes, Annette Benning, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett-Smith rounding out a fun, feisty and all-together charming star bill. Bette Midler, Cloris Leachman and Candice Bergen are icing on the cake of estrogen and provide perfect comic relief for a movie of genuine real-life emotion. We see betrayal, friendship, success and failure, divorce and new love all sprouting, growing and dying in just under two hours. Like all good chick-flicks, The Women is a a roller-coaster of feelings, capped by humor and tears, but leaving you happy and satisfied, AND encouraged that mood swings and temper-tantrums are all just part of being a girl.

El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

PHENOMENAL: (Juan Antonio Bayona) Laura is a young and fiery girl living in an orphanage with 5 other children. They are too old to be adopted and innocently pressing the patience of some of the employees. But Laura is the lucky one of her firends, and gets adopted at the age of 11. She never hears of the orphanage again, except that eventually everyone was gone and the house was left abandoned. At present, adult Laura (Belen Rueda) brings her family back to the house where her dream is re-open the house as a home for special needs children. Unfortunately, the house has others plans. Plans that reveal her little friends may have been poorly treated and their disappearance not to normal. Slowly, eerie occurances start to happen, noises in the walls, suspicious visitors to the house, and her son, claims to be friends with littel chuirldren no one else can see. For weeks Simon plays games with the children, doing scavenger hunts, playing hide-and-seek, leaving Laura avoiding the obvious, that these imaginary friends are her friends from the orphanage. The tipping point comes when her son goes missing during a masquerade party. They don't see him in the house, on the property, or even in the surrounding areas. Search crews find nothing and her husband loses hope. But, as a last resort, she hires a ghost whisperer, who uncovers a blazing tragedy from the past, facing Laura with the decision to stay in the house alone to solve the mystery the children have left for her. Her search uncovers the truth she was lucky enough to escape, and forces her to play witht he children as Simon did in hopes they will reveal his whereabouts. Produced by Guillermo del Toro, director of Pan's Labyrinth, The Orphanage follows suite with the same dark thematic and fantastic reality. Also similarly, The Orphanage places our main character in a state of mind questioning the line between fantasy and reality, ultimately leaving her to choose which state makes her happiest. The Orphanage seamlessly pulls together the story of Laura's love for her past and for her dreams, but easily opens the door for thrilling possibility. Expect to hold your breath as you watch grown-up Laura initiate a chilling game of tag with the ghosts, hoping to get answers in return for playing. Shaking, she knocks three times on the wall until finally she turns around to see 5 little children frozen in position, waiting for another knock to move forward. It is the best scene I have ever seen, and established the precedent that The Orphange is more than just a scary movie, it is a phenomenal ghost story that tests love and sanity with passion and brevity. Scenes like this appear throughout the film, never letting you get comfortable or bored, and constantly questioning what is real and what is not. The Orphanage is powerful, intelligent and overall genius. Don't miss this bone-chilling experience.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

City of God

MUST-SEE: (Fernando Meirelles) From the director who brought us 2005's Constant Gardener and this month's thriller, Blindess, it's one of his earlier works, City of God, that gives him a reputation among movie-watchers for a unique beauty within tragic darkness. Here, he illustrates Paolo Lins' novel of the same name, based on actual events among gangs in the forgotten Brazilian city. Young boys growing up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, a city starved of electricity, running water, or the chance for a better existence, the children are left with hood life to keep their attention. Narrator Rocket is one of few who avoided a life of crime and instead focuses on photography, running his life aside members of the most dangerous gangs, eventually serving as an involuntary embedded journalist for the big city's paper. The film is heartbreaking, filled with nauseating suspense and merciless violence; but at the very least, it grasps the beauty and potential within the hearts of a lost innocence. Lins highlights details of the troubled boys and the morals that are constantly questioned a world with no rules. He solidifies that fact that you're allegiance constantly shifts, introducing good people who kill and bad people who rule. He paints fear through the eyes of a young hood getting his foot shot off and then killed by a member of his own gang, or another young boy joining the gang to kill his own father's murderer. The sadness exists in the innocence of children lost completely at no fault of their own. But with director Meirelles vision to match Lins story-telling, the tone simmers with triumph, humor rounds out an intolerable lifestyle, and the moral doesn't even get a turn on the totem pole. The motif reflects the negligence the boys have for a future. It reveals their ignorance to the possibility of a life without guns, without killing your enemies as the answer to problems, and living completely in the present. As young as 7, the thought of justice, respect and of morality are lost, erased to make room for vengeance and superiority. Rocket serves as the one unbiased voice to recount the details of his troubled town. As one who grew up with the hood for friends, but now serves as the photographer to document their progress, Rocket recounts as though it were a bedtime story. City of God, based on actual events of the real-life Rocket, journalist Wilson Rodriguez, is a film not to be overlooked. It is a wake-up call to what happens in the slums, a slap in the face for what happens on the other side of the tracks, the mindset that intrinsically exists within a hard-knock. Take your strong stomach and a expect to leave with a heavy heart, but rest assured the magic that happens onscreen, between a unique kind of innocence and raw emotion will leave you hugely impacted, eerily content in your own reality, and genuinely enthused for the survivors, how few they may be.