Archive for March, 2011

Source Code [2011]


I loved Duncan Jones’s directorial debut “Moon”, so I was more than willing to accept the premise of his latest movie, about a former pilot (Jake Gyllenhaal)  who finds himself involved in a government program that requires him to travel repeatedly back to the same moment in time, searching for clues in a train in order to discover the location of a bomb before it explodes. Along the ride are Michelle Monaghan (“Mission Impossible 3″, Eagle Eye”) as Gyllenhaal’s love interest, and Jeffrey Wright as an enigmatic scientist. Call it “Groundhog Day” meets “Inception”. This however, is only 50 % of what the movie’s actually about. The remaining part of the story dabbles in physics and metaphysics, enough to make you question the possibility of an alternate universe. Yet unlike “Moon”, I felt that something was missing. It could be the lack of suspense, I’m not really sure. All I know is that I left the theatre with mixed feelings, and that’s always a bad sign. 

This could have easily been an instant sci-fi classic, so imagine my frustration when I realised that it wasn’t as good as I expected it to be.  Take “Moon” for instance, which became sort of an “instant favorite” to us genre folks. And the reason why so many of us fell in love with “Moon” so quickly is because of its originality. It’s fresh, entertaining, clever, and deep all at the same time. “Source Code” however, is not nearly as original as Jones’s first film, and I think it’s a damn shame. I guess I was asking too much from it, and got very little in return. Yet technically, the film still delivers. With top notch effects and some nail biting scenes, this is solid entertainement. So let’s just say that on a basic level, “Source Code” will definitely appeal to an audience seeking a quick ride, but in case you’re looking for something more profound, then you’ve come to the wrong place.

Rating: 2.5/4

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London Boulevard [2010]


“London Boulevard” is a movie that looks good on the outside, yet you still end up wondering why the hell did you watch it in the first place. Every single element of it is right (from the actors to the writer), so why does it end up being so boring and uninvolving? Let’s start with the plot: Colin Farell is Mitchell, a hard man who comes out of prison determined to reform. He gets a job as handyman for Charlotte (Keira Knightley who looks wooden and bored out of her mind), an unhappily married young movie star who is constantly pursued by paparazzis. Problem is, he’s still in touch with his worthless sister Briony, and his even more worthless friend Billy. One thing leads to another, and soon enough, Mitchell finds himself brought into contact with ruthless crime boss Gant (Ray Winstone). Will he become a proper gangster again, or will he end up with the sexy movie star instead? Who knows? Who cares?

I guess the problem isn’t the locations, or how true to life they are. London is well depicted, and Colin Farell really gives it his best. Yet it all sits there, lifeless, only a collection of vignettes and characters that seem only vaguely related to one another. The subplots and minor characters are more than pointless. Not to mention the dreadful ending, or how irrelevant it was compared to the rest of the film. I guess it tried to be profound, but ended up as a giant “Thank God it’s over” instead. What a letdown! Do yourself a favor and stay as far away as you can from this really terrible movie.

Rating: 1.5/4

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Midnight Cowboy [1969]


One of the all time greats. Dark, disturbing dramatization of James Leo Herlihy’s novel was rated X in 1969, but it’s essentially an old fashioned story with a modern twist. John Voight is terrific in his starring debut as Joe Buck, a young and handsome man (who dresses as a cowboy) who moves from Texas to New York thinking he’ll make a living by being a stud. Women however do not seem to be willing to pay money for his services, and soon enough, Joe faces the fact that he must live in poverty, as his supply of money begins to dry up. From this moment on, this is primarily a story of Joe’s realization of the harsh realities of the real world. During his stay, he meets Enrico Rizzo (an amazing Dustin Hoffman), a crippled swindler who initially tries to con Joe out of his money. When they both realise that they are in the same unpleasant situation, Ratso offers Joe a place to stay, and working together, they attempt to make lives for themselves in the cold and harsh city of New York.

Shot largely in the streets of the big apple, “Midnight Cowboy” is a powerful and realistic look at life in the slums. Watching the film, one can instantly sympathise with the two characters. You can feel yourself inside Ratso’s unheated appartment, freezing from the aching winter cold. The acting is more than terrific, with both Voight and Hoffman masterfully portaying their roles. Hoffman in particular was exceptional, but they were both nominated for best actor Oscars, though both eventually lost out to John Wayne in “True Grit”. “Midnight Cowboy” still managed to win three Oscars from seven nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (John Schlesinger really did an amazing job here) and Best Writing for Waldo Salt. If anything, the movie looks better today than it did at the time of its release. But either way, It’s still a fascinating experience, and a must see for every film buff out there. Great stuff.

Rating: 3.5/4

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Tamara Drewe [2010]


The weirdest thing about “Tamara Drewe” is that the story is about everyone else except her. Of course she plays a very important role, but I didn’t care for her as much as I did for the people surrounding her. The film breaks the notion of a quiet and sleepy town in the English countryside. Underneath this seemingly close community lies an undelining suspicion. Everyone is in everyone else’s business, and Tamara’s presence only helps fuel the tension. We are told that she used to live in this small town during her teenage years. Now grown up, she is back to restore and sell the house that she grew up in. But her sudden appearance in this quiet little town leads to a series of events that will change the lives of several local people. Men are suddenly obsessed with her beauty, while women are often jealous and even angry because of her. The film eases its dark themes with its clever use of humour. Every character is just as weird and quirky as the next one, but it is British humour afterall, and one shouldn’t expect anything less. So why wasn’t I entirely satisfied by it? Well I guess technically, the film looks good. The performances are first rate, and there’s plenty to enjoy here. But the main problem is that the movie doesn’t know when to play it serious and when not to. It sort of bounces back in forth, but never really succeeds in hitting all the right notes. Blame it on lazy writing I guess. Either way, it’s still a fun ride, and certainly worth watching, especially if you’re into indie British films. But the moral of the story? Be damned if I knew.

Rating: 2.5/4

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Spread [2009]


Ashton Kutcher is surprisingly believable in this uneven, but not completely uninteresting movie about a homeless and careless womanizer who uses his physical good looks to prey on the wealthy single women of Los Angeles. For him, his life is that of a classic dreamer, and with his kind of aestethics, he could be living the life straight out of a Van Halen music video with hot cars, plenty of cash, and more women to spend the rest of his days with. Eventually, he meets a woman he actually likes, which causes several problems. But the main issue here is that Kutcher’s character is essentially a jerk with no real ambitions. With no life skills to offer except the ability to pleasure women, you know where the movie’s heading. So I guess this is all about the journey, and not the destination. And the sooner you realise that, the more you’ll enjoy this entertaining B movie. Kutcher looks comfortable in his role, a slacker in life, yet clueless at what to do when he meets the real woman of his desire. I’ve never seen him in such a role before, so I guess in a way, it was nice to see him in something completely different for once. But I do have to confess that I entered this movie with basically low expectations. I thought it would not be worth my while. Yet it became crystal clear only halfway through that this was a lot better than originally anticipated. And because of that, I cannot entirely dismiss “Spread”, although the ending felt as empty as Kutcher’s character. But the film as a whole works for the most parts, and it managed to convey what it is trying to say in a way that isn’t dull and repetitive. It’s certainly no masterpiece, but I still had a good time watching it. Judge for yourself.

Rating: 2.5/4

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The Lincoln Lawyer [2011]


Matthew McConaughey is dynamite in this thrilling drama about a cocky and smooth defense attorney Mick Haller who conducts most of his work out of the back seat of his Lincoln car (hence the title of the film). We are told that he used to drive it himself, until he got arrested for drunk driving (given how much he drinks in the film, it’s amazing he still shows up in court on time). Now he has a chauffeur (Laurence Mason) who drives him around to the Los Angeles dealers, hookers, and low lifes who are his clienteles. His specialty is getting these people off, sometimes in a perfectly legal manner. His latest client is somewhat different: a Beverly Hills rich kid called Louis Roulet (perfectly played by Ryan Phillippe) who is being charged with assault on a female escort. He insists that he is innocent, and wants a trial to prove it. Mick senses there is something fishy. And so do we. But let’s not get into details, because as with any crime thriller, the less you know the better. Suffice to say that director Brad Furman has many surprises up his sleeves, making this a thrilling and thoroughly engaging ride. What’s more, he managed to assemble a top-notch ensemble cast who do outstandingly in the various roles they’re given. But for me, it was refreshing to finally see McConaughey in a role he was born to play. And it’s been a while since we’ve seen him in a film that relies upon his acting rather than his physique (seriously enough with those chick flicks man). He gives life to the character he’s playing, and if my calculations are right, this could well be the start of one heck of a franchise. In the words of Peter Travers: “More, please. Soon”. Amen to that brother. “The Lincoln Lawyer” is guaranteed rock solid entertainment, and I sure hope it finds the audience it deserves.

Rating: 3/4

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Hall Pass [2011]


This movie has an intended audience: People who don’t mind a raunchy, racy, and dirty comedy. In other words: if you’ve enjoyed most of the Farrelly brother’s movies (“There’s Something About Mary, “Dumb And Dumber”, “The Heartbreak Kid”…), then you will probably watch and enjoy “Hall Pass” aswell. Personally, I can’t say I was thrilled by it, but I did have a good time watching it, so it wasn’t a total loss. The premise: Rick and Fred (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) are two married guys who cannot help but notice many attractive women that come within ten feet of them. Their spouses are well aware of their antics and on most occasions spot or overhear them talking about other women. After going just a bit too far, both men are granted a “hall pass” from their wives, which means an entire week to spend doing whatever or “whomever” they want. And this is where the fun begins. The Farrelly brothers are well known for their crudeness and gross out comedy. And make no mistake, this is a gross out comedy. There is a heart hidden somewhere deep, but some of the scenes are too offensive, that it makes it hard for anyone to take this movie too seriously. As for film content, there is nothing new here, but it generally works. Many scenes were outrageous and hilariously funny. To be honest, I didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did. But what I liked the most about “Hall Pass” is that it doesn’t shy away from presenting women as equally sex crazed as men (perhaps even more), with several female characters, all displaying high levels of estrogen. So in case you’re expecting a guys only flick, you’re in for a surprise. 

All in all, “Hall Pass” is an enjoyable comedy that obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously, and if you don’t mind something silly every now and then, then this one’s for you. But for heaven’s sake, leave the kids at home.

Rating: 2.5/4

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