Monday, January 19, 2009

Movie Rundown - Jan 12 to Jan 18

I started watching movies again. Don't know why. The cycles continue on unabated, I suppose. I was helped by Sarah jump-starting my movie watching by giving me three films to watch (two of which will appear in this list) and the first time I've gone out to the movies in weeks.

So, without further delay, here we go.

Eastern Promises (***) - This movie had a lot of potential that I felt was partially squandered. the plot itself was horribly predictable and cliche, and the heroine was little more than a coat rack upon which was draped the progression of the story. That said, it was beautifully shot and Viggo Mortensen was spectacular. It also contained one of the most brutal fight scenes I've seen in years. It has faults, but it's also a great movie. A conflicted recommendation.

The Unborn (****) - Now, I've made no small show of my distaste for PG13 horror, but from the initial trailer I could have sworn this was rated R. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at the theater. There wasn't anything else showing at that time I cared about, so ... in we went. And came out very very surprised. This movie wasn't messing around, jumping right into the story without a bunch of subplots. It also borrowed heavily from surrealism and asian horror, blending into a pretty well-paced, well-textured movie that only fell apart in that the payoff was kind of weak. Also, it's nice to see a movie try some non-traditional folklore, and Jewish mysticism is rather unexplored territory, I think.

Son of Rambow (***) - This movie was at times charming and at other times infuriating. It had some of the best child actors I've ever seen being absolutely heartwarming as they interacted and explored both a love of film and the powers of imagination. But every time an adult showed up or the 'conflict' that was shoehorned into the movie reared their heads I wanted to turn it off. There's a very amazing movie in here hampered by an annoyance of a plot. That said, I still recommend it, as its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses.

Sukiyaki Western Django (*****) - Takashi Miike's take on the spaghetti western, this is a retelling of the Heiki Monogatari set in a fever-dream version of the American Southwest. Containing almost all Japanese actors (aside from one very notable cameo) speaking non-native English, this film just oozes class from every pore. There's a great disconnect in cultures when a gunslinger goes up against a samurai, and at the same time the entire thing feels both cohesive and transformative. Beautifully shot, well-scripted, both a comment on the genre and a respectable entry, this is both an ironic and deadly serious film that is at turns funny, heartbreaking, and thoughtful. Though, in the end, it's wall-to-wall cool.

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (**) - As a film this movie just doesn't work. It's a 90 minute anime movie that's built to be some well-made fan-service to Street Fighter fans. It's entertaining only so far as you enjoy the franchise it represents. Outside of that, it's just a mediocre plot that seems to take some extreme leaps without providing newcomers a sense of what's going on or why.

Resident Evil Extinction (****) - This is a thoroughly stupid movie that aspires to be stupid and entertaining. In doing so, it's hard to find fault with it. It's a nice step up from the second movie, it takes an interesting turn in terms of setting, and it's full of set pieces that feel both well in keeping with the series and worthwhile from a technical level. It's zombie outbreaks and genetic experimenting, and it only aspires to do its job well. With a genre movie like this, that's really all you can ask for (or want) sometimes. Well done, RE3. Now make a sequel, please. Ending on cliffhangers drives me up the WALL.

Man on Wire
(*****) - This is a documentary about Philippe Petit's journey to high-wire across the World Trade Center towers in the 70s. I honestly went in with pretty high expectations, and was blown away. The movie is less about the fact (the details are pretty straightforward) and much more about Petit's absolute dedication to his goals and what that did to the people around him. The stories are moving and Petit himself radiates a kind of genius/madness that sweeps you up in the narrative. This is as much a story about people striving to achieve the extraordinary as it is about the event that takes center stage in the movie.

Aaaaaaand, that's a wrap. Not sure if I have anything planned for the bloggity blag over the next week, but I imagine I'll put something up here. Stay tuned!