Posts Tagged ‘Brad Pitt’

Moneyball in Theaters Thursday (Wide Release)

November 16, 2011

MONEYBALL

Directed by: Bennett Miller

Starring: Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill

Where: CGV Dongnae, CGV Busan-dae, CGV Seomyeon (near Home Plus), CGV Daehan (in Seomyeon), CGV Centum City, CGV Asiad, CGV Nampo, CGV Daeyeon

We’ve seen it a hundred times before: that hackneyed old story of a struggling sports team that gets turned around by the tough-talking, but inspirational coach and goes on to win the championship. Now, I don’t know how closely “Moneyball” fits into this mold, and how much it attempts to put its own spin on the time-worn sports drama, but given the fact that it’s already shaping up to be an Oscar contender, I figure it’s worth knocking off my ever-growing and interminable list of movies to watch.

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REMINDER: The Tree of Life (Finally) In Theaters Everywhere

October 26, 2011

THE TREE OF LIFE

Directed by: Terrence Malick

Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn

Anyone following my blog knows that I’ve been waiting for “The Tree of Life” to come out for a very long time. The day has finally come, so now you can stop hearing me whine about it. For a longer preview, refer to my previous post.

The Tree of Life Slated for October 27 South Korean Release

September 8, 2011

THE TREE OF LIFE

Directed by: Terrence Malick

Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain

I moved back to Korea ten days before the American release of Terence Malick’s  “The Tree of Life,” and have since spent every day of summer in a state of prolonged, torturous anticipation. Checking Naver’s movie release date page became one of my daily obsessions, and frankly I was starting to entertain the nightmarish possibility that, like so many other quality films, this one would escape the attention of those mighty beings who choose which movies come out when. Well, the wait is finally coming to an end – its slated for an October 27 South Korean release date, and given the major star-power attached, it will likely come out in most mainstream movie theaters.

I wouldn’t usually write a post about an upcoming film so far ahead of its actual release date, but Malick is no ordinary filmmaker, and from what I hear, “The Tree of Life” is no ordinary Malick film. This is widely considered his masterpiece, a time-bending, universe-sprawling epic, one that took home the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or back in May. Mark your calendars, ladies and gentlemen, only a month and a half to go until cinematic nirvana.

Basterds Disembark on Korean Shores

October 30, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christopher Waltz

Release Date: Thursday October 29 (in theatres everywhere)

“This is the face of Jewish vengeance!” declares the protagonist of “Inglourious Basterds” as a room full of high-profile Nazi commanders is engulfed in flames, and two machine-gunners riddle their corpses with bullets. Welcome to Quentin Tarantino’s world – one where Nazis fear Jews, and World War II is just the backdrop of a fairy tale.

By far his most accomplished work in a very long time, “Basterds” still suffers from the typical shortcomings of a Tarantino movie. One of my biggest problems with him is that he always manipulates the viewer into not only accepting, but cheering on horrendous acts of brutality. Violence as entertainment is nothing new for the director of “Pulp Fiction” (1994) and “Kill Bill” (2003/2004), but “Basterds” takes this concept one step further. It’s strangely enjoyable to watch a Nazi get his brains bashed in with a baseball bat, or a swastika carved into his forehead. Why? Like all Tarantino movies, the gruesome scenes are ultra-stylized and therefore rendered fairly digestible. But his latest project makes matters even worse – the violence comes off as justified. You never think twice about the terrible things you’re seeing on-screen precisely because it’s Jews dishing it out against Nazis. And, while it’s true that all too many World War II movies sheepishly depict Jews as helpless victims, there’s something a little perverse about portraying them as rigorous exterminators, and then saying their behavior is okay.

Yet, the fact that the film’s bloody climax takes place inside a movie theatre is Tarantino’s way of reminding the audience (and the critics who complain about the violence in all of his films) that it’s just a movie. And, judging in terms of sheer entertainment value, “Basterds” is the equivalent of a Big Mac – disgustingly indulgent but satisfying.

If you can get passed the film’s questionable morality, it really is a fun-filled romp. Everything from the wacky premise to the deliberately misspelled title is a testament to the director’s love for pulp, an art-form he’s crowned himself the king of. That’s all well and good, but I’m still waiting for him to make a movie that isn’t molded from a pile of feces.

If I say that, however, it’s with tongue-in-cheek. The film is by and large a success, and even snobby, pretentious cinephiles like myself can appreciate it as a genuine love letter to cinema. So without further ado, I’d like to end my review of this very respectable movie by adding one final word of praise. While “Basterds” never really ceases from being Tarantino’s movie, for once it isn’t only all about him; he actually removes himself enough to allow someone else to bask in the spotlight. Christopher Waltz squeezes in a show-stopping performance as the villainous “Jew Hunter,” one he was rightfully awarded for at Cannes.

SIDENOTE: The movie is in three different languages (well, four if you count one short conversation in Italian), but don’t worry, there are English subtitles for the parts in German and French on the print being shown in Korea.

Rating: 65/100

Dumb America Gets Burned by Coen Brothers

March 31, 2009

Burn After Reading

BURN AFTER READING

Directed by: The Coen brothers

Starring: George Clooney, John Malkovitch, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt

Release date: March 26 (in theatres everywhere)

In a time when warantless wiretapping, and the neglect of due process have become government policy, there are surprisingly few black comedies that challenge these frightening realities with sharp, witty humor. “Burn After Reading” – a clever farce that captures the absurdity of the post-911 era – does just that.

Linda (Frances McDormand) and Chad (Brad Pitt), two obtuse gym employees, stumble upon the unfinished memoirs of former CIA analyst Osbourne Cox (John Malkovitch). Thinking it’s highly classified information, the doltish duo plan a not-so-elaborate extortion scheme that completely backfires as they suddenly discover they’re in way over their heads. Meanwhile, a federal marshal named Harry (George Clooney) and a handful of secret agents find themselves entangled in the mess.

The film plays out like a parody of the spy-thriller genre, only darker and more provocative. In the opening shot, the camera zooms in on a photo of the world. It eventually ends up in Washington, D.C. and into the lives of the main characters, as if to suggest we’re all being watched from some distant satellite in outer space. The entire movie seeks to illustrate the disturbingly large reach of state-run surveillance programs. The CIA is portrayed as an omniscient and intrusive organization that regularly monitors American citizens. Ironically, nothing comes of it beyond inducing widespread paranoia – no crimes are prevented and no lessons are learned.

“Burn After Reading” is as much a commentary on the culture of stupidity currently engulfing the United States as it is a satire of contemporary politics. The Princeton and NYU Tisch-educated Ethan and Joel Coen rail against what they call “the idiocy of today” – the superficial obsession with appearance, and the value of physical over mental exercise. Linda and Chad are the primary representatives of this dumbed-down America that the filmmakers resent so much. While she’s almost exclusively driven by her desire to get a series of plastic surgery operations (which to her bewilderement isn’t covered in her health care plan), he’s, well, just plain clueless. By spending all day working out his muscles, he seems to have forgotten how to use his brain.

Of course, these colorful characters wouldn’t be nearly as funny without the talent of the actors playing them. Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt’s caricatures of peppy personal trainers are spot-on. And it’s absolutely priceless seeing George Clooney transform himself from a cool and composed Cassanova to a twitching ball of nerves who’s convinced he’s being tailed by spooks; or John Malkovitch angrily dropping f-bombs in every line as he takes on “the league of morons” around him.

The Coen brothers are obviously in their element here. “Burn After Reading” is cynical, unflattering, and yet hilarious – the perfect mix of goofiness and intelligence, and by far the best comedy of 2008.

Rating: 88/100

Quell your Curiosity; Benjamin Button Among Biggest Disappointments of 2008

February 13, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

Directed by: David Fincher

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” takes the spectator on a journey throughout the life of a man who ages backwards. Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born a decrepit old codger whose mother dies in childbirth and whose father abandons him on the front steps of a retirement home (how ironic Mr. Screenwriter!). As time goes by, he realizes that he’s been dealt the fantastical fate of growing young.

If this sounds like an enchanting tale, it’s no thanks to the screenwriter. Eric Roth’s script is the bastard child of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s much more amusing short story. It takes skill to turn such an original and enthralling premise into such a dull movie, but Roth succeeds admirably. His most apparent mistake is the structuring of the plot as a series of flashbacks retold from the deathbed of the protagonist’s primary love interest, Daisy (Cate Blanchett). However, this recycled Hollywood formula is only the first in a long line of cliches and abuses of the source material.

The entire movie is imbued with false depth, starting with the irrelevant historical framework. “Benjamin Button” begins at the end of World War I, then goes on to include a segment on World War II, only to wind up on the day Hurricane Katina hit New Orleans. How these major events relate to anything is beyond me.

Meanwhile, the whole cast of quirky characters has some sort of extraordinary life-affirming experience, but instead of amplifying their roles, it reduces them to one-line definitions you could fit on an index card – the man who was struck by lightning seven times, the now free bushman who once lived in a monkey house at the zoo, the woman who swam across the English channel, and so on and so forth – which brings me to the film’s titular character. There’s nothing curious about Benjamin Button other than his strange condition. He’s born, he learns how to walk, he falls in love, he travels the world, he dies. In fact, the protagonist accomplishes very little for a movie that seems to be pushing the whole “carpe diem” message. His relationship with Daisy ultimately runs its course, and he spends his youth (the third and final chapter of his life) idling around on the inheritance his father left him. Am I supposed to feel inspired by the meaningless wanderings he pays for with Daddy’s money?

Of its whopping thirteen Academy Award nominations, “Benjamin Button” only even merits consideration for “best makeup” and “best visual effects.” From a technical standpoint, it’s pretty impressive. Still, there’s absolutely no reason to sit through its entire two hours and forty-five minutes other than for the sake of watching Brad Pitt progressively get more and more good-looking.

Perhaps what makes the film such a giant letdown is that it’s David Fincher’s follow-up to his terrific police procedural “Zodiac” (2007), not to mention that it stars some of the best working actors. Overall, it’s a scandalous waste of talent and good ideas, and possibly 2008’s biggest disappointment.

Rating: 33/100