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Sunday, January 24, 2010

2009 Reviews: Broken Embraces, In the Loop, Medicine for Melancholy, & Moon

Broken Embraces, In the Loop, Medicine for Melancholy, & Moon

I've fallen a bit behind on my 2009 views, so here are some quick takes on some recent movies.

Broken Embraces

Pedro Almodovar's latest movie is definitely for the cinephiles. It's filled with references to both his own work (especially Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) and the films of Hitchcock (Vertigo, Notorious). The story is his usual mix of humor and melodrama, and it's highly entertaining the whole way through. One of the reasons Almodovar seems to have made this movie is to showcase the beauty and talent of Penelope Cruz, his frequent muse. She is wonderful in the movie, and he films her in an endless montage of arresting images. While the movie is great fun, I didn't feel the same emotional investment I feel with his best work (Talk to Her, All About My Mother).

Grade: B+

In the Loop

This very funny satire imagines the political fallout from an offhand remark by a minor British politician. His comment sets off a cross-Atlantic war over whether to go to war in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. The movie is a spinoff from a British TV series, and it does still have a kind of TV vibe to it. It calls to mind both the British version of The Office and a more profane Christopher Guest movie. My favorites in the terrific cast were Peter Capaldi as the Prime Minister's media director and Mimi Kennedy as a Hillary Clinton-like Assistant Secretary of State. While not many of the characters are not exactly likable, they are all really funny. Watching this movie is definitely the most I've laughed at a movie in a while.

Grade: B+

Medicine for Melancholy

This low-budget independent movie is a sort of African-American, California version of Before Sunrise. It's about two young hipsters who have a one-night stand and spend the next day walking around San Francisco and talking about stuff. Wyatt Cenac (Micah) is very engaging, while I had more mixed feelings on Tracey Heggins, who plays the more bourgeois Jo. I liked the talking in this movie. A lot of this movie is about race and gentrification, and the characters have interesting perspectives. Not as insightful as Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, but interesting. Unfortunately, this movie relies too-heavily on scenes without talking. Walking, biking, riding on carousels, dancing. Since the movie is not very attractive to look at (it's shot in a sort of fusion between black and white and color that draws on the strengths of neither) these scenes grow redundant. An interesting start for director Barry Jenkins, and I hope he makes some
improvements on his next movie.

Grade: C


After District 9, this is example number 2 that the most important element of great science fiction is story and script, not special effects. The less I say about this movie, the better. Much of the pleasure of the movie is figuring out what is going on and letting the mind-twisting elements of the story take you along. It's about Sam, a man who has been living alone harvesting energy from the moon. Sam Rockwell is pretty much the only significant actor in the movie (perhaps excepting the voice of Kevin Spacey as a talking computer), and he has to pull off all kinds of emotions. This movie was shot for only $5 million, and it looks great. It's easily one of the best underseen movies of the year. Please remedy that and see it!

Grade: A-

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