Archive for March, 2010

28 Mar 2010

Chloe

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Like what Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook”) did to revive the sweeping romance, independent film director Atom Egoyan (“Where the Truth Lies”) looks to do the same to the erotic/thriller. With his new film “Chloe,” Egoyan injects an overwhelming amount of emotion and passion rarely seen in cinema today, taking viewers on a familiar, yet fully engrossing journey.

Amanda Seyfried stars as the michvious call girl Chloe in the new erotic/thriller', "Chloe." Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Based on the 2004 French foreign film “Nathalie…,” “Chloe” takes a look into the strained marriage of gynecologist Catherine (Julianne Moore, “A Single Man”) and her husband, professor David Stewart (Liam Neeson, “Taken”). Suspicious of her husband’s habits of always flirting with other women, Catherine, in a state of dire curiosity and desperation, hires a call girl named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried, “Dear John”) to test David’s fidelity. When Chloe reveals the surprising results of her first meeting with David, Catherine requests that Chloe keep seeing her husband to see how far he will go. As the encounters continue and Chloe gets more wrapped up in the affairs of the Stewarts, Catherine and David’s relationship is pushed to the edge.

Very few genres are as hard to tackle as the erotic thriller. Such movies as “Fatal Attraction” and “Basic Instinct” defined the genre in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s because of their twisting story and undeniably hot female leads. As of recent though, the genre has become more of a farce, as seen in last year’s look at an over-exaggerated obsession in “Obsessed.” Returning to the basics of the genre, mixing mystery with attraction while building suspense, “Chloe” works because of the acting, pacing, and overall feel of the film.

Instead of concentrating on thrill of an affair, Egoyan sets the drama and emotion of the characters as the main focus. Moore’s role as Catherine is the heart of the film. At first her character seems to want to test her husband out of spite, but as she learns more and more about Chloe’s encounters with her David, she forms a strange bond with the call girl. The spite has now turned into yearning. Yearning for a deeper connection with her husband, that is found in the woman he is being tempted into infidelity by. The instability and tentative nature that Moore creates is more captivating than any performance she has given in the past.

Leading Catherine and her family into torment is Seyfried in the role of her young career. Beauty is the primary key to her lure, but it is her gentle and innocent nature that makes the seduction more intense. Early in the film she says, “I try to find something to love in everyone,” when talking with Catherine about being a call girl. It becomes obvious that she does this just to get by, but is longing for a lasting connection. Whether it is David, who actually plays a somewhat small role in the film, Catherine, or even the couple’s son Michael (Max Thieriot, “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl), Chloe will do whatever it takes to find that special bond.

Through the character interactions in “Chloe,” Egoyan has created a much more reserved and mature “Obsessed,” that utilizes the vulgar nature that the 2004 drama “Closer” used to bring shock value. Many of the film’s conversations involve dialogue of graphic sexual acts or the longing for such. The sex scenes themselves are filmed in an intensely passionate manner, creating an almost unnerving feeling at times. The ability of the camera to capture the moment on the actors faces is what truly makes the scenes work.

Watching “Chloe” is somewhat of a draining experience. Even though what the characters go through may seem contrary to ordinary life, Egoyan makes the experience so vivid, it seems non-fictional. Not a movie for the faint-of-heart, “Chloe” is a fascinating piece of cinematic art, crafted by a man whose love for the genre is admirable.

You can listen to the Movies and the Briss podcast review of “Chloe” by clicking here.

‘Chloe’
Release Date: Mar. 26
Director: Atom Egoyan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, and Amanda Seyfried
Rated: R for strong sexual content including graphic dialogue, nudity and language.
Grade: B+

25 Mar 2010

Podcast: Repo Men

No Comments Podcast Reviews, Reviews

This week on Movies and the Briss, Jay and special guest critic Anna Belickis from Yorktwon, NY talk about the new sci-fi/thriller “Repo Men.” For Jay’s written review of the film, click here.

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

22 Mar 2010

Repo Men

No Comments Reviews

Jude Law and Forrest Whitaker star in Universal's sci-fi/action movie , "Repo Men." Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Three months into 2010 and the tenth movie based on a book has already been released in theaters. With few good original ideas left, one would think Hollywood would adapt only the most acclaimed and popular novels. One can think many a thing, but with the arrival of “Repo Men,” based off the little-known 2009 novel “The Repossession Mambo,” it is clear that as long as the source material has an intriguing and marketable premise, it can and will be made into a movie.

To make sure the film was faithful to the novel, “The Repossession Mambo” writer Eric Garcia (“Matchstick Men”) also assisted in penning the screenplay. Set in the near future, “Repo Men” details a world in which any human organ can be artificially made and one company, The Union, runs a monopoly on creating and distributing those units. Not surprisingly, many people qualify for the transplants, but few have the money to actually pay for them though.

No worries though, The Union is willing to work with those in need by setting up payments to best suit their interests. If those payments become too much to bear though, The Union will gladly sick its highly trained unit of repo men on recipients to repossess that organ that was most likely keeping them alive.

The man most likely to pay those fiscally challenged recipients a visit is Remy, The Union’s top repo man. On a routine retrieval, Remy (Jude Law, “Sherlock Holmes”) is shocked into a coma by a faulty defibrillator, and wakes up to find himself with a new artificial heart. In the situation of countless of others that he has dealt with in the past, Remy is now forced to make the payments or else be repossessed himself.

“Repo Men” stands as the quintessential example of a high concept movie. High concept flicks are based around plots that can be summarized into one sentence, rely on typical formulaic conventions to build characters and are filled with plenty of action or suspense to make viewers forget how clichéd the whole film is. Such films as the ridiculously awesome “Snakes on a Plane” and just plain ridiculous “Night at the Museum” are also classic high concept examples.

In this extreme case, not even legendary bad-ass Samuel L. “Mother F’ing” Jackson could have made the flimsy premise work. Garcia’s glamorized look at an evil healthcare industry carriers the same age-old tale that “Avatar” took so much crap for a few months ago. It is the story of guy, working for the ill-intentioned side, who after a life changing event, realizes his wrongs and fights for those who he or his people might have harmed.

While James Cameron was able to create a relatable main character that viewers could enjoy rooting for in “Avatar,” Garcia’s hero is just too flawed to give a damn about. In the first half hour viewers see Remy ruthlessly rip hearts and kidneys out of dozens of people and then walk away as his victims are left to die. Once the tables are turned, it only seems just that he have the same done to him.

In his first feature film, director Miguel Sapochnik fulfills the high concept ideal by backing the weak premise with plenty of action, or in this film’s case, gore. Creators of the “Saw” series will squeal with joy when they see the somewhat disturbing overuse of blood spattering and mutilated bodies in “Repo Men.” Some may get a kick out of how violent the action sequences really are, but most will find watching the repeated act of men getting stabbed and then slashed open somewhat unnecessary.

Come the end when almost every plot development has been able to be predicted, Sapochnik throws in one of the most aggravating plot twists known in cinematic history. Though the twist in general is a nice surprise, it is just one more middle finger to viewers. Not even sci-fi genre regular Law, in a commendable commanding lead performance, or Oscar winner Forrest Whitaker (“Our Family Wedding”) can redeem the many pitfalls of this Spring dump release.

Putting “Repo Men” into perspective, it is nowhere near as awful as Whitaker’s “Battlefield Earth,” which recently won the Razzie for Worst Picture of the Decade, but almost as bad as Law’s nearly un-watchable “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.”

You can listen to the Movies and the Briss podcast review of “Repo Men” by clicking here.

‘Repo Men’
Release Date: March 19
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Starring: Jude Law, Forrest Whitaker and Liev Schreiber
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity
Grade: D

05 Mar 2010

Who should win? Who will win? Insight's Oscar predictions

No Comments Opinion, Oscars, Published Work

Kathryn Bigelow's "Hurt Locker" is nominated for nine Oscars. The Academy Awards will be shown 5 p.m. Sunday on ABC.Best Picture
Nominees: Avatar, The Blind SideDistrict 9An EducationThe Hurt LockerInglourious BasterdsPreciousA Serious ManUp and Up in the Air

Will Win: The Hurt Locker

- “Avatar” has everything except the story. When it comes down to it, the Academy should award the most well rounded film instead of the most revolutionary.

Side Note: With all the scandals surrounding “The Hurt Locker” over the final week of voting and the general love for “Avatar,” I would not call an “Avatar” win an upset.

Should Win: The Hurt Locker or An Education

- While “The Hurt Locker” has everything a winner should, “An Education” packed a greater emotional punch, is more relatable and, let’s face it, it’s more enjoyable.

 

Best Director
Nominees: Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Lee Daniels, Jason Reitman and Quentin Tarantino

Will Win: Kathryn Bigelow

- With the chance to make history in becoming the first female to win the Best Director prize, as well as the fact she made one hell of a movie, voters won’t pass up the opportunity to award her.

Should Win: Kathryn Bigelow or James Cameron

- I’m not going to say that Bigelow doesn’t deserve the prize, because she does.  It’s hard to deny though that no director worked as long or as passionately on his or her movie than Cameron.

 

Best Actor

Nominees: Jeff Bridges “Crazy Heart,” George Clooney “Up in the Air,” Colin Firth “A Single Man,” Morgan Freeman “Invictus” and Jeremy Renner “The Hurt Locker”

Will Win: Jeff Bridges

- “Crazy Heart” is “The Wrestler” with country music replacing wrestling. Mickey Rourke lost last year. Jeff Bridges, whose role is arguably just as heartfelt and fascinating as Rourke’s, will get it this year because of weaker competition.

Should Win: Jeff Bridges

- Bridges is one cool Dude, who has deserved an Oscar for years now.
Side Note: I will always maintain that it is complete B.S. that Matt Damon didn’t get any recognition this awards season for his multi-layered and extremely quirky role in “The Informant.”

 

Best Actress

Nominees: Sandra Bullock “The Blind Side,” Helen Mirren “The Last Station,” Carey Mulligan “An Education,” Gabourey Sidibe “Precious” and Meryl Streep “Julie & Julia”

Will Win: Sandra Bullock

- There is a consensus among many who have spent years covering or working in the filmmaking industry that Bullock is one of the most fun and kind actors/actresses to work with. Even if she gave just a good, not great, performance, voters would love to see her win.

Should Win: Carey Mulligan

- A true victim of the Academy’s bias towards veterans. Mulligan gave one of the most inspiring and believable female performances of the last decade and it is a shame she has been left in the dust of Bullock and Streep.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Matt Damon “Invictus,” Woody Harrelson “The Messenger,” Christopher Plummer “The Last Station,” Stanley Tucci “The Lovely Bones” and Christoph Waltz “Inglourious Basterds”

Will Win: Christoph Waltz

- Like Heath Ledger last year and Javier Bardem the year before, no performance was as commanding and engrossing. Many will agree this category was locked up when “Basterds” debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last May.

Should Win: Christoph Waltz

- To put it simply, his role was a BINGO!

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Penelope Cruz “Nine,” Vera Farmiga “Up in the Air,” Maggie Gyllenhaal “Crazy Heart,” Anna Kendrick “Up in the Air” and Mo’Nique “Precious”

Will Win: Mo’Nique

- Like Waltz, she has won nearly every award leading up to the Oscars. Anyone upsetting her in this field would be a bigger shock than “Crash’s” surprise win in 2005. Maybe…

Should Win: Mo’Nique

- Scary as hell and believably twisted, Mo’Nique’s performance highlighted the very grim “Precious.” Its one of those performances that will haunt your dreams.

 

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, The Messenger, A Serious Man and Up

Will Win: Inglourious Basterds

- For a reason that I will never understand, people love Tarantino’s writing. According to those people, (and himself in the last scene of the film) this is his masterpiece. Like Bullock, he is pretty well loved in Hollywood, so if “The Hurt Locker” doesn’t sweep, Quentin is the Academy’s go-to guy.

Should Win: The Hurt Locker

- The movie starts out with a seemingly ridiculous quote, “War is a drug.” Crack Cocaine is a drug, not a process in which countless people are killed! But I’ll be damned, that quote makes sense when the credits role. Mission accomplished.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: District 9, An Education, In the Loop, Precious and Up in the Air

Will Win: Up in the Air

- Socially relevant and insightful, “Up in the Air,” is the right movie at the right time. It, like the other sure-fire bets, appears to be a lock due to its pre-Oscar success.

Should Win: An Education

- Nick Hornby’s thoughtful and heart-warming adaptation is one of those plots that allow viewers to experience the entire spectrum of human emotions during the film’s two-hour run-time.

Side Note: Like Damon in “The Informant”, it is absurd that “(500) Days of Summer’s” unique and intelligent take on modern relationships has not been recognized in its respective category.

 

The “Grow-a-Pair” upset pick of the night

Upset: “The Hurt Locker” winning Cinematography over “Avatar”

- So this is hardly a guarantee, but if there were 20/1 odds at the sports book on this, I would throw $20 down in a heartbeat. The obvious choice for this category is the revolutionary game-changer “Avatar,” that really does deserve any technical award Hollywood can give it. But… As seen in last year’s Oscar winning juggernaut “Slumdog Millionaire,” Academy voters can and will give their favorite nominee all the awards they can give it, even if the film isn’t generally considered the best in certain categories. That nominee could very well be “The Hurt Locker” this year, which has repeatedly been praised for its controlled and patient hand-held camerawork.