Recent Movie Reviews

by Ed Lau on March 7, 2007

So I thought I’d post a couple thoughts on a few movies I’ve watched in the past few weeks. I love movies and will watch just about anything. Seriously, sometimes I will watch the worst movies just for a laugh and to make fun of them afterwards. The Fast and the Furious for example, is an absolutely horrible movie but it’s also one of my favorites because it’s so totally horrible. True story.

Babel

This movie was a strong contender for the Best Picture award at the Academy Awards earlier this year and it’s not hard to see why. It’s just the kind of art house movie with big stars putting forth great performances that the Academy likes. However, it’s not the kind of movie that most of us normal people would want to watch. Let me explain.

Let me start by saying I’m a bit torn between absolutely loving this movie and thinking it’s the most boring load of drivel I’ve ever seen. I admit that is a wide spectrum but this is the kind of movie Babel is. It is incredibly slow moving and you are inconceivably bored watching it but you find that you can’t really stop watching it. I was strangely captivated by this movie despite the story that moves slower than snails stuck in super glue. You just can’t look away.

Most of this is due to the brilliant performances all around. Every scene is just heart wrenching and you feel like your chest is going to explode. If you’re patient enough to sit through the strangely timed sequences (much like 21 Grams, another film from director Alejandro Gonzalez), you’re rewarded with some of the most wonderfully expressive and heartbreaking performances in movies this year.

The stand-out is definitely Rinko Kikuchi as Chieko, a deaf-mute Japanese schoolgirl who’s struggling to deal with the suicide of her mother and how the world treats her as an ‘other’. She is phenomenal and although I haven’t seen Dreamgirls, it is a tragedy that she did not win Best Supporting Actress. There aren’t many actresses that can be as expressive and convey as much conflict as she can even though she barely says a word. Everytime Chieko is on screen, I guarantee you will be captivated and shocked.

Out of the four main storylines of Babel, Chieko’s seems the most out of place and fittingly, it is the most interesting and vibrant. Some of the finest cinematography of the past year takes place in the Japanese setting in this movie. The one that will pop out at you is the scene where Chieko walks through the nightclub. It’s just a beautiful experience.

I’m not really going to bother to talk about the rest of the movie since it isn’t all that interesting. Brad Pitt and Adriana Barraza also give very good performances and while I’d warn you to not watch Babel while you want to sleep, I do recommend watching it. Oh, not because you will be put to sleep…but you will be kept up while wanting to.

Stranger Than Fiction

I was really rooting for Will Ferrell since I seriously enjoy it when comic actors take a serious role to prove themselves as more than just a one trick pony. Jim Carrey, for example, is a great actor despite the difficulty many people have with taking him seriously. Robin Williams is far better as an actor in a serious role than in a comic one. Will Ferrell is much the same and he proves here that he doesn’t need to be streaking or on fire or yelling for meatloaf to get the audience’s attention.

Stranger Than Fiction is about Harold Crick, an IRS agent who hears a British lady narrating his life…with better vocabulary. Yes, it is strange and no, it is never explained how the heck this could be. It is the same kind of mindf**k as you get from movies such as Being John Malkovich and it is compounded when we learn, early on, that the woman narrating Harold’s life is a real person in the same reality that is writing a book about him. Yes, feel free to watch the entire movie with a “WTF!?” expression on your face. I think that’s what they were going for.

Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a light and delicate performance as Ana, a tattooed baker that Harold audits and Emma Thompson is actually very funny as a chain-smoking, offensive author of the book. While Dustin Hoffman doesn’t do anything wrong, he is rather forgettable just like Queen Latifah’s entirely useless character.

The following movie is an expression about what it means to live and the morals and responsibility of art. I’m not going to spoil more of the movie for you. If you get movies, you’ll seriously enjoy watching this film. It’s not hilarious but it’s not supposed to be. That’s just not the point.

Smokin’ Aces

Normally, there’s no way you’d pry me away from a movie like this. Tons of gangsters and hitmen with guns and grenades and chainsaws just spells awesome. Look at movies like Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as examples of said awesome. Heck, the movie even has Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta and Andy Garcia in it. It had Alicia Keys being hot. Smokin’ Aces had everything going for it.

But it fails at just about everything. A lot. Honestly, it was almost boring except for a few hilariously terrible scenes. The entire movie feels disjointed and god, the explanation at the end for all the freakin’ trouble is so convoluted and stupid that it’s almost insulting. The only people that might enjoy this film are the ones who didn’t get it.

For one thing, I think it simply doesn’t go big enough. If you’re going to make a film like this, you have to go all out. The cast is decent and the premise (other than the ridiculous ending) is prime action movie. However, why on earth would you set it in Lake Tahoe?! This is a VEGAS movie and it even starts in LV. If there’s one thing this movie could’ve used, it would have to be a big dose of the happiest place on earth…the Vegas. For those of you who had to sit through this movie, imagine how much better it would be if they simply set it in Vegas?

Secondly, the movie takes itself too seriously. It’s not a smart enough script to be Pulp Fiction nor are there enough British people in it to make it Snatch. The final scene just blew me away as to how much they screwed up this movie. They try to be entirely too dramatic when all that would be needed to save this movie would be…well, on second though…probably nothing would’ve save this from being a stinker. It’s really too bad since it could’ve been great.

The Departed

I was going to write something up for this but hey, there are only so many ways to say “The Chinese version, Infernal Affairs, is much better.”. Besides, it’s really not fair since who does Hong Kong action better than…Hong Kong?

in Entertainment

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl March 7, 2007 at 11:16 pm

I was thinking of watching Babel, but now that you mentioned it’s from the same director as 21 Grams.. forget it.

And you really think The Departed is worse than Infernal Affairs huh? Wow… wow

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Kenny March 7, 2007 at 11:55 pm

Love the summary of The Departed, I just picked this up in a dvd/hd-dvd combo box. I’m not expecting much but decided to play movie catch up as well.

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Leo March 8, 2007 at 12:05 am

Babel was so depressing I wanted to stab myself in the eye. I also couldn’t help constantly thinking how stupid the characters were in the many, “why the hell did they do that!?!” situations.

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Crying November 8, 2007 at 7:28 pm

I don’t know i really did not like stranger than fiction at all. It put me right to sleep, i agree about babel though. :) Yeah…

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