Posts Tagged ‘movie reviews’

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QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2009)

March 31, 2009

Quantum of Solace Review

James Bond, Quantum of Solace
James Bond. “Mm, that chocolate cake was delicious”

Adam: Three stars

Length: 106min

Review by Adam:

The latest in the Bond films has what I think is one of the better titles for a film in this franchise. Not that it makes all that much sense, but then again, neither does the film. For those who haven’t seen the first Bond film with Craig Daniels playing the world’s saviour, then you’ll be in for a rude shock. Bond has changed. Gone are the cheesy one liners, the elaborate spy gadgetry, the promiscuity. We now have a brooding, jaded, and rather ruthless spy killer.

This movie picks up where the last left off. Heart broken, betrayed and out for vengeance, Bond is hunting the people who brought this upon him. Turns out there is a highly organised entity called “the organization” that is apparently running wild schemes and the British secret service knows nothing about it. So the hunt is on. Who is a traitor and who isn’t?

The hunt takes Bond to a guy who is using a land conservation charity as cover for an elaborate scheme to overthrow governments and gain control of water resources. There is one great scene where it’s explained to a General who is plotting a coup that if he doesn’t cooperate, then someone else will. Hello corporate hegemony!

As far as a mindless action film goes this isn’t so bad. Bad guys abound (and they’re typically bad shooters!), as do car chases, fisticuffs, tuxedos, and product placements. For anyone expecting more than that, maybe don’t bother. The film falls prey to too many sub-plots. There are two stories of revenge going, one about what the bad guys are planning, and the other about whether or not Bond is off the rails. You end up walking away wondering exactly who x person was and why they did what they did.

Of course, the politics in this movie is very average. But seriously, it’s James Bond, what were you expecting. I would write about the gender representation but really, it’s not too hard to imagine what it was like. It is Hollywood after all. As long as you remember that and leave your political analysis at the door you could find something to enjoy here.

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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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HANCOCK (2008)

September 6, 2008

Hancock Review


Adam:

Length: 92min

Taglines:
There are heroes. There are superheroes. And then there’s…
Bad Behaviour. Bad Attitude. Real Hero.
Meet the superhero everybody loves to hate.
He is saving the world whether we like it or not.

Review by Adam:

I wanted this movie to be good. I don’t know why really. Maybe I’m just sucker for hype, and apparently the Fresh Prince is now one of the most bankable and successful (in terms of ticket sales) stars around. That, and I love a good story of redemption.

Hancock (Will Smith) is an alcoholic super hero who spends his time being jaded, getting wasted, and seemingly only responding when people call him an asshole. He’s despised by the local population for his reckless acts of kindness, that is, smashing everything in his way to stop criminals. As the only one of his kind, he’s built some pretty distant people skills, which haven’t been helped by the vicious serves he receives from the general population. Eventually Hancock saves a struggling PR man (Jason Bateman) who offers to help him change his “public interfacing”. Thus a story of redemption starts…

The characters in this movie are as shallow as anything we would have seen on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The plot is about the same depth, save for one nicely unexpected twist. Smith manages to crack some good jokes, but it all gets swallowed up by the weak storyline. By trying to get a balance between action hit and comedy hit, the filmmakers managed to avoid them both. Even the ‘baddies’ are pathetic in this film (and everyone also knows it’s the PR people that are pure evil, not the Hispanic gangsters!).

Before I saw Hancock I wondered what would be the evil counterbalance to Smith’s superhero. This is the film’s problem. There’s no great rivalry. No Superman and Lex Luther. No Spiderman and the Green Goblin Family. No Keanu Reeves and Anthony Kiedis from Point Break. There’s only a weak love story that moves this film forward, and even then it doesn’t move it very far.

We can only pray that there is no sequel.

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HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008)

September 5, 2008

Hellboy II Review

Matt:
Adam:

Length: 120min

Taglines:
Saving the world is a hell of a job.
Good never looked so bad.
Believe it or not – he’s the good guy.
From the visionary director of Pan’s Labyrinth.

Précis: Lighthearted action fantasy about a grumpy hellspawn and his mutant friends, battling to save humanity from a magical evil threat.

Review by Matt:

There’s a big red demon, a looming threat to humanity, and scary gun-toting freaks all around. Is it the 2008 Republican Convention? No, it’s Hellboy 2, the new film written and directed by much-admired Mexican filmmaker, Guillermo Del Toro. He’s dropped the nightmarish atmosphere that characterised his recent films. Hellboy 2 is a fluffy action/fantasy flick about FBI-employed mutants saving the world from a mythological army of death robots.

Ron Perlman is Hellboy, a macho, half-human hellspawn who is a bit like a bigger, redder Han Solo. He’s out to save humanity from the villainous Elf Prince Nuada (played by Luke Goss, who has already endangered humanity once, as part of the awesomely rubbish 80’s band, Bros). Hellboy is helped by key team mates: his pyro-kinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), and a psychic creature called Abe (Doug Jones), who has an uncanny resemblance to C3PO in a fish suit. Further assistance comes from a German ectoplasmic spirit called Krauss (voiced by Seth McFarlane, emulating Klaus from American Dad) and the beleaguered human minder of the group, Agent Manning (Jeffrey Tambour, who is wasted in this excisable role).

Robots, monsters, Bros. It might sound great to you. But be clear about what you’re getting here, because Hellboy 2 won’t be for everyone. There are things to enjoy. Most noticeably, the film has a hammy likeability, unselfconsciously displayed in Arnie-like one liners and other silly, sometimes funny, dialogue. It also sports an impressive visual style; Del Toro has a talent for composition, and a rich imagination. You get a sometimes crazy mesh of towering monsters and flashy fights, and even a liberal promotion of interspecies marriage (there goes the Republican Convention comparison). You have to admit that in some respects, this is a film that has got it going on.

But the film’s bad side soon engulfs the positives. Hellboy 2 just lacks the qualities to make us invest in its story. The plot is recycled, rushed and disjointed. In some places it is jarringly sloppy. Behind the characters’ striking appearances, they are truly shallow, and most of the acting is accordingly stilted. The romances and conflicts are annoyingly clichéd, and may as well have been left out. The more it goes on, the more it feels over-busy and self-indulgent, as if Del Toro was obsessed only with his scattered ideas and ingenious style.

When even Guillermo Del Toro’s fantastical style starts to appear decidedly undazzling, you know there is something missing. I am an enthusiast of monsters, robots and other curiousities. But Hellboy 2 is a reminder that you’ve got to put them in the right vehicle before you have a winning film.

Review by Adam:

I didn’t even know this movie was coming out until I saw it previewed at The Dark Knight. My company immediately complained about how lame it looked. From that moment I was convinced that this would be awesome, and it kinda is. I was hanging to see this movie and at the end of a busy weekend. I even ended up dodging a dinner invitation with a visiting foreign celebrity so that I could see it with an old flatmate.

So the story doesn’t really pick up from the first movie. There is no reference to the previous happenings, or to the fate of the previous human agent assigned to Hellboy. Maybe he just died of an obscure disease.

The plot happens all very quickly and you’re guaranteed to think that it went from the first instance of slaughter to the final battle with very few events in between. The beauty of the film is in the characters, or better put, the creatures. If you’ve seen Pan’s Labyrinth you’ll know the beautifully creative mind of Guillermo Del Toro. This film gives him plenty of opportunities to showcase that. Kind of like that Tatooine bar scene in Star Wars Episode 4 (you know, the one where that dude tells Luke what all of us are thinking – “I don’t like you” – and then Obi Wan sabres him). It’s also nice to see that not everything these days is computer generated and some nice work has gone into the costumes.

Despite the supernatural realms and the whole threat of total destruction of humanity, this film is pretty light on. It never seems to take itself too seriously, and that’s a strength. The love stories are hammed up in all the right places (including one unforgettable sing-a-long) and only at a few moments are a bit over the top. The theme to the love story is that the destruction of the earth is fine, just as long as you are with the one you love. Easy to say if you have super-awesome mutant powers I guess…

Basically, go and see Hellboy 2 if you want something light. Don’t expect much and you’ll be delighted with a film that is entertaining, funny, sometimes beautiful, and has guns and big red dudes. Apparently there is another one planned – I can’t wait.

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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.