Monday, September 26, 2011

Bunraku (C-)

I couldn't count the amount of times I've heard the term "style over substance" being used to describe a film, but here, it couldn't be more accurate. Director Guy Moshe's sophomore feature Bunraku is a visually stunning film, which makes it all the more frustrating how jumbled and messy the plot is. Within the opening three minutes, enough exposition into the bizarre world of Bunraku is done to immediately confuse the viewer right from the start. How can you have stakes for the characters if you don't fully understand the world they live in?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hesher (B+)

When Hesher was originally released back in late May, I chose to skip out on the film due to the overwhelming number of negative reviews. Four months later, the film appeared on DVD, where I was much more willing to watch it. If the film happened to be as bad as it was made out to be, there would no longer be a $9 loss; just an hour and a half of wasted time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

5 Days of War (D)

I regret having set such incredibly low expectations for Renny Harlin's latest action packed fiasco 5 Days of War, because if I had set high expectations for the film, I would at least understand Harlin's complete inability to match them. This is a film so misguided, so miscast, so incompetently directed, so poorly acted, and so horribly written, that it crosses the line of "so bad it's good" into the oblivion of absolute and utter boredom.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thank You LAMB Members!

I just wanted to thank all the members of LAMB for such a warm welcome into the film blogging community! Hope you enjoy the site!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Colombiana (C-)

For the most part, there are two types of action movies: Action movies who a dramatic stance on violence, and action movies who embrace their violence and go completely over the top. Olivier Megaton's new femme fatal action film Colombiana begins with a blissfully insane chase scene in which a nine year old girl uses extreme parkour to escape ten normal aged armed hitmen. However, one who thinks that this over the top chase will set the tone for the rest of the film would be completely wrong. The film has a surprisingly somber tone despite most of its set pieces involving the absolute absurd. In one scene, a corrupt businessman is eaten alive by his own two pet sharks, but in another, it is simply three minutes of Cataleya (played by Zoe Saldana) crying. While the combination of B-Level action cheesiness and character study of mourning and loss may sound interesting on paper, the constant tonal shifts cause the idea to fail on the screen.

The blame for these issues does not fall on Megaton or Saldana, but rather the last person I would expect: Luc Besson. Besson has done a great job writing screenplays for these types of films before (EX: District B13), but he just really dropped the ball on this one. Megaton and Saldana do the best they can with the material given, but this material unfortunately includes lines like: "she's like a mist, you can barely see her" and a romantic subplot which makes borderline no sense whatsoever.

We are expected to believe that Cataleya has a boyfriend who is completely in love with her despite not knowing a single thing about her, while their relationship only seems to involve having sex at night and her leaving in the morning. Cataleya never seems to return any of the affection her boyfriend is giving her, so why does this relationship even exist? I've noticed a recent pattern of action movies bringing unnecessary relationships into their plotline, and movies like this are evidence that it needs to stop.

It's hard to talk about the acting in this film, because there really isn't too much "real" acting. Zoe Saldana shows up, looks hot, kicks ass, does a little cry, and then goes home. The only person who appeared to be doing anything interesting, was Amandla Stenberg, who played Cataleya at age nine. She was able to convey Cataleya's lust for revenge in fifteen minutes better than Zoe Saldana could over the course of the entire film.

Despite hearing in advance that the majority of reviews were negative, Colombiana was still a major disappointment for me. When you enter the theater expecting to be entertained by dumb action if nothing else, and it even fails to deliver on that front, it feels like you've just wasted your time. And for Megaton, Saldana, anyone who sees this film, and me, it probably was.

Grade: C-

*Note: Isn't the last name Megaton the ultimate action director last name? You could get a career of that alone.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Perfect Host (B)

When I first saw the trailers for The Perfect Host way back in early February, I thought it looked like the art house version of a Saw film: A small time crook attempts to lay low after a bank robbery goes horribly wrong by pretending to be the friend of friend of a wealthy socialite who is throwing a dinner party for himself and his psychotic friends in which the crook is brutally tortured for the entertainment of the guests. Because of this off putting premise, (along with the fact that I'm a self admitted scardy cat when it comes to home invasion movies) I waited to watch the film until I was in the comfort of my own home.

After viewing the film, I can honestly say that the off putting marketing campaign was the only way to market this movie to any audience. The Perfect Host is a gleefully deranged black-comedy/horror/thriller/heist/torture porn/cop film. If you've never heard of a movie that contains all of those elements, don't worry; this is a one of a kind type of film. With David Hyde Pierce playing the insane preppy psychopath with a never ending smile scratched across his face, this movie is a delight to watch just for his performance. He has the impossible task to be the bridge that connects these multiple genres together while also being the most compelling villain in recent memory, and he does these two tasks phenomenally well.

Because David Hyde Pierce's performance is so great, it's a real shame that writer and director Nick Tomnay (in his film debut in both tasks) shoves in too many unnecessary twists which muddle the plot. While one great reveal towards the beginning of the film brings the plot into darker and much more surreal territory, it seems that Tomnay wasn't content on ending the twists then. There is a shot where the film could've easily ended on, but it keeps going just so that two more twists can be added. It is because of these final two twists that the film sputters out in a clumsy groan inducing final scene, so bad that it almost knocked my grade of the film down to a C+.

It's hard to discuss too much more about this film, simply because if you know any of the twists that happen in this film, and there are a lot, you're enjoyment will most likely be completely ruined. I went into the film knowing near nothing about it, and it turned out to be a fun ride. If I did know any of the twists, I doubt I would've enjoyed it nearly as much as I did. While it is way too reliant on twists, David Hyde Pierce gives a performance for the ages which made the movie the enjoyable genre mashup it was.

Grade: B

*Just a random note. The actor who plays the crook (Clayne Crawford) looks like a young Ray Liotta to a distracting degree. People reading this should look up a picture of Clayne Crawford and check. It's kinda insane.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sarah's Key (Elle s'appelait Sarah) (C)

Sarah's Key contains two separate plots: A holocaust fairy tale about a french jewish child who dodges concentration camps and nazi soldiers in order to rescue her brother from a certain death whom only she could rescue him from. The other, is a melodrama about a mildly unlikable upperclass woman who desperately wants to keep her unborn baby, and has mild relationship issues with her also mildly unlikable husband. If you were to decide which of these two plots seemed most interesting, I would assume you would choose the first plot involving the holocaust. Unfortunately, if this question was asked to director Gilles Paquet-Brenner he would've chosen the latter option as evident in the ratio between the two plots in Sarah's Key.

Sarah's Key is one third of an incredible film. New comer Melusine Mayance has a star making performance as Sarah during her youth. On her first performance in a feature length film (not including her performance in the 2009 Italian film Ricky, which despite technically a feature length film, was never distributed to more than one theater, and grossed less than $2,000), she pulls off the feat of making the audience desire her to be in every scene rather than veteran actor Kristin Scott Thomas.

The reason why I had said "one third" in the previous paragraph, was because nearly every aspect of the "holocaust" story worked incredibly well. Natasha Mashkevich and Arben Bajraktaraj are both phenomenal in their supporting roles as Sarah's parents, and Jonathan Kerr also does a great job as the concentration camp worker who allows Sarah and her friend (also played very well by another newcomer Sarah Ber) escape from the camp.

Nearly all of my problems with the film came from the second plot that takes place in the modern day. Actors James Gerard and Karina Hin join the ranks of Ken Jeong in The Hangover and Jessica Barden in Hanna playing Kristin Scott Thomas' assistant and daughter respectively. Despite the two of them having (very) supporting roles, every line that comes out of their mouths in this film completely took me out of the story.

Another problem Sarah's Key faces is the lack of any type of dramatic suspense in the story set in the present day. As an example, when Kristin Scott Thomas interviews a member of Sarah's family, she is told that Sarah was killed in a horrible car accident. Unfortunately, director Gilles Paquet-Brenner shows this accident, and because it's so clear that Sarah drove into the truck that supposedly crashed into her, what is supposed to be the climax of the film (that Sarah committed suicide) fails.

Despite having one third of a great film, Sarah's Key is undone by a melodramatic and poorly acted second plot which unfortunately takes up most of the film. If the entire second plot was excised, and the film was released as a short, the grade would probably be an A-. However, it wasn't.

Grade: C