Category Archives: Rating: 5 stars

DVD Review: 500 Days of Summer (2009)

[I was supposed to put this into my second DVD Blitz, but the film was too good for me to not give it its own review]

For months I’ve been hearing and reading about the praises raining down on 500 Days of Summer, the romantic drama-comedy directed by first-time feature director Marc Webb and written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber.  Naturally, this made me a sceptic.  How good could a seemingly light-hearted romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel be?

Well, I finally found out on DVD over the weekend.  And I fell in love with it.

500 Days of Summer tells the story of Tom (Gordon-Levitt), a young man working for a greeting card company who meets Summer (Deschanel), the girl of his dreams.  There’s just one problem: Summer doesn’t believe in love.  Director Marc Webb describes it as more of a coming-of-age story than a romantic comedy, though I’d like to think of it as both.

It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes 500 Days of Summer so endearing.  Is it the non-linear progression?  No, that actually got me a little confused and annoyed at times.  Could it be the creative visual style and the innovative storytelling techniques?  I liked it, but I don’t think so.  Maybe it was the characters, the way the conventional male-female relationship stereotypes were flipped on their head.  But surely this isn’t the first time this has been done.  Could it be the main leads?  Well, Zooey Deschanel is very cute and I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives the performance of his career, but no, I don’t think so.  And while it is a funny film, it’s not constantly or outrageously hilarious.  The laughs come from very random and quirky comments and moments, which are brilliantly conceived, but I’ve seen funnier films in the last couple of years.

So what is it that made the film so enjoyable and delightful?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s all of the above.  Or none.  Love isn’t rational anyway.

The film just has this incredibly sweet sensation to it.  It captures that feeling of falling hopelessly in love, the passion, the despair, the heartbreak, and the bitter-sweet aftermath.  I can’t think of another film that has done it this well, this real, with so much creativity, and so much heart. And with a cracker of a soundtrack too.

5 out of 5 stars!

[PS: Maybe I will have another opinion of it upon a second viewing.  I did, after all, watch this on the eve of my two-year wedding anniversary.]

Movie Review: Okuribito (Departures) (2009)

departures

I don’t usually review movies that are not ‘new’ at the cinemas, but in the case of ‘Okuribito’ (aka ‘Departures’), the Japanese film that won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2009 Academy Awards, I’ll have to make an exception.

Quite simply put, it is the best film I have seen in quite some time.  Without giving away too much, it is the story of how an ordinary man unwittingly becomes an Okuribito – a person who prepares the deceased for their ‘departure’.

As often is the case with movies about death, Okuribito is very much about life.  It is at its core a moving drama, infused with incredible sadness, but at the same time director Yojiro Takita has managed to blend in much humor without losing sight of the film’s message.  It is also very Japanese – and even though I consider myself acquainted with Japanese culture I found the film to be educational in many ways.

okuribito

To me, the film’s strength lies in its ability to remain touching without becoming overly melodramatic or sentimental (some may disagree on this point).  Much credit must go to the seamless cast, which will be largely unknown to Western viewers – Masahiro Motoki, Tsutomu Yamazaki and Ryoko Hirosue (some might remember her from the film Wasabi with Jean Reno).  Each character has a story to tell.  Even the minor characters have subplots that are likely to leave lasting impressions.  From the blazing orchestral score to the haunting cinematography, it’s a deserving Oscar winner in every respect.

Highly recommended.

5 out of 5 stars!

[PS: It seems my blog has recently turned into a movie/book review blog.  Unfortunately I had accumulated a huge backlog of such posts so I felt I had to get them out first before I could re-focus on writingOkay, from now on, back to work on the novel!]

Top 5 films of 2008!

I was just doing an online poll (www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/) of the top 5 movies of 2008.  The site provides a long list of films released in Australia in 2008 (which means some more recent films may not have made it – eg ALL of the best picture nominees for this year’s Oscars), from which users would first pick a shortlist.  And from that shortlist, the top 5 would be selected.

I was surprised.  2008 will always be remembered as the year Obama became president and the world economy went to hell.  But it also had some very decent films.  Very memorable ones.

So without further delay, here’s the 5 films I ended up with, in no particular order (drumroll please):

  • There Will Be Blood (5 stars)
  • Taken (4.5 stars)
  • The Dark Knight (4.5 stars)
  • Iron Man (4.5 stars)
  • Burn After Reading* (4.5 stars)

* I had picked Lust, Caution first, but switched at the last minute.  I suppose Lust, Caution was the better film, but I enjoyed Burn After Reading more, so there.

The results were totally unexpected.  There Will Be Blood was a classic, so that was a no-brainer.  I don’t usually rate action films that highly, but Taken was the best action film I had seen in a really long time.  I surprised myself by having 2 superhero movies in the list, but these (The Dark Knight and Iron Man) are undoubtedly 2 of the best superhero movies ever made.  Burn After Reading is the type of movie people either loved or hated, and I think to some extent it depends on the mood you’re in at the time of viewing.  I was in one of those moods, I guess, so I found it absolutely hilarious (though I may not get the same result on a second viewing).  Plus I’m a big fan of the Coen brothers and Fargo is one of my favourites of all-time, so there was also a little natural bias.

I should say that this is really more a list of my 5 favourite films of 2008 rather than necessarily the 5 best films.  Nevertheless…

What were your top 5?

2009 Golden Globes Film Reviews

I love watching movies.  I also love writing.  So it’s only natural that I also like to review films.  So far I’ve got 431 reviews and 1202 movie ratings on Flixter, so that says a lot (and that’s just what I can remember).

With the Golden Globe winners announced yesterday, I thought it would be a good time to share a few short reviews on some of the movies I’ve seen that were nominated (taken straight from Flixter). It’s also a good way to give my blog some much needed padding in its baby stage.  I’ll add more if and when I see them (and there’s A LOT I still want to see).  Feel free to agree/berate my ratings, which by the way are out of 5.

Continue reading 2009 Golden Globes Film Reviews