Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Movie Day Reviews

Tell No One (2007): An attractive married couple are enjoying a quiet swim in a romantic French lake setting. Naked and alone, the two seem genuinely in love; their authenticity and posture reveal a deep romance based on commitment and mutual respect. The wife heads to the shore alone, disappears into the brush, screaming once. The husband urgently follows, is knocked unconscious, waking in a hospital to the dreadful news that his young wife has been a victim of a serial killer's rampage. The husband is devastated.

Eight years later, the husband, Alex, receives a cryptic email instructing him to open an internet link. The link leads to an obscure live-feed video of an escalator with dozens of people casually passing through. Then one woman stops, turns to face the camera, and briefly looks directly at Alex. She looks exactly like his deceased wife.

This is the first 20 minutes of Tell No One, a French thriller in the same vein as Hitchcock and Clouzot. Smart, even-paced, and filled with fascinatingly complex characters, mystery films don't get much better than this. Alex is compelled to figure out the mystery behind the mysterious email and the two recent bodies dug up near the same location as the original crime. Eventually suspected of murder and seemingly wanted by mysterious villains willing to go to any length to capture him, Alex must go on the run and try to find some answers before he comes to same fate as his wife.

Not much more can be said without giving away key plot details, suffice to say that this is a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and have a deeply satisfying conclusion. Francois Cluzet in the role of Alex is phenomenal; he looks like a handsome Dustin Hoffman, and has acting chops to boot. Kristin Scott Thomas plays a key role as Alex's only friend and confidant in his struggles. Every actor gives noteworthy performances, probably due to the tight and suspenseful script. If you'd like an engaging and powerful mystery film, this comes highly recommended.

Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009): First, some context: on the Saturday before Easter, I gathered with a group of 20+ junior high students to watch Hannah Montana: The Movie. I would argue that this is potentially the best possible way to view this film if you are over the age of 15. If you're totally unfamiliar with Hannah Montana, they will inform you of favorite characters, funny moments, and why they like Miley Cyrus so much. The basic story is that young Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) lives in two worlds: she balances life between the ordinary mishaps of the teenage years and being a famous rock star. The thing is, no one but her family and closest friends know that Hannah and Miley are the same person. (All it takes is a blonde wig for your best friends to totally mistake you for someone else, just like all it took was a pair of ordinary glasses for Superman to become Clark Kent).

The tension between these two worlds is never greater for Miley than in the film. After heading back to her tiny picturesque hometown in Tennessee, Miley struggles to find a balance between being a celebrity and living a normal life. A cute ranch-hand has caught her eye; her dad (real-life father Billy Ray "Achy Breaky Heart" Cyrus) also has a potential romance building with Jan from "The Office." This is the heart of the story, and it's a great one for adolescents. Everyone struggles with trying to figure out who they really are and what really matters most, most of all teenagers. Tasteful in its content and filled with Disney-esque musical numbers (including cameos from Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift), it's an entertaining and solid film for teens. My biggest complaint were the unnecessary and random slapstick moments with Miley's brother Jackson. A completely unexplained scene with no context involving Jackson and an ostrich actually awkwardly ends with Jackson seemingly be mauled by an alligator. I am not making this up. We're really supposed to laugh at this? Somebody get that kid to a hospital.

I'll be speaking about Hannah Montana: The Movie this Wednesday night with the junior high students and I'll post more of my thoughts about the messages and themes from the film later this week. Overall, HM:TM is an entertaining film for teens and tweens, though most adults will have to enjoy the film vicariously through their younger companions. I'll admit, I liked it. There it is, for the entire Internet to see.

Run, Fatboy, Run (2008): I have to give this movie some credit for a great title. Some recent titles are so vague or uninteresting that they could apply to just about any genre of film (Next, Knowing, Push, and nearly any other one-word verb titles, apart from Doubt), some sound like a cheap men's cologne (Bangkok Dangerous, Seven Pounds), and some have "Tyler Perry" as a precursor to the title. But some titles fully capture and encompass the film on multiple levels, like gourmet icing on the cake (eg. Lost in Translation, The Royal Tenenbaums, Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb). With a title like Run, Fatboy, Run, you know this is going to be a lighthearted comedy. And it is.

Five years after ditching his pregnant fiance at the altar, Dennis (Simon Pegg, one of my favorite comedic actors) is eking his way through life as a mall security guard. When he finds out that his ex is dating a handsome and successful businessman with a penchant for running marathons, Dennis decides to enter the 26.2 mile race in order to win her back and earn the respect of his 5-year-old son. An assortment of quirky friends support him as he begins the workout, which provides for numerous comedic moments.

Warmly charming, Run, Fatboy, Run manages to encompass both the romantic-comedy and slapstick genres in its humor. The story is touching--even inspiring--and Dennis is a great everyman hero. If you're familiar with Simon Pegg's previous comedies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, you might be surprised at the lack of satire and the tenderness of Pegg as a father with his son. Overall, it's a fun and affectionate little film.


  1. I gotta see Tell No One. I'm already on the edge of my seat from the synop'.

    Didn't like Run, Fatboy, Run. Simon Pegg needs to get back with Edgar Wright. Not the same man without him. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World looks fantastic even without Pegg. I've been following it closely.

  2. I must say this movie really sucked a lot. I thought it could at least be watchable.

  3. @Cam, "Tell No One" will actually put the edge of your seat on the edge of its seat. It's that good.

    @Ebhrahim, wait...which movie again?