Archive for January, 2011

The Green Hornet [2011]


The problem with the “The Green Hornet” is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s silly, it’s corny, and the wonderful Christoph Waltz is completely wasted as the villain. But even when the movie is average at best, Jay Chou was excellent and a lot of fun to watch as The Green Hornet’s sidekick Kato. He literally saves it from being a complete waste of time (and money). And though I’m a huge fan of Seth Rogen (who also co-wrote this with Evan Goldberg), this was far from being his best work,  either in front or behind the camera. His character displays himself as an egomaniac rich boy who has no responsibilties at all. The only reason we’re interested in him is because he is The Green Hornet. That being, he’s not very likable at all. His sidekick Kato does all the work, and he gets credit for it. After a while, it becomes annoying. What’s more, it seems as if the whole movie was written so that the majority of the humour is based on him. Sure that would be fine if he was funny, but he isn’t. He’s arogant, stupid, and as a superhero (or anti-hero in this case), he’s totally useless without his partner.

If you decide to ignore my take on this film and watch it anyway, chances are you don’t mind a “silly” movie every now and then. I don’t blame you. This is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it shows. Lower your expectations, and you might get something out of it, otherwise do not bother at all. It has some good moments, but I still wish the people involved in this had made something more original and memorable. And I still can’t figure out what Cameron Diaz is doing in this film (if you can figure this one out, I’m all ears).

Rating: 2/4

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Welcome To The Rileys [2010]


Here’s the thing about Kirsten Stewart’s acting: she’s either horrible at it (hint: “Twilight”) or overdoing it. I admire her effort in “Welcome To The Rileys” but I just couldn’t buy her performance as a stripper/hooker. James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo are both very good, but they are misdirected. They play a husband and wife living in Indianapolis. Leo’s character, Lois, is a traumatized, sad and lonely woman who has been married to Mr Riley for almost 30 years. We learn that she hasn’t left her house since their teenage daughter died in an accident some years ago. Her Husband goes away on a business trip, meets a young hooker (Stewart) who instantly reminds him of his daughter. He decides to stick around for a while and take care of the troubled young girl who apparently has very little self respect (the amount of bad language she uses and how dirty she looks would make a pirate look clean).

“Welcome To The Rileys” was supposed to be a family drama that deals with loss, grief and eventually letting go. I used the word “supposed” because I never felt like I was watching one. I thought the story was awfully repetitive and the characters showed very little emotions.  How are we supposed to sympathize with them when we’re not given a chance to get inside their heads? And when Mr Riley and his wife finally have their reunion in New Orleans, there is zero emotional impact. Do you want to see a family drama done well? Watch “Rabbit Hole” instead. It deals with grief and redemption aswell, but note just how better directed, acted and paced that film is compared to this uneven and overlong drama.

Rating: 2/4

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Blue Valentine [2010]


Absorbing drama explores the beginning and end of an intimate relationship, going back and forth in time from the couple’s first meeting through the bitter disintegration of their marriage. The two stories are told in intersecting circles: We see the beggining of the end at first, then we see how they first met. We see the relationship deteriorate even more, then we see their amazing first date. This style of storytelling allows you not only to see how perfect they were for each other, but also the lack of foundation that ultimately lead them to grow apart. The couple is played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, who both give excellent and daring performances. What’s even more interesting is the fact that the movie was shot with a 6 week break in order to allow both actors to gain weight and alter their appearance, to show the passage of 5 years time.

“Blue Valentine” is not an easy movie to watch; it’s quite powerful, and emotionally devastating at times. But it’s also very honest. Gosling and Williams are more than perfect for their roles, and I think this is the reason why the film won me over completely. They give life to their characters and have great chemistry between them. They manage to combine romance with frustration, optimism with pessimism and love with hate. If this isn’t great acting and exactly what the movie industry lacks nowadays, then I don’t know what it is.

Rating: 3/4

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The Thief Of Bagdad [1940]


To begin with a story: I remember watching “The Thief Of Bagdad” when I was very young with my grandfather (who taught me everything there is to know about films). It was probably the first movie I had ever seen, and I was fascinated by it. A couple of years ago, I learned that Criterion was releasing it on DVD. For those who may not know, the Criterion collection is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions of the highest quality. Indeed, this 1940 movie is one the greats. It lifts up the heart. It has adventure, romance, costumes and wonderful music that one critic said is “a symphony accompanied by a movie.” And when I finally got the chance to watch it again, it was still as wonderful as it was some 20 years ago. Of course I had no idea that it was made in 1940 back then, but either way, I didn’t care. I simply loved it. The story I always had in my mind moved from one spectacular scene to another: the flying carpet, the sultan’s mechanical toy, the goddess with six arms, the giant spider, and of course the genie being released from a bottle. Watching all those wonderful scenes after all these years drew a smile on my face. We can certainly read the politics of empire and power from it aswell, but the film insists that we keep a childlike vision and try to identify with our young hero Abu, who in the last scenes, escapes from a boring court life, politics, adulthood, and marriage, in search of more adventure. Another critic wrote: “It’s a film that happily refuses to grow up”. Amen to that brother.

Rating: 4/4

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Season Of The Witch [2011]


Nothing makes sense in this dreadful supernatural thriller starring Nicolas Cage (the man who had a career once)  as a Crusader who returns with his comrade (Ron Perlman) to his homeland, only to find it devastated by the black plague. The church commands the two knights to transport an accused witch to a remote abbey, where monks will perform a ritual in hopes of ending the epidemic disease. Or something like that. There is so much wrong with “Season Of The Witch” it’s hard to know where to start. The fighting scenes are terribly executed, the dialogue laughable, and the CGI mediocre at best. Not to mention acting without effort from both Cage and Perlman. They’re both really good actors, and to see them waste their time on such garbage is beyond my understanding.

How many Nic Cage movies have you seen these past few year?  I’ll give you a hint: a lot! Unfortunately, most of them are crap (“Ghost Rider”, “The Wicker Man” and “Next” were especially horrible). “Season Of The Witch” is no exception; it’s slow, dumb and boring. N’uff said.

Fiasco!

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Life As We Know It [2010]


Confession: I expected the worst here. I’m not a fan of Katherine Heigl or Josh Duhamel, and the plot seemed dumb, so basically my expectations were pretty low. I was surprised to find out that it wasn’t as bad as they (the critcs) said it was. But this being a hollywood romantic comedy, the outcome of the story, about a man and woman who agree to take care of a baby when both their friends have passed away in a car accident is obvious from the word go. So this film is all about the journey, and not the destination. The journey is brightened by a strong chemistry between the two leads, who find themselves raising a baby with often very funny results. Of course it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but hey nobody was expecting Shakespear anyway.

On a negative note,  I thought the film ran a bit too long (115 minutes to be exact); a good 20 minutes could have easily disappeared without notice or harm to the storyline. And I do wish the people involved in this had produced a more original, or memorable film. But it is a romantic comedy afterall; we shouldn’t expect miracles.

Rating: 2/4

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Casino Jack [2010]


You might know shit about Jack Abramoff, the greedy Washington lobbyist who is now serving out his 4 year prison terms for corruption and fraud. But director Georges Hickenlooper (who sadly died last october at age 47) will make sure you get a history lesson out of his film. Wikipedia defines “lobbyist” as a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest or a member of a lobby. In “Casino Jack”, Abramoff (Kevin Spacey in a dynamite performance), and like most lobbyists, was paid by big organizations to convince members of Senate to vote for or against certain things in the senate. But the film focuses more on the huge corruption scandal that led him and 10 other lobbyists to be convincted. The story, though based on real events, never feels like one (the fact that Abramoff keeps quoting movies was absolutely hilarious). It’s an interesting and somewhat humourous tale of how far greed can take you in America. Hickenlooper uses humour in telling his story, but truth be told, this is more tragic than funny. I watched this movie not knowing what to expect from it, but I came out pleasantly surprised. It is my duty to recommend it, in hope that you find it as refreshing and smart as I did.

Rating: 3/4

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