Saturday, 12 September 2009

The girl who played with fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) (2009)

Stieg Larsson's bestselling Millenium -trilogy is being transformed into movies. The girl who played with fire is the second part in the series, and continues the story that started in The girl with the dragon tattoo, the story of the hacker Lisbeth Salander and the Millenium -magazine's editor in chief Mikael Blomkvist.

Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) returns to Sweden after about a year's "exile" and immediately gets the "men who hate women" on her tail. Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) has not heard a single word from Lisbeth since she disappeared after the events in The girl with the dragon tattoo. Mikael starts working with a freelance-journalist Dag, who has with his girlfriend (who is doing her doctoral thesis of the subject) done research of the buying and selling of women. In their research they have found interesting things about some high ranking state officials participating in the trade, and want to get their names in public.

When Dag and his girlfriend are murdered and in the gun the fingerprints of Lisbeth are found, everyone in the police as well as among the criminals in question start chasing the gothic, tattooed young woman. More horrifying details are revealed of Lisbeth's past and finally she gets to meet her past, face to face. And this is the most I can tell you without spoiling the story :)

The girl who played with fire does not quite reach the quality of its predecessor. The girl with the dragon tattoo was a masterpiece among thrillers in every detail with such an intensity that can only be admired. Thematically it was unique because of the feministic and anti-racist plot. Part two continues the same style, but as a whole is more fragmented and difficult to follow.

Following the complex story leaning only to subtitles is a bit difficult. My knowledge of Swedish is not very good and I found myself having some difficulties in understanding everything that was happening, as the story moves forward in such a fast speed and it does not waste too much time in explaining things. Also you may get more out of the story if you have read the original novels... I had not.

However, The girl who played with fire is filled with the same feminist energy as its predecessor and Rapace pulls her amazing and complex role again with such a skill that must be applauded. This movie focuses even more to Lisbeth's character and makes it definitely Rapace's film. Lisbeth is a female character with an attitude that is seldom seen in movies these days, and this along with her strange and horrifying past makes her one of the most interesting movie female characters in a long time!

Final verdict: Does not quite match its predecessor, but is still a very good thriller with interesting characters and focus on important issues of human trade and women's rights as well as the state of the psychiatric health care. Lisbeth Salander is one of the most interesting female characters in a long time, and Noomi Rapace does a marvellous job in personating her. Recommended to people who enjoy quality thrillers and who are not afraid of watching a Swedish film.

Directed by Daniel Alfredson
Written by Jonas Frykberg, based on Stieg Larsson's novel
Cast Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Georgi Staykov, Sofia Ledarp
***** by Paivi

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Happy Birthday to us!

Movie Babblings is one year old today =) Happy birthday to us!
My movie friends had suggested me to start an own movie blog and finally I did last August. It took me a while to get into the world of blogging, but once I did, it seems there's no turning back. After a while having a blog in English, I felt the urge to write also in Finnish - as you can see from my other blog The Hangman's Joke.

Although I started Movie Babblings in August, it was not until in spring 2009 that the blog started getting more content when I joined forces with a long time friend and movie geek Sari. It has been quiet here during the summer because of holidays and everything, but things should change :)

Thank you to all our readers!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Brüno (2009)

In 2006 Sacha Baron Cohen introduced the world to Borat, a reporter from Kazakhstan who shocked the USA when traveling around and looking for Pamela to make her his wife. The "semi-documentary" style movie gained Cohen an Oscar-nomination for Adapted Screenplay and many considered Borat the best comedy of the year.

This year Cohen brings his third character, a gay Austrian fashionista named Brüno, to the big screen. This time however it is not as easy to make the movie as documentary in style because Cohen's face is so well known all over that it's hard to fool people.

In Austria Brüno runs his own tv-show called Funkyzeit, but when he creates a disaster in the Milan fashion week, he gets fired and even his boyfriend dumps him. Deeply hurt Brüno decides to move to L.A. and become a celebrity there. His assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten) is the only one who has faith in him, and comes along.

In L.A. Brüno finds out it is not easy to become a celebrity, especially with his style - stereotypic gay guy who is not afraid to show a talking penis in his tv-show. Lessons are learned though, and as people become famous for their charity work, Brüno decides to bring peace to Middle-East. When even that does not work, he adopts a baby from Africa. And when even *that* does not work, he decides that to become a celebrity, one must turn heterosexual, like "Tom Cruise did".

Brüno is one of the funniest comedies this year. It is one of those that really make you laugh out loud. But it is not a movie to everyone as it's goal is clearly to shock conservative people. The story flows in a similar manner as does the story of Borat - Brüno travels around, meets real people and makes his moves to shock, irritate and question people, their openness and morals. This includes meeting a preacher who turns homosexuals to heterosexuals, a couple of PR-blondes, a bunch of hunters and a talk show audience.

Some parts are clearly staged but most of the movie is still hilarious, and especially the final scene in the wrestling ring made me cry out of laughter. And it is not just Cohen who makes the audience laugh, it is also the counter shame that one feels for the people who meet Brüno, who has totally no limits.

But despite its controversial theme, is Brüno himself homophobic? The stereotypic gay and the extreme sex scenes may be translated as homophobic as well.

Final verdict: Extremely funny and controversial comedy of a gay Austrian fashionista by Sacha Baron Cohen. Brings up the prejudices many people have against gay people and shocks with the open sexuality.

Directed by Larry Charles
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines
Cast Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten

by Paivi

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Directed by David Yates
Written by Steve Kloves, based on J.K. Rowling's novel
Cast Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, Bonnie Wright, Helena Bonham Carter


Reviewed by Paivi

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installation of the Potter -series is a story of Harry's (Daniel Radcliffe) sixth Hogwarts wizard school year. The evil lord Voldemort has gained more and more strength and his impact has reached even the muggle world - bridges are collapsing and people are dying because of the work done by his Death Eaters. This affects also the wizarding school and the school is covered by extra protective spells to prevent the evil from coming inside the school grounds. However, even the best is not always enough, the evil has its ways, and this leads to events that make Harry once again lose someone important to him.

Voldemort and his Death Eaters are not the only pain the students in Hogwarts face. They are growing up and it is no less than sex that causes them trouble and heartache.

Hogwarts school gets a new Potions teacher, professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) and former Potions master, professor Snape (Alan Rickman) gets to teach the Defence against the Dark Arts (it's a pity all of the actual classes have been cut of the movie). Slughorn is not asked to Hogwarts by professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) without a reason, but he holds a secret Harry must find out, as this secret may help in destroying lord Voldemort.

Finally - professor Dumbledore takes Harry along with him in the action. The headmaster gives Harry a lot of new information on Voldemort and together they continue discovering the Evil Lords secrets in their attempt of destroying him once and for all.

Half-Blood Prince continues the Potter-saga in a very similar fashion as the couple of previous movies have done - it leaves most of the book's complex plotlines out. This is good in a way that it is impossible to squeeze everything from those enormous novels into a bit over 2-hour-movie. But even though something has been gained, something is also lost in this process, and Half-Blood Prince feels a bit hollow, as if it was made without a heart totally involved. The biggest flaw is probably the fact that even though the name of the movie is Half-Blood Prince, the mystery around the Prince is totally left out and the discovery of the Prince in the final scene seems almost corny.

The pains and sorrows of growing up are very prominent in the movie, so much it made me ask were they really that important? That so many scenes were included in the movie in the expense of the actual Harry-Voldemort -story? I would have preferred a deeper digging into the storyline that really matters, and leave the love life of the young ones less visible - after all it is not that much visible in the original story either.

The main trio of the saga have really grown up, but they still fit into their roles as before. Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) has grown up to be a total stunner and Rupert Grint's (Ron Weasley) talent as a comedian has strengthened on. Radcliffe has always had a bit stiff style of acting, and he continues the same way. Tom Felton (Harry's arch enemy Draco Malfoy) however looks perfectly like his father's son in his suit. Rickman as Snape and Gambon as Dumbledore are brilliant as always. It is wonderful to see these classic actors work so well in a movie targeted to young audiences.

Half-Blood Prince offers the fans of the saga a nice and working piece of magic and action, but don't expect to see a masterpiece.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009)

Directed by Jan Kounen
Written by Carlo de Boutiny and Jan Kounen
Cast Mads Mikkelsen, Anna Mouglalis, Yelena Morozova
, Anatole Taubman

Reviewed by Paivi

There are two Coco Chanel biographies released this year. Coco avant Chanel stars Audrey Tautou (Amelie) as the leading lady and the movie is released later this year. Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (starring Anna Mouglasis as Coco and Mads Mikkelsen as Igor) shows only a small part of Coco's life and focuses on her relationship with the Russian composer.

Coco Chanel was a very independent woman for her time. After her lover called Boy (Anatole Taubman) was killed in a car accident, she decided to live alone in her huge mansion, interiors designed by herself. The actual Chanel mansion is used in filming the scenes. Coco is a fan of music and an admirer of everything brave. When she witnesses the almost riot that follows the "scandalous" premiere of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, she wants to get to know the composer.

Stravinsky lives with his wife (Yelena Morozova) who is sufferfing of tuberculosis and children in a small flat and Coco invites them all to live in her mansion - allowing Igor a possibility to more space for his musical creativity. Coco and Igor are drawn to each other and finally end up having an affair.

Brilliantly filmed movie uses beautiful visuals. Every single frame is like a work of art. However, the story itself is missing the passion that should be present between the two artists. Coco even though very well presented as an independent woman feels calculating and cold without any emotions.

The Danish actor Mikkelsen makes Igor a vulnerable man, a man drawn to two directions - the wealth and love of Coco and on the other hand his loyalty to his wife and children. Also for a man and an artist it is difficult to accept the fact that the woman is also an artist and with her own will and self esteem.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Chéri (2009)

Directed by Stephen Frears
Written by Christopher Hampton, based on Colette's novels
Cast Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend, Kathy Bates

Reviewed by

Michelle Pfeiffer and Stephen Frears worked together in 1988, doing the romantic 3-Oscar-winning drama Dangerous Liaisons, which gained the first nomination also to Pfeiffer. Three years ago Frears made The Queen that gathered success around and brought its leading lady Helen Mirren an Oscar.

With Chéri Frears and Pfeiffer travel back to France and to the time before the World Wars, the time known as Belle Epoque, when courtisans were a visible part of the society. The most successful courtisans lived luxurious lives in beautiful houses, surrounded by beautiful dresses, jewelry and their own staff. The story is based on novels by Colette.

Pfeiffer is Lea, a luxury courtisan who is aging and planning on retiring. She has experienced all kinds of love, except the true love. One day when visiting her old colleague Madame Peloux, played by brilliant Kathy Bates, she is tempted to kiss Madame's 19-year-old son Fred, nick named Chéri (Rupert Friend). Unexpectedly the kiss turns their lives upside down and they find themselves living together for many years.

When Madame Peloux informs that she has arranged a good marriage with a wealthy young girl Edmee (Felicity Jones) for her son, both Lea's and Chéri's dreams come tumbling down and they realise their affection is something deeper than just lust and friendship.

Wonderful Pfeiffer is the heart of this movie. As an aging beauty, insecure and troubled at the inevitable fate of her body slowly losing its youth and glamour, Pfeiffer does a convincing job. Also as a woman so involved in all sort of love affairs in her life, finally finding true love and losing it to a younger woman she is a fragile work of art.

Rupert Friend as the young courtisan's son is at ease in a role many others might have been afraid of performing. He is a good looking angel face with a gorgerous body when naked, and considering he's working with such a big name as Pfeiffer, he pulls his role as her lover professionally.

Visually stunning surroundings, beautifully framed pictures give the drama an extra essense. Frears is at best in directing movies of interesting personas - Chéri shows this the similar way as The Queen did.

Final verdict: Beautifully shot Belle Epoque drama of the love affair of an older woman and a younger man. Strong and convincing characters played by brilliant actors, especially the lovely Michelle Pfeiffer. Watch for next year's Oscar nominations and especially costume design category.

Monday, 1 June 2009

UP 3D (2009)

Directed by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson (co-director)
Written by Bob Peterson (screenplay)
Cast Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo, Jerome Ranft, Elie Docter, Jeremy Leary


Reviewed by Sari

UP 3D is yet another 3D-animated film on the theaters and it's also the latest Disney-Pixar production from the makers of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Cars. This colorful story starts from the early childhood of an old man, Carl Fredricksen (voices, young Carl by Jeremy Leary, old Carl by Edward Asner), who is the leading character in this animated film.

He once was a quiet little boy, who meets a rascal girl called Ellie (voice by Elie Docter), falls in love with her and finally marries her. So it's the classic love story, so to speak. Carl and Ellie are one extremely happy couple, and they share the same dream of going on an adventure to South America one day. They even dream about having their house at the edge of The Paradise Falls. But their life passes by and the adventure seems always to be postponed further. Until the day Ellie gets seriously ill and passes away.

Carl is now alone, being an 78-year old man and is facing the fact that the adventure they so wanted to experience never took a place in their life. But things start to change for him and one day he decides to literally "take off" and is soon flying high on the sky in his house, thousands of balloons carrying him to his destination, South America.

For his suprise a young wilderness explorer Russell (voice by Jordan Nagai) is going to share this experience with him and these two soon find they way to South America and face the most interesting situations and characters while trying to move Carl's house to the right spot, next to The Paradise Falls, that Ellie so dearly loved.

On their way to the falls they run into a rare bird species, a pack of talking dogs and end up inside a large cave, where Carl's childhood hero, the ultimate explorer Charles Muntz (voice by Christopher Plummer) lives and has trained all these obedient dogs. Carl is excited to meet him, but it's soon quite obvious that Charles is not a good man, but he is actually after something they possess and this leads into an exciting and intense chaise.

The story starts quite smoothly and takes you to the early years of Carl's life, giving you a nostalgic feel of his past. It's also quite funny to see him and Russell battling their way to South America flying on a house carried by colorful balloons, trying to find the perfect spot to that beautiful, old house. At some point the story gets a bit chaotic though, especially from the point where they run into a talking dog called Dug, and then into a whole pack of talking dogs, leading their way to an old explorer behind them, Charles Muntz. I wasn't sure if I understood the funniness behind the talking dog theme, but then again, I really loved that old man Carl and his little companion Russell and felt that those two were meant to be together on this adventure.

UP being and animated film is of course a film made for the whole family and especially children, so perhaps the storyline and all the peculiar characters will open up better for the younger age groups than us grown-ups. Visually the 3D-film is just stunning and I especially enjoyed all the vivid colors, the high-quality animation and all the 3D-effects, which we could all expect to be excellent after seeing all those previous Disney-Pixar films.

UP is an entertaining animation which you want to take your kids to see and let them enjoy all the craziness and chaos of this everyway colorful, animated film. And don't be suprised if you enjoy it yourself, too.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Terminator Salvation (2009)

Directed by McG
Written by John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
Cast Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Bryce Dallas Howard

Reviewed by Paivi

The legendary leader John Connor, the son of even more legendary Sarah Connor, has been previously played (in movies) by Edward Furlong (young and rebellous one who played Guns N' Roses loud in his cassette player in T2) and Nick Stahl (a young adult in T3). This time it is Christian Bale's turn and the year is 2018 (and he's still playing Guns N' Roses when driving on a "motorbike") and John Connor has become the warrior legend we have heard so much about, the leader of the resistance against the machines of Skynet.

Not many years have passed but the Skynet has conquered the whole world with its machines and Terminators, cities and all working infrastructures are gone and no food is visible anywhere. Humans are living in small groups, some are battling against the machines along with the resistance, some are just trying to survive.

Skynet is developing better and better Terminators all the time and time is running out of the humans. They need to figure out a way to hit strong into the Skynet's system or they will go extinct.

The Resistance gets help from a very strange source when Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a convicted murderer from 2003 whose last memory is his execution, is found from the desert. Marcus had earlier befriended with teenager Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, last seen in Star Trek as Chekov) (the future dad of John Connor) and when Kyle is kidnapped by the machines, Marcus helps John in getting to his rescue.

Terminator Salvation is all action war movie and only a little bit of drama. Which is a pity because almost two hours of shooting of Terminators and other machines does not exactly carry the whole movie. It amazed me how on earth had the Skynet with its machines managed in destroying the entire planet in just a few years and in developing such a fancy and sophisticated system for itself. Also the production of a certain well-developed infiltrator-Terminator is not believable because all the other Terminators are so different, so simple machines. And I don't even start talking about making successful heart transplants in field conditions and without any knowledge of the matching blood types...

We do hear the famous quote "I'll be back" and we see a digitally produced Arnold Schwarzenegger, but those feel fake. All humour that can be seen in previous Terminator -movies is gone, Terminator Salvation is very serious, laughless piece of action. Most of the action scenes are however well done and the scene when the special-Terminator is revealed is the best scene in the whole movie.

Just wait for new Terminator -movies in the future: John Connor's wife Kate (Claire Danes from T3 replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard) is pregnant (this is no spoiler because she is already pregnant in her first scene) so probably Connors' child will continue the father's work in making the world free again?

The Soloist (2009)

Directed by Joe Wright
Written by Susannah Grant (screenplay), Steve Lopez (book)

Cast Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Justin Martin, Nelsan Ellis, Lisa Gay Hamilton


Reviewed by: Sari

The Soloist is a true story inspired by a book written by journalist Steve Lopez.

The movie starts with a violin, a homeless guy and a journalist, who is in need to find a new subject for his column and ends up meeting a homeless guy called Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx). The journalist happens to be Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), Los Angeles Times columnist who immediately sees something special in Nathaniel and starts to investigate his past. He discovers that Nathaniel was once a very talented cellist, who also studied in Juilliard School for gifted, but who dropped out after the second year due to mental health problems.

Steve is intriqued by Nathaniel and these two get closer. Steve finds himself wondering among homeless people in the streets of Los Angeles and gets a whole new picture of their situation. Steve now has a mission. He wants to get Nathaniel's life back on it's track and uses his contacts to try and help him out. Eventually he realizes that big concert halls and public events are not meant for Nathaniel but he is still there to help him and even gets him an apartment of his own. Eventually Nathaniel shows his darker side and Steve gets frightened and stays out of his life for a while, but at the end these two people from two different worlds are still able to remain friends.

This was yet again an unbeliavably strong performance by Jamie Foxx, which was not a big suprise after seeing him in the legendary role of Ray Charles in the movie Ray. Here the role is still so much more challenging. Playing a mentally unstable, musically gifted genius is not a role for everyone, but Jamie Foxx nailed it. Robert Downey Jr. as Steve Lopez was no less performance, and he once again proved to be one talented and strong actor, even though the main focus of this film is on Nathaniel.

This movie is an eye-opening experience and really gets you to think about the less fortunate homeless people who live among us. There are so many untold stories behind those faces and tired-looking eyes. So many chances, so many lost talents, like Nathaniel.

Considering this The Soloist was not just a story of Nathaniel. It also represented the situation of homeless people here in U.S. In a way it was a little reflection of our society and the sad fact that so much more should be done to help these people. In our society we have learned to turn our heads away from all the misery and sadness, concentrating on our own success and material needs. Hopefully this movie gets people to talk and even creates some kind of action to help all these people in need.

I was deeply touched by this story and the message it delivered. Beautiful, soulful story, that will for sure linger inside my mind for quite some time.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

2009 movies summarised

The movies released this year and which we have either reviewed or seen will from now on be summarised in a chart that you can find in the right hand side image link :) Check in there if you don't immediately find the movie you are looking for!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Observe and Report (2009)

Directed by Jody Hill
Written by Jody Hill
Cast Seth Rogen, Ray Liotta, Anna Faris, Michael Peña, Collette Wolfe

Reviewed by Paivi

Observe and report is a strange comedy of a mall security guard Ronnie, played by Seth Rogen, who would like to be something more than just someone observing and reporting to the real police - he would himself love be allowed to carry a gun like a proper police officer. His prayers are answered in the form of a flasher who starts harassing the female customers and employees of the mall. Ronnie takes the "flasher case" as his own, and plans to solve it before the real police led by agent Harrison (Ray Liotta).

Apart from being the head of the mall security, Ronnie is in love with the beautiful Brandi (Anna Faris) from the cosmetics section, lives with his alcoholic mother (Celia Weston), has a bi-polar disorder for which he is taking medication and becomes friends with cute and friendly Nell (Collette Wolfe) from a coffee shop.

When Ronnie's dream of a career in the police force is wrecked because of his mental disorder and delusions, hell breaks loose in the mall.

Observe and report is a strange comedy, because it is not really a comedy at all and this is what makes it very difficult to review. The characters are not funny, but mostly sad and pathetic, and it is extremely difficult to actually like them in any level. None of them, except maybe Nell.

Security guard taking anti-depressants during lunch and with delusions of killing all the bad guys is just plain sad and not funny. Cosmetics sales girl allowing pretty much anyone to screw her and lying in her own puke is just plain sad and not funny. Alcoholic mother who blames her son for the fact that the father left the family is sad and not funny.

We are used to seeing the funnyman Rogen in roles that make you like his teddybear appearance, laughter and witty dialogue - like for example in Knocked up and Pineapple Express. This role brings us a different Rogen, dark Rogen who is ready to fire a gun and is not sympathetic at all. I personally prefer the other type of Rogen.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Taken (2009)

Directed by Pierre Morel
Written by Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Cast Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Xander Berkeley, Katie Cassidy

Reviewed by Sari

What if you are a retired CIA spy, a loving father and ready to help your child whenever possible? What if your child happens to be an adventurous 17-year old girl, ready to explore the world, all by herself? Well, it means that perhaps your help is needed sooner or later, especially Liam Neeson being in the leading role in this fast paced movie.

In Taken Bryan (Liam Neeson) is this ex-spy, living modest life close to his 17-year old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), who herself lives with her mom Lenore (Famke Janssen) and stepdad Stuart (Xander Berkeley), getting everything she wants and having a very luxurious lifestyle. Bryan doesn't necesserily agree on her daughter's lavish lifestyle and all the freedom her daughter has, but tries to adjust as well as he can. As for him the most important thing is just to be close to his daughter, after all those years serving the country and not being able to spend a lot of time with his family.

Suddenly Kim decides to travel to Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) and Bryan gets very frustrated and even a little paranoid about this idea. He is afraid that she ends up getting in trouble travelling with no adult supervision, but reluctantly sings the papers that free her to go abroad, being under aged. He gives Kim a cell phone and asks her to keep in contact with him all the times, fearing for her safety. Girls have just arrived to Paris and Bryan is on the cell phone with Kim when the inevitable happens. Both girls are being kidnapped by Albanian human smugglers and Bryan is witnessing all this by the phone.

He contacts his friend Sam (Leland Orser) and finds out about the Albanian connection and is immediately on a a plane, on his way to Paris. This leads to a hunt where desperate father is after the criminals trying to figure out their next steps to find her daughter and he doesn't hesitate to use all his power and all the possible ways to rescue Kim.

This movie has all the parameters needed to work like a good action movie should. There is a lot of exciting moments, some pretty intense chasing scenes and the person who makes this film even more interesting is of course Liam Neeson and his character Bryan. Neeson is just wonderful to watch on screen. There is a man who is always so humble, yet extremely talented and can play any role, any time, making it his own thing.

The storyline is not perhaps the strongest possible and at some point it gets pretty obvious what is going to happen next and how the story is going to end. But Neeson keeps the audience in excitement and it is quite obvious to see, that the main responsibility for this movie to succeed lays on Neeson's hands.

Reminds me of those good, old 90s action films with a lot of chasing, excitement and a strong, charismatic person in a leading role. Sometimes that is all it takes to have a good movie experience. So enjoy! I sure did!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Angels and Demons (2009)

Directed by Ron Howard
Written by David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman, based on Dan Brown's novel
Cast Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Armin Mueller-Stahl

Reviewed by Päivi

Like so many others, I started my friendship with the author Dan Brown with his novel Da Vinci Code. Few years ago when I was traveling in New Zealand and had already almost two months behind me, I needed something to read and rest my head. I found Angels and Demons from a bookstore and after that the next few days I spent sightseeing the amazing New Zealand by day and adventuring in Vatican by night. After that experience I thought, wow, this would be great to see as a movie!

Now my wish has come true - Angels and Demons is released as a movie version. Tom Hanks continues as the professor Robert Langdon specialised in symbolism as he did in the movie version of Da Vinci Code. (I have always had problems with Hanks as Langdon because he is not at all that convincing, handsome professor I pictured him in my mind...) Langdon is invited to Vatican City after the Pope has died and four cardinals - preferiti, the most popular choices to become a new Pope - have been kidnapped by an ancient secret society called Illuminati. A cryptic message is left behind and the Vatican wants the world famous symbolist to help them in saving the lives of the cardinals.

At the same time a container of antimatter is stolen from the LHC lab (Large Hadron Collider) in CERN Switzerland. A physicist studying the antimatter, Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), has traveled to Vatican as well because not only have the cardinals been kidnapped, also the whole Vatican is in danger of exploding because the antimatter may work as a bomb.

While the Pope's camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) heads the papal office and leads the cardinals into a conclave to try to elect a new pope. Langdon and Vetra run around the Vatican and Rome in search of the ancient Path of Illumination, the kidnapped cardinals and the antimatter container.

Angels and Demons the movie is filled with action. Everything happens within five hour timeframe and as the pretty complicated story is squeezed into two and a half hours, the action is at times breathtaking. The screenplay is written well, it sticks together and does not fall apart despite the various possibilities. The focus of the story is mainly in the riddle of the Path of Illumination, the four elements of science and how they are combined with the four missing cardinals and pretty much everything else from the book is left out.

For someone not familiar with the novel, this is one hell of an action ride with interesting twists and turns and a very different angle for a mystery thriller. It is fascinating to see how the Vatican works and see a glimpse of the secrets vaults of Vatican (which are of course not real because director Ron Howard was not allowed to film in Vatican but he had to recreate Vatican elsewhere). But for those who know the story. the thrill gets lost at times, and it is often difficult to really stay interested in what happens to who.

Overall, Angels and Demons is pretty loyal to the original story, is well acted, has good action sequences, interesting twists, introduces us to the art and history of Vatican and Rome, but is a bit soulless. It runs it's course in a decent way, but instead of being either black or white, it leaves a somewhat grey feeling.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Star Trek (2009)

Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman based on Gene Roddenberry's tv-series
Cast Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, Zoe Saldana, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin

Reviewed by

First, let me clarify one thing: I am a Star Wars fan and I have never really seen any Star Treks. So I saw the Star Trek directed by Lost creator J.J. Abrams open minded, without any expectations and no original story to compare it to. Trust me, all I knew was that there were characters named Kirk and Spock, and a spacecraft named Enterprise. And I have to say I was very pleased indeed in what I saw on the big screen: a fascinating space adventure, interesting characters, story well written and visually worth sitting in the theatre for a bit over two hours.

This version of Star Trek is like Batman Begins - it tells the origins of how James T. Kirk became the famous Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise and how Kirk and Spock became friends. Chris Pine is the young and restless - and fatherless - James Kirk, who tries to pick up girls in a bar when he meets a certain Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) who questions his future and tells him to join the space fleet if he wants to honor his father.

Kirk is sceptic but eventually turns out in the recruitment center next morning. Arrogant young man does not please everyone, especially one guy from the planet Vulcan with pointed ears (Zachary Quinto) but he becomes friends with the doctor McCoy (Karl Urban). With the help of McCoy Kirk gets through things he would not otherwise get, fights against a group led by (almost unrecognisable in his mask) Eric Bana's Captain Nero, and eventually turns from an arrogant, selfish youngster to a reliable guy worth of Captain's status.

J.J. Abrams' Star Trek is something you would wish for a good space adventure: cool gadgets and technologies, interesting, brave characters and action that is still not happening on the expense of the story. The growth story of Kirk was very basic, but it worked in a reliable way. Some overacting from Pine especially in the beginning bugged me a bit, as did some extremely cheesy moments, but they did not spoil the overall experience, which was purely entertaining.

A nice addition is the original (from the tv-series in the 60's) Mr. Spock Leonard Nimoy's appearance, and based on the comments of friends' who have seen also the original shows, all characters are very loyal to the originals and all names, personalities and nationalities have been stored unchanged. The diversity of the Enterprise crew was something that I took notice, and I found them all fascinating, well done and well played characters.