Sunday, October 31, 2010


Year: 2010
Director: Rodrigo Cortes
Cast: Ryan Reynolds

This film is by far one of the most unique pieces of work I've ever seen.

Buried begins in the dark confines of a coffin, where we find Paul Conroy, a truck driver working in Iraq who wakes up and finds himself in a box and several feet under the ground.

Naturally, he panics at first, but then slowly gathers his wits and frees himself. He has with him a lighter and a cellphone, which he uses to call for help. His attempts prove rather futile at first, and then things get worse when his kidnapper calls him and threatens to leave him in there unless a ransom is paid. But there is of course, the very obvious threat at hand, which is being stuck in a box with no way out.

Buried is without a doubt, a splendid attempt at visualising what it would be like if you woke up to what probably would be your worst nightmare: being buried alive. The darkness, the claustrophobia, the futility of being trapped where no one can hear you. In Paul Conroy's case, it is just twisted and edgy to watch. Paul is a very determined man, who tries time and time again to get himself out of the predicament he's in, and his biggest obstacle is actually bureaucracy. His several attempts to call for help on the cellphone are usually met with sceptical responses, or busy lines, or answering machines or being put on hold. Try picturing what that's like when you're desperate to get out of that box before your air runs out.

All this is possible thanks to director Rodrigo Cortes and his one man star, Ryan Reynolds. Cortes and cameraman Eduard Grau do a fantastic job in showing us the many angles they can get in a six by three box, yet never losing the feeling that it's a small compartment and Paul really can't do much in there. And Ryan Reynolds....he is just awesome in this. You'd think that Reynolds is more well known for being a pretty boy, much like Brad Pitt once was. With Buried, Reynolds will surely get more respect in Hollywood, and he will certainly go far after this. I can't wait to see him as Green Lantern next year.

Other than the glaring plothole of how Paul is able to survive in that box for quite a long time when air is limited, Buried is a knockout thriller that never lets up on the tension. Thankfully, Cortes manages to keep the film going and not let anything stall the goings on for more than a minute, so we never lose sight of Paul's situation and viewers will be compelled to stay every step of the way.

This is a must watch, take it from me. And mind you, for a film that manages to entertain while being in that box from start to finish (no kidding), is saying something. (4/5)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Other Guys

Year: 2010
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Steve Coogan, Michael Keaton, Ray Stevenson

After making fun of car racing, ice skating, soccer, basketball, step-brothers and newscasters, Will Ferrell now takes aim at the buddy cop genre.

Ferrell and longtime SNL collaborator Adam McKay team up to bring us The Other Guys, a parody on the buddy cop movies we have all grown to love over the years. In this story, there are two great cops, Danson and Highsmith, who always get their man and are hailed as heroes by their peers and the city.

But these guys aren't our protagonists. Nope. Our leads are two guys who don't have a decent shot at being heroes, at least when we begin. Allen Gamble is a forensic accountant who loves being a cop behind a desk typing away at his computer, away from danger. His partner Terry Hoitz has been ostracized by the force because he accidentally shot Derek Jeter, the baseball player. These two don't get along long enough to call themselves partners, so how will they work together?

Well, their chance finally arrives when Danson and Highsmith somehow get themselves killed in the line of duty (how it happens is hilarious actually), and Terry tries to get Allen to step up and take their place. Allen's investigation on a minor accounting misdemeanor leads them to David Ershon, a man who is trying to scam a company out of their money to cover the losses of his own company. Terry and Allen's attempts to get to the bottom of things keeps getting thwarted by a man named Wesley, whose job is to ensure Ershon's plan is finalised. The duo have to stop Ershon and Wesley, while putting up with each other, which is no easy task.

You know all those buddy cop films like Rush Hour, Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs pair up two guys who are total opposites that end up becoming best friends by the time it's over? The Other Guys doesn't stray from that too much, except for the fact that they focus more on the comedy than the action. Despite the fact that Mark Wahlberg can clearly do action films well, he's not much of an action hero here. As Terry Hoitz, Wahlberg is totally over the top as a cop with huge mood swings. One minute he's yelling at Ferrell, the next he's being emotional. It works only half the time though, but it's a good attempt nonetheless at being funny.

Ferrell on the other hand plays Allen Gamble nearly the same way he plays most of his roles in the past, as in being clueless. Allen is basically a nerd of a cop, who has a very fascinating past (not to mention really funny). He also has a gorgeous wife played by Eva Mendes, and throughout the film, we see Terry being constantly surprised as to how a nerd like Allen gets such hot women chasing him. Ferrell and Wahlberg have great chemistry together thankfully, which is one of the best things of the film.

The supporting cast do their part well, but my favourite among them is Michael Keaton, who appears as the police chief Mauch. Keaton's age is showing, but he has great screen presence and great comic timing, and unlike the two leads, he can play it straight without sounding too corny. Also fun to watch are Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson in cameos as Danson and Highsmith, who totally ham up the supercop characters.

I do have a couple of gripes here, like the uneven pace and the way Ferrell's relationship with Wahlberg progresses is similar to Ferrell's relationships with his co-stars in other films like Step-Brothers and Blades Of Glory. But I have no doubt that Ferrell is hilarious to watch here, and that alone should be a reason to go check this out.

Verdict: another Will Ferrell comedy that is more hit than miss. (3.5/5)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The American

Year: 2010
Director: Anton Corbijn
Cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli, Johan Leysen

I was looking forward to watching Ben Affleck's The Town this week, when the film people over here decided to push it to December. Bummer! So I needed something to satisfy my movie fix this week, and I picked this film. It was either this or a Zac Efron tearjerker, or the Wall Street sequel, neither of which this reviewer is interested in.

The American stars George Clooney as Jack, a hitman who is both weary and paranoid over his job. At the beginning, we see him kill two men who try to kill him, and he also kills his female companion, who prior to this had no idea what he does for a living.

His employer sends him to a small town in Italy and tells him to lay low until his next assignment. Once there, he befriends two people: Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli), a friendly priest who is rather observant of Jack's past despite his attempts to hide it, and Clara (Violante Placido), a hooker whom Jack gets involved with.

Eventually, Jack's employer Pavel (Johan Leysen) hands him his assignment: to construct an assault rifle for a woman named Mathilde (Thekla Reuten). Using his skill with weapons and some parts that he is able to procure, he goes to the job at hand. But he soon notices that some people are shadowing him, the same kind of people who tried to kill him before, and it affects his judgment and emotions concerning the people around him.

I had not seen any of Anton Corbijn's work before, as I am not well educated on European arthouse flicks. But The American is without a doubt, a unique piece of work. As with most European films, this one is a quiet movie, where a lot of time is spent on wide cinematography and contemplative moments. Unlike most thrillers like the Bourne trilogy and the recent Salt, or even The Replacement Killers, The American takes its time in telling its story, which really isn't about slam bang action, but a character study. I have to say that this film is one of the quietest films I've ever seen. It almost has no music score, apart from some piano solos sparsely inserted here and there, and some obligatory music during the credits. So watching this in a cinema where there are plenty of fidgety kids or patrons who would rather converse with each other than seeing the movie might be a tad tough to do.

Clooney is incredible here, I must say. I think I can sum up his total dialogue in 2 pages. He doesn't have much to say here, so whatever acting he does is focused on his actions, like watching, observing, building the aforementioned weapon, working out etc. And he pulls it off well. His character Jack is a private man, hiding many secrets, who may be a violent person and yet is able to appreciate nicer things like butterflies. If you are the kind of viewer who has the patience to watch a character evolve, you'll be able to follow this.

Of the supporting cast, it's Bonacelli who stands out as the priest. His conversations with Jack, though simple and reserved for the most part, carry a lot of weight in itself. Where Clara is Jack's key to a potentially better life, Father Benedetto is Jack's anchor to being a good person. I enjoyed Bonacelli's performance here.

It's a pity that the local censors removed the juicy parts of the picture, or I would have enjoyed this a bit more. But all in all, I ended up liking The American more than I thought I would. It has gathered mixed reviews so far, but only because some people expected something else when they walked into the theatre.

My advice is this: if you're looking for an action film, don't watch this. If you like seeing George Clooney act in silence, go for this. (3.5/5)


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