I just returned from a screening of The Book of Eli down here in Grenada and I was very surprised with what I found. I was able to keep myself pretty sequestered generally from what the movie was about, with my only exposure being the provocative movie posters in the NYC subway system that elicited vague religious undertones and starring Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis made me initially interested in seeing this movie. It was only as the movie progressed that I realized that the film also featured such famous names providing strong performances such as Gary Oldman, Jennifer Beals, Michael Gambon and Malcolm McDowell.
The biggest thing that needs to be pointed out before anything else is the violence in this film. To say this was a violent movie does not adequately put that into words. This is a hyperviolent film, which may have been filmed in muted colors, sometimes so washed out in white sunlight in a comic book sort of way, but nonetheless, EXTREMELY violent with heads and other body parts getting chopped off, many people shot to death and an impressive array of handguns all the way through a 50 caliber machine gun and rocket launcher. So, if that’s a concern, just file this movie away, it’s not for you.
OK, one thing I’ve come to realize is that there are very few actors I can trust the judgment of, but Denzel Washington is one of those actors that almost never steers his fans wrong, seemingly unable to provide a bad performance or picking an uninteresting project, but I am surprised with how good Mila Kunis‘ performance was, maybe I shouldn’t be though considering how much I liked her in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but it took her taking her hair down for me to even recognize her in this world.
The film portrays a world approximately 30 years after the world has ended… or at least since nuclear war has ravaged at least America, if not the entire world and the only modern remnants that remain from that “before” are beaten up cars, a 3rd generation iPod, some KFC wet naps and a Motorola bull horn. Denzel plays Eli, a man on a mission, very much like from an old western to head out “west” for him to complete his mission: find a safe place to bring a sacred holy book. His entire journey shows us just how far the world has fallen because of the apocalypse, the most basic needs (food, water and maybe some of the more base needs) are just about the only things worth fighting for and all that’s left is to barter for them.
As long as you can stand the hyperviolence and are interested in seeing how faith could be used either as a club or a savior, go and check out The Book of Eli. After seeing this film I wish I could be coming home to Mila Kunis right now, but I AM very glad that I’ve got my warm bed and an apartment full of all my creature comforts to come back to at least, even if my air conditioner is currently broken!
I was able to see the movie Precious last week once it opened here in Grenada. I wasn’t sure what to think about a movie produced by Opera and Tyler Perry. I must say, I was lucky to have avoided most of the details of the plot before watching the movie and I am glad I had that privilege. The film was not what you would call a happy movie by any means, but it was excellent. The performances by Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique and Paula Patton were excellent. Both Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz are also surprises in the movie, but neither is in the film for very long to really make much of an emotional impact compared to the first three actors mentioned previously. It is a very powerful film with a good story and as long as you’re not looking for light fare at the theater, go see this film.
Even with the heaping praise I just bestowed, the movie does have a few problems that took me out of the film. First, why was Precious and her mother watching foreign film La Ciociara? They found a way to make that scene very funny, but the idea of these two characters even watching this movie, seemed so unlikely in itself. There was no way these two would be watching an Italian film from 1960! On the technical side, there was one scene about halfway through the movie where I noticed a boom mic fall into the shot. Another problem seems to be one of how long ago 1987 was to today and how easy it is to forget how hysterical people get over certain problems that first hit the news, this film throws out a bombshell that I am not going to name that should and does rock the main character’s world, but no one else seems to have much of an outward reaction, even in a time when people were MORTALLY afraid once the subject came up. Lastly, there was one scene between Precious and nurse John where she takes him aside from a party and then NOTHING happens, we just end up cutting to another scene, which was very strange and jarring.
I recently watched the award-winning short film Skin and Bone and thought it was great. Especially when I found out that it was made for only $500! The film spends a day in a hectic critical cardiac care unit in New England and ends up with some very surprising results along the way. I don’t want to give too much away, so if you want more, I’ve included the trailer at the bottom of this page.
The creators of the movie, Philip M. Magcalas and Lucy Harrison are medical students a little farther along than I am and the idea of filming, producing, editing and showing this kind of short film all throughout medical school just baffles my mind, both are very smart cookies.
I just got word that Skin and Bone has been released for sale on DVD now for only $7.99 and I wanted to help get the word out. I’ve already ordered my copy and with recent events regarding the Haitian earthquake, they have decided to donate a portion of all their proceeds to help bring aid to Haiti.
It might seem like a late review, but since I am currently in Grenada, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is still in theaters here and I just got back from watching it tonight. It’s OK though, I was a very late comer to the series in general, I only started the audio books this summer. This is the 6th movie in a franchise of Harry Potter films since 2001 and the first thing that is easy to notice is the amount of maturity it the visual effects over time. This is most advanced looking Harry Potter film. It helps that most of the film is cloaked in shadows and darkness, but the digital water and fire effects, things that used to be hallmarks in difficult to recreate visual effects were spectacular.
The 6th Harry Potter book along with the final book were my top two favorites from the series. I though they were the most mature and compelling of the bunch. I have not liked the films as much as the audiobooks, but a movie not living up to the original source book isn’t grounds for a bad movie. The movie itself has to be good or bad on its own (not considering the book) or better/worse than the previous movies, in my mind.
Let me just say, if you have not seen any of the preceding Harry Potter movies or books, just skip this film, as a stand alone film, my guess is that it would be extremely confusing since it does not do a great job of introducing a lot of the tertiary characters. Now, for most people, this is not a problem, because they wouldn’t go out to see the 6th film in a series without seeing any of the previous films. In relation to the other films though, I do think that this is the best of the 6 movies. There may still be a plot problem or two, like why does Dumbledore HAVE to drink that liquid, why not just dump it out?… it’s tough though since this was a problem with the source book, but there were certainly enough changes in the story from the book that solving this problem could have been done as well. The film does set up the final two films very well though.
I liked the way this film handled evolving relationship between Ron and Hermione and also that of Harry and Ginny. Oddly enough though, my favorite character throughout the films is Snape, Alan Rickman is great, even if he isn’t nearly as slimy or short tempered as his character from the books. I didn’t like his shushing Harry scene below the tower towards the end of the film (it didn’t feel like it worked) though.
Previous Harry Potter Movie quick reference dvd reviews:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – 2/5 stars
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – 2/5 stars
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 4/5 stars
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – 4/5 stars
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – 2/5 stars
This summer I was able to go back home to NYC and I decided to restart my Netflix subscription. I was LOVING both the dvd selection and especially the online streaming service I was getting, but once I got down to Grenada to go back to medical school, I realized that both because of digital publishing rights I probably would not be able to enjoy any of the streaming movies and television shows that Netflix has been offering. Sure enough, I was right and their streaming service didn’t work once I got into Grenada.
It is really too bad, now it is going to be much harder to watch movies now while I am here. I wonder if there are any legal ways I would be able to get similar access to such a broad array of movies online now for the time that I’m down here on the Spice Island. All I want to do is give my money to a service like Netflix, which then filters its way back to the movie industry, but for whatever reason, the movie studios don’t want to take my money just because I am out of the country for the next few months.
It’s a real shame when a company just refuses when I’m offering them up my money, especially when there are so many not so legal ways that I COULD be watching movies while I am down here, but wanted to avoid. Hmm, I wonder if Blockbuster‘s online library would work down here… I doubt it, but I need to look into that.
**Update 8-14-2009** Nope, Blockbuster’s online catalog is US only as well.
Now that I am back in Grenada for medical school, I realized that while I was in NYC on vacation, I saw a good selection of movies without talking about them here.
Transformers was a great summer popcorn movie. If you want to ogle the amazing special effects art, explosions along with the amazingly beautiful women (all of which Michael Bay is a master at shooting), then this film will be great fun. The story though is sparse and unimportant to the movie itself, the story is probably a bit deeper than the original film, but that’s not saying too much. This movie has gotten a lot of heat in the press for it being racist against black people for two of the new transformers: the twins, with gold teeth and talking street, but the flaw in the argument is that these are ROBOTS, they have no color, they are not segregated out in any way. In my mind it is those select reviewers and critics, not the voice actors or the digital effects artists creating the on screen portrayals that affiliate these roles with stereotypically racist African-Americans. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, just don’t expect story to triumph with this one.
Public Enemies – This film puzzles me. I liked it a lot and even though it was almost two and half hours long, it didn’t feel that long (there may have been a scene or three that could have been shorter, but that’s about it), but there was something about this film that just didn’t click with me. Johnny Depp‘s performance was great as John Dillinger, maybe it was Christian Bale (Melvin Purvis) or Billy Crudup (J. Edgar Hoover), since they felt stiff, boring and yet I wanted more screen time from them, especially more from Hoover. Maybe the action scenes needed to be grander, the way it was shot it might we might have been too close to the action to appreciate it, but whatever it was, I was somewhat disappointed.
The Hurt Locker – This small film might just be my favorite film this year! I didn’t know anything about it going into the film other than that it followed a US military regimen who were defusing bombs in Iraq. I was surprised when I saw who was directing the film, since I was unfamiliar with her work, but Kathryn Bigelow really framed the story and shot the piece wonderfully. I was engrossed throughout. I liked seeing the celebrity cameos from some very familiar faces (Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes and David Morse) along with the cameo from an actor that most people probably aren’t familiar with, but Christian Camargo will be instantly familiar to any fan of the wonderful Showtime series: Dexter. You would think that constantly seeing this military crew attempting to defuse bomb after bomb would get repetative, but the nuance and suspense that the actors (especially Jeremy Renner) and the director brought to it just kept me glued to the screen. This film is definitely a success, it was great!
Funny People – I was lucky enough to see a sneak preview screening of Funny People a few days before this film was released (Thank you New York Observer). Judd Apatow shows how strong he is when he gets complete control by both writing AND directing a film again. He has been involved as producer in many films, but when he isn’t both writing and directing, it really shows and it usually feels like something is missing. Apatow knows how to craft a mature story that is genuinely funny. Seeing Adam Sandler‘s early career compared to him late in his career was great, it must have felt eerily autobiographical (at least a little) for Sandler. This was also the first film where I thought Jonah Hill was funny, I didn’t like him in Superbad or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but here he was hilarious here and right on the mark. I loved all the not fat anymore jokes about Seth Rogen. Most of the last 30 minutes at Laura/Leslie Mann‘s home felt a bit long in the tooth, but regardless this was a very funny film. I still feel that The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up were better overall films from Apatow, but regardless, this film was better and more enjoyable a film overall than most comedies I get to see.
I was lucky enough last week to get into a sneak preview of Woody Allen‘s latest film, a collaboration with Larry David, Whatever Works. This was a much anticipated joining of Larry David‘s George Costanza/Curb Your Enthusiasm style of comedy with Woody Allen‘s classic New York City storytelling.
While I enjoyed Allen’s Match Point, his more recent films centering in Europe have fallen short, but with Whatever Works, Allen returns to his native New York and in turn returns to form, delivering a wonderfully funny and quirky film that follows the latter life of a limping genious physisist (Larry David). There is a scene or two that is somewhat predictable, but there were many belly laughs for me and I wholeheartedly recommend this film to anyone looking for Allen at his best behind the camera as writer/director. The duo of David and Allen break a few film conventions here and it feels like a return to Annie Hall form, it is very well done.
Now to Star Trek, first off let me just say, I know this is a late review of the new JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, but I have spent most of 2009 in Grenada where this film was unavailable in theaters, so I haven’t had much opportunity to see this latest JJ Abrams film.
There is a lot about this film that really bugged me. I have never really been a big JJ Abrams fan and his overall filming style just seems to rub me the wrong way. I don’t know if it was the excessive and unnecessary lens flares, the wild and off kilter camera angels, maybe it was seeing the beautiful Winona Ryder play the role of Spock’s mother, it could have been all of these things, but whatever it was, something got under my skin with this film.
Now that I’ve gotten my gripes out of the way… I had a great time with this film. Even with all these things knawing at me in the back of my mind, this film is just a hell of a lot of fun time. As someone who grew up watching Star Trek reruns, the homages to the old series, like Captain Pike, his wheelchair, the fate of the classic red shirt and many many more tips of the hat were great fun. I was exteremly happy with the main character casting as well, placing Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), and Anton Yelchin (Chekov, by the way, how many times can they script in V-words for this kid to say? It’s great.) in the main rolls were all great choices. It was also great to see Eric Bana completely melt away in his portrayal of Nero. I don’t know how much I liked Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, but that might just be because no one can out Shatner, William Shatner.
Another positive aspect JJ Abrams brings to his films is an extremely interesting conception of alien creatures, the scenes on the ice planet were visually stunning. So, it’s a bit late, but I would definately recommend that any sci-fi fan go out and check out this latest film, especially since there is no way that this is the final installment for this new Star Trek and even though I could do without the lens flares, I am looking forward to the next installment.
I just wish we could see one of them just shoot something down or blow up a tree or watch them do SOMETHING explodey. God, I miss America being at school here in Grenada. While walking back from lab today, two more flew by and someone yelled out “TAKE ME WITH YOU” and that brought a huge laugh from a lot of surrounding people.
OK, that was my International news update
I had to take a break to share this wonderful panorama I took of tonight’s sunset, I wish I had caught it a bit earlier while the sun was still visible in the sky, but I’ll try and get a better version soon.