Friday, July 30, 2010
The Kids Are All Right is a slice of marital and family life that feels real. And it feels real because there isn't a neat bow tying everything together, which is good. However, I somehow felt that something was missing.
The performances are stellar with the entire cast holding their own. Mark Ruffalo is strong as the man-child sperm donor who comes between a family headed by same-sex partners, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. Their kids, 18 and 15, decide to reach out to their biological dad and he's accepted into the family for the most part. And that part is a little bit too close for comfort. Sexual lines are crossed wreaking havoc in the family that is in a rut. One mom likes her wine a bit too much, and the other one is a bit of a new age flake.
Ruffalo plays an "interloper" (as pointed out by Bening's character) and she's right. He's a guy lost in his womanizing, hippie lifestyle and wants a family that ultimately isn't his. But he's a likable loser. The kind of guy you really should stay away from until he grows up, which will probably be after the kids are grown. Ultimately, the problem with the film, despite it being a good film, is that there is too much focus on Ruffalo's character, and that takes away from the heart of the film, the family unit.
I'm still left wondering why Julianne's Moore's character has an affair with a man when she identifies herself as gay the entire time. She never questions that. Is being in a rut with the one you love enough to suddenly become "straight"? I felt that there is more needed to understand her motivation. Then again, sometimes people do stupid things just because they're bored. I think this movie deserves more than someone being "bored" though. It's smarter than that. However, this is all a minor quibble when in the presence of such great actors.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
The poster asks, "Who is Salt?". Who is she indeed. After spending about an hour and forty minutes with her, I don't think that it's answered.
SALT is a ridiculous movie. Plot holes. Plot issues. Character arcs that don't really exist. Cliches. But despite its flaws, and there are many, it's entertaining for the most part. But is that enough? Seeing SALT a week after INCEPTION has made me realize that I want more out of my films. I went in thinking that maybe this would be a smart action flick, but the premise is rather silly. It tries to create mystery and intrigue, but it just comes off as unbelievable storytelling. With INCEPTION you have to bring your brain to the cinema, with SALT, you can leave it at the door.
Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA operative. She is revealed to be a Russian Sleeper agent, but is she? We follow her as she acts guilty, but doesn't really ever kill anyone along the way, or does she? Did she love her husband? Is he her only motivation? The movie wants us to believe that love changed her in some way, maybe it did, or maybe it didn't. Get the idea here, it's a lot of twists and turns, but nothing is ever really that twisty when it's Jolie in the role. We sort of already know the truth of her character before the film even begins. But Jolie plays an anti-hero with the best of her abilities. It's just too bad that the backtory and characterization isn't really there for her to work with.
And on a superficial note, her wigs were obviously fake and looked terrible. We are introduced to her as a blonde in a bad frizzy wig then she colors her hair black (another wig) and then a boy's wig. With the boy's wig we're not really sure if it's meant to be a wig or if her character cut her hair off camera. Anyway, it's distracting.
The movie tries to be a Bourne Identity with a female lead, but the main issue is that the Bourne films feel realistic. As if this all could happen. But with Salt, it's pure fantasy, and predictable along the way with an "ending" that really isn't an ending at all. It's set up for a sequel before it's proven its audience appeal or box office returns.
Overall, despite its problems, SALT can be a fun time if you don't think. But maybe it's time we're given films with strong female characters that are part of an intelligent action film that challenges us. I will say that at least there isn't a sex scene thrown in for good measure. I'm hopeful that the sequel (which I probably would see, based on my fondness for Jolie) will be a solid story first with realistic motivations and a bunch of kickass action sequences that don't make me bust out laughing in unbelievability.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I am not a journalist or a critic. I write like a moviegoer with perhaps a bit more interest in plot points, character acrs and overall story development. So when reading my reviews, don't look for genius or words of wisdom or flowery prose, maybe just read it and decide if the movie is right for you or not.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Inception is a summer film that doesn't condescend to an audience in order to get bums in the seat. It's a thinking person's film, and, I for one, am happy about that. It's the kind of film that challenges you and forces you to pay attention and you can't leave your brain at the door because if you do then you'll be lost in this reality dreambending landscape that Christopher Nolan has so meticulously created.
Leonardo Dicaprio plays Cobb, a man on the run who is a master of extraction, meaning he gets to you in your dreams and steals your secrets and ideas for a price. But what he really wants is to get home to his two children, but he's wanted for murder and that keeps him running. That is until he meets up with Saito, Ken Watanabe, a powerful and wealthy businessman who has a proposition for Cobb. A proposition that he can't pass up because it could lead him back to his family. The plot is complicated and well thought out and twists and turns in a way that keeps you on your toes, so much so that I highly suggest that you go pee before the movie starts and do not leave until it's done.
It's the kind of film where the rules within the world make sense, but if we take our own reality and try to make things logical then it might fall apart. However, our reality shouldn't have any barring on this film's reality as it's built within its own walls and works on that level. There are dreams within dreams within dreams that can lead to limbo. Sometimes, we're not sure what is real and what is a dream. Characters use totems to keep themselves grounded. A totem is a physical device such as loaded dice or a spinning top. Without a totem, one can get lost within their dream and forget that they're dreaming. As an avid moviegoer and sometime reviewer, I think it's a disservice to get into too much of the plot details, so I'll stop here. Go in with fresh eyes and remember to just pay attention and enjoy the mind-bending ride.
Overall, the film is intriguing and makes you think about what's going on or what's not going on. It has an emotional throughline for me via Cobb's love for his wife and his motivation. Without Cobb's personal journey, the film wouldn't have been as satisfying. It's more than just action and science fiction ideas. It's ultimately about love and letting go. Marion Cotillard provides the link to love and family and she does a wonderful job, and Ellen Page does a good job as the voice of reason and Cobb's conscience.
The story keeps you guessing and the visuals are stunning and look very real. The editing is seemless and makes for a film that has it all. I'm glad it's not in 3D and I don't think it needs to be viewed in Imax. A regular cinema does a great job at capturing the world that Nolan has created. Here's hoping that this smart and engaging film becomes a summer blockbuster that forces Hollywood to make more films that challenge us visually and intellectually and also emotionally. A cinematic trinity. I can only dream, can't I?
Monday, July 12, 2010
The Girl who played with Fire, is part 2 in a 3 part series. We pick up about a year later from where The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo finished. Lisbeth, the heroine or rather anti-heroine, is now rich and living a rather mysterious life. She's cut off ties with her former lover, the journalist Mikael Blomkvist. He tries to find out where she is as he is still rather fond of her. The movie doesn't go into detail that much about the year that Lisbeth has been away traveling or why she's cut Mikael out of her life. You have to read the book in order to get those kind of answers. As most people know, books tend to bring an added dimension and more layers to characters than cinema can do.
I don't think it's necessary to read the books in order to enjoy these movies. (I've only read a quarter of the second book and I've enjoyed both films) But I do think it's absolutely necessary for you to watch the first film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, in order to understand and follow this second film. Things are sometimes glossed over or taken for granted that the audience would just know these elements, which some people won't.
The Girl who played with Fire gets more personal this time around as we find out more about Lisbeth's background and her family life and how her past connects to her present. Although, I enjoyed this film, I can't help feeling that something was missing. I prefer the first one as I felt more invested with the characters and unravelling the mystery of that plot. This time around, I didn't much care for how things came together and I felt that it was too convenient and much too much of a coincidence. But it's a minor quibble when dealing with one of the freshest and most unique female characters to come to the screen in a long time. Noomi Rapace is riveting as Lisbeth. She has so many layers and is fascinating to watch. I can't help but root for her. She makes no apologies for how she leads her life because ultimately, the way she lives her life is about survival. Under her tough exterior, there really is a little girl in there who has a full heart and just wants to love and live a normal life. Her interactions with her sometimes girlfriend are tender and sweet without being sentimental at all. Don't be fooled, Lisbeth is still tough and nobody will penetrate that because even when they're close, as Blomkvist was, she shuts them down without hesitation. Again, it's about survival, physical and spiritual.
As for the plot of The Girl who played with Fire, it almost becomes secondary because it is about Lisbeth's journey and coming to terms with her past the only way she knows how and that's through violence. However, the plot details are this: Blmokvist and his magazine are investigating a sex trafficking ring in Swedan that is lead by a mysterious Russian. People are killed and the finger points to Lisbeth who Blmokvist believes is innocent. Blomkvist sets out to prove her innocence, while Lisbeth sets out to exact revenge, leading to a bloody showdown.
Rent The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo one night and then head out to the cinemas the next night for The Girl who played with Fire. It's worth it.
I vaguely remember the first Predator movie, and I forgot to rewatch it before heading out to see yet another sequel of sorts. And because of that my mind was blank and ready for whatever was to come.
Predators is a fun film, if expectations are low going in. Nothing new is really discovered. It's about surviving a strange and hostile new world. Some do, and some don't. And ultimately, some humans are more monstrous than the supposed alien monsters.
Adrien Brody leads a group of humans who are some way or another a predator on earth, either as a solider or a criminal or perhaps, even a serial killer. They land on this planet without any clue as to why or how or where they really are, or who anyone else is. They slowly start to put things together, but it's all conjecture. Where is this planet that has many other planets orbiting in the sky, as if almost touching the planet they're on? We don't know where they are in the universe, or how the alien predators scooped in and took them from earth. But ultimately that doesn't really matter in this film. If you ask too many logical questions then things will soon fall apart from a plot perspective. I suggest just going in, leaving your brain at the door and just have fun with the silliness of it. It's about predators who become the prey and learning how to evolve into a better predator against the ultimate predator. Does it sound confusing? Because it's not.
There is tension and action and blood enough for everyone without it being too over the top. A small role by a very famous actor who channels the crazies is a treat and changes the course of action. Predators is a popcorn summer movie that does its job in the moment, but isn't something that lingers for too long afterwards. I would have liked a bit more campiness to it and even more action. The alien predators themselves, when we get an up close look at them, are quite ugly and look realistic. I was impressed with the makeup and the old fashioned cinematic quality to these aliens. They looked scary and menacing and something you most definitely do not want to come across in the jungle or your own backyard.
With all that 3D out there in cinemas today, it's nice to see a film that channels an old school kind of action film. Is it genius? No. Is it a must see? Nope. If you're bored and want a night out with a watered down fountain soda pop then I think Predators might be for you. I give it 2.8 out of 4 stars, if that's even a rating.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
What Happened to the Romantic Comedy? The Career Cliché is what happened.
There are two issues that bother me when it comes to romantic comedy "jobs". They're either so clichéd and used over and over again falling into dumbed down boredom (Ad agency, PR, Fashion magazine), or so quirky and obscure that it's obvious a writer's device (Jennifer Lopez as a dog walker in Monster-in-Law).
I'm sick of romantic comedies where the B plot climax of a big presentation takes over and we're stuck with a montage leading up to the make or break deal. 13 going on 30 comes to mind.
It can sometimes be difficult for me to come up with a logical, fresh, and perhaps integral job my leads should have. I want to be unique without being so quirky that is borders on the ridiculous. How important is a lead's job to the story? It's important if it's something like The Wedding Planner (the job is right there in the title!) and it's important if it reveals character and where and who this person is in the present day. It should be subtle then, if not integral to actual plot point, because ultimately in a romantic comedy it's about the romance between two characters (or three). And that's where the focus needs to be. Sometimes the career cliché is used as a crutch to try to cover up lazy writing. Writing that hasn't been beated out enough. I think sometimes in the romantic comedy, if we distract the audience with career stuff, we can pretend that there really is a story that's fleshed out and expressing themes. That's hardly ever the case.
I love the film While you were Sleeping. Sandra Bullock plays Lucy, a gal who works for public transportation in a booth collecting tokens. Not even sure what her actual job title should be. Anyway, on first glance her job might fall into the quirky career category, but look closer and you'll find her job reveals much more. Lucy had to quit school and take care of her dad, and took a job to pay the bills, then her dad died, and she's just been sort of floating. Day dreaming in her booth about all the places she wants to travel to, but can't because she's in a booth, standing still, not catching the "subway" out of there, or anywhere. And it's through her job that the plot comes into play. Because of her job, she saves a man from certain death on the rails, which catapults her into the story, forcing her out of her booth and live her life.
My current romantic comedy that I'm revising with my producers has forced me to really think about their jobs. The first drafts, their jobs were more about a background, a sort of layering. But now, I've taken their jobs, given them new ones really, and they play more a role within the plot. Their jobs force them to have scenes together and they come about organically and logically now. Are they completely original jobs? No, and yes. One's been done before, and the other one has a fresher spin. But hopefully, since I worked on their bios and thought through how their careers will affect the A plot then it should all fall into place.
Here's hoping that my characters: Mary, Harry and Mike have onscreen careers that people can relate to in some way, but that it's just enough and doesn't distract from the actual story that I want to tell.