March 31, 2008

Michael Clayton - $10

Michael Clayton was a very good movie.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this movie. Looking back it's hard to explain exactly why, I just really liked it. George Clooney was great, Tilda Swinton put in a fantastic performance and Tom Wilkinson was almost flawless. Of all the things I like about a great movie it's individual acting performances that usually stick with me most, this one had plenty.

Besides the great performances Michael Clayton brought an intriguing mystery and unravelled it brilliantly.

I liked the look of this movie and the writing was the kind that made me want to stop and rewind a few times to listen to dialogue over again.

All in all, this is a great one. See it soon if you haven't yet.

I put this on my 'Watch It' list and give it a full value of $10.

March 30, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited - $10

I saw The Darjeeling Limited again last night and loved it even more than the first time. I'm re-posting my original review from last year.

Wes Anderson has once again created an engaging story that is both hysterically funny and deeply emotional. This may be his best movie yet.

This story takes place mainly on a train travelling through India called The Darjeeling Limited. Among its passengers are the three Whitman brothers who have not seen each other in the year since their father's death. One of the brothers, Francis, has organized this reconnecting trip for his brothers with spiritual experiences scheduled on each days laminated itinerary. While the brothers make a valiant effort with each scheduled attempt at creating a spiritual experience, it isn't until the trip seems a total failure that an unscheduled event actually does give the brothers the experience they crave.

Adrian Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson play the Whitman brothers, Peter, Jack, and Francis, and Brody fits in impressively with Anderson's movie making style, one that is quite unique and that Schwartzman and Wilson each have experience with. For most people there is something very hit or miss with the subtle, witty and pause-filled dialogue that Anderson writes. For me it hits the bulls eye, or home run or target, or whatever metaphor you prefer. The Darjeeling Limited had me laughing and moved, sometimes at the same time, by the broken relationships of its emotionally broken characters.

While the writing and humour are often subtle in Darjeeling the major themes of the movie are anything but. Three brothers on a journey together each having brought their belongings in their fathers old luggage (baggage) which they haul around with great effort throughout the whole movie. There are no big surprises or twists in this plot but the story is still captivating.

Visually the train setting allows Anderson to use some enthralling cinematography where at times the world is going by on the outside and at others the train itself is going by and must be caught. Frequently used are Anderson's characteristic slow motion sequences and long moments of holding a single shot.

The performances in Darjeeling are pitch perfect, the look of the movie is detailed and fascinating and the writing is as good as any Anderson has done to date.

I enthusiastically put The Darjeeling Limited on my 'Watch It' list and give it the rarely awarded value of $10.

March 24, 2008

Vantage Point - $6

Vantage Point never seemed to figure itself out. It was partly an intriguing mystery, a political thriller and an action movie. If the makers had chosen just one mood and genre they might have had something here.

Essentially Vantage Point is a movie about an assassination attempt on the President of the US. The plot itself isn't anything unique, what is unique is how the story is told. The first half of the movie uses a fascinating story telling device in that it keeps showing the audience the same 23 minutes of real time from different people's perspectives, or vantage points. This was done by letting us watch to a certain stage and then actually rewinding and starting again at the same point from another characters view.

This whole rewinding and telling different pieces of the same story was working for me, I was actually into it at about the half way point. Suddenly though Vantage Point turned into an action movie and began to tell the story in a more linear way going back to little details here and there but trying to follow a dozen or more characters at once. Some of these characters had not had their vantage point shown yet. It fell apart for me a bit in this second half with car chases and gun fights, really the whole personality of the movie changed.

This movie had potential, it was a unique idea and I think the story could have been told with the rewind method right to the finish, letting the audience figure things out as each character's viewpoint reveals one more part to the mystery. What was shaping up to be an interesting mystery turned into an adequate action movie and left me a little disappointed.

I still put Vantage Point on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $6. Wait for the rental though.

March 22, 2008

No Country for Old Men - $9

No Country for Old Men deserves all the praise it has received. It was an incredible movie watching experience. No Country was creepy and violent at times and at other times it was subtle and even slightly heartwarming.

The writing and directing is strong in this modern day western. The Coen brothers may have perfected a new genre here and they've certainly shown their range of skill in making this movie.

There is not enough room on this hacks blog to properly give the performances in No Country their due. Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin were truly great as were many others.

Why not a $10 rating? Mostly I didn't give this one the perfect value rating because of the truly awful (albeit brief) performance of Beth Grant near the end of the movie. Her part was the most out of place and poorly executed bit part in movie history.

Otherwise No Country for Old Men is a truly incredible movie and well worth its $9 rating and being on my 'Watch It' list.

March 11, 2008

We Own the Night - $7

We Own the Night is an intense movie full of impressive performances which to me fell short of being a great movie, but not by much.

The root of this story is two brothers, Bobby and Joe. Joe is living to please their chief of police Father and Bobby is living to party and please his wealthy boss. At one point Bobby has to choose between the life he's created and his family as his brother is attacked by people he is connected to through the club he manages.

Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix play the two brothers well and Robert Duval gives the solid, subtle and consistent performance fans have come to expect from him as he plays their father.

We Own the Night worked for me. The family dynamic was believable, as was the struggle of Bobby to choose his family. The directing impressed and surprised me, specifically there was a chase scene in the rain that was creative and chilling and managed to make me feel like I was part of it.

Where did We Own the Night go wrong? It was slow in parts and I found the pacing very strange. In the end I just felt like it didn't have a consistent tone or feel to it.

I put We Own the Night on my 'Watch It' list but give it a modest value of $7 considering the great performances.

March 2, 2008

The Brave One - $4

Sometimes I come away from a movie without a clear feeling about whether I liked it or not. The Brave One was one of those movies.

The Brave One is not a bad movie, it has all the marks of a movie that was made well, but almost every element in it is underwhelming.

The story revolves around Erica Bain, a New York DJ whose fiance is beaten to death trying to protect her from some thugs in the park. Erica buys a gun to help her cope with the intense fear she has of going anywhere in the city after this horrific incident. She also begins to gravitate toward dangerous parts of the city and begins using her gun and her new courage to carry out vigilante justice against an assortment of criminals.

There were many parts to this movie that just barely missed the mark. The attack on Erica and her fiance at the beginning was meant to be terrifying but the attackers were such stereotypical New York thugs the whole thing came across as a bit cheesy . Erica's transformation into a vigilante is also not entirely unbelievable but I never completely bought it either.

The acting in The Brave One was OK, not bad or good really, just adequate. Jodie Foster didn't seem quite right to me as Erica Bain but she wasn't awful.

I went into this movie with low expectations and they were exceeded slightly. I almost recommended this one but after giving it some thought I'm putting it on my 'Don't Watch It' list and giving it a value of $4.

If you saw it let me know what you thought.