Friday, January 22, 2010

The Big Screen (IV)

movie reviews

The world threatens to end, an old man goes off in search of a dream, and a young boy takes us on a journey through his imagination.

Cast: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson
Director: Roland Emmerich
Apocalyptic predictions (or even random apocalyptic theories) are usually known to spawn disaster movies, and in keeping with that tradition, we now have 2012, the story of a group of people struggling for survival as the world comes to an end in accordance with an ancient Mayan prophecy. Throw in an unimpressive script and unconvincing acting to accompany the implausible storyline further marred with lots of clumsy sub-plots, and you end up with a film that instead of encapsulating an epic disaster, itself appears to be one. True, the special effects are impressive (and with a reported $200 million budget, why wouldn’t they be), but ultimately what 2012 comes off as is the summation of all disaster films that have preceded it, carelessly employing borrowed clich├ęs from start to finish. And at a length of two and a half hours, the film is perfect for anyone who wants to have a headache. All in all, good special effects, but too cheesy and unoriginal, and way too long.

The Hurt Locker
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
A war thriller that promises to keep you riveted, The Hurt Locker is a poignant tale of a bomb disposal unit as they move through life-threatening situations during the Iraq war. Powered by a compelling script and some very solid acting performances (especially by Jeremy Renner), the film presents an account of war that is both chilling and gripping, and embeds the viewer with the squad as its members struggle with tensions from without and within, presenting a vivid picture of military conflict and what it entails… and manages to do all of this on a very limited budget. And if all this praise makes it sound like The Hurt Locker was one of the best films of 2009, then that’s because it really was.

Voice cast: Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai, Christopher Plummer, Bob Peterson
Director: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson (co-director)
To fulfil a promise he made when he was young, 78-year-old widower Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Ed Asner) sets off in search of Paradise Falls by tying thousands of balloons to his home, only to discover that he has inadvertently brought along a stowaway – an eight-year-old Junior Wilderness Explorer, Russell (Jordan Nagai). Together they set off on a journey that’s uplifting, heartbreaking, joyous, adventurous, and, all in all, a bittersweet cocktail of love, loss, and loneliness, that’ll make you laugh, tear up, and thoroughly enjoy the ride as the two unlikely companions, along with the help of a dog named Dug (Bob Peterson), try to fulfil their dreams, while providing us with yet another testament of Pixar’s consistent awesomeness. By far the best animated film of the year, Up is a must watch for both young and old.

Where The Wild Things Are
Cast: Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo; Voice cast: James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Paul Dano, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker
Director: Spike Jonze
Based on the 1963 children’s book by Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are is the story of a boy named Max (played by Max Records) who escapes into the world of his imagination to deal with his loneliness and frustration. The result is a fascinating look at childhood as Max journey through a make believe world, and a brilliant exploration of emotions like anger, sadness, and loneliness. The acting is spot on – Max Records is brilliant as the story’s protagonist – and the creatures that inhabit Max’s imagination are both creative and telling. The film is, however, much more abstract than something like Bridge to Terabithia, and whether someone finds that fascinating or confusing will vary from person to person.

Year One
Cast: Jack Black, Michael Cera
Director: Harold Ramis
In a film that is even worse than its premise would suggest, two prehistoric hunters (Jack Black and Michael Cera) wander through the ancient world, meeting biblical characters like Cain and Abel, Isaac, Abraham, and Adam and Eve along the way. The attempts at humour are embarrassing rather than funny; the film reverts to juvenile humour, and no tacky joke or gag has been left out. Jack Black’s presence in the film makes complete sense, but it’s sad to see Michael Cera in this train-wreck, and it’s downright disappointing that Harold Ramis and Judd Apatow would produce something so dreary. In short, avoiding Year One might be a good plan, unless you’re curious about just how bad it gets, in which case feel free to watch it, but don’t say we didn’t warn you!

- By Sameen Amer

Ink Quarterly, Jan-Mar '10

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