Saturday, April 28, 2012


The purported premise of this film is that three high school kids encounter some strange thing in a cave and gain super powers. Really, this is sci-fi Breakfast Club. That is, the three high school kids are (pre-super) only somewhat friends. The each are fulfilling a "type", one being the popular-athlete-student body president, one being the guy who is cool because he is beyond and above caring about popularity, and finally the socially awkward-outsider-artistic guy. After gaining super-ness, they stick together because they only really can be understood by people who are like them. This is really a film about type, investigating what each of these types would do with super power, what they would change, and how they would react. It is fun to see the development of these super powers as the kids learn to use them and have fun with them. But in the end, even those who are like you don't really understand you, which is what high school ends up feel like for even those who are not super.
3 stars (out of 5)

Think Like a Man

A movie built around a relationship book written by comedian Steve Harvey certainly has potential. The film follows 6 guys who are in various stages of relationships and various stages of denial about what relationships are. The are all having problems of one sort or another, even though they sometimes do not even know they are having problems. Steve Harvey (playing himself, with his real life book) introduces a relationship book for women that "gives away the secrets" of what men really think. Four women pick up this book and begin to use it to get what they want in a relationship. The men find out the women have the book and begin a counter-insurgency program with their women. In the end, the lesson is that if you fake it long enough, eventually it becomes true. There are no surprises here and there are not even any great comedic lines that I can remember to be repeating in conversation this week. However, I laughed pretty consistently throughout. The characters are caricatures for sure, but they are enjoyable caricatures. This is a fun film and probably one of the better romantic comedies I have seen in quite awhile.
4 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Separation

This Iranian film was on the list year as an Academy Award nominee, so I had high expectations going in. Which is strange since I didn't really know anything about the film. I thought that it was about a husband and wife who get a divorce so the wife can travel to the U.S. In fact, the wife wants to travel to the U.S., wants a divorce so that she can travel with her daughter. But like many teens, the daughter will have none of it. She decided that by refusing to go, her mother won't leave either and perhaps the parents will reconcile. This "kid in the middle" situation is particularly evident throughout the film and highlights the parents inability to take responsibility for their own decisions. They can no longer put a decision on the other and absolve themselves of responsibility so the closest next body is that of the daughter. Mix in a grandfather with dementia in the house and an unfortunate accident with the house keeper and you get a courtroom drama film. The interesting part of this film is the interplay of religious v. secular in the courtroom, and in the ensuing out of court drama. None of the dramatic tension here is particularly unique to Iran, but the religious/secular piece is an easy setup because it is well known. The filmmaker does not need to provide significant background for the viewer to understand and participate in the angst. It would be interesting to see this same film made with issues where conservative religion v. secularism informs the drama, but in other contexts. Could we see a replay made in the U.S. Bible belt, or in Tel Aviv, or Mumbai, or Tokyo. That would be a great little trilogy.
3 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rain Fall

I have seen a few films, and a few of them in the action genre. Rain Fall is different enough to enjoy. John Rain is a version of Jason Bourne, former Special Ops soldier taking orders from someone, but not sure who (a la Haywire in some ways). Set in Tokyo, there is a complex plot involving the Japanese mob, corrupt politicians, and the CIA. Rain is in the middle of it, everyone is looking for him and he is looking for some information while at the same time protecting the girl. So while the character and plot setup is very Bourne, it couldn't be further from Bourne in terms of feel. This is a nicely paced film that slowly unwinds the complexity and the inevitable relationships that form. Slowly, but appropriately slowly. This is not your classic action film, but more of a dramatic thriller. Well played.
4 stars (out of 5)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

A classic romantic comedy, and yet somehow better. As a way to get a good news story amidst a string of bad press on Afganistan, the British government encourages one of its fishery experts (Ewan McGregor) to take on a consulting job with a Yemenise prince. The catch is that the job is to introduce salmon into Yemen. Of course it can't be done, but somehow there is an honesty about the prince that causes everyone to fall in line and give it the ol' college try. With Emily Blunt as the prince's financial consultant, everything seems to come together with all the requisite bonding and getting over past love, etc. Aside from the novelty of getting salmon to run in Yemen, there is noting new about this film. But somehow it is just cheesy enough, and just slow enough to work. I think the characters are quite well developed in subtle ways (much is said about McGregor as he collects a stray thread to tie a fly, but it never explicitly shows up as as scene later on). This sort of subtlety happens throughout and makes for an enjoyable film.
4 stars (out of 5)