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.

October 29, 2011

Ip Man (China - 2008)

When it’s over, there’s nothing like a well-made kung fu film to help me re-appreciate the beauty and the beast of Chinese martial arts – the karma of the art form and the use of the form as a weapon.  This semi-biographical film stars Donnie Yen as Ip Man (also spelled as Yip Man), a martial arts master who taught the art of Wing Chung.  The film focuses on Ip’s life during the 1930s to 1940s during the Second Sino-Japanese War, when the Japanese occupied Ip’s hometown of Foshang, Guangdong.  I didn’t expect much going into the film, except to see Donnie Yen in action.  Surprisingly, the story was engaging, the action was believable, the martial arts were well choreographed, and there were no cheesy one-liners to make my eyes roll.  This film reminded me a lot of Jet Li’s Fist of Legend, which remains to be one of my favourites in style, story, and choreography.  Plus, what I really found refreshing was not having to sit through a whole bunch of CGI effects or characters flying through the air.  Don’t get me wrong, I love CGI and flying acrobatics and some great martial arts films have been made using these techniques such as House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonIp Man offered a welcomed change of pace, and it had a good story to tell, even if the story’s been embellished for dramatic effect on the big screen.  Just a bit of trivia: Ip Man was Bruce Lee's mentor and teacher.

My rating: 4 out of 5  

October 23, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

When it's over, I like Matthew McConaughey best as a lawyer.  He looks and talks the part, and it seems effortless for him.  He was great in the 1996's A Time to Kill and he continues to be convincing as Mick Haller, a sleazy defense lawyer who grows a conscience when he signs on to represent a wealthy client, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), who may have something to do with one of his old cases.  The script's not solid, nor is it falling apart at the seams.  The story's clear, just not enough twists and turns to make the film stand out from other noteworthy courtroom dramas such as Primal Fear and Philadelphia.  The film was better than I had anticipated, and McConaughey certainly adds to the film's appeal along with actors Marisa Tomei and William Macy.  I liked the idea that Haller was more on the sleazy side, and I liked watching him wheel and deal his clients, because it just makes him more interesting as a character. However, it would have helped if the story included more backstory on Haller, such as why he worked out of his car, an old Lincoln, and why he lived in such a small hole of a house with all the cash changing hands between him and his clients.  I'm always fascinated with details like that.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Green Hornet (2011)

When it's over, the only good thing about this film was the car.  Everything else was a bunch of fluff.  Such a wasted shame.  Seth Rogan's in the title role as newspaper heir, Britt Reid, who band together with his late father's assistant, Kato (Jay Chou), to fight crime on the streets of Los Angeles.  Britt strikes me as a juvenile delinquent with too much time on his hands and a boy trapped in a man's body.  I suppose Rogan's just the right actor to play such a role.  Too bad the producers went this route, because Rogan was annoying, uninteresting, and at times, if I could, I would've liked to photoshop him out of the picture completely.  I think it would've been more interesting to watch Kato and Reid's office assistant (Cameron Diaz) fight crime. 

My rating: 2 out of 5

October 19, 2011

The Young Victoria (United Kingdom - 2009)

When it's over, this film hits and misses.  The hits - costumes, sets, art design, and the cast.  Actors Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend play the young lovers, Victoria and Albert.  They are wonderful to watch with strong support from fellow British actors, Mark Strong, Miranda Richardson, & Paul Bettany.  The misses - story development and the lack of intrigue that accompanies most British monarchy films.  Despite the light nature of the story and "on the surface" storytelling, I enjoyed the love story, because of its simplicity.  Every monarchy has had their fair share of dramatics and power struggle plots as portrayed in other films of this genre, and although there were hints of such in this film, I believe the main focus of this film was about falling in love and being in love, which I found refreshing. 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

October 11, 2011

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

When it's over, I remember Gordon Gekko saying, "Greed is good" in the original Wall Street (1987) film, but in Money Never Sleeps, Revenge is better.  After being released from prison, Gekko (Michael Douglas) hungers to rebuild his empire and strike back at his enemies, mainly Bretton James (Josh Brolin).  He manipulates a young stockbroker, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), to aid in his task.  Moore also craves revenge on James, who was responsible for his mentor's death, and in his pursuit of revenge, he becomes blind to Gekko's maneuvering, which costs him not only his beliefs and values, but also his fiance, Gekko's daughter (Carey Mulligan).  The pace was fast keeping the story alive and moving.  Director Oliver Stone knows his craft and knows his characters.  He has the ability to bring to life an occupation and lifestyle few of us live or would survive in.  How stockbrokers handle the stress of wall street is beyond me.  I don't think Money Never Sleeps would work as a stand alone film, and although it works as a sequel, it also suffers the weight of comparison.  I enjoyed the sequel, only because I've seen the original, and it's hard not to compare the two films, because Wall Street was such a defining film of the financial industry in its time.  Twenty three years later, the glitz and mystery isn't so enticing any longer, and it's definitely a harder sell to audiences.  An opportunity to see Douglas reprise his role as Gekko was definitely the prime motivator for me to watch this film.  He was such an iconic character in 1987, and it was interesting to see what became of him and what lengths he'd go to get what he wanted. 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5


October 10, 2011

Love and Other Drugs (2010)

When it's over, this film wasn't the brainless raunchy rom-com I thought it was going to be.  Yes, there's plenty of sexual talk, with the "F" word being dropped several times;  yes, there's a fair share of nudity; and yes, there's a string of sexual acts.  However, what sets this film apart from others of it's genre is that it actually incorporates a serious issue into the plot- one of the main characters, Maggie, played by Anne Hathaway is struggling with Parkinson's disease, while at the same time trying very hard not to fall in love with Jamie, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.  The disease takes the story to another level, one that holds more emotional value where there's more at stake for the two lovers.  Gyllenhaal's good in this role, playing Jamie effortlessly.  He's charming, while at the same time, clueless to anything other than pleasing himself, but his character does evolve and Gyllenhaal was able to bring out the vulnerability and maturity in Jamie as he made life changing decisions.  Hathaway wasn't convincing enough as the tough, free spirited girl who believes she doesn't need anyone to share in her illness.  Even though she worked with seniors, which I think the writer used as a way to convey Maggie's "big heart" in hopes of winning the viewer's sympathy wasn't a successful sell.  I didn't actually care if Jamie stayed with Maggie or not, and at times, wondered why Jamie kept going back to her.  Somehow, Maggie didn't seem worth it as a person.  I didn't think there was anything truly remarkable about her character, something that would make me cheer for her.  Certainly, her illness makes her character more complex, and I would have liked to see more of her anger and her "bad days" and not just one day of drunken stuper.  I'm wondering if Hathaway or the writer did any research on the role.  I mean, do people who are diagnosed with Parkinson's really just want to have sex all the time to forget their disease?  I don't think so.  Finally, when you choose to throw in a premise such as Parkinson's disease, a romantic comedy is no longer funny and should be handled with greater sensitivity.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

Killer Elite (2011)

When it's over, this assassination type thriller failed to thrill.  A special Ops agent, Danny (Jason Statham) is forced out of retirement by a middle eastern oil tycoon who wishes to avenge the death of his three sons.  The deal is three assassinations in exchange for Danny's good friend, Hunter's (Robert DeNiro) life.  The only person standing in Danny's way is Spike (Clive Owen), a renegade soldier working for a secret British military organization.  With DeNiro, Statham, and Owen headlining the cast list, you'd think "oohs and aahhhs" about the acting and story, but no such luck.  Even with the twists and turns in the story, the script's still weak with characters that are only semi-developed.  Statham does what he does best - action, driving, and kicking butt.  DeNiro is DeNiro - the acting just comes naturally.  Owen's the only one I think that got cheated in his role.  He doesn't have much dialogue and what dialogue he got wasn't all that great.  His character tries to be motivated, but it all seems too forced making his character only uni-layered.  I didn't care too much for any of the characters, whether they died or not.  However, I knew Statham never dies in any of his films, so I knew he'd make it through, unscratched as usual.  I had expected more story, more drama, and more character development, and was disappointed the film missed it's target on all three.  But then again, I am a bit forgiving, since, after all, it is a "Statham" picture, so action really is the main focus of the film, and there's plenty of that.  The scenes with Owen and Statham in tight hand-to-hand combat were interesting and there was enough minutes of those to get your money's worth.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

October 6, 2011

Sucker Punch (2010)

When it's over, Director and Writer Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) who usually has a keen eye for bringing comic books to the big screen, failed to bring his own vision of an alternate reality to life.  His story about a young girl, Baby Doll, who is put into a mental asylum and who retreats into her imagination where she envisions a plan to escape with four other inmates is a bold attempt at a story that keeps the viewer guessing about what is real and not real.  Unfortunately, this tactic didn't work.  I ask myself this: is the film a fantasy, an action flick, a drama, science fiction, a chick flick, or a mind bender?  The answer?  I think it's bit of all six and that's where the problem lies.  The film's a bit scattered and can't seem to decide which way to go.  The plot stagnates and the characters come to a stand-still, failing to evolve or bond with each other.  Sucker Punch reminds me of a 1994 movie called, Bad Girls, starring Madeline Stowe and Drew Barrymore.  Both films had a female cast donning guns and weapons, and both films had the girls trying to escape an institution(prostitution in the old west and a mental institution in an alternate reality setting), and although Bad Girls didn't score big with audiences, it had the element of female bonding which allowed the characters to act and re-act to their environment and each other, which was lacking in Sucker Punch.  Snyder could have fleshed out the characters more by incorporating scenes where they had opportunities to interact and to reveal more of their personalities.  In addition, a better cast would have helped.  Actress Abbie Cornish was the strongest player, while the rest of the girls seemed mediocre.  I thought the visual look of the film was fantastic.  I really liked the costumes and make up, because it helped reinforce the illusion of an alternate reality.  I liked how the soundtrack amplified some of the slow motion sequences by adding an edgy feel to the scenes.  However, how good a film looks and sounds isn't enough to compensate for weak characters and a plot that never thickens.  

My rating: 2.5 out of 5