Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tommy Boy

Classic '90s comedy about immature Farley and snarky Spade on a road trip, attempting to save the former's late-father Dennehy's company from going under. The minor doses of emotion give this funny flick about unlikely friendship and search for self-worth some replay value. Rob Lowe and Bo Derek, both in supporting roles, help add some flavor to this outing. Not excellent, but definitely worth revisiting once every few years. The film's two leads were actually really close friends in real life before Farley's untimely death in 1997, but apparently the two got into a physical altercation on the set of this film.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Sushi-themed documentary about Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Michelin three-star restaurant located in Ginza, Chūō, Tokyo, Japan. The film touches on the lives of Ono's two sons (particularly his older son), the art of sushi, the operation of the market and the behind-the-scenes preparation; but perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the film is Ono's continuing quest to perfect sushi and his life-long dedication to it. If you like sushi, you'll like this film. For an 81 minute documentary, the pace is terrifically smooth, with no memorable road-bumps to ruin the flow. Ono emits a curiously sweet inspiration of never being too old to learn new things; and his dedication seems to be reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's obsessiveness of filmmaking or a grandmaster's ever-evolving understanding of chess.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hidden Away (TV)

Typical Lifetime Network nonsense about the victimized woman with terribly poor taste who hopes that running away will solve her problems only to learn the hard way when she gets tracked down. In this shameless outing, we have Vaugier faking her and her daughter's death in an attempt to escape her physically abusive husband. Blah, blah, blah; same old routine: she gets a new life, her daughter grows up not remembering anything, she meets a nice guy (Flanery), the fairy tale ending is just a grasp away, and then all of a sudden the bad guy from the past (Sergei) shows up. This cookie-cutter garbage could be somewhat bearable if it didn't consist of melodrama triggered by acts that would otherwise be considered downright moronic if only the protagonists weren't so unlucky. Nice climax—apparently, any dimwit can be inspired by watching NORTH BY NORTHWEST in film class.

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Ambitious sequel to THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO about Lisbeth (Rapace) returning home to oversee unexpected but inevitable conflicts, while Mikael (Nyqvist) starts an investigation into a sex-trafficking ring. Starts off as an impressive follow-up, making all the right moves—expanding on things foreshadowed in its predecessor while at the same time introducing new characters with equally interesting stories—but eventually proves itself to be a sufferer of "the middle chapter syndrome", leaving the audience with a cliffhanger that feels more like a legal-drama season finale than its own necessary installment in an overall larger story.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Brilliant mystery about journalist Nyqvist taking on one last case before serving a prison sentence and is unexpectedly aided by hacker Rapace who believes in his innocence. The film goes above and beyond with its beautiful scenery, numerous twists and two plots that are equally intriguing—one that involves Nyqvist's character dealing with legal conflicts, and the other that involves the investigation of a woman's disappearance 40 years prior, all while foreshadowing a bigger story with Rupace's character for future installments. The Vanger family does indeed have too many members and too much history for its own good; nonetheless, the film is rarely confusing or boring, and is ultimately executed superbly.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Congrats!  You found the ¼ star!!  Is your life fulfilled?

Sort of satisfying conclusion in THE MILLENNIUM TRILOGY offers less quality than the first installment and less ambition than the second installment, yet still ends up being a pretty decent movie. The story picks up right where the second film left off—the second film's cliffhanger was its main flaw—but pretty much finds itself devoted to wrapping things up rather than building its own story (like the first film did with the Vanger family), ultimately resorting to a theatrical courtroom showdown. The development of Hallin's character is a long overdue plus, as having her lingering in the background as Mikael's opinionated sister in the first two films was a little bothersome in hindsight. The ending seems to lack a sense of finality, but it works well in a bittersweet kind of way knowing that the novels' writer Larsson had much more up his sleeve for these characters.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Take Shelter

Drama-thriller tells the story of family man Shannon trying to figure out if his apocalyptic visions are a sign that he needs to protect his loved ones from a natural disaster or from himself. Controlled, modest, refreshing and unique. In an age where special-effects is no longer a luxury in film, it's nice to see a movie that focuses on character-development and story. While the beginning and middle are flawless, the ending could have gone in many different directions and it's hard to decide if the one writer-direct Nichols chose was the right one. One of the best films of the last couple years!