May 2010 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie 5/7/2010
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in May of 2010. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
French documentary filmmaker Thomas Balmes has been making documentaries for a decade now, but now he focuses on something that will make people say “Aww”…babies! He specifically follows the life of four baby girls from around the world…Ponijao in Opuwo, Namibia; Bayar in Bayanchandmani, Mongolia; Mari in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie in San Francisco, USA. They start out in their mommas’ bellies and then do cute things up to their first birthday parties. Balmes doesn’t narrate the movie, so we just see the babies do things like participating in sibling rivalry, torturing the family pets, attempt to stand up, etc. It almost feels like a silent movie. The only words are supplementary in the background. I like babies, and I think that they are adorable…but since I don’t have any kids, it’s like watching a neighbor’s home movies. It’s interesting to see the cultures that the babies live in, but for a movie that is 79 minutes long with no plotline or narration, it can get a little dull after about 45 minutes or so. I found myself wondering how they could show so much the nudity of the moms for a PG-rated film (I’ve seen porno's with less nudity.) This is a cute one to rent…but I wouldn’t see it on the big screen.
Dastan (William Foster) is a young orphan boy who…along with his friend Bis (Elliot James Neale)…was roaming the market when a violent guard starts harassing Bis. King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) sees Dastan defend his friend, and so he adopts him. Fifteen years later, Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is now one of the royal princes of ancient Persia, alongside Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle)…the latter of which is the heir to the throne. Their uncle, Nizam (Ben Kingsley), is the King’s most trusted friend and advisor…so when he hears from a spy that the Holy City of Alamut has been providing their enemy with weapons, he recommends invading the city. The King wants to leave Alamut in peace, but Tus and Garsiv want to attack the city. Dastan doesn’t think that an attack is a good idea, but he wants to prove himself in the eyes of his brothers, so he and Bis (Reece Ritchie) beat them to the punch by leading his own attack of the city, making certain their conquest over Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and her people. During a celebration, Dastan is given the robe of the high regent of Alamut to present to their father. Unfortunately, it was covered in poisonous acid, which kills the King. Since Dastan was the one who delivered it to the King, they automatically think he is a murderer. Tamina helps Dastan escape the city into the desert…mainly because he has possession of a dagger that she is sworn to protect. Tamina then tries to stab Dastan with a sword, but he activates a button on the dagger that sends him one minute into the future…therefore avoiding her assault. She explains that the dagger can only be activated using “the sands of time”…and it is now out of sand. Dastan figures that he needs to get to his uncle Nizam and explain the situation. Along the way, Dastan and Tamina meet a group of outcast tax-defaulters, including entrepreneur and Ostrich races organizer Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina) with his right-hand man, the knife-throwing expert Seso (Steve Toussaint.) Meanwhile, the corrupt Nizam sends a dangerous Hassansin mystic (Gísli Örn Garðarsson) and his band of warriors to prevent Dastan from coming back so that he can eventually take over the throne. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how good this movie was. I, like most people, don’t really like video game adaptations (the Resident Evil and Tomb Raider movies seem to be the exception), so I didn’t have many expectations. With the exception of the 2004 disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow and the 2005 war movie Jarhead, Gyllenhaal hasn’t done much action (Jarhead didn’t have much action in it anyway.) He really beefed up his body…and apparently, he learned parkour as well (while it’s always cool to see people using parkour, but it seems a little misplaced to see people practicing a physical art developed in the 20th Century.) He didn’t have much of a sense of humor though (I’m only bringing that up because this movie will be compared to Disney’s other hit PG-13-rated Jerry Bruckheimer-produced movie series Pirates of the Caribbean…and Gyllenhaal is no Johnny Depp.) The humor lies squarely in Molina’s character…who you can tell was having a lot of fun playing the role. Speaking of fun, Arterton seems to be having more of that than in her last role…this year’s bad remake of Clash of the Titans. If director Mike Newell and Bruckheimer are up for it (and if it is a success), I wouldn’t mind if they adapted the game’s sequels Warrior Within, The Two Thrones, and The Forgotten Sands. Except for some parts that felt a little bit video game-looking, this is an exciting action movie that I would recommend.
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