Gone Baby Gone

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

4 GOOMBAS

Ever since Ben Affleck's bout with Jennifer (the first one), he's never been the same. Poor Ben. He just keeps getting crap for that unfortunate relationship mishap and the terrible film roles that followed. He will just never live it down. He's been compared to his brother from another mother, Matt Damon, who rose to star status together in their screenplay, Good Will Hunting, and sadly their success is incomparable. I thought he just needed Matt to help him pick out better roles. But with Affleck's directorial debut under his belot, I can't help but think that he's destined to call the shots, not be in them.

Starring Ben's baby brother, Casey Affleck, Gone Baby Gone features private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) hired to search for a missing local girl who's been kidnapped. Somewhat inexperienced but with some neighborhood street smarts, the couple try to unravel the case with grudging support from the local police.

First thing's first. Casey Affleck is hot in this movie. I think it's the tough guy attitude that got me interested. Michelle Monaghan's performance, however, was very weak. Her character was supposed to have been brought up in the hood, but she was wimpy and uncommitted to the role. One minute, she looked like she was about to bust a cap in someone's ass, and the next, she just stands there with an unconvincing, defiant look in her eye. She was completely wrong for the part, and although she brought some sensitivity to the character, it made Angie feeble and limited.

Ultimately, though, Gone Baby Gone's major thematic focus is on morality and the gray shadow that is often cast between the line of right and wrong. This is pretty good cinema, and even though it reached a pseudo climax, it was thought provoking and highlighted the harsh reality of life. Depicted in the situations and the character's choices, another movie never made life seem so unfair. Good movie; and not a sleeper.

Side note: Morgan Freeman plays the police captain, and I burst into hysterical laughter when he popped on screen in a uniform. It was such a surprise that for a split second I thought it was a spoof.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:11 PM 0 comments  

In the Valley of Elah

Monday, March 24, 2008

2 GOOMBAS

One day I noticed a new 'DVDPlay' kiosk at my local grocery store. I was briefly appalled. Apparently it dispenses DVD's without the embarrassment of having a teenager judge your movie watching habits, but have we sunk so low as a society to depend on a vending machine to provide our entertainment; my art? Curious, I investigated the machine with its touch pad screen and obnoxious "only 99 cents per day!" red signs. "What!?! It wants my credit card information?" Turned off I left the kiosk. What if it gave me the wrong movie? What if it wouldn't stop charging my credit card? What if someone hacked the machine and my identity got stolen. No, those machines were just too McDonaldized for me . . . but as I thought about it, the idea seemed more and more appealing; for those times where you went to the grocery store after work on a Friday night and wanted something fun to watch; for those times when the nearest Blockbuster or Hollywood Video was just too far away. So, I said "Japan probably does it, why not I?" So out popped In the Valley of Elah from its slot and here we are.

Starring Oscar-winning actress, Charleze Theron, and Tommy Lee Jones, who was nominated for his performance in this film, In The Valley of Elah is a commentary on the toll the Iraq war has taken on family, society, and our soldiers. Hank Deerfield is a retired military sergeant, and when his son, a Iraq War veteran officer, goes AWOL, he travels to his son's base to help investigate Mike's disappearance. Local police detective Emily Sanders (Theron) has been assigned this case, and together with Deerfield, they begin to uncover the seedy underbelly of current military life and put together the pieces of a broken case and a broken family.

Symbolic yet uninteresting, this film had a lot to say, but threw information at you so slowly, that it was easy to lose track of the ball. The message in the film was obvious; Iraq war bad. The soldiers' actions both on and off U.S. soil is telling. The men weren't necessarily bad, but something about the war just brought something out in them. It was so suggestive and provocative, in just the right way, but it was also kind of boring. I don't know what it is about the Oscar nominated films this year. Such yawners. I appreciated the message the movie had to offer, but In the Valley of Elah had bland characters and a dragging pace.

Some obvious symbolism and themes to look out for: the American flag on the pole, the woman with the drowned dog, the David and Goliath story, manhood, fatherhood, brotherhood. So in a nutshell, this film had a lot of ammunition but not enough kick. That's basically all I have to say on the film. The DVDPlay kiosk, though, is actually pretty neat.

Last week marked the five year anniversary of the Iraq War. 4,000 troops have been killed. How much longer?

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 12:42 PM 0 comments  

The Namesake

Friday, March 21, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

I think its common assumption that the person defines the name, but sometimes I wonder if the name defines the person. If I had been named Roxy, would I be more hip and cool? If I were named Prudence, would I be stern and mature? I mean, how a person's name fits just so perfectly sometimes is eerily bizarre, especially since most of us had nothing to do with what name was given to us. I’ll continue my argument with personal evidence. My whole life, I’ve been Jennifer del Rosario; “Jenn” for short. Two years ago, I was helping my mom clean out her garage and I found a copy of my original birth certificate. As I glanced at the name, to my horror, I noticed the following: (1) Jennifer was spelled “Jeniffer” and (2) my first name was “Jeniffer Jean.” I am so not a Jennifer Jean, let alone a “Jeniffer” Jean. What were my parent’s thinking? And can you imagine what I would have been like if I grew up as a Jennifer Jean and not a Jenn? I’m convinced that I’d be a completely different person. I guess we’ll never know.

Well, The Namesake sort of explores this same concept. The Namesake is a multi-generational film that begins with the marriage of Ashok and Ashima, a traditional Indian couple; they move to the States, where Ashima has trouble adjusting, but before long, they begin to have a family. They had to wait for their grandparents to choose a name for their first born son, so they give him the temporary name, Gogol, after a distinguished writer. Because of their Indian heritage, a second "good name" was later given to Gogol; Nikolai; "Nick" for short. As a child, their son argued and fought to be called Gogol instead of his more American name. However, as he got older, he grew tired of the clunky name and his Indian heritage. He started to call himself "Nick" and he began to pushed his family and his culture away.

I related to this movie in so many ways. Regardless of your cultural background, if you're first generation American, family life can be tough. Gogol/Nick is supposed to be American, yet he’s supposed to be Indian. You can't live the blended cultural lifestyle that you want because society makes it "either/or." So I get what Nick/Gogol is going through, but all the same, he was such a disrespectful prick. What a weeny of a character. I wanted to smack him upside the head and yell "respect your parents!" Actually, I did yell that at the TV screen. The Namesake had a lot of the basic family dynamic themes compounded with typical immigrant issues. It addressed the problems that newlyweds encounter and issues that arise from a father-son relationship, but it also made a point to explore the common hardships that immigrant families face.

However, with the above said, this wasn’t necessarily great film. I have a tendency to look positively on movies that address these themes, but the story-telling in The Namesake was very unbalanced. I think the filmmakers meant to make this an ensemble cast type of film, but it wasn’t very clear. Sometimes they focused on the mother, then the father, and then the son, but the points of view were very disproportional. The Namesake mainly focused on Gogol/Nick, but at the same time not.

Nick is a completely different person from Gogol, and he knew it. So after watching this film, my argument earlier remains the same. It isn’t just a name. It’s who you are, and it can define you. Just don’t let The Namesake define your opinion on a good flick.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 4:32 PM 0 comments  

Away From Her

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

2.5 GOOMBAS

When I was little, my mom use to own a Board and Care, which is sort of like a nursing home. It was just a normal one-story house with four bed rooms and it housed six elderly “clients.” There was this one 80-year-old man named Manuel. He always wore this bright yellow baseball cap and loved to walk around the house in a speedy-like manner. He never had a destination. He just liked to keep moving. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to know him because he didn’t really understand who or what I was. He had Alzheimer’s disease, and because he loved to walk, he’d sometimes make a break for it; he’d leave the house, wander the streets, and sadly, get lost. As a kid, I just assumed that this was what came with getting old; memory loss, but as I got older I started to understand the magnitude of that loss.

Unlike The Notebook’s sappy interpretation of Alzheimer's mercilessness, Away From Her brings humanity and reality to the disease. Staring a very classy Julie Christie and television actor, Gorden Pinset, Fiona and Grant are an older couple still terribly in love. Tragically, Fiona is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and she makes the decision to move into a nursing home for those in her condition. However, the nursing home’s policy is that residents have no visitors or phone calls for 30 days. For Grant, that was the tipping point. He didn’t want her there, let alone be away from her for more than a few days. Fiona is persistent with her decision, and Grant grudging leaves her there. Sadly, when Grant returns on the 31st day, Fiona no longer remembers him and has formed a new bond with another resident.

As much as I felt the love between Grant and Fiona, the movie had mixed messages. It illustrated all the sanctity of love and devotion, yet showed where how it faltered. He loves her and would give her anything that would make her happy, but he wasn't always faithful. There was a nurse who befriends Grant during his loneliness, yet at times belittles him. There's this woman who Grant starts hanging out with, and she despises him and is whole-heartedly rude to him. Yet the next thing you know, she asks him out on a date. All the while, Fiona is in this nursing home because she doesn't think her husband could handle taking care of her, but the effect of being apart is causing more stress to Grant and no real help to Fiona's health. (Don't worry folks; no spoilers here. All this stuff is in the trailer). There is a very real possibility that the filmmakers were going for a human flaw theme, which is entirely feasible. However, these contradicting situations, left me frustrated, let down, and miserable. Lastly, I think the ending was suppose to be hopeful, but with all the happenings, it just sort of left me uneasy and nervous about my future as a senior citizen.


One day, when I'm old a gray, I hope that I'd have a husband as devoted to me as Grant is, sans the unfaithfulness. But as beautiful a this love story wanted to be, it just wasn't. My take: stay away from it.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 4:00 PM 0 comments  

Michael Clayton

Friday, March 14, 2008

2.5 GOOMBAS

I thought that since my last post started with Brad, my next post might as well start with his good friend George. As a kid, my favorite ER doctor was Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle), but that was probably because he was closer to my age than George. As I got older, I started to appreciate Clooney's salt and pepper hair, effortless charm, and movie star good looks. And the best part yet is, he doesn't jump on couches professing his love for a woman 20 years his junior, he doesn't attempt to single-handedly adopt one child from every country, he doesn't preach pre-Vatican 2 practices (yet at least). He seems just kind of down-to-earth. Even when he plays a selfish prick, he still seems normal - and dreamy. So that's all the good I have to say about Mr. Clooney. Michael Clayton, on the other hand, is a slimy, lowly lawyer who seems like he's out for redemption. I don't like him.

The film starts with Clayton gambling away his dirty corporate dollars at a seedy, back room poker table. When he leaves and takes a drive, he fatefully exits his car to look at some horses, and then something unexpected happens. Then the movie takes you back to a few days earlier to see what events had transpired before the incident. Michale Clayton is a lawyer. The custodial kind. He cleans up messes that other lawyers can't. When something happens to his colleague and friend, Arthur Edens, Clayton becomes suspicious of U North, the agricultural conglomerate, after he learns Eden's progress in the case against them.

Boring and slow, like many of the Oscar nominated movies for 2008, Michael Clayton really had nothing that I'd expect in a good film. There was no character investment, George Clooney acted as he did in every other George Clooney role, and it wasn't "thrilling" as the genre, of which this film falls under, promises. I could have cared less about what happened to the characters. Live, die, all the same to me. I have no idea why George Clooney was nominated for best actor. Maybe the Academy just liked to look at him. And half the time, I had no idea about what the heck was going on. You could call this film subtle or understated. I just call it dull and complex.

I will give Michael Clayton the 0.5 GOOMBA boost for Tilda Swinton's performance as insecure yet simultaneously diabolical U North Chief Counsel member and for George's ability to depict redemptive intentions in his character. However, the movieGOOMBA does not recommend Michael Clayton unless you're really into legal thrillers. The ending was mildly engrossing and meaningful but does not really warrant a viewing, unless you're like me and will watch anything.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 8:38 PM 1 comments  

The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Thursday, March 13, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

Brad Pitt definitely cannot pull off black hair. The dark mane replaces his charming good looks and kind eyes with plainness. It roughens up his features and it basically makes him look kinda ugly. Now, I don't drool over Mr. Pitt. Sometimes I think he's kind of abnormal, even as a blond haired, blue eyed bona fide stud. I mean, come on. Hooking up with Angelina and sharing the rainbow children family lifestyle. Only in Hollywood I guess. But despite his personal life, you can't help but enjoy Brad's movies, even when he's a mental, disturbing, Old West kind of killer.

If you haven't heard of the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, don't feel bad. The long-length titled film wasn't even popular enough to get an acronym or mnemonic, and it sure needs one. This third person narrated Western also stars Casey Affleck, younger brother to Ben Affleck, as Robert Ford, a young, naive kid who idolizes the tough evilness of Jesse James. Robert Ford manages to secure a place in Jesse James' gang, but through train robberies, murders, and hold ups, he grows to resent the outlaw and eventually helps execute a mutiny.

This is actually some high quality cinema. The cinematography is beautiful, and the matter-of-fact way of storytelling makes this film. The movie has a foreboding, morbid tone, and though slow-paced, the suspenseful anticipation of the inevitable and the curiosity that is evoked from Pitts performance as the disturbing character, Jesse James, kept me interested enough. I also thought Casey Affleck did a superb job as the cocky yet pigeon-hearted, infamous bandit fan. BUT, as strangely beautiful as this The Assassination of Jesse James is, I struggled to keep my focus on the screen. I turned the movie off about four times. I just couldn't watch it straight through. It was too drawn out, and half the time I didn't understand why Jesse James wanted to kill most of his posse, one by one. In the end, I got that it was because he was just seriously unhinged and paranoid, half of his insanity stemming from his unpredictability, but I didn't have the patience to stick with it or the characters in one sitting.

A sophisticated cinemaphile will want to watch this film to see how a movie can be different, out of the box. But for the normal, average Joe, popcorn flick viewer, this might not be his/her cup of tea. I kind of see myself in both these roles, hence the score of 3 GOOMBAS. I'm on the fence, people. Maybe let me know what you think.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 8:26 PM 1 comments  

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Thursday, March 06, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

<---This picture kind of freaks me out.

Back in college, we had this assignment. We had to bring in a movie clip and analyze it. Well, one girl brought in the opening scene from Elizabeth. I'd never seen it before, so she pops it in and then, I proceed to freak out. Now if you know what I'm talking about, bare with me for a sec as I describe the segment. It begins with an aerial view of a medieval crowd, and then you realize that, as the camera pans closer to the ground, there's a group of people tied to poles with firewood surrounding their outer perimeter. Some soldiers begin to light the wood, and the citizens tied to the stakes begin screaming in horror. Then the camera pans around the unfortunate souls as they burn to death. ::shudders:: So you can see, I was not looking forward to watching Elizabeth: The Golden Age. I didn't want to experience middle age torture vicariously; however, luckily Elizabeth 2 wasn't good enough to suck me into its reality.

Cate Blanchett reprises her Academy Award winning role as Queen Elizabeth I in this sequel to 1998's Elizabeth. The Virgin Queen is back; this time with her eye on a handsome Sir Walter Raliegh and the Spanish Armada and a vindictive cousin are out for her crown. With her ladies in waiting constantly at her side, Elizabeth searches for a suitable partner, and is smitten with the famous explorer who brings goodies from the Americans. She wages war against the Spanish Inquisition, has a few people tortured and executed, all the while still maintaining a surprisingly delicate and just nature.

Some general comments. I was a little confused about the Elizabeth's relationship with her lead court lady. It was kind of lesbianesque, which is cool, if that's what the filmmakers were implying. However, from my research, Queen Elizabeth wasn't gay, so I'm just going to disregard those strange bath time moments as a different kind of friendship. Then there was Clive Owen, whose tan made him very nice to look at, and his slightly arrogant air made him interesting and charming. The plot was eh. It didn't have a very provactive ending, and it sure as heck didn't have an engrossing plot arch. If you know anything about history, nothing is a surprise, so all that's left is Cate. Cate Blanchett was my pick for the Oscar. She was the perfect mix of ravage, sensitivity, and curt politness. You did not want to mess with her, but feel sorry for the Queen all the same.

I watched Elizabeth: the Golden Age because Blanchett was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. That is the only reason why you should watch this mediocre flick. Watching for any other reason, other than possibly History class, would be a mistake. Its kind of boring.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:18 PM 1 comments  

Across the Universe

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

2.5 GOOMBAS


I do not doubt the awesomeness of The Beatles. Their music is legendary, and its evident in their prominence in commercials, movies, and on the radio. But alas, Across the Universe, a musical based around their songs, failed them.

Across the Universe is a period musical about life during the Vietnam war. Jude leaves London for the United States in search for his father and for a new life. In the States, Jude befriends Yale slacker, Max, and on Thanksgiving, Max takes Jude home to meet his family, including his beautiful teenage sister, Lucy. When Lucy's boyfriend dies in combat she moves to New York to live with her brother and eventually falls for the Brit. This film is about their love story amidst the chaotic and passion ridden time that was the 60's.

As expected, this film has great, though possibly blasphemous, re-interpretations of the some of the most popular Beatles songs. The actors have beautiful voices, Jude (Jim Sturgess) is quite a looker, and Jude and Lucy's infatuation with each other is believable. However, this film is a bit too psychedelic for my taste. Like most theatrical musicals, the characters are symbolic; Prudence is suppose to represent sexual liberation, while Sadie represents independence and the rock star lifestyle. States of mind are represented in over the top ways, like the drug induced, hallucinogenic bus tour on the road to see the doctor (cameo by Bono) or Max's fear of joining the army manifested into cookie cutter, box like clay-mated soldiers. It just got too weird for me.

I thought that the film did a good job transitioning gradually into the trippy, but this movie just wasn't a good enough story. Across the Universe has great music, pretty people to look at, and an even representation of all the major aspects in this socially and politically charged time in American history. But I didn't enjoy it.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:15 PM 0 comments  

Once

Monday, March 03, 2008

5 GOOMBAS

This movie was sitting in front of my DVD player for a month before I got around to watching it. No, I take that back. It sat around my house for a month in the red envelope, and I finally sent it back because I decided I wasn't going to watch it. Then, it was nominated for an Academy Award, and because I promised my Number 1 Fan that I would do my Oscar picks for 2008, I had to re-request it from Netflix. Then it lay on my floor for two weeks; intermittently placed in the actually DVD slot and then taken out again after deciding that I actually wanted to watch something else. If I had known what a perfect movie this was going to be, two months earlier, my life would have been just a little bit better.

Described as a contemporary musical, Once isn't of the traditional genre where the actors spontaneously break out into song and dance. Its a story of a lonely street performer who meets a girl as she sells flowers on the street. Within a week, they casually begin writing and composing music together, and though brief, their encounter leads to an intense connection grounded in music.

This film is so simple, in both its story and its characters, but the anonymity and relatability of the their relationship, with each other and the audience, highlights their passion and makes this film and their love story great. Shot on the streets of Dublin, and filmed on hand held cameras, Once left a huge lump in the deepest part of my throat. Along the sames lines as Before Sunrise (and the sequel, Before Sunset), Once is about more than what's just what's on the screen. The longing and hope that's present in the music and in the characters is subtle and stylistically raw at first, and then it gradually builds to something elegant and beautiful; a kind of tragic optomism. Their encounter is short but meaningful, and meeting for mere moments, changed them forever.

Once is a film for the refined palate, but I could be wrong. This film is pretty powerful. The romantics and audiophiles will see past its rough cinèma vèritè style and the dragging sort of plot, and others will see themselves in these characters. Either way, its definitely worth a watch, even if you end up hating it (though that would break my heart). I still stand by my 5 GOOMBAS; you're deprived if you don't see it just once.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:48 PM 0 comments