review: Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011)
After being broken out of a Russian prison, Ethan Hunt and co break into the Kremlin and find that what they are after has already been stolen and then gets bombed, the Russians blame the Americans and the IMF is shut down. With very limited resources and a team of four, it’s up to Hunt to stop a man bent on a global nuclear war.
Despite what I was expecting walking into the movie theater, this was actually an excellent action movie. Jeremy Renner was a nice addition to this movie, he’s been on my radar for a while now so it was pretty awesome to see him out and about kicking ass. One of the gems of this movie is the minor appearance of Josh Holloway (formerly portrayed Sawyer in Lost) the love interest of Paula Patton’s character and dies within the first few minutes of the movie. Paula Patton was great as well, gorgeous woman and she gets to kick some serious ass as well. And most importantly, much to my surprise, Tom Cruise wasn’t absolutely annoying.
On of the best parts of the movie is Tom Cruise scaling the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and then smacks his head as he tries to get back into the window. Seriously, worth seeing the movie just for that part.
Overall, great movie. I’m really impressed with what they’ve been doing with action movies lately. With all of the technology we’ve got today, it’s awesome to see what movies are now capable of.
review: One Day (2011)
"If I could give you just one gift for the rest of your life, do you know what it would be? Confidence. It was either that or a scented candle."
Over twenty plus years, we see watch the lives of Dexter and Emma and the progression of their friendship every year on the 15th of July, the anniversary of their meeting. Through the years they are very close, but end up growing apart as their lives take different directions and they meet other people. Eventually as their lives change, Emma and Dexter find that they belong with each other. What is seemingly a beautiful love story ends up taking a tragic and heartbreaking turn.
Another beautiful film about unconventional love story from Scherfig, director of the 2009 film An Education. Despite the horrid reviews this movie has gotten, I absolutely loved this film. Hathaway and Sturgess had amazing chemistry and were really able to sell the relationship. Many of my friends didn’t like the film because of the ending, but I suppose I’m a bit of a masochist and enjoy depressing movies. I am a firm believer that a beautiful story can be told without a happy ending. One thing I will say I didn’t enjoy was Anne Hathaway’s terrible English accent. I was able to adjust to it through the movie, but it was really pretty awful. Looking beyond that, great movie. I don’t recommend it for any hopeless romantics looking for a sappy love story, but it really is worth watching.
review: Take Shelter (2011)
Apocalyptically themed movies seem to be the new black in the industry. But in comparison to The Tree Of Life, which was awarded with the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, or Melancholia, which was on every cinemagoer’s radar simply because it was a von Trier film, Take Shelter has been, I feel, largely overlooked. It is director Jeff Nichols’ second feature film after the well-received Shotgun Stories and it centers around Curtis, a common guy living in a common town with his wife and daughter.
What is not so common are Curtis’ visions, which start out as dreams but slowly meld into reality as the story progresses. In these dreams, he sees hurricanes, terrifying thunderstorms and zombie-like creatures who attack him and his daughter. Gravity shifts, dead birds start dropping from the sky. It gets harder and harder for Curtis to distinguish between reality and what his brain has made up, he starts to alienate his friends and his family, who remain unable to understand what is happening to the man they have once known.
Nichols decided on a non-ambiguous ending for this movie, which was the only fault I could find within it. There was a perfect opportunity to end this story on a note that would have kept the viewer guessing whether Curtis really made up the whole scenario in his head or was nothing but a prophet to humanity, but Nichols missed that opportunity. The five milkshakes are mostly rewarded to Michael Shannon’s acting. Fans of Boardwalk Empire will know how expressive, yet subtle and nuanced his performances are; in this movie, he takes it a step further in his portrayal of Curtis. Critics such as Roger Ebert are even speculating on an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor - deservedly so.
review: Rebecca (1940)
"Go ahead. Jump. He never loved you, so why go on living? Jump and it will all be over.."
Hitchcock’s Rebecca is the story of an orphan played by Joan Fontaine who falls in love with Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). They get married and soon Maxim’s tragic past is realised; his previous wife had drowned. As Rebecca attempts to integrate with life at Manderlay she finds the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) to be especially unhelpful and Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, to have been the perfect wife she could never be.. or so Mrs. Danvers leads her to believe.
The mystery of Rebecca, Maxim’s wife, is increased by her obvious omission from the film. The viewers never see Rebecca and are constantly haunted by her voice and Mrs. Danvers psychotic retelling of her untouchable perfection. This endears the reader to Mrs De Winters desperation, her frustration, and fears of never being enough for Manderlay, enough for Maxim and is driven to the climax of her teetering on the brink of a window sill in Rebecca’s room.
Laurence Olivier does an incredible job portraying Maxim’s quietness and abrupt outbursts, a hint at the violence he is capable of. As the story progresses and the truth of Rebecca is revealed we find Hitchcock’s commentary turning to sexual expression and infidelity.
Rebecca earns five solid milkshakes for incredible suspense, social commentary and acting but I felt the ending was a bit loose after the initial mystery of Rebecca’s fate is revealed.
review: Naked (1993)
Louise: How did you get here?
Johnny: Well, basically, there was this little dot, right? And the dot went bang and the bang expanded. Energy formed into matter, matter cooled, matter lived, the amoeba to fish, to fish to fowl, to fowl to frog, to frog to mammal, the mammal to monkey, to monkey to man, amo amas amat, quid pro quo, memento mori, ad infinitum, sprinkle on a little bit of grated cheese and leave under the grill till Doomsday.
Audience, meet Johnny, your fatalist guide to the turn of the century, the dawn of the new millennium, and the inevitable end to everything you hold dear, the Apocalypse itself. It is highly probable that, in the hands of a lesser team, he would have ended up being just another forgettable caricature of an antihero, a loudmouth in dire need of outwitting everyone around him in the hope of facing his own terrors and insecurities. To a large extent Johnny, the living, breathing embodiment of Britain’s disillusioned post-Thatcher youth, does meet these arbitrary antihero requirements. And yet something in the way Mike Leigh and David Thewlis came together to create this tour de force of a performance forbids us from approaching Naked’s Johnny as a cliché.
He is well-read, intelligent and terrifyingly insightful, traits that become more and more crystallized as the tale of his episodic stay in London unravels. The most fascinating thing about him is his magnetism, the way lost souls naturally gravitate towards him, like tiny insects dizzily throwing themselves onto a spider’s cunningly crafted web. This is not to say that he isn’t just as lost himself. The only thing setting him apart from all these other characters fading in and out of the film, is the sheer force of his intellect and his ability to see right through people, to figure out all their weaknesses within moments of making their acquaintance. You come to think that, if only he would use his understanding of the human predicament to empathize rather than to attack, he could have made a positive difference to all these lives he was let into. Instead we see him stripping these broken strangers off of all their defenses, all the little mechanisms they invent in order to cope with their wretched worlds.
This is the aspect of him which frustrates the viewer the most, to the point that one begins to wonder if Johnny is the kind of antihero worth rooting for at all. It was at this point that the Jeremy G. Smart/Sebastian Hawk part of the plot finally made sense to this reviewer. Smart is the landlord of Louise, Johnny’s ex-girlfriend whom he came to see in London, when he was no longer welcome in his hometown of Manchester. A narcissistic, psychopathic sadist that brutally rapes Louise’s roommate Sophie (an incredible Katrin Cartlidge), Smart serves as the true villain of the story, a character that often brings to mind American Psycho’s unnervingly emotionless Patrick Bateman, forcing the audience to reexamine its verdict on Johnny.
From a technical viewpoint, Naked is perfectly executed. The sporadic spurs of violence are not the stylized, Tarantino-esque scenes we’ve grown so used to, but a realistic depiction of what emotionally exhausted human beings act like when words and ideals have lost all their meaning. Leigh’s improvisational approach to film-making is the key to understanding the power of the performances, especially those of Thewlis and Cartlidge. An honorable mention must be made to the haunting score by Andrew Dickson, which plays its own part in creating Naked’s imposing atmosphere.
And now I’ve reached my closing remarks and I feel obliged to get a little sentimental, but not without further praising Leigh’s technique in the process. The film’s opening scene appears to be a pure directorial stroke of genius at first, a clever violent blast of a curtain raiser that forces you to pay attention even in those half-baked moments before the opening credits have even began to roll. However, by the time the film is over, you will have come to understand what purpose it was really serving, as the cyclical narrative pattern of the film will remind you that it all ends just like it began: with Johnny fleeing the mess he has created for himself only to go and do it all over again. All you can hope for at this point, is that he took the advice Brian, a middle-aged security guard who spent a night philosophizing with him about the fate of mankind, gave him: “Don’t waste your life”.