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Let Me In (2010)

 Do you think there’s such a thing as evil?

— Owen

I wanted to see Let Me In for a long time, because I gave high praise for the Swedish version, Let the Right One In. I h ave no idea what prevented me from seeing it, but my other sister-in-law rented the movie — she loves vampire movies — and I told her that I wanted to see the movie. After she was done with that, she lent it to me. This happened after midnight and a full moon rising before my SIL festival was supposed to start. That might be why I was disappointed with the movie.

 The setting transforms from the desolate of Sweden to the stark black, gold and white landscapes of Los Alamos, New Mexico 1983. We meet a lonely boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is constantly bullied by Kenny (Dylan Minnette) and his cronies, Mark (Jimmy “Jax” Pinchak) and Donald (Nicolai Dorian). Owen dreams of the day to get back on the assholes that torment him everyday.

One night while looks out of his bedroom window, Owen sees a little girl, Abby (Chloë Moretz) and her Father (Richard Jenkins) moving into the apartment next door. He notices that it is March and she doesn’t have any shoes on.

The audience sees that the new neighbors are not what they seem to be. The Father stalks in the night to kill virile young men and drain them of their blood. A Policeman (Elias Koteas) tries to figure out who is killing this men solely for their blood.

Owen and Abby meet each other on the jungle gym in the courtyard of their apartment building. They begin to build a friendship while Abby helps out Owen with his bully problem and Owen keeps Abby’s secret from others.

To those people who have seen the Swedish version — which I have subtitled and dubbed — I thought it was infinitely better this version. I did stay faithful to the original, but it lost the hidden mysteries that were in the original. The origin of Abby, the relationship between Abby and her Father, etc.

Some things were changed for better, but mostly for the worst. I know that the screenwriters wanted to get rid of the peripheral characters, but those characters made the world more dangerous. You did not delve into Owen’s broken home and his parents relationship. It was barely touched on. It could have been great with the Virginia (Sasha Barrese) character and her transformation.

I felt cheated with this movie. I have no qualms in saying that the movie was at times boring to watch. The leads were very morose and monotone that I prayed for the movie to be over.

Judgment: There were so many chances for the film to be as good as Let the Right One In, but it didn’t.

Rating: 6/10

Shutter Island (2010)

I wonder, is it better to live like a monster, or die a good man?

— Teddy Daniels

Martin Scorsese’s latest movie Shutter Island, which stands as the 197th movie on the Top 250 of All-Time on IMDb, has been getting a bad rap since its studio, Paramount decide to move the release date of the movie from October 2009 to February 2010, because it couldn’t afford the Oscar campaign for the picture. I call bullshit on that. This could mean certain death for a film not being remember a whole year from now. This is the fourth collaboration of Scorsese and lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Even though the movie is highly predictable, I still enjoyed the majority of the ride.

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, former WWII soldier/U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) travel by boat to Shutter Island, which is a home of Ashcliffe, the prison for the criminally insane. They are met by Deputy Marshal McPherson (John Carroll Lynch) who them that they have to surrender their firearms. They take a tour of the complex which has separate wards for men, women prisoners and an old Civil War era, Building C that houses the most dangerous criminals.

The team meets the head psychiatrist of the institution; Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) to investigate the disappearance of a patient that mysteriously escaped from her cell, who killed her kids, Rachel Solando. She is loose somewhere on the island, because there is no way for her to escape the island without drowning.

Searching through her cell, Teddy fines a piece of paper in her room that has “The law of 4. Who is 67?” scribbled on it. In order to try to find out the circumstances surrounding the escapee, Teddy and Chuck want to interview the staff. Dr. Cawley and Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) doesn’t want the investigators to rummage through the staffs personal files. Teddy wants to leave immediately.

The more time that Teddy spends on the island he has flashbacks of an incident when he was a soldier in WWII liberating a Dachau concentration camp or his life with her wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams) that was killed years earlier.

A massive hurricane hits the island and the prisoners try to escape the island, Teddy comes to realization when Rachel is found that they are 66 patients on the island, but Rachel implies there is a 67th patient. Who is that patient?

I thought the performances were very good, especially DiCaprio, Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson.

I thought that the score was unnecessary in the beginning segments of the film. I guess, Scorsese wanted to set the mood. It was ear deafening. The biggest problem of the movie is the twist. Watching the trailers lately, they talk about the twist ending. The twist you could predict thirty minutes into the movie. I wasn’t a surprise at all, but I was half right about it. There was another sharp turn that I didn’t see coming.

Judgment: This movie was mess with your mind until the very end.

Rating: ****

Two Lovers (2009)

When Two Lovers was set to come out earlier this year, the antics Grizzly Addams-looking leading man Joaquin Phoenix forced me away from this movie. I still can’t get over that. He looked like a bagman. I recently noticed listening to Filmspotting that Matt Singer from IFC said that this movie was his number one film of 2009. I thought it might be time to catch up with it.

The much more clean-shaven Phoenix plays Leonard, a bipolar dry cleaner living with his parents (Moni Moshonov, Isabella Rossellini), who is reeling from the break up with his fiancée (Anne Joyce). He decided to jump into the ocean to kill himself. Now he is about to lost consciousness, he wants to live. When he arrives home, his parents are preparing to have a potential buyer for their fledgling business over for dinner.

The potential buyer Michael Cohen (Bob Ari) brings his family, including his grown daughter Sandra (Vinessa Shaw). During dinner the conversation turns to Leonard’s love of black and white photography, Michael has an idea to hire Leonard as the photographer at his son’s bar mitzvah. His parents nudge a meet cute between Leonard and Sandra, but when the two are in Leonard’s room, Sandra confesses that wanted to meet him herself. They bond over their love of movies and his black and white photographs.

Out on a courier run for his father, Leonard overhears fighting in the hallway of his building. He befriends Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow). Leonard invites Michelle in the apartment where they playful about Michelle could Leonard from her apartment.

The next time that the pair meets is at a subway where he was supposed to have a lunch date with Sandra. Leonard becomes infatuated with her. This free-spirited party girl intrigues the introverted man-child that he has undeniable connection with, except that she is in a toxic relationship with a married man Mr. Blatt (Elias Koteas) that is paying for her apartment. He is attracted to her unattainable nature.

Spending time between Michelle and Sandra, Leonard is taken on a roller coaster of emotions. When he meets Michelle’s married lover, he asks Leonard to monitor Michelle to keep her from using drugs. Sandra feels rejected when Leonard sends his free time pining away for Michelle that he goes for her because she is convenient.

The mood is very melancholy yet beautiful at the same time. You believe the chemistry between Leonard and Michelle or Leonard and Sandra. It radiates off the screen. This is a solid work from James Gray.

Judgment: A wonderful exploration of a lonely man trying to find a human connection.

Rating: ****

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

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My name is Benjamin Button, and I was born under unusual circumstances. While everyone else was agin’, I was gettin’ younger… all alone.

— Benjamin Button

Nominated for thirteen Academy awards last year, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was not on my list of films to see at that time. It is currently #210 on Top 250 of All Time on IMDb. I told friends of mine that I refused to see the film, because of the obvious comparisons to the emotionally manipulative Forrest Gump. After watching the Criterion Edition of this movie, Gump was at least interesting to watch.

Eric Roth scripted both movies, the movie is told in flashback from the end of WWI when Benjamin (Brad Pitt) is born to the time before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. In 2005, a daughter, Caroline (Julia Ormond) is at the bedside on her dying mother, Daisy (Cate Blanchett), where the story of Benjamin is told through a journal that he kept throughout his life.

The movie recounts when he was born after WWI ended when his mother dies in childbirth. His father, Mr. Button (Jason Flemyng), abandons Benjamin on the doorstep of an old folk’s home. A young black couple, Queenie and Tizzy (Taraji P. Henson, Mahershalashashbaz Ali) find him and raises Benjamin as their own child.

As the movie drones on, it delves into how Benjamin and Daisy met, Benjamin traveling the world, the “soul mates” coming together and them realizing that they can’t be together in the end. It retells all of the history happening around Benjamin. He is just there to witness it. He doesn’t participate in it.

This film was clearly made for Oscars. It’s grandiose. It has the magical, fantastical elements with the central hook of Benjamin aging backward while everyone is aging forward. The makeup, the digital imaging, the costumes through the different periods of time, the swelling Alexandre Desplat score, the saturation of the screen. It’s all there. Somehow, it doesn’t work.

I understand that the point of the film is that the people that come in and out of your life shape who you are. “You never know what’s coming for you.” It was the motto of the movie like “Life is like a box chocolates” for Gump. It was a defective clone.

This movie meandered through subplots that bored me to tears. Do we need to see that guy getting struck by lightning? What’s up with the relationship between Benjamin and Elizabeth Abbot (Tilda Swinton)? Do we need that “what if” montage of Daisy in Paris?

There was always little hints about time with the countless clocks around, and especially the clock that goes backwards that was made by the blind man. The inexplicable appearances of hummingbirds where there shouldn’t be any.

Reading some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story that this movie was based on, I got the sense that the story would be a comedy of errors rather than a biopic about a fictional person.

The characters were not that interesting to root for anyone. They were bland. The simple guy, the ice queen, the deadbeat dad, the magical Negro. There is nothing of substance here.

Judgment: An Oscar baity movie that misses the heart of the central premise.

Rating: **1/2

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