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(500) Days of Summer (2009)
500 Days is the surprise hit of the Summer...
(500) Days of Summer is one of the best films of the year so far, let's get that out of the way up front. It's a movie that is real about romance, but not overtly cynical or anything like that. What first time feature director Marc Webb has done is create (with the help of a nomination worthy original screenplay by scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber) a portrait of how one man sees his relationship with a girl named Summer. This is both a life affirming and heart breaking movie, and it's rare that those are one and the same. Combine that with subtle yet free flowing direction, great acting, and the best soundtrack of the year so far, and what we have here is a real winner.
The movie details essentially the 500 days that Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) knows Summer (Zooey Deschanel). This includes much more than just the standard meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after aspects that most traditional boy meets girl movies entail. This has far more going on than that. For one, Tom and Summer don't end up together (this isn't a spoiler, so no worries). The film is presented with a fractured narrative that skips around and is told solely from Tom's perspective, so the unreliable narrator technique is in effect as well. The movie is almost a post mortem on a relationship that, at least in Tom's eyes, was love at first sight.
First and foremost, this movie succeeds because of the two lead performances. Both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are doing some of the finest work of their careers and they make their characters people we know (and perhaps even are). Gordon-Levitt plays Tom as a modern day hopeless romantic, well aware of the silliness of believing in storybook romances, but he does anyway. He also has to display the full gamut of emotions, as he has to play Tom as longing for Summer, being overjoyed at being with Summer, loving Summer, hating Summer, missing Summer, and so on. It's a tough role that he hits a home run with. Deschanel is just as good with an even harder role. She's not so much playing a character as she inhabits Tom's current view of this thing we know of as Summer. On rare occasions we might be seeing hints at the "real Summer", but for the most part she's portraying what he currently thinks of her. Both actors are always good, but here, they're both fantastic and essay memorable roles that are worthy of being remembered come awards time.
Director Webb is playful with his movie, but never loses control. He knows exactly the movie he wants to make (a mix of such diverse films as Juno, Annie Hall, Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, High Fidelity, Manhattan, Garden State, and The Graduate) and never hits a wrong note. Even the things that could normally be a detractor in a "quirky" movie like this, such as dream sequences, song and dance, animation, weird friends, a second narrator who pops in here and there and is not a character in the film otherwise, a little girl wise beyond her years, and split-screen are handled perfectly, so the movie is instead better for their presence. It really is a perfect match of director and script.
By being somewhat of a scrapbook about the 500 days that Tom interacts with Summer, the film presents itself as a series of memories about Summer from Tom's point of view. We are never sure if everything is the exact truth (on more than one occasion, we may or may not be seeing what really happens), and that creates an interesting feeling while viewing the flick. The movie wants to be about the moments in between what most generic films show to audiences, and it's a complete success at doing so. It's almost as if we're with Tom as he recounts this to us, his memory skewed by personal history and his current mood. It all sounds more complicated then it is, but it's this type of creativity and uniqueness that makes (500) Days of Summer the brilliant experience that it is.
What I love about this movie so much is that it's realistic about relationships and the crapshoot nature that they tend to be. Men and women may view this movie very differently since it's from Tom's perspective, but everyone will no doubt see a bit of themselves in this movie. Whether you've been jilted in love, are happily in love, miss the one that got away, or none of the above, the film will speak to you in some small way. (500) Days of Summer will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you smile, and it will make you think. Most of all it will make you appreciate the fine work of cinema that it is. The movie is an Oscar dark horse, so keep an eye out for it, but take it from me, this is a masterpiece that you will no doubt treasure and remember as one of the finest films of 2009.
District 9 (2009)
The surprise hit of the summer is 'District 9'...
Hype can be a dangerous thing for a film, and in the case of 'District 9' it's the sort of thing that both helps and hurts it. Hype is what got the film to reach the status of being an "event" picture, but hype is what keeps it from being as good in my mind as it can be. The movie works far better as an under the radar film (which partially explains how the hype began) since it's got a decidedly independent flavor to it. Putting all that aside, it's a damn good movie, one that combines ideas with action, a rare mix in this day and age.
The movie takes the "aliens visiting Earth" plot and spins it on its ear a bit. Instead of them going to a big city, they end up in Johannesburg, stranded and without leadership. Humans soon make contact and despite some good intentions early on, end up locking them away in a slum. Tensions rise and when it is decided for their home to be relocated (from District 9 to the concentration camp like District 10), things don't go well and quite a bit goes down. The film works best as a surprise, so I'll abandon description here, but suffice to say, it won't be pretty.
The film is best during its opening act, when it is a fake documentary providing history to the event and setting up the situation that feeds the movie. It gives you all you need to know about what the world of the film is like, and you almost feel like you are there. It's still good when it transfers over to a more conventional narrative (shot very much like the Paul Greengrass directed Jason Bourne movies), but it falls off from its high perch until the very good ending, which leaves things very much open ended, surely to inspire debate.
First time director Neil Blomkamp shows why Peter Jackson wanted him to make the Halo movie. His direction and writing is strong and assured. The special effects are terrific, and the movie keeps a very good pace despite a longer running time than probably is necessary. The action is extremely kinetic and gory, but never too frantic to follow.
There is only one real human character of any note in the film, and it's protagonist Wilkus Van De Merwe (first time actor Sharlto Copely), a bureaucrat entrusted with the removal of the aliens (known as prawns) from District 9. He starts out as a bit of a douche and not the type of guy you'd probably like, but by the end of the film well, let's just say things end up very different than they start.
If you're expecting the next great science fiction film, you're not going to get that (it's not even the best one this year, that honor goes to Moon). What it is, however, is a very strong sci-fi film mixed with some very good action and ideas. Blomkamp hurts the film by making the segregation allegory far too strong and prominent (a little would have gone a long way, and it's good stuff for the movie, just that it ends up like a hammer to the head after a while), though his ability to make you identify with aliens as opposed to humans is done quite well. If you mildly temper your expectations, there is a lot to like about 'District 9'. Even with the hype, it's a very good film, just one I wish would have not been sold to us quite as hard as this one has. Even so, you're not likely to forget your visit to District 9 anytime soon.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Tension abounds in Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker...
Gut-wrenching, pulse-pounding, out of this world tension, just mere exterior descriptions of what Kathryn Bigelow's new film, The Hurt Locker is. Written by Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker overflows with intensity, passion, and reverence. In the wake of 9/11, filmmakers have struggled to create a piece that is socially accepted and respected. Only two films have succeeded in this task over the past eight years; Paul Greengrass' beautiful United 93, depicting an open interpretation of the final moments of the doomed plane and now, Bigelow's film will join the short, elite list.
This character-driven tale tells the stories of three army soldiers who are a part of the most dangerous of jobs to offer in the military, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), in plainer terms, they disarm bombs. Staff Sergeant William James played ferociously by Jeremy Renner heads up this story as a soldier facing death every moment of the day. With his wife and child at home and often displaying unorthodox behavior, James seems fit for a war soldier. Sergeant JT Sanborn, played by Anthony Mackie is a by-the-book man, living his days at war while incurring losses along the way. Specialist Owen Eldridge played by Brian Geraghty is young, bewildered, and thrust into a situation unknowing of the impact it would have. What these three men bring to their respective roles educates the viewer of the horrors of war. Forget what you think you know on CNN and your local news, Bigelow is running the show with Boal out on assignment and Renner, Mackie, and Geraghty as our anchors.
The crews of the picture are the tools in building this powerful vessel. Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd uses his four camera use to keep us feeling like a first-person account of the events of the film. The mesh of Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders score and the sound effects team makes for a more suspenseful experience. Filming in Jordan was the choice of Bigelow to give it a more authentic feel. "If you're going to make a film about the Middle East, make it in the Middle East." Bigelow said to me after the film. It paid off big time because I always felt like I was there in the battle zone, enduring pain, torment, and dehydration.
With a NY & LA release set for Friday, June 26th, The Hurt Locker's deserves all the praise its been receiving and should be experienced by any movie lover. The Oscar Prospects might look a little grim based on the summer release but with no real first-half of 2009 contenders, Bigelow and her film have strong chances of taking a spot amongst the final five come end of the year. Renner and Mackie will also be strong contenders in their respective categories. The strongest possibility for an Oscar has to be for writer Mark Boal. The research he did for the film alone will keep Boal in the minds of voters. The Hurt Locker's striking cinematography, crisp editing that keeps it at a heart palpating pace, strong performances, directing, and writing is enough to take this film in consideration for your viewing. Brilliant, simply brilliant.
Palo Alto, CA (2007)
The Most Amazing and Touching Experience of a Lifetime
I loved this movie. I couldn't believe it. I thought it would just be like another "Remember the Daze aka The Beautiful ordinary" but this goes the extra mile. You felt for the characters and cared about what was going on. Its a true life story that is captured so perfectly its incredible. The young actors in this film really make it believable. It was a prize to sit and watch this. Not one moment was I bored or thought it was overdone. This is better than most of the movies out there today. You can take away many things from this masterpiece. It gives you hope, sadness, joy, and passion. Its a must see for any teen. You'll Love It!
Forrest Gump (1994)
A Classic Tale of a Lifetime
This is one of the most touching movies I have ever seen. Brilliant. Tom Hanks gives one of his greatest performances and no one else could have pulled it off the way he did. I believe anyone over the age of 14 should see this movie. I didn't think it could be done. I came in with average expectations and I came out in joy. There will never be another movie like this again. Robert Zemeckis is one of the all time best directors for this piece of magic. Thought Tom Hanks goes the extra mile in this I have to give credit to the supporting roles in this movie. This was Best Picture winner all the way and nothing could have stopped it.
Be Kind Rewind (2008)
Gave Me A Bad Taste In My Mouth
How can you watch this and enjoy it? This is my bottom list out of over 500 movies I've seen. It made me sick and I stopped it after the first 50 minutes no joke it made me sick. They are like 5 year old I swear. I actually wish a 5 year old made this flick it would be so much better. The peeing and crudeness made me think they were 2 it was disgraceful and a waste of money. Jack Black I honor and enjoy him in Tropic Thunder and School of Rock but he must have been high. This was a horrible, horrible, horrible annoying childish and revolting flick to even sit and watch. This is a 1 star for 1 little giggle I had when I watched this.
Speed Racer (2008)
The Worst movie of the Century!
What a God forsaken movie who ever likes this movie should be put into prison. Those directors had no idea what to do to make a movie except for copying off of a horrible TV show. Bad plot, bad visuals, bad sound, bad acting, bad action, bad movie, bad everything. Kill me. It is a stupid and stupid movie that should have stayed buried with every film such as eraser-head,angel heart, , and the mummy tomb of the dragon emperor. Boo speed racer who sucks balls. This will make any human being sick to there stomach this is a horrid very horrid and disgusting piece of trash that should be destroyed.I hate speed racer from the bottom of my heart.