Archive for the ‘Drama Films’ Category

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Does Navi mind-melding work with mountain biking?

February 18, 2010

Huh. I can’t believe I haven’t made a post here for so long. That’s pretty shameful. What I really should do is write some more movie reviews. I got sidetracked doing some reviews for a magazine (wow, lucky me!). Also, I’ve been playing with my other site. Hey, you should visit it!

http://towerofturtles.com

No, really, you won’t regret it. I’m telling you.

And just to make sure this post is at least someway film related, I want to make this comment about AVATAR:

The ‘plug-in’ capability that the Navi use – you know the one in their ponytail? Where they plug in to their horse-beast things? It is awesome! How excellent would it be to understand truly the inner mind of other beings? That concept is a philosophical problem that has entertained thinkers throughtout the ages – how do we really understand what others think? Do they see orange as the same orange that we see?  Is the pain that they feel the same kind of pain that we feel? Etc.  You can never really know unless you can plug in to their mind.

Also, as Stephen Colbert pointed out, the Navi have sex using that same ponytail method. Does that mean there’s some strange bestiality going on?

Anyway, on a different note, I like to think that when I clip my cleats into my mountain bike pedals, I have established a special understanding with the bike, my steed. Doesn’t seem to be working that well though. I still keep falling off. So, to answer the question in the title of this post: No.

Navi mind melding does not work with mountain bike cleats.

Navi mind melding does not work with mountain bike cleats.

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THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (Auf der anderen Seite) (2008)

March 1, 2009

Edge of Heaven Review

edge-of-heaven-screenshot

Matt: Four and a half stars

Length: 122min

Précis: Moving, humanistic film intertwining three stories between Turkey and Germany.

Review by Matt:

The Edge of Heaven is a beautiful film of deep humanism; a treat for the eyes, mind and heart. Writer/director Fatih Akin (Head On) explores the dramatic intertwining of six multigenerational characters across Germany and Turkey. Painting a broad canvas, Akin broaches big issues like death, politics and cultural separation. Despite this grand schema, it is the subtleties in the characters and relationships that make this a poignant and edifying experience.

In Germany, Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz), a widowed Turkish immigrant, starts a relationship with a Turkish prostitute, Yeter (Nursel Köse). Tragedy leads Ali’s son (Baki Davrak) to Turkey, just as Yeter’s dissident daughter (Nurgül Yesilçay) flees to Germany. She finds sanctuary with spirited, middle-class Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska), and her cautious mother (Hanna Schygulla), before events again propel them apart. Akin’s precise script barely wastes a word as it seamlessly weaves the narrative and thematic strands. His meditative directing lets the stellar performances shine. We’re easily immersed in these characters’ life-changing journeys.

Edge of Heaven mostly avoids the contrivance that often encumbers films with interlocking narratives. Here, coincidence separates our protagonists as much as it unites them and mystical fate is overshadowed by tenderness, forgiveness and other human qualities; the kinds that overcome distance, tragedy and folly to bring us all closer together.

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MARGOT AT THE WEDDING (2008)

September 11, 2008

Margot at the Wedding Review


Adam:

Length: 93min

Taglines:
One family. Infinite degrees of separation.

Review by Adam:

This movie was recommended to us from some good friends but I would be loath to do the same. It wasn’t until we put it on that I realised that Nicole Kidman was in it. I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like ‘our’ Nicole has become all ditsy over the years, something that now I can’t shake from whatever role she takes (except maybe Dogville).

The plot revolves around a reunion between two estranged sisters for a wedding. All the personal issues that had driven the sisters apart eventually resurface, causing everything to fall apart. Everyone in this movie seems to have some major personal interaction malfunction. In Jack Black’s character at least, it is mostly funny. His wonderful no-hoper attitude is the only thing that makes this movie bearable.

Since there isn’t much plot, and the focus is on character, it’s a shame that every character is largely unlikeable. Nicole is particularly horrible. So self-righteous but so hypocritical. Jack Black’s character sums it up best by saying something like this to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character: “you’re fucking crazy, your sister’s fucking crazy. No I’m not overreacting, when people look back they’ll see that this is a completely normal response”.

He also said that he would punch Nicole in the face, something that would have made the film more interesting.

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RENDITION (2008)

September 7, 2008

Rendition Review


Matt:

Length: 122min

Taglines:
What if someone you love…just disappeared?

Précis: Powerful, scathing drama about the USA’s illegal programme to relocate and torture terrorism suspects.  

Review by Matt:

Mental note. Do not get on the wrong side of the USA. Rendition, a terrifying political drama from director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi), offers a powerful reminder that the heart of the world’s superpower is a piece of cold steel. It also reminds us of the distressing fact that in the dirty, covert ‘war on terror’, innocence is not necessarily enough to keep you on the right side of the USA.

Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), an Egyptian-born American, flies home to Washington, but never makes it out of the airport. American authorities suspect him of being connected to a terrorist group, so the CIA sweeps him off the map, and into its ‘extraordinary rendition’ programme. Anwar is covertly flown to a foreign hellhole, for interrogation at the hands of clinical torture master, Abasi (Igal Naor). Overseeing is a conflicted American CIA operative, Douglass Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal). Meanwhile, back in the US, Anwar’s anxious wife (Reese Witherspoon) desperately searches for answers, the poor everyday citizen stuck at the edge of the Government’s national security black hole.

The roundly good acting intensifies the drama, with Omar Metwally’s remarkable performance as Anwar making a traumatic centerpiece. Meryl Streep personifies the frosty Government neo-con with typical excellence. Peter Sarsgaard also stands out as a political advisor caught between the personal and political worlds. In lesser hands the characters could have seemed like black and white chess pieces in the film’s bigger political agenda.

Rendition slices through a complex and topical issue with great intelligence, weaving the personal and political threads into a coherent and principled picture. Considering the rage one might feel about the USA’s practice of disappearing and torturing people, Rendition remains relatively calm. Its messages emerge with a quiet intensity, realistically showing that the use of torture by a cold and compromised administration only perpetuates the cycle of violence.

Viewers might balk at the stressful subject matter, or at the film’s unhurried style, which pushes the running time past two hours. But the film deserves a wide audience. It’s smart, moving and it takes a stand. Some have complained, but in my opinion, Rendition is not unfairly favorable to one side of the ‘extraordinary rendition’ debate. We’re pitched the administration’s reasoning for its methods daily, and the film repeats them as well. But it reminds us why those reasons are wrong – and it does it with restraint. The film also fulfills an essential role of art. It provokes us to question and criticize. It uses drama to pierce the veil of secrecy that powerful forces use to shroud this abusive practice, and it restores its human face. For George Bush, Anwar’s face would just be another to cross off his scorecard of suspects, after a job well done. (*)

(*) Note, the Washington Post has reported that George Bush does in fact keep this scorecard.

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THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

September 2, 2008

The Dark Knight Review


Adam:

Length: 152min

Taglines:
Why So Serious?
I Believe In Harvey Dent.
Welcome to a world without rules.

Review by Adam:

Ever since I saw the previews for this movie I knew I was going to see it on the opening night. When the night came, I managed to drag along my flatmates on the promise that this was ‘arguably’ the best Batman ever. I told everyone that they weren’t excited enough. The level they needed to be at was “oh my god, I HAVE to have the giant Batman cup.” Thankfully common sense prevailed and no one paid a ridiculous price for such plastic crap.

The movie itself is pretty awesome, thanks largely to Australia’s latest deceased movie star, Heath Ledger. Basically his Joker character is an extension of the troubled Aussie kid, Patrick, he played in 10 Things I Hate About You. You know that scene where he is playing with the bunsen burner? Well, the Joker is what would have happened if Patrick had ended up with a broken heart (and had needed major facial surgery from an accident). Heathy plays the Joker so well it makes you squirm in your seat. He manages to adopt all the mannerisms and expressions you would expect from some maniacal, super villain. He captures the chaotic logic that is central to the Joker, and it’s that unpredictability that makes you uneasy. Without doubt, if it wasn’t for Heath, this movie would only be average.

The Dark Knight has quite a complex plot that always leaves you guessing as to exactly what is happening and if it is being deliberately planned. The only down side to this is that the film tries to cram a bit too much in. Two villians in one movie – doesn’t that undermine the principles of a movie franchise?

Christian Bale may be the greatest Batman yet. He carries the worries of the metropolis like only a billionaire playboy could, with lots of brooding looks and a special voice for when he’s in his Batgear. What makes him great (like Michael Keaton) is that he exists in a grim time. From this, the story becomes one about redemption and the attempt to make things right. From heroes that is all we can ask.

The extras in this movie are also fantastic. Gary Oldman, as the police commissioner, is probably my favourite character in the whole movie. There’s just something so wonderfully incorruptible about him. Maybe it’s the moustache.

The movie deals with issues of uncontrolled power, fear, and what it is that drives us as humans (it’s not bat-mobiles). I thought the ending was mostly good, except for the moralising about society needing leaders/good examples. To hell with that! The Dark Knight shows us that the most respectable characters are in fact those society is willing to lock up.

4.5 Batmasks.

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MONGOL (2008)

August 31, 2008

Mongol Review


Matt:

Length: 126min

Taglines:
Greatness comes to those who take it.
The untold story of Genghis Khan’s rise to power.
Don’t despise a weak cub, it can appear the son of a tiger.

Précis: Epic story dramatizing the early life of Genghis Khan with a loving – possibly revisionist – touch.

Review by Matt:

A nominee at 2007’s Academy Awards for ‘best foreign picture’, Mongol dramatizes the little-known early life of the infamous Mongol, Genghis Khan.  Despite focusing on one of history’s most famous warlords, Mongol isn’t really a boy’s battle film. It’s more of an epic drama, glued together by a Wuthering-Heights-strength love story. Russian writer/director Sergei Bodrov constructs a noticeably rosy perspective of his subject. His story follows the young Genghis – better known then as Temudjin – through what could be called his “constantly trapped in stocks and tortured” period.  For the most part it’s easy to cheer for this rugged and mistreated hero. It’s only when you remember that the story conveniently halts just before that whole touchy “slaughtering and raping half the world” chapter, that some of the characterisation seems a little awry.

Temudjin is barely nine when he first meets the stocks. His father, the tribal leader, is assassinated, ancient Mongolian style (tribal leaders should really know not to accept a horse-milkshake from their enemy). The tribe’s subordinates refuse to accept that little Temudjin will inherit the throne. So it’s into the stocks for him, and some other scallywag Mongol unjustly becomes the Khan. It’s the first of a series of struggles and indignities faced by baby Genghis. He fights to rescue his kidnapped beloved bride. He fights with, and against, his blood-brother, Prince Jamukha, in a number of blood-spurting battles. He is imprisoned and enslaved by his many enemies. You start to see why Temudjin grew into a vengeful warrior, declaring that “Mongols need laws and I will make them obey even if I have to kill half of them”. And still, in between it all, he finds time to be Mongolia’s number one dad, and go picnicking with his family.

Mongol looks amazing and authentic, with its hoards of extras, unique cultural quirks, and its lavish North Asian scenery. The performances are fine – Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano exudes a fiery intensity to fill Temudjin’s war-mongering boots. Non-actor Mongol Khulan Chuluun, is impressive as his stoic wife, Borte. Chinese actor Honglei Sun also infuses Prince Jamukha with a sense of wild-eyed Mongolian zaniness. All the imprisonment makes for occasional lulls, but add in the love story, tribal politics, and regular thunderous horse-filled battles and Mongol just manages to remain entertaining for its two-hour length.

Really what weighs it down is the requirement that we limit our mental engagement, else things seem a bit unconvincing or jarring. Aspects of the plot are underwritten, especially the supernatural intrusions of mysterious Mongolian gods. Most of all though, Bodrov’s portrait of Genghis as a Mel Gibson style, family-loving hero, makes you wonder just how the family bond will hold up during the years of raping and killing that are just around the corner. Bodrov will have to solve that one, as he’s set to continue the tale of hero-Genghis in two upcoming sequels.

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21 (2008)

August 22, 2008

21 Review


Matt:

Length: 123min

Taglines:
Inspired by the true story of five students who changed the game forever.

Précis: A disappointingly cliched dramatisation of an infamous casino card-counting caper.

Review by Matt:

21 is another example of ‘Hollywoodization” – the annoying practice of eviscerating a potentially interesting concept and stuffing it with the same old hackneyed pap, because that’s apparently what secures an audience.

The film dramatizes the real-life story of a group of MIT college kids who developed a card counting system and used it to win millions from the Vegas casinos. The affable Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe) plays Ben, an ace maths student tempted into joining the secret card crew. The group is led by patriarchal professor Micky, played by Kevin Spacey in another calmly menacing performance. A mundane student during the week, Ben jaunts to glitzy Vegas on weekends, experiencing the heady influence of greed and glamour. On his journey he clashes predictably with a casino security thug (Laurence Fishburne), romances it up with sultry team-mate Jill (Kate Bosworth), and – as in so many college/high-school movies – momentarily forgets who are his real friends.

What begins with potential, winds up a glossy package of formulas. 21 tries too hard to impress us with glamorous cheats. It is particularly irritating considering the many fascinating angles a filmmaker may have teased from this story. Instead, the concept is superimposed with Hollyowood’s seen-it-all-before plot arc. No surprises for guessing how it concludes, despite the contrived – and morally questionable – ‘twist’ tacked-on near the finale. The dubious decision to ‘whiten’ the characters (the real-life protagonists were Asian Americans) only contributes to the feeling of phoniness.

Of course the performances and production value are quite good, and there is still some residual excitement in seeing this audacious scam dramatized. Who doesn’t want to see the Casinos beat? But 21 is mostly just a front of tricks and distractions, desperately trying to convince you it is more interesting than it is. Behind the veneer it is bloated and meaningless. It’s a bit like a real casino really. You’re likely to walk out at the conclusion feeling like the house swindled you again.