Does life imitate art or does art imitate life? I'm one who tends to avoid the discussion entirely by saying "both." One Day is the most real (save a few accents) movie I've seen in a long time. It explores time and how it often slips away from us. Our hearts' desires are often decimated by bad timing, and the movie finds a variety of ways to demonstrate this. So in the case of One Day, art imitates life to the fullest, as we can all sympathize (if only a little) to crushed hopes and shattered dreams, though hopefully we eventually find our way.
Anne Hathaway stars as insecure working-class woman Emma, who, for one reason or another is drawn to Dexter, (Jim Sturgess) a charming upper middle class man with a great amount of self-confidence. It may be hard to understand just what the two have on each other, but they are characters I'm familiar with. The woman who is way too into a man that’s way too into himself, it happens and for the type, Dex is pretty likeable. Em and Dex have nothing in common. But their opposite personalities do what a relationship should; make each other better. They are Yin and Yang, complementary opposites.
An interesting technique used by One Day, is that we only get to see the events of a single day, July 15, for each of 20 plus years. Some of my peers have taken to calling this a gimmick. In a year where it seems every other film is either a sequel or a remake/reboot, (which critics and public alike have grown tired of) I feel fresh ideas should be applauded, even if it doesn't quite work. For me, however, it worked to perfection. Director Lone Scherfig (An Education) paints the picture of Em and Dex's up and down relationship with great finesse, never having too much happen on the date year to year. The filmmaker fills us in on what has taken place throughout each year, without conversations seeming inorganic. The cinematography is beautiful, especially a scene where our would-be lovers break all their rules by taking a dip at sunset. There's plenty of humor, joy, sadness, regret and a number of other emotions to be felt. I caution viewers that this isn't a romantic comedy, nor does it end like one. One Day is, however, easily one of the most heartfelt films of the year and should be celebrated for its bravery.
Eleven years ago Final Destination took horror fans in a fresh new direction. The film had gruesome death scenes (not nearly as bad as the later installments.) But fate -and whether one could escape its plan- was where the real intrigue lied. Final Destination 2 traded character development for sillier death scenes, but at least some were mildly possible and interesting. I had the foresight to avoid what i felt would be ridiculously bad films in the third and fourth installments of the franchise. Something told me this one would be different. The film is directed by James Cameron's understudy, David Quale; who admitted the last films didn't live up to the first two. Quale claims to have attempted to use what worked in the first films to construct his fifth installment. One would think at the very least this film would have made brilliant use of the 3D technology that was, of course, extraordinary in Avatar. Horror movies are possibly the best genre for 3D -because you're meant to be jumpy- but this film attempts to ease us in through credits that slowly come closer and closer to the audience, but it becomes rather boring. Moving forward, Quale decides to splatter our cool 3D shades with blood and guts rather than use the technology to scare us. Sure... the bridge scene was nice, but after that the film stumbles from poor dialogue to atrocious acting to fantastically unbelievable death scenes. I know there are those who will say I should have seen that coming. Maybe they're right, but the first film wasn't nearly as grotesque and was written much better. Even the second installment looks very believable in comparison. The deaths are way too much, I wanted to scream at the screen in my best Mortal Kombat voice "finish him" (already). We always get plenty of plausible ways for characters to meet their demise, but instead we see something like a character getting their head knocked off by the torso of a deer being propelled by a tornado. Who am I kidding? That would be much too interesting for this film. One or two scenes should have surprised us by taking one of the more obvious deaths. Sam and his friends are mostly played by relative newcomers, but along the way, we meet some nice characters. Tony Todd (Candyman) is back as the coroner. He actually has a few terrifically ominous lines. And David Koechner (The Office) plays his usual oblivious character well. As a fan of the original I did enjoy the plot twist, which does something that I can't remember ever being done before. In the end, this installment may have done what it set out to do; make a better movie than Final Destination 3 or The Final Destination (the fourth film which claimed to be the last.) If the filmmakers wished for anything more however, they should have spent as much time crafting dialogue and story as they did dreaming up 1,000 ways to die.
Ned (Paul Rudd) believes that if you give people the benefit of the doubt and see their best intentions, they will want to rise to the occasion. What a wonderful motto to live by. Certainly there are exceptions, but for the most part, I can get on board with his train of thought. Ned takes it to extremes however when he sells marijuana to a uniformed police officer. To be fair, he did try to just give the weed to the officer; he was forced to name a price. So because of one very evil officer, our idiot heads to jail, but is paroled for good behavior, being named most cooperative inmate 4 months in a row. Once released, he realizes his girlfriend has left him for another version of himself and she refuses to let him take his dog, Willie Nelson, which he loves dearly. He then house jumps from sister to sister, disrupting their not so perfect lives. Ned’s philosophy seems to work well on strangers and friends of his family, but his conversations with his sisters and authority figures go a bit differently. They don’t appreciate honesty as much. Ned’s problems arise because his sisters wish for him to put their needs ahead of those who actually treat Ned as he wants to be treated. He first intrudes on Liz (Emily Mortimer) and her husband (Steve Coogan from The Trip), destroying their son by allowing him to watch too many “screens” and learn martial arts instead of letting him grow to be the rebellious teen they must so badly want for him to become. Then he stays with Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) who is a wannabe writer and will do anything to get a story. She is also a bit needy and demanding. He manages to really mess things up for her writing career; in truth, she never had much of one without him. It’s off to mess up Natalie’s (Zooey Deschanel) life next, she’s a struggling comedienne. Her apartment is a communal type; I believe Ned made eight people under her roof. She is battling her feelings for her lesbian lover and a male artist. These characters are well crafted; there aren’t many stereotypical roles in the film. It’s even careful to show some minor hippie characteristics that have been passed down from Ned’s mother to his sisters, Liz and Nat especially. Our Idiot Brother is a bit uneven at times, it very well could have been an indie-type dramedy, but in the end it’s just a somewhat offbeat comedy. Our Idiot Brother isn’t hysterical, but has a certain tongue-in-cheek slyness that is undeniable. The film is at its best when Ned’s trustworthiness leads to his complete confusion. This is Paul Rudd’s film, and the ensemble does him justice. Our Idiot Brother is charming and enjoyable; the ending feels a bit like a sell out, however, and leaves plenty of room for a sequel, My Idiot Boyfriend perhaps, or Our Idiot Dogs. Bottom line, Paul Rudd makes another (thought not his best) fresh comedy.
Luc Besson is a well-known writer of several cult classics, and action films including Taken, The Transporter (all films), Unleashed, La Femme Nikita, The Big Blue and The Fifth Element. There’s little doubt that Besson’s best work both as director and writer is Leon: The Professional, or as it’s become known, The Professional. The Professional helped launch the careers of Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman and is an IMDB top 300 film. Colombiana is in many ways similar to The Professional. Colombiana has a young Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg) witness her parents’ deaths. The Professional has a young girl named Mathilda (Natalie Portman in her first feature film) come home from grocery shopping -for her dysfunctional family- and find everyone, including her 4-year old brother, dead. Mathilda walks right by her apartment, to the apartment of Leon, who happens to be a hitman. Cataleya makes her way to Chicago (from South America) and her uncle Emilio’s home, he happens to set up hits for a living. Both men are eventually persuaded to teach the young girls the ways of an assassin. This is pretty much where the similarities end however, which is unfortunate for Colombiana.
Olivier Megaton directs Colombiana. His name is appropriate; there is a mega-ton of action (with little flare) and a mega-ton of scantily clad Zoe Saldana (with little reason.) Saldana deserves better than this film. She had a strong performance as Uhura in Star Trek and backed it up with a terrific performance as Princess Neytiri in Avatar. She is more than capable of being the action star this film needed her to be, unfortunately it squandered her abilities by leaving scenes on the table. There were scenes in which we simply cut out large portions of action to instead focus on ludicrous stealth sequences. For instance, there is a scene where Cataleya must infiltrate a mansion, in which she winds up in a (somewhat unconventional) pool. The scene would have had great promise with stronger writing, but there are too many questions about the scene. For one, unless she somehow drilled into the pool from beyond the fat-cat’s property, how did she get in it? Second, did she really gain anything by being in the pool? It’s not like the pool extended into the mansion. It really seemed like the movie equivalent of Shaggy and Scooby Doo leaping in the window to unlock the door, then leaping back out the window to enter via the door. It didn’t make sense. I don’t mind movies pushing the envelope or stretching the imagination. The problem with Colombiana is it’s not bold enough to be considered true b-movie fare, but too cheesy and focused on a never-ending striptease to be considered much else. Cataleya’s boyfriend (Michael Vartan) tries to add a sense of normalcy to the film but their interactions actually tended to add to the awkwardness, at one point I wondered if they had ever spoken to one another. The film itself isn’t entirely terrible, but the story lags and the action sequences just aren’t up to par for a film whose main concern is the action. If all you’re going to do is shoot stuff up, at least shoot it up real good.