Movie Review: Babel

Babel is one of those occasional movies that aim to be a little “high-concept”, exploring new ways of storytelling in movies, usually to express an idea rather than tell a direct plot. It’s left up to the viewer as to whether they absorb the message, or indeed what message they absorb. Crash was one of those that proved to be successful enough with viewers and critics alike; it remains to be seen if Babel will quite achieve the same.

The story starts in the Moroccan desert, in a thread that forms the core of the movie. There are two or three other threads, depending on how you choose to look at it, which throughout the movie illustrate the idea that we affect each other more, and across greater distances than that which we commonly perceive.

What some might consider spoilers follow, so if you’re sensitive to those things, don’t read on =)

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Movie Review: Casino Royale

Enough Politics! Casino Royale, the 21st Bond film, goes back to the “start”, the story of how Bond became Bond.

Only… it’s not. It’s full of little cues to all those standard Bond quirks. The ignore-what-happened-last-time persists, as in all Bond flicks, but Bond’s never gone backwards, as it were. For cryin’ out loud, Q (or his ertswhile replacement John Cleese) is missing! The whole atmosphere feels like it could be, should be, set against the cloak-and-dagger of the Cold War – but it’s the international terrorist financing that provides the bad guy (don’t worry, this isn’t anything spoilerish).

But that’s only the first 10 minutes. Slowly you come to realise this is a paced Bond, a movie where drama takes more of a role in moving the plot along than pure action. It’s almost as if, for once, the scriptwriters got the upper hand on the special effects and stunts guys. They deliver quite well too – some good dialogue, and sharp wit to match. There’s occasional glitch-in-the-Matrix moments when you think something ended up on the cutting room floor that probably shouldn’t have, but it’s easily glossed over.

Daniel Craig even does well filling the shoes of Pierce Brosnan. Craig isn’t as suave or stylish as Brosnan, but he’s got the look (or gets it eventually), and it’s hard to imagine Brosnan filling the demands of Bond’s character in this movie quite so well – Bond does get his hands dirty in this one, and that’s not Bond’s established style. Fitting then that Craig as the newcomer can pin the role so well. Caterina Murino as Solange has but a bit-part, which was disappointing. However, Eva Green as Vesper Lynd does exceptionally well. This is most likely due to the fact that she actually has lines to deliver and a role to play, rather than just being the usual Bond girl.

Overall, ★★★★☆. Excellent movie, well worth your money and time, even if occasional pacing issues do crop up. No big car chase or the usual array of Bond gadgets, but the drama easily pulls it off anyway. Best Bond since Goldeneye.

Movie Roundup

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest: ★★★★ Good fun ride, but much like Kill Bill 1 or The Two Towers, it’s been stretched a little too long in order to justify release as a movie by itself, and basically has only half the plot it should have had, with the end leaving you hanging. The last half hour has all the stuff that really counts, so I’m very much looking forward to the final chapter of the story wrapping it up. Which, as a matter of course, is exactly what the creators intended. Bastards.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: ★★★★☆. I wanted to watch this when it came out, but the stars just didn’t line up and I ended up missing it, so when I spotted it at the video store I grabbed it instantly and look around as though someone was going to snatch it from me. Rollicking good fun. I don’t even know if that’s a word. Exactly the kind of movie I love – self-aware, dark humour, characters who seem genuinely human (i.e. they don’t know everything by any means), and a plot which stitches itself together at the end very nicely. Tears, of, Laughter, I tell you.

Syriana: ★★★☆ Excellent movie with timely message, great acting and direction a cut above. Plot somewhat like Crash, as I mentioTned previously, but more… visceral, more real – not cutely tying itself up like Crash. However, I didn’t care quite enough about the characters when bad things happened, and as almost inevitably so in this kind of movie, very America-centric and has a lot of talking heads you just end up listening to the script more than anything. Would be very interesting to read the book.

Date Movie: Ugh. Terrible.

9 Songs: Porn, basically. The only thing which stops it from being put in the porn basket completely (as opposed to “Arthouse”) is the fact that the time is almost evenly split between the sex scenes and non-sex-scenes. Possibly great exploration of two people in a deep, physical relationship, but spoilt by the fact that the director clearly wanted to see how far he could push the envelope. Watching with members of the opposite sex extremely awkward.

Click: ★★ Argh, I don’t know why I give Adam Sandler chances. He’s slowly moving towards better movies, but this ain’t it.

Oh and if I haven’t harped on about it enough yet, make sure you don’t miss Hoodwinked (★★★★★), which should be in cinemas soon (taking its damn sweet time getting to Aus). Laugh-till-you-hurt kind of irreverent humour.

Upcoming to-see movies:

  • 16 Blocks (Out now)
  • Sione’s Wedding (Out now)
  • Miami Vice (Aug. 10)
  • A Scanner Darkly (Sept. 21)
  • An Inconvenient Truth (late Sept)

Movie Review: Mission Impossible 3

Watched M:I:3 last night. First impression within 30 seconds of the start: Wow, get a bloody steadycam or tripod, will you? Yeesh. I don’t know what makes film makerst think a camera shaking like crazy, at an unecessary time (i.e. when the action is mostly static), is somehow “modern” and “cool”. All it does is make me want to close my eyes before I get a headache. Also, most overused plot technique in movies these days: the flash-forward, or perhaps half-movie-is-flashback-from-first scene. I don’t know which movie did it first – Fight Club is the first example I can remember – but now it’s just getting predictable – “Oh look! First Scene and we’re in the thick of things and we the audience have no clue what’s going on! I know, we’ll wait for the plot exposition.”

On to the movie itself, or the what meat there is to it. There’s little to no reference to the past movies, especially MI2. Ving Rhames is back, which is always good, but somehow you feel there should be a little more history in there. MI3 also lacks the tension that was there in the first, which made it a hit in the first place. It was all a little more cloak and dagger then. MI2 moved towards the action end of town, and now it’s virtually an American Bond With A Team. Also, some of the setup is ludicrously weak. It was 2 hours long, but at times you believed they made up the plot in less time than it took for me to get the popcorn at the candybar.

Utterly unbelievable, but Seymour-Hoffman puts in a great performance, and Maggie Q, Keri Russel & John Rhys-Meyers totally underutilised. Morpheous looks old and fat, unfortunately. Good laugh from “We Are Family”.

★★★

Movie Review: Crash

Crash is a movie that can’t accurately be described. There is no start-middle-end like most movies. It’s an ensemble peice, and while this usually conjures up images of movies like Love Actually, where there’s a connection, however tenuous, between all the characters, in Crash there isn’t. Or, well, there is, but it’s a lot more co-incidental and in the moment.

Crash was the winner of the Best Picture Oscar this year, and despite all the claims that it wasn’t deserving of it, I’d say it ranks right up there. I haven’t seen any of the other movies that were nominated, but they’d have to do a hell of a job topping it. Go watch it, it’s on DVD right now. ★★★★☆