Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Formosa Betrayed

Formosa Betrayed

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Set in the mid-’80s, at the tail end of Taiwan’s White Terror period of martial law, the film’s supposedly inspired by the real-life murders of two pro-independence activists. James Van Der Beek plays an FBI agent sent to the island formerly known as Formosa to observe and assist in the investigation of an assassinated Taiwanese-American professor. Instead of justice, however, he encounters secretive government officials determined to thwart his efforts to find the killers. In true American-movie fashion, Van Der Beek oversteps his authority in an attempt to reveal a government conspiracy and ends up implicating American interests. (In case you miss the point, we see several photos of Mao and Nixon shaking hands.)

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Repo Men

Why Jude Law would want to get his hands on our organs

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

A jet-black comedy about the high wages of mercenary medicine, the film features Jude Law and Forest Whitaker as a death panel on wheels — a two-man team of collection agents specializing in recovering human organs. In this vaguely near, dystopian future, the insurance industry is even more unscrupulous than today, pushing artificial organ “upgrades” on an unsuspecting populace that can’t seem to keep up with the payments. That’s where our boys come in, armed with Tasers, scalpels and the usual piles of paperwork, in duplicate of course, ready to retrieve the company’s property by any means necessary. This questionable line of work gives Law’s character only brief food for thought, until a botched job leaves him with an artificial ticker of his own, and a swiftly growing pile of bills. Faced with his own repossession, he goes rogue, turning the tables on his corrupt bosses and his borderline psycho best pal, played with Whitaker’s trademark weird intensity.

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44 Inch Chest

Filled with actorly weight, this top-heavy film needs a back brace

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

A heartsick London gangster, Colin (Winstone), finds out his longtime wife (Joanne Whalley) has been having an affair with a younger man. In a display of loyalty and twisted sympathy, Colin’s best mates abduct the young lothario, toss him in a van and drag him to a safe house, where he’ll be anything but. These nasty blokes brim with ill intentions, and they take turns venting lifetimes of frustration on the poor, scared bastard, who sits trembling in silence waiting for a violent end that seems inevitable. They cuss and spit and howl, and smoke countless cigarettes, and, between threats, occasionally hit on a profundity or two about love, friendship and dignity.

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Greenberg

Ben Stiller bites reality back

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Roger Greenberg is a real piece of work. When a long-suffering friend offers the cozy old chestnut that “Youth is wasted on the young,” Roger snaps, “Life is wasted on people.” He should know; he has spent years tossing his in the waste bin. Freshly out of an extended stay in a New York mental ward and now house-sitting his brother’s L.A mansion, he’s a misanthropic mess of a man, at war with nearly everyone and everything crossing his path. These are but small distractions until he meets his brother’s lovely young assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig), who might be the lighthouse that pierces his terminal cloud of self-absorption.

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Terribly Happy

No noirish yarn this good stays obscure long

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Jakob Cedergren plays Robert, a policemen given a rehab assignment in tiny village, after suffering an emotional meltdown in Copenhagen. At first glance this sleepy hamlet is the prefect tonic for his rattled nerves, but appearances make quick work of fools in pictures like this. Indeed something is rotten in Denmark (forgive me), and soon the marshall is hip deep in a domestic dispute as dirty as the thick bog nearby. The town’s worst-kept secret is that brutish Jorgen regularly abuses his hot-tomato wife Ingeise (Lene Maria Christensen), and she wastes no time coming to the new guy for help, and a little more. He resists her advances for awhile, but as is the way of all patsies, he succumbs, and things begin spiraling out of control. Pretty soon there’s a murder, a cover-up, and the threat that even more bodies will vanish.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ghost Writer

The masterful Roman Polanski builds tension with grace and elegance

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Filmmaker Roman Polanski, who brings such a masterly touch to The Ghost Writer, despite its predictable story and timid cast. Hired to ghost-write the memoir of a Tony Blair-like British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan), a nameless writer (get it?) played by Ewan McGregor is sucked into political and domestic intrigue. The PM is accused by the Hague of human rights violation with his war-on-terror tactics, his frosty wife starts to thaw around McGregor, and suspicious details emerge about the supposed suicide of the previous ghost writer.

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Green Zone

Missed opportunity to kneecap Bush’s weapons-of-mass-destruction catastrophe

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Teaming up again with his Bourne series star, Matt Damon, director Paul Greengrass tries to graft a ’70s-style conspiracy thriller onto a breakneck action flick while critiquing the incompetence and corruption of Bush’s policies in Iraq. Very “loosely” based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s terrific nonfiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Green Zone takes place early in the Iraq War, as chief warrant officer Roy Miller (Damon) searches for Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. What the patriotic soldier finds instead, however, is a whole lot of false intel. And it makes him mad. So mad he goes off-mission to follow a lead fed to him by an Iraqi informer. Baathist bigwigs are meeting in a nearby house, and he comes close to capturing General Al Rawi, an Iraqi WMD expert (aka the Jack of Clubs). But something’s fishy: An ideological bureaucrat (Greg Kinnear channeling Paul Bremer) has Miller roughed up by Special Forces and his sole witness is taken to Abu Ghraib before any useful information can be learned. Soon Miller is working with a CIA maverick (Brendan Gleeson) who questions the administration’s tactics, and exchanging info with a hack journalist (Amy Ryan) — who bears more than a passing resemblance to New York Times war cheerleader Judith Miller. Of course, both sides are in a race to snag Al Rawi in order to find and suppress the truth.

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Our Family Wedding

Blacks and Latinos finally star together in a major movie as wretched as anything whites have done

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Welcome to the new post-racial America, where at long last African-Americans and Latinos can star together in a major studio movie every bit as crappy as anything white people have ever done. Our Family Wedding is a minor milestone in the march of cultural progress, and a huge regression in the art of screen comedy, a viewing experience both heartening and totally mortifying. It’s also an utterly witless exercise in genre recycling. In fact, the film is notable only for the racial composition of the cast. Forest Whittaker and Carlos Mencia star as dads sparring because their grown children are in love, getting engaged, and didn’t bother to consult their blowhard daddies first. The resulting "comedy" is execrable.

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Remember Me

Robert Pattinson’s star vehicle runs out of gas

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Robert Pattinson throws all his thousand-yard stares and brooding energy into the role of Tyler, an early twentysomething bad boy charging fast in no particular direction, a poor little rich boy seething with equal parts resentment and pomposity. You can tell he’s a maverick through his immaculate two-day stubble growth, chain smoking habit, affection for poetry, and propensity to solve problems with his fists. One post-bar altercation earns him a clink sleepover, but not for brawling as much as mouthing off to a bitter detective played by the great Chris Cooper. As the movie’s fates decree, that cop has a lovely, spirited eccentric daughter, Allie (Emilie de Ravin), who happens to be in a class he’s involved in at New York University. At the suggestion of his wise-cracking roommate, Tyler asks her out, and soon they’re going to carnivals, having water fights and playing kissy in the shower. This doomed romance is interrupted by spats with their respective parents, her controlling pop, and his distant, dictatorial, corporate dad, played by Pierce Brosnan with the worst excuse for a New York accent heard in years.

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She’s Out of My League

Lots of bro-banter and bodily function goofs smother a good idea

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Jay Baruchel (Undeclared, Tropic Thunder) is a sweet-natured everydude, working for the TSA at the Pittsburgh airport, killing time with his foul-mouthed buddies, and pining for his selfish twit of an ex-girlfriend. When a chance encounter with overachieving Aryan goddess Alice Eve (a “rock hard 10,” his friends sputter) develops into an unlikely romance, Baruchel gets overcome with insecurity. As everyone in his life explains, he’s a “5 … a 6 at best.” Will Jay overcome his self-esteem issues and keep his stone-cold fox of a girlfriend? Will extreme humiliation and jokes involving bodily functions make it that much harder? Clearly you’ve been living under a rock if those questions prove too daunting to answer.

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