Tuesday, August 31, 2010

10 Best Films I have seen in August

Pi (1998)

Lost in Translation (2003)

Goodbye Lenin! (2004)

The Departed (2006)

In Bruges (2008)

L'intrieur [Inside] (2008)

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (2008)

Ghost Writer (2010)

Four Lions (2010)

The Kids are All Right (2010)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Film Ratings (M-P)

M (*****)
Machinist, The (****)
Madagascar (***)
Magnificent Seven, The (****)
Magnolia (****1/2)
Major Payne (**)
Malcolm X (****1/2)
Maltese Falcon, The (****)
Manchurian Candidate, The (2004) (**)
Manhunter (****1/2)
Man on Fire (*)
Man who knew too much, The (1934) (***)
Man who wasn't There, The (****)
Mary Poppins (****1/2)
Masculine Feminine (****1/2)

Mask of Zorro, The (****)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (****)
Matador, The (***)
Match Point (****)
Matchstick Men (****)
Matilda (***)
Matrix, The (****1/2)
Matrix Reloaded, The (**1/2)
Max Payne (*1/2)
Mean Machine (**)
Meet the Parents (***)
Memento (*****)
Me, Myself and Irene (***1/2)
Men in Black (***)
Men of Honor (**)
Men Who Stare at Goats, The (**)
Metropolis (*****)
Michael Clayton (****)
Micmacs (***)
Midnight Cowboy (****1/2)
Midsummer Nights Dream, A (1999) (**1/2)
Mighty Joe Young (***)
Miller's Crossing (****1/2)
Million Dollar Baby (****1/2)
Minority Report (***)
Miracle on 34th Street, The (***1/2)
Mission Impossible (***1/2)
Mission Impossible II (*1/2)
Mist, The (****)
Modern Times (*****)
Mon Oncle (****)
Monsters Inc. (****)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (*****)
Monty Python and the Meaning of Life (***1/2)
Moon (****)
Mouse Hunt (**)
Mr and Mrs Smith (**1/2)
Mr. Hulot's Holiday (****)
Mrs Doubtfire (****)
Mulholland Drive (****1/2)
Mulholland Falls (**1/2)
Mummy, The (***1/2)
Mummy Returns, The (*)
Munich (****1/2)
Muppet Christmas Carol, A (***)
Murder at 1600 (**)
Murder on the Orient Express (****)
My Dog Skip (***)
My Fair Lady (****)
My Favorite Martian (**)
My name is Nobody (***)
My Own Private Idaho (***)
Mysterious Skin (****)
Mystic River (****1/2)

Naked Gun, The (**1/2)
Name of the Rose, The (***1/2)
Natural Born Killers (**1/2)
Ned Kelly (***)
Negotiator, The (***1/2)
New Guy, The (*)

New World, The (****)
Nightmare Before Christmas, The (****1/2)
Night on Earth (****)
No Country for Old Men (*****)
North by Northwest (*****)
Nosferatu (1922) (*****)
Not Another Teen Movie (**)
No Way Out (***1/2)
Nutty Professor, The (***)
Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (*1/2)

O Brother Where Art Thou (****1/2)
Ocean's Eleven (****)
Ocean's Twelve (**)
Ocean's Thirteen (***)

Office Space (****)
Omen, The (1976) (****)
Once (****)
Once Upon a Time in Mexico (**)
Once Were Warriors (**1/2)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (*****)
One Hour Photo (***1/2)
Open City (****1/2)
Open Water (***)
Orgazmo (*)
Orphanage, The (****)
Others, The (***1/2)
Out of Sight (***)

Padre Padrone (**)
Paisan (****)
Pandora's Box (****1/2)
Pan's Labyrinth (*****)
Paradise Road (***)
Paranormal Activity (**1/2)
Parent Trap, The (***)
Party, The (****)
Passion of Joan of Arc, The (*****)
Passion of the Christ, The (***1/2)
Paths of Glory (*****)
Patriot, The (1998) (*)
Patriot, The (2000) (****)
Peacemaker, The (***)
Pearl Harbor (*)
Perfect Storm, The (***1/2)
Perfect Stranger (**)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (*1/2)
Persona (****1/2)
Phone Booth (**)
Pi (****)
Pianist, The (****)
Piano Teacher, The (**1/2)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (***)
Pierrot Le Fou (***1/2)
Pineapple Express (***)
Pink Panther, The (****)
Pinocchio (****)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (*)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (**)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (****)
Pitch Black (***)
Planet of the Apes (1968) (****1/2)
Planet of the Apes (2001) (***)
Platoon (*****)
Pollock (***)
Porky's (***)
Precious (Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire) (*)
Predator (****)
Predator 2 (1/2)
Prestige, The (***)
Presumed Innocent (***1/2)
Primal Fear (****)
Princess Bride, The (****1/2)
Princess Mononoke (****1/2)
Professional, The (****)
Psycho (*****)
Public Enemies (****)
Pulp Fiction (*****)
Pursuit of Happyness, The (**1/2)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Film Ratings (I-L)

I am Legend (**)
Ice Age (***)
Identity (**1/2)
I Know what you did last Summer (**)
Illusionist, The (***1/2)
Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The (***1/2)
In Bruges (****1/2)
Incredibles, The (****)
Independence Day (***)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (**)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (***1/2)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (****)
Infernal Affairs (****)
Informant, The (***1/2)
Inglourious Basterds (*****)
I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry (*)
Insider, The (****)
Insomnia (2002) (***1/2)
In the Heat of the Night (****)
In the Line of Fire (****)
In the Mood for Love (*****)
In the Name of the Father (****)
In the Valley of Elah (***1/2)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) (****)
Invention of Lying, The (**)
I, Robot (***)
Iron Man (****)
Iron Man 2 (***)
Irreversible (*1/2)
Italian Job, The (2003) (***)
It's a Wonderful Life (*****)

Jackass: The Movie (***)
Jackie Brown (****)
Jade (**1/2)
James and the Giant Peach (****)
Jarhead (****)
Jaws (*****)
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (**)
Jesus Camp (***)
JFK (*****)
Jindabyne (***)
Julie and Julia (***1/2)
Jumanji (**)
Jumper (1/2)
Jungle Book, The (****)
Juno (****)
Jurassic Park (****1/2)
Jurassic Park 3 (**)

Kick Ass (***)
Kids (**1/2)
Kill Bill: Volume 1 (****)
Kill Bill: Volume 2 (***1/2)
King Arthur (***)
Kingdom of Heaven (***)
King Kong (2005) (***)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (****)
Kiss the Girls (**1/2)
Knight's Tale, A (*)
K-19 The Widowmaker (***)
Knocked Up (***1/2)
Koyaanisqatsi (****1/2)
K-Pax (**)
Kung Fu Panda (****)

Lacombe Lucien (****)
L.A Confidential (*****)
La Dolce Vita (*****)
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (****1/2)
Lara Croft Tomb Raider (**)
Last Castle, The (**1/2)
Last King of Scotland, The (****)
Last Kiss, The (**1/2)
Last of the Mohicans, The (1992) (****1/2)
Last Picture Show, The (****1/2)
Last Samurai, The (***1/2)
Last Tango in Paris (***)
Last Temptation of Christ, The (****)
Laurel Canyon (****)
L'Avventura (****)
Layer Cake (**1/2)
League of their Own, A (***)
Legally Blonde (**1/2)
Legend of Bagger Vance, The (***1/2)
Let the Right One In (****1/2)
Liar Liar (**)
Life and Nothing But (****)
Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The (****)
Life of Brian (*****)
Life of David Gale, The (**)
Lion King, The (****1/2)
Little Miss Sunshine (****)
Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0) (***)
Lives of Others, The (****1/2)
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (****)
Lolita (1962) (****)
Long Kiss Goodnight, The (***)
Lord of the Flies (1963) (***1/2)
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, The (*****)
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, The (****)
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (*****)
Lost in Space (*1/2)
Lost in Translation (****1/2)
Lost World: Jurassic Park, The (***)
Lust/Caution (****)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Film Ratings (E-H)

Eastern Promises (****)
East of Eden (****1/2)
Education, An (****)
Edward Scissorhands (***1/2)
8 1/2 (*****)
8 Mile (***1/2)
Election (***)
Elephant (****1/2)
Elizabeth (***1/2)
El Mariachi (**1/2)
Empire Strikes Back, The (*****)
Enduring Love (***)
Enemy at the Gates (***)
Enemy of the State (***)
Enter the Dragon (****)
Entrapment (**)
Epic Movie (*)
Equilibrium (**1/2)
Eraser (**)
Eraserhead (***)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (*****)
E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial (****1/2)
Eurotrip (*1/2)
Ever After (**)
Evil Dead II (****)
Evolution (**1/2)
Exit Wounds (*)
Exorcist, The (****1/2)

Face/Off (****)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (***1/2)
Falling Down (****)
Fantastic Mr Fox (****1/2)
Fargo (*****)
Fast and the Furious, The (**)
Father of the Bride (***)
Father of the Bride Part II (**)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (****)
Femme Fatale (**1/2)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (***)
Few Good Men, A (***)
Fifth Element, The (**)
Fight Club (****1/2)
Final Destination (**)
Final Destination 2 (**)
Finding Nemo (****)
Finding Neverland (***1/2)
Firm, The (***)
Fish Called Wanda, A (****1/2)
(500) Days of Summer (****)
Flight of the Red Balloon (***)
Flubber (**)
For a Few Dollars More (***1/2)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (***1/2)
Forrest Gump (***)
40 Year Old Virgin, The (***1/2)
400 Blows, The (*****)
1408 (**1/2)
Fracture (***)
Free Money (**)
Free Willy (***)
Free Willy 2 (***)
Free Willy 3 (**)
From Dusk Till Dawn (**)
From Hell (***)
Frost/Nixon (****1/2)
Fugitive, The (****1/2)
Full Metal Jacket (****1/2)
Full Monty, The (****)
Funny Games (1997) (****1/2)
Funny Games (2008) (***1/2)

Galaxy Quest (****)
Gallipoli (****1/2)
Game, The (****)
Gangs of New York (***)
Garden State (****)
Gattaca (****)
George of the Jungle (**)
Germany: Year Zero (****)
Ghost and the Darkness (**1/2)
Ghostbusters (***)
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (****1/2)
Ghost Ship (**)
Ghost Town (***)
Ghost World (****)
Ghost Writer, The (****)
Gift, The (**)
Gingerbread Man, The (**1/2)
Girl Next Door, The (**)
Gladiator (*****)
Glengarry Glen Ross (*****)
Glory (*****)
Godfather, The (*****)
Godfather Part II, The (*****)
Godfather Part III, The (***)
Goldeneye (****)
Gold Rush, The (****1/2)
Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000) (***)
Gone with the Wind (*****)
Goodfellas (*****)
Good Luck Chuck (*1/2)
Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The (****1/2)
Good Will Hunting (****)
Gosford Park (***)
Gospel According to St. Matthew, The (****1/2)
Graduate, The (*****)
Grand Illusion (****1/2)
Gran Torino (****)
Grease (***)
Great Dictator, The (****)
Great Escape, The (****1/2)
Greenberg (***)
Green Mile, The (****1/2)
Grindhouse (***1/2)
Grizzly Man (***1/2)
Grosse Point Blank (***)
Groundhog Day (*****)

Halloween (1978) (****1/2)
Hamburger Hill (**)
Hamlet (1990) (***)
Hancock (**)
Hangover, The (***)
Hannibal (***)
Happening, The (1/2)
Happiness (****)
Hard Candy (****)
Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (*)
Harry Brown (**)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (***1/2)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (***)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (****)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (***1/2)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (**1/2)
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (***1/2)
Harsh Times (**)
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse (****)
Heat (*****)
He Got Game (**)
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (**)
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (****1/2)
Hero (***)
High Fidelity (****)
Hills Have Eyes, The (**1/2)
History of Violence (****1/2)
Hitman (**1/2)
Hollow Man (***1/2)
Home Alone (***)
Hoop Dreams (****1/2)
Horse Whisperer, The (****)
Hostel (**1/2)
Hot Fuzz (****1/2)
Hot Tub Time Machine (**)
House Bunny (*)
House of 1000 Corpses (**1/2)
House of Sand and Fog (****)
Human Resources (***1/2)
Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) (****1/2)
Hunt for Red October, The (****)
Hurricane, The (****)
Hurt Locker, The (*****)

Film Ratings (A-D)

Currently in the process of rating all the films I have seen to date. Here is A-D with a rating between 1/2 and *****

Accatone (****)
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (***)
Adaptation (*****)
Adventures of Robin Hood, The (****1/2)
African Queen, The (****)
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (****1/2)
Air Bud (**1/2)
Air Force One (***)
Airplane (****)
Air Up There, The (**)
Aladdin (****1/2)
Alexander (*)
Alice in Wonderland (**)
Alien (****1/2)
Alien Resurrection (**1/2)
Aliens (*****)
Alien3 (**)
Alien vs. Predator (*1/2)
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (1/2)
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (***)
Ali G Indahouse (**1/2)
All About Steve (*)
All Quiet on the Western Front (****)
Almost Famous (****)
Amelie (*****)
American Beauty (*****)
American Gangster (****)
American History X (****)
American Pie (***)
American Pie 2 (**)
American Psycho (****1/2)
American Splendor (****)
American Werewolf in London (****1/2)
America's Sweethearts (**1/2)
Amores Perros (****)
Anaconda (*)
Anchorman (****)
Angels and Demons (**1/2)
Animal Factory (***)
Animal Farm (****)
Annie Hall (****1/2)
Antichrist (****1/2)
Antitrust (***)
Antwone Fisher (***)
ANTZ (****)
Any Given Sunday (****)
Apartment, The (*****)
Apocalypse Now (*****)
Apocalypto (*1/2)
Ararat (****)
Armageddon (*)
Army of Darkness (***1/2)
Art of War, The (**)
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The (****)
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (***)
Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me (**1/2)
Avatar (****)

Babe (****)
Babe: Pig in the City (*1/2)
Baby Geniuses (1/2)
Back to the Future (****1/2)
Back to the Future Part II (***)
Back to the Future Part III (****)
Bad Boys (**)
Bad Education (***)
Bad Santa (***1/2)
Basic Instinct (****)
Batman (1989) (****)
Batman Begins (****)
Battleship Potemkin (*****)
Beach, The (**)
Beautiful Mind, A (****)
Beau Travail (***)
Beauty and the Beast (****)
Be Cool (***)
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (****1/2)
Being John Malkovich (****1/2)

Be Kind Rewind (**)
Bend it Like Beckham (**)
Ben Hur (****1/2)
Bicycle Thief, The (*****)

Big Lebowski, The (****1/2)

Big Sleep (****1/2)
Billy Elliot (***1/2)
Billy Madison (**)
Birdcage, The (***)
Birds, The (****)
Birth of a Nation (****1/2)
Black Hawk Down (***)
Black Snake Moan (**)
Blade (**1/2)
Blade Runner (*****)
Blades of Glory (***)
Blair Witch Project, The (****)
Blazing Saddles (***)
Blindness (***1/2)
Blind Side, The (**)
Blood Diamond (****)
Blood Simple (***1/2)
Blood Work (**)
Blue (Three Colors) (***)
Blue Angel, The (***1/2)
Blue Velvet (*****)
Body Heat (****)
Bogus (**)
Bone Collector, The (**1/2)
Bonnie and Clyde (***)
Boogie Nights (****)
Boondock Saints (**1/2)
Borat (****)
Born on the Fourth of July (****)
Bound (***)
Bourne Identity, The (****)
Bourne Supremacy, The (****)
Bourne Ultimatum, The (****1/2)
Bowling for Columbine (****)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (***)
Braveheart (***1/2)
Brazil (****)
Bridge on the River Kwai, The (****)
Bridget Jones' Diary (**)
Bridge to Terabithia (**)
Brokeback Mountain (****1/2)
Broken Arrow (**)
Broken Flowers (****)
Brotherhood of the Wolf (***)
Bruce Almighty (**)
Bruno (*)
Bucket List, The (*)
Buffalo Soldiers (***)
Bug's Life, A (***1/2)
Bullitt (****)
Burn After Reading (***1/2)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (*****)
Butterfly Effect, The (*)

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (****)
Cabin Fever (***1/2)
Cache (****1/2)
Candyman (***)
Capote (****)
Captain Corelli's Mandolin (**)
Carlito's Way (***)
Casablanca (*****)
Casino (**)
Casino Royale (****)
Castle, The (****)
Catch me if you Can (***1/2)
Cats and Dogs (*1/2)
Chamber, The (**)
Changeling (****)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (***)
Charlie's Angels (**)
Charlie Wilson's War (***1/2)
Children of Men (*****)
Chinatown (****1/2)
Chocolat (****)
Chopper (****)
Christmas Carol, A (1951) (****)
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (**1/2)
Chungking Express (****1/2)
Cider House Rules, The (***)
Citizen Kane (*****)
City of God (*****)
Civil Action, A (***1/2)
Clash of the Titans (***)
Clerks (****)
Click (*)
Client, The (***)
Clockwork Orange, A (****1/2)
Closer (***1/2)
Cloverfield (***)
Club Dread (*)
Coach Carter (***)
Collateral (***1/2)
Collateral Damage (**)
Coming to America (****)
Con Air (***)
Conformist, The (*****)
Constant Gardener, The (****)
Constantine (*)
Control (****1/2)
Conversation, The (****1/2)
Cool Runnings (****)
Cop Out (*1/2)
Coraline (****)
Courage Under Fire (***)
Cradle 2 the Grave (*1/2)
Crash (****)
Cries and Whispers (****)
Crimson Tide (***)
Crocodile Dundee (***)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (****1/2)
Crow, The (***)
Crucible, The (***1/2)
Cruel Intentions (**1/2)
Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The (****)

Dancer in the Dark (****)
Daredevil (*)
Darjeeling Limited, The (****1/2)
Dark City (****)
Dark Knight, The (****)
Date Night (**)
DaVinci Code, The (**1/2)
Dawn of the Dead (1978) (****1/2)
Dawn of the Dead (2004) (****)
Day After Tomorrow, The (**1/2)
Daybreakers (***)
Dead Man (*****)
Dead Man's Shoes (****1/2)
Dead Man Walking (***1/2)
Dead Snow (**)
Death at a Funeral (****)
Death on the Nile (****)
Deep Blue Sea (**1/2)
Deer Hunter, The (****1/2)
Deja Vu (**)
Delicatessen (****)
Deliverance (*****)
Departed, The (*****)
Descent, The (***1/2)
Desperado (**)
Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (**)
Devil's Rejects, The (****)
Diamonds are Forever (****)
Die Another Day (***)
Die Hard (****1/2)
Dirty Dozen, The (****)
Dirty Harry (****1/2)
Dish, The (****)
Disney's A Christmas Carol (**)
District 9 (****1/2)
Disturbia (**)
Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The (****1/2)
Doctor Doolittle (**1/2)
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (***)
Dogma (***1/2)
Dogville (***1/2)
Domestic Disturbance (**)
Donnie Brasco (****)
Donnie Darko (****)
Don't Look Now (****1/2)
Doors, The (****)
Do the Right Thing (****1/2)
Double Indemnity (*****)
Doubt (****)
Downfall (****1/2)
Drag me to Hell (*)
Dreamers, The (***)
Dr Strangelove (*****)
Dude Where's My Car (1/2)
Dumb and Dumber (***)
Dunston Check's In (**)

Review: The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)

Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right was one of the most talked about films following the 2010 Sydney Film Festival, premiering in Australia on closing night. After a few advanced screenings last week, it officially opens in Australian cinemas today. I feel that it is the most honest and heartwarming comedy/drama of the year and will likely be a serious Oscar contender come March 2011. The Kids are All Right is the story of two modern children, 18 year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and 15 year-old Laser (Josh Hutcherson). They are the children of Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), a happily partnered lesbian couple. They each gave birth to their children using an anonymous sperm donor. When Laser is intrigued about his biological father, he insists that Joni call the sperm office and arrange a meeting with their donor, revealed to be single restaurant-owner Paul (Mark Ruffalo).

Joni is bright and talented and has just been accepted into college, while Laser has drifted in with the wrong crowd causing Nic and Jules to worry about his priorities. They meet Paul and are immediately charmed by his charisma and easy-going persona. Paul also expresses genuine interest in them and their futures. To the concern of their mothers, they begin to spend a lot of time with him. The peaceful family dynamic Nic and Jules have established begins to break down immediately. Nic is stressed about her work and her role as the primary financial contributor, while Jules, who has just opened a business as a landscape architect, begins to work for Paul. As a result Nic loses touch with both Jules and her children, who are now absorbed into Paul's life, and begins to drink heavily. The familial breakdown is heartbreaking, and while Paul is essentially at fault, it remains hard to dislike such a stand-up guy.

The script is beautifully crafted, the characters actually feel human and the up-and-down central relationship between Nic and Jules is brutally honest. All the performances are outstanding, especially Annette Bening (who should receive an Oscar nomination). Juliane Moore and Mia Wasikowska are also fantastic. Mark Ruffalo, long one of my favorite actors, is brilliant again, and I haven't seen a better support performance this year either, so expect a nomination for Mr Ruffalo too. It is a complex and heartbreaking family drama that touches on the most honest elements of humanity and modern family ties. Lisa Cholodenko has drawn some fantastic performances out of her cast transforming them into regular people we feel like we know. The subtle characteristics and mannerisms of each character is really recognized, and i think you will find it hard to be void of a connection to at least one of the characters. The dialogue exchanges are pitch-perfect and the awkward sequences throughout are often quite hilarious. This is one of the best films of the year. I really can't say enough. A must see!

My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: Four Lions (Chris Morris, 2010)

Chris Morris' debut film Four Lions is exactly as the promotional poster suggests. It is 'funny' and outrageously so. Set in Sheffield, this Jihad satire tells the story of four disillusioned young Muslim men with dreams of becoming radicalized suicide bombers. Omar (Riz Ahmed) is growing more outraged by the treatment of Muslims around the world and concocts a plan to send a message. He is the brains behind the unit and spends much of the film 'cleaning up the shit' caused by his idiotic colleagues. The rest of the group are Waj (Kayvan Novak) a simpleton who accompanies Omar to a terrorist 'training camp' in Pakistan, Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a volatile and outspoken Islam convert who wrestles Omar in a power struggle which often results in the plans ending in embarrassing destruction, and Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), a bumbling klutz who very often hinders their operation due to his complete incompetency.

Omar and Waj travel to Pakistan to enhance their skills, while back in Sheffield, Barry welcomes Hassan (Arsher Ali) to the group following his demonstration at a press conference. They assemble the materials to concoct their explosives, and shelter at an apartment. After some unsuccessful trial bombings (one which results in the death of Faisal), the group decides to strap explosives to themselves and bomb four sites along the route of the London marathon. The film's final twenty minutes culminates at the marathon with the group battling their own incompetence, their outrageous costumes and the local law enforcement, in a final effort to fulfill their heroic duty for Jihad.

The script is riddled with witty, sharp black comedy while most of the exchanges of dialogue between the group includes volatile verbal bickering and a series of inventive insults. Nearly every exchange features a memorable line. The physical comedy too, is hilarious. But none more so than the concluding sequences as the separated members of the group sprint in their costumes through the streets of London to evade the pursuing counter-terrorists. Even each of their deaths is in darkly comic fashion leaving you feeling both the urge to gasp in shock and laugh out loud. Morris' direction is effortlessly assured, each performance is pitch-perfect, and the dynamic hand-held style captures give the events a sense of innovative realism. Four Lions is one of the funniest films I have seen in the last few years, and after a great response at the Sydney Film Festival, it is destined to have a wide release and lengthy run.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Short Review: Pi (Darren Aronofsky, 1998)

Darren Aronofsky's debut film from 1998 is a deeply disturbing torture of the senses. It tells the twisted story of a troubled mathematics genius, who suffers from migraines and serious bouts of panic attacks, who is attempting to understand the nature of the world through numbers. Locked away in his apartment, he peruses over number combinations to determine trends in the stock market and he frequently visits his retired mathematics tutor for guidance. Through his malfunctioning computer system he stumbles across a 216 digit number and becomes hunted by obsessed Wall Street executives who believe he possesses the secret to predicting the stock market, and a colt of rabbis who believe the true name of God can be found within the numbers. Shot on a shoestring budget with predominantly hand-held cameras, and with grainy, black + while cinematography, it's gritty, unpleasant viewing. But absorbing and riveting nonetheless. The pulsing, electronic score works brilliantly and Sean Gullette's central performance is very impressive. Pi feels like a sequel to David Lynch's Eraserhead, filled with striking surreal locations and images of haunting human breakdown. This is a superb debut, that really shot Aronofsky onto the scene. He followed up Pi with Requiem for a Dream (2000), and is now on of the most innovative of modern directors.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Review: The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski, 2010)

The Ghost Writer is only Roman Polanski's second, and potentially final project since his Oscar victory for The Pianist back in 2002. Starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall, The Ghost Writer premiered at the 60th Berlin Film Festival, where Polanski picked up the Silver Bear for his excellent direction. Based on the novel, The Ghost by Thomas Harris, it drew some attention at this years Sydney Film Festival and has been praised with positive reviews. A very taut thriller, it follows an unnamed British ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) hired to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). Lang has recently been publicly disgraced by a former colleague who has accused Lang of severe war crimes, notably the illegal transfer of suspected terrorists to the C.I.A. Lang is set to face prosecution at the hands of the International Criminal Court. This controversy attracts both supporters and enemies of his crimes, and a large media hub, who settle outside his residence. The writer joins Lang and his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) at their beach-side penthouse. He is briefed of the protocol surrounding the former Prime Minister by Lang's personal assistant, Amelia (Kim Cattrall) and given access to the notes and semi-completed manuscript to be edited into the memoirs. What is curious about his role is that his predecessor was found washed up on the beach. Confirmed originally as suicide, the death is later revealed to be under suspicious circumstances. He begins to interview Lang on his early college days to try and establish a way to start the memoirs. Lang, stressed by the allegations against his name, is sensitive of how he will be presented. As our protagonist digs deeper, intrigued by what his predecessor had found, he begins to unravel a plot that links either Lang, or his wife to C.I.A contacts, through college friend and now Harvard Professor Paul Emmett (Tom Wilkinson, in a great support performance).
The screenplay is a collaboration between Harris and Polanski, and is well constructed. Engulfing McGregor's character with controversy on all sides, it's early sequences are slow but purposeful. We are revealed to the protagonist's egoism and confidence in his abilities as a writer, but also his naivety in accepting such a troubled project. The first conversations between him and Lang work well to establish a professional bond and an unspoken trust between the men. While it seems that Lang is certainly hiding the truth behind his accusations, the outspokenness of his wife, her control over her husband and her possible role in his crimes is also intriguing. Throughout the second half of the film the pace and tension increases and it becomes a very absorbing thriller with some surprising twists. The chilling conclusion is a scathing assessment of political scandal, with all of the truths just blowing away to be forever forgotten.
McGregor is well cast in the title role. His performance is nothing spectacular but he successfully carries the narrative and is a likable protagonist. Brosnan, in an attempt to escape his image as 007, is also solid in a vulnerable role. I liked Olivia Williams' performance. I thought her maliciousness and deceitfulness were quite convincing. The films main weakness is Kim Cattrall, who i thought was awful. Her sultry, slutty qualities that are important to her character in Sex and the City continued to crack through her attempts to play a serious, professional woman. The Ghost Writer has all the conventions of a typical thriller, but blessed with the skilled wand of a man who really knows how to direct a thriller. It's far from chilling, but it is consistently suspenseful and intriguing. Alexandre Desplat's odd score is a mixture of ominous suspense-laden orchestral pieces with an undercurrent of electronic pop that i thought worked quite well. The shooting locations were also a character in themselves. The mansion, which in most cases appears as a ghostly, empty cell, is located on an island to signify McGregor's isolation amongst his shady employers. The climate was considerably overcast, often extremely windy and generally icy throughout the film complementing the scandals that drive the film. Again, this is one of the better releases so far in 2010 and while I don't see it challenging in the Oscar race this year, I think it is worth checking out.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Short Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright, 2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is wild, hyperactive and pure entertainment. The newest film by Edgar Wright (dir. of Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), is an inventive visual feast. This is a 'get-the-girl' teen comedy/drama set within the world of Street Fighter. When he meets the girl of his dreams, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must face and defeat seven of her exes to win her love. Emotionally it hits all the right buttons, it's awkward humor is subtle and amusing, and the fight sequences visceral and brilliant. The film begins to lose it's direction following the fourth ex, with the rock battle against the twins a convenient way of eliminating two more. Jason Schwarzman is always solid, and his turn as Scott Pilgrim's strongest opponent is amusing. Following the aforementioned setback, the conclusion is quite clever. Wright's adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels is a hodgepodge of dynamics and genre, but no one has proven to be more successful. Some of the sequences actually look like they are filmed comic illustrations. Good fun and worthy of a repeat viewing, this is one of the more entertaining films released in 2010.

My Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Short Reviews: The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008)

The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006)

I found the confusion experienced by The Prestige at first an intriguing mystery, but ultimately an unnecessary deterrent from its value as an entertaining film. This is quite a morbid film about fierce rivalry and personal obsession told via flashback and using techniques of misdirection. Christopher Nolan's film tries to replicate the subject of its narrative, existing itself as a magic trick, utilizing, via special effects, an ability to replicate his leads. The mystery is how the characters achieve the same means within the film. Both Borden (Bale) and Angier (Jackman) are quite well developed and it is their respective approaches to their craft that provide the quite obvious reveals, despite all of Nolan's misdirections. I believe The Prestige is far too long, and a case of being 'too clever for its own good.' It takes a very long time to stick to an idea, rather than just recounting their rivalry. Bale and Jackman are both solid but unspectacular, presenting a pretty unlikable pair of rivals. Michael Caine is always great, and David Bowie was impressive but Scarlett Johansson was flat out awful. In my opinion, this is the weakest of Nolan's features to date.

My Rating: 3 Stars

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

The Dark Knight, surrounded by so much hype and the tragic death of the films' star Heath Ledger, answered the challenge better than most films in 2008. Originally I was blown away, but my opinions of the film have diminished on subsequent viewings and the flaws in the narrative have become very obvious. Technically it remains a fine achievement, but it stands only as a solid sequel to the more impressive Batman Begins (2005). The Dark Knight doesn't just sit as a superhero film but of a dark urban crime thriller drawing issues of terrorism and anarchy, a criminal underworld, and the blurred lines of what people perceive to be a heroic figure. Many of the key cast members have returned, and are once again excellent. But i don't remember Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance being so awful. With really little to do in this one, Christian Bale returns as the conflicted persona of Bruce Wayne, challenged on all sides by a diminished public popularity, copycats, and unrelentless taunting from his newest adversary, known as The Joker (played astonishingly by Heath Ledger). The Joker is a disfigured, twisted character who seeks to dominate Gotham City with anarchic behavior and leave it in ruin out of pure evil. Batman, with the aid of Gordon (Gary Oldman, always superb) raise new DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to the status of Gotham's heroic figure, or white knight, a face that Gotham can turn to in this time of unrest and chaos. It's a well conceived plot that never lets up the intensity, but is let down by moments of unbelievable convenience and frequent wallows into cliche. The action scenes are truly spectacular, and the best moments of the film are owned by The Joker. On repeat viewings, the film feels far too long, with many of the sequences unnecessary. Yet Harvey's transformation into Two Face seemed ridiculously rushed and the Joker's capture at the conclusion disappointingly swift. Heath Ledger's performance will forever be remembered, and despite the growing list of issues, The Dark Knight is still one of the better film releases of 2008.

My Rating: 4 Stars