Archive for May, 2008

Netflix this: ‘Bella’

May 29, 2008

Bella is a quiet movie. It doesn’t grab with you with special effects or punchy, acerbic dialogue. It’s a film with a simple story, commanding yet restrained performances and its heart proudly displayed on its sleeve.

Chances are you missed it during its theatrical run, and chances are this is the first time you’ve ever heard of it. But this little film is finally on DVD, and I highly recommend it.

What’s it about? Jose (Eduardo Verástegui) is a chef at his brother Manny’s (Manny Perez) Mexican restaurant in Manhattan. Nina (Tammy Blanchard) is a waitress at the restaurant but is abruptly fired for being late. Just as abruptly, Jose ditches work to spend the day with Nina. Both have a lot of pain inside, and throughout the day they realize each other offers a way to rise above their circumstances. And no, they don’t fall in love and live happily ever after.

What’s good about it: Bella deals with the same subject matter as Juno—unplanned pregnancy—but the way both films approach it could not be any different. Juno is crass and smarmy (and one of those films you’re told to like because it has won a buttload of awards and has a quirky, pseudo-indie soundtrack), whereas Bella is gentle and unassuming. Verástegui and particularly Blanchard are completely believable in their respective roles—her character breaks your heart.

What’s bad about it: Some of the plot seems a little too simplistic—to go into further detail will say too much—but that’s about it, really.

Overall: A solid drama with heartfelt performances. The quiet antidote to the Hollywood noise.

Perfect for: Those looking for something different without having to worry about offensive content.

Visit the Bella website

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‘Speed Racer’ is actually pretty good!

May 28, 2008

We have come to the end of month one of Summer Movies. The hits (to no surprise to anyone): Iron Man (good!) and Indiana Jones and the Dumbest of The Series. Prince Caspian didn’t do as well as predicted (a bit of a surprise), and Speed Racer tanked–both critically and commercially (It’s only grossed about $40 million).

I was hesitant to see Speed Racer because of the negative buzz, but now that I have seen it, I wish I didn’t delay.

What’s it about: The Racer family’s second oldest son, Speed (Emile Hirsch) has a preternatural knack for driving race cars, just like his older brother Rex, who died racing years before. When Speed rejects a sweet offer to race for Billionaire Arnold Royalton (Roger Allam), he discovers the world of his favorite sport is ripe with corruption. Recruited by the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox), Speed must win the Crucible, a deadly cross-country race that took his brother Rex. Oh, and there’s a ninja fight scene.

What’s good about it: The film is fast and furious and feels much shorter than its 135 minute running time. The visuals are simultaneously jarring and breathtaking. There literally is no other movie that looks like this. Vibrant colors and impressive racing sequences make this the first movie that feels like a video game without that being an insult. It’s also cool to see an action film that is pro-family. This is a movie that demands to be seen on the big screen or eventually on Blu-Ray. And there’s a ninja fight scene.

What’s bad about it: Warner Bros. decided to push Speed Racer as a family film, which probably wasn’t the best way to go. Because it’s PG and not PG-13, older movie goers stayed away. And because of its running time the film is way too long for small kids. And there’s only one ninja fight scene.

The perfect movie for: 10 year-old boys.