Friday, January 30, 2009


So what is this one about?
This is another film that Netflix recommended to me. One thing you might not know is that my recommended film categories on the 'flix are (in order) TV Sitcoms, Films from Russia, HBO, Films from France, and Films from the United Kingdom. (This shouldn't be surprising if you've been reading what I've been reviewing), this movie combines Russian and HBO (sort of). Netflix describes it as
While staving off a power plant disaster, Russian worker Timofey (Paddy Considine) is exposed to radiation and blamed for the accident. With days to live, he steals some plutonium and tries to sell it on Moscow's black market in an effort to provide for his family. Along the way, he gets help from a low-level thug, with whom he forges an unlikely connection. Radha Mitchell co-stars in this gripping HBO adaptation of Ken Kalfus's short story.
Neato, an HBO adaptation of a short story?? Count me in!

And how much did I pay to watch?
All I will say about this one, is that this was shipped to me on the 18th of November. NOVEMBER!! Lord, it takes me a long time to watch movies!

And what did I think?
Well, as I was watching the movie I was thinking, "Man, the Russian who wrote this book is awesome." Joke is on me though because the guy who wrote this is totally from New York. Thus, I am very impressed with his ability to capture the essence of Russian-ness (or something). So, all in all I liked the feeling of the movie.

However, the narration was tough to follow (this is a good example of taking narration from a book that was beautiful and not being able to adapt it successfully to a film) though that might have been due to the lead actor's bizarre Russian accent. One thing I hate about films that are supposed to take place in non-english speaking countries is that they aren't always consistent in their use of English language or accents. For example, in Enemy at the Gates all the Russians are played by Brits with British accents and all the Germans are played by Americans with American accents. However, for some reason they thought it would be logical (why?) to have newspapers in cyrillic. Why? I mean, as an audience we are suspending disbelief that Russians and Germans are speaking English, so why do we need to bring Russian into the picture?? Well, in Pu-239 all the actors spoke in English with Russian accents. But, the accents were somewhat unintelligible. Why was this necessary?

I found the main character to be rather annoying, and the secondary characters to be more awesome. I wanted to know what was going to happen in their poor Russian lives, because it was clear that Timofey was going to die. Shoot, even the Netflix description says so!

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
I just thought that the director, or hbo, or the filmmakers, or the writer did such an excellent job of capturing the Russian essence.

However, I didn't find the film itself to be that captivating. SO, it gets a 7.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rory O'Shea Was Here

So what is this one about?
This is another movie I chose simply through my netflix browsing. This time I stumbled upon it while drooling over James McAvoy (I mean, be serious!) So, they tell me what this one is about,
Although he has muscular dystrophy, Rory O'Shea (James McAvoy) refuses to surrender to the desperation of his life and instead embraces the potential in every day. When he moves into the Carrigmore Home for the Disabled and befriends the deeply bored Michael (Steven Robertson), a young man with cerebral palsy, Rory infuses his pal's life with renewed hope even as he struggles with his own demons.
And how much did I pay to watch?
Apparently, a lot. I think I've only watched like five movies in a month. Yikes!!!!!!!

And what did I think?
Life enhancing? What an odd thing to say about a movie... I don't know that for someone like me (I mean someone with such a black soul), this is a life enhancing movie, however, it was entertaining enough. The guy who played Michael was amazing. I mean, I thought that he actually had cerebral palsy! Kudos to that incredible acting.

Rory was sort of annoying, but really hot and funny. And the girl who played Shioban (or whatever silly Irish name she had) is actually who played adult Briony in Atonement, which James McAvoy was also in!

I mean, it was similar to other Irish movies I have seen that are similar in message. So, all in all, it wasn't that incredible. I think I should watch more Irish movies, to actually see if they all are pretty similar. It is either about overcoming adversity (Billy Elliot, Rory O'Shea, Millions) or religions. Those silly Irish and their nice accents.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
It might have been very average, but like I said, James McAvoy is hot hot hot hot hot.

So I would just give this a 5, but for his hotness, I will give it a 6.

Gran Torino

So what is this one about?
I am gonna let the preview speak for itself, so watch it...

Now, I will tell you that the preview made me expect the movie to be very different than it was. It was so endlessly more enjoyable than I expected. The real description on Netflix says,
Crusty, inflexible Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) must confront his Hmong immigrant neighbors – and his own long-held prejudices – when the family's teen son, Thao, tries to steal Walt's beloved 1972 Gran Torino. Walt soon assumes the unlikely role of guardian angel to young Tao and his sister, who are vulnerable to disturbing gang influences in this intimate drama from 78-year-old director Eastwood.
And AFI describes the film as one of the 10 best of 2008. They say,
GRAN TORINO is a cultural landmark in the grand and glorious career of an American master—Clint Eastwood. As director and leading man, Eastwood examines his own iconography to tell a timely tale of crossing cultural boundaries, the enduring legacy of racism and the cost of poverty in our country's neglected industrial cities. Though born from "Harry Callahan," Eastwood's "Walt Kowalski" reflects a more complicated definition of what it is to be a hero in today's world. Watching a screen legend embody the times and triumph with such comic, tragic and cinematic flair is a thrill audiences will long remember as witness to film history.
And how much did I pay to watch?
Hmm, lets think. I saw it at Cinema DeLux with Erik and we saw it in the director's hall. I think those tickets cost like $13?

Whatever it cost, it was totally worth it. Totally.

And what did I think?
Well, like I have already said, not only was it not what I expected, but it was utterly amazing. But, what else did I think about it?

I thought Clint Eastwood was amazing. I haven't seen many movies that he has been in, but he was just fantastic. His character, I am sure, wasn't supposed to be that funny, but he was! The movie was so unexpectedly hilarious.

Honestly, the descriptions above (you know, the three of them) give you an idea of what the movie is about, but because this one is so good and so unexpectedly good, I feel like I don't want to give anything away.

Well, I take that back. The song in the closing credits was sung by Clint Eastwood, and it is a little bizarre.

Seriously, just go see it. You wont regret it.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Gran Torino is the absolute best movie I have seen in years. Probably since Downfall. Honestly, it wasn't what I expected, but I was so engaged as a viewer--amused, crushed, empathetic. It was fantastic.

10, 10, 10, 10, 10.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

So what is this one about?
Wikipedia tells us,
Set and filmed in India, Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of a young, uneducated man from the Dharavi slums of Mumbai who appears on Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) and exceeds people's expectations, arousing the suspicions of the game show host and of law enforcement officials.
And how much did I pay to watch?
$4! I saw it at the Bijou Theatre in Eugene, OR. If you find yourself in Eugene, I would heartily recommend that theatre.

And what did I think?
So, whats the big gd deal?! So far this movie has won the Golden Globe for best film. It was nominated for ten Oscars including best film, best director, and best adapted screenplay (I swear to jesus up in heaven, if this wins--even though I haven't read the book--I will be pissed because there are so many solid adapted screenplays). But, I don't really get what the big deal is...

Now, the film was good enough. Clever and fresh and all that, but it didn't pack the emotional wallop that I demand of my oscar winning films. Danny Boyle and his flashy directoral/cinematographic choices were a bit frenetic for my liking. A little too much like 28 Days Later. And perhaps I am a subtitles purist, but I didn't enjoy the subtitles being all over the screen in colored boxes.

I did, however, LOVE the music. M.I.A. (who I know like nothing about) had some songs in the film, and they were fantastic!! I even had to download them...

I did like the structure of the story with the flashbacks to illustrate how Jamal knew all the answers. Mostly, I liked that the idea for the film was so new. It is actually a little dissappointing that it is based off of a book, because if it were an original idea I would be very impressed by how creative and new it all is.

Also, when did Bombay become Mumbai?

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
It was good, no Gran Torino obviously, but I don't think it was the best film of the year, at all.

So, I give it a 7.5. If only for the innovation and the ending dance number.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Scener ur ett atkenskap (Scenes From a Marriage)

So what is this one about?
Widely considered one of Ingmar Bergman's best, this intense drama follows the marriage of Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and Johan (Erland Josephson) as it deteriorates. When Marianne learns of Johan's infatuation with another woman, the relationship unravels, yet through it all, a deep, underlying love keeps the couple connected. This is the theatrical version of the film; also included is a theatrical-TV comparison and other extras.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Some amount on my Netflix account (aka: I am too lazy to figure it out)

And what did I think?
When I watched the extra features explanation I realized I may have gotten the wrong version of this movie. There are two, one is the theatrical version (the one I watched) and the other one is the miniseries. I think I might have enjoyed the miniseries version better. But, the third episode, or vingette (since I got the theatrical version, not the television version), titled 'Paula' was beyond shocking. I couldn't believe it! I think I actually gasped!

I guess one of the interesting things about this movie was that it showed how complex relationships, and marriages, are. These characters, the husband and wife, were so tied to each other in so many ways, it was impossible for them to completely detach from each other. Even if they wanted to!

Overall it was a very interesting film. I can see why American audiences of the time liked this movie so much, I don't have much experience with Swedish film but I thought this was a good introductory film (though I have seen some Bergman, including The Seventh Seal, which is amazing!!!!!)

Also, the actors weren't what I expected of Swedes. They were less Aryan than I expected them to be. Though, when I went to Norway (the fatherland) I had the same problem...

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
It was good--long, but good. I give it an 8. Watch more Bergman. He is amazing.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Revolutionary Road

So what is this one about?
Well, I took the movie poster from wikipedia (since again, I couldn't find a poster on google) so I may as well take their summary.

Set in 1955, the plot focuses on the hopes and aspirations of self-assured Frank and April Wheeler, who have forsaken life in the city in order to raise their children in the Connecticut suburbs, where they see themselves as very different from their neighbors in the Revolutionary Hill Estates.

April is an aspiring actress who has grown dissatisfied with her life as a suburban housewife and proposes a move to Paris to her husband as a means to reinvigorate their fading marriage. Frank, who despises his job, initially likes the idea, and it is as though a whole new life has been breathed into their relationship. But when the healthy salary increase connected to a promotion at Knox Business Machines makes his position there easier to bear, he becomes less enamored with his wife's proposal. He begins drinking too heavily and engages in an affair with a young secretary from the office in celebration of his 30th birthday, while April has a tryst of her own with neighbor Shep Campbell.

As the Wheelers try to free themselves from their dull existence, their marriage slowly dissolves into an endless cycle of bitter arguments and jealous recriminations while they struggle to maintain a facade of domestic bliss. Only John Givings, the institutionalized son of local realtor Helen and her husband Howard, is able to see what's simmering beneath their surface.

And I would say that is pretty accurate of a description for the film, focusing on what Sam Mendes focused on in his adaptation of Richard Yates' book.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Nothing, because my mom and I trucked it to Bethesda in order to see it (because it wasn't showing anywhere in Virginia) and she paid. Per usual.

And what did I think?
Well, as everyone who reads this little bloggy here likely already knows, I have been dying to see this movie since I saw a preview for it during an episode of Mad Men Season that was easily three months ago. Then I read the book over Halloween and that just solidified my desire to see it. Dang dang dang. So, its about dang time. My expectations for this film were high, probably unmatchably high--unless I had directed it, of course--and it didn't meet them. It was quite good though, and the longer it went on the more I warmed up to it. So, without futher we go!! Revolutionary Road...

While I was reading the book I could just imagine Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank and Kate Winslet as April...they were perfectly cast in my mind. However, due to some changes in the plot from the novel to the film, we as the audience missed out on some serious character exposition of April. However, Kate Winslet made up for it a little bit towards the middle/end by showing her character development. Though, maybe I just thought that because of the narration that I was missing. Leonardo DiCaprio was also terrified at the end for his wife, but at the very end he didn't seem as dead inside as I would have liked. Again, because there was no narration (Frank is the narrator in the book) the audience didn't understand how carefully calculated some of his actions and words were, so he came off as a bit of a clod.

At the begining I was disappointed that the actors didn't portray their characters the way I imagined them, but towards the middle and end they really snapped into their roles. Kate was on fire as angry April and Frank was scared and yet, not scared for the right reason. And good lord, the actor who played Helen Givings' son John was amazing. He stepped into his role and became the narrator, explaining to the audience what the hell was going on. He was amazing. AMAZING. [EDIT: He did get nominated (Michael Shannon, who played John Givings), but he is also up against everyone's fave, Heath Ledger. But, He should win, he was amazing in this movie!!]

Some of the cinematography choices really hit home one of the themes of the film (the surburban cookie cutter depressing repetition) and did it in a very subtle but hard hitting way. Kudos. Also, the fact that they made Leonardo DiCaprio a little fat was an awesome choice.

I suppose it is hard to cut a book into a movie (though I'd like to try someday) and there are parts that need to be edited. However, I was very pleased with the cutting of this book into a script, it was able to keep most of the plot integrity and yet make it shorter. Oddly enough, the movie seemed much shorter than I expected. And, as far as awards talk goes, I don't think Winslet will win for this film. I think she has a better chance for her acting the The Reader. And DiCaprio may get nominated, but he probably wont win either (because there are lots of bigtime male actors this season). But, the guy who played John, holy crap, he should get nominated and win for best supporting actor. He was top notch. Flipping top notch.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Who am I kidding? My expectations were way too high for this film. I thought, and hoped against hope, that it might be able to, but it couldn't. It was no American Beauty, afterall.

I give it an 8.

Let this be a lesson to everyone, never get your hopes up too high for an excellent book that is being made into a film. Even if Leonardo DiCaprio is attatched to it [see World War Z]