Archive for 2009

Oceans

Posted in Documentary with tags on August 31, 2010 by Mark Hobin

French nature documentary film by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, distributed in the United States by Disneynature. The film was shot over the course of four years and explores the Earth’s five oceans: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern and Arctic. Stunningly intimate window into a wide array of sea life.  There isn’t much penetrating information, however.  Story doesn’t have the narrative focus of  March of the Penguins for example. Just lots and lots of hauntingly beautiful images of sea life. In this case, that is enough and it’s pretty darn entertaining.

Invictus

Posted in Biography, Drama, History, Sports with tags on August 2, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Reverent account of how newly elected South African president Nelson Mandela used the nation’s rugby team to unite a divided country. The aftermath following the dismantling of apartheid is a fascinating subject, one which could provide material for several epics. Indeed, the movie is a handsomely mounted, beautifully shot, nicely acted effort that begs to be respected. It’s just that this sports drama is such a conspicuous plea for Oscar acceptance, it‘s more predictable formula than emotional storytelling. Focusing on the country’s involvement in the 1995 Rugby World Cup as a way to deal with larger political issues, is an interesting choice. Unfortunately the resulting matches aren’t especially exciting and only superficially address what was happening out in the streets. Furthermore, Nelson Mandela is so saintly, so utterly beatific in his bid to reconcile white and black South Africans, his character doesn’t seem human. To critique a story with such noble aspirations, feels almost iniquitous. Its heart is in the right place. Regrettably, the resulting film is one that is easy to respect, but hard to love.

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.

I Am Love

Posted in Drama with tags on June 25, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Sophisticated tale of a married woman’s affair with her son’s business partner.  Film really takes its time in the details, recounting  the restrained existence of the Italian upper class.  At times the film’s deliberate pace can be a frustrating exercise in style over substance.  But oh what style!  Sumptuous photography highlights the film’s lavish set design and gorgeous Milan locations.  The film is a visual treat and its style, and not the story, carries the drama single-handedly.  Indeed, the last 30 minutes of the film scarcely has a single word of dialogue.  A beautiful, but flawed film.

The Secret in Their Eyes

Posted in Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller with tags on June 22, 2010 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketNicely crafted crime drama about a former criminal court employee who re-opens a decades old murder case he never forgot.  Film maintains the viewers attention as it frequently flashbacks to 1974, then returns to 1999, when the movie is set.  Detailed plot deftly blends such disparate elements as an unresolved murder,  political corruption, and an unrequited love affair, into a seamless story that gradually seduces the viewer’s attention.  Stunning cinematography by Félix Monti is also worth mentioning.  One beautifully photographed sequence at El Monumental soccer stadium in Buenos Aires starts out overhead, zooms into the stands, ultimately becoming a handheld shot once a suspect gives chase.  At 127 min, the investigation occasionally succumbs to Law & Order-like monotony.  In truth, Argentine director Juan José Campanellahas has actually directed some episodes of the American TV series.  However,  the action eventually climaxes to a satisfying conclusion.

The Boys Are Back

Posted in Drama, Family with tags on June 13, 2010 by Mark Hobin

After his wife dies of cancer, a sports writer must confront the responsibilities of single parenthood with his two young sons.  A glossy and superficial film.  Spiritless postcards of a life are presented one after the other.  A sample scene: warm sunlight shines down as the kids play and giggle in an outdoor tub while folksy guitar music underscores the action.  Cinematically pretty, but not particularly dramatic or engaging.  The languid pace doesn’t really benefit the depressing subject matter.  Actor Clive Owen does his best with an honest and heartfelt performance.

Splice

Posted in Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller with tags on June 4, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Unsettling science fiction about two young scientists who combine various animal DNA samples with human DNA to create a hybrid creature.  Their disregard for the ethical and legal boundaries of society is a cautionary tale explored in a (mostly) intelligent manner.  What could have been an unrestrained gore fest, wisely favors creepy mood over slasher techniques.  The fully realized life form they create is mesmerizing.  Exploiting themes of biological horror, director Vincenzo Natali is clearly influenced by the films of David Cronenberg.  However the film takes a decidedly unpleasant departure in the third act.  The off-putting turn of events will either evoke disgust or laughter.  Intriguing exploration of genetic-engineering starts out as stylish horror but ultimately becomes something of a camp fest.  A good film that could have been great.

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.

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.

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.

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