Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Australia (2008) - movie review

Australia is an old-fashioned love story of a Lady and the Tramp, set in the beautiful surroundings of Australia, with a drop of politics in the form of Aboriginal rights.

Nicole Kidman is Lady Sarah Ashley, an English aristocrat whose husband is doing business in Australia. Once Lady Ashley feels that her husband is getting nothing done, she decides to travel to the other side of the world by herself to make things happen.

Once she gets Down Under, all she finds is her husband gotten killed and no-one taking care of the farm. She is forced to spend time with a rough local man, Drover (Hugh Jackman), who works on freelance basis to the Ashleys, driving their cattle.

Devastated of the situation Lady Ashley plans on selling the farm to the local cattle king, King Carney (Bryan Brown), but suddenly his actions among the Aboriginal people change her mind and she's determined on winning the battle against Carney. She befriends with a mixed breed boy Nullah (Brandon Walters), whom the government wants to take away to be educated away from the Aboriginal traditions.

As if the battle with the local farmers and the unpredictable Australian environment was not enough, the WW2 begins with the Japanese bombing Australia...

All this is just background to the love story, the love between the Lady and Drover. First they seemingly hate each other, but soon the relationship changes to something else, and finally deep friendship and love, which has to get over all the obstacles mentioned above.

The movie is visually stunning, the environment looks wonderful and the story of the mixed breed little boy is very touching. Director Baz Luhrman has clearly wanted to show his homeland as a beautiful mixture of magic and natural wonders. The cinematography is very interesting: colours ranging from the faded colours of the war and city to the extremely powerful colours of the Australian nature. The land Down Under is definitely one of the key players in this game.

Kidman and Jackman are a bit of lacking mutual chemistry - the only time you could actually feel their passion was during their first kiss in the outback, but after that it's mostly gone.

Directed by Baz Luhrman
Written by Stuart Beattie and Baz Luhrman
Cast Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Bryan Brown, David Wenham, Brandon Walters

Låt den rätte komma in (Let the right one in) (2008) - movie review

The funny thing how two movies of the same subject - love story between a human and a vampire - are released at about the same time. And even funnier thing is, how different these two movies are from each other!

Let the right one in is nothing like Twilight. It is a Swedish film based on a Swedish novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay and it has been directed by Tomas Alfredson. It tells a story of a lonely, bullied 12-year-old school boy Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) who lives with her mother in a suburb of a small Swedish town and visits his father occasionally at his cabin outside the town.

Suddenly a strange, dark haired girl (Lina Leandersson) moves to the neighbour with her father. She introduces herself as Eli, and becomes an odd friend of Oskar - always meeting him outside after dark.

Strange deaths start to happen in the previously peaceful neighbourhood, but Eli's and Oskar's friendship gets deeper even though she tells him they should not be friends. For a little boy without friends a powerful vampire as an ally is a nice asset against the other boys.

Let the right one in is such a different vampire movie. It focuses on a perfectly traditional Swedish neighbourhood with perfectly traditional people - drunks, loners, working moms, lonely kids and gangs. And then there comes the vampire that changes the balance, dramatically.

The movie is dark and very grim, but it is not horror in the very sense. And it sees the world via the eyes of a pre-teenager. It is not a movie for children even though it's central characters are young in age. It is a story of loneliness and what loneliness can make you do. Desperate things.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on his own novel
Cast Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson

Changeling (2008) - movie review

The true story of a woman who lost her child is something that I'm sure wakes up every mothers' feelings. Director Clint Eastwood seems to like these powerful stories that are emotionally challenging to the viewers.

Changeling, true story that happened in 1920's is a story of Cristine Collins (Angelina Jolie) who lives alone with her son Walter (Gatlin Griffith). One day she is forced to stay at work for a bit longer than usual, and when returning home she finds to her horror her son nowhere in sight. Night falls and no news come from him. Mother calls the police and the police just tell her to wait till morning.

Days, weeks, months pass and the police is unable to find the boy. Mother is devastated and making everything she can. Suddenly she gets news: they have found Walter! She hurries to the train station, only to find out that the boy in question is not her true son. This starts the battle of a desperate mother in her search for her real son - battle against the corrupted police, and leads to terrible findings.

Jolie's portrayal of a desperate mother is impressive, and she clearly has been able to pull emotions from her real life as a mother. However, from the viewer's point of view all the crying and screaming of wishing to have her son back are not only positive. The movie could have been more efficient if the lenght was not as long as it is now. The film would have hold itself together more as now the excess focus on the suffering face of Jolie starts to lose its emotional power.

I liked the way Eastwood takes into account the role of women during this time. For a feminist as myself it is always a pleasure to see strong women who fight against the corrupt power of men. The scenes in the asylum strenghten this point of view nicely.

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Cast Angelina Jolie, Gatlin Griffith, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan

Twilight (2008) - movie review

The inner teenager woke up inside of me when I read the novel Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, and despite the pretty negative reviews, I wanted to check the movie with my own eyes. I thought that even though the cinematic values might not be that great, the fandom, excitement and entertainment values might be ok.

The story in the movie follows pretty closely the one in the novel: Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves from Phoenix to her father Chief Swan (Billy Burke) in the cloudiest part of the state of Washington, a small town called Forks. There she goes to a new school, gets new friends and gets curious of the strange family of Cullens, especially their son Edward (Robert Pattinson) who sits by her side in biology.

Edward acts like she hates Bella and that makes her even more curious, and finally she finds the answer: Edward and all his family are vampires, who have adapted themselves to the normal life. Instead of being afraid, Bella falls in love with Edward - whose visible hate turns out to be pure lust - for Bella's blood.

The Cullens are "good" vampires, but there are also "bad" vampires, and Bella's and Edward's relationship gets Bella in great danger because the bad vampires want her blood as well. But Edward and the Cullens promise to protect her, as this is the first time in almost 100 years that Edward finally falls in love...

My expectations of the entertainment values were a bit too high, because I felt very disappointed in the movie. I did not like the idea that instead of being insecure about herself as in the book, Bella was selfish and not interested in people. Also her overwhelming love towards Edward was somehow missing, the chemistry between Bella and Edward was nowhere near the passion that is oozing from the pages of the novel. Overall acting was not natural at all.

I am planning on reading the sequels and will probably check also the movie sequel, which will be directed by Chris Weitz the director of for example the Golden Compass, with which movie version I think he succeeded ok. Hopefully it will capture the story's atmosphere a bit better than Twilight.

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Written by Melissa Rosenberg, based on Stephenie Meyer's novel Twilight
Cast Kristen Stewart (Bella), Robert Pattinson (Edward), Billy Burke (Chief Swan), Cam Gigandet (James), Peter Facinelli (Carlisle), Ashley Greene (Alice), Nikki Reed (Rosalie), Taylor Lautner (Jacob), Kellan Lutz (Emmett), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper), Anna Kendrick (Jessica), Michael Welch (Mike)

Twilight - book review

After finishing all the Harry Potter-books I needed something to fill in the void and started looking for something new that would hold my interest the same way as J.K.Rowling's story of the wizard boy had done. And because the young girl inside my woman's body required something targeted to younger audiences, I became interested when I heard about a series of books about a love story between a teenage girl and a vampire.

After few sceptical glances on the first pages I dived into a story that awakened the teenager in me, the one that is looking for the perfect love, perfect lover, all the electricity of first love, and I was hooked, and read the whole book with butterflies in my lower stomach.

is the first novel in Stephenie Meyer's vampire saga which at this moment is four novels long. The story is about a 17-year-old Bella who moves from Phoenix to live with her father in cloudy state of Washington, in a small town called Forks. She is insecure, a bit of a lone wolf, and is surprised by the warm welcome she receives in the local high school. There's only one boy who does not seem delighted of Bella's arrival, and his behaviour starts bugging the girl.

Bella clearly has the same stubborness and police instinct in her like his father the police Chief, and she starts digging information of this strange boy whose eye colour changes along with his mood changes, and his weird family who never eat at school. She finds out a truth that could terrify others: the boy, Edward, is a vampire. However she is not afraid but instead finds herself falling in love with the boy...

The storyline of the book is very simple and all actions predictable. However it is not intended to be a literary masterpiece, but a story that grabs people in its iron hold to follow how the relationship between a girl and a vampire could be possible. The relationship is so full of dangers, so full of the wonderful feeling of the electricity of the first love, so impossible, that it does not let you go.

The story is targeted to young women especially, but older ones can enjoy it just the same. One can always go back to those times when everything about love and sex was new and fascinating.

After finishing the book I just *had* to go to cinema to see the movie version...

Written by Stephenie Meyer
Year 2006 - order here - order here - order here

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Babel (2006)

A director's cut of Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu's Babel was shown in the opening of Helsinki International Film Festival in autumn 2006. This cut was said to be slightly different from the award-winning version in Cannes spring 2006.

Babel is a story of three stories about communication difficulties, and how a person can be alone also in a huge city as well as inside a family, because people have not found means to communicate properly with each other. In the first chapter an American couple is visiting in Morocco when the wife (Cate Blanchett) gets shot in the middle of the desert and her husband (Brad Pitt) is desperately trying to get help in time. Second chapter is about a Mexican lady (Adriana Barrazza) who is taking care of two kids in California, and ends up taking the kids along with her to Mexico in order to be able to attend her son's wedding. Third chapter is about a Japanese deaf-mute girl (Rinko Kikuchi) who feels extremely alone after her mother's death and because of her problem. And as in Iñarritu's previous films, also Babel ties all these stories together in the end.

Babel is full of powerful emotions and drama. Pitt as the desperate husband in the Moroccoan desert does incredibly touching job when trying to help his wife. This must be one of Pitt's best roles ever. In Morocco Iñarritu is using mainly local amateur actors as the villagers and other people, and they bring beautiful authenticity to the film among the beautifully simple desert scenery.

Huge, crowded and noisy Tokyo is a total opposite to the Moroccoan desert. Being alone in a city like that feels unrealistic, but Kikuchi as deaf-mute Chieko makes that possible. Her role is extremely powerful as a girl who has just lost her mother, is not very close to her father and is unable to make physical connection to other people.

Babel is a beautifully made movie, even though it does not exactly equal the two previous films of Iñarritu -trilogy. Sometimes it feels as is the original idea of communication difficulties is somehow hidden under other kind of drama, and I kind of missed some of the details of the original idea. After Amores Perros and 21 Grams my expectations were probably a bit too high for Babel. However, despite its flaws, Babel is still a masterpiece.

Babel is one of those dramas that make you feel strong emotions and make you think. I recommend Babel to all people who enjoy films that speak to you and make you feel. But this is not a mainstream movie to everyone's liking.

Directed by Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu
Written by Guillermo Arriaga
Cast Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Adriana Barrazza, Rinko Kikuchi, Gael Garcia Bernal

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

It is not the words that are said, it's the words that are left unsaid

Brokeback Mountain is said to be a "gay-cowboy"-movie. That is not completely true. It is true that the main characters in the movie are cowboys, and that they fall in love with each other, but that is not everything. This story could be of anyone. But it is of two men in love.

Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) is a shy young guy who gets a job herding sheep for a summer in Brokeback Mountain, with Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) as a partner. One cold night they end up drunk and in a same tent, and make love. This is where the love story begins. After the summer both men go separate directions, get married and get children, but they never forget each other. Then one day after four years they meet again and there is no turning back.

Brokeback Mountain is emotionally packed, powerful movie. It left me feeling blown up for a day at least. Only few movies do that to me, that they really get into my head and don't let go. Brokeback Mountain did that. It is not so much of the things that are said in the movie, that get you. It is the things that are left unsaid. And it is not only the things that are shown in the movie that get you. It is the things that are left unshown.

It was interesting to notice how big erotic impact a movie like this can have. I have no desire to see real gay sex, but seeing these two strong men hugging each other, kissing each other after many years of separation, I was totally stunned.

Ledger and Gyllenhaal are amazing in this movie. They are brave men who take this kind of role that has the possibility of making them immortal and take them to the top actors' league, but also possibility of marking them with the "gay" stamp forever. Both were just fantastic. Of the minor roles, Michelle Williams as Ennis' wife Alma actually shines in her role. When Alma witnesses his husband kissing a guy, she is heart broken, but keeps everything for herself.
Ang Lee really knows how to make "pretty pictures" (for example Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Every single frame of the movie was a work of art in itself. The stunning scenery, colours and the people, everything was just perfect.

Directed by Ang Lee
Written by Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, based on a short story by Annie Proulx
Cast Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams

American History X (1998)

American History X is a story of two brothers - Derek and Danny Vinyard (Edwards Norton and Furlong) - who believe in White Power, and they belong to a Neo-Nazi movement where people think if you are not "white protestant", you're not worth anything. When three black guys try to steal Derek's car, Derek freaks out and kills two of the thieves and goes to jail where he is forced to see the other side of things. "In here, you the nigga. Not me" tells Derek's working partner in the prison.

American History X is one of the most powerful movies I've ever seen. The way two stories - current day in colour and past events in black&white - are told in a parallel way is very beautiful, implicating how things in the past were so simple, so black and white, whereas in reality they are much more complex.

The story is very strong and wakes up strong feelings in the viewer, but towards the end gives also hope and vision of a brighter future. As the little brother Danny puts it: "Hate is a baggage. Life's too short to be p****d off all the time. It's not worth it".

Norton got Oscar -nominated for his role as the skinhead Derek Vinyard. And I don't question that nomination a bit! He is just awesome as first the hateful, self confident skinhead, then confused and sad man, questioning things and in the latter part a strong father figure for his little brother. The growth story of Derek is brilliantly made, a very powerful role for Norton who delivers his performance flawlessly. It is also amazing to see the transformation of otherwise a bit skinny baby-faced Norton to this muscular, tough guy skinhead.

Furlong as little brother Danny plays a beautiful role as well. Grown up in the shadow of his brother he is the sweet big-eyed little brother everyone wants to protect. Furlong fits into his role 100%.

American History X jumped directly to the top 10 of my all time favourite movies. After watching this two times during the weekend, I can still feel the movie in me after so many days. Not many films make that kind of lasting impact. American History X did.

Directed by Tony Kaye
Written by David McKenna
Cast Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D'Angelo, Avery Brooks

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Paivi's movies seen in 2009

Paivi's Movies (first time views) seen in 2009, latest on top:

72. Flash of Genius (2008) (dvd 4/5) - ***
71. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) (cinema 2/5) - *** - read Babblings review in here

70. Transsiberian (2008) (dvd 30/4) - ***
69. Bolt 3D (2008) (cinema 29/4) - **** - read Babblings review in here
68. Filth & wisdom (2008) (dvd) - **
67. Ned Kelly (2003) (dvd) - ***
66. 17 again (2009) (cinema) - *** - read Babblings review in here
65. Katyn (2007) (blu-ray) - ****
64. Taken (2008) (dvd) - ****
63. Rachel getting married (2008) (dvd) - **** - read Babblings review in here
62. Mimmi Lehmä ja Varis (Mamma Mu och Kråkan) (2008) (blu-ray) - ***
61. The Wrestler (2008) (dvd) - ****
60. Ten Inch Hero (2007) (dvd) - **
59. The day the Earth stood still (2008) (dvd) - **
58. Body of lies (2008) (blu-ray) - ***
57. The Duchess (2008) (dvd) - **
56. Yes man (2008) (dvd) - ** - read Babblings review in here
55. Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) (iMax cinema) - ***
54. Fast & Furious (2009) (cinema) - *** - read Babblings review in here
53. Hannah Montana the movie (2009) (cinema) - ** - read Babblings review in here

52. Whisper of the heart (Mimi wo sumaseba) (1995) (dvd) - ***
51. Nim's Island (2008) (blu-ray) - ***
50. Standard Operating Procedure (2008) (blu-ray) - ****
49. The Escapist (2008) (blu-ray) - **
48. Traitor (2008) (dvd) - ***
47. He's just not that into you (2009) (cinema) - *** - read Babblings review in here
46. Easy Virtue (2008) (cinema) - **
45. 12 Rounds (2009) (cinema) - * - read Babblings review in here
44. Die Hard: with a Vengeance (1995) (blu-ray) - ****
43. Pineapple Express (2008) (blu-ray) - ****
42. Mammoth (2009) (cinema) - **** - read Babblings review in here
41. Last Chance Harvey (2008) (cinema) - **
40. Inkheart (2008) (cinema) - ** - read Babblings review in here
39. Tale of Desperaux (2008) (cinema) - ** - read Babblings review in here
38. Neverwas (2005) (dvd) - ***
37. Journey to the center of the Earth (2008) (dvd) - *
36. Lars and the Real Girl (2007) (dvd) - ****
35. Son of Rambow (2007) (dvd) - ****
34. Raging Bull (1980) (blu-ray) - ****
33. Blindness (2008) (dvd) - ***
32. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) (cinema) - **** - read Babblings review in here

31. Watchmen (2009) (cinema) - **** - read Babblings review in here
30. Curious case of Benjamin Button (2008) (cinema) - **** - read Babblings review in here
29. The Vanishing Point (Ce que mes yeux ont vu) (2007) (dvd) - **
28. Max Payne (2008) (dvd) - **
27. The Rocker (2008) (dvd) - ***
26. Mad Money (2008) (blu-ray) - **
25. The sisterhood of traveling pants 2 (2008) (blu-ray) - ****
24. Open season 2 (2008) (blu-ray) - *
23. Idiots and Angels (2008) (dvd) - ***
22. First Blood (1982) (dvd) - ***
21. Revolutionary Road (2008) (cinema) - **** - read Babblings review in here
20. Coffee and cigarettes (2003) (dvd) - ****
19. MirrorMask (2005) (blu-ray) - ***

18. Expired (2007) (dvd) - **
17. The Memory Keeper's Daughter (2008) (dvd) - ***
16. Life before her eyes (2007) (blu-ray) - ***
15. Just Buried (2007) (dvd) - *
14. Broken Flowers (2005) (dvd) - **
13. Batman returns (1992) (blu-ray) - ****
12. Driving Miss Daisy (1989) (dvd) - ****
11. Twilight (2008) (cinema) - ** - read Babblings review in here
10. Changeling (2008) (cinema) - *** - read Babblings review in here
9. Let the right one in (Låt den rätta komma in) (2008) (cinema) - **** - read Babblings review in here
8. Knocked Up (2007) (dvd) - ***
7. Henry Poole is here (2008) (dvd) - **
6. Freaks (1932) (dvd) - ****
5. RocknRolla (2008) (cinema) - ***
4. Niko and the way to the stars (Niko lentäjän poika) (2008) (cinema) - ****
3. Australia (2008) (cinema) - **** - read Babblings review in here
2. American Gangster (2007) (dvd) - ****
1. Zodiac (2007) (dvd) - ****

Note: the rating in Movie Babblings reviews may differ from this list because the actual review may be written by someone else than Paivi