Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Separation

The Oscars are tonight!  My husband and I are attending an Oscars party at a local theater tonight where we'll have the chance to submit our predictions to win free movie tickets for a year, so yesterday we did a little bit of research on the various nominees.  While perusing the nominees, we came across the Iranian film A Separation, which has been nominated for best foreign film.  My husband already had this one on DVD and, not having seen any of the foreign film nominees, we decided to watch it last night.  1 out of 5 is better than 0 out of 5, right?

A Separation is kind of the story of Nader and Simin, a middle-class Iranian couple who are separating.  Simin (the wife) has obtained a visa and wants to leave Iran to raise the couple's 10-year-old daughter elsewhere, but Nader does not want to leave behind his elderly father, who is suffering from Alzheimer's.  I say "kind of" because the film is not so much a story of Nader and Simin's separation, but their separation is more of the jumping-off point from which two families' lives begin to spin out of control.  Simin leaves Nader to stay with her parents, and Nader hires a lower-class woman, Razieh, to care for his father during the day.  One day, Nader returns home - Razieh is nowhere to be found, and his father is unattended and tied to a bed.  When Razieh returns to the home later, having been on an undisclosed errand, tempers flare.

Honestly, I am not sure what to say other than I thought this was a really well-done film.  It was a compelling story, full of twists.  Actually, calling them "twists" makes them sound more dramatic when they actually were.  More like, small bits of information were revealed at crucial points, which keeps the audience guessing about what really happened and how.  I thought the story unfolded suspensefully and realistically.

I haven't seen any other of the foreign film nominees so by default, A Separation will get my vote tonight (even though it's favored anyway).  8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Artist

Despite all the Oscar buzz The Artist has been getting, I really didn't know much about it, other than the fact that it was silent.  Now having seen it, I really don't understand why it's getting so much buzz.  The Artist takes place in the late 1920's/early 1930's, a time when silent film was beginning to decline and to be replaced with "talkies."  It mainly focuses on the crossover stories of silent film actor George Valentin and "talkie" actress Peppy Miller.  I mostly enjoyed watching this movie, but was left with a feeling of "so what?" after it was over.

I saw The Artist two days ago and still haven't though of much to say about it, so instead of trying to eke out a review of this movie I really didn't have much feeling about one way or the other, I'm going to direct you to this other review that my husband found, which sums up both of our feelings pretty well:

So go!  Read!  Enjoy!  And in case you're wondering, my rating is a 6/10.  Meh.  But if you ask me, George's dog was the best part of the movie and deserves a 10/10 for his supporting actor role.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Eden Lake

AKA: The Worst Camping Trip Ever

I feel like I'm going to have a hard time rating this movie, because I thought it was very well-done but I pretty much hated watching it.  My husband had recently seen this and said that he'd thought that I would like it.  About a third of the way into it last night, I said to him, "Why, exactly did you think I would like this one?!"

In Eden Lake, Steve (Michael Fassbender! who, while frequently topless, doesn't go full frontal in this one, sadly enough) takes his girlfriend Jenny to a secluded lake in the woods for what should be a romantic camping trip.   A band of young hooligans (probably 14 years old or so?) arrives, boombox in tow; Steve asks them to keep it down, and the weekend quickly goes downhill from there.  Steve's car goes missing the next day and when Steve and Jenny track it down, they not surprisingly find that that the gang of youngsters has it.  A scuffle ensues and Steve accidentally kills the kids' dog.  The hooligans are pissed and vow revenge, and Steve and Jenny must run for their lives.  If you thought things went downhill fast before, they really go downhill once Steve and Jenny are being mercilessly pursued through the dark and deserted woods.  This is what makes up the latter two thirds of the movie.  This one is not for the faint of heart.

The story unfolds in a very believable way, which is precisely why I found Eden Lake so scary to watch.  I'd imagine that many people in Steve and Jenny's position wouldn't think twice of asking some jerky 14-year olds to keep it down.  Hindsight is 20/20 and by the time Steve and Jenny realized exactly how maniacal these kids were, it was too late - they had already angered the beasts.  I've never been a camper, and now after seeing Eden Lake I feel justified in my non-campingness.  This is the one thing that I can take solace in.  Sure, not to say that I will never be pursued by a band of 14-year old hooligans, but at least if that happens I won't be at a secluded lake in the woods. 

As I said earlier, I do think Eden Lake was well made, but it was a really rough watch.  It's hard to separate the two to come up with a rating, but I think I'll give it a 7 out of 10 - with the caveat that I never want to watch this movie again.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Grey


I didn't particularly want to see this movie.  I was mildly interested, mainly because I'd seen and liked Liam Neeson in other action movies, but man vs. wolves action flick?  Didn't think it was my cup of tea.  But alas, I found myself with an afternoon to kill while my husband was at work, and The Grey seemed like the least of all evils playing at the theater.  BUT HOLY CRAP I LOVED THIS MOVIE.

Liam Neeson stars as Ottway, a broken-down "wolf killer" - his job is to stand guard around oil crews, and shoot any wolves that get too close.  On a flight back from a job, the plane carrying Ottway and the scummy crew of oil workers crashes somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Alaska.  Most of the passengers die immediately, but Ottway and 6 others survive.  It is very, very cold outside.  And there are many, many wolves.  And the wolves are not happy about the intruders on their territory.  Ottway is the only one of the survivors with any knowledge of wolves and their habits.  He tries his damnedest to lead the motley crew to safety, but the ranks dwindle rapidly.  Ultimately, it comes down to the alpha male vs. the alpha wolf in a battle to the death.

There was lots of blood and gore but The Grey also had a tenderness to it that moved me to tears on several occasions.   It was an intense story that was well written and well acted against a starkly beautiful backdrop off the sub-freezing Alaskan wilderness.  In the past, I remember enjoying the Liam Neeson movies I've seen, but not thinking he was a particularly skilled actor.  In The Grey I thought he played the role of Ottway perfectly - soulfully, chillingly, and heartbreakingly.  I read that the role of Ottway was originally cast with Bradley Cooper and I feel like The Grey would have been a completely different movie if that had been the case.

I think what I loved most about The Grey was how brave it was, in that it rejects the idea of a savior and shies away from cliched, happy endings.  There is no God in this movie; every man must do for himself.  Ottway wants to believe in a God that will save him, but it is just man vs. wolf.  It's up to him to strap broken bottles to his hands and step into the fray. 

I keep writing more and then deciding I don't know what I'm talking about, and deleting it.  I feel like I can't adequately express my feelings on this movie because I loved it so much!  Which means I should probably cut this off now, so I'll just say that I haven't stopped thinking about The Grey since I saw it.  Enthusiastic 9/10.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Love and Other Drugs

When the cat's away, the mouse will play.  And so it came to be that I found myself watching Love and Other Drugs, while my husband, the lover of arthouse, foreign, and independent cinema, was away for work.

And you know what?  It wasn't that bad.  Love and Other Drugs stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie, a drug rep for Pfizer in the mid-90's, hawking his wares of Prozac and Zoloft across the Midwest, in the hope of making it to the big city: Chicago.  In the course of his sales, he meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a 26-year old photographer and Parkinson's patient.  Jamie and Maggie both have a strong initial attraction and they embark on a mostly sexual relationship.  Their sexual relationship inevitably takes a turn for the more serious.

At a meeting for Parkinson's patients, Jamie meets an older husband of a wife with Stage 4 Parkinson's, who pulls no punches when describing what the future of caring for someone with Parkinson's may look like.  Following their discussion, Jamie makes it his personal mission to find a cure for Maggie, dragging her across the county for one experimental treatment after the next.  Maggie realizes that Jamie may not be equipped to handle the reality of being in love with a sick person.  The two sadly part ways.  But not to worry, there is a happy ending. 

Gyllenhaal and Hathaway play their parts well and have a pretty good on-screen chemistry.  Parts of the story felt forced, and a few parts seemed somewhat extraneous, but for the most part the script and story flowed well.  I'm going with a 6 out of 10.