Sunday, November 29, 2009

At The Movies . . .

Well, as mentioned earlier, we spent all day last Friday watching movies. But I've been rather busy this weekend, so I didn't have much time to update until now. We saw 3 different movies at 3 different movie theaters, all more or less along a 2-mile stretch of Broadway, from the AMC theater at 42nd street to the Lincoln Plaza cinema at 68th.

Of the 3 films, the Disney one was perhaps the most satisfying. I say perhaps because the jury's still out on Ninja Assassin. I have to watch that again to fully piece together the plotline that somehow eluded me. Maybe there isn't one. Or maybe I was lost in all the CGI gore. Who knows?

Anyway, here are my quick impressions. Click on the titles of each movie to watch the trailers.

NINJA ASSASSIN
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Intense action, extremely graphic gore and blood, pretty decent acting. The legendary martial artist and actor Sho Kosugi as the villain, the head of the Ozunu ninja clan. Haven't seen this guy since the excellent B-movie Blind Fury back in 1989. Lead actor (and Korean pop singer) Rain does an understated but awesome job as the main character, Raizo, a young man on the run from the clan which once sheltered him. The gorgeous Naomie Harris as the Interpol agent who aids Raizo was excellent, as usual. Having her in the film is a big plus. The film is a taught, fast-paced action-thriller with seriously cool choreographed battles, although the CGI blood and guts can be overwhelming for some. Definitely not for the squeamish.

Rating:    3 out of 5


THE ROAD
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Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy--the same guy who wrote No Country For Old Men, among others--The Road is one of those post-apocalyptic dystopian flicks that have become so popular lately (see The Book of Eli premiering a little over a month from now). Starring Viggo Mortensen and (very briefly) Charlize Theron, at its heart the movie is about a man protecting his son as the pair undertake a perilous journey across the nightmarish remnants of a destroyed America (by what, exactly, the movie is never specific). The story is bleak and unforgiving, surprising in its visceral intensity and poignant depiction of human struggle to survive despite the hopelessness of a world gone insane. Mortensen and the boy who portrays his character's son--young Australian actor, Kodi Smit-McPhee--do a phenomenal job wrestling with the source material's weighty moral issues. And the cinematography is simply gorgeous to boot! In the end, I thought this film pulled all the right strings, and personally enjoyed the simple yet effective plot progression. If you like your end-of-the-world flicks thoughtful and understated, this is the movie for you! I can definitely see this being an Oscar contender for next year. And, yes, the ending is sad . . . but not at all a surprise given the nature of the film. Kudos to the director, John Hillcoat!

Rating:   3.5 out of 5


THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
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This was the highlight of our night. Despite the screaming kids and frigid, howling winds standing in line outside NYC's famous Ziegfeld theater, we had a blast. This is Disney the likes of which I have not seen since Aladdin -- deep and serious, silly and exuberant, tied together with truly memorable musical numbers. And the actors are all so WONDERFUL!!! Anika Noni Rose as the titular "princess", Tiana. Likewise Bruno Campos voicing the role of the frog prince, Naveen. Together these two are simply GOLD! Keith David, John Goodman, Terrence Howard, and Oprah Winfrey round out the other notables in what is truly a modern fairytale done with class and charm and all the right trappings of classic Disney. The setting of New Orleans circa the roaring 20s serves as a rather inspired setting, soaked in golds and heliotropes and awash in the unmistakable spitfire melodies of Jazz. But the real draw of this movie is the animation -- as well it should be! I was simply in love with the vibrant colors and lovingly rendered 2D drawings, a much welcomed departure from all the 3D CGI glut that has choked the children's animation scene as of late. I cannot sing this film's praises high enough. A definite treat for the whole family, in every way possible!

Rating:   5 out of 5

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