Saturday, July 17, 2010

The 2010 Matrix


Inception

Directed by Christopher Nolen

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who loved Inception those who did not. I fortunately am one of those people who loved it. There are very few films that leave me in utter bliss that make me want to go out and make everyone I know to watch it just so I can talk about it. Midpoint through out the film I whispered to myself “This is it!” I have been waiting in anticipation for almost a year for the release of this film. The last time a movie blew my mind like that was when I went to go see The Matrix 1999. Much like The Matrix, I walked in the theater not knowing anything about the storyline. It just had cool special effects that I haven’t seen before and attractive actors, enough to get a girl to the box office on opening day.


In Hollywood more times then not the films that are made for blockbuster success usually are not unique and lack creativity. When something as clever and interesting as Inception comes out it not only sets the bar high for moviemakers, but makes the audience a little smarter too. Christopher Nolen is a director that always seems to give you something you weren’t exactly expecting and didn’t know you needed. He is known most for Batman Begins and The Dark Night, but he wrote Inception almost 10 years before it was released. The difference between brilliance and ordinary is the ability to take and idea and not only see it through, but look at it from all angles, take it apart, but it together until you make it your own version of perfect. The reason why films like this are so mind-blowing is because it takes simple idea that most people have thought about in passing, but brings a specific depth and development that make it spectacular. There are points in the movie that seem a little too complicated and too confusing, but not anything you can’t fix by watching a few more times. Needless to say it went above and beyond my expectations.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Wax on... Wax off

The Karate Kid

Directed by

Harald Zwart

We are all familiar with the Karate Kid plot formula. A new kid in town gets bullied at school and he wants to learn how to defend himself. He then meets an unexpected teacher and friend that teaches him the ways of kung fu through unconventional training. There is a tournament at the end of the film where he then has to confront his bully and win against all odds. It’s a classic underdog overcomes story, complete with a cheesy love story subplot and hokey predictable ending.


When someone told me they were making another Karate Kid movie, with Jackie Chan I rolled my eyes. But then they assured me that the film was going to be good. Still skeptical, I decided to check it out for myself and I have to say the film was really cute. Jaden Smith was charming and funny as Dre Parker. He must have learned his comedic style from his father, because he not only looked just like Will Smith, but acted just like him too. It is clear that the little guy has talent, but sometimes it felt like he might have been too mature for his own age. Although I have conversations with my own 12-year-old nephew that proved to be more sophisticated than some adult conversations, so I could be wrong. I look forward to seeing him grow up, and if they ever decided to make a Boondocks movie, they already have the perfect kid to play Reily!


Taraji P. Henson’s played the role of Dre’s mother. Most people remember her in her in what I like to call her “cross over movie”,The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), but I will always remember her as Yvette in Baby Boy (2001). Much like Queen Latifah, Monique and Jamie Foxx, Henson is on her way to A list celebrity status. I'm always happy when people of color cross over into more mainstream success. She always plays the same feisty character, but she carries it with sincerity.


As for Jackie Chan, he has never really appealed to me. I always liked his fighting scenes but he just always seemed like a character, Chinese exploration if you will. He put the character away and beefed up the acting and it was really nice to see for a change. I definitely judged this movie way too soon and I am happy to admit when I’m wrong. I like the fact that a single black mother moves to China, breaking stereotypes and clichés on so many levels. They kept the basic plot and small details that where in the original film but incorporated enough twists to make it distinctively different.




Saturday, June 19, 2010

When Grown-up Finally Grow Up


Shopgirl 2005
Directed by Anand Tucker

Shopgirl is a story about a young women named Mirabelle, played by Clare Danes, who finds herself in a love triangle with Ray Porter, a wealthy older man (Steve Martin) and Jeremy, a struggling young musician (Jason Schwartzman). For the most part the film is about how life experiences catapult your own personal transformations.

The film takes place in Los Angeles a perfect juxtaposition to the story and to the character of Mirabelle. They couldn’t have gotten a better actress to play her. I have been a fan of Clare Danes ever since the TV show My So Called Life (1994). She is one of those actresses that plays the same character but it does't matter because you basically love her. She has a simple quiet type of beauty that is rare for actresses her age. As I am hanging on to the last year of my 20’s I can completely relate to Marriblle. Like most of us, she is just trying to find her way through the world. There is nothing really extraordinary amazing about her. She is ordinary and almost boring, which makes her so relatable.

Although I could relate more to Marribelle, my favorite character is Jeremy. We remember Jason Schwartzman from Rushmore (1998) and most recently in Funny People. His comedic abilities bring the character of Jeremy to life in this otherwise drama based film. Jeremy is the poster boy of the 20 something male. He is every good and bad date you will ever have. He is the guy whose number you delete and then try to find when your drunk and lonely. He is the guy with the most potential the the least amount of motivation. Jeremy is the single women's boyfriend.

Overall, the film and characters held the story together enough that the narration wasn't necessary. It wasn't even from a personal perspective which seems a little off putting especially since it was about someones personal journey. The film is based on a novella written by Steve Martin, so I think the print to screen transition was perhaps a little too literal. Thankfully even with the narration, it's still one of my favorite films. I have come to realize that most of my favorite films are not coming of age movies, but coming in to yourself stories, and this one is no exception.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Neo Noir goes to High School


Brick (2005)
Directed by Rian Johnson

Brick was about Brandon, a flawed and morally questionable hero played by Joseph Gorden Levitt. He investigates the disappearance of his girlfriend by digging deep into the underworld of high school crime. The story followed all the classic Film Noir characters with witty and cheeky dialog. The unlikely combination of a modern day suburban high school setting and the Film Noir storyline is what made this film so exciting. The contrast between the two was so apparent it was comedic. One of my favorite scenes in the film is the conversation between the high school crime lord, “The Pin” and Brandon. They sit at the kitchen table and The Pin’s mother asking Brandon if he wants Country Style Apple Juice. Sure, you could say that its completely unrealistic, but you can’t tell me having the crime lord’s lair in his mom’s basement isn’t funny.

I haven't had much interest in watching classic 1940’s Film Noir. However, with such amazing Neo Noir films such as Memento 2000, LA Confidential 1997, Basic Instant 1992, and Mulholland Drive 1996, and now Brick, I might just have to give the classics a shot.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Amuse Bouche - Rent it!

Miracle of St. Anna (2008)
Directed by Spike Lee

Being one of the most well known black directors, I can't help but support Spike Lee's films, but I haven't always enjoyed them. He has a tendency of being a little too preachy. Over the years he has grown from a young director into a house hold name. I remember seeing this particular film in the movie theaters and really enjoying it. The culture mixes of German Nazi's and African American soldiers and tying in a modern day murder was brilliant! Bravo Spike! Too bad it wasn't more successful in the box office.


The White Ribbon (2009)
Directed by Michael Haneke

Talk about a snooze fest!!! I really want to be one of those people who love abstract deep films, but I accept that some things might just go over my head. I sat through the whole film waiting for something interesting to happen and then it ended. Its also subtitles so it requires reading, but I'm sorry, if you want me to read a movie the plot needs to be interesting too. Although to its credit, after sitting for about an hour, I realized the the cinematography was stunning! Leave it to a photographer to notice that.

Greenberg (2010)
Directed by Noah Baumbach

I am happy to see Ben Stiller try to branch out from slap stick comedy. I also enjoyed the cameo appearance from Merrit Wever who plays the lovable Zoey Barkow from Nurse Jackie.
Baumbach is known for making dark comedies about middle age crisis. If you liked The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) or The Squid and the Whale (2005) then you will enjoy this one too.




Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Directed by Tim Burton

I was so excited to see Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland. It seemed like such a good combination, but the quirky amazing brilliants wasn't there. No wonder he left Disney in the beginnings of his career. He should have never went back! So it is confirmed! Tim Burton + Disney = a movie that sucks



Clash of the Titans (2010)
Directed by Louis Leterrier
Its funny how 20 years later with advanced technology and special effects and the original is till better.




The Hurt Locker (2008)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
I never get to see films before they won best picture. Perhaps I should have seen this before all of the hype because the whole time I was looking for the star quality that everyone seemed to have found. Don't get me wrong, this story was something that I never seen before, but I'm also not a huge fan or war movies either.





Shutter Island (2010)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Out of respect for an amazing director like Martin Scorsese, you can't help but go see Shutter Island. Its far from his best work, but it does sill have all the qualities and sensibilities of his films. The ending turns you for a loop and not necessarily a good one.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

“Men who are too good looking are never good in bed because they never had to be.” - Carrie Bradshaw


Sex in the City 2 (2010)
Directed by Michael Patrick King


Like most women, I’m a huge fan of the show. Sex in the City is like Star Wars for women. We get all dressed up and take our best girlfriends and parade down to the cinema. I did just this in homage to one of the best shows in TV history. I went with another fan of the show and I must say we were where both delighted to see the girls again on the big screen. It’s like visiting old friends you haven’t heard from in years. We got there an hour early and commented on women’s outfits and shoes as they walked by. I even noticed the demographic of the crowd; for every 15 women standing in line there were a group of gay guys. I found myself talking with strangers as we all bonded over the love of the show.


“Solidarity!” I told my friend.

“Solidarity from what?” She asked.

“From men?” I said, not exactly sure how to put my feeling into words at the time. LOL



Like most people in the theater we had very low expectations for the actual quality of the film but for die-hard fans it didn't matter. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t completely suck! Don’t get me wrong, there were many over the top, over acted, super cheesy moments. It was like a really long episode, unlike the first movie when they tried to squeeze a full season in one movie. I also appreciated the fact that they keep the mood light and funny allowing the characters to be who we remembered them to be. Samantha was inappropriate, Charlotte was traditional and a little judgy, Miranda was sarcastic and funny and Carrie well… was still Carrie. The girls are well into the next stage of their lives, married, kids, and menopause and thankfully there is still something funny about that. Once I overlooked the unrealistic union of the gay couple, the Aub Dabi location, and the cheesy karaoke number I found myself still able to relate to these women all over again. Much like the first film, this one didn't stand up on its own and it’s definitely a watered down version of the show but the basic essence carried through.


In a society that creates unhealthy female competition that in turn creates insecure and immature women; Sex in the City represents the very best of female relationships. The real success of the show wasn’t the clothing or the sex, but the unbreakable bond between the four women. More women get married later and having families later in life so the bond between friends ends up becoming one of the most important relationships you will have. How is that for solidarity?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Amuse Bouche - Guilty pleasures Spring 2010

Shrek Forever After (2010)
Directed by Mike Mitchell

I think Shrek was the first animated movie that had adult subtext. Hollywood has capitalized off of this fantastic idea for years now. Unfortunately 3rd time the charm doesn’t really do it when it comes to this movie.







Robin Hood (2010)
Directed by Ridley Scott

I didn’t realize this was a prequel to the original Robin Hood Story. If you have to tell me it’s the director of Gladiator in the previews, all that means that this film fails in comparison. I’m not really much for the classic tale nor am I a huge fan of Russell Crow but Cate Blanchett was amazing as always.



Iron Man 2 (2010)
Directed by Jon Favreau

When the first film is really good, they try to make the second bigger and better then the first. After centuries of bad sequels you would think they would catch on that bigger isn’t always better. Don’t get me wrong, I was very much entertained, but Iron Man’s bigger than life ego is grossly irritating. I love powerful women who kick-ass so Natalie Rushman aka Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson was was the best part of the movie.




The Back-Up Plan (2010)
Directed by Alan Poul

In my mind, I picture Jennifer Lopez saying "I've had twins before so the acting will be really easy!" I know what your thinking… yes I saw this movie. I needed something mindless and stupid to watch and this was perfect! Why is it whenever Jennifer Lopez is in a bad romantic comedy her ethnicity is anything else but Latina?






Kick-Ass (2010)
Directed by Mathew Vaughn

The previews did not give this film any justice. I really liked this flick! It was funny, cute, action packed and original. Me likey… Do I smell a sequel?





The Losers (2010)
Directed by Sylvain White

This is a DC Comic turned into a feature length film full of one-liners, cliche characters and slightly predictable storyline. It wasn't all bad, just not really great. I kept on yelling at the screen “Take your shirt off!” but no one did… ☹ I might have better luck with the sequel.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hey! He reminds me of....


Crazy Heart (2009)
Directed by Scott Cooper


Crazy Heat is a film about a alcoholic country star, Bad Black, played by Jeff Bridges, whose hard-living life style spiral him out of control into a self-destructive cycle. Unlike most films about musicians, this film focuses on what happens after mistakes are made and the damage is irreversible. There is nothing attractive or likable about this character, but we all have known or have been a person who was so deeply flawed. This wasn't a film about country music or music at all for that matter.



Jeff Bridges Oscar win is definitely well deserved with his heartbreaking performance. The film just might have gotten nominated for best picture if it wasn’t for Collin Farrell. His certian aura of entitlement worked well for his character but proved to be mediocre next to Bridges performance. Besides Farrell the other cast members brought idiosyncrasies to the storyline. Robert Duvall is a class act as always and Maggie Gyllenhall has another good performance under her belt.



This film gives a different perspective of a story that has been told many times before. Its an in-depth look into our own demons and allows you to sympathize with a person we would otherwise hate.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Amuse Bouche January 2010







Me and Orson Welles (2008)
Directed by Richard Linklater

This film started off so slow the person I saw it with fell asleep. I've always been a huge fan of Clare Danes, but she couldn't hold my attention enough to enjoy this film. Although the role for Zac Efron wasn't much of a stretch, its nice to see him try to branch of from his Disney affiliated connection. Overall, too much acting and not enough plot.










Youth in Revolt (2009)
Directed by Miguel Arteta


The idea of this film is funnier than the actual movie. I felt like they could have taken this a little further. It seems like they were going for dark comedy but it felt more like light gray. You would think a film with Micheal Cera, Zack Galifianakis and Steve Buscemi would be be dripping with comedic slap stick moments, but I was left feeling underwhelmed.











The Book of Eli (2010)
Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes


"Oh look its I am Legend (2007) with Denzel Washington instead of Will Smith!"

No one is going to argue that Denzel is a better actor then Will, but the story was surprisingly better too. Mila Kunis (That 70's Show) wouldn't have been my first pick for the role of Solare. Her voice was less annoying than usual, but she still didn't feel believable as a strong character. Unlike I Am Legend, this film touched on some important philosophical ideas that make you think.






A Serious Man (2009)
Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen

This film like most Coen Brothers films is a strange dark comedy that makes you wonder if its a comedy at all. I left the theater unclear if I liked it or hated it. The dialog seemed so authentic it felt like a running inside joke. Most of the jokes went over my head, but I appreciated the sophistication. I've always loved the Coen brothers for their cinematography and this film is no exception.







The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Directed by Terry Gilliam

It took me a long time to see this film because the fact Heath Ledger died a year before is a little creepy. The creepier part is that his character is introduced to the story as someone they found hung by the neck and assumed dead. Now even if you tried to look past these morbid aspects, the film is still weird! It's not the Tim Burton creative quirky artistic but beautiful and brilliant weird either. The pace of the movie is too slow and the story line and the characters aren't believable enough for you to even take the leap. There isn't even enough creative imagery to justify seeing for the pretty pictures.

We all have to grow up sometime


An Education
Directed by Lone Scherfig

An education is a successful modern day films set in the 1960's. It captures the nostalgic innocence of the time period without ignoring the obvious cultural ignorance. The story is about a 17 year old, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) who finds herself in a whirlwind romance with a much older man named David (Peter Sarsgaard). Odile Dicks-Mireaux, the costume designer for the film, did an amazing job emphasizing the drastic difference between Jenny and David's worlds. Jenny looked much younger which made her interactions with David feel very perverse in the beginning. The more she became accustomed to the lifestyle the more her appearance reflected it. Like most women during the pre-feminist movement of the 1960's, Jenny finds herself choosing between marriage and education in order for her to gain access to a better life.

"So my choice is either to do something hard and boring, OR to marry my Jew, and listen to jazz and read and eat good food in a nice restaurants and have fun. Its not enough to educate us anymore, Miss Walters. You've got to tell us why you're doing it."

While watching this film I cringed the whole way as I witness this girl setting herself up for failure. Although, with all of my post feminist wisdom and 21st century knowledge, I could see where she is coming from. If the opportunities aren't available to you anyway, then whats the point in working so hard when the outcome will be the same. I could relate to the character of Jenny in the sense that she that rebelled against herself in quest for excitement, love and adventure. Its was so easy for her to pass judgement and think that she had life figured out, but she couldn't truly understand anything until she lived through her own mistakes. When she came out the other end she realized that she has everything she needed all along. For me to see a coming of age story at the point of my life that I'm finally feeling comfortable in my own skin seems to be ironic. All of the things that you considered red flags now wouldn't necessarily come to mind when you were younger. As you get older it becomes easier to figure out what’s real and valuable and what is fleeting and insignificant.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Sad Movie that Puts a Smile on My Face


A Single Man
Directed By Tom Ford





Trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi597492761/

This is a film about a gay man named George, played by Colin Firth, who loses meaning in his life after the loss of his partner. Because Tom Ford, wrote, directed, and produced this film his signature style jumps off the screen. The way he handles the subject matter its obvious he is a fashion designer, but it also feels like the story is personal for him. This film is so stylized I couldn't help but notice all of the subtleties that foreshadow its unfolding events. Everything about it from the music, the cinematography to the production design looked and felt like they were pieces of painting. The fashion alone felt like an additional character. Ford also uses color saturation to emphasize George's mood. Towards the end of the film this felt a little redundant but was an important tool to help tell the story. The musical score almost made if feel operatic, but the moments that weren't accompanied by music are brilliantly simplistic.

The first two scenes alone would earn Colin Firth an Oscar win. Without his incredible acting the film might have been a little too perfect. Julianne Moore held her own along side Firth's powerful performance, but it was the role of Kenny, played by Nicholas Hoult that really held the film together. Hoult has come a long way from the quirky little boy we all loved in About a Boy (2002). Kenny is a young college student with an infatuation with George. He represents innocence, life and love and perhaps for George, a younger version of himself. He says one of my favorite lines in the film.

"I mean we're born alone, we die alone. And while we're here we are absolutely, completely sealed in your own bodies. Really weird. Kinda freaks me out to think about it. We can only experience the outside world through our own slanted perception of it. Who knows what you're really like. I just see what I think you're like."


A lot of movies like this one have a tendency to be too obscure, but Ford gently guides you through this film without being condescending. Too bad I didn't see this film before my top ten films of 2009 list, because this would have been my number one pick.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Amuse Bouche - Holidays 2009









Sherlock Holmes

Directed By Guy Ritchie



First of all, I’m so glad to see Robert Downey Jr. so successful post rehab. He looks great! This film is entertaining and better than I expected with a few unexpected plot twists. I can’t wait for the sequel.











Nine

Directed by Rob Marshall



I expected something else, but it did get better towards the end. Fergie was surprisingly good. Overall not a bad film but I’m not sure what all the hype is about.





Princess and the Frog

Directed by

Ron Clements and John Musker


I’m excited to see a black princess, but there isn't anything particular that stands out about this movie. Maybe I just got too old to enjoy children films without adult subtext.





Avatar


Directed by James Cameron




Can we say modern day Pocahontas? The colonial aspect was a little annoying, but the film is stunning. The visual effects where amazing but the acting is mediocre. I can’t take this movie too seriously. They spent 500 millions dollars on the film and it has made over a billion dollars. It is classic Hollywood money making at it finest. What more can you ask for from a Blockbuster success.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

If I had a worst of 2009 film list, this would be on it!


The Blind Side
Directed by John Lee Hancock


The Blind Side is a film based on a true story about a homeless black boy who became an all-star football player with the help of a rich family. There are a lot of people who grow up in challenging enviroments and are able to overcome great obstacles, but it doesn’t mean that each of those stories it needs to be a movie. If the perspective shifted from the Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) character to the Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) character it would have been more interesting, but all this film really does is regurgitate racist stereotypes that it prides itself of breaking. I find it pretty insulting that film portrayed a black boy who barely spoke throughout the whole movie. His academic goal was to get at least a somber 2.5 GPA and his football couch was a 10-year-old boy. How is that breaking racial stereotypes? Some could argue that that this isn’t about race but about the ability of a good-hearted person to help someone less fortunate than themselves achieve success. If we didn’t live in a racist world perhaps I could see it that way.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

BEST Films of 2009


As we ease into a new year. I'd like to look back at my top 10 films of 2009.


10. Inglourious Basterds
Directed by Quentin Tarantino

After I posted my blog I talked to a few other die hard film enthusiast and they none of them liked this movie and thought I was crazy for even thinking this was a good film. Tarantino is know for violence so perhaps people were expecting more of it, considering it was a movie about the Nazis. I still stand behind this film. What they didn't like is the sole reason why I did.


9. Its Complicated
Directed by Nancy Meyers

There are a ton of romantic comedies but its nice when it gets done right. I laughed my ass off throughout the whole film. Cute boy from The Office John Krasinski is utterly funny and steals the show.


8. Up
Directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson

I like it when you go see a film and your pleasantly surprised. Up would probably rank as a close second to my favorite animated films of the 21st century.


7.Invictus
Directed by Clint Eastwood

A perfect film that reflects our own political climate today.

6. Up in the Air
Directed by Jason Reitman

I enjoyed myself throughout the whole film but I the ending made me a little sad.

5. Julie and Julia
Directed by Nora Ephron

This film is what gave me the idea of writing this blog. I love stories about quarter-life crisis.


4. Precious
Directed by Lee Daniels

Finally a film that will hopefully begin a new genre in cinema.

3. The Informant!
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

I'm a sucker for dark comedies. I loved this movie so much I saw it twice in the theaters.


2. 500 days of summer
Directed by Marc Webb

A cute corky non love story. I also really love it when drawing gets incorporated into a film.

1. Away We Go
Directed by Sam Mendes

It made me laugh, cry and leaving the theater feeling fully satisfied.



Possible film that might have made the list but on my must see list:

Broken Embraces
Crazy Heart
Tyson
A Single Man