Thursday, May 28, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

After the success of the X-Men franchise, Fox attempts to deal with most people's favourite mutant. Honestly, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is just a summer blockbuster as you'd expect it with all your prejudices. In fact, while the film seduces our eyes, it badly mocks our intelligence. Seriously, if you're in for action scenes, you'll be well served.


After a long military life that spans over 100 years, Logan (Hugh Jackman) retires in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and lives with his wife Kayla (Lynn Collins), a schoolteacher. On one day, when he finds the body of his wife lying in the woods because of Victor Creed (Liv Schreiber), his half-brother who felt abandoned, Logan decides to kill him. After Logan's failed attempt, colonel William Stryker comes to Logan and proposes him to come back to the USA. While there, Stryker will have Logan's skeleton bonded with adamantium, an indestructible metal, because he wants to help Logan have his revenge. However, Wolverine will discover that Stryker has intentions that are not what they seem.

Since the film's objective was to bring us to the roots of what made Wolverine the person he is, the film probably doesn't succeed in the eyes of many die-hard fans of the comic books. As a matter of fact, the script by David Benioff and Skip Woods invents a story about Wolverine by disregarding the source materials. Of course, we know that Kayla (who turns out to be Silverfox) is Wolverine's lover, but since when is Sabretooth his half-brother?

If we leave that aside, we see that this film's problem goes further than that. In fact, it's pathetic to see how the relation between Victor and Logan had been reduced to a relation between brothers (instead of a matter of rivalry within Team X), which evacuates any possibility to put depth. Besides, as if it wasn't enough, the plot is so thin - like many Hollywood blockbusters - that its only motive seems to be throwing as many action scenes as possible. One would notice that these scenes are rather spectacular. Nonetheless, what good is this going to do when the main characters' individual personality is superficially explored? Besides, with such a lack of depth in the film, don't expect to see any explanations about why Victor can't suppress his thirst for violence and why Logan can, because the scriptwriters were too in a hurry to get to the action scenes.

Moreover, what on earth are Hugh Jackman, Liv Schreiber and Danny Huston, who are all good actors, doing in this film? Speaking about the performance, the story is so thin that Hugh Jackman can only find to deliver, against his will, a simplistic and monosyllabic performance. Therefore, forget the performance that you saw from him in the previous X-Men movies. In fact, the only feelings that most of the leading characters are able to emote are fear, impassivity and anger. Not much, eh?

Finally, there are two ways to approach this film. Either you wait for it to come on DVD or you go see it to a movie theatre. In fact, X-Men: Origins doesn't come close to the first two X-Men films in terms of quality. This is because instead of exploring the characters' personality like the first two movies of the franchise, this film prefers to be simple and eye-candy. All in all, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not entirely bad since the script could have been rewritten, but at least, it'll entertain you.

Rating: 2.5/5


Origin:USA (2009)
Length:107 minutes
Genre:Science-Fiction
Screenplay:David Benioff and Skip Woods
Director:Gavin Hood
Starring:Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston and Lynn Collins


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Frost/Nixon

Many would think that director Ron Howard is some sort of weather vane. One day, the wind blows in the good direction, which gives good movies. The other day, a pathetic film like The Da Vinci Code is produced. Other than that, Frost/Nixon is not likely to make us learn anything new about the interviews themselves or former American president Richard Nixon. However, as a historical film, Frost/Nixon's script sure has an obvious maturity that lets History speaks for itself as much as possible. Thus, this gives to Hollywood fascinating and nuanced characters.


In 1977, after Richard Nixon's (Frank Langella) resignation, David Frost (Michael Sheen), a British host of a talk-show, wants to make a four-parts interview with him. For Nixon's team, it's an occasion to set the record straight and have the former president forgiven by the American public opinion for the Watergate Scandal. As for David Frost, he's looking to make a reputation for himself even though people who finance him, John Birt, his executive editor, along with Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and James Reston Jr (Sam Rockwell), his two researchers, have doubts about Frost's capability to lead the interview.

There's no doubt that Frost/Nixon contains some useless supporting characters like Caroline Cushing, who is played by Rebeca Hall. Even though she's a good actress with a terrific accent, her character is not useful in making us explore what David Frost himself skeptically feels about the interviews. As a matter of fact, such a thing is already explored through Frost's conversation with Bob Zelnick ("We're all going to work for Burger King"), James Reston Jr and John Birt. Besides, this goes without saying that Hall's character is more of a beauty ornament in this film.

If we leave this aside, Frost/Nixon is definitely a film that flows well without jerking around. This means that the film brilliantly alters between the most crucial moments of the interviews and those behind the scenes of them. First of all, while we absolutely learn nothing new about Richard Nixon, the film is still worth watching for its exploration of his personality. In fact, for those who haven't seen the original Frost/Nixon interviews (which are available on DVD), it's surprising to see how Nixon tries to come to term with the Watergate. I'll also say that besides looking almost like Nixon, Frank Langella portrays quite well a man who wants to be remembered for other stuff that he did before the Watergate.

Secondly, as a historical film, Frost/Nixon transforms its useful characters into assets during the "talking heads" interviews. As a matter of fact, by not just sticking to the four interviews themselves, the film offers a good external analysis through the supporting characters. By going behind the scenes of the interviews, the film offers us the thoughts of the main and the (useful) supporting characters. In fact, by letting History speaks for itself, the film also tries to concentrate on how the characters live this historical day during and off the four interviews. Needless to say that as a result of this, you get good performance by Sam Rockwell, who plays someone who despise Nixon, and also Kevin Bacon, as Jack Brennan (Nixon's post-presidential chief of staff) who has difficulty to bear the Watergate on his mind.

Finally, Frost/Nixon might not be the best historical drama on the market because of its flaws. However, Frost/Nixon deserved its nomination at the Academy Award for best picture. Not only does the film illustrate the confrontation between Frost and Nixon, but it also tries to bring us behind the scenes of it.

Rating: 4/5



Origin:USA (2008)
Length:122 minutes
Genre:Historical drama
Screenplay:Peter Morgan
Director:Ron Howard
Starring:
Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt and Rebeca Hall


Monday, May 25, 2009

The Rhino Brothers


Here's a fact about sport films: most of them are not good and they're just made for entertainment. Okay, here's a little correction: up to this day, Maurice Richard is the only sport film I find outstanding. Even though one might expect some humour out of this piece of shit, the film didn't even make me laugh. Besides, although the film tries to deal with parent-son relations in regards to hockey, The Rhino Brothers doesn't have much of a script. So, just skip this film.


The film takes place in a small town and centres on three brothers - Steffan (Curtis Bechdholt), Victor (Alistair Abell) and Sasha (William MacDonald) - and their mother (Gabrille Rose). While Victor got cut from an elite team he stopped playing hockey. As for Sasha, he never fulfilled his dream to become an NHLer. Victor - the "perfect" brother who never made it to the NHL but succeeds as a owner of a hockey equipments store - believes he has the answer to Steffan's and Sasha's problem. This is why he makes a team for a hockey beer league and register it in a tournament.

As a sport film, The Rhino Brothers is only entertaining when the hockey scenes come. Of course, if you look at the cinematography, The Rhino Brothers' cinematography doesn't focus as directly on the hockey scenes as in high budget films. However, when it does, the film suggests quite well the potential level of brutality in some hockey beer leagues without glitz.

Nonetheless, I couldn't help but to think that the whole film is a piece of shit. In fact, the script is not even original as a story about underdogs although the movie director does know something about social life in a small town. Secondly, a long time before the ending comes, one can guess what will happen at the end. Come on, we know that Steffan will play pro hockey! Besides, putting scenes in which Steffan wonders if he wants to play in the big league doesn't create the expected effect on viewers. No, it just uselessly delays the arrival of the end. Hopefully, the cast does a rather good job despite being stuck with characters that needed a little bit more development.

If you're really curious about how sport films can suck, take a look at it. However, if I knew that the film wasn't so outstanding, I would have just avoided it even though hockey scenes are supposed to entertain me. Period.

Rating: 2/5

[No trailer available]


Origin:Canada (2001
Length:93 minutes
Genre:Sport drama
Screenplay:Rudy Thauberger
Director:Dwayne Beaver
Starring:Gabrielle Rose, Curtis Bechdholt, William MacDonald, Alistair Abell and Deanna Milligan


Saturday, May 23, 2009

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Even in High school, I've never considered wasting my time with slashers for obvious reasons. However, with all the hype surrounding All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (an independent film that mixes the genres of thriller, slasher and teen drama) I just couldn't ignore it. In the end, from what I guess, the film evidently stands out from most of its competitors because of its director's willingness to have a decent script.


Over the summer, Mandy Lane (Amber Heard), a High school student from Texas, has gotten beautiful and virtually all the boys from her school desire her. One day, Emmett (Michael Welch), her best friend, and her are invited at Dylan’s ranch. During the night, Emmett dares Dylan to jump in the swimming pool from the roof. Of course, this results in Dylan’s death because his head hit the edge of the swimming pool.

Nine months later, the friendship between Emmett and Mandy appears to be over. Besides, she moves on by befriending with Red (Aaron Himelstein), Chloe (Whitney Able), Marlyn (Melissa Price), Bird (Edwin Hodge) and Jake (Luke Grimes). To celebrate the end of the school year, Red invites the previously mentioned people including Mandy. Of course, while the boys all want to be the first to get to the third base with Mandy, it appears that someone is killing to get to Mandy.

If you're looking for a slasher per se, you're in for quite a disappointing ride. As a matter of fact, while the film gradually brings us toward the final act when many people will get killed, the story tries to make us care about the characters. Does it work? Well, since the film combines some elements of real slasher films, one might not give a business whether the supporting characters die or live. This means that apart from Mandy, the female characters are looking for love while the boys are nothing but sexually drooling dogs. Nonetheless, through the jealousy that motivates the unknown killer to eliminate the competition, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is, at best, a theme-driven film that somehow superficially explores teen issues. As the film points it out, in our search for a relation, do we give more importance to sex over real love? Besides, are beauty standards a sort of social dictatorship?

Through this attempt to give a goal to the film, the scriptwriter hopefully avoids to look as dumb as other people who've scripted slashers (PS: the film is not much of a slasher). Indeed, in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, the violence in the final act is not used in order to mindlessly entertain us. As a result of this, the killer (who will eventually be revealed) in this film stands out from his counterparts for the story gives him a personality and hence a reason to kill people. Thus, with this in mind, it's easy to enjoy the plot twist at the end.

Of course, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is not a masterpiece, but it is worth watching. Unlike many of its teen-horror films, it tries to surpass its competitors by having a script that combines slashers' elements and teen issues in a fairly smart way. This means that if you're looking for a film in which people die without much of a reason, then skip this one. Besides, the cast hadn't been given a script to fully express the potential depth of their characters. Despite that, many actors in this film do their best to professionally grow, especially Amber Heard (who looks so LOVELY!).

Rating: 3/5



Origin:USA (2006)
Length:90 minutes
Genre:Thriller
Screenplay:Jacob Forman
Director:Jonathan Levine
Starring:
Amber Heard, Michael Welch, Anson Mount, Aaron Himelstein, Whitney Able, Melissa Price, Edwin Hodge and Luke Grimes


Friday, May 22, 2009

Lady Vengeance

While this film is my second experience with director Park Chan-wook (the first one being Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), I enjoyed it this time. Obviously, the story of Lady Vengeance is almost as good as the one in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (if not better). Besides, even though I didn't really like the first film in Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance" trilogy, I really enjoyed watching this one mostly because it's in a balanced way an entertaining film for the mainstream public and also a good artistic powerhouse.


Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yeong-ae) was thrown in prison for more than ten years, because she had publicly confessed, under psychological duress, that she murdered a young boy. In fact, Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik), the real killer, coerced Geum-ja into turning herself in if she doesn't want to see her newborn girl dead. Now that she's on parole, Geum-ja wants to see her daughter, Jenny (Kwon Yea-young), who had been adopted by an Australian couple. Besides, she's also starting to put in motion her plan to kill Mr. Baek, a plan that she prepared back in the days when she was in prison.

Although Lady Vengeance is clearly more fast-paced than Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, it's pointless to deny that there are a few long periods at the beginning of the film. Moreover, this goes without saying that the film looks structured like any Hollywood action film: the heroine finds the villain and runs after him. Beyond such an observation, Lady Vengeance manages to transform this simple structure of storyline into a valuable asset. Of course, this can be seen through Park Chan-wook ability to cut back in forth between the present tense and flashbacks in order to show us how Geum-ja's personality evolves and how she plans her revenge.

Secondly, as the story moves fluidly forward, the film becomes an interesting universal reflection on the possible failures of a legal system through the character of detective Choi. As the film points it out, is it always easy to find the real murderers for specific crimes? When that question is answered, Park's script leaves us to the mercy of characters who, despite not saying a lot of things, convey a lot with their nuances. As a matter of fact, while the film depicts people's condemnation of of violence in general, the film also points out our deepest fantasy, that is killing the murderer of our own child (if we were in that situation). Strange double standard, isn't it? As long as you accept the improbability of the story, you'll find the story amazing.

Of course, when the film is not dealing with the dark corners of normal human nature, it's a beautiful film about the permanent presence of love in an imperfect world. Like many films in the repertoire of Asian extreme cinema, Lady Vengeance is dark, provocative, not gratuitously violent and smartly character-driven. Although I wouldn't recommend for people with weak stomach, I would gladly recommend it to those who are looking for a gallery of interesting characters.

Rating: 4/5



Origin:South Korea (2005)
Length:112 minutes
Genre:Thriller
Screenplay:Jeong Seo-gyeong and Park Chan-wook
Director:Park Chan-wook
Starring:
Lee Yeong-ae, Choi Min-sik, Kwon Yea-young and Nam Il-woo


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Normal

If you're looking for movies that are better than Crash, you've got served really well in 2008 (speaking about theatre releases). First, there was This Beautiful City and then came Normal, two movies that talk about how, in a metropolis, people are connected to each other. While the script is quite simple (and comes with a few flaws), you watch this film for the cast's beautiful performance, which you can normally see through what is not said. Besides, it was good to see Carrie-Anne Moss showcases her talent after having wasted it in The Matrix trilogy.


The story takes place in Vancouver and follows three people. Catherine (Carrie-Anne Moss), a depressed mother, hasn't come to terms with the death of her son Nicky, who got hit by a drunk driver while he was in a car with his best friend, Jordy (Kevin Zegers). Besides, Dale, her husband, believes that it's better to "move forward". Walt (Callum Keith Rennie), the literature teacher who ran into Nicky, still lives with the remorse of having killed him. Furthermore, Walt has to deal with his rocky relation with his wife, his autistic brother and his search for redemption. Finally, Jordy, Nicky's best friend, got out of a youth detention centre and still feels remorse, because he was the driver when Nicky died. Moreover, Jordy has to deal with his dad (Michael Riley), who is angry at him, and his young (and hot) stepmother (Camille Sullivan).

At times, Normal raised the question whether its storyline is more suited for cable television or not given its three sub-plots. As a film, Normal's slow pace can be, at times, justified because director Carl Bessai aims to bring us slowly but surely toward what unite the three leading characters (i.e. the car crash). Obviously, before we come to that moment, the script certainly has no problem, despite its slow pace (which can be justified), to set the tone by presenting us how the three leading characters try to live in the aftermath of an event that brought them together before (which implies that they'll be brought together again in the final act). More importantly, everything seems to fall into part given that Bessai manages to show us the problems that the car crash has created on the three leading characters' life.

However, although I'm sure the film could have won the Genie Award for best picture, the film unfortunately has some flaws in the script. In fact, while the film takes the time to present the three leading characters' problems, it sometimes pays too much attention to unimportant things. For instance, when it comes to Walt, the film deals too much with his relation between his autistic brother and him. Therefore, one feels that it's actually more interesting to follow Catherine and Jordy.

Hopefully, if you're opened to independent films, you'll find that the cast's performance is rather outstanding. Of course, the film looks like it's documenting the unexciting daily life of some people and the performance, on the surface, might seem as emotionally moving as a furniture. However, the film's power lies in the actors' ability to suggest many things without necessarily relying on explicit lines. In fact, through the progression of the script, it doesn't take a genius to see how well Carrie-Anne Moss depicts Catherine's depression or how Callum Keith Rennie plays someone who tries to move forward but will always be remembering how he shattered the life of people who are connected to him by a tragic event. Of course, the script conveys the idea that no matter how your life is fucked up, there'll always be things that are a source of joy for you.

Finally, like Paul Haggis' overrated Crash, Normal is not the sort of drama that suit for the mainstream public for it looks boring. Nonetheless, for those who are opened to independent films, just watch it and I guarantee you that you'll like the film despite a flaw in the script.

Rating: 3.5/5



Origin:Canada (2008)
Length:100 minutes
Genre:Drama
Screenplay:Travis McDonald
Director:Carl Bessai
Starring:
Carrie-Anne Moss, Callum Keith Rennie, Kevin Zegers, Michael Riley, Brittney Irvin, Camille Sullivan and Lauren Lee Smith


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TV: 24's Seventh Season Rocks!

As of today, yours truly has gone through 24's seventh exciting and amazing season. Unlike the sixth season, which was almost devoid of depth, this season does a good job in incorporating two useful elements: being smartly unpredictable and deeply character-driven. Besides, I don't regret purchasing it today although I followed the TV series on Global.


Four years after the events in the sixth season, the American government had disbanded the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) and the action now takes place in Washington, D.C. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is hauled before a Senate subcommittee for the use of torture throughout his career. However, his presence at the hearing is cut short. In fact, FBI agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) believes that Jack's experience might come in handy for preventing the most terrifying terrorist plots ever attempted on American soil. Besides, for another exciting day, Jack feels the need to save the USA when he learns that his old brother in arms, Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), is not only alive, but working with the enemy.

Guess what? Although I didn't like the sixth season for its total lack of realism, I thoroughly watched it. Why? Because I'm a huge fan of the show.

Now, after I had seen the trailer a year ago, I had high expectations and wanted the show to reborn the same way a phoenix does. By the way, my wishes, in my opinion, were granted! As a matter of fact, unlike the sixth season, which tended to present uninteresting characters in a black-and-white world, this season was surprisingly built on many layers of depth that force the leading characters (i.e. the nice guys) to think about their principles.

Despite being against torture, how much does Renée Walker admire Jack Bauer's achievements? What's the meaning of casualties in a war according to Jack? Do most characters act the way they do because they're bad? In some case yes (i.e. the bad guys), but as for the "nice guys" it's way more complex than we think. With the characters' questioning of their own values comes a great performance by the cast. Therefore, my two thumbs up are in honour to:

Annie Wersching: That's one actress I'll be keeping my eyes on not just because she's so gorgeous, but also because she adds so much dramatic depth to this season. Her strongest moment? When Renee cries and slaps Jack in the face while asking him if he feels her slaps the same way he feels the weight of someone's death on his mind. That was the most memorable moment from this season.

Sprague Grayden: Strange name, but definitely has a nice future ahead of her. You'll notice her for depicting Olivia Taylor's fragility in the season finale. At the same time, with the confidence (if not the arrogance) that she gives to Olivia, I'm convinced that she has the skills to give to a villain so much substance, something that is needed in the 21th century.

That's it for now, I've got a novel to read for fun. Moreover, if you haven't seen the seventh season on DVD, watch it! If you haven't seen the first season of 24, I beg you to discover it if you like espionage TV series! If you know that you'll like this, go buy it on DVD! It just came out today. All in all, I don't know if the TV series will be nominated at the Emmy Awards for best dramatic TV series, but I'm sure that the cast's performance won't be unnoticed.

Rating: 4/5

***

Other TV series I have my eyes on

Ever heard of the drama/comedy Being Erica, one of this year's big hits? Although I'm a fan of thrillers, police and espionage dramas on TV, I was glad to discover such a gem fuelled by Erin Karpluk's charismatic presence. When will the first season come out on DVD? Sorry, no signals for now. Hopefully, the honchos at CBC renewed it for a second season despite the low (albeit passable) ratings. Hey, at least critics acclaimed it.

Here are other TV series I'm looking forward to discover: The Shield, True Blood, Flashpoint (no release date announced for the first season on DVD for now), Murdoch Mystery, The Line (not released on DVD yet), ZOS: Zone of Separation (not released on DVD yet), The Wire and Intelligence.


Monday, May 18, 2009

28 Weeks Later

Many horror fans around the world were probably glad that a big studio secured the rights to make a sequel of an outstanding independent horror film. However, with this sequel to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later comes a few unpleasant surprises. Of course, one has to notice that 28 Weeks Later, like its predecessor, still has the same effectiveness when it comes to deal with the bright or the dark side of human nature. However, is being entertaining a guarantee of quality? Now, you just watch and figure it out for yourself.


Many months after most of the British population has been infected by the virus of the rage, many survivors were harbored in foreign countries. Obviously, twenty-eight weeks later it's reported that all the infected people died from starvation. This is why an American-led NATO force supervizes the repopulation of Great Britain by starting in a fully secured area of London with the survivors. However, things don't go as planned, because the NATO and the survivors never thought that the virus was back. Besides, when things get out of control, the head of the NATO force declares code red and orders the soldiers to kill indistinctly infected people and survivors alike.

Obviously, while being more entertaining and more elaborate (because of its special effects), 28 Weeks Later manages in some way to live up to the first movie. In fact, while 28 Days Later dealt with solidarity in extreme situations, this film goes even further by adding paranoia in its topic. This means that the story make us wonder if, this time, human beings show a better ethical judgement in extreme situations. With such a sensitive theme, one can be sure that the film relies on a cast of competent actors like Jeremy Renner, as Sgt. Doyle, Imogen Poots, as Tammy, or Robert Carlyle, as Don, just to name a few. However, while the film is entertaining and good, there were times when the film was unrealistic, so to speak. For instance, what kind of idiot would open the door to someone who is clearly infected? Oh right, it's for entertainment purpose, because if the script was different, there wouldn't be any raison d'être to the story.

Finally, the cast's performance really helps the film to be almost as good as the first one. However, I didn't watch this film to learn some revelations about what it means to make a film where everything makes sense. As long as you accept the few flaws (concerning the probability of what you see in the story), you'll still be entertained by the sequel of 28 Days Later.

Rating: 3.5/5


Origin:UK/Spain (2007)
Length:99 minutes
Genre:Horror
Screenplay:
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Enrique Lopez-Lavigne, Rowan Joffe and Jesús Olmo
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Starring:Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Mackintosh Muggleton, Imogen Poots, Harold Perrineau, Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack and Idris Elba


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Book Review: Shutter Island

Shutter Island
Since I always wanted to offer a little bit more with my blog, I'll try for the first time to write a book review. For the first try, I'll start with Dennis Lehane's book Shutter Island, which is a thriller. Although the story is quite interesting, there were some moments when I felt that the book was a little bit long. Moreover, this goes without saying that this book, despite being okay, is not Mystic River or even Sacred just to name a few. By the way, if you're looking for a cerebral (I mean it) thriller, consider reading this one.


In 1954, two U.S. Marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, are sent by the American government to Shutter Island, home of the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Since this hospital keeps under lock the most violent (and disturbed) criminals, Daniels and Aule are to investigate the disappearance of a patient called Rachel Solando. As they investigate, the two U.S. Marshals and the hospital's staff wonder how did Rachel escape from her locked cell (which was under constant surveillance). They cling to the hope of finding her since she's still on the island. However, everybody soon discover that besides Rachel, another criminal is on the loose on the island in a more subtle way.

Given that I've only read Sacred and Mystic River, two other books written by Lehane, I approached this book with high expectations. Did I like the book? Yes, I did, but not as much as the other previously mentioned two books from Lehane. Although the prologue, which is taken from the journals of Dr. Lester Sheehan (a staff member of the hospital), sets the tone really well, I couldn't help but to think that the pace was somehow slow. I don't know what Lehane was thinking, but I didn't see the usefulness of bringing us back into Teddy Daniels' childhood (the novel is centred on him). As a matter of fact, while I look back on the novel (I finished it yesterday), I don't see how one chapter on Teddy's childhood allows us to understand the way he lives the investigation to find Rachel and also to understand his personality (something that you need to analyze in order to appreciate the story).

Despite that flaw, I have no complaint in regards to the plot twist, an ingredient in every of Lehane's novels. In fact, this where everything falls into part in that you actually understand the complexity of Teddy's character (i.e. the way he "lives" the investigation). Besides, given the hints that Lehane left in the novel, I can't believe that I only deciphered the complexity of the storyline only at the end where we're explained by the key characters (Teddy, Chuck and Dr. Cawley) that everything is not what it is at the Ashecliffe Hospital. Moreover, it's this ability to canvas characters that make Dennis Lehane better than most thriller novelists I've read in my life (think about Jean-Christophe Grangé).

Finally, Shutter Island is not your usual cop thriller that focus on the brutality of murders or cops trying to crack a case (as you know it). It's rather a cerebral novel (and a rather entertaining one) that plunges you quite well into the depth of psychological delusion. Moreover, if you just take out the few long periods (Teddy's childhood and a few irrelevant dialogues), Shutter Island looks like a novel that flows effortlessly.

Rating: 3.5/5


Title:Shutter Island
Author:Dennis Lehane
Genre:Psychological thriller
Year:2003
Length:369 pages


Friday, May 15, 2009

Polytechnique

After Gus Van Sant's Elephant, here comes another film about a school shooting. Since it's extremely hard for all of us to relive the Montreal Massacre, Polytechnique sparked controversy nationwide before its release. However, besides being a sad homage to the fourteen women who lost their life in the shooting and the survivors of it, Polytechnique is a film that is simply a historical film that does its job.


First of all, Polytechnique is based on a true event (a shooting) that took place at the Polytechnique School, an engineering school affiliated with the University of Montreal, on December 6, 1989. The film follows two students, Valérie (Karine Vanasse) and Jean-François (Sébastien Huberdeau), and documents that specific day through their eyes. On that day (I was two years old when it happened), a young man (Maxim Gaudette) entered the Polytechnique school with a rifle and a hunting knife. His objective was to kill as many "feminists" as he can, because he felt that his life was ruined by them. As a result of his misogyny, this man (who is only mentioned in the credit as "the killer") took the life of fourteen women and wounded many others before committing a suicide.

After seeing the film, our doubts about the quality of the film are quickly dispelled. In fact, one is reassured that director Denis Villeneuve knew how to handle a delicate subject all along. Hence, the reason why this film - which is shot a little bit like a cinéma vérité film - deserves as much praises from the critics as Gus Van Sant's Elephant, another film dealing with a school shooting (the one at the Columbine High School in 1999).

Obviously, it was a reassurance to see that Villeneuve's concise film didn't aim for entertainment nor to ridicule itself by trying to thoroughly explain why "the killer" wanted to kill women. Unlike most historical films, Polytechnique shamelessly admits that in terms of creativity, historical dramas have some limits. This means that you don't watch this film for the dialogues (there are few), but rather for the presentation of the shooting's effect in the students' mind, which is well done by Villeneuve's solid directing.

In order to do so, Villeneuve decided not to judge "the killer". Besides showing the shooting, the film only sticks to what many survivors heard "the killer" say and his suicide letter found by the police (original letter in French), which is read in a voice-over at the beginning. All in all, there's no need to tell you how Maxim Gaudette, as "the killer", delivers an unsullied performance (mostly through his eyes) to play a man frustrated not just about feminism, but also about women. Besides, he's well supported by Sébastien Huberdeau, who embodies the attempt of some men to save women, and Karine Vanasse.

Of course, since the film is not meant for entertainment, but rather for a duty of remembrance, Villeneuve's use of a black-and-white cinematography reinforces the dramatic aspect of the film while creating a necessary distance between viewers and the events shown in the film. After all, does someone make an entertainment out of a bloody massacre? Obviously, asking the question is like answering to it, because making a film in colour would have been really questionable. Indeed, just forget sensationalism, controversy or cheap shots. Polytechnique is just not that kind of film.

Although it's extremely hard to watch, the film is necessary for us, Canadians, to dress our collective wounds, which have been opened for too long. Besides, while the film shows that hatred is unfortunately part of this world, the film's end also shows that the hope for a better world is always here.

Rating: 4.5/5



Origin:Canada (2009)
Length:77 minutes
Genre:Historical drama
Screenplay:Jacques Davidts
Director:Denis Villeneuve
Starring:Karine Vanasse, Sébastien Huberdeau and Maxim Gaudette

Titles on Amazon (Canada):

Titles on Amazon (USA):

Thursday, May 14, 2009

28 Days Later


Ever heard about a smart horror film - zombie film to be more precise? Well, here's one: Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. While the film combines some of the traditional elements of zombie films, Boyle manages to make this film an efficient one. Obviously, this can be seen through the non-zombie characters. Therefore, this makes 28 Days Later one of the most interesting horror films I've seen. In fact, speaking about the performance by the cast, you can compare this film to The Shining and A Tale of Two Sisters.


The story begins in a research centre. Three animal rights activists break into it and sets one chimpanzee free even though one scientist warns them that the chimpanzees are infected with rage (which is contagious through blood and saliva). At this moment, the animal jumps out of his "cage" and bites an activist. As a result of this, the activist gets infected and is sent into demented bloodlust. Twenty-eight days later, Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma in a hospital of London and finds the city deserted of all human life.

After a fatal encounter with zombies, Jim is saved by Mark (Noah Huntley) and Selena (Naomie Harris) who tells him that most of the British population got infected by the virus. Afterwards, the team joins other survivors, Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns). Obviously, the team looks for some radio signals and find out that in order to help themselves, they can join a group of soldiers (located near Manchester) who promised, in their radio message, refuge and "salvation" from infected people.

First of all, for an independent film, 28 Days Later is surprisingly spectacular. Obviously, what would a horror film be without its attempt to put characters in scary situations? However, rest assured, these confrontations between human beings and zombies (who are extremely well played by the unknown actors) are efficiently at the service of the plot. As a result of that, 28 Days Later is one of the few horror flicks that avoids being formulaic. Indeed, while some directors would place the emphasis on visual gruesomeness, Boyle, on the other hand, decided to focus on people's fear and their reaction in the light of an extreme situation.

What made this film so particular, in its own way, is the obvious insertion of a social commentary by Boyle. At the beginning of the film, one is surprised to see how unrelated people are willing to help each other since they're looking to survive and not being infected by the zombies. Therefore, one might think that the movie shows us that we, Westerners, would give up our individualism for solidarity's sake. However, the film takes a good plot twists by taking an unpredictable turn: are all human beings willing to sacrifice their individual interests in the name of survival? Apparently not...

Finally, the movie does use some clichés of zombie films when you look at its visual aspect. However, 28 Days Later is one of the few horror films that is well served by the cast, from the speaking members to those who play zombies. Of course, 28 Days Later is not the most entertaining horror film one would see, but it's definitely one that honours the horror genre (a genre that needed some fresh air).

Rating: 4/5


Origin:UK (2002)
Length:113 minutes
Genre:Horror
Screenplay:Alex Garland
Director:Danny Boyle
Starring:
Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Christopher Eccleston and Noah Huntley


Monday, May 11, 2009

Hansel & Gretel

Watch out for misleading labels! Yim Pil-sung's Hansel & Gretel might be branded as a horror film by your local movie theatre. If you ever decide to watch this gem, the less you know about it, the less you'll have expectations about its horror factor. Besides, the only expectation that you should have is that the film can sometimes be intellectually hard to watch. However, Hansel & Gretel is a fantastic film about the search for love and a very efficient thriller animated by characters that are full of depth.


Eun-soo, a young man, is talking on a cellphone with his wife as he drives on a highway. Afterwards, his car hits a small rock and a car accident occurs. However, Eun-soo (Cheon Jeong-myeong) manages to survive and he walks in the forest in order to find some help. This is where he finds Young-hee (Sim Eun-kyung), a young girl, who leads him deep inside the forest to a house. In that house, Eun-soo is introduced to Man-Bok (Eun Won-jae), Jung-soon (Jin Ji-hee) and the parents.

Besides, Eun-soo decides to stay for one day. However, on the following day, the "parents" decide to leave all the three kids at home for a while and they expect Eun-soo to take care of them. He accepts the responsibility. As time goes by, Eun-soo wants to go back to his wife (and therefore get out of the forest). Unfortunately for him, getting out of the forest is impossible and there's something strange about the three kids.

Although many people identified Hansel & Gretel as a horror film, the film is actually beyond that description. Of course, the film does combine some elements of typical to Asian horror movies: a plot structure similar to what we saw in The Eye and some quick camera works. However, to put it plainly, Hansel & Gretel is more a psychological thriller and also a dark fantasy film. Therefore, the point here is not to be frightened by what we see. In fact, with a wonderful script, director Yim Pil-sung skilfully delivers a film in which nothing is what it is (as Eun-soo will discover it). Besides, with a script that hides many things, one would feel compelled to know the real identity of the three children and understand why they don't want Eun-soo to leave them.

To that matter, the film is a good philosopher, so to speak, dealing with love and individualism. For that matter, Cheon Jeong-myeong has no difficulty play a character who becomes extremely interesting. In fact, at one point, Eun-soo realizes once and for all in his life what it means to get out of one's own bubble and see other people's sadness (i.e. the children's). Therefore, one wonders if he wants to stay with the children who are obviously looking for someone who loves them or just go away. However, with all due respect to Cheon, it's the three actors playing the three children who own the films, which means Sim Eun-kyung, Eun Won-jae and Jin Ji-hee. To my great surprise, the children actors had no difficulty to portray at the same time a children's innocence, resentment for grown-ups and their need for parents. With what we see in the story, the three actors' performance make us hate the children for their weirdness and also feel sorry for them for not having the love they deserve.

Finally, from the beginning to the end, Hansel & Gretel keeps fascinating us. Moreover, the four leading characters are sure going to be put on my list of favourite characters of all time given that they manage to develop themselves by suggesting a lot of things through their lines.

Rating: 4.5/5



Origin:South Korea (2007)
Length:117 minutes
Genre:Thriller
Screenplay:Kim Min-sook and Yim Pil-Sung
Director:Yim Pil-sung
Starring:Cheon Jeong-myeong, Sim Eun-kyung, Eun Won-jae and Jin Ji-hee


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Adoration

After he’s given us Where the Truth Lies, a very mainstream (and outstanding) film, director Atom Egoyan comes back to his artistic roots with a much more cerebral film. This time, one of Canada’s greatest filmmakers deals with technology, communication, bereavement and curiosity about one's true identity. In short, you either like it (just like me) or you don’t. Without necessarily being the tour de force that it could have been, Adoration is a fine character-driven film that needed a little bit more development.


Simon (Devon Bostick), a teenager from a suburb of Toronto, has been raised by his uncle, Tommy (Scott Speedman), ever since his parents (Noam Jenkins and Rachelle Blanchard) died in a car accident. Now, Simon seeks to clear up the cloud of mystery surrounding the identity of his father. In his French class, Sabine (Arsinée Khanjian), his teacher, asks the students to translate a news article about a Jordanian jihadist who placed a bomb in his pregnant Irish girlfriend’s luggage back in 1986 on a flight from London to Tel-Aviv. Moreover, this article also specifies that the attack was foiled by Israeli custom agents. Obviously, Simon uses his curiosity about his parents’ death to state, in an essay (that he reads in front of his class), that he was the unborn child of the woman who didn’t even know she was carrying a bomb.

Afterwards, he takes it to the next level by “revealing” this falsehood on the Internet. This goes without saying that it creates a hell of a reaction from many people in a video forum. However, as he spreads this lie on the web, there are three questions at the centre of the story: 1) Will Simon get over his bereavement; 2) Will the truth about his parents’ death come out; 3) Will the truth about the true identity of his father, who is of Arabic heritage, comes out? If it does, will the truth come from Simon’s uncle who never wanted to talk about Simon’s parents death or from his bigot grandfather (Kenneth Welsh)?

Obviously, some may find the beginning slow, dull and disorganized even though the premise is clearly announced. However, as the film enters its second third, we see in a much more organized way Simon’s quest for the truth about his parents. At the same time, he feels at ease with lying on the Internet about his parents’ identity. Therefore, it’s from the second third that we see how Egoyan has no difficulty to cut back in forth between the present tense, flashbacks (read: real facts about Simon’s parents) and false events. In a nutshell, Adoration is still a beautiful and engaging film about how one chooses to communicate. While Simon keeps his fascination about his parents for himself, he doesn’t even hesitate to make up an identity for himself on the Internet and lie. Therefore, the question is: why does Simon lie about his parents’ identity while he gradually discovers the truth about who his father was?

From that question, the film also beautifully becomes a theme-driven film in which one has to see what Egoyan thinks about the way technology (in this case, the Internet) influences communication. At the same time, Egoyan's writing becomes a little bit problematic for viewers are never explicitly told why Simon lies about his father's identity on the Internet. Therefore, one doesn't get a thorough idea about how Simon lives his bereavement, which unfortunately makes the story partially dissociated from Simon's psyche. Besides, one might even think more that the script is a little bit problematic when viewers are more interested in Tom's confession of his guilt for the death of Simon's parents (which he could have prevented) or Sabine's curiosity about Simon.

Finally, despite its flaw, Adoration is still a beautiful film because of its characters that are nonetheless full of depth and its symbolism at the end showing how Simon gets over his bereavement (and therefore emancipates himself from the past). Furthermore, the film is well served by the cast's surgically precise (and modest) performance. Although Egoyan doesn't score a hat trick with this film, he shows us that he's one of this country's greatest directors (and with reason). In fact, unlike some masters of cinema like Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) or John Woo (think about all of his mediocre Hollywood films except Face/Off), Egoyan never really showed some signs of momentary incompetence. By the way, if you watch this film, you better keep your eyes peeled.

Rating: 4/5



Origin:Canada (2009)
Length:100 minutes
Genre:Drama
Screenplay:Atom Egoyan
Director:Atom Egoyan
Starring:
Devon Bostick, Scott Speedman, Arsinée Khanjian, Rachel Blanchard, Noam Jenkins and Kenneth Welsh


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Un été sans point ni coup sûr

For a sport and also a child film, A No-Hit No-Run Summer is surprisingly good. By the way, this remark comes from someone who is not an enthusiast of baseball. Given that the film is directed by Francis Leclerc (Mémoire affective), don't expect to see any glitz or even too much borrowed stuffs from Hollywood sport films. All in all, while the film is quite efficient. Despite having a budget of four million dollars, it's too bad that it didn't even make more than a million at the box-office.


It's the summer of 1969. In the historical background, Montreal has its first professional baseball team, the Expos. Martin Gaudreault (Pier-Luc Funk), a 12 years old boy from a suburb of Montreal, is on vacation and dreams about being, one day, a player for the Expos. Besides, Martin wants to play for the Aritoscrats, his neighbourhood's pee-wee team led by Mr. Turcotte (Roy Dupuis). However, along with many of his friends, Martin gets cut from the team.

At the light of that, Charles (Patrice Robitaille), Martin's dad, decides to create a pee-wee baseball team by including Martin and all his friends who hadn't been drafted by the Aristocrats. However, Martin realizes two things. First of all, his team constantly loses. Besides, this goes without saying that Martin fears that his team would lose in a match against the Aristocrats (which turns out to be a terrific team). Secondly, his dad, despite his hard work, doesn't understand something about children and above all, baseball.

Obviously, A No-Hit No-Run Summer turned out to be an amazing film. However, I found the story quite predictable as a father-and-son and sport film. After all, just think that it's your usual film about underdogs who keep practising a sport despite their lack of talent. Against your expectations, A No-Hit No-Run Summer, thanks to Marc Robitaille's script, finds a way have depth through the personality of Martin's father, who wants his son to believe in himself while having fun, and Mr. Turcotte, who takes baseball way too seriously. With such an exploration of these two character's personality, this film beautifully carries the idea that although talent helps to excel, it's one's character that matters the most.

Besides, Francis Leclerc's film is beautifully served by a cast of very experienced adults with Patrice Robitaille (Maurice Richard), Roy Dupuis (Maurice Richard) and Jacinthe Laguë (Elles étaient cinq), as Martin's mother who takes part in women's emancipation (i.e. working and doing what she wants). Even if Dupuis (known to Americans and English Canadians for starring in the Canadian TV series Nikita) plays the coach of a team that will be the rival of Martin's team, Leclerc did a good job by not choosing to portray Mr. Turcotte as a really villain coach just the like the Icelandic coach you see in a Mighty Ducks film. Besides, despite their lack of experience, the children in the film deliver a natural and simple performance.

Finally, A No-Hit No-Run Summer might not be a masterpiece. However, the film finds a way to be really touching and full of meaning for any North Americans who understand the important place that sports in general occupies in this continent's culture. Although we can see the end coming right at us, we're moved by the way how Martin's dad evolves by making every imaginable effort to be devoted to his son as much as he's devoted to his boring job of accountant. Hence, we wonder how much will Martin remember his summer of 1969 (aside from the fact that a man walked on the moon)? Moreover, given that the film is adapted from a 2004 (the year the Expos were moved out of Montreal) novel by Marc Robitaille, many people would be glad to see it as a tribute to the Expos.

Rating: 3.5/5



Origin:Canada (2008)
Length:110 minutes
Genre:Sport drama
Screenplay:Marc Robitaille
Director:Francis Leclerc
Starring:Patrice Robitaille, Pier-Luc Funk, Jacinte Laguë and Roy Dupuis


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Letters from Iwo Jima

With this film comes the completion of Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima saga and we now get to see the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese viewpoint. As always, Eastwood explores what heroism, combined with patriotism, means in the Japanese psyche. After we've watched this film, it's amazing for us, Westerners, to see how the film is a smart exploration of sufferings endured by people that we believe to be tough (i.e. dying at all cost for one's country). In the end, the power of this film lies in its ability to avoid being a caricature of the samurai mentality.


In 1945, Japan gets prepared to fight back against an American invasion that will start on the island of Iwo Jima. Despite not being enthusiast about the war, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) seeks to defend the island out of patriotism. In fact, he's aware that the Americans, in case of victory, would use the island as a launching point to invade Japan's mainland. In the lower echelons, Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), a young private, strives to survive in order to come back to his wife. Near the end of the battle, the Japanese army is short of food, water and ammunition. Despite that, the soldiers' will and courage will make the battle last for more than 30 days.

In all fairness and with all due respect, Letters from Iwo Jima is better than the other film. With the script's focus that leaps at one's eyes right at the beginning, the few cut-back-and-forth moments work better in this film given the amazing character development. In both sub-plots (i.e. the focus on Kuribayashi and Saigo), the script shows well how the two leading characters, in their own way, are not necessarily willing to go to war and therefore confront the code of honour that has prevailed in the Japanese psyche for a long time.

After all, as the film interestingly points it out, what is bravery? Does it come from a soldier who rushes heedlessly into battle to serve his country (even if it means dying)? Does it come from a soldier (Saigo) who cares about his life in order to see his wife and his daughter as he's serving? Given the questions that are raised, Letters from Iwo Jima avoids being a caricature about the Japanese's code of honour since it's shot with no glitz and glamour.

Besides, Iris Yamashita's heartbreaking script can be seen as an ode to life. While there are soldiers and officers who prefer suicide over the humiliation that comes with defeat (or withdrawal), others like Kuribayashi and Saigo push the film into an incredible zone of depth by showing their definition of life. For both of these characters, a soldier who is alive (and thus one who tactically falls back when it's needed) is more useful to the Empire than one who commits suicide and therefore can't contribute to the war effort. As for Saigo, in the midst of something as useless as war, he finds solace in thinking that one day, he'll be back to his wife and daughter. All in all, this where the film, while being a historical account, avoids being a glorification of war.

Finally, I haven't seen all of Clint Eastwood directorial works, but this one really moved me. As always, Eastwood, comes up with a well shot and well acted film. To that matter, if you want to pay attention to the performance, watch Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai), Kazunari Ninomiya and Ryo Kase, who plays Shimizu. Moreover, it's so rare to see such a film that brings so many layers of grey in the image of Japanese as we, Westerners, envision them. Hence the dramatic depth of the film.

Rating: 4.5/5


Origin:USA (2006)
Length:141 minutes
Genre:War drama
Screenplay:Iris Yamashita
Director:Clint Eastwood
Starring:Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Ryo Kase, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Shido Nakamura and Hiroshi Watanabe


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Flags of Our Fathers

We've been knowing since the maturation of the medium of cinema that war is not always as glorious as it looks. It appears plainly and simply through the humanity of the characters. While director Clint Eastwood adds his voice to the list of directors who dramatize war, he also delivers to us one of his greatest directorial achievements. Does the film come with its flaws? Yes. However, if we forget the weird structure of the script, Flags Of Our Fathers has what it takes to be one of most people's favourite war films.


This is the first of two films in Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima saga. In 1945, near the end of World War II, American troops invade Japan by attempting to take the island of Iwo Jima (located at less than 700 miles of the Japanese mainland) first in a fight that will last 35 days. As the beachheads are secured, the U.S. Marines attack Mount Suribachi. On February 23, a patrol led by Sgt. Hank Hansen (Paul Walker) climb Mount Suribachi and hoist the American flag on the top of the mountain. When Secretary of Navy James Forrestal arrives at Iwo Jima, he wants to have the very flag on the mountain. Despite the anger of some soldiers, the flag is brought down by the second platoon led by Sgt. Mike Strank (Barry Pepper).

Therefore, Strank, Pfc. Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), Cpl. Harlon Block (Benjamin Walker), Pfc. Ira Hayes (Adam Beach), Navy Corpsman John "Doc" Bradley (Ryan Philippe) and Pfc. Franklin Sousley (Joseph Cross) hoist the "replacement flag". Hence, the picture taken by war photograph Joe Rosenthal or should we say "the shot" that boost the public opinion's morale. After the battle, many soldiers are dead and the story focuses on how Rene, Ira and John (who were brought back to the USA as "heroes" who can incite people to buy war bonds on the behalf of the American government) cope with being seen as heroes in the society.

Although the film, in the end, is great, the current structure of the storyline hardly seems suitable given the film's objective: asking questions about the real nature of heroism per se and showing us public misinformation. In fact, the film cuts back in forth from the battle scenes to the moments in which the boys are in the USA to promote the support for the troops. Therefore, why did scriptwriters Paul Haggis (Casino Royale) and William Broyles Jr. adopted such a structure à la 21 Grams when no surprises are expected in this film? In my opinion, a linear structure is more appropriate because the cast's performance suffice to tell us what's going on in the three leading characters' mind.

Despite that, if Eastwood wanted to improvise himself like a historian, he can say: "Mission accomplished". In fact, his film is patriotic in two ways. First of all, by addressing the knotty question of what heroism is (as defined by our psyche), Flags of Our Fathers can be seen (through the behaviour of each of the leading character) as a tribute to all the soldiers who gave their life at Iwo Jima. In fact, while Rene embraces fame, John stoically deals with it and Ira doesn't feel at ease with being called a hero (this is why he's not really enthusiast in contributing to the propaganda at home).

Obviously, as the film brilliantly points it out, in war, there's no such thing as individual heroism, but rather collective heroism. Thus, the film tackles the issue of public misinformation by condemning the fact that while the American public opinion has always cared about the soldiers who raised the "replacement flag", it has never given much thought to those who raised the first flag on Mount Suribachi. After all, shouldn't soldiers from both groups of flag raisers be equally called heroes? Asking the question is like answering to it.

Finally, while the film doesn't show the outcome of the Battle of Iwo Jima, it's a proof that mainstream entertainment and Art (with a capital "A") can form a nice couple. Of course, some people may not find Flags of Our Fathers as entertaining as Saving Private Ryan or Full Metal Jacket. Nonetheless, in all its magnificence, Flags of Our Fathers is a smart and genuine tale about heroism and also something that we tend to forget: bravery is something that is collectively shared no matter what.

Rating: 4/5



Origin:USA (2006)
Length:132 minutes
Genre:War drama
Screenplay:Paul Haggis and William Broyles Jr.
Director:Clint Eastwood
Starring:Ryan Philippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, Barry Pepper and Jamie Bell


Friday, May 1, 2009

Casino Royale

After giving us such a bad film like Die Another Day, the franchise's producers finally give us a James Bond film that can be taken seriously. Gone are the bad habits of the old days and hello to an action film that is not affraid to look boring in the eyes of many. To that matter, Casino Royale is the film that some fans of James Bond have been waiting for. It's well executed, acted and written. Above all, the film is less predictable than its predecessors.


On his first mission ever, James Bond (Daniel Craig), a British secret agent, discovers that Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker who provides services for terrorists, is behind some attacks. However, the last attack that Le Chiffre was behind failed. Since he lost some money from his clients, Le Chiffre organizes a poker tournament in Montenegro. In order to pull the rug under Le Chiffre, MI-6, the British secret service, sends James Bond in the tournament under the supervision of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), an official of the Treasury Board. She warns Bond that if he loses the tournament, the British government would directly finance world terrorism.

For once, we have a James Bond film that is not afraid to drift away from the formulae that has defined the franchise for a long time. This means that this time, the film has a rather balanced focus on the characters and the entertainment factor (this means less action scenes). Obviously, Casino Royale owes this to the simple structure of its storyline that contains a few plot twists that will sustain your interest for the film until the very end. Is James Bond going to win the poker tournament? Besides, in case he wins, is his mission really over?

Without revealing too much, this is probably the first James Bond film in which anybody would care about the characters. For instance, it was so refreshing to see that Vesper Lynd, the Bond girl, is not just used as a sexual accessory. In fact, you'll see by yourself that she has a direct influence on how the story evolves.

Furthermore, the script allows such a character development that we rarely see in a James Bond film. Forget the performance by Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day who couldn't look like a character psychologically marked by torture! Daniel Craig (Munich) is the best James Bond ever. Unlike his predecessors, Craig gets the opportunity to play an action hero that is full of human nuances even though some may find him monosyllabic. In his subtlety, Craig renders so well Bond's innocence, vulnerability (his ability to look like someone who is hurt in his body and soul), his ability to keep his blood cold (despite what he sees) and even paranoia at times.

Finally, while paving the way to a sequel, Casino Royale is definitely the best film in the James Bond franchise. In fact, this franchise reboot is not afraid to get rid of all the flaws that once made the franchise laughable (not that I hated the previous films). As a result of that, watching this film feels like watching a whole new James Bond: no gadgets, no Q, no Moneypenny and a larger role for M (who's brilliantly played by Judi Dench). If you didn't understand the film, watch it a second time; I'm telling that you won't regret it!

Rating: 4/5


Origin:UK/USA (2006)
Length:144 minutes
Genre:Espionnage
Screenplay:Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade
Director:Martin Campbell
Starring:Daniel Craig, Eva Green and Mads Mikkelsen

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