Nim's Island

Release Year: 2008
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Gerard Butler, Jodie Foster
Directed by: Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin
Written by: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin, Joseph Kwon & Paula Mazur; based on a book by Wendy Orr
IMDB: 6.1 (4,364 votes)
RT: 48% (93 reviews)
Metacritic: 55 (24 reviews)

I’ve got an early warning about this movie, though. Yet, usually I would prefer to believe what I see rather than just chew on someone else’s perception. So, I’ve decided to watch Nim’s Island on DVD. I was actually intrigued with the cover, but I felt that I should not put my expectations too high for this movie.

Nim’s Island is about Nim, a girl who lives with her father in an island somewhere in Pacific. As a scientist, Jack Rusoe usually sails around the island to find samples for his projects, until one day he got lost at the sea. I don’t like the notion that he got lost at the sea, because I suspect that he wasn’t that far from the island when the storm struck his boat. Besides, Nim’s pelican friend Galileo brought him tools so that he could repair the damages on the boat (thank God the animals didn’t talk!). In effect, that stole away the element of suspense, I believe.

Meanwhile, Alexandra Rover is a writer. She writes books about the adventures of Alex Rover, some sort of goofy version of Indiana Jones. She became so attached to the character that she even imagining him for real life character. She’s also an agoraphobic, afraid to go out of her house, opted to just order anything by phone if possible. After she started to receive e-mails from Nim, telling that she needed help to find her father, Alexandra finally set out on a journey to Nim’s island. In the island, when Nim saw a crew from a cruise ship arrived at the island, she was afraid that she would lose the island. Thus, she devised a plan on how to drive the unwanted visitors away from her island.

This movie could have been a lot better. But a lot of things just got overstretched and made them seemed to be silly and ruin the whole potential. Perhaps, this movie wasn’t intended for mature audience, because the more you seek the logic in the movie, the more likely for you to get confused. The thrill factor was also absent from this movie. No suspense, no drama, just beautiful scenery around the island. Alexandra Rover character was also too exaggerated, although Jodie Foster managed to portray her pretty well. Gerard Butler also failed to impress me. Perhaps because of his small portion in this flick. Abigail Breslin played Nim sufficiently, but perhaps because of the plot her acting failed to impress me. To me, Nim’s just a little girl running around the island with too much worries.

Well, the plot lacked realism (perhaps this was intentional?), the acting suffered from the characters outlined in the story (except that Jodie Foster was pretty successful in portraying a really annoying character), but the scenery was good enough to give me some consolation (but I can surely get great sceneries from National Geographics, right?). Still, I think this movie is not of my league. Well, maybe for kids, but just not for me. Final score: 4.0.

Frankie and Johnny

Release Year: 1991
Starring: Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Nathan Lane, Hector Elizondo, Kate Nelligan
Directed by: Garry Marshall
Written by: Terrence McNally
IMDB: 6.4 (8,038 votes)

This could be the second Al Pacino’s film without him being the badass that I’ve watched up to now. If in 88 minutes he was being relentlessly terrorized, this time he fervently chased romance with Frankie (Michelle Pfeiffer). Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think Al is suitable for timid roles.

This movie was adapted from an off-Broadway play Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune (1987) also written by Terrence McNally. As an ex-con trying to rebuild his life, Johnny rebooted his life by taking a job as a cook at Nick’s restaurant. This brought him to meet Frankie, a thirty-something woman who has been trying to stay away from love. Why she did that would be explained later in the movie. Still, I believe that it shouldn’t take too long to tell the audience the background story of Frankie. As a result, the movie seemed to be too slow (at least for me).

If it was intended to be a romantic comedy, well, I think it wasn’t funny at all. I believe it was a totally drama piece. Where’s the comedy, then?

The supporting cast were average, with the exception to Nathan Lane, which I think was doing pretty good portraying Tim, Frankie’s gay friend. Too bad he only got limited screen time. The plot was lacking the capacity to impress me, and I felt that it was too flat with no surprises at all. Even when Frankie revealed her reason behind her behaviour to Johnny I didn’t feel surprised at all.

Sorry folks, but my personal grade for this movie is 5.0.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Release Year: 2008
Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd
Directed by: Nick Stoller
Written by: Jason Segel and Judd Apatow
IMDB: 7.7 (28,310 votes)
RT: 85% (155 reviews)
Metacritic: 67 (37 reviews)

My personal opinion about this movie is that it’s just yet another comedy movie. The story is somewhat a bit unique, but not that great. A guy got dumped by his girl, went on vacation, found someone new (and someone old), felt uncertain later, then after that uncertainty was over, happy ending ensued.

Although this is supposed to be a comedy, I found myself lacked in laughing at the scenes. Perhaps it was just me or something else. Anyway, I must say Jason Segel a bit overdid his role as Peter Bretter. I felt not sympathy for him, but instead, I felt that his behavior was pathetic for a man being dumped by a woman. I guess the movie also attempted to parody the CSI TV show by putting Crime Scene: Scene of Crime stuff in the movie. William Baldwin made some appearances there. However, I felt that most of the humor in the entire movie were not funny at all.

On the other hand, I think the most interesting character here was Aldous Snow, played by Russell Brand. Great play by Russell. He really showed that carefree attitude and while at the same time he managed to make me like the character, not because of the accent, though.

The rest of the cast were not impressive at all, I’d say. Kristen Bell was just so-so while she’s supposed to be the devil (just like what Peter told her later in the movie) in the story. Mila Kunis and Bill Hader were also failed to impress.

Final score: 5.0.

Grave of the Fireflies

Also known as: Hotaru No Naka
Release Year: 1988
Starring: Tsutomu Tatumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara, Akemi Yamaguchi
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Akiyuki Nosaka (novel) & Isao Takahata (screenplay)
IMDB: 8.2 (22,326 votes)
RT: 89% (18 reviews)

This is not an ordinary anime. This is a very special anime of which its story delivered its message like a dagger stabbed directly into your chest. Yes, the emotion was overwhelming. I didn’t feel entertained, but instead I felt heartbroken and depressed.

The story was set during the Allied bombings of Japan in World War II. It chronicled Seita and his sister Setsuko whose mother was killed during the bombings of Kobe. The children’s father was a navy officer who was later known to have died in service.

Seita initially took Setsuko to their aunt’s house and stayed there for a few days before they found it hard to stay longer because some quarrels arose with the aunt. Indeed at that time the food was scarce and it seemed to have driven the aunt to feel the burden of having to attend to another two children in the house. Without food and lack of proper shelter, the children grew weaker each day, especially Setsuko. In the end the inevitable happened, both of them died of starvation.

The message was clear, war destroys lives and most of those lives are innocent. The origin of the story was a semi-autobiographic novel of a survivor of the bombings of Japan. The author also lost his sister who died because of starvation.

There are two live-action movies with the same title. The first one was made in 2005, told from the perspective of the aunt (played by Nanako Matsushima) and their cousin. The second was recently released but I haven’t seen the recent version yet. The second, however, was said to be told exactly like the anime version.

Indeed, I’ve never seen any animated movie as powerful as this one. Honestly, I don’t have the stomach to watch it again due to the emotion factor. Yet, the 2005 live-action version was more “bearable”.

The final score for this amazing movie is 10.0. Definitely a must see.

The Other Boleyn Girl

Release Year: 2008
Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Morrissey, Ana Torrent
Directed by: Justin Chadwick
Written by: Philippa Gregory, Peter Morgan
IMDB: 6.8 (11,916 votes)
RT: 42% (131 reviews)
Metacritic: 50 (34 reviews)

Talking about movies with remarkable design, The Other Boleyn Girl was definitely one of them. Rich in color and every shot was definitely of superb quality.

Not only that, the acting was also great. You could surely see this from Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. Honestly, I believe the actresses played better than the actors in this movie. Even Kristin Scott Thomas and Ana Torrent were excellent despite their minor roles.

The story was adapted from Philippa Gregory’s novel of the same title. I haven’t read the book, but I definitely enjoy the movie. There is also a TV series The Tudors which have the similar setting aired by BBC. I think I would want to have a look at it later on.

The story was not great, actually, but I think it was OK for me. The power of the movie, I believe, lied on the acting and design (including the costumes). Oh, the music was also great.

Finally, to reward actresses’ prowess in this movie, I give this movie an 8.0. This movie is definitely worth watching, but don’t expect spectacular story.


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant, Reese Witherspoon, Simon Woods, Peter Dinklage
Directed by: Mark Palansky
Written by: Leslie Caveny
IMDB: 7.3 (7,348 votes)
RT: 52% (115 reviews)
Metacritic: 48 (29 reviews)

As a fairy tale movie, Penelope entertained me not in terms of the acting prowess of the cast, but its colorful presentation. The story? Well, what would you expect from a fairy tale flick? Yeah, the story was average, not significantly special in any way.

Unlike Amy Adams in Enchanted, Christina Ricci seemed to have failed to deliver the necessary charm to her character. Just compare Giselle and Penelope (without the nose), who’s more adorable? This charm factor is a crucial factor for any fairy tale, because it would make the audience to sympathize on the lead roles. Unfortunately, both Christina and James failed to do so. Okay, maybe Johnny Martin was not supposed to be likable, but Penelope should be made likable. Another weakness was obvious in Catherine O’Hara who was being too comical. Perhaps the movie was intended to be comedic first, dramatic second, but I definitely prefer it to be dramatic first, while comedic second. Funny thing is that Peter Dinklage was the one that I would give credit to. He definitely managed to play well, way superior than the rest of the cast.

Aside from average story and weak acting (except that of Peter Dinklage), the design of the movie was very good. There was some richness in color, but it definitely needed more to balance the other weaknesses. To summarize the movie, it probably only serve as a one-time entertainment, unable to leave a lasting impression on the audience (at least not in me).

Final score: 5.0. Sorry, Enchanted was way better (and I actually didn’t even like the fairy tale genre).



Release Year: 2007
Starring: Michael Caine, Demi Moore, Lambert Wilson, Joss Ackland, Jonathan Aris
Directed by: Michael Radford
Written by: Edward Anderson
IMDB: 6.9 (3,441 votes)
RT: 59% (66 reviews)
Metacritic: 57 (21 reviews)

Another caper movie, but this time with better quality actor and actress Michael Caine and Demi Moore. Set in London in the 1960s, this movie tells a simple story of revenge. The plot was so simple that I believe I like the movie only because there was Michael Caine in it.

As usual, Caine delivered a remarkable performance. I never feel bored watching his movies and fortunately, his pairing in the movie, Demi Moore, also acted well. Laura Quinn was a somewhat frustrated female executive trying to push her way through the top management of London Diamond Corporation. Her hard efforts only met repeated failures and finally she was offered to participate in a scheme to “punish” Lon Di. Mr. Hobbs, the janitor of the corporation devised a scheme to steal the diamonds from the Lon Di’s vault and with the help of Laura both managed to empty the entire vault.

Despite its title, the movie was not without flaws. Perhaps the biggest weakness of the movie was in its simple plot. If it weren’t because of Caine and Moore, this movie would be a definite crap. Another poor scene was that element of luck when Mr. Hobbs managed to sneak into the vault. At that time, the original plan was actually ruined, but lady luck seemed to have smiled to Mr. Hobbs. I hate it when the lead role’s ass was saved by mere luck.

Overall, the plot’s weakness and great play by Caine and Moore made this movie rather tricky to evaluate, but I would give it a 6.5 simply for the masterful performance by Caine. Not his best performance, though, but this one’s enjoyable enough.


Release Year: 2007
Starring: Michael Caine & Jude Law
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Harold Pinter
IMDB: 6.4 (5,656 votes)
RT: 35% (111 reviews)
Metacritic: 49 (30 reviews)

There was another movie with the same title with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine in it. Caine played Milo Tindle in the 1972 movie while Olivier played as Andrew Wyke. In the 2007 version, Caine played as Andrew Wyke while Jude Law fill in the role of Milo Tindle. The movie began simply with Milo’s arrival at Wyke’s residence asking Wyke to divorce his wife so that Tindle could marry her. The two soon involved in a match of wits.

The name of the game is a match of wits between two men (there were no other human around, just Wyke and Tindle) in a house (nearly the entire film was shot inside the house). A possibly dull thing for most audience. I guess perhaps this was the cause why this movie received poor reviews. A lot compared the 2007 film with the 1972 movie, but according to Harold Pinter the 2007 movie was not of the same plotline with the original Sleuth. So, I think people should see it independently. I haven’t watched the 1972 version yet, that’s why I could look into the 2007 movie independently.

I must say that I really enjoyed Caine and Law’s performance throughout the movie. The pace of the movie was not set physical action, but by battle of words and wits. I could feel the pace accelerated, decelerated, and accelerated again, only by watching the two actors exchanged words. Thus, this flick relied solely on Caine and Law’s acting prowess, not on story. I could not help but impressed how two actors, placed simply in a house (nearly everything happened indoors), could delivered so much enjoyment.

This was not the first time Law filled in Caine’s past role; in Alfie, Law also played a role previously performed by Caine. I also got this odd feeling that Law actually resembled Caine (or was it just my imagination?).

Superb play, well designed movie, but very limited plot could still deliver satisfaction. For such feat, I reward this movie an 8.0.


Funny Games

Release Year: 2008
Starring: Naomi Watts, Michael Pitt, Tim Roth, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart
Directed by: Michael Haneke
Written by: Michael Haneke
IMDB: 6.5 (9,042 votes)
RT: 50% (130 reviews)
Metacritic: 41 (33 reviews)

Funny games is not funny at all. It wasn’t fun either. Actually, it drove me to the edge watching a family got terrorized by somehow charming couple of young men. Although I initially thought that it was a horror movie, it would be more suitable to call it a terror movie. There were no ghosts or monsters involved. No zombies nor vampires, too. The terror instead, came from seemingly harmless and polite two young men, Paul and Peter (Michael Pitt & Brady Corbet).

Throughout the movie these two young men definitely would make the audience feel helpless. The situation was somewhat too unbelievable to happen in real life, but it was somehow very possible. I mean, some strangers asking your help politely, then you help them but ended up being conquered in your own home. Worst thing is, there’s nothing you can do about it except to obey those strangers.

There were no graphical violence in the movie, though. But you can definitely imagine how gruesomely Ann, George, and Georgie got tortured both physically and mentally. At the same time, the audience, I think will also feel mentally tortured.

As for the script, I think it was great. Although it had a very simple plot, but how it was shot was great. Some scenes seemed to be too long, but they were necessary to describe the struggling couple trying to put an end to the whole misery. Well, except for the first scene when Ann and George along with Georgie were on the way towards the vacation house.

Many times the audience were given hope, and just when the hope actually showed up, it was yanked away, making us biting our nails. I believe this was the point of the whole movie, giving the audience the false hope, playing with our emotion, and by the end of the movie, we might be left wondering and asking ourselves: “How could it be possible?” (Well at least I thought so). But yes, everything happened in this movie was definitely feasible. It could happen to any of us.

All of the cast played well and this what made the situation so possible, although too hard to believe. You can definitely see desperation coming from Ann and George, as well as Georgie, and those expressions from Paul and Peter would give you a sense of disbelief that such faces could do such horrible things to some people.

For being a unique movie, I’d give this one an 8.0. But watch out, it could drive you to the edge. By the way, this movie is an American remake of Michael Haneke’s 1997 movie of the same title with completely the same storyline.

Smart People

Release Year: 2008
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, Ashton Holmes
Directed by: Noam Murro
Written by: Mark Jude Poirier
IMDB: 6.7 (3,247 votes)
RT: 49% (121 reviews)
Metacritic: 57 (33 reviews)

A family drama about a widower professor, his overachiever daughter, his smart but overlooked son, his former student who got a crush on him, and his adopted brother who obviously not stupid but somehow living an uncertain life. Sounds familiar setup, right? Yes, a dysfunctional family template. So, actually there wasn’t anything new here.

What made it noticeable though, was that Ellen Page was in the movie. I think she was beginning to be somewhat stereotyped as a rebellious (at times), smart talking, but smart girl. Just like her role as Juno in Juno. Her role here in Smart People was somehow more realistic, though, because I felt that Juno’s character, if any, must have been a very, very, rare stuff indeed. It’s not something that you would come across frequently in real life. Vanessa’s character, however, is not a rarity, thus made it more realistic to me. Anyhow, Ellen played great in this movie and became the key strength of this movie.

Second best performance could have been delivered by Dennis Quaid who played as Professor Lawrence Wetherhold. Dennis managed to portray a person who got sunk too deep with his profession that it made him somehow hard to deal with other people. The rest of the cast also played well, especially Thomas Haden Church who played Chuck Wetherhold, a somehow smart person but directionless in life. Sarah Jessica Parker was somehow average, while Ashton Holmes didn’t get enough screen time to portray James Wetherhold. James and Lawrence’s relationship was too briefly explored despite there was a potential there.

Overall, the movie has an average storyline, but with a great cast. Watching it was entertaining, but I doubt that it would leave an everlasting impression. Still, without great performances from Ellen Page and Dennis Quaid, I think it would have been a disaster. As for the rating, I’d give it a 6.5.


We Own The Night

Release Year: 2007
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes
Directed by: James Gray
Written by: James Gray
IMDB: 7.1 (23,523 votes)
RT: 54% (134 reviews)
Metacritic: 59 (33 reviews)

A crime drama that featured a great cast, but a somewhat typical plot, We Own The Night was probably a decent flick to watch, but I don’t think it could be a memorable one. In the end, you would think that it’s just another crime drama.

The story began with Bobby Green as a somewhat a tough guy himself working for a Russian nightclub owner. Their relationship was close until one day the police, led by his brother Joe raid the establishment and starting a confrontation between the police and Russian drug dealers. The film ended in a typical manner of similar movies.

I failed to see notable performance from Mark Wahlberg. Phoenix did a great job portraying Bobby Green, as well as Robert Duvall’s role as the father of Joe and Bobby (I emphasized “father” instead of chief of the police force). Eva also managed to provide a fine acting here. Although she wasn’t set as one of the primary characters, her play made it as if she was one (of course she was categorized as “lead actress”, but that doesn’t mean being the key character). One thing that bugged me was that Bobby went from being “tough” to “weak”. Despite a great play by Phoenix, that sudden transformation was just unbelievable to me. Well, perhaps being arrested was having a rather traumatic impact on Bobby (but I would still can’t believe it). Also, I still failed to find the connection between the title and the content of the movie…

Again, deeper characters and relationships explorations could make this one better, but in the end, it was just another crime drama. For that achievement, I give this one a 6.5.

Meet Bill

Release Year: 2007 (Toronto International Film Festival, 2008 for wider release)
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Elizabeth Banks, Logan Lerman, Jessica Alba, Timothy Olyphant
Directed by: Bernie Goldmann & Melisa Wallack
Written by: Melisa Wallack
IMDB: 6.6 (2,795 votes)
RT: 12% (17 reviews)
Metacritic: 30 (8 reviews)

The main plot of Meet Bill was simply about a man that had been living a miserable life and when the boiling point had been reached (that was when he learned that his wife was having an affair with a television anchorman), he decided that he would have to break out of his old life and start a new life of his own choice.

I obviously felt that this movie was lacking in plot. The story was rather predictable until the end gave you a rather unusual conclusion for similar kind of movie. Another weakness of the plot was that the movie spent too much screen time exploiting Bill’s miserable life. Of course it has to be about Bill, but I think it went too far that it neglected some side stories. For example the relationship between the Kid and Jess, and between Jane Whitman & Jim Whitman (although they were minor roles, but sometimes exploiting some minor roles could bring magic), and Jess herself (we could plainly see that somehow Jess was still in love with Bill, but the movie failed to give a better highlight on this aspect).

As I mentioned earlier, too much screen time was given to Bill, it overshadowed the performance of the entire cast aside. Aaron Eckhart fortunately, managed to give a great performance. You would pity Bill and you would also adore Bill. Yet despite his goofy behaviour, I found it hard to laugh at Bill. Instead, you would sympathize on him. Eckhart managed to deliver all the necessary expression that Bill needed. Logan Lerman has a talent, but I think because of the script his performance got impaired, sometimes it was good, but sometimes it was just dull. I believe the kid should be the number two in this movie, but most of the poster put Jess and Lucy instead of him.

As for the supporting cast, Elizabeth Banks failed to deliver anything significant. Not because of bad acting, but I believe because the script hindered her. Jessica Alba even got a worse spot. She could’ve been better off if only the script explored Lucy’s relationship with the Kid. Timothy Olyphant was also categorized as an extra in this movie. I prefer him as Seth Bullock than as the anchorman Chip.

All in all, this could have been a better movie, but even with some improvements, it won’t be a great one. As for the score, I give it a 5.0 thanks to Eckhart convincing performance (because all other aspects sucked).

Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control

Release Year: 2008
Starring: Masi Oka, Nate Torrence, Mitch Rouse, Jayma Mays, Marika Dominczyk
Directed by: Gil Junger
Written by: Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember
IMDB: 5.2 (517 votes)

A totally disappointing movie, I’d say.

Acting was so awful that I wonder if the actors were actually acting. While Nate Torrence was overwhelmingly overdoing his role, Masi Oka was way awful. The actresses were also the same, totally disappointing.

The plot was actually simple, but even simple plot could be transformed into a great movie. Yet, this didn’t happen to this movie. The humour was terrible. I felt as if I was watching those “Movies” series (Scary Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc.). I did laughed once or twice, but most of the movie I’ve spent myself raising my eyebrows and wondered what were those writers think when they wrote the script.

I don’t know if this kind of movie could suit other audience, but to me, silly humour and terrible acting were too much to bear.

Overall, for being so unbelievably awful, I give this flick a 1.0. Yup, this movie is pointless and time-wasting.