I’m appallingly behind with my movie reviews and the number of days in 2009 is running out at an alarming pace. In an attempt to start next year afresh, here then, is a short run down of films, anime, and series I’ve watched over the last couple of months. I'm probably missing a couple that I cannot think of just now.
The new Start Trek movie is a blast. Full of action that keeps you on the tip of your seat for most of the movie. Don’t expect great acting or scientifically sensible plots. Great acting? Sensible plots? Who am I kidding? This is Star Trek!
Trivia: Young Spock is Sylar from Heroes.
A delightful Woody Allen film, containing a short smooch scene between Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson, which made it a hit with many a dude with lesbian fantasies. Not Woody Allen’s best work, but delightful nonetheless. Cruz plays a convincing crazy artist.
Russel Crow and Ben Affleck play the leading roles in this espionage journalist-detective drama. A very good thriller story well worth seeing!
Trivia: Brad Pitt and Edward Norton were originally casted as the leads.
A chilling portrayal of the last few days of the life of Adolf Hitler and those closest to him. Undoubtedly one of the best (albeit depressing) films I watched this year. The acting is splendid. The viewer is flung between moments of empathy and disgust with Hitler. The movie does not allow stereotypes to linger too long. If you have the emotional reservoir, do watch it. It’s in German.
A typical Hollywood teenage action movie with big guns and women in tight clothing. This film requires little intelligence and is good if you are in the mood for brain-dead entertainment. It’s by the same director of the Mummy and Scorpion King films.
Another film rendition of an Astérix and Obélix adventure with Gérard Depardieu as Obélix and Clovis Cornillac playing Astérix. A far fetched comedy that will be enjoyed by Astérix and Obélix fans – good, clean fun. I went to see it with an American friend who had never heard of Astérix and Obélix; nonetheless, she found it enjoyable entertainment.
A gay boy gets his hands on a magical love potion and turns his whole town homosexual all in sync with the school play – a rendition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Imagine a gay Princess Diaries mixed with Shakespear in Love. It won a number of Gay & Lesbian Film awards, which unfortunately does not say much about the quality of Gay & Lesbian films. But then again, maybe my knowledge of gay culture is too limited to appreciate this film. Probably the best recent Gay & Lesbian film I saw was the Korean movie, No Regret (2006), which I mentioned before.
Based on the “Hellblazer” comic book, Constantine stars Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, the detective who hunts demons in a hope to get in God’s good books. The tagline basically sums up the plot: “Hell wants him. Heaven won’t take him. Earth needs him.” Honestly, I cannot remember how I felt about this movie, so probably it wasn’t that great. It’s a horror film, but I didn’t think that scary. If I remember correctly, the cinematography was quite good.
The long awaited natural disaster / apocalyptic movie that was much hyped, but left me disappointed through most of the film. True, it is a grand scale end of the world film, but it is far from the best in apocalyptic films. Personally I think the movie’s intention was to prepare the way for the recent Copenhagen Climate Change Summit.
I long waited to see Korea’s Rain in the movie Ninja Assassin. The story was blasé, but I didn’t expect much, seeing as it is a martial arts action movie. I wanted to see good martial arts, and in that regard the film didn’t disappoint. Neither did it have me in awe. It was good, but not spectacular. It is very much a bloody movie. I’ve never seen people spew so much blood before. It is a very graphic and bloody film, so only watch it if you have the stomach for over the top blood and gore. Rain carried his part quite well and the months of (body) preparation he put into the film paid off. Rain’s English ability also improved a lot, although this film didn’t require that much dialogue.
A Korean movie that follows the lives of three different presidents. All three presidents are faced with serious political and personal decisions. It is a beautiful (albeit slow) drama, that reveals a lot about modern Korean politics and culture, for instance South Korea’s continual balancing act between foreign forces (North Korea, Japan, America) and gender issues. A pleasant Korean film, with not too much crying.
An astronaut works on a mining station on the moon. However, just before the end of his three year contract he meets himself in what becomes a strange epistemological discovery of his own questionable existence. The film asks some serious ethical questions. Unfortunately I cannot say about what, without giving away too much of the plot. Moon is one of the best films I saw this year.
Sam Rockwell almost single-handedly carries the film (for all practical reasons, he is the only character) and does so superbly, keeping the audience engaged regardless of the fairly slow pace in which the mysterious events unfold. I haven’t heard of the director / co-writer Duncan Jones before, but I think he is someone to keep an eye on.
This sci-fi social commentary on Xenophobia is probably one of the greatest films to come out of South Africa and one of the best films of 2009. An excellent film, and not because I’m South African. You have to watch it.
Law Abiding Citizen starts off with so much potential but it just weakens towards the end, until it finally comes to a silly finale that has too many loopholes to make it satisfactory for any intelligent viewer. Rather watch director F. Gary Gray’s The Italian Job (2003) again.
It took little effort for me to become engrossed in the alternative reality presented in the science fiction film Avatar. Regardless of the extreme “otherness” of the world, the audience is quickly sucked into the wonderful and colourful world of Pandora, with its blue natives. The film made me wish that I was a pantheist.
It is well worth the see on the big screen. I did not see it in 3D, but I’m sure it must be fabulous. Maybe I’ll go watch it again, just for the 3D experience.
The director is James Cameron: Titanic (1997), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Aliens (1986), The Terminator (1984). While not a Titanic fan, Judgement Day is one of may favourite movies.
Disney and Pixar’s adventure Up is one of those rare movies that make you walk out of the cinema thinking: Life is worth it. Watch it and smile.
This is the animated version of the “Tales of the Black Freighter” that makes part of the Watchmen graphic novel. This short story functions well on its own, although it brings a deeper (and much more depressing) subtext to the main Watchmen plot. If you did not read the book, but saw the Watchmen film, then you missed out on “Tales of the Black Freighter,” which did not feature in the film.
Based on the original 2005 short film, 9 is one of the best CGI animated films I’ve seen in years. Yes, the computer graphics is superb, but that is not what makes this film so great. It is the suspenseful story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The suspense is so intense, I think children will get nightmares from this “children”-movie. The feature film 9 was nominated for three Oscars, but did not win any. The original short film, however, won an Oscar for best short film in 2005.
This is the third arc in the series and kicks off where the first arc ended. The second arc, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, was merely a filler. The Second Raid ran for 13 episodes. If you liked Robotech you may find Full Metal Panic! likable. Much of the story, however, occurs with the main character Sousuke Sagara having to protect Kaname Chidori in high school and focuses on this young soldier’s inability to cope with normal high school life.
Trivia: Rumours of a live action film adaptation, with Zax Efron in the lead, are doing the rounds.
Series and Pilots:
After the death of famed martial art actor David Carradine, I decided I have to watch the film length pilot of “Kungfu” (the TV-series). I never saw it as it came out a few years before I was born. This series presented Oriental philosophy within the Western (as in Wild West) backdrop. Compared to current martial art movies, Kung Fu has terrible choreography. Nonetheless, it is actually a fairly good story and the research done on Zen philosophy seems to be fairly accurate. I do find the pace to be a little too slow. I’m still, slowly, working my way through the series.
The pilot for the new Knight Rider series brought back many memories of my family and I watching Michael Knight and his sentient car KITT fighting off the bad guys. The 2008 film is really not that much different from the 80s version – it is merely revved up for a new generation with new car designs and a sexier (by today’s standards) cast. The movie did not make we want to follow the new series, though.
After that dreadful excuse of a vampire movie New Moon, I hoped to redeem all that is loved about the vampire genre, and upon suggestion of a fellow blogger I got myself season one and two of the True Blood TV series.
Vampires in the South of the USA feeding on rednecks have potential, but will it stand the test of time? To be honest, I don’t know. What is certain, though, is that True Blood is much better than Twilight saga. For one thing, the vampires are actually vampires – not anaemic models that glitter in the sun. Personally I thought that season one was just an excuse for soft porn on late night TV. Season two toned down on the sex, and beefed up on the gore.
While True Blood is not the best in the vampire canon, it is watchable. Vampire fans are happy that there is something with fangs to watch; and it contains sex and violence for the men, and love stories for the women.
I’m still waiting for truly seductive vampires, like in Interview with a Vampire.