Archive for March, 2010

Chloe is sexy, mysterious and thrilling; but the conclusion is a disappointment.

When Catherine (Julianne Moore), a successful doctor, begins to question her husband David’s (Liam Neeson) fidelity, she sets out to resolve her suspicions with the help of an alluring young woman, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried). Soon caught in a web of sexual desire, Catherine finds herself on a journey that places her family in great danger.

Both Moore and Seyfried take a lot of chances as actresses, becoming very exposed emotionally and physically. While Moore has had a career of multi-layered parts, Seyfried took a risk in this role and succeeded by embracing it completely. Though the nudity is an integral part to her character, she pushes the limits of seduction and stalking with her chameleon-like behaviour. The character aptly describes it when she says she disappears into your fantasy; Seyfried effectually does this on the screen.

The story of a love triangle gone badly is not new, but this film veers from the standard structure opting for a couple of twists in the plot. While Chloe’s interest in her “business transaction” with Catherine becomes clearer, her tactics are far less so. It’s uncertain whether Catherine and David needed a son (Max Thieriot) for the story to work, but he does add another dynamic to the tale. In addition, the only two characters to really receive full treatment are Catherine and Chloe, which works very well for the narrative as they are the key players and the men in their lives are motivations or tools. On the other hand, the ending feels like a cop-out, choosing the simple solution to the problem.

Director Atom Egoyan has made various films dealing with intense emotional relationships and situations. Chloe will rank among the better of these films. His ability to shoot the intimacy of a scene so that it’s not really voyeuristic, but still powerful is excellent; it works as Catherine and Chloe share affecting moments, as well as when Catherine and her husband do so.

The suspense and mystery unfolds slowly, but the intensity sustains the film as does the captivating performances.

Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale was a smart and touching look at a family struggling to deal with separation and change in the 1980s. Greenberg is about one man’s efforts to reacquaint himself into a world he left about a decade earlier.

Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), single, fortyish and at a crossroads in his life, finds himself back in Los Angeles, house-sitting for six weeks for his more successful, married-with-children brother. In search of a place to restart his life, Greenberg tries to reconnect with old friends including his former bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans). But old friends aren’t necessarily still best friends and Greenberg soon finds himself spending more and more time with his brother’s personal assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig), an aspiring singer and also something of a lost soul.

Oscar-nominated writer/director Baumbach’s ability to portray utter awkwardness between characters is astounding. Greenberg commits one social faux pas after another making him very difficult to identify with or even like, but this is also becoming one of Baumbach’s signatures. He has established himself as a master of words and a good dramatic director. It’s easiest to compare his style to Wes Anderson, but that’s not a fair comparison for either filmmaker as Baumbach has his own unique touch that permeates his films. The costumes tend to appear slightly dated, but modern touches, such as cell phones, sets it closer to the present. Furthermore, Baumbach’s characters are equally complex and fully developed.

Though Greenberg is a very difficult man, the rest of the characters are very interesting and easier to sympathize with or like. Florence almost appears to be a masochist as she continues to return to Greenberg after he rejects or treats her disrespectfully. Similarly, Ivan tries very much to be his friend even after the estrangement caused by Greenberg’s previous detrimental actions. In the meantime, Greenberg tests his limits and relationships with everyone around him as if he’d rather be alienated because then his negative outlook of the world is validated. His trouble with living in the present drives many of his actions. However, his ever slow growth as a person is visually represented by the building progress on a reliable doghouse and his increasingly caring relationship with the family pet.

Stiller has been basking in the comedy realm for several years; however he established his serious acting chops in Permanent Midnight, in which he portrayed real-life comedy writer and addict Jerry Stahl. It’s nice to see he still has it. Stiller depicts Greenberg’s eccentricities and deadpan personality perfectly. Gerwig and Ifans appear sincerely self-deprecating as they continue to take Greenberg’s (not entirely intentional) abuse of their friendships, but each also brings various facets to their character’s personality.

The rom-com is a difficult genre to nail down; without the right chemistry, humour or storyline, the film can fall flat. Unfortunately, The Bounty Hunter is one of these films.

Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler) is a down-on-his-luck bounty hunter who thinks the powers that be are finally shining down on him when he’s assigned to track down his bail-jumping ex-wife, reporter Nicole Hurly (Jennifer Aniston). Milo thinks he has an easy payday ahead, but Nicole gives him the slip so she can chase a lead on a murder cover-up. Milo quickly realizes nothing is ever easy between him and Nicole; especially when her investigation has them running for their lives and wondering who they can trust.

First, the chemistry. Milo and Nicole have an adversarial relationship through most of the movie, but there is supposed to be a deep-seated love still burning in each of them. Although they make great opponents, their fondness for each other is only evident when they are not sharing the screen; together, they appear to be nothing more than teasing friends.

Next, the humour. When romantic comedies rely on too much slapstick, it detracts from the witty relationship mishaps that are expected. In this case, the pair’s sparring should be central instead of a running handcuff gag. There are some key moments of laughter, particularly a regrettable outfit, but the film is fairly bumpy from start to finish.

Finally, the storyline. The movie begins 24 hours into the future, necessitating a flashback that is entirely pointless; it would have been better to simply begin at the start of the narrative. The plot itself works for the genre, as it entails a lot of disagreeing, hiding and chasing. Unhappily, it also has a lot of ups and downs in the entertainment department.

Butler and Aniston are well casted, as he fits the profile of an ex-cop turned bounty hunter and she matches an ambitious, risk-taking reporter; they simply lack a love connection beyond the antagonistic fireworks. Fortunately, the film also casted great actors for the secondary characters, such as Christine Baranski, Dorian Missick, Siobhan Fallon, Jeff Garlin and Peter Greene.

The soundtrack is diverse, including rock, alternative, country and rap tracks. The assortment is interesting, but contributes to the overall uneven feeling of the film.

Director Andy Tennant has been quite successful in the romance genre previously with films such as Ever After, Anna and the King and Sweet Home Alabama, but this time he’s missed the mark.

Most children that grew up in the ‘80s were enamoured with the tale of a boy and his horse, a flying dog and various other fantastical characters that existed in a magical book called The Neverending Story.

Bastian is a 10-year-old boy that lives a lacklustre existence tormented by school bullies. One day when on the run, he escapes into a book shop in which the old proprietor reveals an old storybook to him, but warns it could be dangerous. Nonetheless, Bastian “borrows” the book and spends the next several hours during a storm holed up in the school attic reading. The book draws him into the mythical world of Fantasia, which is in desperate need of a hero to save it from total destruction by the “Nothing.”

The Fantasia universe is rich with unique characters, epic plights and heroic feats. The tale is so engaging, it is easy to become lost in the fabled world with Bastian. As he identifies with Atreyu, following each step of his journey to save Fantasia, the audience is equally drawn in, becoming invested in the fate of the beautiful land and its inhabitants. Other beloved characters include Falkor, Rockbiter, Teeny Weeny, and the Childlike Empress.

For a film produced in 1984, the quality of the mythological characters, which were created without modern technologies or CGI, is astounding. If the creatures did not appear convincing, it would have been impossible to become absorbed into the make-believe world. Instead, we are taken on a larger-than-life adventure that became a favoured classic.

There are no special features.

The Coen Brothers have had several hits and misses in their 20 plus-year career, but having established their aptitude they finally had the opportunity to make a movie they’ve wanted to create – A Serious Man is their “Jewish” film.

Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlberg) is a physics professor experiencing a few significant life adjustments: his wife is leaving him for his best friend; his unemployed brother is permanently occupying his couch and bathroom; a student is threatening his career; he can’t understand his children; and his beautiful neighbour enjoys sunbathing nude. Struggling to make sense of it all, Larry visits three rabbis – none of whom give him the answers he seeks. The struggle of a man to stay afloat against forces out of his control and Larry’s demeanour are reminiscent of Matthew Broderick’s character in Election.

There are quirky moments that illicit snickers, such as a rabbi younger than Larry telling him, “This is life”; meanwhile all anybody can think is what do you know about life? The hoops Larry continues to jump through in attempts to better his life are extensive, especially since none of the manoeuvres produce positive results. Furthermore, none of the advice he receives is helpful, or even applicable.

The constant juxtapositioning and parallel editing is overkill. Unfortunately, it does not prevent the film from being slow and feeling over-extended. It is difficult to become engaged in Larry even though he is in nearly every scene (which is an impressive feat on the part of Stuhlberg). Finally, the open ending has little purpose than to leave the audience without closure.

Special features include: “Becoming Serious,” a making-of featurette; “Creating 1967”; and “Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys.”

Ong Bak brought the art of Muay Thai to North America through action sensation Tony Jaa. After that film’s release, everyone knew his name. Using a simple storyline, Jaa’s character was able to fight numerous opponents in various arenas while moving closer to completing his task.

When Ong Bak 2 was announced, a similarly simple plot combined with jaw-dropping action was expected. Instead, the movie almost entirely foregoes including a narrative. The sequel is mostly just a string of fight sequences performed in front of one set; the only variance occurs when an elephant briefly enters the melee.

Muay Thai enthusiasts will likely be entertained by this fast-paced display of athleticism and skill. However, most others will eventually become bored after the umpteenth elbow or kick to the head (which while impressive, can only be amusing for so long). Now available for home viewing, this picture is a great choice to play on silent during a party or gathering – the sound is unnecessary, but it can still be an interesting topic of discussion or brief distraction from mingling.

Special features on the two-disc edition include: “HDNet: A Look at Ong Bak 2”; two behind the scenes featurettes; a making-of featurette; interviews with cast and crew; and a teaser trailer for Ong Bak 3.

The Terminator series has always been lucrative, so with each film we became closer to the future Sarah and John Connor fought so long and hard to prevent. In Terminator: Salvation, that future has arrived.

In the aftermath of Judgment Day and the takeover by the machines, John Connor (Christian Bale) is embracing his destiny as leader of the human resistance; he prepares his underground fighters for a final desperate battle to counter Skynet’s plan to destroy mankind. When resistance fighter Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) returns to camp with Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), John realizes the future isn’t exactly what he’d expected. But Marcus is the only one that can help John rescue Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) or the future of the resistance will be obliterated before it can begin.

It seems Worthington has become the “it” guy when casting action heroes. His ruggedness and physique make him the ideal choice for a strong saviour and the right choice here. Marcus is mentally more human than machine because he began as a person and not a pile of bolts. However, a debate of humanity similar to the one in T2 is conducted anyway. Bloodgood is a strong female lead that appears to hold her own on screen, though her character does soften near the end. Bale, on the other hand, is recycling his Batman personality, adding little to this epic character.

The inclusion of all major characters involved in the shaping of the future – from John to Kyle to the T-800 – is interesting, but also makes it somewhat predictable. For the franchise to continue, these characters must exist beyond this picture.

The film looks great as CGI continues to evolve, expanding the world and the machine creations. In addition, the introduction to new terminators such as the moto-terminator, harvester and hydrobots is cool as it represents a good creative team that understands and appreciates the history.

Special features include: “The Moto-Terminator,” a look at the collaboration between filmmakers and Ducati; “Re-Forging the Future,” is about reinventing the franchise; and Blu-ray exclusive “Immersive Maximum Movie Mode,” in which director McG hosts an exploration of the Terminator world with picture-in-picture, storyboard comparisons and a Terminator mythology timeline. There are also BD-Live features and a digital copy of the film.