Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Great Lines

"I like a woman with an arse you can park a bike in and balance a pint of beer on"

Micmacs à tire-larigot

RATING: ☺☺☺

You only need five minutes of  Micmacs to confirm the storytelling talents of the director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. In that short period of time, you're given the entire background of the protagonist allowing you to understand his motives, all this wrapped up in a visually stunning, inventive and funny package. And that's just the first five minutes.
This was a delightful comedy caper, full of bizarre and charming outcast characters, on a david versus goliath revenge mission against two powerful weapons manufacturers. The heist moves presented here would put any Mission Impossible team to shame. They're more imaginative, trickier, devious and certainly more humourous.
I particularly liked the fact the protagonist, a video club clerk, is so amazingly smart, a characteristic I attribute to the long hours of watching movies. I rather like this explanation better than a bullet in the head ;-)

Another not to be missed work from Jeunet

Limitless

RATING: ☺☺

When you watch three movies in one weekend, and two days later you have trouble remembering what the third movie was, it's a clear indication of the quality of that particular movie when it barely registered compared with the other two (Submarine and I Saw the Devil). The movie in question is Limitless, which to be fair was pretty entertaining, but unlike what it's title suggests, it remained pretty limited. A movie about a pill that unlocks the full potential of the human brain asked for a story larger in scope. A true sci-fi novel or movie would explore the social and moral ramifications of this wonder drug. The possibilities surrounding the use of this drug are staggering. The consequences and impact at the individual level alone are immense and 'Limitless' brushes a few of them, but for the most part settles for the more confortable zone of the thriller. It works well as such, but overall it feels a bit disappointing. Other than this and the ending, which totally screws up with the backstory, as well as some plot points abandoned or poorly handled, the movie is visually appealing, Bradley Cooper carries the movie well, the action scenes are well shot and the suspense is kept effective.
Limitless is an entertaining thriller, but unlike the character of the movie that acquires total recall, you'll probably forget all about it in a couple of weeks, and won't be in a hurry to revisit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Saw the Devil

RATING: ☺☺☺

Revenge is a very powerful sentiment. It can take over one person so completely, one hardly recognizes himself. There's a terrible need in all of us to see justice done, to carry out due punishment. The punishment however, differs greatly from one individual to another.
I Saw the Devil aka Akmareul boatda in its original title, is the last work from hot shot Korean director Jee-woon Kim. The basic premise behind the film is great. The most satisfying part in a movie dealing with the wrongdoings of a villain, is seeing him get his much deserved comeuppance. The side effect of this is, it ends the story. 'I Saw the Devil' picks up on this and works around it. Instead of offering one cathartic act of revenge, you get several smaller appetizing ones, satisfying on their own, but allowing for the delay of the story's resolution. There are several upside effects to this. One, it extends the suffering inflicted on the villain, thus increasing our viewing pleasure. It sounds sadistic doesn't it? That's another thing the film makes you think about after you finish watching it. The nature of revenge and the sadistic streak to it. But that's not all. It also allows for an hypnotizing and deadly cat and mouse game between the villain and the "hero", played by Byung-hun Lee as the young secret agent seeking revenge for the murder of his fiancee, Min-sik Choi as the serial killer, and magistrally conducted by Jee-woon Kim. Third, it gives plenty of opportunities to showcase the collateral damage inflicted upon others as a result of this game, further enhancing the destructive nature of revenge, as well as the ugly emptiness of its aftermath.
I find the movie easy to recommend. I think even people who were not thrilled by Asian movies in the past, might find something to enjoy here. This is not just another bloody brutal slasher asian movie.

Submarine

RATING: ☺☺☺

I was playing with the idea of giving Submarine a higher rating. I'm still torn about it, because this was one of the best teen movies I've seen in quite some time. It's definitely one of the best films I've watched this year, period. This British film lacks the glamour and fast pace usually associated with American teen movies, but more than makes up with a fantastic script that captures the essence of adolescence awkwardness. Almost everyone at one point will recognize themselves in something that shows up on the screen. It has plenty of drama, some of it blown out of proportion as is typical of that age, but it's also very funny, although I'm sure the humour might not appeal to everyone's taste.
'Submarine' is a gem of a first feature film by director Richard Ayoade. It's consistently good all the way through, and some parts are simply brilliant. A good example is the ending scene. Talk about wraping a movie on a high note. As I'm writing this, I'm feeling the urge to watch it again, despite much of it being already indelibly carved in my memory. There's no better compliment than that.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Contagion

RATING: ☺☺

I'm split on how I feel about Contagion. As an healthcare professional, I think it does a decent job as to what people can expect happening in the event of a pandemic like the 1918 Spanish Flu. The H1N1 outbreak of 2009, and the perceived notion by the general population that the situation was blown out of proportion by the authorities as part of a conspiracy with the pharmaceutical industry to sell drugs is very dangerous indeed. Yes, the tax payers ended up paying for a lot of vaccines that didn't got used. We should all thank our good fortunes that was the case, because had the situation evolved differently, even with the vaccines available, the costs would amount to several times what was spent. And make no mistake, a pandemic like that is still inevitable, so better safe than sorrow, and the release of the 'Contagion' helps in raising awareness.

As a moviegoer, it's a different story. Contagion is a disaster movie in essence, but it pales in comparison with both the 70's golden age, and the most recent examples of the genre. The thriller aspects are almost absent, and despite depicting several story elements that should infuse the movie with its dramatic weight, it fails to do so effectively. That was for me the main problem. It didn't manage to convey the drama and horror of the situation. You see it on screen, but you don't feel it. I felt detached from it. One factor that might have contributed to that was the number of characters and subplots. Even if it has always been a staple of the genre, 'Contagion' has too many characters and subplots going on, some of them duplicating their function in the story. Soderbergh doesn't grasp character economy here. I'm not against a large cast or several plots running together, but only when they add something significant to the story. As I'm writing this, I'm thinking how much better the movie could have been if it focused more strongly on just three main character subplots. Laurence Fishburne as the director of CDC to cover the political side, Kate Winslet as the CDC field officer to show us the reality from the point of view of the authorities attempt to manage the situation on site, and Matt Damon to give us the point of view from the general population. This would be enough to cover all the bases without dispersing itself too much. Other characters would still show up but with less time dedicated to them, and some would be gone altogether.
As a result, a relatively weak emotional involvement and impact with the viewers also hurts the message it carries. Perhaps it was done on purpose to avoid alarming people too much whenever a new flu epidemic shows up every year, but I doubt it.
Should have go and watched Submarine instead. Oh well, next time.