Archive for July, 2010

Dinner for Schmucks

Posted in Comedy with tags on July 30, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Corporate executive must bring an unsuspecting fool to a dinner party where the biggest idiot wins a prize.  Inconsequential comedy is forgettable, for the most part, and not especially funny.  As the star imbecile, Steve Carell mugs for the camera in a desperate attempt to wring laughs from the lightweight script.  An IRS agent, he makes dioramas with dead mice dressed like people in his  spare time.  Despite being a device to make him look ridiculous, they’re actually kind of charming.  Redeems itself somewhat in the last act with a more involving turn of events when several comedians get a chance to shine at the climactic get-together.  An improvement over the original, more mean spirited, French farce in which the protagonists never even made it to the banquet.  Except by then, it‘s too little, too late.  Not a horrible movie, but not a particularly memorable one either.

Séraphine

Posted in Biography, Drama with tags on July 24, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Period drama uses the “tortured genius” blueprint to tell the story of Séraphine Louis, a mentally disturbed housekeeper, with a secret passion to paint.   A self-taught outsider to the art world, her works were highlighted by intricately ornate floral arrangements. Sadly, she such is a quiet, withdrawn woman, her personality fails to engage as a character.  It’s difficult to care for this dreary woman.  Biography also fails to shed light on what made this woman tick.  She loves to paint, but no insight concerning why.  She is plagued by mental illness, but no explanation as to what she suffers from or if it can be cured.   It’s clear the encouragement of German art collector Wilhelm Uhde lifted her spirits immeasurably and helped her to become psychologically stable for a time.  This makes the subsequent actions of those around her, a thoroughly exasperating experience.  Nice cinematography, but the glacial pace is sleep inducing.

Salt

Posted in Action, Thriller with tags on July 23, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Angelina Jolie is Evelyn Salt, a trained CIA officer who is accused of being a Russian spy.  Jolie brings her seductive, charismatic persona and she definitely doesn’t disappoint.  She’s an indestructible badass, as sexy as she is tough.  It’s a seductive combination.  A spectacular piece of slam-bang entertainment that, while captivating, is also ludicrous in the extreme.  Film requires a very high suspension of disbelief.  How can she jump from the roof of one speeding truck to the next – three times even?  How is she able to knock out 20 people and not get hurt?  How did she survive that bomb blast?  Don’t even worry trying to answer those questions.  Merely sit back, relax and enjoy the action.  You will have a good time.  Just check your brain at the door.

Despicable Me

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Family with tags on July 17, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Animated comedy about a criminal mastermind who plans to steal the moon in order to outdo his #1 rival. Buoyant script highlights this heist movie.  The clever story never talks down to its audience as there are jokes to delight adults and children alike.  The exceptional voice performances also contribute to the fun.  Thankfully the cartoon characters do not suggest their human counterparts and the actors doing the voices are not easily identifiable.  This allows the viewer to get lost in the adventure without the distraction of being reminded of famous stars.  Steve Carell’s character Gru, the film’s protagonist, is especially good.  His evil supervillain cuts through some of the treacle to add just the right amount of sour bite that balances nicely with the film’s more cutesy moments.   His army of diminutive yellow Minions are an enjoyable addition as well.  Simply put, it’s bright, eye-popping entertainment with heart.  What more could you ask for?

Inception

Posted in Action, Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller with tags on July 16, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 – Addendum

Once I’ve experienced a film, I will rarely watch it again for say another 5 years. It’s just that I feel 1.) they don’t hold the same joy of discovery the 2nd time around and 2.) there are simply too many other great movies I still have yet to see. But when Warner Bros. sent me a complimentary copy of Inception on Blu-ray, I knew this was an example of a flick that deserved a second examination. For one thing, Inception is sufficiently complex that an additional viewing actually helps in following the intricate narrative. But even more important, it’s a jaw dropping, visually impressive work of art. The quality of Blu-ray was made for productions like this.

Exhilarating science fiction about an “Extractor” that has the ability to glean information from people by infiltrating their dreams.  Intriguing idea is beautifully presented with one dazzling spectacle after another.  Any one individual scene would have been an accomplishment by itself.  Put them all together and you have a fully realized meditation on the exploration of the mind’s subconscious.  One particularly memorable fight sequence is an intricately choreographed pugilistic ballet of zero gravity and slow motion.  At times, the story which concerns corporate espionage can be somewhat difficult to follow.  Where does one dream end and another begin?  But the hypnotic visuals are so sensational and the editing so masterful, you really don’t care.  Indeed the last 30 minutes are so skillfully put together, you can scarcely breathe.  Actual location shooting (not CGI) in Morocco, Tokyo, and Fortress Mountain in Alberta, Canada is used to brilliant effect to heighten the viewer’s emotional attachment to the material.  This is a perfect marriage of intellect and action.  Director Christopher Nolan is a visionary and here is the proof.

The Holiday

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Romance with tags on July 15, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Glossy romantic comedy features two women who swap homes temporarily, one in England the other in LA.  What happens to British Iris in the US is far more compelling than what happens to American Amanda in England.  Credit goes to Kate Winslet for her engaging performance.  She elevates everyone around her.  Even Eli Wallach seems magnetic as a screenwriter from Hollywood‘s golden age.  Unfortunately, the trite story is too formulaic to be interesting.  Comedy-drama feels more like a product being marketed and sold by a Hollywood factory that anything bearing genuine warmth and emotion.  Cameron Diaz is particularly cloying.  She makes goo-goo eyes and talks in her cutest voice that says “love me because I’m so pretty”, but really comes across a snoozy bore.  Half of a good movie.  I see no  justification for that overindulgent 2 hour and 16 minute running time either.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Posted in Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller with tags on July 12, 2010 by Mark Hobin

A New York City subway train is hijacked by a group of 4 men and a ransom of 1 million dollars is demanded for the safe return of the 17 passengers.  Well plotted, heist movie has a refreshingly simple plot.  Story isn’t corrupted by the needlessly complicated gimmicks which often hamper modern films, including the 2009 remake.  Exciting and suspenseful, action thriller highlighted by engaging performances from Walter Matthau as the Transit Authority policeman.  Also exceptional is Robert Shaw, known as “Mr. Blue” in his gang with color code names, a device later used in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.  Wonderful location shooting and pulsating score from David Shire enhance the drama considerably.

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Posted in Crime, Mystery, Thriller with tags on July 11, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are back as he tries to vindicate the young computer hacker who has become a murder suspect.  Unfortunately part two of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy is a disappointment.  The chemistry between the principal leads, so interesting in the first film, is eliminated here because the protagonists are kept separate throughout the entire movie.  Huh?  Not helping matters is that this supposed crime thriller is utterly lacking in excitement.  Except for when Swedish boxer and TV star Paolo Roberto comes to fisticuffs with a hulking blond villain named Niedermann, there is no action.  The drama is heavy on long winded conversations however.  Ironically, it’s never adequately explained why an investigation into sex trafficking, which informs the plot, will exonerate his female friend.  Sadly, this manages to be another case where the sequel fails to live up to the original.  However stars Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist still remain  fascinating characters.

Predators

Posted in Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller with tags on July 9, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Eight elite warriors find themselves in foreign territory being hunted by a ruthless alien race. Heart pounding science fiction is captivating because the action starts quietly and slowly builds.  We the audience gradually understand what is happening as the characters on screen do.  Initially  it is the joy of discovery that makes the story so effective. The motley crew assembled is compelling as well.  Every combatant has a distinct personality with a talent that gives them their uniqueness.  As with films like this, the excitement derives from the thrill of the fight and who will survive and who will die.  There are even a couple surprises thrown in that keep things interesting.  Overall not particularly original on plot, but exciting nonetheless.  Director Nimród Antal’s stated sequel to the original 1987 is in actuality the fifth film to use the Predator character (and the 2nd best).

Cyrus

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Romance with tags on July 8, 2010 by Mark Hobin

A man meets the woman of his dreams but must contend with her 21-year-old son.  John C. Reilly plays the lead character, utterly lacking in confidence.  He’s been divorced for 7 years and still has trouble adjusting.  At a party in an inebriated state, he is compelled to start dancing all by himself when a favorite song starts playing, while everyone sits and just watches.  It’s a moment that is uncomfortably pathetic.   Then to save him from his drunken stupor, out comes Marisa Tomei as Molly to join him on the living room floor to justify his decision and the moment becomes touchingly humorous.  Such is the quirky rhythm of the film.  He later meets her son and the story focuses on the relationship between these three.  If one can cozy up to the hilariously awkward situations that arise from this love triangle of sorts, it can be a rewarding experience.  It is a nuanced comedy drama, very slight, but refreshingly unique.

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