Archive for February, 2011
Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb – A war of clowns, nukes, and coca-cola companies
3.5 Stars out of 4
Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb is one of those glorious political satires that is one emblematic joke after another. And it is still relevant today. This is a true-blue satire that catches Cold War politics and its enforcers with their pants down. It is so over the top, so overly silly, and yet very amusing. It’s a very good movie, but is largely mistaken as Kubrick’s greatest film. It’s a minor work I polemically state. But that is like saying the Statue of Liberty is a minor landmark of New York City.
The film was made in 1964, about two decades after the Germans surrendered and in the midst of an intense, jingoistic war between capitalism and communism. For the Russians, American capitalists exploited the working class and it was a system that would inevitably perish. For Americans, Russians only had a despotic socialist government and their vodka. Absurd, but amusing prejudices. (continue reading…)
3 Stars out of 4
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Wow. It’s a full-bore absurdist, surrealist, minimalistic film of a man’s reconciliation with himself and recollection of a fading life. It is directed by Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Syndromes And A Century, Blissfully Yours) and he is very good at telling stories through his own pace, tone, conventions, and abstract art. Past Lives adds to this array, but it is another Weerasethakul film that will polarize the lot of you.
It takes place and around the dying days of Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar), who is living in a tiny abode in a forest area. He is welcomed by his sister-in-law Jen (Jenjira Pongpas) and nephew Thong (Sakda Kaewbuadee). They have small bits of conversation and are then introduced to family apparitions: Boonmee’s wife (Natthakarn Aphaiwong) and son (Jeerasak Kulhong) who are not exactly human. This is an odd film. (continue reading…)
3.5 Stars out of 4
War is always a wage on values. Same goes for the scenario in Of Gods And Men, about 9 Trappist monks caught between their allegiance to God and the safety of themselves in war torn Algeria. The year is 1996 and Islamic fundamentalists are trying to impeach the FNL government. The monks, led by Christian (Lambert Wilson, the Frenchman from The Matrix Reloaded) coordinates daily eucharists and congregations for them to be dutiful to the almighty.
But the Civil War comes closer, putting each monk under pressure. French director Xavier Beauvois (The Chameleon) takes time to gather the points of view of all the monks, to emphasize these Trappists as a brotherhood not despotic. Christian realizes quickly that he cannot make the final decision because everyone relies on each other, and no matter what, they stick together. Of Gods And Men is primarily about keeping religious values in check while confronted by an event losing its own. (continue reading…)
2.5 Stars out of 4
The title GasLand, is a satirically well-pitched label for a film about a very patriotic country, the United States, losing its territory to gas. A natural resource. The mutual agreement on ‘gas’ is that it is necessary, but its means are detrimental. Cultivating natural gas is like digging for gold; you have to go thousands of feet below the earth’s surface and then engage in a process called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”). It sounds like a military artillery attack if you ask me.
The homes of Colorado explored in GasLand are sort of in this inner artillery war. Their water is contaminated with natural gas and could explode if prone to anything flammable. That is right. People’s water is catching on fire. GasLand indeed explores areas that defies fundamental science and explains the fuel in our car is not from a good source. (continue reading…)
3 Stars out of 4
Is it time for a soldiers’ story? Since Operation Desert Storm in 1991, it damn well better be. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have done a toll on civilians, soldiers, and the world. With one of the globe’s biggest superpowers propelling these wars, these battles risk more than just lives. Our freedom.
“Freedom” is kind of a cheap-generalized word for a film like Restrepo, that is not intent on summarizing itself through portentous voiceover and structured narrative. Restrepo is a diary entry, cultivated from the squalid battlegrounds of Afghanistan and brought to the screen. It’s quite a good movie. (continue reading…)
3.5 Stars out of 4
Inside Job tells its key focus – the 2008 Financial crisis – straight. No frothy games or trite rhetoric, just to your face and with the right candour. This is your best friend just telling you how it is.
First off there is a caveat: if politics rattles your brain or financial/economic vernacular is just not to your interest, Inside Job might be a tough sit. It has much to say. Get ready for it.
I did not avidly read the papers when the crisis was at its worst stage. I was aware businesses were collapsing, jobs were dissipating, and the real estate market was peculiarly stable. My father is a lawyer and in 2008, I had never seen him so on edge. This was not just an American cataclysm, but it hit globally. All were affected and the negligent actions by the American Congress and economical bigwigs had ramifications on Canadians all the way to Icelanders. (continue reading…)
4 Stars out of 4
Another Year is about happy people, and then some sad ones. About some delightful seasons, and then some gloomier ones. Very little happens in Another Year but it conveys so much. This is a story about humans, not “characters”, with emotions that are natural not contrived to fit the story.
Another Year directly implies that there is nothing special about this moment. These characters (I’d rather say people) react and treat each other how they have their entire lives. There is a husband Tom Hepple (Jim Broadbent) and wife Gerri Hepple (Ruth Sheen) who reside in a comfy, established house with a fertile garden in the back. Tom “digs holes” for a living, and is married happily to his wife. They are fine. They have a thirty year-old son, Joe (Oliver Maltman), who is content but single. (continue reading…)
1.5 Stars out of 4
Darkness does not scare me. Especially when I do not know what I am supposed to be scared of. I am not sure of much in Brad Anderson’s Vanishing On 7th Street. What is the point of this post-Apocalyptic horror film? How is it supposed to be scaring me? And isn’t it just another The Walking Dead, but without the walking dead?
The film played at the Toronto International Film Festival and received mixed reviews. I considered seeing this film since it was by the director of the shrewdly existential and Dostoevskyian The Machinist. I went to 127 Hours instead. Better choice. Now watching Vanishing On 7th Street, I witness the film as just another zombie movie but them lurking in the shadows. Instead of them munching on your brains, they dissipate you in thin air. (continue reading…)
2.5 Stars out of 4
EXCLUSIVE TO SHORT CUTS!
In Fair Game, when battling for the truth against one of the most powerful governments in the world, you enter a chess game. The government holds all the knights and you hold every pawn. A man, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), has such a passion for the truth he endears a labyrinth of conspiracy, lies, and betrayals while trying to keep his family together and the rapport with his wife Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts). She is a CIA agent whose name is leaked to the public after her husband writes a polemical editorial to the Washington Post.
The irony of Fair Game is that there is no fairness or rules. The government wins because it has power and it protects the people. When the people question that power, it turns away from them - and perhaps attacks. This movie Fair Game is directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and he bases it off the memoirs of Plame.
The film has the right anger and angle to it but just does not take off enough. It juggles itself between thriller and conventional bio-pic and never fully engages. The first half is incredibly slow, but is meant to build up a web of lies that will soon be inanely challenged. There is just no point trying to overpower a political force, but there is no problem in making a statement. Fair Game has been criticized for its distortions and counterfeit scenes, but I can only expect so much…
I do like Plame’s final lines regarding that the government can take the truth and destroy it, but not her family. Luckily, Penn and Watts are strong enough to make the family believable and feel torn apart when it needs to seem that way. The film grapples with the tension within a country as it panicked, went to war, and got confused with their own morals. Wilson notes in a final speech: “a woman approached Benjamin Franklin and asked what government he had given us. Franklin said…”
A Republic, m’am. If you can keep it.
3.5 Stars out of 4
I Saw The Devil is a merciless film about merciless people doing merciless things. It is an unholy delight - 144 minutes of exuberant moral irony and neo-noir elegance. This is not for the vulnerable or ones who can barely handle Dario Argento movies. I can barely. I Saw The Devil is more gratuitous than it needs to be, but it mutates from cinema to perspective: this film is about greeting and grappling with the Devil.
The opening had the gradual build of the introduction to Fincher’s Zodiac. A shot of a car, with two blue lights attached to rear-view mirror, drives down a snowy, empty road on a murky Korean night. These blue lights have a mind of their own almost; they look like eyes and seem to be guiding the car in its direction. We then meet Officer Soo-Hyun (Byung-hun Lee), who is on the phone with his fiancée. She is having car troubles. Don’t damsels in distress always? Kyung-Chul (Choi Min-sik), a stout man, offers to help her but then accompanies her after with a hammer to her head. (continue reading…)