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Favorite Directors: M. Night Shyamalan, Christopher Nolan, Danny Boyle, Stanley Kubrick
Favorite Actors: The Arnold, Will Smith, Zooey Deschanel, Rose Byrne, Jeff Goldblum
Favorite Author: Alex Garland
Favorite TV Shows: True Blood, Monk, Hell's Kitchen
I don't know you. You don't know me. That's it. Eso es todo.
The Town (2010)
Ben Affleck CAN direct
Ben Affleck has proved he is good at directing movies. That's not to say this was a mindblowing movie, it was a very competent, well acted, well directed movie with some humor at moments and some intense action sequences.
The movie follows Doug MacRay, a bank robber who pursues a woman he and his crew had just abducted to try and befriend her. Relationships get complicated and the usual drama follows. Ben Affleck can be surprisingly affecting in his roles - he is a rather likable character despite being a crook. His other crew are not so memorable - Jeremy Renner is an interesting portrait, but not something we have not seen before. He is the typical bad ass who eventually steps beyond his bounds. Honestly, I don't even remember or care about the other two guys.
The woman, played by Rebecca Hall, does a solid job as Claire Keesey. We see her hardships, her torment and anguish (albeit a bit too much). The chemistry between her and Affleck is not really there, but hey, it's basically an action movie. Blake Lively seems out of place as MacRay's former lover. Jon Hamm plays a standard role as the hard driving cop who will stop at nothing. And Affleck's bosses are funny but not really memorable.
Affleck also directed The Town, and he seem to has a thing for the action camera. Most action sequences are fast paced and suspenseful (though EVERY bank heist reminds me of The Dark Knight, but that's just my geeky self). A problem I had with the heists was similar to what a friend pointed out: the robbers prepared hardcore for each heist, with huge guns and armor. My question is: why? Heists are supposed to be quiet, usually, and guns are used for crowd control and backup. EVERY heist in this movie went a little bit wrong. These crooks are either real amateurs or they suck at their jobs.
The plot was stretched a bit thin, and some of the motivations of the characters baffled me a bit. Some things were just unclear with the characters, and a lot of loose ends were not tied up. However, it's not really a big deal to me, as I enjoyed watching it and I took it for what it was: an action film with a little heart.
I saw this at a free screening: I'm not sure if I'd pay to see it. It's pretty standard fare; however, it's rather well-directed standard fare, if that makes any sense.
When I first began watching the documentary-style introduction to Surrogates, I had to admit I was impressed because I'm a sucker for these openings (I loved District 9), but I was afraid I was in for another cool futuristic type movie like Minority Report or I, Robot. Admittedly, these were two great movies yet I feared this movie would bring nothing new to the table. We've already seen huge interactive ads, protests against machines, moral dilemmas, and conflicted leaders trying to make statements (James Cromwell plays almost the same character in both I, Robot and Surrogates!). What new things could the director of Terminator 3 show us? It turns out he could bring us what I, Robot failed to deliver as effectively: a good knockout resolution. In other words, this movie delivered a non-Hollywood type ending, similar in the vein of Watchmen (though that is thanks to the great Alan Moore). I always appreciate when a director is willing to go out and boldly create a vision (even if it is based on a graphic novel, some directors like Carter Smith still change the ending as he did for The Ruins movie).
The film is the tale of a world where everyone's basically a couch potato. Technology is so amazing that we can create multiple robots of ourselves, in any form, and control them from the safety of our own homes! We're completely safe as long as we're plugged into the network and no one harms us as we operate the surrogate robot, or "surrey." But as usual, conflict arises and the characters are drawn into a world of corruption, rebellion, and sacrifices. The screenplay is full of twists and turns, all very smart and satisfying, though somewhat predictable. Doesn't really matter to me though; films like these are made for mindless action with parts that make you think. Or so I thought.
Mostow, a natural action director, handles the camera very well in action sequences. It's the usual Hollywood fare with great, fast-moving action and impressive special effects (though I keep thinking of Transformers 2 when I say that, so I probably won't mention CGI again). I also really liked how much he utilizes the element of surprise: there were many moments where I jumped back in shock, though there wasn't anything necessarily that scary. It's just the juxtaposition-ing of calm and BANG. It's clear Mostow is good with the action cam (nothing new in the era of Michael Bay), as he demonstrated in T3, but this time around I was impressed by how he directed the emotional scenes with Bruce Willis and his wife. He handled the feelings well. This in part has to do with Bruce Willis as an actor as well. He did a fine job with this movie, solid. There's also some good humor too, though I think I laughed too much. And it all led to the final punch.
These are all similar-sounding critiques for me. I tend to enjoy cinema for what it is: for pleasure. However, what was different was the ending. I was expecting the typical run-of-the-mill Hollywood ending, but it certainly wasn't (though there was a bit of a twist). I must admit I gasped a bit when I saw the end. I said, "Whoa." If a film, amidst good stuff, brings home something new (District 9, for example, was a seriously good commentary besides an action film), I'm impressed. I appreciate it very much: Mostow keeps the audience in mind. Sure, there were flaws (like its short running time, sometimes it takes itself too lightly) but overall it was a great viewing experience. I was enjoying it as I watched as I usually do for movies but the bold Watchmen-like finish really brought it home for me.
Oh, and Ving Rhames was pretty damn bad-ass.
District 9 (2009)
A Gritty Commentary. And Much More.
What a choice to pick Johannseburg as the setting. It really set the stage for a very poignant film on society, while incorporating lots of actions, especially towards the end. It's obviously a statement on apartheid in South Africa, with the aliens playing the role of the discriminated race. It's about how in any society slums develop, how crime explodes, how certain people take power over others and control them (in this case, the Nigerians over the aliens). It's about government corruption and how we have no power to stop it sometimes. It's all about that. And what a backdrop to put it in.
But there's so much more than that. It's also about betrayal, loyalty, trust, relationships, and sheer kickassness. It's about doing what is best for everyone, and not just yourself. The whole movie had a thread about selfishness, which I found extremely affecting. District 9 is about capturing the raw grittiness of all these elements (it frequently uses security camera footage, camcorders, and more), about the aliens, about the humans, about how we're not all that different. Just look at the aliens' eyes. They show just as much emotion.
But don't overlook the action part. It is full of great action sequences, though it builds slowly. I love how the blood splurts on the camera. Yes, it is quite violent, but it's a good for a kick. Some of the death scenes are quite awesome and pretty funny, actually. The war scenes are very well shot. There are many tender and emotional scenes as well, particularly the end. There are father-son overtones as well, and brother-brother too. My favorite aspect of the movie is the grand, epic sense/feel I get when we see the mothership, how it completely dwarfs the helicopters that fly to it. I love the endearing bass we hear ... and feel... when it moves. Great direction. The movie has a little bit of everything, with some very funny humour and a fantastic ending, as I mentioned earlier.
Yes, it's a commentary. But the director offers so much more. A fantastic viewing experience.
Grand, Epic, A Bit Messy, But Never Fails to Entertain
I've grown fond of Baz's style of directing. It's just so fun to watch (the opening fight is so entertaining). The lavish sets and sweeping shots of the Australian landscapes are magnificent and breathtaking. One of my favorite moments is right near the beginning when Nicole Kidman comments on the cute kangaroos and Hugh Jackman is like, "Yeah, uh-huh, real cute..." The whole scene is really funny.
Anyway, the plot is very simple but expands into a war story about halfway through (the war CGI stuff is really good, by the way). I liked both halves of the movie equally, but of course I thought the second half was more sweeping and emotional. There are some really emotional moments done very well. But I have to say, some parts in the first half are amazingly executed. My favorite moment in the movie, without a doubt, is very reminiscent of the stampede in The Lion King. You'll know what I mean if you see it.
The acting: All leads are very good. I've always liked Hugh Jackman and he looks really cool here. Nicole Kidman is just a natural actress, and as always is very good. The main kid actor (sorry, don't know his name) is really effective too, giving the movie a more playful feel as well, especially near the beginning. David Wenham as Fletcher is disgustingly good. His accent is despicable but he is SO good in his role. The fact that I hated him so much means he did a good job. :) The magic guy (the Aboriginal chief) is chilling and does a great job as well.
The music was very good. I liked their use of "Nimrod" in the end. Speaking of which, the ending was suiting and very good, albeit a bit unoriginal. But ah, who cares, the movie is just so fun to watch. There's lots of those corny moments, like in Westerns, that I just love to watch! The funny music really adds to the mood... :D Of course, there are flaws. It just kept going and going in some parts, like in The Dark Knight (which I loved also), but it does not detract from the movie experience.
This reminds me: this movie needs to be seen in theatres. You won't regret it.
The Date Movie of the Year, Not to Mention the Best Movie
There were so many "aw" moments that I couldn't actually believe Pixar made it possible to "aw" at a robot. But it did. Wall-E is the cutest robot I've seen. And he has so much personality. The romantic antics in the beginning with Eve, his robot friend, were so unbelievably human-like. And Eve is sort of like a hard-to-get woman in the beginning, which made me chuckle. This is definitely the movie that you want to see with your girlfriend / boyfriend, as you see the relationship build between Eve and Wall-E. It's a perfect movie to hold hands in (none of the yawning...). There are such beautifully put together "romantic" scenes, like that which you would see with real humans. And the end . . . well, I won't go there, but it was . . . amazing.
And of course there are other levels of Pixar's genius that make this movie fantastic, as well. The basic idea of human nature, as humans naturally trend towards sedentary ways and reliance on robots. We see the garbage-trodden Earth beyond repair, we see the paradise of Axiom, we see the loss of hope, and we see the eternal nature of hope. There's always hope. That's what Wall-E says to me.
But I'd just see this for Wall-E and Eve's romance. That's enough for me, to make me "aw" and laugh enough, to make this movie one of the most enjoyable movie experiences I've had in a long time.
The Happening (2008)
A Beautiful Romance in One Heck of a Scary Setting...
I knew right away when I saw the movie that there was going to be a cute little romantic subplot. And I think this was what truly drives this great movie. Yes, I loved it, and you can't make me not like it. Elliot and Alma's relationship is the best thing this movie has. All their moments together are so wonderfully executed, thanks to the two leads and their acting (Wahlberg is loose and comfortable, Deschanel is charming and my now my favorite actress). I particularly like the scene with the cough syrup and the scene with the "who's chasing who": you know what I'm talking about. The end stuff with the conversation between the houses was so beautiful, and the walking towards each other was the most beautiful thing Night has done (the music... wow. Kudos to James Newton Howard). The ending I thought was perfect... people didn't seem to like it. I thought it was fitting and appropriate. So basically, the love plot was the driving force, and the scene at the very end before the ending ending... with their hug and Zooey's antics... wow, that was so lovely. So I loved the movie really because of these moments. The chemistry between Mark and Zooey was pretty darn good.
But don't get me wrong. The movie is pretty damn scary. The opening suicides are really well done and some of them just shocked me, even though I saw the trailers. The parts where everyone stands still, the loss of orientation, were very chilling. My favorite plot in the whole movie is the Julian subplot with his child. That is just so moving. And my favorite scene is the one at Princeton. It is the saddest thing I have ever seen, ever.
And the humor is still up there. Very funny stuff interspersed throughout. The pacing is good. But what really drives this movie, again, is the romance and the relationship between Elliot and Alma. I would watch it just for that.
I Am Legend (2007)
Chuck Noland in New York City
I heard this comparison being made before, and I thought that it fit perfectly. Both movies, I Am Legend and Cast Away, tell of the struggles of one man to survive on his own. Both tell of a loving non-human companion. And both movies are deep and explore the human condition. Except I like I Am Legend much better.
There's something about the movie that makes you scared. It's the scale of the loneliness of Dr. Robert Neville, who lives by himself in NYC. It's the sense of impending doom that really makes you worry, like there's no point in living if everyone else is dead. It's worrisome, and I love it. There's little dialogue, but Will Smith pulls off an amazing job of going solo. His intense scenes of dealing with loneliness really hit the spot.
And the zombies . . . well, they're cool, and they scare the heck out of me. One scene involving a zombie close up in a car really freaked me out. The scariest, though, was when Smith turned on the lights to scare away the oncoming zombies, but they jumped on them to destroy them, and then Smith detonates the bombs to stop the zombies. This was one terrifying scene for me, and all that ensued was really quite amazing. And the ending was touching and thoughtful, though it did leave me quite still.
I Am Legend was one heck of a ride.
Superman Returns (2006)
not much characterization, kinda ridiculous plot, but all in all a FUN MOVIE
Well, I never really did like Superman (Batman was my favorite). I never even saw any of the first four Superman movies. He's too ... perfect. But this movie did exceed my expectations. It really was a load of fun. The CGI was very nicely done. That airplane sequence you guys probably saw in the trailer was spectacular. The scale in which the special effects were done was phenomenal and almost scary in a way. The cinematography was terrific (loved the buildings at night), so basically the movie was a visual feast. The characterization was . . . decent. While I did like Routh's acting, there wasn't really much chemistry between the characters. I thought the kid was cool though, and I did think Luthor was awesome. The evil plot by Luthor was a bit far-fetched. It seemed really unrealistic, but hey, it's a movie. However, this is supposed to be a fun movie, and it really is. There are some references to gods and dieties, and Superman himself is almost portrayed as a god. I liked this a lot. A great movie. 8/10