Tuesday, April 15, 2008

There Will be Blood

Rating : 4/5
A movie that hits you like a fever, There Will Be Blood is not the type of story that gets told very often. A multi-layered portrait of all that comes with a desire for power, There Will Be Blood will leave audiences feeling exhausted and with a bitter taste in their mouths. But a word of caution here, this movie might not be pleasurable for the average joe out there.

The film is anchored by the powerful presence of Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, a silver miner turned oilman. Day-Lewis' performance is a thing of beauty. Critics of Daniel Day-Lewis performance will say that his portrayal is far too theatrical, a criticism also given to his portrayal of Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. The reality is that Day-Lewis does not carry this to everyone of his performances. However, he knows when a character is supposed to be showman. Plainview is a salesman and without his swagger he would be nowhere as a businessman. What is truly outstanding is that, unlike lesser actors, Day-Lewis is able to bring out the more human aspects of Plainview that make him a fascinating character to watch.

There Will Be Blood is an achievement in cinematography, acting, writing and film-making unlike anything released in 2007. It is a film that puts its focus on wholly unlikable characters and dares to take you in deeper despite this fact. Like Raging Bull, it is a character study of a man who you would not normally want to know and who you will be unable to forget about after it is all said and done. You may not want to revisit this film anytime soon, but it will be for all the right reasons. It is a powerful and emotionally draining experience.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Black Snake Moan

Rating: 3/5
Combining a sweltering Southern setting, blood and guts blues riffs, and a little unexpected Bible imagery, Brewer has definitely given this film a style of its own and an atmosphere that's as effective as the actors in telling this strange little tale of love and redemption.

Though its aspirations run higher, there's no denying that the film has its moments of exploitation. Ricci's half-nakedness for 75% of the film is testament to that. Those of you with more delicate palates might experience a little discomfort watching this, and understandably so. It's raw. It's ugly. It's dirty. Even Brewer agrees that this isn't exactly for everybody.

Black Snake Moan is the type of film that makes you stop and examine your audience before deciding who to recommend it to. It features very solid acting, a great atmosphere, and a strangely different story. But it also gets a bit sick and twisted at times and has no problems doing so. Take my words to heart and then go with your instinct on this one.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lions for Lambs

Rating: 2/5
I'm actually quite reluctant to criticize this movie because I basically agree with every sentiment it expresses. I just wish it could express them with more grace, style and subtlety. The movie makes some very valid points about the American political system, patriotism, the so called War on Terror, the lack of engagement of youth and the comatose subordination of the American media. Most of which I agree with. And yet it left me utterly cold and disengaged.

Aside from the political commentary, which it makes no dance around, this a dialog heavy film. Characters are pinned against their situations which cause them to restrain from a course of action both physically and metaphorically. The conversations are engaging, but it would be arguably more favorable to allow the characters interaction. A few additional technical merits could have gone a long way. For example, the CGI of the Chinook helicopter was not up to par; a memorable score and unique cinematography are also absent. The screenplay is inherently foiled by remarkable coincidence; but there was no way around that. At a scant 88 minutes, Lions for Lambs is quick to get to the point but it is over too fast. These miscues keep it from perfection. Served as they are, Lions for Lambs is thinking person's film that makes for rather poor entertainment.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Southland Tales

Rating: 3/5
Southland Tales is basically a collection of great moments pulled off by a great cast and a brilliant director. Think of 20 wonderful YouTube clips strung together in an interesting yet incoherent way. And believe me, numerous scenes in this movie will be YouTube hits.

This isn't a movie for most audiences. You won't relate to any characters, and you won't follow or really care about the preposterous plot. It is dark and cynical. And despite it's heavy-handed political story, there is no deep, introspective meaning behind anything whatsoever. This is why many people won't get it, and thus will hate it. It's a dark film with a dash of comedy and a heavy dose of LSD. But there are enough funny moments to save it from feeling like a depressing, bad trip.

And one last note to Kelly fans. Do not expect anything remotely similar to Donnie Darko. Very different type of film. The only similarity is the amazing soundtrack. Southland Tales is an ambitious film, but a messy one, and while it may not work on the kind of level it's aspiring to, in a movie climate where so many films play it safe, at least Kelly tries. Very flawed, but entertaining nonetheless.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Lust, Caution

Ratting : 3/5
I resent that this movie is marketed as an "espionage thriller", or that it's a thematic follow- up to Brokeback Mountain, or that it got an R rating for its graphic sex scenes. It is much more than that. It is a film set in Asia, by an Asian filmmaker, with a special resonance for Asian moviegoers.

I think this is a very personal film for Ang Lee - betraying his private thoughts on his homeland, on sexuality, on truth, on love.Mr Lee raises unearths some complex emotions towards identity and truth, as revealed in only the most intimate moments between illicit lovers in times of extreme duress.

That Lee chose to make such a film after his phenomenal success in Hollywood, and during this period of phenomenal progress for modern China, gives Lust Caution a heightened sense of relevance and urgency, a film that can potentially invite questions on what it deeply means to be Chinese, to be Asian.

Tang's acting, and of course, the intense sex scenes that powerfully depicted lust, no holds barred, with anger, frustration, hate, and all the other negative emotions associated with it. Interestingly enough, the only moment in the movie where both Leung and Tang's characters felt a mutual love was not in bed, but in the Japanese brothel when Tang performed a song for Leung.

All in all this was a delicate and exquisite movie that was carefully planned and filmed, with attention to every detail. It offers a profound and in depth examination of lust.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Rating: 3/5
This movie, although many will go against this declaration, is not for every type of viewer. Those who enjoy ampulous movies, watching the production details, or gasping against fabulous skies and fields for minutes, and enjoy a lenghty, slowly told story; will like it. Those (most likely men) who enjoy another type of movies; fast movies, with fulfilling characters, twists and sudden changes, will be disappointed by Atonement.

My partial disliking of the film, however, comes through another lane. The story, and semi-spoiler ahead, centers mainly and poses the eye on the couple of Robbie (McAvoy) and Cecilia (Knieghtly) and it's relationship. Yet their relationship is nothing more than a sexual attraction arising from years of close living together. Their is no inner travels to their feelings, but to their thoughts. It's a cold relationship, moved by some impacts and problems that do not really satisfy the romantic crave.

The direction, cinematography and musical score are all excellent, and I could spend all day watching the beautiful costumes and scenery. But I really found this movie merely mediocre overall. I can usually tell after watching the movie whether a movie will be one that I'll want to re-watch again and again. Atonement, I could instantly tell, would be a one-shot deal.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Movie review by: Mustafa

Rating : 5/5
A frequently dazzling display of cinematic sleight-of-hand from writer/director Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins), The Prestige is an entertaining, handsomely produced period thriller that mostly holds you in its grip, despite an overly convoluted narrative structure that's ultimately more wearying than satisfying. However, this faithful adaptation of Christopher Priest's 1996, prize-winning novel has so much atmospheric style, wit, and dramatic intrigue that you're more than willing to overlook said flaws and surrender to The Prestige, which depicts a festering grudge between two Victorian-era stage magicians that escalates to deadly heights.

As Cutter (Michael Caine), the ingeneur, i.e., illusion designer, to both magicians explains via voiceover, "The Prestige" refers to the third act, or pay-off, in every magic trick. It follows "The Pledge" (set-up) and "The Turn," the actual performance of the illusion. According to the press notes, Nolan and his brother, co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, used the three-part structure of a magic trick as their narrative guide in adapting Priest's densely layered, epistolary novel, which flashes back and forth in time between turn-of-the-century London and faraway Colorado. For the bitter rivalry between elegant master showman Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and the unpolished but equally gifted Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) will unfold on both the stages of London's music halls, and in the snowbound Colorado Springs laboratory of scientist Nikola Tesla (David Bowie). The visionary inventor, and despised rival of Thomas Alva Edison, represents Angier's best chance of topping Borden's signature trick: "The Transported Man." Blending radical science and traditional magic, Angier briefly gains an advantage, but Borden refuses to concede defeat, even as their lethal feud eventually ensnares Cutter, Borden's fragile wife (Rebecca Hall), and the gorgeous stage assistant Olivia Wenscombe (Scarlett Johansson).

That said, the movie is still an eminently enjoyable and clever period thriller, graced with charismatic leads (Jackman is particularly impressive), an excellent supporting cast, and bravura film making from Nolan, the cinematic magician of The Prestige.