Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Encounters at the End of the World

WORTH-IT: (Werner Herzog) Worth seeing for nature lovers and eco-gurus, Encounters is a beautiful glimpse into "real life" in Antarctica. Herzog takes us on a journey into the lives of several individuals making their living at The South Pole, from plumbers and bus drivers, to scientists and artists. There people who study penguins, underwater photographers, volcanic experts. Bottom line is, whatever you may have imagined life to be on the bottom of the world, a place once called "uninhabitable," there is never a dull moment in the vast winter wonderland that is Anarctica. Nominated for an Oscar, this documentary is certainly fascinating, educational and often inspiring. Where it does move slow throughout some of the deeper scientifics, the utter beauty that exists in a constantly changing and untouched land is incomparable and unforgettable. Almost 2 hours long, it flies by, as your eyes settle in trance to the easy tones of Herzog's narrating and the awesome grandeur of the giant icy continent. Although Herzong tends to stand his ground on an eco-hugging pedestal, its easy to ignore his distaste and instead, empathize with his wonder. All in all, a wonderful piece of work, enjoyable and educational. If that's your usual cup of tea - you National Geographic Channel nerds - this one is definitely for you!

Inglorious Basterds

PHENOMENAL: (Quentin Tarantino) Absolutely fabulous! Inglorious Basterds is the biggest pleasant surprise of the year, in film. It's the story of a macho men group from America and Europe wrecking havoc on members of The Third Reich throughout Germany. Led by Lt. Aldo Raine, a unique performance from Brad Pitt, they scalp heads troop by troop, earning a most wanted reputation throughout the Nazi nation. But, its also the story of Shosanna Dreyfus, a young Jew who narrowly escaped a massacre and is now secretly living in Paris and plotting revenge against the powers that killed her family. The film is as close to perfect entertainment as it comes. Humor delights almost every line, leaving a permanent smirk on your face, whether audible laughter accompanies not, which is often does. An emotional storyline surfaces amidst the silliness and action, the dramatic plot and the suspense keep you glued to your seat and dying for continuance. The movie is long, but long due to an intricate and fascinating web of stories, climaxing at once for one literal and figurative boom. Pitt plays counter to Diane Kruger and Christoph Waltz, two brilliant minds playing incredible characters--neither of whose absence would allow this film its splendor--plus, a short scene from Mike Myers for one unforgettable ride on the Tarantino movie train. For the faint-hearted, know that this is a Tarantino flick. There is blood and gore, galore. It spares no element of a true Tarantino-style entertainment, so expect that going in. If you can climb that personal mountain, you too will be enthralled with the on-screen eye candy. I still can't decide where to rank it in my Tarantino chart. It's up there. Its phenomenal. See it!

A Serious Man

Almost: (Coen Brothers) What was promoted as "the best American movie of the year" proved, to me, nothing but a glimpse into the exploited sadness of a young Jewish family in the Midwest. The story is basically a middle aged college professor who begins to see his life unravel. His wife wants a divorce, his brother sleeps on their couch (indefinitely), a student bribes him and then threatens to sue for defamation, and someone is writing letter to the tenure board to prevent his promotion. He's got a lot going on, and there seems to be no one out there sympathizing with him. It's supposed to be funny - and most certainly it is from time to time. The utter nonsense of it all finds a chuckle and the ultimate frustration actor Michael Stuhlbarg is able to portray on his face conjures memories of animation and needs little else to pull response. Unfortunately, for me, the ridiculous storyline never crossed the line between ridiculous and "so ridiculous that it's hysterical." Instead, I found myself frustrated at such a wimpy character. Often measly personalities are endearing, because their potential is somehow revealed. Unfortunately, Stuhlbarg's Larry Gopnick is a lost cause. He literally has no balls, and as it seems, no interest in learning to grow them. People walk all over him, and if this no light at the end of the doormat tunnel is the best way the Coens can make fun of Jewish America, then I have seen enough. As a last effort to save opinions on this film, I'll admit full out that one with a little more knowledge of the Jewish faith will probably laugh much heartier - as I sat in the theatre, I no doubt found myself laughing at th "wrong" times and was apt to notice the head nods and singalongs dotted throughout the audience. These same viewers were the ones not ready to exit their seat at the end - so yes, I must have missed something. And, after giving up the chance to see Audrey Tautou as Coco Chanel, I was expecting something a little more Fargo or O Brother.