- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
Harry Potter is the big film opening this week that will take the box-office by storm. The question is whether it will take over $100 million over the weekend.
Other films opening are THE NEXT THREE DAYS and THE LIGHT THIEF at the Bell Lightbox in Toronto.
CLIENT 9: THE RISE AND FALL OF ELIOT SPITZER (USA 2010) ***1/2
Directed by Alex Gibney
The master of controversial documentaries such as TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE and ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM, Alex Gibney takes on the story of Eliot Spitzer, the New York Governor who fell from grace in this just as spirited film.
Director Gibney’s work in CLIENT 9 is less difficult than in his other 2 films. He had to go out exposing the truth in TAXI and ENRON, likely facing reluctance and opposition from companies and the government in releasing information leading to the truth. In CLIENT 9, Gibney’s subjects (Spitzer and his enemies) would more than likely volunteer information s they would want the world to know their version of the truth. Here, Spitzer and his enemies are interviewed and both parties are gung-ho in telling their story.
But whatever side one is on, one cannot doubt the guts of Eliot Spitzer for taking on such formidable foes. Known as the "The Sheriff of Wall Street" when he was New York''s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer aimed his fire at some of America''s largest financial institutions and their most powerful executives in the country.
Spitzer''s roster of business targets included Richard Grasso, onetime head of the New York Stock Exchange; Ken Langone, once an NYSE director; and Hank Greenberg, CEO of AIG. Eliot Spitzer made a lot of enemies. One of them claims that it was as good as seeing evil written on Spitzer’s forehead.
Gibney shows both sides of his subject – his good side, exposing the villains and corrupt company officials and also his bad side, when he allows Spitzer’s enemies to say what they want about him on screen. His rise and downfall are well documented as well as his slow but unsuccessful rise again to political office.
But the audience can see Gibney’s soft side for Spitzer. He has the point put across that Spitzer’s only sin was his adultery and many, many like Clinton have also succumbed but emerged unscathed. But it is the powerful enemies of Spitzer who ensue that their enemy is totally destroyed.
Gibeny’s film is full of anger and spirit with hardly a dull moment. At the end of the film, one only wishes that Spitzer never visited the Emperor’s Club so that he could continue exposing the corrupt, but all human beings are fallible one way or the other.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: Part 1 (UK/USA 2010) **
Directed by David Yates
The first of the final J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter books THE DEATHLY HARROWS arrives with all the pomp and expectations of a great blockbuster. In true tradition of the other Potter films, Yates’ new film is still stunning, expensive but scarier and darker and less magical with a weak narrative.
This version is the hardest to follow despite the fact that there is hardly any story. The script fails to refresh audiences on what has happened in the previous books/films, so unless one is extremely attentive, a devout Potter fan or did some reading prior to viewing the film, THE DEATHLY HALLOWS fails to make much sense. It is just like Potter and his friends escaping one close call after another. Yates includes one of the weirdest lovemaking scenes – one between Harry and Hermione topless covered in silver paint as watched by pal, Ron.
The plot involves Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) with pals Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) racing against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes. Harry uncovers the existence of three most powerful objects in the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows while battling monsters and evil wizards.
The list of British guest stars makes their appearances from start to finish. It is a delight to watch them on screen. Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Helena Bonham Carter and Peter Mullan have more to do the others like Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, Julie Walters, David Thewlis and Miranda Richardson.
Expectedly, the best sequence is the story telling portion by Lovegood (Rhys Ifans) of the three brothers on a crooked path who tried to cheat death with each a gift from death himself. Told using animation with figures resembling Indonesian puppetry, this segment is the most captivating and stands out as it is the only part of the film that contains a strong narrative.
The English countryside from the green meadows to the rocky outcrops, beaches and windswept seas make a welcome sight from the special effects.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS Part 1 expectedly ends abruptly for the last and final film to continue. The closure to the series must contain some narrative at least!
THE LIGHT THIEF (Kyrgyzstan/Germ/France/Neth 2010) ***
Directed by Aktan Arym Kubat
Director Aktan plays the title role of THE LIGHT THIEF, his new film of the same name where documentary and fiction mixes well in his message-laden tale.
Mr. Light, as he is called, is an electrician with a good heart employed by the government. He steals electricity for the poor and spreads love, loyalty and light to the village. But the village is poor and since recent years, has been in a devastated state. The local politician Bekzat (Askat Sulaimanov) appears sincere but has tricks up his sleeve.
Aktan shoots his film in natural light and captures the spirit and devastation of the land. His detest of people selling the land for personal gain is reflected in the sequence where a belly dancer sells her body to the Chinese for personal gain.
The film lacks an ending, so Aktan has his hero beaten up and dragged by horses to infuriate the guilty and perhaps others who might do a thing or two for his country.
THE NEXT THREE DAYS (USA 2010) **
Directed by Paul Haggis
THE NEXT THREE Days is a remake of the French film thriller POUR ELLE (Anything For Her) where a husband goes all out to save his wife from prison for a murder she did not commit. POUE ELLE was a taut and excellent film showing the extent a man would go to save his wife. In contrast, Paul Haggis’s (CRASH) remake is a 2 hour overlong bore of a movie.
Haggis’ film has the privilege of starring Oscar winner Russell Crowe who is an excellent brooder. In THE NEXT THREE DAYS, he plays a college professor, John Brennan whose wife, Laura (Elizabeth Banks) is accused of murder of her boss. Laura is arrested and jailed. He believes in her innocence. When the trial fails to find her innocent, he breaks her out of jail.
Haggis’ film fails miserably. He stresses the fact that the wife does not want to be freed. Fair enough – but with the lack of chemistry between Banks and Crowe with the script not doing anything to help either, the motivation for the John Brennan character going through the wild procedure to save his wife is also missing. When the actual execution takes place with the couple running through the streets and subway trains in Pittsburgh, the action looks more cartoonish than believable. Even the meeting between John and the prison break expert (a cameo by Liam Neeson) seems something hardly something to be taken to heart. The flashback segment revealing what had happened in the garage whee the murder took place is copied excalty from the original POUR ELLE.
In the similar film CONVICTION, the sister (Hilary Swank) of the suspect goes through school to free her brother. The drama of CONVICTION is clearly missing in Haggis’ film – replaced by character brooding, if not be John, but also by his parents.
The film also contains too many distractions like John’s procurement of the fake passports that drag on rather than provide more thrills and excitement, He gets beaten up, gets his own back but taking the forgers on, all of which becomes boring stuff.
The motivation for the making for THE NEXT THREE DYAS seem missing compared to the French POUR ELLE. Made on a cheaper budget, taut, exciting and fully emotional, POUR ELLE beats THE NEXT THREE DAYS (the nost broing thriller on screen this year) hands down.
THE THIRD MAN (UK 1949) *****
Directed by Carol Reed
The Brits show Hollywood that they can do just as well if not much better with the film noir genre. Set in Vienna with many scenes shot at night, the city seems perfect for a story as twisted as this one with its crooked cracked public steps, alleyways, broken cobblestone streets and even its vast underground sewer.
Based on the Graham Greene novel and written by him, the film is full of double entendre meanings, wry humour and subtlety. Arriving in postwar Vienna for a job, American pulp fiction novelist, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) finds his would-be employer Harry Lime killed in a car accident. When Martins learns that Lime is involved in some nasty black racketeering, he believes him to be murdered and begins his own investigation with the aid of Lime’s girlfriend Anna (Allida Valli).
Lots of things go sour for Martins, the least of which is his falling in love with Lime’s girl. When Lime (Orson Welles) suddenly appears, things take a turn for the worse. Welles steals the show spewing out his theory on everything while offering an oblivious look on everything else around him.
The cinematography by Robert Krasker (wonderful work with shadows) and sets are marvellous and is the score just as appropriate.
THE THIRD MAN is a classic in the full sense of the word!
BEST BETS OF THE WEEK!
Best Film Opening This Week: The Third mAN (re-issue) (at Bell Lightbox)
Best Film Playing: Fair Game
Best Family: Megamind
Best Doc: Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
Best Foreign: Le Pere de mes Enfants (at Bell Lightbox)
Best re-issue: Metropolis and The Third Man (restored version) (at Bell Lightbox)
Avoid: For Colored Girls