June 21, 2010

My Month in Movies: May/June 2010

DISTRICT 9 (2009)

When aliens land on Earth, global business conglomerate Multi-National United forces them into rigid containment zones where they are compelled to labor, even as MNU commandeers their otherworldly technology for profit. As tensions build between human and non-human races, a rogue agent leads a resistance movement against MNU's ruthless consolidation of power. Neill Blomkamp directs this cinema verité-style sci-fi thriller nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. *** (This had both pluses and minuses for me. I thought the cinematography was original and amazing, but I also got dizzy at times. I also thought the ending was very anti-climatic.)

UP (2009)

After a lifetime of dreaming of traveling the world, 78-year-old homebody Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) flies away on an unbelievable adventure with Russell, an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer (Jordan Nagai), unexpectedly in tow. Together, the unlikely pair embarks on a thrilling odyssey full of jungle beasts and rough terrain. Other voices in the Oscar-winning film include the renowned Christopher Plummer and Pixar stalwart John Ratzenberger. ***** (This movie was every bit as entertaining as they say. And it is such a wonderfully bittersweet and moving tribute and ending. I was surprised how much an animated film moved me.)


After taking a job at the mental institution that once housed his father (Nick Nolte) -- a famous children's author -- erudite psychiatrist Zach Riley (Aaron Eckhart) befriends a schizophrenic (Ian McKellen) who unlocks a string of family secrets. Joshua Michael Stern makes an impressive directorial debut with an all-star supporting cast that includes Brittany Murphy, Jessica Lange, Bill Bellamy, William Hurt and Alan Cumming. **** (This was a great film and I was pulled right into the story, and of course I love Aaron Eckhart. However, the ending left me wanting.)


Kirby Dick's provocative documentary investigates the secretive and inconsistent process by which the Motion Picture Association of America rates films, revealing the organization's underhanded efforts to control culture. Dick questions whether certain studios get preferential treatment and exposes the discrepancies in how the MPAA views sex and violence. Interviewees include John Waters, Darren Aronofsky, Maria Bello, Atom Egoyan and more. ***** (This documentary was very well-executed. I was impressed with the editing and truly learned something about the film industry's rating system. I can't believe how subjective it truly is. I feel naive thinking there as actually some sort of rubric to the system.)


In a futuristic world where the polar ice caps have melted and made Earth a liquid planet, a beautiful barmaid (Jeanne Tripplehorn) rescues a mutant seafarer (Kevin Costner) from a floating island prison. They escape, along with her young charge, Enola (Tina Majorino), and sail off aboard his ship. But the trio soon becomes the target of a menacing pirate (Dennis Hopper) who covets the map to "Dryland" -- which is tattooed on Enola's back. *** (I went into this movie with low expectations because everyone said how dreadfully awful it was. Maybe that is why I didn't find it that dreadful- I expected it to be worse?! But, I am a fan of dystopian books and films, and I though Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino were beautiful and acted beautifully in the film.)


In this darkly comic web of crime, murder and mayhem from writer Quentin Tarantino and director Tony Scott, novice prostitute Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) and her lover, comic book store clerk Clarence Worley (Christian Slater), become a Bonnie and Clyde for the 1990s. When Clarence kills Alabama's pimp, the newlyweds ride off into the sunset -- with $5 million worth of cocaine in a suitcase and the police and the mob on their trail. *** (Not quite what I was expecting but I did enjoy the twist on an old story.)


Dennis Haysbert and Joseph Fiennes co-star in this remarkable drama based on the controversial memoirs of James Gregory, the white South African who guarded Nelson Mandela during more than 20 years of imprisonment under apartheid. As Mandela (Haysbert) seeks freedom for himself and his people, Gregory (Fiennes) gradually begins to renounce his militant racism, thanks to his unlikely but powerful relationship with the political prisoner. **** (The acting was superb and of course the story is powerful. Plus, I mean, Joseph Finnes in uniform, hello!)


In the late 19th century, Lalu (Rosalind Chao), a poor Chinese woman, is sold into marriage in America. She's sent to a tough Idaho mining town -- not to marry, but to work as a prostitute in a saloon run by fellow countryman Hong King (Michael Paul Chan). When Lalu refuses the job, her dignity proves irresistible to King's partner, Charlie (Chris Cooper). Dennis Dun co-stars in this "American Playhouse" presentation, based on a true story. **** (I read this book last year and enjoyed it so much I wanted to see the movie. I liked the book much better, but they did a pretty good job of telling a long and complicated story in a short amount of time. But the picture on the front of the DVD is not even a particular scene that made it to the final version of the film.)


When U.S. Rangers and an elite Delta Force team attempt to kidnap two underlings of a Somali warlord, their Black Hawk helicopters are shot down, and the Americans suffer heavy casualties, facing intense fighting from the militia on the ground. Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) captures the brutal, incessant battle scenes with powerful and intimidating framework and pace in this military drama based on a true story. *** (A great cast and an interesting and engaging war movie.)


At upscale brothel 232, five high-class escorts and their manager struggle to straighten out their personal lives while juggling an array of peculiar, needy customers in this edgy Australian drama. In the show's premiere season, Mel (Madeleine West) entertains a cocky rock star, Heather (Peta Sergeant) considers conception and Lauren (Alison Whyte) copes with a crumbling marriage. Bojana Novakovic, Diana Glenn and Kestie Morassi also star. ***** (I thought this Showtime Australia series was a very interesting show an I have a lot to say about it. I liked the characters and the way the show interwove their lives into the show and was not just about the brothel, although that had some interesting goings on as well. My favorite characters were Heather, who is a lesbian who gets pregnant, Chloe, whose 14-year-old daughter confronts her about what she really does for a living, and Tippi, who is just a bubbly personality. Unfortunately for me, it looks like none of my favorites make it past Season 2, which pisses me off. WARNING: Adult content for sexuality, nudity, fetishes, and occasional violence later on.)


Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and New York Asst. DA Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) team up to expose a global financial institution's money laundering, arms dealing and other illegal rackets in this tense thriller from director Tom Tykwer. As the pair race from New York to Milan and beyond to pursue their case, they soon discover that the ruthless bank will stop at nothing to continue its profitable activities. *** (I thought this film was just okay. Other than getting to look at Clive Owen, it didn't suck me in that much. But it was worth watching.)


Joshua Jackson moves on from the teenage angst of "Dawson's Creek" in this coming-of-age drama from first-time director Kevin Noland. Before beginning a conservative career as a buttoned-up businessman, a recent college graduate (Jackson) decides to participate in the world-famous running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, where he meets a beautiful local (Leonor Varela) and an expatriate barkeep (Dennis Hopper) who change his life forever. ** (Warning: this movie is more boring than you would think considering the plot and the cast of characters. I kept waiting and waiting for it to get more interesting and gave up halfway through.)

So what movies have you watched lately?
I'd love to hear your recommendations and any thoughts you'd like to share on what I have watched here!
In other words, leave me a comment already! :)


  1. I watched a little bit of Americano the other night on cable before I went to sleep. It seemed okay but I'm not going to try to watch it again if it's boring!

    I've watched Neverwas a couple of times now. What the story is lacking is made up for by the amazing acting of Ian McKellen and Aaron Eckhart!

    And I usually fast-forward through the beginning of UP because I always cry!

  2. The only one of those movies I've seen is UP - not sure what that says about me.

  3. I was sooo horribly disappointed in District 9. I thought it was ridiculously heavy-handed with its message, and the aliens dressed up in urban clothing just made me want to vomit. Not sure why I had such a hardcore reaction (hatred) except that I detest feeling like the director thinks I'm stupid and must beat me with his metaphor. Hmmphf.

  4. What a great list of movies! I haven't seen District 9 yet, but I'm finding people are having rather strong reactions to it.

  5. Kristen- I don't want to steer you away from a movie you might enjoy, buy on the other hand, don't bother. :) lol

    Kathy- It just says that we have watched different movies! I have time on my hands, lol.

    Andi- I can understand that reaction. I can feel your frustration that it kind of talked down to the viewer. I liked that they showed the aliens trying to acclimate to Earth, but some of it was just odd.

    Trisha- Yeah, I would be interested to hear what you thought of it.

  6. "UP" had me in tears before the "action" even started. That opening sequence just slayed me.

  7. I so want to see Up - but I have a hard time getting Andy to watch any animated anything - other than Toy Story. But I'm going to just get it and enjoy it myself!

    I really got a kick out of This Film Is Not Yet Rated myself - I watched that one last year I think it was. It was amazing to me the secrecy involved in who exactly the rating members are! I haven't watched a good documentary in a while - always on the look out for more.

    We just watched Inglorious Basterds this weekend. I'm not sure whether I liked it or not! Too many similar elements to Tarentino's other films to make it not so cool, but really great acting that kept me interested. In the end, I think all the violence was just too over the top unnecessary - and I never have an issue with that kind of stuff. Disturbing more than funny.

  8. I thought the first twenty minutes or so of District 9 were superb - I was shaking with tension because it felt very real, not just the cinematography but the reactions of the characters and everything. But after that I felt like it degenerated into more standard monster-movie territory, and I agree that the end was a big anticlimax.

    This Film Is Not Yet Rated was most fascinating also! I was interested to see the side-by-side comparisons of sexual moments between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, and how the ratings the movies received were different. All very interesting.

  9. What a terrific list of movies. I really liked District 9 -- the anti-climactic ending was meant to leave it open to a sequel, I guess. I loved Up! My daughter reviewed it here -- http://aspergiansarah.xanga.com/722716980/up/

    I really didn't like Neverwas, and I was disappointed, because I love Sir Ian McKellan. Nice to hear a different perspective.

  10. I really recommend An Education. It's my favorite movie of 2010 so far!

  11. I could not wait for District 9 to be over. I was interested in the beginning but grew bored. And it came so highly recommended. May my expectations were way too high but I just didn't really get what was so great about it.

  12. I had such low expectations for District 9 and was pleasantly surprised. Black Hawk Down is one of my boys' all-time favorite movies but it's so intense, I have only ever been able to watch it once.

  13. Boo for a Joshua Jackson movie that couldn't be tolerated the whole way through. What a waste of the hotness!


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