RESTREPO

July 25, 2010

I had an opportunity to screen the documentary Restrepo, which is getting a lot of media attention.  The film follows a platoon during the 15 months it is stationed in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.  It’s scheduled to open August 6 in Charlotte, but I’m not certain about a release date for the Triad, so keep an eye out.

I think this is an important film.  The title comes from the name of a medic in the platoon who is killed shortly after their tour begins, and Restrepo the film conveys the simultaneous tedium and tension of life at war and also demonstrates the complete cultural disconnect between US soldiers and the Afghans living in the area.

I must say I thought it was a little thin on character development.  The two filmmakers, Tim Heatherington and Sebastian Junger spent a total of ten months sometimes separately and other times together with the troops then conducted interviews with them after they completed the tour.  The interviews do help add context, so that was a good choice.  The whole enterprise, as presented by the filmmakers, seems futile.

History suggests the same.

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KICK-ASS

July 23, 2010

If you are easily offended, don’t watch this movie.  If you’re open-minded and thick-skinned, Kick-Ass is one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in ages.  Director (and co-writer) Matthew Vaughn proved he knows how to make a movie that packs a wallop with Layer Cake, and this latest offering meets (and may exceed) high expectations.

Kick-Ass offers a totally new look at the comic book hero.  Well, at least, sort of.  The film explores what happens when a nerdy teenager who loves comic books puts on a mail-order costume and starts acting like a superhero.  Things really take off when a father-daughter team suits up and joins him to fight the bad guys.

The tone is just right for what this film is – and it is not for children – but I laughed a lot, and the film took me along for the ride from start to finish.  Kick-Ass is scheduled to come out on DVD August 3.  I might just watch it again…


INCEPTION

July 22, 2010

Inception is good.  It’s creative – one of the few original films out this summer that is neither a sequel nor an adaption.  Writer-Director Christopher Nolan could probably have made any film he wanted after the success of The Dark Knight, and he chose a challenging tale about a team of people who go into the dreams of others for various purposes.

While I appreciate the complexity of Nolan’s narrative and the look of the film, I didn’t find the same amount of intellectual stimulation with Inception as in some of the classics of the genre it’s been compared to like 2001 A Space Odyssey and Bladerunner or, for that matter, two sci fi films I really liked from last year, Moon and District 9.

That’s not to say those are better films; I’m not making that argument.  I’m simply saying that those films make me think more about the human condition and think about it more expansively than Inception does.  Now, having said that, Denise, Inception may be getting such gushing reviews in some quarters because there’s just not much out there to see this summer.  I think the offerings are pretty slim.


THE GHOST WRITER

July 13, 2010

The Ghost Writer is coming out on DVD August 3, but with two opinion writers I respect writing completely different takes on the news that Switzerland will not extradite Roman Polanski to the USA to stand trial on a decades-old rape charge, it seems a fitting time to talk about the film and its director.

Richard Cohen offers a somewhat surprising set of arguments for why Swiss courts have done the right thing http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/07/thank_you_switzerland_for_free.html while his colleague Eugene Robinson echoes the feelings of many others who written and talked about the reasons why the director should have to pay for his crime http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/12/AR2010071203021.html.

I confess that until the recent coverage of new events in the case, I had not given much thought to Polanski in recent years.  Yes, Chinatown and The Pianist are remarkable films.  And, yes, no one should be above the law.

Even so, I did go see The Ghost Writer.  I did something I don’t always do so well and compartmentalized by separating my thoughts about Roman Polanski the person from my impressions about the most recent film he had directed.

How was it?  The Ghost Writer reminded me of many of Hitchcock’s films:  the plot doesn’t matter much because it’s all about the form, and what he does with the form is exceptional.  For the visuals alone, the film is worth watching…if you choose to/are able to compartmentalize…


THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES

July 6, 2010

If you haven’t seen the Argentine film The Secret in Their Eyes, that’s the must-see.  It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  I can’t say enough good things about this movie, but the fact is that I don’t want to tell you anything about it except to see it as soon as possible because I want you to see it without particular expectations.  Truly, this is the best film I’ve seen in months.


ECLIPSE

July 6, 2010

As previously stated, I’m no Twihard. I downloaded the first book in the series and found it repetitive and not particularly well-written.  I think I got through about a third of the book before I gave up, but I have given the films a chance anyway.  I sat through the first one thinking that I would have loved it when I was 13 or 14 years old.  I sat through the second one thinking it was cheesy and that it glorified teenage suicide in ways that disturbed me (see previous post).  I still have some concerns about what the movies say to young girls about gender roles and relationships, but I thought that Elipse was a better movie than the second one even though it is not gripping or consistently entertaining or particularly memorable or insightful in ways that might give me useful metaphors for thinking about the human condition.