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The Constant Gardener (2005)

Do you no good to go poking around under rocks, Justin. Some very nasty things live under rocks, especially in foreign gardens.

— Sir Bernard Pellegrin

2005 was my snobbiest year to date, because I didn’t see that many of the Oscar nominated films of that year. When Brokeback Mountain came out, it was the end-all-be-all for me. The adaptation of John Le Carré’s book, The Constant Gardener was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won Rachel Weisz Best Supporting Actress. The movie is a solid effort that swept under the rug.

after coming from his Oscar nominated direction of the seminal movie, City of God, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles followed up with this movie. A diplomat from the British High Commission, Justin Quayle (RalphFPiennes) leanrs of the death of his wife, Tessa (Weisz) from his colleague, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston). They go to a morgue in Loki, Kenya to identify her body. People think that it was an accident, but others think that it was an assassination.

Quayle is reminded to the times that he has had with Tess. He was filling in a lecture for his friend, Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy) when the idealistic Tess challenged him about the actions of the US to go to war with Iraq. They have a mutual attraction with each other and quickly marry. Tess wants to go to Africa with Justin so she could do something about the AIDS crisis on the continent.

After Tess’ death, reports surface that Tess was supposedly having an affair with her African escort, Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Koundé). Quayle wanted to know why Tess was killed. It could have been from her probing into the pharmaceutical  companies of KDH and Three Bees who are using the African people as lab rats. She wanted to expose the companies for suppressing clinical trails, especially the adverse side effects, for a drug called Dypraxa that would suppose to treat tuberculosis. Justin wants to continue Tess’ crusade and investigate her death when everybody in his life is telling him to leave well enough alone.

I didn’t know what to think of this movie when I was watching the first half of the movie. I have seen movies that are heavy-handed with political messages like Syriana, Rendition or In the Valley of Elah. They will jump a subject down your throat, and you want to turn off the movie. Don’t talk at me. Let me understand what you are saying. When the conspiracy begin to unravel, the movie really started become intriguing where Justin’s life could be in the same peril as Tess’.

It did make me think about how the African people are portrayed as a continent of expendable people. With the rampant AIDS infections, famines, rebel child soldiers, and the ethnic cleansing; it shocks me that almost nothing is being done to help the African people. It makes me sad and angry that they have to fend for themselves.

Judgment: A taut thriller through and through.

Rating: 8/10

The End of the Affair (1999)

I’ve only made two promises in my life. One was to marry Henry, the other is to stop seeing you. And I’m too weak to keep either.

— Sarah

The next movie that Julianne Moore was nominated for an Oscar, this time for Best Actress for Neil Jordan’s take on the Graham Greene novel, The End of the Affair. Researching this movie, I didn’t know that this was a remake of a 1955 Edward Dmytryk film that I have never seen. I have heard of the movie. It was in the back of mind to see it, because I never had the chance to do it until now. Having watched the movie, I wished that more of the movie then the longing and unrequited love.

As the title suggests there is an affair that ends. Pretty self-explanatory. Who are the two people that are having the affair? A mild-mannered husband, Henry Miles (Stephen Rea) seeks out the advice of his friend and neighbor, Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) that his wife, Sarah (Moore) might be having an extramarital; affair. Henry holds a card for a private investigator to track his wife’s nightly activities, but he doesn’t want to know the answer. Maurice offers his services to see who Sarah is seeing.

What Henry doesn’t know is that Maurice and Sarah had a torrid affair during the height of the fighting in WWII. They first met in 1939 during a cocktail party in the Miles’ house. They are equally taken with each other. Maurice takes Sarah to the movie-house to see a movie that was based on one of his novellas. During dinner, Sarah confesses that she is unhappy with her decade long marriage to Henry that equates to a platonic relationship than a passionate one. They begin their affair.

Sarah begins to fall in love with Maurice for being boring like Henry. Maurice is a jealous man who is envious that Henry is married to Sarah that he is not. It’s tears himself up inside. He begins to questions her intentions until she cannot take it anymore.

Years later, the old wounds come back when Maurice visits with the private investigator, Parkis (Ian Hart) to see who has Sarah’s affections like he did when they had their rendezvous. Maurice becomes consumed in a way about the way that Sarah is deceiving everyone in her life. Things are not what they seem when Parkis gathers up his evidence about Sarah’s whereabouts.

The movie on the surface is relatively simple. A love story that could never be because of the circumstances of being in a loveless marriage, being in love with a struggling novelist. She would not have the stability and security that she needed. The movie is not a straight up linear narrative. There is a lot of recollections and revelations that breaks up the narrative, which I quite liked.

The strongest part of the movie was the middle, which I can’t say why because it was spoil it. The middle of the movie was fantastic, especially for Sarah’s character. The beginning of the movie felt disjointed with the affair happening right away. There were no wooing or a build up to the affair. Maurice’s character felt so bland and uninteresting. By the end, I didn’t care for him. Speaking of the end, it was the biggest letdown, because I knew what was coming and if Julianne Moore was nominated for Oscar for this then I would know what it was.

Judgment: If the movie focused more on the love between Maurice and Sarah, I would have liked it better.

Rating: ***

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Only you can save them…

— Io

Upon hearing that Clash of the Titans was being remade, I thought it would be a great thing to update a so-so movie with great special effects and sticking with the same story. The movie came out right when I was going to leave for boot camp. After coming back, I heard nothing but terrible things about this movie. I was thinking how bad it could be. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either.

Raised by mortal parents, reluctant demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) curses the gods for giving him up when he was a baby. Perseus’s mortal family travel to the city of Argos to talk to the gods about the way their homeland and livelihoods are destroyed. When they do, the island is in a full scale war. The Argonauts are fighting against the gods. A flock of furies descend of the city and destroys the boat drowning the family, except Perseus. The furies merge to form Hades (Ralp Fiennes) and disappear.

At Mount Olympus, Zeus (Liam Neeson) and the other gods discuss how humanity Zeus created is turning against them. They question what can be done to make the human subservient again. Hades appears to tell his brother that the only way to get mortals in line is by using an upcoming solar eclipse to unleash a dread beast called the Kraken.

The Argonauts regroup as they see the lone survivor of the encounter Perseus sitting alone. They urge him to come with them to the palace of King Kepheus (Vincent Regan) and Queen Cassiopeia (Polly Walker) when they are having a feast for the returning soldiers. During the festivities, the Queen blasphemies the gods by comparing her daughter’s Andromeda’s (Alexa Davalos) beauty to that of Aphrodite. Hades shows up during the legion and warning the mortals about their upcoming doom in ten day’s time or sacrifice Andromeda to save Argos.

Hades lets it slip that he is the son of Zeus, which has the King begging for the demigod to help them save the kingdom. Perseus is unwilling to take the monumental task until he is visited by an immortal, Io (Gemma Arterton) who tells him that he is the only one that could save Argos. This fisherman has to take up a sword and shield to go on a perilous journey to save the mortals.

What I can say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? I enjoyed the original movie because it deals with a demigod trying to save the woman he loves from a jealous god. The claymation dates that film to 1981, but it was an enjoyable story. This movie obliterated everything good about the original movie. You have a grown man whining and complaining about seeking petty revenge and refusing to embrace his godlike powers. Give me a break!

I was bored throughout most of the movie. I didn’t care about the journey Perseus has to undertake. The few action sequences that were in the movie were either cut way too short or were completely pointless that I didn’t care. The callbacks to the original film made me cringe of how they made fun of it. The comic relief in the movie was unnecessary. This entire movie was unnecessary as well.

Judgment: A full length movie about a demigod with daddy issues will get annoying real quick.

Rating: **

The Hurt Locker (2009)


You’ll know when you’re in it.

Currently out of town for the moment, there was a chance to see a special advance screening of Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film, The Hurt Locker. Not being familiar with her filmography, this was a solid character piece about broken soldiers trying to survive in war torn Iraq.

This is not just another anti-Iraqi war propaganda movie. This is a movie about Bravo company, a crew dealing the de-arment of roadside bombs.

When the movie starts, Bravo company deals with the loss of their leader, Sgt. Matt Thompson (Guy Pearce) from one of the roadside bombs. A hard-headed maverick, Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) joins Bravo company at the tail end of their year long tour.

He immediately butt heads with Sgt. JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie). William doesn’t follow protocol and does things his way, not the Army Way.

This film follows the lives of William, JT and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) as they try to survive active combat.

The filmmaking was superb. Even though this film was shot in the desert, it was very alive, not monochromatic.

Judgment: Go see this film when it opens later this month and wider in July.

Rating: ****1/2

The Reader (2008)

The Reader is a movie that has been nominated for four Golden Globe awards including Best Supporting Actress – Kate Winslet, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Drama Picture.

This film comes from the director of Billy Elliot and The Hours, Steven Daldry. I was skeptical that I would like this film and I was right. I hated it.

The movie centers around the illicit affair between 15-year-old Michael Berg (David Kross) and a train conductor, Hanna (Kate Winslet) that is twice his age that lasts for the summer of 1958. Michael reads to Hanna every time that they are together, right before they make love. Until one day, when Hanna is promoted, she leaves without telling Michael goodbye.

Eight years later, Michael, as a inspiring lawyer, he witnesses a trail of six women that are accused of killing three hundred Jewish people in a church fire during the Holocaust in 1944. Michael learns that one of the defendants is Hanna. He realizes that Hanna was an SS guard.

There are some clues that leads you to Hanna’s secret shame, the decisions that both older Michael (Ralph Fiennes) and Hanna made throughout their times together. It culminates to a scene that I didn’t understand. The motive for Hanna’s last act.

I was bored to tears during this movie. The only highlights of the film were Kate and Lena Olin who plays the daughter of the lone survivor of the tragedy. The flashbacks and forwards where godawful. That’s it.

My rating: ** stars.

The Duchess (2008)

Here is another film that has been getting some attention in awards season, The Duchess. Ralph Fiennes is nominated for his supporting performance of William, the Duke of Devonshire at the Golden Globes.

I saw the trailers for this movie a couple of months ago. I wanted to go, because it was getting buzz and the buzz died out. In turn, I didn’t go.

I heard from Tassoula on the “Cinebanter” podcast talk about this movie and how liked the movie and suggested it to other people. I’m glad she did. This film just came out on DVD a couple of days ago.

The story is focused on Georgiana (Keira Knightley) when she was in her late teens. She is sought out by the Duke to become his wife and sired a son. After the wedding, she settles in with her new life as the Duchess of Devonshire.

Her world comes crashing down when she realizes that her husband is a philander. She knows that she is trapped in a loveless marriage. She tries to find other outlets for her. Her mother, Lady Spencer (Charlotte Rampling) urges her to fulfill her duties as a wife and mother of her girls.

In Bath, Georgiana meets a woman that has just rebuffed her husband’s advances, Lady Elizabeth “Bess” Foster (Hayley Atwell). Bess’s husband abandons her for his mistress. Georgiana urges William to let Bess stay with them until she could get back on her feet and have the chance to see her three sons.

During the course of the movie, Georgiana is betrayed in the deepest, hurtful way imaginable. Her husband becomes a miserable cad. Georgiana has a affair with Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper).

I felt so much sympathy for Georgiana. She is modern woman living in the wrong time. I realized that she is actually an ancestor of Princess Diana.

It’s a wonderful sweeping film. The costumes are gorgeous. The music had me on the edge of my seat. The performances were great. You must see this film.

My rating: *** 1/2 stars.

Schnidler’s List (1993)

After the endless craptastic movies that I have seen over the past couple of days, I wanted to see a GOOD MOVIE. I realized that my mother has a copy of the #7 movie from IMDB 250 list, Schindler’s List on tape when it was shown on NBC back in 1997.

I sat down and watched it. Is it me or is this film terribly overrated? Okay. Before you harp on me, hear me out.

My problem with the movie is the lead character Oskar Schindler’s personality. He is an unscrupulous character that when he sees the atrocities on the Holocaust, he tries to save the Jews. I don’t buy that.

I thought that the pace at the beginning of the film was very slow. The only way that saved it was when Ben Kingsley came in.

I have seen so many Holocaust movies that I am getting sick of them. I believe that if I have seen this film when it came out in 1993, I would have thought that it was best movie ever. I think this is just my bias that Hollywood is draining the well dry. Just beating a dead horse. We get it. Holocaust, bad. Jews, good. Nazis, evil.

I will say that I loved Ben Kingsley as Oskar’s accountant, Itzhak Stern. He was wonderful. He deserved a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Liam Neeson was fine as Schindler. Ralph is Ralph. Nothing special.

The crispness of the cinematography. I loved it. It felt like a noir film. The lighting, the shadows. Great.

I just have to say that my tolerance for these movies is waning. I have seen so many that it’s like it has been done before.

Maybe the film is showing it’s age. Maybe it doesn’t hold up. That’s my opinion about this movie.

My rating: *** stars. (Up to review at a later date.)

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