LTTP: Late '09 Recap [Part 1]

So if you haven't noticed, I really never posted much since last December. Sorry for that but I have been busy with school and was with the family for the holidays. So this special-edition of LTTP is going to cover a lot of bases that I wanted to write full posts about, but simply never had the time for.

Jump after the break for an extra large clusterf*ck of quick articles.


LTTP: Where The Wild Things Are

Man I was really behind on this one. Originally released in America on October 16th, I've been itching to see this one. Now judging by the somewhat-disappointing score on RottenTomatoes and the equally depressing box office numbers, expectations had been lowered when the film started. Ironically, the same reason the movie fell flat at the box office is the same reason I really loved it. Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are is nothing short of fantastic, being an artistic work full of emotions anyone can relate to. But the movie may have been a bit too easy for audiences to relate to and when it comes to kids' movies, most people want escapism rather than realism. The story of Max is one that really hits home as the child obviously has issues with interacting with others and also seems to have some major temper problems. When Max's mom (a brief but masterful role portrayed by Catherine Keener) gets upset to the point where she kind of tackles him to stop him from running away, it is certainly hard to watch. But that makes the story of the Wild Things that much more poignant--that love triumphs over most of the useless altercations that we naturally try to make the center of our own universes. Where The Wild Things Are's unique approach to the issues related to childhood and naivety can all be summarized into just a few words: bold, uncompromising, and resonating.

LTTP: The Hurt Locker

Another film I patiently waited to see, The Hurt Locker was certainly worth the wait. A heavyweight Oscar contender and a new personal favorite, this latest of the Iraq War dramatizations is not like the others. So what's director Kathryn Bigelow's secret? Easy: to make the movie apply to any and all wars, not just the one in Iraq. From it's opening moments The Hurt Locker describes war as a potent drug for adrenaline junkies and it is a truly fascinating concept to dive into. Sergeant William James (played brilliantly by Jeremy Renner) is a brilliant bomb squad leader, but is a wildly reckless and fearless man who tends to take his addiction to the thrill a bit too far for his teammates. Yet the most amazing thing about The Hurt Locker is the excellent balance between its documentary-style character study and the epic action-thriller. The emotional scenes are triumphant, but the intensity and variety of the action is what makes this movie so easy to watch. If this movie isn't honored with at least an Oscar nomination, it will be one of the most tragically overlooked films of the decade.

LTTP: Public Enemies

For being one of my most-anticipated movies of Summer 2009, it's funny how I only just watched the film in November. Let's get some things out of the way first: the movie was loooooooong. It's not only the 2 hour and 30 minute runtime that's the problem, but it's also the fact that the movie felt like it overstayed its welcome. Most moments were predictable and, due to some weak writing, I failed to connect to most of the characters and ended up not caring for a majority of the plot. Another issue I had with the movie was Christian Bale: he may have been exhausted from Terminator Salvation or he might have just done the movie for the handsome paycheck, but Bale's role in Public Enemies as FBI head Melvin Purvis is probably his dullest acting work since his Batman-related breakout success. The character was also poorly written, but Bale usually makes the most of a role with his talents. Those are probably the worst parts of Public Enemies that really held it back from being a good movie. Why do I say this? Because the good parts of the film were truly exceptional. Take for instance the perfect casting of Johnny Depp as the eloquent gangster John Dillinger--every scene with Depp was engaging and the more you saw of Dillinger, the more you wanted to know about him. Thankfully this is where the writing in Public Enemies reached its greatest heights: by leaving Dillinger mysterious and captivating all at once. Another great role was that of Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette, Dillinger's love interest. Also, Mann's decision to film the movie with the same handheld camera style technique used in Collateral was a brilliant choice as it added a layer of authenticity to every scene. Michael Mann got close with Public Enemies, but with too many useless characters and an uneven script it never culminated into the movie I expected to see.

Up In The Air [Quick Review]

Yet another Oscar contender I was late to the draw on, Jason Reitman's follow up to Juno has already leaped into my top ten movies of all time (and I haven't even seen Juno). A fascinating look at today's life of isolation, George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham who is a 'career transition counselor' or in layman's terms: a guy who is hired to fire people. Ryan is a man who has a routine in his life and he loves every second of it, but when that life of constant traveling and loneliness is threatened by a naive college newbie (played by Anna Kendrick), he takes her on the road to show her how important his job is to the actual people being fired. Along the way Ryan realizes he is falling for his butt-buddy with an almost identical personality (played by Vera Farmiga) and begins to reevaluate his life. A strong cast (including a nearly guaranteed Best Actor award for Clooney) alongside a powerful script that incorporates witty dialogue and strong psychological themes, Up In The Air is a film that soars above expectations as the must-see movie of the Oscar season. Do not sleep on this one.


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