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The Ramen Girl (2008)
Brittany Murphy charming
Abby (Brittany Murphy) follows her boyfriend Ethan to Tokyo but he leaves her for a job in Osaka. He also doesn't promise to come back for her because he's the nomadic kind. She has a dull job and speaks little Japanese. She becomes fascinated with the corner ramen shop and begs angry drunk chef Maezumi to teach her the art of cooking ramen. He yells at her a lot and gives her all the dirty jobs.
This could have been better. Brittany Murphy is delightful and full of life. Maezumi is very angry. It's a little too off-putting. He needs to dial it down a little. The Japanese boyfriend is too light-weight. He has little chemistry with Murphy. I rather she ends up with the chubby guy. The production is a little lacking and the movie does need more fun magic.
thrilling history lesson
It's 1919. Two months after armistice, world leaders are gathering in Paris to hammer out the peace. Everyone has demands. Prime Minister of France Georges Clemenceau wants retribution. Hardline British Prime Minister David Lloyd George was just voted in. Italian leader Orlando needs a port and faces Fascists back home. The Japanese want territories from China. American President Woodrow Wilson wants the League of Nations as he tries to ameliorate the vast conflicting demands from the world. When the German delegation is finally allowed to come, they are shocked by the peace treaty demands and the question remains whether the Germans will sign.
Adapted from the Margaret MacMillan book, this is a surprisingly thrilling history documentary. It's reminiscent of the Ken Burns style. In fact, I prefer not to have the reenactments of the leaders. It's better to have those narrations with the old pictures. Even with the expected outcome, there is a drama and political intrigue that is truly fascinating.
thrilling mystery but solution is a letdown
Eight people with various skills are brought to a room to vie for a job in a powerful corporation. The Invigilator lays out the task for the group to be completed within 80 minutes. Each person sits at a desk with a piece of paper with the word Candidate and a number. The group struggles to cooperate to find out what the question even is. As each attempt fails, the group turns on each other.
This is a high concept mystery thriller written by Stuart Hazeldine and Simon Garrity, and directed by Hazeldine. It's a compelling watch and a real puzzler. It's a real tight thriller inside one room. In the end, the resolution is a little bit disappointing and a letdown. With a great puzzle, the solution can elevate the whole movie with its inventiveness. This solution is more of a cheat.
To the Wonder (2012)
absolutely beautiful Malick style
Neil (Ben Affleck) falls for Marina (Olga Kurylenko) in Paris while traveling in Europe. He brings her and her daughter Tatiana to his home in Oklahoma. Marina feels isolated in the suburban existence and Neil reconnects with childhood love horse rancher Jane (Rachel McAdams). While Marina is back in Paris, Neil starts a romance with Jane. Marina is lost in Paris and returns to marry Neil. Meanwhile local priest Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) is struggling with his faith.
Terrence Malick knows how to shoot a beautiful shot. Every scene is a thing of beauty. Even the suburban sameness has a fascinating look. The scenes have a flowing feel to them. However, most of the movie is a low tension affair. There are a couple of dramatic scenes but this is not a movie of intensity. Honestly Rachel McAdams is beyond beautiful. She is electric. I think the movie would work better with her as Marina. No offense to Olga, but Rachel is the better actress.
Nine Lives (2005)
interesting stories and great actresses
Nine women struggle in their lives. Volatile Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo) is in LA County Jail. She blows up when her young daughter visits and the phone is broken. Pregnant Diana (Robin Wright Penn) meets former lover Damian (Jason Isaacs) at a supermarket. Holly (Lisa Gay Hamilton) confronts her abusive stepfather. Couple Sonia (Holly Hunter) and Martin (Stephen Dillane) have a fight at the home of their friends Lisa (Molly Parker) and Damian (Jason Isaacs). Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) is trying to cope with her parents Ruth (Sissy Spacek) and sickly Larry (Ian McShane) who are not getting along. Ruth (Sissy Spacek) has an affair with drunken widower Henry (Aidan Quinn). Divorced Lorna (Amy Brenneman) deals with ex-husband Andrew (William Fichtner) during his second wife's funeral. Camille (Kathy Baker) is getting breast surgery for cancer while waiting with her husband Richard (Joe Mantegna). Maggie (Glenn Close) has a picnic with her daughter Maria (Dakota Fanning) in the cemetery.
This is written and directed by Rodrigo García. As with other multi-story movies, there are some vignettes that I love more than others. Sandra in prison is riveting. None of the stories are anything I dislike. Every story has something interesting. These are a lot of great actresses.
Living Proof (2008)
some interesting supporting actresses
It's 1988. Dr. Dennis Slamon (Harry Connick Jr.) is researching a breast cancer gene treatment at the UCLA Medical Center. Jamie McGrath (Amanda Bynes) is an English Lit student who gets the assistant job that nobody wants. Slamon lacks the funds for research and the time for his family. Lilly Tartikoff (Angie Harmon) insists on fundraising for Slamon. As he works on the treatment, the movie also follows several women who discover they suffer from breast cancer.
This is based on the true story of the struggles to get approval for the breast cancer drug Herceptin. While it provides a few interesting insights into drug trials, the central story isn't actually that dramatic. The most compelling parts of the movie are some of the great actresses doing the cancer patients.
better than 2 but inferior to 1
The war with the bugs continues with new deadlier bugs and better weapons to fight them. United Citizen Federation faces internal opposition to the war and religious revival. Colonel John Rico (Casper Van Dien) is fighting on planet Roku San. They are joined by popular entertainer Sky Marshal Omar Anoke and Captain Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock). Rico gets into a fight with General Dix Hauser (Boris Kodjoe) which is interrupted by a bug attack. The base gets overrun. The survivors escape and Rico is blamed for the lost. Beck is shot down with Anoke but Admiral Enolo Phid (Amanda Donohoe) is hiding the lost of the popular Anoke. Hauser goes off to rescue the stranded crew after saving Rico from his execution.
Casper Van Dien returns to play Rico. The franchise has also return to the full out war movie. The CGI is inferior to the first movie but it does try to return to the war action. The story gets a bit too convoluted with the inclusion of religion. It would also be better to keep the cast together on their adventure. This is better than the second movie but it is simply a shadow of the original.
Niko - Lentäjän poika (2008)
OK family film
Niko is a young reindeer told by his mother that his father is one of Santa's elite flying reindeers of the "Flying Forces". He has never met him because they are fully dedicated to flying for Santa. Flying squirrel Julius tries to guide the young reindeer and his friend Saga. Niko is eager to fly. They are hounded by the wolf pack and Niko overhears their plans to take on Santa and the Flying Forces. With the help of Wilma the weasel, Niko goes in search for his father in the Flying Forces.
The animation looks fine. It's a little blocky but the animals look cute enough. The Flying Forces are rather annoying and I wish they have a better name. That song just isn't funny. I also wish Niko knew his father's name. I don't know what kind of nameless reindeer sex his mother had. It doesn't cost the movie anything for him to admire a specific father from afar. This is an OK family film.
great Tom Hardy
Michael Gordon Peterson (Tom Hardy) is a notorious British prisoner after being juvenile delinquent and then in 1974, sentenced to 7 years for post office robbery. It's a volatile incarceration and spends much of it in solitary. In 1988, he was finally released after time added and begin a career as a bare knuckle boxing with the name Charles Bronson. He continues to get into trouble with the law and returns to prison.
By the style of the movie, it is an attempt by the character Bronson to explain his life to the audience. It's an interesting idea. It's a total character study and a great opportunity for Tom Hardy. As for the watchability, it has its slow parts and it struggles to find the flow. Violence can come out of nowhere. Overall, it's a great performance in an artistically challenging movie.
Eve and the Fire Horse (2005)
interesting religious coming-of-age
Chinese Canadian Eve Eng was born in 1966 the year of the fire horse which happens every 60 years. Children born then are notorious for being strong-willed and people used to drown them in the river. Her mother chops down an apple tree which is bad luck and she becomes sick having a miscarriage. Then her grandmother dies and her father has to bury her back in China. Her older sister Karena starts following Christianity after getting a book from 2 Jehovah's Witnesses. Despite being Buddhists, her mother sends them to Sunday school. Two Gods are better than one. While Karena becomes a true believer, Eve's imagination leads her on her own path.
I don't know how autobiographical this movie actually is but it feels very authentic. I love the naturalistic style of the movie. It can feel a little meandering but again that adds to its naturalism. The story may not have a destination but the journey is great. The girls are fabulous. They're amateurs but has the sisterly feel. I also love that some of the side characters take unexpected and realistic turns.