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Movie Reviews

“City Island” Movie Review

"City Island" film poster“City Island” is a fantastic little drama wrapped in a comedy. On a small island just outside the Bronx lives the Rizzo family headed up by Vince Rizzo (played by Andy Garcia), they all have secrets, and now that the prison guard father Vince is bringing home a parolee all the private dealings are quickly coming to a head over spring break.

Why you’ll like it:
Genuine characters creating great comedy and drama; well-told story

The story unfolds in a very smooth flow, from learning that such a tough guy as Vince wants to moonlight as an actor to seeing all the small desires that drive each character, this is a well-developed script that incrementally increases the information of each player through even pacing and solid acting. Everyone delivers a worthy performance, and as great as Andy Garcia played his part I have to give a lot of kudos to Ezra Miller for his pitch-perfect portrayal of an annoying boy teenager, I felt like I’ve known him a dozen times over. There’s a lot of small stories effectively put into place with minimal effort and each of them makes an impact on the central family.

The Rizzos are a wiley argumentative bunch, there is no small-talk in this house, only yelling and one-sided debates. Even the fanciest of dinners end with everyone storming off, but all the frustration and screaming is eventually revealed to be a veil of insecurity and need for love and appreciation. That sounds a lot like any family I’ve ever known. Normally so much arguing and strife would be tense, but even though it’s delivered with a straight face it brings so much humor and laughter, even at its emotional apex the laughs only get bigger while making you love all the family’s lies and anxieties all the more.

Why you won’t like it:
You don’t like simple character drama/comedies (you prefer over the top humor)

I can’t knock this film for any faults, it’s not shot with any particular style worthy of note, there’s nothing really offensive about it (unless fetishes about feeding overweight women is offensive to you) and I think that everything was executed perfectly. I plan on going back to this island and bringing my friends.

4 out of 5 stars

Starring: Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Alan Arkin, Dominik Garcia-Lorido
Director: Raymond De Felitta
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: April 16, 2010

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Movie Reviews

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” Movie Review

"The Men Who Star at Goats" film poster“The Men Who Stare at Goats” opens with the text “More of this story is true than you would like”, and good Lord I hope that isn’t true. Ewan McGregor plays Bob Wilton, a journalist in hot pursuit of a story, any story, that will prove his worth as a reporter and as a man. This leads to a quite strange connection with Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) who is apart of covert military operation New Earth Army, and has subsequently been trained to be a psychic “Jedi” capable of astral projection and other mental “powers”.

Why you’ll like this:
Quirky; quality cast

What continually grabbed me was the opening line, because every scene I couldn’t help but wonder if in fact this could possibly be true. Then again I have to acknowledge how absurd our US military operations are to begin with, so it’s definitely possible in my mind that the Army started a paranormal division. The tone stays on this serious edge of disbelief, where you know Lyn is dead-serious, but you’re not sure how much of it Bob is buying into. Naturally, all the humor is derived from the ridiculous notions that psychic-Lyn tries to employ and how you can construe them as actually working.

George Clooney does a fantastic job of being borderline insane, baring quite a stark resemblance to a kooky conspiracy theorist without a sense of humor, and nary a clue. Ewan equally sells the role of innocent curiousity and schoolboy cluelessness. With those powers combined they formed a rather impressive duo of deaf leading the blind.

The use of flashbacks help add a quirky air to the film while filling in the origins of the operation. Jeff Bridges, Oscar firmly in hand, may still be one of the most underused actors working currently and he proves here yet again how versatile he can be, this time with a beatnik persona. The film does lull a bit for my tastes, but the grand finale is a fairly unique battle of Army mustaches duking it out ESP-style….or at least trying to do their best.

Why you won’t like this:
Lots of dry humor; not in a hurry; not enough goats

“The Men Who Star at Goats” perhaps didn’t stare at enough goats to satisfy that goat-staring fetish of mine, but I did like it and found the absurd nature of it to get a few laughs. I can’t say I’ll be buying it or hoping to catch re-runs, but I’m glad I finally caught up with it. HYAAH!

3 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges
Director: Grant Heslov
Genre: Comedy, War
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.
Release Date: November 6, 2009

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Movie Reviews

“Death at a Funeral” Movie Review

"Death at a Funeral" movie art“Death at a Funeral” is the American version of the British film of the same title. Since the 2007 version is only now coincidentally rearing its head in my Netflix queue I won’t see it until next week. Based on the bits I’ve seen I can probably deduce two things: 1) This is nearly a scene-for-scene remake; 2) It isn’t as understated as the British version. Both of these things should prove fatal, at least for a cinema lover like myself I *hope* that it’s fatal lest we see even more awful attempts at overseas comedy remakes. For crying out loud we (America/Hollywood) are already doing it to the horror genre without shame, not to mention the reboots, I’d like to see more original films is all I’m saying.

Why you’ll like it:
You like Tyler Perry movies/sitcoms; crude idiotic humor

The premise is simple enough: a family is burying one of its respectable elders, and the eldest son is trying to survive the outbreak of idiotic family issues. The problems are essentially too numerous to list…. which doesn’t mean I’m not going to try my hardest. Before I do that I will throw in the two good pieces of comedy that actually made me laugh which is Kevin Hart and James Marsden. Kevin Hart plays his role perfectly, sly and beneath the surface, genuine deadpan humor and he got a few solid laughs out of me. Marsden did the polar opposite, but his role called for it after he inadvertently takes a hallucinogenic and he knocks it out of the park with the funniness.

Now, if you’re a fan of forced over-the-top humor (read: Larry the Cable Guy or any of Martin Lawrence’s latest shtick) then you’re going to love this since it’s filled with loud riotous attempts at comedy. I hated it. The whole “lowest common denominator” of poop jokes and Martin’s now-unbearable style make the vast majority of this “Comedy” branded movie rather lame and dated, assuming it could ever have been “not-dated”, which would make it single. Yes, it should stay single and live as a hermet destined to die a miserable, lonely, pitiless death.

None of the characters even resemble humans, they seemed more like short-written one-dimensional children running around with a hefty scoop of self importantce. Nearly all the lines are delivered DOA, and more than once I loathed the attempt at creating actual emotion. Even the likes of excellent actress Zoe Saldana could not make me believe there was any substance to what she was saying.

Why you won’t like it:
You have a higher sense of comedy than a 36 month-old child.

I suppose I could continue to rip into this effortless movie reliant on obvious big eyed surprises and generic, bland, lifeless characters, but frankly I need to shower to get the filth off. In the mean time I’ll be hoping the British version finds itself as clever as I’ve been hearing, because this was more like a death at a theater.

2 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, Keith David, James Marsden
Director: Neil LaBute
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R
Running Time:
Release Date: April 16, 2010

“Death at a Funeral” is the American version of the British film of the same title. Since the

2007 version is only now coincidentally rearing its head in my Netflix queue I won’t see it

until next week. Based on the bits I’ve seen I can probably deduce two things: 1) This is nearly

a scene-for-scene remake; 2) It isn’t as understated as the British version. Both of these

things should prove fatal, at least for a cinema lover like myself I *hope* that it’s fatal lest

we see even more awful attempts at overseas comedy remakes. For crying out loud we

(America/Hollywood) are already doing it to the horror genre without shame, not to mention the

reboots, I’d like to see more original films is all I’m saying.

The premise is simple enough: a family is burying one of its respectable elders, and the eldest

son is trying to survive the outbreak of idiotic family issues. The problems are essentially too

numerous to list…. which doesn’t mean I’m not going to try my hardest. Before I do that I will

throw in the two good pieces of comedy that actually made me laugh which is Kevin Hart and James

Marsden. Kevin Hart plays his role perfectly, sly and beneath the surface, genuine deadpan humor

and he got a few solid laughs out of me. Marsden did the polar opposite, but his role called for

it after he inadvertently takes a hallucinogenic and he knocks it out of the park with the

funniness.

Now, if you’re a fan of forced over-the-top humor (read: Larry the Cable Guy or any of Martin

Lawrence’s latest shtick) then you’re going to love this since it’s filled with loud riotous

attempts at comedy. I hated it. The whole “lowest common denominator” of poop jokes and Martin’s

now-unbearable style make the vast majority of this “Comedy” branded movie rather lame and

dated, assuming it could ever have been “not-dated”, which would make it single. Yes, it should

stay single and live as a hermet destined to die a miserable, lonely, pitiless death.

None of the characters even resemble humans, they seemed more like short-written one-dimensional

children running around with a hefty scoop of self importantce. Nearly all the lines are

delivered DOA, and more than once I loathed the attempt at creating actual emotion. Even the

likes of excellent actress Zoe Saldana could not make me believe there was any substance to what

she was saying.

I suppose I could continue to rip into this effortless movie reliant on obvious big eyed

surprises and generic, bland, lifeless characters, but frankly I need to shower to get the filth

off. In the mean time I’ll be hoping the British version finds itself as clever as I’ve been

hearing, because this was more like a death at a theater.

2 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, Keith David, James Marsden
Director: Neil LaBute
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R
Running Time:
Release Date: April 16, 2010

Categories
Movie Reviews

“The Collector” Movie Review

"The Collector" Film Poster“The Collector”, there’s a thief in your home, unfortunately for you the psychotic murderer was there first. It came as no surprise to find that director Marcus Dunstan worked on multiple “Saw” projects as a writer, “The Collector” wreaked of similarity. The premise is that there’s a maniac who likes to set traps in your home and his only pleasure is to watch you suffer. The one difference between the two films is that there’s no purported philosophy behind “The Collector”, no greater good being done to open the eyes of the victim.

Why you’ll like this:
If you like “Saw”; good suspense; creative traps/settings; visual style

Using a flashy visual style that reminded me of Tony Scott’s “Man on Fire”, the film does a great job of creating a lot of suspense by not being too up front about the scenario you’re walking into, instead it unfolds exactly as the protagonist sees it and you’re never away from him (Arkin, played by Josh Stewart) for even a moment. So, from the moment he knows someone else is in the house to the time you see him suffer the first booby trap you’re stuck in this silent inescapable terror. The suspense is by far the best part executed, and everything is shot so you’re never at a loss for what is happening. Too often, in fact, you’re a little too informed visually when it comes time to start chopping limbs off. Let the squirming begin!

I would like to say the acting is flagrantly poor here, but it’s hard to entirely blame the actors for poorly written scenes and dialogue. The reality is that the story is merely a crutch to get to the meat, which is the gore and suspense. It’s hard for me to accept such blatant abuse of story, but more than that I was fairly shocked at the low level of audio quality. At some points you have one actor mic’d up while another sounds like they’re in a tunnel. The opening scene is the perfect example and it nearly lost me, but luckily the heart of the film comes quick and delivers the goods.

Maybe another failing in “The Collector” is that I wasn’t necessarily afraid of the maniac so much as the unknown snares and devices he placed throughout the house. The Collector himself seemed rather normal and somewhat clueless in light of how long Arkin was able to run around the house undetected. The sheer amount of plot holes and ridiculous story devices made me wonder why the movie didn’t just cut off the first 20 minutes entirely and start with the burgler’s break-in. There’s no real need to build in artificial characters here, we’ll side with the victims at the first sign of blood, it’s human nature and now you’ve insulted my intelligence with bad character development.

Why you won’t like “The Collector”:
Poor acting/dialogue; bad audio quality

I was surprised by some of the lower qualities the movie gave me, particularly the audio since this appeared to be a bigger budget film based on advertising. But A) when has advertising ever been honest? And B) I knew it was a horror film so what should I really have expected? This centers around a high concept: a thief breaks in and finds a murderer is out for human trophies. If what you’re wanting from this is suspense and a few thrills, I’m sure you’ll get it, but check your brain at the door first, lest it too is collected.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Josh Stewart, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth
Director: Marcus Dunstan
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rating: R
Running Time:
Release Date: July 31, 2009

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Movie Reviews

“The Joneses” Movie Review

"The Joneses" movie poster“The Joneses” isn’t really just a movie, it’s a pretty big statement against consumerism and the value placed on “stuff” in American society. When a new family moves into an upscale neighborhood we soon see they aren’t a family at all, but rather hired “assassins” in the marketing field whose only goal is to make you want to buy what they already have. Thus, we all want to keep up with “The Joneses”.

Why you’ll like it:
Great message; interesting concept.

It’s an old adage in America, “keeping up with the Joneses”, it’s a phrase we use anytime we feel like we don’t have the new luxury item, it’s a the basic covetousness bred so finely here in the States. When walking into this movie I hadn’t see the trailer or heard anything about it at all other than a brief description on a flier. Steve Jones, played by David Duchovny, is the Joneses new dad settling into a role with other sales veterans Mom (Demi Moore), daughter Jenn (Amber Heard) and her brother Mick (Ben Hollingsworth). Being such a charismatic group they all make friends rather quickly and show off every sweet golf club, lip stick, quiche and anything else they can find the target audience for.

The thing I liked most about “The Joneses” is definitely the message. There’s no attempt at all to hide what they’re driving at, the purpose here is to show you the illusion of happiness we bare when collecting all these useless treasures, when in reality everyone only wants a single simple thing: love. Each faux family member is doing a job, but wishing for something more despite the appearance of having it all. Meanwhile, we see the affect that such illusions can have on others who don’t know the gritty secrets, the way it can break up a family or hurt people chasing the rainbow’s pot of gold. A message we could certainly hear more often today.

Having such a direct and obvious message meant the trade off of being slick in the approach of the film, there’s several moments that are telegraphed and bring no surprises upon their arrival. Perhaps that is the biggest twist of all, we already know the message yet allow it to happen anyway in our personal lives. However, despite being such an independent commentary, the film never feels like an indie movie. Of course, having Duchovny and Gary Cole on your team probably doesn’t hurt at all in that cause either! Duchony turns in a solid performance as the new guy who sees the bigger picture and debates selling out his soul.

Why you won’t like it:
The message is simple and obvious; not much else to this film.

“The Joneses” concept is clever, turn a phrase into a sermon. The execution is where it should be, all the right tones are there as well. I think people will walk away appreciating one of the few times we’re encouraged from a movie to actually buy less, and be satisfied with the people in our life more. I doubt this will shock anyone, especially when crowds choose to watch a bunch of vigilante kids take justice to the streets instead of a film that holds the virtue of love over trinkets. In short, the people who probably need to hear this the most may not watch it, leaving the filmmakers once again preaching to the choir.

3 out of 5 stars.

by Wes Hemings

Starring: David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Gary Cole, Amber Heard
Director: Derrick Borte
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.
Release Date: April 16, 2010

Categories
Movie Reviews

“Where The Wild Things Are” Movie Review

"Where The Wild Things Are" film poster“Where The Wild Things Are” is a fantastic film that uses the fantasy genre to explore some great emotional drama, I loved it for all the right reasons. Based on the children’s book of the same name the movie centers on Max, played by Max Records, who is dealing with a broken home life and loneliness which causes him to escape to a world filled with animalistic beasts; wild things.

Why you’ll like it:
Fantasy beasts with the gripping emotional backbone and style of an indie film.

To love this movie you have to first understand that it isn’t a kid’s movie, at all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a true fantasy drama, because fantasy movies tend toward the adventure side of life and this is solely focused on the interpersonal relationships. There are some pretty chilling moments and I think the target of this film is to make us all feel as if it’s us running away, trying to get to the heart of our own childhood. Max is a loner dealing with abandonment issues, and this is reflected in his wild imagination, because even in his mind there’s no place that can end happily, a place that has room for him. So, in a fit of rage and rejection he bolts from his angry mother and takes a boat to the land of the wild things where they make him king, and everyone wants to be his favorite. He soon sees that being the king is harder than even he imagined.

Maybe what struck me most during the movie is how soon I left the visual effects behind in exchange for emotional beings. The drama swept me up in trying to understand how scary and emotionally fragile each of these monsters are; each a reflection of the boy’s own insecurities. One wants another, but keeps pushing away out of rejection disallowing his own acceptance; one never feels heard; one is silent yet feared; one is disruptive and negative at all costs; none of them feel understood and all of them only want to be a family but don’t know how. What really drives home the drama is the intimate style that it’s filmed with, everything is up close and very personal. You see every withdrawn hand as well as the resulting flinch of pain.

The ultimate goal of any technological feat should be to have you forget there’s even technology involved since it’s there to serve the story. Despite the outlandish barbarism that the Things do and how they live, I bought every inch of them as being real. Their faces were reflective of how they felt and their body language denoted what they were thinking. Simply awe-inspiring!

Why you won’t like it:
Emotionally intense, scary in some parts, not a kid’s movie.

I absolutely loved it. “Where The Wild Things Are” essentially amounted to an indie film with CG characters and it’s a place I would love to go, even if I were more than a little scared. You should see this if it’s been a while since you’ve felt like a kid in a storm, because I think every once in a while we need to be reminded that it’s okay to escape in order to find some perspective, we all have a Wild Thing lurking to be understood.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

by Wes Hemings

Starring: Max Records, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Paul Dano
Director: Spike Jonze
Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.
Release Date: October 16, 2009

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Movie Reviews

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” Movie Review

"Fantastic Mr. Fox" film poster“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is signed, sealed, delivered from the fantastic Mr Wes Anderson. Based on the children’s book of the same name by Roald Dahl, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is about a domesticated fox who can’t quite resist the temptation to thieve chickens, leading to a community feud with the three worst famers in the neighborhood.

Why you’ll like it:
It’s Wes Anderson style humor and filming techniques, but in stop-motion.

If you’re familiar with any of Wes Anderson’s work, such as “The Darjeeling Limited”, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” or “The Royal Tenenbaums” to name a few, then you’re aware of the very quirky sensibilities that comes with his characters, and man oh man does this feel like a Wes Anderson film through and through….but in stop-motion. The sheer amount of detail that was packed into each frame is astounding, yet it made complete sense that someone with Wes Anderson’s imagination would produce something so minute and specific when the only limit placed on you is what you can think up. Perhaps I’m simply tired of Tim Burton’s animation, but I have to say that “Fox” was executed with far more precision than anything Burton has done to date.

The first thing that really caught my attention was the cross between animals being people-ish yet retaining their animalism for the sake of comedy. At the breakfast table Mr Fox sits down to a sophisticated breakfast while speaking poignantly about his newspaper article that no one probably reads, then mauls his food as if it weren’t dead yet (I think it was French toast), bam, comedic gold. Every character has their own nuances but it’s all delivered with the same dead-pan humor that is wickedly amusing if not laugh out loud funny.

What struck me most perhaps is the variety of shots used. This isn’t the old trick of “let’s build one really great set-piece and abuse it”, it’s capturing a scene with the mentality of a regular feature film to build tension or a visual gag. Silly cutaways and diagramming ridiculous faux sporting games. Not to mention the supporting cast is filled to the brim with excellence. Jason Schwartzman plays the overlooked son, his childish jealousy over his visiting cousin weaves a great moral into the storyline for family audiences.

Why you won’t like it:
None of the humor is delivered with a drum roll, it’s often awkward and senseless and very simple.

I’m aware that many mainstream people are wholly unfamiliar with Wes Anderson, but hopefully this will change that, because for the first time I won’t have a problem recommending this to someone that wouldn’t get “Rushmore”, they’ll love it for the ridiculous situations and witty character abnormalities. Seeing this makes me only hope that we’ll see another Wes Anderson animation in some fashion, the man-child approach is brilliant and works no matter the format. You should see this.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

by Wes Hemings

Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray
Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hr. 27 min.
Release Date: November 25, 2009

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Movie Reviews

“Greenberg” Movie Review

Poster for the movie "Greenberg"“Greenberg” is all about finding your place in life, even if it’s not the place you hoped for. Directed by Noah Baumbach, who has been on somewhat of a tear with writing the screen adaptation for “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and directing “Margot at the Wedding” and “The Squid and the Whale”, he’s found his place among indie film lovers and this will surely squeeze in right along side the others.

Why you’ll like it:
Indie film, in the vein of “Squid and the Whale”, some good character acting.

Ben Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, a man just turning 41 and still not settled into anything remotely as excited as the band he was in 15 years ago that was nearly signed until he backed out, a decision that still rears his head when he sees old band-mates. Greenberg is back in L.A. from New York City to house-sit for his brother, who is living a glorious business life starting hotels in such remote places as Vietnam. While back on his old stomping ground he gets a little familiar with his brother’s assistant, Florence, played by Greta Gerwig. Two people that are socially destined for each other in all their awkward honesty.

The first act of the film is so indie film-like, because there is a lot of dead air where you’re simply observing the small idiosyncrasies of someone’s life, and it lasts for at least 20 minutes. For me, sometimes it works well and other times I get a little antsy, this was the latter. However, once Roger and Florence start to notice each other it’s pretty fantastic. They constantly bumble around each other and Roger is a classic narcissistic jerk, always projecting onto others the very things he’s dealing with and making every situational moment centered around himself. Stiller executes it with style and abrasiveness.

The other hidden gem here is Rhys Ifans, he is stellar as the friend who silently suffers at the abusive hand of his “best” friend. He’s perfect and in my eyes an extremely underused pro’s pro in Hollywood. The interaction you get between him and Roger Greenberg is compelling and familiar, because who among us haven’t seen a great guy/girl mistreated by a self-centered ass? There’s some great comedic bits that spring out of all the social gaffes between Roger and his go-to counterparts.

Why you won’t like it:
Social awkwardness galore. If you don’t like the indie circuit, you won’t like this.

One of my favorite thing about quirky independent comedy dramas is that the music is always edgy, but Baumbach really utilized silence to build an awkwardness around his characters and then towards the end of the second act started bringing in a lot of rhythms to drive home particular points and I must say it was effective.

I really liked “Greenberg”, probably not something I’ll watch again all the way through but would love to catch bits and pieces of on HBO from time to time. I’m sure Ben Stiller wanted to get out of the mainstream romantic comedies and step out a little, and while the character isn’t miles from his normal goofy comedic stencil, it’s much closer to an actual human being and someone relateable, someone that you can look at and desire to learn from. The lesson here was simple, stop trying to live the life that’s escaped you and just live the best one you can have. That’s something I can get with.

3 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director: Noah Baumbach
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Independent (indie)
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.
Release Date: April 1, 2010

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Movie Reviews

“Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” Movie Review

"Precious" film poster“Precious” is fortunately not based on a true story, it’s based on a novel. Unfortunately, the novel was written with the mind-state of compiling many awful tales of life in the Bronx and Harlem while working as a literacy teacher. The film centers around a young black woman named Precious (played by Gabourey Sidibe) as she deals with her second pregnancy, which came about from her father raping her. We follow her as she deals with alternative school and a wretched home life. Ah yes, the setting of great drama.

Why you’ll like it:
You’ll be more grateful for what you have, regardless of how little it is.
It’s also gratifying to see someone deal with so much and remain human.

The story is very unique, I can’t recall many films that take the dips and dives as “Precious” courageously takes. After a while one may start to assume that it’s all one big emotional ploy to tinker with you, but that was not my impression. The characters felt too true and real, from the escapism Precious uses to keep herself intact, to the voracious appetite for bitter hatred her mother (Mo’Nique”) has, it’s all incredibly well portrayed and is used to paint a horrid picture but seemingly only for the sake of giving someone a voice who previously had none.

The direction was also exceptional, the camera work and gritty texture of the film brought it completely to life and lent a lot of credibility to the situations and setting. The entire movie had this dinginess covering everything, almost as if the camera itself was affected by the harsh life Precious was living.

Sidibe was nominated for an Oscar, and I must say that it was well deserved. However, I think my ace performance has to go to Mo’Nique, she was horrifying to watch and I can think of few people who gave so much depth and realness to such a wretched person. The best word to sum up her role is simply “wow”, because she was so layered and every awful moment ends up making perfect sense, detestably so. Bravo to her and to Mariah Carey (playing the social worker) who felt a little too real.

Why you won’t like it:
Good Lord how much crap can you heap onto a single soul.

As far as the emotional trip through hell, I guess it was lucky for me that last night I watched a film that brought fewer brutalities to a far more intense and sickening level that this movie didn’t quite match it note for note. That isn’t to say that this is any walk through the park, but it does manage to walk the fine line of being over the top with the hardships without making it flimsy in nature. A great commentary about hard living while maintaining hope, and a well made and deserving film.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey
Director: Lee Daniels
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.
Release Date: November 20, 2009

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Movie Reviews

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Movie Review (Män som hatar kvinnor)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie posterI’m not big on the Swedish film scene, but “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was a pretty great start to what will hopefully amount to an awesome trilogy. Based on the first novel in the “Millenium Trilogy” by Stieg Larsson that was published posthumously, the film revolves around a journalist (Michael Nyqvist) hired by a man haunted with the disappearance of his beloved 16 year old relative who went missing 40 years ago. He’s intelligently narrowed the murder down to one of his family members, but the evidence is slim.

Why you’ll like it:
Well told story, expertly shot with great performances by the two leads.

The other half of the story is about a young female hacker (Noomi Rapace) who was hired to dig up dirt on the journalist and soon gets caught up in the investigation. Both roles are executed quite perfect in pitch, the gothic techy recluse and the ever-curious writer, both driven by a need to solve the mystery and both for completely different reasons. The result is something of a well-paced detective story that seems to side-track itself, but is expertly directed into highly developed characters instead.

What really drives home every scene is how personal it feels, it’s quite close and intimate and you feel every wrong as if it were your grievance. Unfortunately, this means that the few brutal scenes are quite affecting and stick with you longer and deeper than you may wish. One of the few other movies that accomplished this depth of brutality for me was “Snow Angels” (but not “Things We Lost in the Fire”, nothing comes close to that amazing roll through hell), but what set this apart from “Snow Angels” was that every act of violence served a purpose and is used to a specific end, not just for the sake of making you feel like garbage. Nothing pisses me off quite as much as a film aimed only at dragging you down into the gutter without any recognizable reason or consequence, so the use of every disturbing scene to me is justified and brilliant in the development of a 3-Dimensional character.

Why you won’t like it:
If you don’t like to see the brutal side of life, stay far far away.

I guess if something didn’t work for me it would be the pacing and length, it does tend to take its time but it’s very difficult to fault it for 152 minutes, because the place it takes you is quite worthwhile and no moment really feels unnecessary. It’s a well told story that feeds you the information when you need it. This is what scares me about making this into an American film, I highly doubt it’ll be allowed to breathe and get to all the same emotional developments that were achieved from this Swedish work of art. However, if David Fincher does end up directing it then perhaps not all hope is lost, anyone with “Se7en” and “Fight Club” on their resume gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to professionally narrating a highly sculpted story.

All in all, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was a fantastic experience. I will not soon be forgetting it and hope it finds some great indie film houses to play in. I have no doubt it will be well received and talked about. With any luck we will be seeing the second and third films come out soon enough.

4 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Rating: NR
Running Time: 2 hr. 32 min.
Release Date: March 19, 2010
Language: Swedish