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Blood Diamond (2006)

In America, it’s bling bling. But out here it’s bling bang.

— Danny Archer

Blood Diamond was a movie that I intentionally stayed away from when it was released in 2006 ,because of the overt political message that slapping you upside the head with it. I did see the ending of the movie when I was flipping the channels one day. If I saw the ending that liked it, I should see the rest of it. The movie is an unflinching look at a war zone, but the message is heavy handed.

Taking place in Sierra Leone circa 1999, the story mainly focused on a civil war between the people over the control of diamond fields there. Many people have died, even though no one of them has actually seen a diamond. Ambassador Walker (Stephen Collins) tells a panel that the Africans have been killing themselves over precious resources for years. Now they have turned to diamonds as their next source of strife. The blood diamonds are purchased for weapons that made the civil war drag on. He wants to prohibit the purchase of conflict diamonds. The US makes up the majority of diamond sales.

A fisherman, Solomon Vandy (Djimon Honsou) walks with his only son, Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) from school, when he sees a bunch of soldiers from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) gunning down men, women and children in their village of Shenge. Solomon tries to save his family from the ongoing massacre, but he is captured while they escape. The reason behind the shooting is that the rebels don’t the people to vote to change the way things were. Solomon is sent as labor to mine diamonds. While at the mines, Solomon finds a 100 carat light pink diamond. He buries it, but it caught when the Sierra Leone troops attack rebels and captures alike. Shoot first, ask questions later. He is taken for being rebel in their eyes.

A Rhodesian diamond smuggler, Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) pretends to be with National Geographic to cross into Liberia with the conflict diamonds placed inside the necks of goats. He is doing this assignment for Colonel Coetzee (Arnold Vosloo) that is working the large diamond exporters, Rudolf Van De Kaap (Marius Weyers) and Rupert Simmons (Michael Sheen) to supply the money for the never-ending conflict. (Getting confusing for you. I should.)

Archer is promptly arrested and taken to the same prison with Solomon is held. The person that captured Solomon, Captain Poison (David Harewood) announces to everyone including Danny that he buried the diamond. Danny is bailed out by his friend, Nabil (Jimi Mistry) to convince Coetzee, Van De Kaap and Simmons to split the cost of the pink diamond Solomon has found.

At a local bar, Danny meets a journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly). She tries to get information about Van De Kaap. How are the diamonds being exported from Liberia where there are not diamond mines? She wants his help to expose Van De Kaap and Simmons for their wheeling and dealing; names, dates, and number accounts of buyers of the conflict diamonds to take them down.

When Solomon is bailed out, he tries to find his family at various refugee camps. They are nowhere to be found. Still on the run, another group of rebels have taken Dia from his family. He is beaten and brainwashed into being a part of the child soldiers by Captain Poison.

Danny tracks down Solomon to find the location of the diamond that he buried. Split the cost of the diamond fifty/fifty to help get Solomon his family back and Danny enough money to pay off Colonel. They enlist the help of Maddy to ensure that they succeed in finding his family and recovering the diamond.

I have heard about the dealing with conflict diamonds prior to watching this movie. I didn’t know the extent of what was going on at the time. Here is another example as why the Western world doesn’t care about Africans. Just like what was dramatized in Hotel Rwanda and The Last King of Scotland. Massive atrocities have been happening and nobody did a damn thing to stop it. It’s still happening. I do hate it when the point is donkey-punching me every five minutes. We get it, Ed Zwick!

The movie is long for such a heavy subject. I thought some of the sequences dragged a bit too long. The romance plotline between Maddy and Danny was completely trite. Why does that need to be in there? Why is it every time that Solomon is about to get killed a militia comes in to wipe out everything moving? He survives.

This film was nominated for five Oscars including Best Actor for DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor for Hounsou. I thought they were good, but I didn’t think it was worthy of recognition in my opinion.

Judgment: There is a good story under all the political red tape.

Rating: ****

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

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And you should see my Harry on Television. We’re giving the prizes away. I JUST WANTED TO BE ON THE SHOW.

— Sara Goldfrab

Requiem for a Dream is the first Darren Aronofsky picture that I have seen. I have not had to chance to view π yet, but I want to see the early beginning of this genius filmmaker. It is currently the #66 Top Film of All Time on IMDb. This film based on the novel by Hubert Shelby, Jr. was critically acclaimed for its unflinching look at drug addiction and how it will destroy your life.

Ellen Bustryn received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for playing Sara Goldfarb, a lonely widow that longs to get on television. She only watches Tappy Tibbons (Christopher McDonald), a self-help guru that she wants to meet.

Her son, Harry (Jared Leto) is hooked on heroin and cocaine with his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and his friend, Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). They are constantly finding ways to score. Harry and Tyrone come up with a plan to buy some grade A coke and sell it for a huge profit in order for Marion to open her own design studio.

One day, Sara receives a call that she has won a chance to be on TV. Upon hearing the news, she wants to fit in her red dress with gold shoes. The problem is that she is not able to fit into the dress anymore. One of her friends suggested that she go to Dr. Pill (Peter Maloney) to get diet pills. Little does she know that they are uppers.

As the movie progresses, we see the downward spiral into drug addiction. Seeing their lives dismantled before our eyes.

It has been a while since I have seen this movie. I love the raw human emotions expressed here by all of the actors. You felt claustrophobic as you caught a glimpse of what its like to be a drug addict.

That’s not to say that this movie is not showing its age, it does. The repeated drug taking sequences would get on your nerves. The super speed shots and the fish-eye camera lens are played out.

Judgment: A great deconstruction of addiction and its side effects.

Rating: ****1/2

He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)

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We are all programmed to believe that if a guy acts like a total jerk that means he likes you.

— Gigi

Being that I don’t have a vagina, I did not read the Greg Behrendt/Liz Tuccillo self-help wake-up call to women, “He’s Just Not That Into You.” I watched the Sex and the City episode where Berger tells Miranda that the guy she went out with is not into her. Now, we have the big screen adaptation of the best-selling book. It’s not that bad.

It is an ensemble piece centering around a trio of co-workers: Gigi, Janine, and Beth (Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Aniston aka “Jen3“) that are restless in their pursuit of love.

Gigi is classic case of a clueless woman that microanalyses the motivations of the men that she dates until a bar owner, Alex (Justin Long) gives her a much needed wake up call.

Janine is married to Ben (Bradley Cooper) who is trying to hook up with a yoga instructor/budding singer, Anna (Scarlett Johannson) who is semi-interested in real estate broker, Conor (Kevin Conolly) who went on a date with Gigi whose roommate is Alex. Confused yet? It’s like a long episode of Coupling.

Beth has been dating Neil (Ben Affleck) for seven years and she is feeling the itch. She wants to get married, but Neil doesn’t believe in marriage. This causes a rift in their relationship.

Anna is inexplicably friends with Mary (Drew Barrymore), an online magazine editor that is having dating troubles of her own with men and the latest modern technologies.

This movie tries to be different than the typical rom-com fodder out there, but it still suffers from the same conventions. It was nice that there was some role reversal with some of the male characters being the “woman.” It was refreshing.

Judgment: If you want to see a charming movie, check this movie out.

Rating: ***1/2

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)


I heard about the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still about a year and half ago from a former co-worker of mine was a fellow cinephile. On a break from work, he was talking about a movie that he loved that was the original 1951 movie.

He was searching on imdb about the film and realized that they were remaking the movie for a December 2008 release. We read the synopsis that it would be changed from the nuclear program from the original to the environmental slant in this version.

I thought it would be a cool modern take on what it happening to Earth and having this alien come to Earth and say you are wrong. They want to right the wrongs of the human race and eliminate them in order to let the Earth survives. I knew that it would come off preachy, like “WALL-E”. I knew that going in.

Updated to modern times, Jennifer Connelly plays Helen Benson, an astrobiologist. Whatever that is. She is recruited with other scienists to find out this oval object that lands in Central Park. Keanu plays Klaatu, the alien emerging from the object. There is also Gort, the robot that protects Klaatu from any harm. Yada yada yada.

I was utterly disappointed with this movie. Nothing happens to almost the end of the movie. It was mind-numbing. Jaden Smith playing Helen’s step-son. He was so annoying, such a brat. I have to question why the screenwriter, David Scarpa, put him in there.

Avoid this movie at all costs.

My rating: * 1/2 stars.

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