Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quick Movie Reviews, 1/27/10

Hi all, here are some quick thoughts on movies I've seen in the past few weeks. Apologies again for my brevity.

Movie Review: An Education

For the majority of this awards season, An Education has been touted as one of the top films of the year, and that Carey Mulligan’s turn as Jenny deserves the Best Actress Oscar. So, partially because of my crippling addiction to these ceremonies and partially due to my affinity for female performances, I went to see An Education with high hopes. Although I found it to be a strong film, I was not as impressed as I would have liked to be. For all its charm and British wit, the story never rises above a typical coming-of-age tale and Jenny’s growth as a character never taxes Mulligan as much as it could have. Therefore, I’m left with a charming story, an endearing performance from Mulligan, but nothing spectacular. An Education is certainly worth seeing, but nothing worth writing Oscar about.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Movie Review: Broken Embraces

Pedro Almodovar has always been the master of manipulation. He takes his audiences on a journey—frequently leading them one way and then pulling the rug out from under them. One never knows where an Almodovar script is going until it gets there. In films like Volver and Bad Education, the twists come unexpectedly and powerfully. Although Broken Embraces is a strong film, it is all too aware of its tricky behavior. More often than not, I found myself predicting character flaws and betrayals only to see them play out as I expected. Conversely, the film serves as an excellent commentary on the state of cinema and male obsession—in this movie, the obsession deals with making a movie and making love to a woman. Penelope Cruz gives one of her all-time best performances as Lena, the object of male desire. Broken Embraces is, in a way, a broken film: fragmented, flawed, but still full of power and beauty.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Movie Review: Precious (Insert Long Subtitle Here)

I have a hard time motivating people to see Precious. Admittedly, the subject matter is a bit of a downer. Who wants to go see a film about a sixteen year old girl, abused by both of her parents? That's what I thought. Yet, Precious is such an emotional and honest portrayal of this girl's life that it almost merits mandatory viewing. I left with the urge to be more compassionate and understanding because, as the movie shows, you never know what someone is hiding. Please see this movie. Mo'Nique lives up to the hype and Gabourey Sidibe is outstanding in the title role.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Movie Review: Avatar

I wish I had more time to devote to this review, but sadly I do not. Suffice to say, Avatar is the most visually stunning and imaginative movie I have seen since Star Wars. True, the storyline (man vs. nature, etc.) is rehashed from other films, but that plot only serves to tell a greater story--the story of Pandora. Pandora, the planet in the film, is perhaps the creative achievement of the decade and James Cameron has beautifully rendered this world. And although the story is perhaps more clich├ęd, that doesn't stop it from being constantly gripping. Sure, you can guess how the movie turns out, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy the ride. Filmmaking this beautiful and ambitious deserves praise, despite its flaws.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

Yes, this movie came out months ago, but I finally saw it to prepare myself for Oscar season. Hence the delayed review. The Hurt Locker is an intense, suspenseful, and honest look at the war in Iraq. Director Kathryn Bigelow is a master at ramping up the tension and creates some of the most ingenious scenes I've seen all year. Furthermore, this is one of the most thought-provoking films I've seen this year. Definitely worth the praise that it has been receiving.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Movie Review: Up in the Air

Don't believe the previews. Without spoiling anything, I went into this film with certain expectations and was completely surprised with how the movie defied my preconceptions. In a good way. George Clooney has never been more roguishly charming, and Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga shine as the film's supporting characters. More than anything, the film serves as a poignant and relevant commentary on the state of our society. Plus, it's a fascinating character study. Worth seeing, but only go with the expectation to be moved.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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