Archive for August, 2009

Secrets & Lies

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on August 30, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketDysfunctional family drama about people haunted by the past. Reportedly most of the performances were improvised with director Mike Leigh simply providing the actors with an outline of their characters. This makes Brenda Blethyn’s stunning performance all the more amazing, however it also explains the lack of focus that plagues the film. The surprising realization that forms the basis of the film, doesn’t even come to light until fully one hour into this overlong 142 minute film. The film recovers a bit, but by then it’s too little too late.

Taking Woodstock

Posted in Comedy, Music with tags on August 28, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketMerely pleasant period film about how a humble interior decorator sparked a musical revolution by offering the organizers of Woodstock, boarding at his family’s dilapidated motel. Director Ang Lee is more interested in the behind the scenes business of putting the event together than the actual concert itself. Random vignettes provide a few warm and amusing bits, however it all adds up to very little. We don’t even get to see any musical numbers. Not groovy!

I Heart Huckabees

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on August 27, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketTwo private eyes that help people “find themselves”, are hired by an environmentalist to make sense of his own life. Unqualified disaster of a film feels like an acting exercise in search of a coherent plot. Muddled comedy is dull, meandering and disorganized. A staggering waste of genuine talent. Director David O. Russell abuses his actors in an effort to exercise his pseudo-intellectual ruminations on existentialism for the sole apparent purpose of just being weird. If seeing Jude Law in a blonde wig breastfeeding Jason Schwartzman sounds funny to you, please tune in. All others should avoid this lousy piece of bombastic trash.

Inglourious Basterds

Posted in Drama, War with tags on August 26, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketUnrestrained, sensational revenge story concerns two separate attempts to bring down the Nazis in an alternate history during WWII. Dual heroic missions, masterfully woven together, slowly build until both story lines intersect in a beautifully constructed finale that is a tour de force. Director Quentin Tarantino is at the top of his game here, having fun with the twists and turns of the story, his own self-described “spaghetti western” of sorts. Lengthy film is admittedly beset with several protracted scenes that could have been edited and occasional uneven shifts in tone, but overall a rousing adventure that is nothing less than enthralling. Austrian actor Christoph Waltz is a revelation as “Jew Hunter”, Col. Hans Landa.

Jesus Camp

Posted in Documentary, Drama with tags on August 24, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketDocumentary about a Pentecostal summer camp for children. An effective documentary is unbiased, allowing the viewer to form their own opinions. Unfortunately, this is clearly not the agenda of the filmmakers. Clips from Mike Papantonio’s radio show are frequently inserted to editorialize against the camp.  The use of “evil” music every time the camp’s director is on screen doesn’t point to an even handed approach either. Nevertheless, this is still a window into a community we often do not see and much of it is fascinating. That the subjects were manipulated by the directors to cast evangelical Christianity in an unflattering light, contaminates what should have been an interesting film.

The Haunting in Connecticut

Posted in Drama, Horror, Thriller with tags on August 20, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketHackneyed ghost story about a family who experiences supernatural attacks after moving into a converted funeral home. Irritating movie is just an excuse to flash strobe lights, utilize excessive fast edits, and blare lots of loud noises right after dead silence. Supposedly based on a true story, this haunted house retread was more likely based on old horror films. Only actor Elias Koteas adds some interest as a reverend. Actually, the most memorable thing about the film was his striking similarity to actor Christopher Meloni.

District 9

Posted in Action, Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller with tags on August 14, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketScience fiction morality tale about aliens who hover over contemporary South Africa and are extracted from their spaceship and placed in refugee camps. Impressive cinéma vérité style is most effective in detailing the bleak, often gruesome events of the story. Wikus Van De Merwe is the field operative assigned to lead the eviction of the aliens from their homes. Unfortunately he’s such a detestable character, it’s difficult to care about him when he starts to suffer in his own plight. Nevertheless the action is visceral and tense and the story is extremely captivating.

A Place in the Sun

Posted in Drama, Romance with tags on August 12, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketUnforgettable drama concerns young George Eastman, a destitute, though charming, blue collar worker who becomes romantically entangled with two women, one who works in his wealthy uncle’s factory and the other a beautiful socialite. Rarely has a romantic tragedy been so emotionally graphic in exposing the true yearning of people in love. Profound drama cuts through the depths of human behavior in a way that will make you uncomfortable. There is real heartbreak here, but also real desire. The full facial close-ups of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor enrapt in passion are nothing less than spellbinding. Taylor, in fact, is breathtakingly gorgeous and Clift is fascinating as the morally troubled young man. Shelley Winters, who also stars, is a standout as the woman who will not be ignored. And this film is not to be missed.

Better Off Dead

Posted in Comedy, Romance with tags on August 10, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketThoroughly winning teen film about a young man who is dumped by his girlfriend. He then sets out to impress her in an attempt to win her back. Extremely inventive comedy has brilliant touches of surrealism that perfectly complement the story. All in all, a fairly predictable plot, but the laughs are so genuine and sweet, you’ll end up loving this classic 80s comedy.

Julie & Julia

Posted in Biography, Comedy, Drama, Romance with tags on August 8, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketLight, breezy comedy is the cinematic equivalent of a soufflé. While it is humorous and enchanting, the film lacks any real conflict which would have given the script more significance . Story parallels the life of chef Julia Child with that of Julie Powell, a woman who attempts to cook all 524 recipes from Child’s cookbook. What ultimately grounds the film is Meryl Streep’s pitch perfect performance and her chemistry with actor Stanley Tucci who plays her husband, Paul. I was completely unaware Julia Child was such a fascinating person. We are only given a small taste of this woman’s life. One wishes director Nora Ephron had simply made a biography about the famous chef. I was left with wanting seconds.