The American – A Movie Review

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Sep 062010
 

As an assassin, Jack is constantly on the move and always alone. After a job in Sweden ends more harshly than expected for this American abroad, Jack retreats to the Italian countryside. He relishes being away from death for a spell as he holes up in a small medieval town. While there, Jack takes an assignment to construct a weapon for a mysterious contact, Mathilde. Savoring the peaceful quietude he finds in the mountains of Abruzzo, Jack accepts the friendship of local priest Father Benedetto and pursues a torrid liaison with a beautiful woman, Clara. Jack and Clara’s time together evolves into a romance, one seemingly free of danger. But by stepping out of the shadows, Jack may be tempting fate.

Genres: Romance, Thriller and Adaptation; Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.; Release Date: September 1st, 2010 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual content and nudity.

Starring: George Clooney, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli, Violante Placido, Irina Bjorklund

Directed by: Anton Corbijn

Do not let the trailers fool you, there is about 10mins total of action in this film. The bulk of this film is long shots of Clooney, coming to grasp with his life and going about completing his last job. Most “one last job” movies are high-energy action flicks driven by a veteran actor playing a character with a troubled history, but Anton Corbijn’s “The American” operates as a character-driven mood piece, a precise and quiet visual portrayal of a man trying to quit his dangerous profession who is constantly haunted and pervasively paranoid.

Way different from the Clooney-led thrillers of the ’90s, “The American” broods under the Corbijn’s precise visual style. Those expecting Clooney’s return to suave criminal mastery will find themselves waiting and waiting for this film to pop. It doesn’t. There is no mêlée of Bourne-style assassin-chasing amid the hillside towns of the Italian countryside, so for many, shots of Clooney doing push-ups and putting together a rifle will become tedious. In fact, I would have taken his rifle from him and used on myself if I’d had to watch one more scene of him driving out of the village through the country-side.

I couldn’t make any sense out of this film. I swear there is no story whatsoever. The George Clooney character appears. He is involved in something shady. He is very quick on the trigger, both with his concealed snub-nosed automatic and with his lovely female companions. But why he does what he does remained a mystery to me. He seems to be working with an organization and he speaks over the phone from time to time with someone who might be his boss, or might not. There is some lovely photography, and lord knows there is nobody more photogenic than the star here, but if you can figure out what is going on and why, then you’re way ahead of me.

The landscapes are breathtaking. The action is sparse with more of a dread sense than any real kind of action. But then again, this film presents the life of an assassin more the way it probably is. Not a lot of flash, just a lot of looking over your shoulder, day-to-day mundane mixed in with an occasional beat of action.

In regards to the performances, they are solid. George Clooney proves his worth as an actor yet again with his portrayal of this tormented, cynical man of few words. Violante Placido is also very effective as the girl. Thekla Reuton is icy and more than scenic in her performance as the in-between person working with Clooney. Paolo Bonacelli is compelling as the priest whom Clooney befriends, and Johan Leysen is chilling in his moments as the mysterious person who always answer his phone with a gruff “Yeah?”

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 10)
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Jun 062009
 

Underworld-Rise of the Lycans Movie PosterExplores the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans.

Genres: Romance, Suspense/Horror, Thriller and Sequel; Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.; Release Date: January 23rd, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence and some sexuality.

Starring: Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Shane Brolly, Kevin Grevioux

Directed by: Patrick Tatopoulos

We had read some good reviews of this film, and although Lay and I have not been into this series, we decided to rent the DVD and watch this movie.  It was something of a disappointment. I thought the storyline was fine, and I didn’t feel like I’d missed much having not seen the other two movies in the series.

Michael Sheen was not the right choice for the film for his part. Bill Nighy was perfect for his part, and even without the cataract contact lenses, he came across as cold and menacing. I liked him in Valkyrie and both the Pirates movies.

The movie did manage to drum up some the classic 1980s horror style, the special effects for the wolves frankly sucked, and the battle scenes came across as much less than epic.

The tone is everything! I really love the moody tone of the movie. Very effective in this type of movies. So, I guess it’s worth a watch, but unless you’re a fan of the series, it may leave you a little flat.

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Seven Pounds – A Movie Review

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May 062009
 

Seven Pounds PosterBen Thomas is an IRS agent (?) with a fateful secret who embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers.

Genres: Drama and Romance; Running Time: 2 hr. 3 min.; Release Date: December 19th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, some disturbing content and a scene of sensuality.

Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Robinne Lee

Directed by: Gabriele Muccino

I watched this on DVD a week ago. Last week when I was catching up on movie reviews, I basically forgot to write this one.

In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice the central character demands the payment of a pound of flesh from those who are in debt to him. The ‘pound of flesh’ refers to an onerous debt, one that is either unable to be paid (but demanded), one that is far in excess of the amount owed, or one in which the payment is set to adamantly exacting standards. Ben Thomas (Will Smith) has a debt to repay for the seven lives he took in a car accident, and so the phrase is both metaphorical and literal since six of the debts are repaid with his actual “flesh”.

First, I did like this film. It was well acted by all.

I quickly realized where the plot was going. Obviously there were obvious clues in the trailer, but still, despite it seeming obvious, I kept watching. There were enough twists to the plot to keep things interesting. It was nice to see how everything played out, filling in the details and the character motivations in later scenes.I don’t hate it when I guess the ending early in a film. I only hate it when the road to resolution is lined with boring scenery.

Will Smith’s screen persona is just likable, even when he’s playing such a troubled character. He’s energetic and believable in everything that I’ve seen him do. Seven Pounds is another fine performance.

Rosario Dawson is a solid performer, portraying a quirky, rather upbeat character despite a terminal heart condition. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and with Rosario, if you don’t find her gorgeous, you should think about replacing your eyes.

It was nice to see Woody Harrelson back on the screen. I haven’t seen him much lately, but that could just be me. Woody didn’t have a tremendous amount of screen time, but he sold his jolly, piano-playing, blind man character for all it was worth. Excellent.

Overall, I have to recommend this film not for the plotting, but for some very good performances, and for the fact that it tends to evoke some of the tragic emotions that we generally try to avoid.

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Monster's Ball – A Movie Review

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Jul 252008
 

Monsters Ball PosterHank, an embittered prison guard, lives with his aging racist father, Buck, and his own twenty something son, Sonny. Hank and Sonny work for the local prison where they are preparing the electric chair for a black inmate. After the man is executed, Hank falls in love with Leticia, the inmate’s widow. This emotionally-charged affair forces Hank to re-evaluate how deeply prison work and his father’s infectious hatred have affected his soul.

Genres: Drama, Romance and Thriller; Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.; Release Date: December 26, 2001 LA/NY; MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, language and violence.

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Peter Boyle, Heath Ledger, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs

Directed by: Marc Forster

I can’t believe it took me this long to get around to watching this movie. This was another movie watched last weekend. Given that I’ve always liked Billy Bob Thornton, I should have watched this movie a long time ago. All the parts were very well played, and the story was extremely well told. Berry won Best Actress, and I can say she certainly earned the award. I felt I could easily see this as a true story.

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Jun 142008
 

Sex and the CityThe continuing adventures of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda as they live their lives in Manhattan four years after the series ended.

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance and Adaptation; Running Time: 2 hrs. 25 min.; Release Date: May 30th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language.

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Christopher Noth

Directed by: Michael Patrick King

Lay always loved the series, and I enjoyed it, so we’d seen all the episodes, and as gifts over the years, I’d purchased lay the DVD’s for all six seasons. It was an enjoyable series, but did seem to struggle a bit in the final season.

I think it got back to the basic formula that worked so well during the series run, and the characters continued to develop well. The movies is long, but I didn’t get bored for the entire movie.

The story clearly revolved around the wedding of Big and Carrie, and I would like to have seen a bit more development of some of the sub-plots, but all in all it was well balanced.

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About Schmidt – A Movie Review

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Jun 142008
 

About Schmidt Movie PosterWarren Schmidt is a retired insurance salesman, who at age 66, has no particular plans other than to drive around in the motor home his wife insisted they buy. He’s not altogether bitter, but not happy either, as everything his wife does annoys him, and he disapproves of the man his daughter is about to marry. When his wife suddenly dies, he sets out to postpone the imminent marriage of his daughter to a man he doesn’t like, while coping with discoveries about his late wife and himself in the process.

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance and Adaptation; Running Time: 2 hrs. 5 min.; Release Date: December 13th, 2002 (LA/NY); MPAA Rating: R for some language, brief nudity.

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates, James Crawley

Directed by: Alexander Payne

I only recently watched this movie. I watched it on the very small screen of my mobile phone while flying home from Dallas. I do have noise cancelling headphones, so I don’t miss much of the dialogue, but there are sometimes distractions.

About Schmidt is one of those movies that one has to think about. It doesn’t hit you over the head with the message of the movie within the first 10 minutes. so, frankly, this can make it somewhat boring. But it’s a quiet treat if you stick with it.

The movie if anything else is sly. Its the story of a recently retired man, and his own “personal discovery” and the examination of his own life, as cliche as it sounds. While some would consider the awkward silences in the movie, editing mistakes or purely bad script this movie in fact is exceptionally well done. Even the subtle way the scene is pictured and the little jokes (like the scene where Schmidt is driving and says “life is short” and then a bug hits the window of his car)are well written.

Overall this movie may not have been “entertaining” to the short attention span masses who think obvious sex inuedos and been there done that plots are the best movies, but if you’re up for a movie that makes you reflect a bit on yourself, About Schmidt certainly slips you a little moral of life, without cramming it down your throat like a billbord in a fortune cookie.

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Atonement

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Mar 292008
 

Atonement, Click to view the trailerIn 1935, 13-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and her family live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous mansion. On the warmest day of the year, the country estate takes on an unsettling hothouse atmosphere, stoking Briony’s vivid imagination. Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the educated son of the family’s housekeeper, carries a torch for Briony’s headstrong older sister Cecilia (Kiera Knightley). Cecilia, he hopes, has comparable feelings; all it will take is one spark for this relationship to combust. When it does, Briony – who has a crush on Robbie – is compelled to interfere, going so far as accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Cecilia and Robbie declare their love for each other, but he is arrested – and with Briony bearing false witness, the course of three lives is changed forever. Briony continues to seek forgiveness for her childhood misdeed. Through a terrible and courageous act of imagination, she finds the path to her uncertain atonement, and to an understanding of the power of enduring love.

Genres: Drama, Romance, Adaptation and War

Running Time: 2 hrs. 2 min.

MPAA Rating: R for disturbing war images, language and some sexuality.

Starring: James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, Brenda Blethyn, Vanessa Redgrave

Directed by: Joe Wright

Atonement starts promisingly, dramatically, and with some humor, as the imagination and moral immaturity of young Briony Tallis lead at first to some standard British drawing room drama, and then to the brink of tragedy. Some very fine acting, cinematography, and great scenery help get us involved.

Then the movie abruptly shifts locations, actors, and pace. Although the plot switches to the historically dramatic circumstances of the second world war, our characters now seem only to be marking time.

And then, near the end of the movie, we are subjected to a writerly device, which forces us to re-evaluate the second half of the movie. There’s a great tradition of these tricks in film and we react differently to each one, but at the end of Atonement, when the device was played, my reaction was simply disappointment, and simply confirmed my decreased engagement in the second half of the movie. Whatever was the intended impact, the drama had long before seeped away.

It’s worth seeing for the acting, cinematography, and that dramatic first hour.

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Blades of Glory

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Oct 212007
 

Blades of GloryWhen rivalry between the world’s best men’s figure skaters – sex addicted, improvisational Chazz Michael Michaels and germophobic, precise Jimmy MacElroy – breaks into a fight on the awards platform, they’re banned from the event for life. Three years later, desire for a gold medal and a careful reading of the rules lead them to compete as skating’s first male-male pair. Can they overcome mutual dislike, limited time to prepare, their coach’s secret past, and the dirty tricks of their main opponents, the Van Waldenberg siblings?

Director:
Josh Gordon & Will Speck

Genre:
Comedy, Romance, Sport

Cast:
Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer, William Fichtner, Craig T. Nelson,
Romany Malco, Nick Swardson

I wasn’t expecting much from this movie becuase I expected Will Ferrel’s shtick would start to run thin. Both Ferrel and Heder played the type of character I expected from them. Heder gave something similar to the Napoleon Dynamite character and Will Ferrell was Will Ferrell. What I didn’t expect was the humor. Ferrel carried the show and played the funniest character by far, but Heder didn’t drag him down like I thought he would and the two worked well together.

The Ferrel-Heder exchanges are drenched with homoeroticism, and their struggles to come to terms with each other’s lifestyles (Ferrel: “I’m a sex addict. It’s my cross to bear” and Heder: “If you can dream it, you can do it!”) are funny enough to carry the film for large sections. The supporting performances of the Waldenbergs (Will Arnett, Amy Poelher, and Jenna Fischer) fill in the gaps successfully, their conversations charged with an unusual mix of villainy and incestuous desire. Then of course there are the skating scenes, which are quite a sight to behold, in all their spandex-and-diamonds splendour.

The humor was low brow to be sure, just like in every other project Ferrell does, but I happen to like that sort of humor, so I enjoyed it.

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Black Snake Moan

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Aug 022007
 

Black Snake MoanA God-fearing blues man (Jackson) takes to a wild young woman (Ricci) who, as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, looks everywhere for love, never quite finding it.

Director
Craig Brewer

Genre
Drama / Romance

Cast
Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, S. Epatha Merkerson, John Cothran Jr., David Banner, Michael Raymond-James, Adriane Lenox, Kim Richards

This is not my type of movie. All you have to do is watch the trailer and read the plot summary to figure out where you stand. But I have to admit that Jackson and Ricci are so good in their roles, that they were able to pull me into the story.

Combining a sweltering Southern setting, blood and guts blues riffs, and a little unexpected Bible imagery, Brewer has definitely given this film a style of its own and an atmosphere that’s as effective as the actors in telling this strange little tale of love and redemption.

Though its aspirations run higher, there’s no denying that the film has its moments of exploitation. Ricci’s half-nakedness for 75% of the film is testament to that. And that’s what makes this such an odd movie to pin down. Did I really like it? Or did I merely appreciate the effort and success in Brewer’s ability to tell his unusual story in his own unconventional way?

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Must Love Dogs

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Oct 222006
 

Must Love DogsA forty-something preschool teacher looks to the personals for a change of pace and a relationship, with hilarious results.

Directed by
Gary David Goldberg

Genres
Comedy, Romance

Cast
Diane Lane, John Cusack, Elizabeth Perkins, Christopher Plummer, Dermot Mulroney, Stockard Channing, Ali Hillis, Brad William Henke, Julie Gonzalo, Glenn Howerton, Ben Shenkman, Jordana Spiro, Kirk Trutner, Victor Webster, Michael Spound

I watched this movie Friday evening on the plane on the way to San Antonio using my new Mobile PC phone.

I like John Cusak, but I get tired of seeing the same movie again and again. Naturally all the dates she gets fixed up with are losers (from the standard selection) except the obvious choice. There is a gay couple and they are very happy together. Some obnoxious family members. The nicest part of the movie is the wooden rowing craft – not a racing shell, bit more to it, but beautiful. The lonely handsome Dad. The lovely daughter that for some reason somebody dumped. The empty headed promiscuous blonde. The roommate or friend who pretends to some wisdom but is unsuccessful himself.

It’s not a terrible movie, just very formulaic.

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Wedding Crashers

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Nov 132005
 

Wedding Crashers (2005)John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey, a pair of committed womanizers who sneak into weddings to take advantage of the romantic tinge in the air, find themselves at odds with one another when John meets and falls for Claire Cleary.

Directed by
David Dobkin

Genres
Comedy, Romance

Cast
Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Christopher Walken, Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, Jane Seymour, Ellen Albertini Dow, Keir O’Donnell, Bradley Cooper, Ron Canada, Henry Gibson, Dwight Yoakam, Rebecca De Mornay, David Conrad, Jennifer Alden

Movie lives through Vaughn and Wilson. Both show an easy performance and want the audience to just simply have a good time.

The Story is nothing spectacular. If you liked “Meet the Fockers”, you’re gonna like this one as well.

Its the actors, who make the difference. Vaughn is hilarious and proofs, that he’s much better in comedies than in “serious” movies. Wilson plays himself (as in every one of his movies) and scores a good 2nd place.

Walken is just Walken and thats worth half the ticket. The girls are gorgeous, especially Rachel McAdams. The?movie is?good fun. It is not an new invention of the genre, but?it is well cast.

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