Sunday, 22 March 2009

Rachel Getting Married - Movie Review (2008)

Rachel Getting Married is a story of Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) who is obviously getting married, but rather than just consentrating on this special day and all the beauty of weddings and the consept of marriage, this is also a story of a bittersweet relationships between family members, struggling sisterhood and the importance of one basic fundamental in everyone's life, our families.

The setting is beautiful and peaceful. Rachel is back at her childhood home in Connecticut and is ready for her big day. She and her fiancée Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe) are expecting to have lot of friends and family members coming to the reception and there will be a lot of ethnic flavor, beautiful music and a lot of love in this house during this special weekend. So who could ask for anything more? It seems like this is going to be the perfect wedding.

Except for one little detail, which happens to be nothing less than Rachel's own sister Kym (Anne Hathaway), who is coming to the house the day before the wedding and is always a bit unpredictable, a sister who may either behave nicely or possibly ruin the whole thing. So Kym is obviously the Black sheep of the family and has had her share of struggles in life, living in rehabilitation facilities and now finally, and strongly trying to stay sober and stabile.

So here they are, those two sisters, the other one starting a new chapter in her life and the other one, still trying to find herself, still trying to fit into the picture (and into the family). When Kym arrives as this dark, self-ironic, self-centered herself, the mood in the house changes quickly. Rachel gets very upset and frustrated about her sisters theatrical acts especially after the rehearsal dinner and cannot stand how their father Paul (Bill Irwin) is always trying to protect Kym. Kym on the other hand, once again finds herself being accused of lot of things, defending all her acts. So the beautiful setting gets soon a different tone of color and things get more darker and more dramatic.

It was so bittersweet and so familiar to witness all the confrontations, jealously and arguments between these two sisters and especially Rachel's frustration and negative feelings towards Kym felt so real. On the other hand it was quite sad to see all the sorrow and the despair that Kym was facing and those thoughts that were running in her head all the time. Her thinking of being this not so wanted, unpredictable, sosiopathic, strange sister of Rachel's.

There is also some deep sadness still lingering in this family. Kym and Rachel lost their brother Ethan years ago accidentally and this loss seems to still hunt them all. Kym is torn apart because of the loss, blaming herself, and for a pretty good reason. She being the one driving the car (under the influence of drugs and alcohol) when she lost control and her brother ended up drowning. Even in the middle of all the wedding preparations they go back to this old memory which is so tough thing to swallow, especially for the dad, Paul.

But the most saddening thing was to see their mother Abby (Debra Winger) coming to the picture and realize she was a mother who didn't really seem to care about her daughters too deeply and who looked like she was trying to run away from all the situations quietly, without a scene. Which gave me the idea that maybe Kym's problems in the past were due to her mother's emotional unavailability for her children.

Still, in the end the importance of family breaks through all the drama and all the difficulties and the end was delivered quite beautifully and gave a nice finishing touch to this story.

This movie made a huge impression on me and really got me to think about my own motherhood and the fact that the role we give to our children is something to think about, seriously. This movie also got me to think about the importance of family and the relationships between family members. How many times I myself have witnessed family gatherings gone wrong, and for no important reason.

I also enjoyed the cinematography and the style of directing in this film. I think that the movie was visually so familiar and traditionally implemented that it almost felt like someone from the bride's or groom's family was filming some of the scenes. I think it brought the characters closer to the viewer and made the whole story more believable.

Even though some criticize this fact, I really liked the visual style and would enjoy to see more films like this. I feel strongly that stories don't have to have the Hollywood-Style visual shine to make a deep impression on viewers. The stories with a beautiful soul and strong, believable characters are the ones that touch us the most. And Rachel Getting Married is definitely one of those films.

I was very close to giving this movie five stars, but towards the end the movie got a little slower and I felt like some of the scenes at the end could've been left out, so that is why (only) four stars.

Directed by Jonathan Demme
Written by Jenny Lumet
Cast Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mather Zickel, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Anisa George, Tunde Adebimpe, Debra Winger

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Inkheart (2008)

Inkheart is a fantasy movie based on Cornelia Funke's novel of the same name. It is a story of a father, Mo (Brendan Fraser) and his 12-year-old daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett) - and they both love books. However, it has been nine years since Mo last time has read anything out loud to her daughter, and reason for that is that he has the power to bring the creatures from the book to our world. His skill has given him an extra name, Silvertongue.

This skill has its downside. Every time someone is transferred from a book to the real world, someone from our world is transferred to the book - always keeping the balance between the worlds. Nine years ago Meggie's mother (Sienna Guillory) was lost in a book called Inkheart, and ever since has Mo been trying to find a copy of that book for saving his wife and the mother of their daughter.

The evil Capricorn (Andy Serkis) had accidentally entered our world from Inkheart and he had become so fond of our world that he did not want to go back. And that's why he had been destroying every single piece of Inkheart he's able to get his hands on. He is also keen on getting Mo's power in his hands.

Mo has an ally, Dustfinger (Paul Bettany). also from the pages of Inkheart, and his will is to get back - to his family. Capricorn's quest for Mo's power, Mo and Dustfinger's quest for finding a copy of Inkheart and that way getting back to their loved ones - well, that's the story in a nutshell. There is also the girl , Meggie, who eventually plays a pretty important role in the story, Mo's aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren) who lives in a castle in Italy and adores her library, and also a young, amazingly beautiful boy Farid (Rafi Gavron - look out Orlando Bloom, you have a young challenger!).

Inkheart is an entertaining fantasy movie. It has an impressive cast - Mirren, Jim Broadbent (as the author of Inkheart the novel), Bettany, Fraser, Serkis... although it is not clear why are they all actually in the story, Mirren for example. And the story - well, it is a very basic fantasy story, but as Mo in the beginning says he has no control over the events that happen between the two worlds when he reads, suddenly towards the end there seems to be a lot of control and everything happens as the reader tells.

Even though the movie is targeted to young audiences, I would not recommend it to very young kids. Would it make kids afraid to read when they'd start fearing the events might come true? Maybe for some who'd be afraid to lose their mothers like Meggie did in the story. Some might be couraged to start reading books just because of that.

The movie is shot in beautiful surroundings - the mountains of Switzerland, the lakes of Italy, all extremely beautifully shown. Otherwise the visuals and effects are pretty average, although pyrotechnics by Dustfinger look pretty cool.

Recommended to fantasy lovers seeking for pure entertainment.

Directed by Iain Softley
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on Cornelia Funke's novel
Cast Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Eliza Bennett, Sienna Guillory, Andy Serkis, Rafi Gavron, Jim Broadbent

Mammoth (2009)

Swedish movie maker Lucas Moodysson (Fucking Åmål, Lilja 4-ever) has created a touching story of the world today, how families are separated and connected only with mobile phones and how important our families really are - this is Mammoth.

Leo (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a "game guy" who a few years ago started a community in the web, which then grew into one of the biggest gaming communities. He is no business man but more of a nerd and he has other guys to take care of the business. However, his signature is needed and he is forced to fly to Bangkok for singing a big deal.

His wife (Michelle Williams) is a surgeon who often works at nights. They have a 7-year-old daughter Jackie (Sophie Nyweide) who is taken care of by a Philipino nanny Gloria (Marife Necesito) most of the time. When mother is always working, she and her daughter start to drift apart, and Jackie gets more connected to her nanny. Gloria however has her own heart breaks: her two small sons are back home in the Philippines taken care by their grandmother when she is trying to earn the family money to build a new house by working in the US.

When the husband is facing the many worlds of Thailand, the wife must deal with dying kids in the hospital and the lack of time to spend with her own daughter, the nanny must cope with longing to be with her own kids especially in the time when they really need her...

Mammoth is strong with emotions: love of mothers and fathers to their children, love of husbands and wives, love for the world. It reminded me a lot of Alejando Gonzales Iñarritu's Babel (review of Babel in here) with the story happening at the same time in very different environments of New York, Thailand and in the Philippines.

The first half of the movie I was convinced on awarding the film five stars, but in its latter half things started repeating themselves a bit, and the story started losing its emotional grip. Somehow I believe that due to the strong emotions on children, Mammoth will affect more those people who have children on their own. After all the biggest idea behind the story is that children and parents need time together.

Mammoth is visually stunning, and just like Babel, it focuses on very different views in different parts of the world. It shows the children collecting garbage and selling themselves for tourists in the Philippines, it shows both the beauty and the ugliness of the tourism in Thailand, and it shows also how a seemingly normal life in New York can be so filled with emotions that are not getting fulfilled. And also it shows that in a world full of technology that should keep people more easily connected to other people, people still need each other in person and not just as a voice, sms or email.

Directed and written by Lucas Moodysson
Cast Gael Garcia Bernal, Michelle Williams, Marife Necesito, Sophie Nyweide

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009) - Movie Review

Confessions of a Shopaholic is based on two different Sophie Kinsella books (Confessions of a Shopaholic and The Shopaholic takes Manhattan), and the name just tells you all. This is an ironic story about a young college graduate Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) who happens to live in New York City and happens to have a bit of a problem. The fastly growing pile of credit card bills and the urge to shop beautiful things whenever possible, is giving her a headache of a lifetime. She just doesn't seem to be able to resist the beautiful mannequins on the display windows and is drawn into the luxurious, definitely over her budget stores, time after time, despite the unpaid bills she has.

After a funny girls night out and a little mix-up with mailing two letters, she soon finds herself working for a financial magazine (how funny is that!) writing a column by the name: The Girl in The Green Scarf, even though she dreams of doing something else, writing for a Fashion Magazine Alette. But here she is, giving advice on how to save money and use it wisely at the same time as she herself is in a pretty bad shape financially. And as you may guess, all this will end up being revealed and her boss Luke (Hugh Dancy) is not that crazy about all this, especially when her financial crisis comes to public in a TV show where they both are guests, talking about their magazine and Rebecca's amazingly popular column.

At the end she finds out that her true dream is actually not to work for Alette and she even decides to auction most of her clothes away to get the money to pay off all the credit card bills. She also realizes that she and her boss Luke might have a future together. So yes, happy ending after all this nonsense.

Rebecca Bloomwood is such a naive young woman, obsessed with high quality shoes, purses, scarfs, basically anything that you can name. She seems to face all the possible obstacles that you can face in the "cruel" world of materialism in the Big Apple. For some reason she reminds me of Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, but just like a cheap copycat compared to her. For me she was a bit goofy and her big, innocent Bambie looking-eyes made me want to laugh. I understand that there are thousands and thousands of women who can relate to her and feel for her, but still something was seriously wrong and lacking here.

The story gave nothing new, except one new trick to prevent me from using my credit card too often. Freezing it! But what a meaningless movie this is. It just goes on and on and on about her shopping, and the end, it was just ridiculously predictable and all those talking mannequins at the very end were like the icing on the cupcake expired days ago.

This is just one of those movies where you go empty headed and where you come from as empty headed as you went in. Or worst case scenario, you may find yourself at the closest Macy's and shop till you drop, or until your credit cards get overheated... Or who knows if the mannequins start talking to you? Spoo-ky!

Directed by P. J. Hogan
Written by Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth and Kayla Albert (screenplay), Sophie Kinsella (books)
Cast Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Krysten Ritter, Joan Cusack, John Goodman, John Lithgow, Kristin Scott Thomas

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Tale of Desperaux (2008)

Tale of Desperaux is a story of a tiny mouse who has a heart the size of a knight's. It follows the lead of so many animations these days by using a very detailed CGI, making every single hair and texture in its animal characters look and act in a realistic way.

The story involves a seaman rat called Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman) who accidentally ends up spoiling the Soup Day (the most important celebration of the year) of the kingdom of Dor. His actions cause the King of Dor to order all rats hunted down and killed. At the same time in the Mouseworld of Dor a tiny mouse called Desperaux (Matthew Broderick) is born. Desperaux is different from the other mice in many ways: he has huge ears and he is not afraid of anything.

As Desperaux grows older, his curiosity leads him to the library of the castle where he finds the fantastic world of books and stories. His little heart longs to be a knight in shining armor, and when he meets the Princess Pea (Emma Watson), he tells her he's a gentleman and becomes her friend - and being friends with a human is something to be punished for in the Mouseworld.

Desperaux meets Roscuro the Rat and they become friends as well. Roscuro is feeling guilty and after finding out about the friendship between Desperaux and the Princess, tries to make an apology. But things don't always turn out the way you would want them to turn...

The animation style of the movie is amazingly sharp and realistic, but it does not compensate the lack of the story. The story is very thin, like the viewer is waiting for the whole duration of the movie for the story to finally pick up, and it never really does.

Even though Desperaux has his name in the movie title, it feels as if he is just a supporting character, like there was no lead character in the story at all. The characters are all lacking something. Only the "pig girl" Miggery Sow (Tracey Ullman) who pretends to be a princess is somewhat interesting. The animals are cute, that must be admitted, but the humans look plastic.

Because of the cute characters Tale of Desperaux is best for young children. At least the school group of about 8-year-olds in the screening I went was cheering at the end of the film.

Directed by Sam Fell, Robert Stevenhagen
Written by Gary Ross, based on Kate DiCamillos's novel
Cast (English voices) Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Kline

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Slumdog Millionaire - A movie review

I was finally able to go see the talked about movie, eight Oscar winner: Slumdog Millionaire.

I was so curious to find out what the story of this film was all about. What made it so extraordinary that it ended up winning all these Oscars? Best picture, best directing, best original score, best original song, best editing, best soundmixing, best cinematography and best adapted screenplay. The trailer itself didn't reveal too much and I wasn't sure what to expect other than a pretty boring thought of a young man participating in a Who Wants to be a Millionaire-competition in India. But I was so wrong, since the competition itself was just a tiny part of the story, like the top of an iceberg.

In truth this was a compelling story of a young man, a slumdog Jamal (Dev Patel), who ends up playing in a Who Wants To Be a Millionaire-game and suddenly and for everyone's suprise is just one question away from the Grand Prize! But it's not that easy to be in a position like this in India and just before the final broadcasting and the final answer, he finds himself in a local jail. In an intense questioning he tries to give the answers to all the questions made by the local Police Inspector (Irrfan Khan): How could you know all the answers? You are just a poor boy with no education and now knowledge of such things as poetry or our culture! You just cannot know the answers! Can you?

But you just watch and see...

As Jamal answers the questions in the competition (and to the Inspector in the questioning) the story rewinds back to his early childhood, to his brother Salim and the girl he so dearly loved, but then lost, called Latika (Freida Pinto). It shows the complex relationship between the brothers, but it also reveals the poverty and the despair of their childhood in the slums of Mumbai. This movie isn't just about the story of Jamal, but also a story of his culture and the slums of Mumbai. It was beautiful to watch how the story evolved with all the children turning into young adulthood and how those two, Jamal and Latika finally found each other again despite all the obstacles they had to go through. And last but not least, all the questions (both in the competition and in the jail) being answered one by one, just like it is written.

One of the Oscars of this film went to director Danny Boyle (The Beach). And no wonder. The directing in this film has its own, fresh point of view. And it sure was nice to see something a bit different from everyday Hollywood style movies, and I really enjoyed how Boyle brought all the cultural aspects to the screen, showing us not only the story of Jamal, but also the cultural side of the story, the despair of those little children of Mumbai and the overall differences between our world and the world of Jamal's.

But still, for me it's a bit hard to put this movie on its place. Was this an extraordinary experience, being the best movie of the year? Exceeding all the others I have seen this past year or all the other Oscar nominees? I really don't know. But I sure will remember this one and appreciate the fact that the Oscar Committee went for a fresh movie this year, and gave hope to all of those low-budget film makers.

This film sure wasn't just a movie along others, since the story was so different and up to date. All the cultural aspects made it more believable and more colorful than most of the films that I have seen in the past year. The cast itself was amazing, all the actors and actresses being locals and the youngest children being the real children of the city of Mumbai, some of them from the slums themselves. This had a very important role as making the story come alive and to be more realistic. The cast actually made it so real that at times I thought I was watching a real documentary film rather than a movie. For saying this I also want to mention the cinematography, which was unbelievably colorful, strong and well implemented and I personally still have a lot of those vivid images in my mind.

So, if you are looking for a movie with a colorful cultural aspects and a new, fresh point of view, go see this one! I am sure you will enjoy!

Directed by Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan (co-director in India)
Written by Simon Beaufoy (screenplay) and Vikas Swarub (novel)
Cast Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan