Though Ryan Gosling’s performance as the strung out junior high school teacher, Dan Dunne, won him an Academy Award nomination this year, the real star of this film is Shareeka Epps, who plays Drey. When Drey catches Dan smoking crack in the washroom one day a secret bond is formed between them. A bond and story which then carries the movie. Half Nelson is a film about the crash between reality and hope as seen through Teacher Dan’s eyes. Caught between his hope to make the world better for the black and hispanic kids in his class and the reality he can’t, Dan takes to drugs to find a new reality in which to cope. It is classic stuff and in the hands of director Ryan Fleck is all done quite well. My only problem with the film was Gosling’s performance, but perhaps I just don’t get the subtlety of his acting? Surely the Academy can’t be wrong, right?! Half Nelson also seemed to me one of those films that just goes on and on and on … and not in a good way. My rating 5 out of 10.
Two interlaced love stories masquerade as a hunt for a very rare pink diamond in this great film from director Edward Zwick. The stories centre on Archer (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) who realizes all his wrongs as a Zimbadweian ex-mercenary and diamond smuggler when he meets and falls for the lovely American reporter Maddy Bowen (played by Jennifer Connelly), and Solomon Vandy (the always exceptional Djimon Hounsou), who, kidnapped from his family and forced to work in the Sierra Leone diamond mines, uses the love of family to make his way home. Leonardo’s laughable Zimbadweian accent and stiff acting aside, Blood Diamond spins a great story that will keep your interest throughout. Watching it made me realize how much I don’t want to go to Africa any time soon, mind you. My rating 8 out of 10.
Mel, Mel, Mel … Mel Gibson’s latest films all seem to use the same tactics, namely, sickening violence and the focus on one man destined in some manner (usually religious) for ‘greatness’ within his community. I cite Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ as recent examples. In Apocalypto, Mel takes these two themes to their usual extremes following Jaguar Paw, a young man taken from his forest village and trekked to the Mayan capital to become a human sacrifice to the Gods. Destiny intervenes in the form of an eclipse and thereafter the film becomes the story of Jaguar Paw’s odyssey back to save his wife and child, all the while being pursued by his Mayan captures. As a reflection of Mayan history at the time of the conquest, this story is aesthetically accurate and utterly breathtaking in its cinematography. As virtual history, it is hogwash and is simply a setting for the grander story Mel is filming. The violence in the film is horrific on many, many levels and I wonder if the film could have been a 10 out of 10 had Mel reduced it? … That all said, I would still highly recommend Apocalypto for those of strong stomach who want a glimpse at a world long since gone. My rating 9 out of 10.
Address Unknown (aka Suchwiin bulmyeong)
Director Ki-duk Kim’s Address Unknown essentially tells is all about the post-Korean War realities of the American presence. Taking place in 1970, it follows the story of three young misfits – the mixed race son of a Korean mother and black American GI, Chang-guk; Jihum, a frail, abused teenager who is fixated on Eunok, a teenage girl with a wonky eye. The lives of these three individuals intertwine as only Korean dramas can. In the end, the violence and discrimination each faces takes its toll, the result: tragedy for each. The problem with this film is its relentless despair … there are no happy moments, not a one unless you count Eunok implied masturbation scene with her puppy (which is something else altogether). The other problem is you see it all coming, Ki-duk Kim exercises no subtlety. Dog lovers will also recoil at the brutal scenes of dog cruelty (the film does note no dogs were harmed in the filming). What you’re left with is an overwhelming malaise and a clear understanding that the American involvement in Korea has left deep societal scars. My rating 6 out of 10.