Thursday, April 30, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Now that I've seen for the first time a film by Woody Allen, I can almost call myself a cinephile. Honestly, I liked this film. Of course, there were times when I felt that the film went through some moments of clumsiness (speaking about the script). However, this film was (and will always be if I watch it again) enjoyable for me, because I have a "celebrity crush" on Scarlett Johansson. On another note, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is not your usual romantic film because it's a beautiful and smart exploration of what people want from a love relation.

The story follows two American tourists. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are two best friends who decide to spend the summer in Barcelona. In fact, Vicky's friend said that Vicky and Cristina can stay at her house. Eventually, Vicky and Cristina meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a painter they saw for the first time at an art gallery. Considering their different mind frame, they both become enamoured with Juan Antonio. Speaking about their personality, Vicky looks for stability (she's going to be married) while Cristina doesn't hesitate to have romantic adventures because she's looking for "the right man". However, things get a little bit complicated when Juan Antonio's ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz), resurfaces.

Obviously, despite being a very beautiful film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona certainly has its flaws. The film definitely has a fast pace, but the problem that I had is when, at one point, the film momentarily loses its focus. In fact, while the film is about Vicky's and Cristina's exploration of the meaning of love through their relation with Juan Antonio, it starts throwing in the idea that Vicky's friend has about love. Since this loss of focus doesn't last for quite long, it turns out to be a minor annoyance.

Evidently, the film's touch of magic lies in its wonderful simplicity and sharp dialogues that are not afraid to look sophisticated. Moreover, these dialogues beautifully render the contradictions of the characters. For instance, while Juan Antonio still has feelings for Maria Elena. However, he knows that this love is doomed (because of verbal violence and Maria Elena's aggressiveness so to speak) and this is why he hopes that either Vicky or Cristina will have an interest for him (this will happen). Besides, the film becomes extremely interesting when Vicky and Cristina wonders if it's worth it to review their values when it comes to love.

In the end, no matter what happens to the characters, Woody Allen has that ability to make us care for the very attractive characters. Moreover, without revealing too much, the film is a journey meaning that at the end of it, the characters (Vicky and Cristina) come to see, in their own way, what it means to make a choice by following their heart. All in all, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a must-see if you enjoy watching simple (but full of depth and subtlety) performance (coming from Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall and Javier Bardem) or hilarity (coming from Penélope Cruz).

Rating: 4/5

Origin:USA/Spain (2008)
Length:96 minutes
Genre:Romantic comedy
Screenplay:Woody Allen
Director:Woody Allen
Starring:Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Toronto Stories

If you're Canadian, you'll be told not to start playing this country's second favourite game (after hockey), that is thrashing Toronto. As a Montrealer, I found the movie okay. This goes without saying that the film could have been better. If you forget the few flaws in the script of this anthology containing four shorts, you'll be amazed by the nice cinematography capturing Canada's biggest city (the two others that follow are Vancouver and Montreal). In fact, given that Toronto has always been disguised as American cities or towns by Hollywood, the filmmakers are not afraid to show Toronto with its charms along with its ugliness. Such an artistic choice means that life can be either beautiful or sad.

A young and silent African boy illegally arrives at the Pearson International Airport without passport and is taken by the special handling department. However, while the airport security has its back turned, the boy gets out of the airport by getting on a bus that will transport him at the heart of Toronto. The presence of this boy serves as a uniter for all the four disjointed short stories.

The first segment called Shoelaces (directed by Aaron Woodley) follows Cayle (Samantha Weinstein) and Jacob (Ricardo Hoyos), two kids from the Cabbagetown district, who are looking for a monster. The second segment called The Brazilian (directed by Sook-Yin Lee) follows Boris (Tygh Runyan), a man who doesn't know if he's interested by love, and Willia (Sook-Yin Lee), a woman who's in love with Boris. The third segment called Windows (directed by Sudz Sutherland) is about Doug (Joris Jarsky), who just got out of prison and who tries to win the heart of his ex, Roshannah (Carly Pope), even though his friend (K.C. Collins) says he should get over it his break up. The fourth story is about Henry (Gil Bellows), a homeless man and also a crack addict, who found the the African boy at the Union train station and who has difficulty to be believed by the authorities.

Of all the four stories, only three of them are really interesting. In fact, one may have the feeling that The Brazilian segment breaks the pace of the film. In fact, at the beginning of the segment, we hardly know what kind of story we're seeing and the performance by Sook-Yin Lee and Tygh Runyan is somewhat boring to watch despite their efforts. Besides, it's just too bad that the end of it, this story becomes clear and interesting given that the dialogues are starting to have a better taste for our ears.

Speaking about the other three stories, I don't need to tell you how amazing they are with their simplicity and also thanks to the performance of the cast, especially from Gil Bellows (24: Redemption) and Carly Pope (Young People Fucking). However, if I have any reservation to express, it's about the the third segment called Windows. Despite being interesting, one may have the feeling that the segment is not developed enough. In fact, the relation between Doug and Roshannah is a little bit underused in a sense that you just wonder how can a woman from a wealthy family fall in love with someone who turns out to be a crook in a first place. Of course, we know that Doug was thrown in prison for armed robbery, but what was his situation prior to this?

Finally, like Paris, je t'aime, Toronto Stories manages quite well to bring us into the life of different Torontonians even though the different stories are clearly disjointed (which wasn't the case for another multi-layered film like This Beautiful City). With that said, the second segment is forgettable and therefore, watch it for the other three segments which are fantastic although we'd like to see them being more developed.

Rating: 3/5

Origin:Canada (2008)
Length:89 minutes
Screenplay:Aaron Woodley, Sook-Yin Lee, Sudz Sutherland and David Weaver
Director:Aaron Woodley, Sook-Yin Lee, Sudz Sutherland and David Weaver
Tokka Murphy, Ricardo Hoyos, Samantha Weinstein, Sook-Yin Lee, Tygh Runyan, K.C. Collins, Joris Jarsky, Carly Pope, Lisa Ray and Gil Bellows

Monday, April 27, 2009

Your Host at the 2009 LAMMYS

Since I joined the LAMB (an association of movie blogs that you should join if you have a blog dedicated to films) many months ago, this will be my first participation at the LAMMYS. Over the past few months, dear readers (whether you're a LAMB or not) you've seen me posting movie reviews. Besides, while I had already casted my votes at the LAMMYS, I've also been trying to convince you that this is your place for movie reviews (and other cultural stuff). Finally, the polls close on May 4, 2009.

PS: You must be a member of the LAMB to vote here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sur le seuil

Shot without much style, Evil Words (name in English) is just one of those films made by a Hollywood wannabe. As a horror film, Evil Words is dull and it doesn't make us shiver as much as the novel, which was written by Patrick Senécal, effectively did. All in all, this film looks like a complete parody of the novel of the same name because the script has no efficiency at all.

Thomas Roy (Patrick Huard) is a famous horror writer who attempted to commit a suicide the day after a policeman shot without reason children visiting the Montreal Olympic Stadium. Because he represents such a complex case, the Montreal Police Department transfers Roy to a psychiatric institute. He'll be taken in charge by Dr. Paul Lacasse (Michel Côté), an old psychiatrist who lost any passion for his job, and and Dr. Jeanne Marcoux (Catherine Florent), a young psychiatrist who believes that psychiatry can save people.

Eventually, Paul and Jeanne discover that a few days before the shooting at the Montreal Olympic Stadium, Roy had written a draft copy of his next novel while they believed that Roy no longer wanted to write. Besides, this draft copy tells the story of a police officer shooting without reason at kids in a heartbreak. Since Roy doesn't want to tell what's going on with him, Paul decides to lead a personal investigation (by even going back to Thomas Roy's birth date) to understand what happened to this writer. After all, did Thomas Roy try to commit suicide because he felt animated by evil in its purest form?

Éric Tessier's attempt to adapt an acclaimed novel about unexplained dementia is a real mess. The script that we see in the film got seriously sliced for the pace's sake, but the pace is still damn slow. Since the film is about unexplained dementia, Tessier took the bad decision to take out Paul's and Jeanne's scientific argumentations and hypothesis from the most crucial conversation scenes that we saw in the novel (and these scenes made it brilliant). In fact, the novel had the merit of looking like a creative work supported by serious research about the milieu of psychiatry. Therefore, one has the bitter feeling that the film is dumbed down for no reason.

As a result of that, Sur le seuil loses any pretention to credibility, because we have the feeling to be left with characters who don't try hard (unlike in the novel) to understand Thomas Roy's weirdness. This goes without saying that Michel Côté (Le dernier tunnel) and Catherine Florent, despite their bland hardwork, don't even look like psychiatrists. Instead, we just have three characters who let themselves be carried by a very predictable script mared by unnatural one-liners. Moreover, the script becomes even more predictable when it tips you off about what's going to happen at the end.

Finally, I'm not going to waste anymore of my time to tell you how this film looks amateurish with the really uninspiring and bland performance from the cast. The only actor who seems to be doing a job is Jean L'Italien, as the celebrity journalist named Charles Monette. In fact, if you have a prejudice that the acting in webseries are cold, watch this film "à vos risques et périls" and prepare to be extremely bored to death.

Rating: 1/5

Origin:Canada (2003)
Length:100 minutes
Screenplay:Éric Tessier
Director:Éric Tessier
Michel Côté, Patrick Huard, Catherine Florent, Jean L'Italien and Albert Millaire

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

House of Flying Daggers

This second martial arts film by Zhang Yimou may not be as good as Hero. However, if we look at the bright side of this, it seemed he wanted to feel like he's in a sandlot. To that matter, think that House of Flying Daggers is to Zhang what Hard-Boiled is to John Woo. With that said, despite a few flaws in the script, we can tell that Zhang Yimou manages to put the story first over fights.

In 859 AD, the Tang Dynasty is in decline and the Chinese government is corrupted. In the light of that, many rebel groups have emerged and the biggest one is the Flying Daggers, which is based Feng Tian County. Even though the leader of that group was killed, Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Leo (Andy Lau), two police captains, have ten days to kill the new leader. To do so, they arrest Xiao Mei (Zhang Ziyi), a beautiful and blind exotic dancer, because they believe that she's the daughter of the Flying Daggers' old leader. In order to find the hideout of the Flying Daggers, Leo and Jin concoct a ploy: Jin will get Xiao Mei out of jail, pass off as a former police captain who espoused the Flying Daggers' cause and go North with her while Leo along with some soldiers follow from afar.

Unlike Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero, this film is more a love story than a martial art film. However, with such a simple story, don't expect to see that much depth in House of Flying Daggers. Therefore, let's face it: the budding romance between Jin and Xiao Mei is as cheesy as a chivalry tale for kids (i.e. woman falls in love for a man after seeing him in action). However, thanks to Takashi Kaneshiro's (Chungking Express) charisma of big star and Zhang Ziyi's (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) talent, even the sternest critics of all can forgive such a flaw. Indeed, the romantic story between a revolutionary and a double agent easily captivates us.

Besides, no one can deny that House of Flying Daggers is so appealing thanks to its colourful cinematography, the exotic landscapes of Northern China and the beautiful costumes that contrast the decline of the Tang Dynasty. Through such well-used lens, House of Flying Daggers is an ode to love even in time of chaos. This is why we see Jin wondering if he should pursue his mission or feel free like a wind and live his love with Xiao Mei (which obviously dismays Leo, who is brilliantly played by Andy Lau). However, the question is: will the romance between Jin and Xiao Mei meet an obstacle? All in all, it was only Zhang Yimou who could use such a wonderful historical symbolism to drive such a simple story.

Finally, a the film goes into its second half and displays its plot twists, I understand that some people might find it harder to follow than - let's use an example - the 7th season of 24. However, despite an obvious cheesiness (no intended comparison with Partition), the movie looks great and can be extremely entertaining (forget what many detractors of this film told you).

Rating: 3.5/5

Origin:China (2004)
Length:119 minutes
Screenplay:Li Feng, Zhang Yimou and Wang Bin
Director:Zhang Yimou
Starring:Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fast & Furious

Plot-wise, this film tries to be minimally okay without taking itself too seriously. However, Fast and Furious is what you'd expect from it: a thin script that probably could have been better and fast cars. Any surprise here? Well, the less you expect to see a masterpiece, the more you should be either: 1) entertained or 2) irked by the scriptwriter's unwillingness to make something good with the script.

Situated after 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, the story begins a few years after FBI agent Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) let Dominic Toretto (Vin Diessel) get away with a crime. With his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his friend Han (Sung Kang), Dominic is making money in the Domican Republic by hijacking fuel tankers (and selling the gas afterwards to racers). To avoid being arrested (he's considered as an international criminal) and keep Letty out of his problems, Dominic flees to Panama and Han to Tokyo.

However, Dominic will return to L.A. after he heard about Letty getting killed by someone who works for a drug lord. On the other hand, Brian is asked by his superiors to arrest the drug lord in question. Of course, in order to get close to the drug lord, Brian and Dominic will strive to win an illegal race in the streets of L.A. By winning it, they can become cross-border heroin transporters. Although they have different goals, Brian and Dominic have to team up and trust each other.

Obviously, some people will certainly be happy to see Paul Walker and Vin Diessel reunited again. However, that doesn't necessarily make this film a masterpiece if you take in consideration the very thin - albeit fast-paced - script. Speaking about its qualities, the script has the merit, unlike that of Tokyo Drift and 2 Fast 2 Furious, to not be a ludicrous parade of clichés that you see in cop or even teenager films. With that said, this is where any praise for the film's artistic value ends.

Indeed, even though Fast & Furious is not entirely bad, its script is as simplistic as the one of Quantum of Solace. Therefore, don't expect any character development in the film. In fact, the only purpose consist in leading Brian and Dominic to drug lord and show us the action scenes without any interesting plot twists. This means that there are two points that we'll talk about. First of all, it's impressive to see how much the director put his passion into the car chase scenes. With that mind, I don't need to tell you how entertaining the car chases are. Secondly, the performance from the cast is even more bland than Lucas Black's performance in Tokyo Drift or Tyrese Gibson's in 2 Fast 2 Furious if you want a comparison. After all, there's not much interaction between the characters in this film since the characters are animated by one-liners.

Finally, just like my fellow movie blogger R2D2 at Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob, I agree that the film has a relatively decent storyline without necessarily being a masterpiece. However, I wasn't impressed at all with the acting because anyone, with a little bit of enthusiasm, can spill out the characters' lines without any difficulty. On another note, you can see for yourself how entertaining the film is.

Rating: 2.5/5

Origin:USA (2009)
Length:107 minutes
Screenplay:Chris Morgan
Director:Justin Lin
Vin Diessel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Gal Gadot and John Ortiz

Friday, April 17, 2009


Here's a quiz: name the country that, in the same year, had seen the production of two bio-pics (John Adams and Milk) talking about people who fought for freedom at different times? Yes, it's my neighbours from the South! While I sometimes felt that there were parts when the film was a little bit boring, I was, in the end, glad that to see this film. In fact, forget the entertainment! Gus Van Sant's Milk might tell a story that ends sadly. However, in its fullness, Milk is a triumphant film about what one can accomplish by believing in a goal.

We follow Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), a man from New York, who celebrates his 40th birthday by picking up Scott Smith (James Franco). Eventually, the two of them decide to move to San Francisco where they lead a lifestyle of hippies and open a camera store. In the light of discrimination from the local government, other shop owners and other citizens, Harvey Milk decides to go in politics to improve the condition of homosexuals, get things done for his constituents and be the first openly gay elected officials in the USA.

Of course, what people might not like about bio-pics is that they're just a chain of marking events in the life of the main character (in this case the fight for homosexuals' rights). In the end, who gives a business about that? Despite showing Milk's political struggle, by starting with his first two political campaigns and afterwards his victory, Gus Van Sant manages to give a certain depth to the film in such a condensed way. For instance, think about the scene in which Harvey Milk tell to his male supporters that his political fight must include gay men as much as lesbians when Anne Kronenberg (Alison Pill), a lesbian who became Harvey Milk's campaign manager during his campaign for becoming one of San Francisco's members of the Board of Supervisors in 1977, is introduced.

In fact, if this bio-pic will never give us a complete picture of who Harvey Milk was, it, at least, manages to show us Harvey Milk's political thoughts and even his flaws. Hence, the good feeling of distance between the Gus Van Sant and the character that the film analyzes. This means that although the supporting homophobic characters (like Senator Briggs and Anita Bryant) are not shown under a favourable day (why should they, anyway?) the film just sticks to what these characters stated in public. Moreover, the film will also surprise you with its depiction of Milk's relation with people around him, especially with Dan White (Josh Brolin), a fellow Supervisor of San Francisco. As a person who is perceived like a hero, Sean Penn (Mystic River) gives life without difficulty to such a flamboyant character who wants to do something in his life and who also makes Dan White green of envy. He's also well supported by the rest of the cast, especially by Josh Brolin (W).

Finally, I'll conclude this review by addressing a message to my American neighbours. A film like Milk arrives at the right time given that Proposition 8 was approved by referendum in California in November and also because of the annoying place that religion occupies in American politics (that same thing can almost be said about Canadian politics). After all, in the USA there is a separation between the state and the church according to the first Amendment and the Article VI of the Constitution. This means that any politician can't use religion to justify their stances or a decision they take. Nevertheless, I'm glad that many Americans (regardless of the state they live in) are extremely open-minded when I saw Brokeback Mountain and also learnt that same-sex marriages are tolerated in Massachussetts, Connecticut, Iowa (starting April 27, 2009) and in Vermont (starting September 1, 2009). These are small things, but progress is progress.

Rating: 4.5/5

Origin:USA (2008)
Length:128 minutes
Genre:Historical drama
Screenplay:Dustin Lance Black
Director:Gus Van Sant
Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Alison Pill, Victor Garber and Denis O'Hare

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In the Mood for the NHL Playoffs!

As of today, I announce you that although I keep an eye on movies that I'll share my thoughts on, I'll just follow the hockey playoffs. Hey guys, it's not my fault if watching hockey at this time of the year (we're at the quarter finals) is literally a religion nationwide in Canada! Besides, I just find it hard to live without my Montreal Canadiens games.

Finally, I just hope that you, dear reader, are not a fan of the Boston Bruins. Go Habs go! Here's my prediction: Montreal for the win in 6 games.

Monday, April 13, 2009


While they scripted in the same year the lame Transporter 3, Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen also did a surprisingly okay action film. Despite being a little bit predictable if not formulaic on the edges, Taken surprises us with its simplicity. Add to that the interesting topic of the film, which is the traffic of sex slaves in Europe. However, this doesn't mean that the film is exempted of some flaws which can be found mostly in the script.

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a former CIA agent who decided to retire just to spend more time with his 17 years old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). In fact, while he was operating across the world, Bryan let his job destroy his marriage with his wife (Famke Janssen) and his relationship with his daughter. When his daughter wants to go to Paris with her friend, Amanda (Katie Cassidy), Bryan has some reservations, but he ends up letting Kim go. A few hours after arriving in Paris, Kim and Amanda are kidnapped by sex slaves traffickers. As a matter of fact, Bryan would have to come to Paris and use all the dirty tricks he learnt in his career to save his daughter.

First of all, don't expect to see a lot of character development in this film since the film is quite simple. Despite having no interesting plot twists, the film is extremely formulaic meaning that the two scriptwriters gave it a simple objective (Bryan trying to save his daughter) and made it follow a relatively predictable course loaded with unrealistic, albeit thrilling, situations. Although the film is extremely simple, one always get the feeling that the story looks programmed to bring us where it wants to. In fact, given the vast number of people travelling to Paris, it's surprising that it has to be Amanda and Kim who are abducted.

After all, is it that easy to make a story in which an abduction looks so random?

On another note, while the film doesn't deserve any European Film Award for the performance, the cast can be fairly convincing. Despite not normally being known for playing in action movies, Liam Neeson (Batman Begins) manages to impress us in the action scenes. In addition to that, although Neeson doesn't necessarily have memorable lines, one can feel in his character how authoritative Neeson is. Other than that, most of the other member of the cast look like ornaments. Indeed, Famke Janssen (GoldenEye) and Maggie Grace, just to name a few, probably deliver a bland performance, but their performance just hits the note that needed to be hit. Nothing less. Nothing more.

Finally, one doesn't watch this film to see a masterpiece! Besides, given the film's short length one doesn't have to wait for a long time so that the action scenes come. These action scenes are very spectacular in a sense that the fight scenes are as intense as the ones from the Bourne trilogy and the car sequences are as captivating as the ones in James Bond (minus the gadgets).

Rating: 3/5

Origin:France (2008)
Length:91 minutes
Screenplay:Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Director:Pierre Morel
Liam Neeson, Famke Jansen, Maggie Grace, Xander Berkeley, Leland Orser, Katie Cassidy and Olivier Rabourdin

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Good, the Bad, the Weird

This "remake" of Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the most expansive film ever produced in South Korea so far and it's unbelievable that it was presented at the Cannes International Film Festival. In fact, don't even try to figure out if there is a story in this entertainment-oriented film! I haven't seen Leone's film, but from I what conclude, one should forget how this film is a rehash and enjoy the action scenes, which are effectively directed. Nothing less. Nothing more. Besides, the last time I heard about South Korea making the "most expansive film" in its history was when I saw the fairly good film Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War. Sorry, South Korea, but better luck next time when one movie studio of yours will decide to push the budget envelope further!

The story takes place in the Manchuria of the 1930s when it was occupied by Japan and follows three Korean outlaws. Park Do-won, Park Chang-yi and Yoon Tae-goo, who are respectively the good, the bad and the weird, are all looking for a map that apparently leads to a treasure. That map is in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Bank's chairman and the only way to get it is to do a train robbery. While Chang-yi and Do-won are busy at shooting each other, Tae-goo manages to escape from the train with the map. While these three characters are running after the map, they also realize that they have to deal with some bandits and the Japanese army who have their interests.

This is the premise that we're introduced to at the beginning. Besides, when I heard about the film for the first time, I thought that it looks okay although I was sceptical about the possibility to explicitly apply in an Asian film most of the norms in the western handbook. Unfortunately, this film is nothing but a flash in the pan. The first flaw that one will notice is the abundance of bad guys, so to speak. In fact, I had the feeling that the bandits from the deserts were only gun fodders (the same thing can be said about the Japanese army) that couldn't take the time to expose their interest for the map.

Speaking about the script, as the story advances, The Good, the Bad, the Weird loses its focus, that is the search for the treasure. It seems that the reason for throwing in a plot in which the characters are looking for a treasure is only to pile up as much action scenes as possible. Don't get me wrong: I certainly like to watch action films, especially when these scenes last for a long period. However, I just don't like films that have a simplistic and thin plot in which the developed ideas (finding the treasure and getting a revenge) barely have any links with each other. With that said, the scriptwriters could have opted to either make a story about a treasure hunt or just about revenge.

Finally, despite having literally no plot, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a proof that it doesn't take that much to be an entertaining (if not mindless) film. Given that the reception of this film was mixed in South Korea, let it be said that hopefully, the actors seem to have a lot fun performing the gunfight sequences and play their character.

Rating: 2/5

Origin:South Korea (2008)
Length:139 minutes
Screenplay:Kim Jee-woon and Kim Min-suk
Director:Kim Jee-woon
Starring:Jung Woo-sung, Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho and Oh Dal-su

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lost and Delirious

Who said that teenager films can't be good? Léa Pool's Lost and Delirious is a proof that teenager films, as a genre, can honour the big screen. Although it is admittedly sad, it smartly captures adolescence crisis. What is love? What does it mean be in transition from adolescence to adulthood? All these questions are well inserted into a story that unfolds before our eyes and effortlessly forces us to watch it even though nothing good is going to happen.

We begin the story by following Mary (Mischa Barton), a shy and quiet girl nicknamed "Mouse", who has been sent to an all-girl boarding school. As she is the person through whom we see the story, we learn that she becomes the roommate of Tori (Jessica Paré) and Paulie (Piper Perabo). These two accept her and a friendship grows between the three of them. On one day, Mary sees from afar Tory and Paulie kissing each other. Besides, Mary believes that they were "practising for boys".

However during the night, while Mary pretends to sleep, she no longer has any doubts when Tori and Paulie make love. While Mary has nothing to do with it, other students are spreading the gossip that Paulie is an unrecommended acquaintance because of her sexual preference. At the same time, even though Tori still has feelings for Paulie (in her thoughts), she publicly breaks up with her in order to be with a boy from another school, because Tori doesn't want her peers (and also her conservative parents) to think that she is "like that".

As the observer of Paulie's and Tori's love, Mary (to our great surprise) accepts their homosexuality. As the story advances, Mary comes of age (despite looking like a first-year student) by showing us an unsuspected maturity. As a matter of fact, she doesn't hesitate to show support for Paulie who has the most difficulty to deal with the break-up. Indeed, Paulie is going through a psychological depression. After all, unlike Tori who relies on her bisexuality (and her internalized homophobia that shows up in front of social pressure) to save her face, Paulie has no exit strategy because she can't love someone as much as she loves Tori.

From that previously drawn observation, the film plays on many layers of subtlety and shades of grey. Such a question makes Paulie the most interesting characters of all. Piper Perabo plays really well a character who passes off as a tough girl, but from the way she deals with the unwanted break-up, "she’s [in reality] as delicate as an exposed nerve" in the words of one of my fellow movie bloggers. Without revealing too much of the story, we see that as the film advances, life becomes unbearable for Paulie because of her need for Tori's love. Besides, unlike Tori who lives in denial (of her homosexuality), Paulie is a character who wants to live life the way she sees it fit.

Finally, although the film may seem too abstract because of its references to Shakespeare and its nature of tragedy, Lost and Delirious is a must. Its strength relies mostly on the outstanding performance of the three leading actresses, especially from Perabo. While Jessica Paré (Stardom) plays well an unsympathetic character who is not as flashy as Paulie, Mischa Barton, on the other hand, shows us that not only she could act, but there also was a time when she wanted to be taken seriously.

Rating: 4.5/5

Lost and Delirious
Origin:Canada (2001)
Length:103 minutes
Genre:Romantic drama
Screenplay:Judith Thompson
Director:Léa Pool
Piper Perabo, Jessica Paré, Mischa Barton, Jackie Burroughs, Mimi Kuzyk, Graham Greene, Luke Kirby and Emily Vancamp

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

It felt so good to watch a "commercial" film after I've written too many lines for research papers! I rented this third film of the series The Fast and the Furious by believing that it doesn't require much thinking to enjoy it, which is true. However, despite having its flaws (i.e. the clichés of teenager films), The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift shouldn't disappoint you if you're looking for some good racing scenes. Period.

We're introduced to Sean (Lucas Black), a teenager who has always moved with his mom because he always gets in trouble. After he got arrested for illegal racing, Sean's mom believes that instead of moving, he should be sent to Japan (where his military father is) to study in order to avoid going to jail. Once in Japan, Sean's dad makes it clear that he doesn't want Sean to be involved in street racing. However, after he met Twinkie (Bow Wow), Sean gets caught up in underground racing and the undefeated champion is Takashi (Brian Tee), who happens to be the nephew of the Yakuza's leader. Besides, after a first defeat, Sean will strive to learn how to drift with a car in order to beat Takashi. In order to be up to the challenge, Sean asks for the help of Han (Sung Kang), who is Takashi's friend (but Takashi doesn't like to see his friend helping an "enemy").

One thing is sure: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is, in terms of plot, better than 2 Fast 2 Furious. In fact, unlike its predecessor, this film has the merit of having a script animated by a good focus. This means that all the racing scenes have something to do with the central point of the story, that is Sean's attempt to keep the Yakuzas off him once and for all. However, despite trying to have a script, Tokyo Drift is just one of those bland teenager films that, in this case, tries to amaze us with its gorgeous actresses and superb racing scenes. Besides, the film is just predictable, formulaic and to make things worse, the cast's performance is uninspiring.

Well, that's what happens when each character just correspond to a specific type of character: a girl who is there to add a love sub-plot to the film (Nathalie Kelley), a bad guy (who clearly wants to be identified as a bad guy), a dull (if not annoying) sidekick trying to bring some attitude (Bow Wow) and so on.

With that said, Tokyo Drift could have been a better film, but in its final result, it should "let the cars do the talking" just to quote one character. In fact, we don't get to see a lot about Sean's relation with his father. Despite stating that he cares for Sean's well-being, how much does Sean's father wants him to go to jail in the USA after he learnt that Sean is in street racing? So much for using so many characters as ornaments. Like I said, if this film has any value, it's in its entertainment potential.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Origin:USA (2006)
Length:104 minutes
Screenplay:Chris Morgan
Director:Justin Lin
Starring:Lucas Black, Nathalie Kelley, Bow Wow, Brian Tee and Sung Kang

Let the Right One In

Based on a novel written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, this vampire movie combines romance and gore. Although many people may have mixed feelings for Let the Right One In, it remains a very average film that you watch out of curiosity. Personally, I didn't like the film that much, but the film sure has a few qualities despite its irksomely slow pace. Notice that I can't guarantee you that the film will entertain you.

Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a twelve years old boy, is lonely, bullied at school and fascinated by violence (he wants to get revenge against his bullies). One day his total isolation, so to speak, is shattered when he meets a girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson), his next-door neighbour. However, as time goes by, Oskar learns that Eli is a vampire and wonders if he can still go on with this relation.

Wait. I've seen this movie before and it's called La peau blanche (White Skin). The difference is that it involves adults in their twenties!

To be honest with you, the film really bore me to death almost as much as the Korean film Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (which I never bothered to review) because of its slow pace and numerous frozen scenes (the characters don't talk or take too much time to reply). However, I'm sure that Let the Right One In will be able to find its audience. In fact, I have to admit that it's rare to see vampire films with characters that are nonetheless fascinating to analyze because of the ambiguous script opened for all sorts of interpretation. Of course, you can't expect some kids to deliver a rich performance, but despite the coldness in the performance, the two leading actors do a fairly good job.

Of course, those didn't find the film boring would say that Let the Right One In beautifully explores people's relation with (and fascination for) violence. This can be seen through: 1) Oskar's desire to kick his bullies' ass, 2) Hakan's (who poses as Eli's father) trying to kill people so that Eli never has to do it or 3) Eli's readiness to kill people in order to feed herself. Therefore, how can someone normal as Oskar loves someone who is, by nature, "violent" like Eli? Of course, as the film ambiguously or explicitly shows us, both Oskar and Eli find something in their platonic love relation. For instance, Eli sees in Oskar a friend and, to a another extent, a protector against "normal" people who might be looking to kill her. As for Oskar, he finds company in Eli and he also regards her as a protector against his bullies.

Shot with an excellent cinematography and (unfortunately) a slow pace reminiscent of Wong Kar-Wai (In the Mood for Love), Let the Right One In will certainly find an audience for itself. Some will see in it a good film about standing tall. If you may see more in this film, you may also say to yourself that Let the Right One In, with its ambiguousness, is a film that shows how love can sometime be a mirage in a desert, which means that some people may see what they want to see in their loved one.

Rating: 3.5/5

Let the Right One In
Origin:Sweden (2008)
Length:115 minutes
Genre:Horror drama
Screenplay:John Ajvide Lindqvist
Director:Tomas Alfredson
Starring:Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar and Patrik Rydmark

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