Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Brothers Bloom

I am not sure why this is titled The Brothers Bloom plural. Only one brother is named Bloom. Otherwise, I have only good things to say about this film. A good con film is one where even the viewer is not sure about the con. When does it start, and when does it end. Here Mark Ruffalo and Adrian Brody play brothers who have developed their skills over the course of a lifetime. They are careful, yet daring. They always plan out the con and it is generally complex and multi-staged. This theme holds the film together as we are taken through each stage. However, as a viewer, we have not seen the whole map. We don't know when the con is finished. As a result, I was enjoying the introduction of new elements along the entire way. Some of them were an obvious part of the plan, and others kept me wondering. Rachel Weisz does an excellent job as the eccentric mark/co-conspiritor and the chemistry is good between her and Brody. An added benefit was the visual style presented. The coloring and clarity of the filming made it enjoyable to watch regardless of the story. Overall, a fine Halloween offering.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

An Education

A simple story, really. Set in England in the early 60's, Carey Mulligan plays Jenny, a young student who meets an older man and becomes enamored. We are able to follow her in her new found adventure as she learns about life, activity, human shortcomings and perhaps even love. Throughout, Jenny also struggles to find her own values as a distinct identity from that of her family (her father actually, who is played magnificently by Alfred Molina) and from that of her school instructors. Throughout, Mulligan really excels at showing her enthusiasm and pure pleasure at being an adult in an adult world. Her smile is brilliant, making you want to smile along with her, and this alone is enough to make the film enjoyable. In the end, when talking with her English teacher, Jenny confesses "I feel old, but not wise." An appropriate reflection after an adventure.
4 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thick as Thieves (aka The Code)

I like a good heist movie and this one wasn't half bad. I wonder why I hadn't heard of it before. Released early this year, Morgan Freeman and Antonio Banderas play a couple of jewel thieves who team up to pull off the job of a lifetime. Of course, there is duress, there is a love interest, there are hidden motives, there are twists and there are cool gadgets. It wouldn't be a heist movie without all of this. A competent, yet not entirely imaginative, entry in the genre. As an aside, after the movie, I began to think about how similar Morgan Freeman's roles all seem to be. The three films I immediately thought of were this one, Wanted, and 10 Items or Less. In each of these at least, Freeman has a father figure role, and plays the role with an unveiled arrogance. He, of course, is the center of the universe and controls the plot. I wonder if these are just three roles, or is Freeman showing through. I guess I will watch his films a bit different in the future to see how it turns out.
3 stars (out of 5)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Bicycle Thief

A 1949 Italian film depicting life in the economically depressed, post-war suburbs of Rome. Antonio Ricci finally gets a call for a job from the government employment agency and a spark of hope enters his life. The only requirement is that he have a bicycle for transportation. I suppose the only thing worse than a hopeless situation is one in which hope peeks its face in, and then runs away. We are taken through a series of encounters with Ricci and his son as they pursue the man who has stolen his bicycle, with the bike eventually becoming an emblem for a chance at a "normal" life. As the two take the day to journey throughout the city, we get an excellent look at a man and his family in desperate times, and a definite commentary on what is actually important in life.
4 stars (out of 5)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Top 5 Films All-Time

This is a dangerous list to make because it is too easy to leave something off and then one is embarrassed to have left such a great movie off his list. And one usually has to define a category: best acting, best classic, best story, best characters, most engaging, most memorable, etc. But setting all of that aside, right now, today I would choose (in no particular order):
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Roman Holiday
Twelve Monkeys
Sliding Doors

There you have it. Maybe next year (or next month) the list will change. What are your Top-5?

Coco Before Chanel

Apparently it is fashion week in the Buxman household. This time we look back at one of the icons of fashion, Coco Chanel. French star Audrey Tautou portrays Coco in the early 1900's as she transitions from a young girl abandoned by her father to an orphanage into the namesake of a fashion empire. Set in France, primarily in the suburbs of Paris and in the social circles of the extremely wealthy, we watch Coco navigate a world she has always dreamed about and yet never quite fits into. Her rogue personality is what gives her fashion a modern, edgy feel as well as making her the favorite mistress of her "baron". It is fascinating to see the world of the wealthy from the perspective of the wealthy. We see lots of mistresses and debauchery. We see not a single wife, family, kid, or pregnant woman. The values of the wealthy, and the tolerance of society for the desires of men are portrayed without apology and Coco is continually conflicted about pushing against those values/desires and embracing them entirely. Even so, it is easy to forget the misery of relationship that is likely behind the emerald curtain of this upper crust society. Instead, we follow Coco as she seeks to be happy and in the end we see that she is. But I am not sure that I really believe the assertion.
4 stars (out of 5)