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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Road (2009) Drama

The Road (2009) - SPOILER ALERT! THIS MAY HAVE INFORMATION YOU MAY NOT WANT TO KNOW>>>> Joe Penhall very loyally adapted the Cormac McCarthy novel about a father and son travelling south through post apocalyptic America. Directed by John Hillcoat and starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the Man and Boy. Hillcoat directed the 2005 brutal but fine film "The Proposition" and does a fine job here where it is a challenging story with limited character interactions. In the story we are ten or so years past some catastrophe that has killed all plants and thus all animals on the planet earth. Man is vanishing as well, scavenging for missed cans of food, bodies of bugs and at times other humans. The Man and the Boy head south to escape the ever colder winters of the north. A good deal of what they were about in the book we also see here, a shopping cart of what goods they have, is pushed along abandon roads every closer to there first destination the coast. The deal with the anxiety of roving bands of cannibals and the threat every other desperate soul presents them on the road. This is far from an uplifting story but is is an honest one. When the shit really hits the fan what kind of a human being will you be. Will you be the good guy, resist the hunger and starve before preying on your fellow man; Or will you take the survival of the fittest route? The Man is trying to prepare the Boy to be one of the good people. His story arc is about teaching the Boy that someone has to carry the torch of humanity even when things look bleakest. Viggo does an excellent job in this film, capturing the struggle between wanting to prepare the Boy as he knows he is dying. But also struggling with the desire to stop being so human in these the hardest of times trying to do what was right but not always being correct in his actions. The Boy has his own arc, the reminder to the Man that he is getting close to not being one of the good people. That kindness is not rented but paid for with self sacrifice. He during the story becomes more independent and ready for his future challenges. He is the witness for the Man's fallibility, starting as a cared for child and progressing to a capable survivor. During the trip we see the eating of humans by humans the keeping of people as food stuffs. In this world every encounter with another person can be dangerous, each house you want to search could hold deadly danger. It is because there is love that the Man can bring the Boy through this world and hopefully help him be the next wave of humanity. They did some things I really liked with this story. They increased through flashbacks the story of the Man's wife played by Charlize Theron as she decides instead of surviving in the world to kill herself. The passages in the book were fleeting but here she is a full character exploring the idea that not everyone will fight for survival. He is really haunted by her memory and struggles to let go. I actually like that they changed a couple smaller but significant things. In the book the Man is sick from the beginning of the story and I think you really know what will become of him early on. In the film the writer reveals the sickness more slowly, I think adding to the tragedy of it. Also in the book later on there is the pregnant lady with two guys, who eat the newborn baby. Here in the film that scene is not present. This seems the way to go to me. Besides the obvious grossness of it, it is later in the book and we have at this point in the movie already visited cannibalism. We get the idea of what is happening and it does not need more verification. I loved the landscapes they found for filming, destroyed houses of a post Katrina New Orleans, to the barren wastes of Mount Saint Helen and the Rust belt in Pennsylvania the film captures the poverty of the end of the world that McCarthy is so good at writing about. The neding is just like the book and I was glad for that. This is a tough story and not everyone will enjoy it, but I have to say I did.
Rating (8.1)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tormented (2009) Horror

Tormented (2009) - This British horror film could have been J-horror, a vengeful ghost kills the cool kids at a boarding school who tormented him in life. Justine (Tuppence Middleton) is the girl of poor Darren Mullet's (Calvin Dean) affection, overweight and unliked Mullet is relentlessly picked on and Justine never even notices him. When he commits suicide she can't even remember who he is. Her friends and his tormentors go on being the cool kids at the school and it seems his memory will soon be forgotten. But some things can not be forgiven that easily. Mullet , in ghost form starts killing his former bullies one at a time. What will Justine be able to do to not be one of the victims? Who will notice that the sudden deaths of these prize students seems strange? The basic plotting of this tales was very passable even with the very steriotyped set of characters. The ending was better than I expected and the kills were unique enough for this type of horror movie. So give first time writer Stephen Prentice some credit for not sticking with the most abvious choice in direction. Still in the end I think a lot of poeple will want more depth and subtext, the whole bullies get their due is far from original and the side story of Justine leaving her original group of friends to get in with the cool kids was barely touched. This movie is not poor but could have been so much more.
Rating (5.0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pirate Radio (2009) Comedy

Pirate Radio (2009) - Written and directed by Richard Curtis. It is 1967 and England has banned rock and roll radio, setting up our story of a pirate radio ship off the coast. Carl (Tom Sturridge)arrives on the boat after being dismissed from his all boy boarding school to find a place on the boat with his Godfather and ship owner Quentin (Bill Nighy). His entire story arc consists of losing his virginity and figuring out who on the boat is his father. Surrounding Carl on this journey is a quirky group of DJs each a distinct personality. Philip Seymour Hoffman is The Count, and rival to Gavin (Rhys Ifans) the hotshot American DJ brought on to increase advertising. Their competition is fulfilled through a game of chicken on the ship mast that was inevitable. Playing the heavies in the movie are Kenneth Branagh as Sir Alistair Dormandy the goverment head looking for a way to close down the pirate radio stations, and Jack Davenport as Twatt his henchman doing the actual work. They finally look like they have the answer outlawing the stations and are going to close the ship but can't find it. The ship after illegally broadcasting decides to move. Problem is the ship hits something and sinks leading to the wonderful Titanic style sinking scenes. Left out in the ocean sinking the mayday out the last bit of drama is will they be saved.
In general this is a light hearted story the dramas are small and personal. The audience I was in was mostly people in there 50s through 70s and they just loved it movie with laughter at the right times and smiles all around at the end. Particularly they seemed to enjoy there was a character named Twatt, each time his name was mentions there were giggles around the theater. I found the film passable throw away entertainment but at times I was really annoyed at the movie making. Twatt being one of the things such a easy play for cheap laughs. Then there were the different character pieces like eating the cookies, that were so cute and contrived that they did not feel genuine. If I was to really get down to what I did not like about this film it is that it was too obvious in its emotional manipulations, all movies through character and story attempt to create an emotional response but here it was too out front. When we get to the end and you learn the government is not coming to save the crew as the boat sinks, there is no doubt what they are setting you up for. When the Count and Gavin are on the mast there is no doubt what they will do. When the Count continues to spin records as the ship goes down there is no doubt what will happen to him. When it is proposed that Carl's Dad might be Quinten we know it can't be, and since we know most all the other characters from there spotlight time you should be able to guess who it is. Each piece is so perfectly written and played that it is obvious and thus not really very enjoyable. Still I think I can be a bit jaded at times and most people in the theater really seemed to like this film. I will chalk it up to being that this is just not my kind of movie. What was enjoyable for me was the music in the film, Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks, Procol Harem, Dusty Springfield, The Who, just so many great songs on this sound track.
Rating (6.0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Amores Perros (2000) Drama

Amores Perros (2000) - This is really quite a brilliant movie, heartbreaking certainly but so well done by director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. It is the interconnecting stories of love and betrayal and as the title suggests that "Loves a Bitch". Gael Garcis Bernal is Octavio, in love with his Brother Ramiro's wife Susana (Vanessa Bauche). He uses his brothers dog in the fight ring in order to earn the money so they can run away together. Ramiro (Marco Perez) is a store clerk and night time store robber is risking everything looking for the big score that will help him escape his life also. Octavio's passion for Susana seems to encourage her into a sexual relationship but it seems she is not 100% into this but is into the tenderness he brings to it. When a rival dog fighter shoots Octavio's dog he attacks man and then ends up in a car chase running for his life. This ends in a car accident leaving Octavios friend dead and him in the hospital. Ramiro going for the big score is killed in an attempted bank robbery. Susana now is presented with the choice to leave with Octavio or remain in her life a widow.
Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero) is a magazine executive who is having an affair with beautiful model Valeria (Goya Toledo). He gets the courage up to leave his wife and move in with her. Her car is struck by Octavio's and is broken up badly. One leg is completely shattered leaving her in a wheelchair with instruction not to put weight on the leg. Her little dog gets into a hole in the floor and does not come out. She is in a panic about it, and it seems there is no way to reach the dog. Daniel feels the stress of the relationship being the one Valeria needs to rely on. He feels helpless to save the dog they hear crying regularly. She when alone in the apartment hears the dog and re injures her leg. While she is back at the hospital Daniel manages to get the dog. Valeria loses her leg ending her modelling career and Daniel seems ready to go back to his wife.
Maru (Lourdes Echevarria) is a hitman who travels around with a bunch of stray dogs. He is hired to kill Gaustavo's half brother and business partner. While scoping the crime he sees the car accident that Octavio and Valeria are in and takes the wounded dog back to his place and nurses it back into health. Maru's story is that he was a professor who became a revolutionary. He spent 20 years in prison and secretly watches his daughter who thinks he is dead. When her step father dies his desire to see her increases. When the nursed back to health fighting dog kills his group of strays he seems to hit a critical point and instead of straight up doing his hit he creates a confrontation between the two brothers.
In the end this is a powerful movie about how love challenges people, whether a love that is forbidden, or trying, or lost. How we all struggle for the connection and how difficult it can be.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Saam gaang (Three Extremes II) (2002) Horror

Saam gaang (2002) Remarkably this film came out a full two years before the wonderful Three Extremes. This mix of Chinese, Japanese and Korean stories is a decent enough collection of three horror stories but it is far from extreme. The first segment "Going Home" is the tale of a mans guilt and the journey of his dead wife's spirit making its way home. Very predictable but reasonably executed. Segment two "Memories" was a story of a cop moving into a run down apartment only to lose his son, be held captive by a neighbor who is trying to revive the body of his three years dead wife through Chinese herb medicine. It is a strange tale with a good twist although the story of the son is incomplete and wasted because of it. The last was "The Wheel" a story about the souls of puppets being tied to there creators and the agonizing consequences for anyone who would interfere with that relationship. This one was a bit all over the place building in several poorly set up relationships and a Oh it was a premonition loop that really did not need to be there.
Overall this is a movie I can liked but it was far from challenging material which is sort of what you would expect with something so titled.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Paranormal Activity (2007) Horror

Paranormal Activity (2007) - After all the hype I finally got out to see this film, or should I say lost footage of someones home movies? Starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat the story is about a young couple experiencing paranormal activity. We see through Micah filming the progressively more frightening and violent haunting of Katie. Slowly, ever so slowly we move from quiet to loud noises, from banging doors to footprints ( I think velociraptor tracks). Then finally to the big twist. The big behind the scenes story of this movie is Oren Peli made it for very little money. Then the request a film marketing campaign for it. Well designed it unfortunately made the build up too much for this little mostly boring film to live up to. Seriously now let me ask you this question...If you are being haunted don't you invite every friend you have over to be with you? Do you really just stay with your spouse alone as things get worse and worse? I did not particularly enjoy this film, but it was a decent outing for its small budget. If you are a person who believes in hauntings, then there is something here that will probably scare you.
Rating (6.0)