Sunday, September 16, 2007

HVO: 'Mr Brooks', 'My Life Without Me', 'Redline' & Eastwood's Iwo Jima films

Here're more movies for your Home Viewing Options:

Mr BROOKS (DVD 2007, psychological thriller)
Cast: Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, Dane Cook, William Hurt, Marg Helgenberger and Danielle Panabaker
Director: Bruce A. Evans
Time: 120 mins
Rating: * * *

AFTER a number of box-office failures, it looks like the stars are shining again for Costner’s career. Here, he plays Earl Brooks, a box-manufacturer who is voted Man-of-the-Year in Portland, USA. However, even as he returns home with his wife (Helgenberger) after receiving the award, his alter ego, Marshall (Hurt), starts prodding him into another ‘mischief’. Brooks is a schizophrenic and a serial killer dubbed the Thumbprint Killer and police detective Tracy Atwood (Moore) has been on his trail. That night, while committing a murder, he makes a mistake and he has to deal with a Peeping Tom who calls himself Mr Smith (Cook). Smith wants Brooks to take him on his next killing spree!

This is a weird variation on the Dr Jeckyll & Mr Hyde tale and there are some interesting surprises in store. It definitely will not make the big screen in Malaysia because of the many nude scenes and the morality factor that assumes that serial killers are passed down from generation to generation. Moore is forgettable here as a rich girl who just wants to be a cop. A classy B-grade thriller with an A-list cast.

MY LIFE WITHOUT ME (DVD 2003, drama)
Cast: Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry, Mark Ruffalo and Amanda Plummer
Director: Isabel Coixet
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * 1/2

KEEP the tissues handy cos this is an unabashedly corny weepie – at least for those who emote easily with women with terminal diseases. Never mind that they look progressively more beautiful as the illness progresses…

Ann (Sarah Polley), is a 23-year-old wife and mother who works as a custodian at a local university. When she learns that she only has two or three months to live, she decides not to inform her family. She makes a list of 10 things she wants to do before she dies. These include recording messages for her daughters for every birthday until their 18th (the kind of thing only a movie character would do), getting her hair and nails done, having an affair, and making a man (Ruffalo) fall in love with her. The last is actually an act of cruelty, playing havoc with someone’s emotions but the movie makes it appear romantic and worthy of our tears!

Ann's illness seems to instantly grant her wisdom and licence to do what she wants, never mind if anyone gets hurt. But then, this is a movie that requires viewers to think with their hearts – not their minds. Go for it if you need a good cry.

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (DVD 2006, war drama)
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach and Jamie Bell
Director: Clint Eastwood
Time: 135 mins
Rating: * * *

THIS is the first of Clint Eastwood’s twin series on the Battle of Iwo Jima of WW2. ‘Flags’ views the effects of the battle from the American side while his ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ sees the action through the Japanese soldiers on the island.

Mention Iwo Jima and most people would think of that iconic photograph of six American soldiers planting their flag on the island during WW2. This picture, shot by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal, sparked off a campaign to promote war bonds and other political mileage. To get this campaign on the road, the authorities needed a bunch of heroes to parade around the nation and three surviving soldiers, John Bradley (Phillippe), Rene Gagnon (Bradford) and American native, Ira Hayes (Beach). The movie, based on the book by James Bradley (John's son) and Ron Powers, is basically about these three 'reluctant' men and how their 'tour of duty' as national heroes affected them.
Director Eastwood divides the movie into three time frames - the present, the actual Battle on Iwo Jima and the promotional tour of 1945. He intercuts among the segments constantly and uses a form of 'colour coding' to differentiate them. This is a thought-provoking movie and a valuable insight into the psyche of (American) soldiers everywhere.

(DVD 2006, war drama)
Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Shido Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase
Director: Clint Eastwood
Time: 138 mins
Rating: * * * ½

HERE, we see the Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers on the island where the Americans are the enemy! The movie begins in late 1944, several months before the conflict, with the arrival of General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) on the island. The Japanese realise this will likely be an American target and they dispatch the general to prepare the defences. Kuribayashi re-deploys artillery from the beaches to the high ground and commissions a series of tunnels to protect themselves from air attacks and to connect various points. As a counterpoint to the General's perspective, Eastwood also provides the point-of-view of a common solider, Saigo (pop star Kazunari Ninomiya), who plays a more important role in events than one might initially suppose.

Previous movies about Iwo Jima have presented the Japanese as faceless do-or-die fighters but here we see them as ‘guys-next-door’ who have been thrust into a war for the glory of their homeland and Emperor. It is a gritty, gruesome movie aimed at stripping away several misconceptions of the war.

REDLINE (DVD 2007, race thriller)
Cast: Nadia Bjorlin (pic), Tim Matheson, Nathan Philips and Eddie Griffin
Director: Andy Chen
Time: 95 mins
Rating: * 1/2

IF you are ‘caught’ between a bevy of scantily-clad chicks and a row of sports cars like the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porches – and your attention inevitably strays to the cars, then this is the movie for you.
Produced at US$26million by millionaire mortgage lender Bob Sadek, who also provided his own collection of exotic cars, ‘Redline’ got a wide pre-production publicity when one of its stars, Eddie Griffin, crashed a US$1.5 million Ferrari Enzo during a promotional charity race.
However, that is nothing compared to this total-wreck of a movie. Redline’ is such a no-brainer that beside it, ‘Tokyo Drift’ and the other ‘Fast & Furious’ movies look like epic classics. Director Cheng’s format is race, chase, fight and crash, race chase fight and crash. The real stars are the cars. As for the acting by the human cast, make sure you have a barf bag ready. They make you wanna puke!

OTHER DVDs reviewed below: 'Apocalypto', 'Sisters' and 'Goya's Ghosts'


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