…. But before this latest batch of reviews, I want to share a picture I took while in snowy Halifax as I trudged in wind and cold and snow (gee sounds like Toronto eh?) to meetings at Dalhousie University. Only one picture, sorry, too cold for others! It’s very Dickensian I thought.
Now, on to the reviews…
Sergei Bodrov directs this historical epic of Genghis Khan (the early years) starting way back in circa 1206 when the great khan was nothing more than a wee lad named Temudjin. Mongol is Russia’s entry as Best Foreign Language Film in this year’s Academy Awards, and, from the great, sweeping story (think Dr. Zhivago without the melodrama), simply gorgeous cinematography (with dibs to Rogier Stoffers and Sergei Trofimov) and perfect performances from Tadanobu Asano (as Temudjin, aka Genghis Kkan), Khulan Chuluun (as Borte, his wife), and especially Hong-lei Sun (as Temudjin’s friend/nemesis, Jamukha), this film is definitely Oscar-worthy. And while a great, entertaining story, Genghis in this version is a little too zen, if you will, for my liking. In addition, the version I watched suffered from a Tower of Babel syndrome where I viewed english subtitles with mongolian and mandarin speaking-actors and a quieter Russian voice over that was thoroughly distracting. All in all for showing us one man’s glimpse at one of history’s greatest conquerers, my rating of 8 out of 10.
There Will Be Blood
Wow! Well, what can you say about this Oscar-nominated movie but, wow. The film is a 2:40 glimpse into the mind of a seemingly good guy oilman (played by Daniel Day Lewis), who, over the course of the film reveals his truly ugly, sickening colours and, in doing so, ends up a hollow, evil skeleton of a man. As you watch his descent over the movie into the pure evil creature he is, you’re struck by the strangeness of it all, sure; but more by the knowledge – sadly – that people like Daniel Plainview exist even today. There Will Be Blood is a masterpiece for sure and kudos to Paul Thomas Anderson’s directing and Lewis’ bravado acting. The film’s ending is appropriate for its sadness, sadism and leaving us all to wonder, why? With this and No Country for Old Men, I’m stumped on Best Picture this year. My rating 10 out of 10.
The Painted Veil
Directed by John Curran and starring uber-actor Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, The Painted Veil – based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham – tells the ‘love’ story of Walter Fane (Norton) and his cheating wife Kitty (Watts) as they battle cholera in China in the 1920s. When Fane discovers Kitty’s infidelity, he accepts a position in a remote Chinese village and drags her along just to be spiteful. However, what ensues in the closeness of a cholera village and amid the dying bodies is a new understanding and love for each other. While the story seems a tad farfetched, the strong acting of Watts and Norton, and the breathtaking scenery (shot by cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh)) make this film worth a watch. My rating 7 out of 10.
Directed by David Fincher and starring a post-Brokeback Mountain star, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downy Jr and Brian Cox, Zodiac is based on the true story of a serial killer who terrorised the San Francisco Bay area in the 1970s. Downy gives a great performance as an-over-the-top, drugged-out reporter. However, his performance is not enough to save this film from its ever so slow pacing and the fact it’s too smart by half. A whack of editing may have helped certainly, as we didn’t need to have every clue, every discovered rehashed in a movie that’s trying to build some tension. I think ultimately where this film fails is not knowing its starting point: was Fincher trying to do a thriller? A bio-op alla In Cold Blood? Or something in between. For failing to deliver on what could have been a very good film, my rating 5 out of 10.