November 2009

Ninja Assassin

by Alan Rapp on November 25, 2009

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Ninja Assassin
  • IMDB: link

At a time when Hollywood seems dead set on giving movies bloodless one and two-word titles that don’t give you a clue as to what the movie is about comes a film called Ninja Assassin. It’s about ninjas who kill people. Finally, a little truth in advertising.

For more than 1,000 years, nine ninja clans have been stealing orphan children under the age of 10 and training them in the art of assassination. For centuries, these clans have sold their services to wealthy individuals, companies, and governments for the cost of 100 lbs. of gold.

When a Europol researcher (Naomie Harris) uncovers their secret, she puts herself and her supervisor (Ben Miles) in danger. This also causes an outcast of the Ozunu Clan named Raizo (Rain) to come to her aid. With her help, Raizo plans to take down the clans and settle a personal grudge with his former master (Sho Kosugi).

Over the course of the film, we learn more about Raizo’s past, his training, his reason for leaving the clan, and the driving force behind his battle to destroy them.

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The Road

by Alan Rapp on November 25, 2009

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Road
  • IMDB: link

Like most post-apocalyptic tales, The Road isn’t exactly sunny. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the story follows a father (Viggo Mortensen) and a son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they journey across a decimated world in search of food, shelter, and safety from bands of roving cannibals.

Okay, so it’s not a date movie.

This is really a two-character story. Other than the cannibals and occasional straggler the pair encounter, the only other person given screentime is Charlize Theron as Mortensen’s wife (though she is only shown in flashbacks).

This means the weight of the film falls on Mortensen and young Smit-McPhee. Thankfully they’re up to the task. Mortensen is as good as always, and Smit-McPhee holds his own against the Oscar-nominated actor.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox, Simply Fantastic

by Alan Rapp on November 25, 2009

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • IMDB: link

I’m far from director Wes Anderson’s biggest fan. Although I enjoyed The Royal Tenenbaums (and to a lesser extent The Darjeeling Limited), in my opinion, most of his work seems to value style over, and sometimes at the cost of, substance.

Anderson’s latest Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stop-motion animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book about a fox fighting his own nature to steal from the wealthy farmers Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness) and Bean (Michael Gambon), and provide his family with what he feels they deserve.

And, I must admit, it’s really, really good. In many ways the film is a perfect fit for Anderson and merge of its offbeat humor with his own. The stop-animation allows the director to play to his strenghts and design a a complete world. And as a book the story is naturally divided into the kinds of chapters Anderson enjoys breaking his film into (here he even provides titles for each).

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An Education

by Alan Rapp on November 20, 2009

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: An Education
  • IMDB: link

An Education is based on the autobiographical memoir of Lynn Barber. Set in 1950, the story centers around 16 year-old Jenny Miller (Carey Mulligan) and her relationship with a charismatic older David Goldman gentleman caller (Peter Sarsgaard) who turns her world upside down.

What follows is a May/December romance that everyone sees happening, including Jenny, her teachers, and her parents (Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour), but no one can prevent.

Mulligan provides the heart of the film, and will no doubt recieve a fair amount of praise for her performance. Although I’d seen her in small roles as one of the Bennet sisters in Pride & Prejudice and one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes, I didn’t know she could carry the bulk of a quiet dramatic film on her own.

As good as she is, it’s Sarsgaard’s performance that I was most impressed with. There’s little to like about David, especially as the film slowly reveals more damaged layers of his character.

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Planet 51

by Alan Rapp on November 20, 2009

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Planet 51
  • IMDB: link

Planet 51 isn’t going to wow you, but as a first animated feature from Ilion Animated Studios it’s better than I expected.

The story is pretty simple: a peaceful world is invaded by an alien explorer, and with the help of a goodhearted youngster and his friends he eludes the government and attempts to get back home.

Okay, not that original I grant you. Even though the story does a nice job of tilting the perspective by having a Earthman be the invader on an alien world, the weakest piece of Planet 51 is its plot.

By allowing the film to take place on an alien world, however, the film also is finds its strength in designing a world, though goofy, is certainly interesting to explore. This world seems to be centered around a circular design you see in everything from windows to the design of automobiles. Merged with this aesthetic is a 1950′s Americana style in terms of look, film, and sound.

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  • Title: Glee – Ballad
  • tv.com: link

Okay, it’s official. We love us some Glee. From the latest episode “Ballad,” here’s Mr. Schuester’s (Matthew Morrison) somewhat ill-conceived plan of extinguishing Rachel’s (Lea Michele) crush with a mashup of “Young Girl” and “Don’t Stand Close to Me.”

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  • Title: 2012
  • IMDB: link

I didn’t expect much from director Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster flick other than a little dumb fun. 2012 couldn’t even deliver that.

What follows is a short, and hopefully concise, review for a long, and depressingly boring, film (158-minute running time) that is almost as much fun as spending three hours alone in a doctor’s waiting room.

Maybe it was asking too much of Emmerich to give us another big disaster flick (after all, it’s not like 10,000 B.C. did anyone any favors). The man who gave us Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and that woeful Godzilla remake, it seems, has nothing new to share. Instead he brings back the same tired storylines, with new actors and larger special effects, in hopes that this alone will be enough to satisfy.

It’s not.

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Staring at Goats

by Alan Rapp on November 6, 2009

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Men Who Stare at Goats
  • IMDB: link

Men Who Stare at Goats begins by stating that more of what you are about to see is true than you would believe.

Based on the non-fiction book by Jon Ronson the film takes us into the world of government funded programs to create psychic spies, or as George Clooney’s character likes to call them – Jedi Warriors.

The film is presented from the perspective of reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) who stumbles upon the unlikely story while trying to prove something to himself (and his ex-wife after she leaves him for his boss) by jumping hastily into a dangerous story without thinking.

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