December 2010 | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Review: WINTER'S BONE (2010)


Winner of the prestigious Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Debra Granik's WINTER'S BONE has quickly become one of the critics' darlings among the film festival circuits. On the outlook, WINTER'S BONE looks almost identical like the Coen brothers' award-winning FARGO (1995). Just like Coen brothers' authentic look of their hometown Minnesota, Granik portrays the rarely-filmed Ozark Mountains by successfully capturing a rural community filled with addicts, liars, lowlifes and innocents caught in a web of poverty and deception. Raw and unsentimental in its portrayal, it is no doubt that Granik creates a indie motion picture worthy all the special mention. But at the same time, the movie is also somewhat overrated. All the authenticity aside, the movie proves to be painfully slow-moving for its own good and there are times it's questionable that WINTER'S BONE is hardly qualifies as one of the best movies of the year.



When the project was announced that a semi-biographical movie about Facebook is greenlighted, I was pretty skeptical at first. But given the fact that the movie, entitled as THE SOCIAL NETWORK, the unique combination of talents involving screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (1992's A FEW GOOD MEN and TV's The West Wing) and visionary director David Fincher, my interest is quickly justified. And how is it exactly THE SOCIAL NETWORK fares? Let's just say, if this movie has its own Facebook page, you click "Like", "Share" and finally leaves a good comment about it -- because THE SOCIAL NETWORK is hands-down one of the best movies of the year.



Dark theme grows progressively darker at each installment, and this is evident for this seventh and first-half of the final chapter of HARRY POTTER series, entitled HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1. Once again, director David Yates took the helm after impressed critics and viewers alike with his two critically-acclaimed HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (2007) and HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (2009) with his measured character-driven storytelling and astonishing visual flair. However, in this chapter, David Yates took the biggest challenge yet -- by helming two-parters that the producers insisted not to squeeze the heavy material of the book into one movie. Such bold move is certainly a huge risk especially for an epic movie that have to end with cliffhanger hanging somewhere in the middle, and Warner Bros could have opted to condense the book into one movie instead. After all, isn't what HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX have been successfully done in the first place?

Review: INCEPTION (2010)


Up until now, all of the recent summer 2010 movies failed to live up their original expectations (e.g. IRON MAN 2). Excluding amongst the most satisfying summer movie of the year which is TOY STORY 3, the other one here is Christopher Nolan's eagerly-awaited INCEPTION. Just like his groundbreaking comic-book epic extravaganza, THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), his follow-up here serves him another breakthrough as a cinematic triumph of popcorn fun and brainy thriller.



An unlikely sequel that is wholly unnecessary. Back in 1987, Oliver Stone's WALL STREET defined the era of its time which also included Michael Douglas' Oscar-winning memorable role as the oily Gordon Gecko and his phenomenally popular catchphrase, "Greed... is good". In this sequel entitled WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS, Oliver Stone made his first-ever sequel in his directing career and it's almost sounds like a distinctive comeback for this once-maverick filmmaker after a continuously losing streak of poorly-received efforts (2004's ALEXANDER, 2006's WORLD TRADE CENTER, and 2008's W). While the movie is slickly-made and released in timely manner to capitalize on our current economic downturn, it's sad to say that Oliver Stone we once knew has gone too soft for his good.

Review: TRON: LEGACY (2010)


When the original TRON (1982) first released in the theaters back then, it was a box-office flop. But critics has heavily regarded that TRON was a groundbreaking sci-fi movie in term of its visual medium, though it's very dated by today's standard. Still by the late 1990s, TRON has slowly prove its cinematic worth and ultimately gained its cult status thanks to healthy video market and favorable word-of-mouth. Then came the time where Disney decides to plan a sequel known as TRON: Killer App, but the proposed movie never materialized. Much of the concept ended up instead into a video game called TRON 2.0 (2003), in hope that it will re-ignite public interest for a possible theatrical sequel. Unfortunately the video game approach failed as well and the underperformed sales has again prevented a movie to be greenlighted. Everything is laying low until the infamous test footage of a de-aged Jeff Bridges debuted at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2008 has somehow re-ignite interest among sizable audiences that a movie sequel is workable after all. Twenty-eight years has passed since the original TRON, and Disney has definitely took a huge gamble ($300 million including massive marketing campaign) for a long-awaited sequel that is seemingly looked very promising, judging by its endless stream of advertisement and trailers. The good news is, TRON: LEGACY is every bit as technically dazzling as the original version and the filmmakers behind this movie has definitely worked very hard to achieve spectacular and eye-catching visual feast that is no doubt a top-notch quality. Too bad that is just about it -- all the large sum of money that is heavily spent on making the epic production beautiful to look at but the movie fails miserably in term of its story and characters.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Review: SOMEWHERE (2010)


Billed by some as a companion piece to the 2003's minimalism breakthrough LOST IN TRANSLATION, Sofia Coppola's fourth feature, SOMEWHERE, sees her returning to her familiar filmmaking root that made her famous in the first place after the mixed reception over her colorful period-piece of 2006's MARIE ANTOINETTE.

Review: BURIED (2010)

RATING: 3.5/5

Dig this out: a movie that set entirely in a coffin. It's as simple as that, and it wouldn't be a surprise if there's (most) people out there end up thinking it's impossible to make a movie with this kind of setting. But Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes's Hollywood debut, BURIED, manages to defy all the odds and comes up one of the most startlingly inventive little thrillers ever made in recent memory.



Released in theaters with little fanfare that flies under most people's radar, AND SOON THE DARKNESS is nothing more than just another low-budget little thriller that is all about cliched formula. Despite being headlined by recognizable talents by the likes of Amber Heard, Odette Yustman and Karl Urban, this Hollywood remake (which is actually lifted from the 1970's little-known British thriller of the same name) is painfully routine.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Review: RABBIT HOLE (2010)


When comes to explicit material as proven in such controversial movies by the likes of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (2001) and SHORTBUS (2006), director John Cameron Mitchell is certainly no strangers to that. However, his third feature comes as a huge surprise -- a complete departure of his usual genre norm by tackling a somber adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire's play RABBIT HOLE. There is nothing explicit or particularly controversial of any manner surrounding his new movie here which is a very odd choice of direction for John Cameron Mitchell but he's quick to prove that he's a versatile filmmaker after all. It is reported that John Cameron Mitchell first came attracted by the script that reflected his own personal experience when he was a 14-year-old kid. Back then, he lost his 10-year-old brother to a heart problem. And his experience in the past has clearly shows genuine subtlety in this movie here.

Review: THE TOURIST (2010)


Boring is the right word to describe entirely for a supposedly ambitious movie called THE TOURIST. It does sounds impossible because on paper, THE TOURIST seems to be a shoo-in for box-office favorites -- a classy genre movie in the vein of a lighter Alfred Hitchcock romp (e.g. TO CATCH A THIEF); two of among sexiest Hollywood A-listers (Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp) working for the first time together; and a caliber of behind-the-scene talents (director Florian Heckel von Donnersmarck of 2007's Oscar-winning THE LIVES OF OTHERS, and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellows). On the plus side, the movie is also shot lavishly on location in Venice with some gorgeous costumes as well. With a blessed budget as high as $100-million tag, what could have gone wrong? And that is exactly what Florian Heckel von Donnersmarck's first Hollywood big-budget feature has done -- by making the impossibly boring movie into something possible after all.

Review: THE CHILD'S EYE 童眼 (2010)

Review: THE CHILD'S EYE 童眼 (2010)

While vacationing in Bangkok, six Hong Kong travelers -- Rainie (Rainie Yang), Ling (Elanne Kwong), Ciwi (Ciwi Lam), Hei (Izz Hu), Rex (Rex Ho) and Lok (Shawn Yue) -- find themselves in the midst of political unrest and chaotic riot all over the street that they are unable to get past the airport to head home. Instead, they end up stranded in a rundown Chung Tai Hotel and forced to lay low for a time being until the riot subsides. Once there, they immediately sense something is not right with the hotel, beginning with the curious appearance of three kids and a little dog. More unexplained circumstances continue especially when Rainie sees a female ghost and Ling finds a hovering hand trying to grab her during the daylight riot outside the hotel. Then it gets worse from there -- Rainie's estranged boyfriend, Lok, in which both of them are suffering in the verge of break-up, is mysteriously disappeared and so the rest of the three men. With the aid of the little girl and her little dog named Little Huang which capable of seeing ghost, Rainie leads the girls to locate their disappearances around the hotel's underground passages and subsequently learn about the appearances of a female ghost (Jo Koo) and a strange dog-human mutant hybrid. Added to the mystery is the gimpy and grouchy hotel owner, Chuen (Lam Ka-Tung) who seemingly has to do with a series of strange occurrences.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Review: MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010)


It's been five years since the undisputed master of horror, Wes Craven has directed a movie. His last feature was the 2005's RED EYE, a radical departure out of the norm but Craven does know how to spin a nail-biting suspenseful thriller. But die-hard fans will always appreciate his effort in tackling horror genre, which is why it's particularly a delight to see him make a much-awaited comeback in MY SOUL TO TAKE. Not only he returns to SCREAM-like teen slasher territory but this is also his first movie he has both written and directed since NEW NIGHTMARE (1994), which is quite frankly, that's really saying a lot. Unfortunately, it's an eye-popping surprise his long-awaited movie here is a confusing mess that is partly inspired but mostly dumbfounded.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Review: FASTER (2010)


With a title like FASTER, a kick-ass poster, and an equally captivating tagline that reads "Slow Justice is No Justice", you can almost bet that Dwayne Johnson's long-awaited return to an action-packed role after a short stint of Disney comedies and dramas, is his definitive comeback as well as something that action fans really like to look forward to. Well, at least the beginning of the set up delivers in a very promising manner -- a convict known only as Driver (Johnson) gets out of prison after ten years. Accompanied with a kick-ass theme song of "Good-bye My Friend" by Guido and Maurizio De Angeles (which is taken from a 70s Franco Nero's Italian crime movie called STREET LAW), he wastes no time by running across the freeway under the scorching heat before finally picking up a sweet-looking muscle car. Inside his car, he has a big revolver with big bullets, and a list of names of people he's going to kill. He drives off his car straight off to locate his first target. Once there, he walks into a building and puts a bullet hole in the head of an unsuspecting guy (Courtney Gaines) before leaving the scene. What a dramatic opening scene to begin with, but what follows next, is a surprisingly slow-burning plot that doesn't particularly justify the title at all.

Review: THE WARRIOR'S WAY (2010)


At the first glance, THE WARRIOR'S WAY sounds like a fun movie not to be missed -- a comic-book like structure that mixes with classic samurai tale, spaghetti western, and a dash of Tod Browning's FREAKS (1932) thrown in for a mishmash of genre-benders. Topping that is the movie shot in hyper-stylized way like a live-action anime with a touch of 300-like filmmaking style to boot. No doubt an odd mix all over the place, but New York Film School professor-turned-writer/director Sngmoo Lee still deserves some applause for a wild hybrid in his debut movie here. Too bad THE WARRIOR'S WAY is surprisingly mundane with only a flick of entertaining moments simply not enough to call this as a guilty-pleasure fun.

Review: DEVIL (2010)


Poor M. Night Shyamalan. Whatever he touches these days turned to box-office poison. His recent highly-anticipated big-budget summer movie extravaganza, THE LAST AIRBENDER, was heavily pounded by critics and viewers alike and the box-office return wasn't particularly impressive as well. And now, it's actually refreshing to see him returning to small-scale horror genre. What's even more a sigh of relief is Shyamalan's latest venture here sees him giving the directorial job to John Erick Dowdle (2008's QUARANTINE) while retaining as writer and producer of the movie.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Review: THE TOWN (2010)

RATING: 2.5/5

Based on Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves, actor/director/co-writer Ben Affleck's highly-anticipated follow-up to his critically-acclaimed 2007's GONE BABY GONE is certainly worth recommending for -- an epic crime picture in the mould of HEAT (1995). Well, at least judging by its premise and the trailer. But THE TOWN is surprisingly unremarkable and there are only times the movie ignites its promise once in a while before they loses off the spark again.