December 31, 2013.

This blog is now closed. After three years and 311 posts, I have decided to end this blog. I have enjoyed watching the films, reviewing them, and interacting with global readers.

If you are interested in contacting me, you can do so by commenting on any of the posts. The blog will remain live on the web.
Thank you to all the readers for your comments, ideas, and thoughts. They were helpful, stimulating, and enriching. This is Alene, signing off.

September 28, 2011

Winter's Bone (2010)

When it's over, some of the images linger in my mind as a reminder of how some people are forced to live as well as how courage can take many forms.  Without giving away too much of the plot, some images that stayed with me are the swamp scene, the children jumping on the trampoline, the children learning to shoot a rifle, skinning the squirrel, and delivering the "goods" to the sheriff's office.  Winter's Bone doesn't follow the conventional story structure.  It doesn't have a beginning, middle, and end.  It's a snapshot of the middle spanning about a week's time frame. Newcomer Jennifer Lawrence gives a powerful performance as Ree, a 17 year old girl who must find her drug dealing father in time before the family home is taken away by the court.  Her search for answers lead her down a path of violence and brutality, and she must find a way to survive while caring for her two siblings as well as her unresponsive mother.  I found myself captivated by Ree's character and her unflinching courage to save and protect her family.  The film shows how much we can endure as individuals when our livelihood is threatened and the people we love are at risk of being torn away from us.  There's nothing glamourous or uplifting about this film.  It's bleak, depressing, and completely realistic in its depiction of the corrupt and poor living in rural Missouri. 

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

Never Let Me Go (2010)

When it's over, the first thing that comes to my mind is the word tragic.  The film is based on the book of the same title by Kazuo Ishigoru about three friends (Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth) who grow up together at an English boarding school where they learn they are clones developed for the sole purpose of being harvested for their organs.  The love shared between the three is strong and as they become young adults their love is put to the test as they await their fates to unfold.  The three characters were well crafted and were played beautifully and hauntingly by Carey Mulligan (Kathy), Andrew Garfield (Tommy), and Keira Knightly (Ruth).  Mulligan was especially brilliant as the main character who I thought really carried the film from beginning to end by conveying so much emotion without uttering a word.  Unlike other human cloning films, this film focused in on the love story between these three friends and how they chose to live their lives knowing their fates were not their own.  This film wasn't about rebellion, or running away, or about challenging a corporation, but rather, it was about emotions - the human emotions of regret, jealousy, love, forgiveness, loss, fear, redemption, and hope.  In the film, these characters were thought of as "things" to be used and disposed of.  However, as the viewer, we see the characters as so much more than lab rats.  We forget they are clones, because they become so real as we relate to their hopes, their sadnesses and their heartbreaks.  We grow to care for them as unique individuals, not clones, and that's where the tragedy lies, because what happens to them simply isn't fair or humane.  I think the film brings to surface some ethical issues worth discusssing as well such as: Are clones considered human?  If you knew your fate was death, how would you live your life?  Would you run?  Would you fight back?  Or would you want to live your life as normal as you could possibly make it for as long as you can? 

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

September 19, 2011

Drive Angry ( 2011)

When it's over, there's enough blood, severed limbs, and destruction to rival recent Quentin Tarantino films.  Without much of a story and a whole bunch of scenes stitched loosely together, Drive Angry would make most viewers walk out of a theatre demanding their money back.  Nicholas Cage disappoints as the father who escapes from Hell to avenge his daughter's death and to save his granddaughter from being sacrificed at the alter by a satanic cult.  In the mis-mash of explosions, bullets, and arterial splatter, I simply couldn't stay awake.  The violence was simply too over-excessive and gratuitous, and like anything that's been shoved in your face for too long, you simply become numb to it's effects. Cage still looks good; his car is still smoking; and he's got a really cool gun, but all this, isn't enough to carry a movie.  I would have liked to learn more about Cage's character, John Milton - how he ended up in Hell, and more interesting, how he managed to escape.  Also, the story never explains why Milton's daughter was the target and then her baby.  Is there a connection?  The film says "no," but maybe there should have been.  It would have tightened the plot and elevated the story to whole new level.

My rating: 1.5 out of 5

September 11, 2011

Limitless (2011)

When it's over, success should be defined by who you are and what you do, not what drug you are taking.  Bradley Cooper makes a dramatic turn in acting as Eddie Morra, a writer that has hit rock bottom, until a friend offers him an experimental drug which heightens the brain's ability to retain, store, and sort information.  The drug turns Eddie's life around and soon, he becomes dependant on it.  I thought the film was original, entertaining, and well thought out.  I liked the visual effects used to show what was going through the minds of people taking the drug.  It was all very psychedelic - very cool.  However, I didn't like the message the film was sending.  Rated at 14A, it sends the message, especially to young viewer, that taking drugs is okay and that in small controlled doses, you can use it to gain what you want, whether that be success or popularity.  The film glamorizes the use of drugs, and although it does explore the side effects of drugs and potential pitfalls, the film ultimately chose to be pro drug as illustrated by Eddie's decision to continue using it to stay on top of his game.  I think a more appropriate ending would be that he gets off the drug, and learns from his mistakes, and starts his life over, which can also be considered a life of success.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Sanctum (USA/Australia - 2010)

When it's over, there are no creatures, monsters, and abnormal humanoids in this film.  It's simply a film about man versus nature, and in this case, an extensive cave in Papua New Guinea.  When the members of a cave diving expedition suddenly find themselves trapped in the cave, they must rely on teamwork, wits, and courage to find a way out before the cave floods completely.  Even though the film was based on true events that happened in Australia in 1988, the film was still a work of fiction and therefore, there are a lot of theatrics in the some of the death scenes.  I won't say how many people die, but it's a given in a film like this that there are going to be casualties.  However, it's very interesting how they die.  Nobody dies the same way, which tells me that the director had chosen specific deaths for specific people, based on their personality.  The film was thrilling and by the end of it, I felt a renewed sense of respect for the people who actually do cave diving recreationally and professionally. The gear they tug, the knowledge required, the ability to make life and death decisions, and the mental control they must have are all so crucial in the success and survival of a diving expedition, and the film clearly illustrates all these points without holding anything back.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

September 9, 2011

The Next Three Days (2010)

When it’s over, how far will you go to save the one you love?  In The Next Three Days, John Brennan (Russell Crowe) must find a way to break his wife, Lara (Elizabeth Banks), out of prison for a murder she did not commit.  This film was slow to start; it climbs uphill; and when it reaches the third act (about an hour into the film), it finally takes off at a thriller pace leaving several possible endings.  As Brennan planned and researched the prison breakout, I found myself questioning his methods and how his methods put his young child’s welfare at risk, but at the same time, I understood his desperation and the emotional conflict that went with his decisions.  This is due mostly in part to Crowe's ability to convey such emotions without words. This film's not a thriller like Prison Break and falls short of greatness next to The Shawshank Redemption.  However, I do give credit to Director Paul Haggis for delving into the emotional side of having a loved one in prison and how that can upset the balance of family ties and life and our own ability to cope with the stress.  I may have got the ending I wanted, but Haggis clearly wants the viewer to question the ripples of that ending.  I think that one look (could it be relief, guilt, sadness, regret?) in Brennan’s face before fading to black leaves the audience and Brennan wondering if what he did was morally right or wrong and all the consequences, good and bad, that were attached to it. 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

September 5, 2011

Adjustment Bureau (2011)

When it's over, I might look at men in fedora hats alot differently, and the teleporting doors...where can I get one?  Those doors were really cool and they added so much pizazz to the look and feel of the film.  The Adjustment Bureau stars Matt Damon as an ambitious politician, David, who falls in love with a beautiful dancer, Elise, played by Emily Blunt.  After getting a glimpse of the future, David must decide whether love is worth fighting for even though he must defy Fate.  I consider this film a mind bender, but not to the extreme of Inception, but enough bending to make the story original and stylish.  I really liked the universal theme of Fate, and although many films have tackled this theme in different ways, I particularly liked how this film actually gave Fate a physical form in the shape of men in fedora hats.  These men represent the Adjustment Bureau, an organization that adjusts people's lives through intervention and prevention, thereby creating their fates. The film suggests that our lives are predetermined by Fate, but ultimately, it states, through David, that we have the power to change Fate by our actions of courage, conviction, and passion - all of which I believe viewers can and do relate to.  Fate can't always be controlled nor should it be.  It's unpredictable and at times, it's determined by the decisions we make, and I think this film successfully explores all these elements.  Damon and Blunt were convincing as lovers separated by Fate's design, and willing to sacrifice everything to carve out a fate together.

My rating: 4 out of 5