‘The Book of Eli’ review

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Hollywood has had a slight obsession with the apocalypse in recent months, with ‘Zombieland’, ‘2012’, ‘Knowing’, and ‘The Road’. Denzel Washington stars in the thriller ‘The Book of Eli’. In it, he portrays Eli, a man who walks across a post-apocalyptic America with only cannibals, thieves, and beggars left. He carries the last surviving copy of the Bible, and has been walking across the country for the last 30 years, trying to find a suitable sanctuary for it. Being the sole protector of it, he is willing to kill anyone who tries to harm him.

The film is surprisingly dull in moments, a series of well-shot action sequences pierced by long conversation about obvious plot points. I found it surprising how overtly spiritual the film was, and it simply got preachy in several scenes. Of course, the great irony of the film is that in one moment there’s a very clear religious undertone the filmmakers are attempting to deliver, and in the next severed limbs flying everywhere.

The cinematography, however, is gorgeous. The film adapts a unique color palette of over-saturated grey and green, and it looks gorgeous. Another up-side in this film is by far the acting: This is hardly a showcase role for Denzel Washington, but he manages to bring a complexity to the role of Eli that is both stylish and somewhat believable, all whilst shooting henchmen in the face. Gary Oldman plays Carnegie, a literary nut aware of Eli’s possession, willing to kill him to retrieve it. Oldman is great here. He’s in less scenes than the trailers would indicate, but with what he’s given he does well.

Mila Kunis as Carnegie’s daughter, Solara, is actually fairly good. Kunis, aside from a role in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’, hasn’t really been in any big-screen movies, and proves herself to be a fairly capable actress here. The film is essentially about the power of religion to do both good and evil. That said, the random and brutal violence in the film just completely outweighs the message.

‘The Book of Eli’ isn’t a bad movie: The acting is really good, it’s gorgeously shot, and its attempts at social commentary don’t completely fail. That said, it’s a fairly repetitive film, with the violence too scarce to satisfy its intended action audience yet too brutal to satisfy its intended Christian audience.
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‘Leap Year’ review

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Before ‘Leap Year’, Amy Adams had never been in a bad film. Sure, the parts ‘Julie and Julia’ starring her sucked, but the half with Meryl Streep was exceptional enough to lift it up. Sure ‘Underdog’ was an epic fest of crap, but she technically only voiced a character, and didn’t fully appear in it. But ergo; all good things (and in this case, streaks) must end. ‘Leap Year’ is the first movie of the new decade, and I hope it’s not a good indication of the films to come this year. It’s charmless, humorless, and inept in every possible way. It has no shame in stealing entire scenes from other films (The Proposal, PS I Love You, etc.) It has no shame in depicting Irish folk as either thieves or drunks, and has no shame in painting women as uptight shrews that eschew logic and emotion simply because they are “on a schedule”.

Adams plays Anna, an uptight business-woman-that-worships-her-Blackberry-type-cliche who always needs things according to “plan”. When her surgeon-bland-schmuck-boyfriend goes to Dublin, Anna follows him to propose to him. See, there’s a tradition in Ireland, that allows a woman to propose to a man, so long as it falls on “Leap Day”, February 29. Her flight to Dublin is grounded in Wales, so she hires an easy-going Irish inn-keeper, Declan, to drive her to Dublin. Along the way, he realizes (as is customary for romantic comedies) that she likes the man that’s her polar-opposite – the charming Irish dude!

The film borders on sexism – having an uptight, unlikable, boring woman as a protagonist. The movie doesn’t have characters, but archetypes: The laid-back man, the upper-class woman, the arrogant jerk that the upper-class woman must be romantically involved with. No aspect of the film approaches originality; it somehow manages to make the lively Irish countryside seem dull. I’ve already said this, but allow me to stress it: If there’s an Irishman in the film, he’s a drunk or a thief.

Amy Adams, I ask you: why? Why bother showing your face in a film so insipid? Money, probably. The first film of 2010, and also the worst.

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‘The Lovely Bones’ review

blind-side Director Peter Jackson has, in the past several years, basically conquered Hollywood. He’s made some of the highest-grossing films of all time, including an 11-hour fantasy epic. His last 4 films have won a combined total of 20 Academy Awards and over $3 billion. Yet somehow, Peter cannot direct a cohesive story on a family torn apart by tragedy. Not to say that his latest film, ‘The Lovely Bones’, isn’t excellent in several areas, and incredibly moving in some scenes. It just seems like a film divided in two, one half of which is a gritty drama about forgiveness and the other half a spaced-out, candy-colored metaphorical fantasy.

On paper, that sounds like an odd mix, but in context of the plot, it somewhat makes sense. The year is 1973. The Salmon family live a quiet albeit happy life in Pennsylvania, but when young Susie Salmon is murdered and dismembered, that perfect existence is shattered. The film then splits into two narratives: The family trying to find the murderer to justice and ultimately cope with their loss; and Susie watching her family’s plight from a version of heaven known as ‘In Between’.

Oscar-nominated ‘Atonement’ actress Saorise Ronan plays Susie, the protagonist of the film, and she does it beautifully. Her character goes through an incredibly tragic chain of events, oddly the first of which is her death. She’s perfect in this role; displaying the emotional range necessary for such a large part. Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as Susie’s grieving parents are merely decent, without any big major emotional scenes, they mostly serve to keep the film emotionally grounded.

There is, however, one actor in this film that isn’t just great, he’s somewhat masterful. Stanley Tucci as Susie’s murderer, George Harvey. On the surface, calm, polite and mannered, but at his core, savage and instinctive, Tucci is perfect in this part. In fact, he’s often the saving grace of the film because it’s really, really messy at times.

Its random alternating between the two narratives makes for an often messy, odd experience. The editing is oddly-paced, rapid in some scenes, then slow and delicate in others. The problem with the film is ultimately that there’s too much stuffed in here. There’s so many sub-plots and nuances here that it’s hard to keep track; the film changes tone and pace seemingly every 10 minutes: Suburban drama; teen romance; fantasy; dark crime film. There’s so much material fighting for attention here; the film just feels messy. Some parts are moving and brilliant, others fall flat on their (metaphorical) face.
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My most anticipated films of 2010

Hey. Soon this site will be flooded with lists of mine, including my picks for best of ’09, worst of ’09, the worst of the decade, and ultimately the best. But first, I’ll put out the films I want to see most this year.

10: The Social Network. One of my favorite directors, David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac), directing a story about the young nerds that established a little website called “Facebook”.

9: Wall Street 2. Being a massive fan of both Oliver Stone and the original ‘Wall Street’, I can’t wait to see the return of Gordon Gekko and to see how the filmmakers integrate the current economic climate into the film.

8: Paul. Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (from Shaun of the Dead), it’s the story of slacker best friends that accidentally stumble upon an alien (voiced by Seth Rogen). Considering how funny these three people are, I can’t wait to see this.

7: Alice in Wonderland. Directed by Tim Burton, and starring Johnny Depp, this bizarre 3-D take on the Disney tale should be amazing.

6: Iron Man 2. I am a young 13-year old boy. Explaining why this is on the list would be somewhat redundant.

5: Jackass 3-D. I laughed so hard it hurt during the first two films. I cannot wait for this. For those that don’t know, the Jackass series is devoted to a couple slackers that perform outrageous stunts that often result in their pain.

4: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. The films have steadily been getting better and better and better. The adaptation of the final Harry Potter book should be amazing.

3: Inception. Christopher Nolan (director of Memento and the Dark Knight) directed this film, starring Marion Cotillard and Leonardo DiCaprio. Although no one really seems to know what this is about, I cannot wait for it.

2: Toy Story 3. The first two are amongst my favorite films. Pixar’s films are getting better and better and this could be their best one yet.

1: Shutter Island. Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese reteam for this atmospheric horror film, set entirely in an asylum. Buzz indicates this could be one of Scorsese’s masterpieces. Consider me pumped for this film, and film this year, in general.