Saturday, 20 January 2007

Mini Review number 6 - exceptionally short notes on a few.

United 93 A-
The people who feel this film is ‘too soon’ need to wake up. Paul Greengrass has crafted a powerful and humbling tribute to the men and women who gave their lives to save others. All the more powerful to know the friends and family of the victims gave their blessing and support. I am glad I watched, while others had their head in the sand.

Little Miss Sunshine A-
A road movie to put into check all those that came before it. The Hoover family drive to California in a bright yellow mini van so that their daughter can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. What sounds like simple, light fair is doused in dark realism by the assured direction of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the hysterical and emotionally honest script by Michael Arndt, and the actors who’s level of realism make you believe they are actually a family unit. Plus a comedy that can make ME laugh from beginning to end says a lot.

Volver A-
Almodovar + Penelope Cruz = Movie magic. Å sexy, supernatural, family drama filmed in Technicolor with murder, prostitutes and ghosts……OH MY!!!!!

Children of Men B+
A bleak and vivid drama set in England 2027, when all the world's women are suffering from an inexplicable infertility. The result is political turmoil, social breakdown and universal despair. This realistic vision of the future is all the more disturbing because of its plausibility. Clive Owen has reluctantly become saviour and protector to the first woman to get pregnant in 18 years. While shielding her from the general public, people who wish to use her child as leverage and rioting illegal immigrants, Owen is forced to deal with a loss in his own life. Owen is supported brilliantly by Michael Caine and directed superbly by Alfonso Cuaron.

The Devil Wears Prada B+
Smart, funny and oh so biting. Meryl delivers one of her best incarcerations in years as Miranda Priestly the editor and chief of Runway magazine. What could have been a one note performance has, under Meryl's capable hands, become an in-depth look at the sacrifices women with power have to make to compete in a man's world. Brilliant. That’s all.

Little Children B+
A dark and disturbing drama about suburban life highlighted by the amazing central performance of Kate Winslet as a house wife who starts an affair with a married neighbour seemingly out of boredom. The film is a little long and does suffer from an awkward narrative flow, but is made up for by superb acting.

An Inconvenient Truth A-
See this movie. The world depends upon you seeing it.

The Queen B
A carefully wrought exposé of the royal family during their gloomy days in 1997 when Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris. Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II with great skill and buried emotion. Her supporting cast, especially Michael Sheen as Tony Blair, are excellent as well. Overall, this film reveals the aloofness of the queen without being wholly unsympathetic.

Babel B-
Out in the Moroccan desert two brothers tend to their herd of goat. Ahmed is the older brother, but lives in the shadow of his cocksure younger brother, especially in his father's eyes. Yussuf, in a silly sibling competition, carelessly fires a bullet at a tour bus to show his older brother that he is the better marksman.

An American tourist (Cate Blanchette) is hit by a bullet while on holiday in Morocco. Her husband (Brad Pitt) is panic stricken when he realizes just how foreign this place is when they don’t have the comfort of flashing their credit cards or using roaming on their mobiles, and instead have to rely on communication and the kindness of strangers.

In San Diego, Mexican nanny Amelia (the heart breaking Adriana Barraza) is taking care of two children whose parents are out of town. Since Mum and Dad are unexpectedly unable to return in time for her to attend her son’s wedding in Mexico, and since she’s unable to find anyone to help, Amelia elects to take the children with her - a decision that will have grave consequences.

Finally, Chieko (the fearless Rinko Kikuchi) is a deaf-mute Tokyo high school student dealing with the recent death of her mother while attempting to restore a relationship with her distant father. She is also desperate for more intimate contact, to the point where she makes brash and ill-advised overtures towards members of the opposite sex. Unlike the others, she is alienated in her own country, her disability making her a different kind of “foreigner.”

As the title suggests, “Babel” is about communication, the lack thereof, and the difficulties therein. The movie is told in five languages (English, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, and sign), emphasizing the barriers when dealing with cultures totally foreign to each other. But also this movie deals with the pain of communicating feelings with one another, the ties of family and the fragile relationship between employer and employee.
Such a shame then that, although all four stories are connected, they play like four separate movies each one with various degrees of success. Perhaps next time director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu should stick to just one story instead of all this cross narrative and intrusive editing.
The Tokyo segment deserves an ‘A’ while the Mexican and Moroccan family stories each gets a ‘B’. Such a shame the Pitt and Blanchette story brings it all down with their ‘it took us facing death to work out our problems’ bullsh*t, so it gets a 'D'.

The Last King of Scotland B-
Monsters as political leaders are nothing new and the horrors they inflict fail to move me anymore. Perhaps it is just the world we live in with its media saturation, or perhaps I have come around to the opinion that power does indeed corrupt so where is the shock any more. Idi Amin was a charming sociopath and Forest Whitaker does an impressive job mimicking him. However, it is James McAvoy who steals the movie with his naive and bewildered performance as Nicolas Garrigan, the fictional medical advisor to Amin. To bring a fictional character to life has always impressed me more than the heralded copying of famous people (Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishburn in ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ being an exception). While the film has its merits (assured direction, performance and strong screenplay) it comes across as another history lesson most people will not learn from.

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