Archive for May, 2010

Mother and Child

Posted in Drama with tags on May 31, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Emotionally charged drama features 3 stories of different women and the subject of adoption, the common thread that unites their experiences.  An absolute powerhouse in the acting department: Kerry Washington, Annette Bening, and Naomi Watts are uniformly brilliant.  Many scenes rely on nothing but the actor and their words.  Simply the way someone sits or the length of pause before speaking, complements the scene just as much as what is actually being said.  Colombian-born writer and director Rodrigo García gives a surprisingly credible voice to these complicated women.  They can be downright unpleasant at times, but that’s human and sincere and what makes this ensemble piece so affecting.  Serious-minded drama is adult in every sense of the word, but viewers that crave a raw and deeply moving experience, will be not be disappointed.

The Dinner Game

Posted in Comedy with tags on May 29, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Minor French farce is a mistitled little ditty about a about a competition amongst a group of businessmen to see who can find the stupidest person to bring to dinner.  The problem is that they never attend said dinner party, which undoubtedly would have been ripe for comedy.  Instead the “dinner game” is more of an excuse to bring two unlikely acquaintances together in the same room for 78 minutes.  Of course nothing goes right in this comedy of errors.  Actor Jacques Villeret is amusing as François Pignon, the nincompoop in question. His nuanced acting brings out a personality that is more sweet and sensitive than idiotic.  That’s unexpected.  Given the setting of the film, however, perhaps a more appropriate title would have been, The Time I Injured My Back and Had to Spend the Day at Home With an Idiot, but that doesn’t quite have the same ring now does it?

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Posted in Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance with tags on May 28, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Unimaginative swashbuckler about a prince who must keep an ancient dagger with the power to reverse time, from falling into the hands of a villainous lord.  Superficial adventure film based on a video game probably sounds redundant.  I mean Mortal Kombat is arguably the high point for these types of adaptations.  The main problem is that we, the audience, are never emotionally connected to the characters.  When the perfectly tanned main character looks more like he belongs on a recent cover of Muscle & Fitness than as a Persian prince from the 6th century, you see where the filmmakers priorities are. The action is all kind of incoherent and occasionally relies on shoddy special effects in the place of an engaging story.  I suppose when Walt Disney studios presents a Jerry Bruckheimer production, you shouldn’t expect depth, but a more exciting story would have been nice.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Western with tags on May 25, 2010 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketShallow adventure about a thief, a hitman, and a bounty hunter all vying to find a treasure map.  Starting with that title, this ho-hum Korean western is clearly upfront about being inspired by the Sergio Leone classic.  The concept is unique, I mean a Spaghetti Western from South Korea, set in 1930s Manchuria, is pretty unconventional at least.  Unfortunately the execution is mostly uninspired.  Bright colorful cinematography highlights  lots and lots of graphic shoot-outs and chases.  At first it’s kind of fun, but the strictly by the numbers story grows tiresome after 127 minutes.  Fans of the genre may enjoy this Eastern take on a Western classic.  All others should simply rent the superior original.

My One and Only

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on May 21, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Agreeable comedy follows a mother as she attempts to find a new father for her two young sons after catching her husband with another woman. Actor George Hamilton’s real life reminiscences on The Merv Griffin Show form the basis of this road movie about his childhood. Renée Zellweger plays the self absorbed woman who unrealistically thinks she can simply get by on charm alone. She is the matriarch of this rather eccentric family of three and their slight adventures form the bulk of this occasionally entertaining film. Despite her capriciousness, she remains a likable character and the best reason to see the film. Period detail of the 1950s is painstakingly recreated.

MacGruber

Posted in Action, Comedy with tags on May 21, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Vapid, action comedy about an inept soldier-of-fortune trying to stop a black market arms dealer.  First 20 minutes of this alleged parody is about as serious as a real episode of the TV series MacGyver.  Once Kristen Wiig shows up, there are a few inspired bits of lunacy that hint at what the film could have been.  As Vicki St. Elmo, she brings some much needed charm and humor to her character.  The problem is that Will Forte is the star, not her.  He’s not the lovable rogue he should be, but rather a repulsive loser, a big mistake in a film which depends on the likeability of the main character.  The film deteriorates into toliet humor and penis jokes.  Next time, cast Kristen Wiig as the star and make the film about her.  A disappointing misfire.  Inspired soundtrack does include several delightfully cheesy soft rock hits, including the guilty pleasures “Rosanna”, “Baker Street”, and “Steal Away”.

City Island

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on May 11, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Pitch perfect comedy about the secrets a family hides from each other.  Title refers to the area of the Bronx where the film is set. Everyone is superb in this ensemble cast, particularly Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies as the  married couple at the center of it all.  Script deftly handles multiple plot threads brilliantly, as it tells its tale of a dysfunctional family.  Genuine eccentricities on display, but in a delightfully amusing and at times, touching sort of way.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and for all the right reasons.  A warm hearted movie that deserves to be seen by more people.

Babies

Posted in Documentary with tags on May 7, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Passive documentary follows 4 newborns through their first year, born in Namibia, Mongolia, Japan, and the USA.  Affectionate account lacks narration or even anything resembling an inquiring mind.  We’re presented scene after scene of beautifully shot images of babies acting like babies.  Granted some of the vignettes are captivating.  Let’s face it, babies are cute.  Unfortunately, French filmmaker Thomas Balmes squanders a golden opportunity to seriously delve into the development of an infant in the first year.  Ultimately it’s just a superficial collection of home videos of children without the insight that could have elevated this film into something extraordinary.  If there is a point, it’s that babies are all the same, no matter what country or culture.  I learned that watching Sesame Street.

Iron Man 2

Posted in Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller with tags on May 7, 2010 by Mark Hobin

The knowledge that Tony Stark is in fact Iron Man, is now public, as he must confront a new arch nemesis in Ivan Vanko, while still trying to maintain world peace.  Solid superhero film is slick and spirited, but most of all, it still has a sense of humor.  We have Robert Downey Jr. to thank for that.  He continues to bring a light, smart-alecky tone to the role.  He’s fun and so is the film.  The assemblage of characters can be a bit exasperating  however.  We have two villains this time, as well as two sexy female co-workers for Tony Stark.  In both cases, one would have been enough.  The story awkwardly juggles these performers, almost as if a bigger cast, meant a better story.   Still there’s lots of action and the story does move briskly.  A dependable action film.  You won’t be blown away, but you’ll never be bored either.

Pacific Heights

Posted in Mystery, Thriller with tags on May 6, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Suspenseful thriller about an unmarried couple who sublet their Victorian home to a menacing tenant.  Hitchcockian tale gradually exposes their vulnerability so we share in the frustration of the young couple.  Script also raises some interesting questions about California tenant laws.  What makes this thriller so convincing is the unexpected path the story ultimately takes. Melanie Griffith shines as the more rational mind in the yuppie couple and Michael Keaton is effectively manipulative as Carter Hayes, a psychopathic con artist.

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