The Lives of Others – The Government is Listening…

The Lives of Others

Rated R for some sexuality/nudity
German with English subtitles
Release Date: August 21, 2007

Perhaps the biggest surprise of this year’s Oscar ceremonies occurred when a little German film titled The Lives of Others beat out the Spanish hit Pan’s Labyrinth for Best Foreign Language Film.  After all, hardly anyone had even heard of the movie, and it hadn’t opened in even the larger markets yet (other than New York and L.A.).  I have to admit that I was a little upset – until I saw this breathtaking film.  Set in East Germany a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, an ambitious Stasi policemen (the late Ulrich Muhe) is ordered to bug the home of a writer (Sebastian Koch) that might be involved in illegal activity.  Billed as a thriller, the pic evolves into a beautiful drama with an absolutely perfect ending.  The DVD contains deleted scenes, featurettes, and an interesting commentary by the director spoken in English without the slightest hint a German accent. 

Superbad – It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… McLovin?

Stardust – An Engaging Adult Fairytale

Rush Hour 3 – Ninety Minutes That Don’t Rush Fast Enough

Bourne Ultimatum – Will Someone Get This Man A Steadicam?

The Bourne Ultimatum   C+

Starring Matt Damon, Joan Allen, and David Strathairn
Directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy)
Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action
Appropriate for ages 15+

The Story: In this third and final chapter of the Bourne chronicles, Jason Bourne (Damon) is still trying to sort out who he really is and who made him into what he has become.  The U.S. government, however, has a problem with him being alive and does everything in their power to kill him.

The Good: If what you need is a two-hour-long chase film, this will cure your woes.  This is a very exciting film with tons of great chase and fight sequences.  Also, the cast of actors is first rate and they all turn in very good performances.

The Bad: The biggest problem with this pic is the same problem with the second film: the way it is shot.  Director Paul Greengrass puts the camera right into the middle of the action where we can’t focus on anything, and then shakes the camera around in order to make it worse.  I left the theater nauseated and with a headache.  Either he has never heard of a steadicam, or he thinks that audiences are ADD enough to appreciate this style of film making. 

    Another major problem is that the plot is way too similar to the first two films.  Jason has amnesia, he wants to know more about his old self, he sorta remembers a government official that might clear things up, and then he goes after them.  Meanwhile, the government official wants him dead.  While the story works, it’s just a retread of what came before it, told slightly different and in more exotic locales in order to freshen things up. 

The Summary: If theaters had sold Dramamine at the concession stand, this might have been a better experience for me.

1408 – Stephen King Revisits the Haunted Hotel

A Mighty Heart – Jolie Shines In Very Dificult Role

A Mighty Heart
Rated R for language
Angelina Jolie portrays Mariane Pearl, the widow of Daniel Pearl, the reporter that was brutally killed by Islamic extremists in 2002.  While the film sounds like a depressing downer of a film, it sneaks in an exciting yet gut-wrenching tale of the kidnapping and subsequent rescue efforts.  Jolie gives her most powerful performance to date and really shows why she deserved her first Oscar for Girl, Interupted.  While it’s still early in the race, she is sure to be the front-runner for this year’s award.  I found the film to be similar in nature to United 93, and just like United 93, I am glad I saw it, but I never want to see it again.

Ocean’s Thirteen – Third Time’s A Charmer


Ocean’s Thirteen A-

Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino and Matt Damon

Directed by Stephen Soderbergh

Rated PG-13 for brief sensuality

Appropriate for ages 13+

The Story: Danny Ocean (Clooney) and gang almost lose one of their mates to a heart attack brought on by the shady dealings of a major hotel builder (Pacino).  In an effort to seek revenge against him, they do everything in their power to stop his new Las Vegas Strip hotel from opening. 

The Good: Unlike the second film, and even the first one, the film makers decided not to trick the audience, but rather to let the audience fully join in on the fun.  We get to sit back and watch all of the action taking place not having to worry about an ending that hits you out of left field.  These characters are so charismatic and enjoyable to watch that they make you feel part of the gang, and it creates a heck of a good time in the process.  The performances are all very good and you can tell right away that they had fun making the movie.  Also, while it’s not a comedy, there are some very funny moments, especially a couple involving Oprah, that add the frosting to the cake. 

The Bad: We know that director Soderbergh likes to do some weird montage sequences and this film is no different.  Throughout the film, whenever a lot of action is taking place, it’s done in a montage, and some of these sequences are just a little too artsy and out of place for a film such as this.  Also, everything falls into place a little too perfectly and the story seems a little too simple at times.  Still, I’d rather have the simple story than the tricky, nonsensical plotlines found in the first two films. 

The Summary: They finally got it right with this third Ocean installment.