Weekend Roundup: Amélie & 28 Days Later

Happy Monday, readers, and welcome to March!

Hope you had a nice weekend, wherever you are. It was a nice, mellow weekend for me, can’t complain really when the sun shone for the entire weekend with temp ‘soaring’ to the mid 30s (yes, that’s a ‘warm’ front for us Minnesotans after a long, cold Winter!). On top of our girls’ monthly movie nite on Friday, I managed to squeeze in another movie this weekend, as well as a trip to a local arts museum on Saturday. Below is my Amélie and 28 Days Later reviews:

Amélie

Finally watched this French movie with my girlfriends – as it’s been well-recommended by fellow bloggers (thanks guys!) and something my friends have also been curious about. Now I finally get why everyone just loves this movie.

Immediately we’re introduced to the film’s charming heroine Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou), whose unusual childhood shapes her imaginative propensity as a way to cope with her loneliness. Ever since she was a little girl, Amelie has a certain way to deal with what life throws at her, including one particularly traumatizing event, and we’re in for a treat as we’re pulled in to see the world through her curious eye.

As a young woman, she lives a quiet life as she glides about through the streets of Paris. She lives alone in a tiny apartment, works at a local cafe, and occasionally pay her also-lonely father a visit. But one day, she discovers a tin box containing a boy’s childhood memento, which sets off an adventure as she strives to find the rightful owner. It is then that Amélie comes out of her ‘shell’ – and her imaginary world – to bond with people around her, and inadvertently finds love in the process. When I wrote my post about unconventionally romantic flicks, several people mention this movie as one of their top picks, and it’s easy to see why. From the time Amelie first bumps into Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), they both embark on an endearing and whimsical journey that finally leads to a joyfully rewarding climax as the two finally meets. Unlike Hollywood movies are overloaded with cliched and hackneyed circumstances of couples who ‘meet cute’ or ‘initial hostility that grows into love’, etc., the love story here is utterly charming and sweet but not sickeningly saccharine.

Amelie & Nino in the cafe

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet paints a visually-dazzling film with its stylized cinematography. The skewed camera angles and clever direction makes the surreal, even bawdy scenes downright amusing, and they help enrich the simple story. But amidst the aesthetics, Tautou is hands down the star of the film. She dominates nearly every frame with her adorable wide eyes and mischievous grin, and all of us girls couldn’t stop admiring her gorgeous haircut that only such a pretty face as Tatou’s can pull off. But her quirkiness is matched by her kind heart as well, which is probably what I love most about this character. Even when she pulls on some pranks on people, it was motivated by benevolence and a sense of injustice that came to her attention.

I’m so glad I finally saw this movie. Amélie is a delightful film that charms you from the start with its unabashed kookiness. It’s also a joie de vivre … a hearty celebration of life and humanity.

4 out of 5 reels


28 Days Later

After watching a quintessential ‘feel-good’ flick, this is obviously as far-flung as it can possibly be in more ways than one. Yet they share something in common in that both are critically-acclaimed, and I’m glad to say that both of them exceeds my high expectation. Promoted as a gory zombie horror flick, I’ve avoided this flick for a while. As it turns out, it’s so much more than a ‘scary’ movie and it’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill flesh-eating corpse story.

Directed by British director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire), the movie opens at a Primate Research Center facility where a group of animal activists attempt to free the test-subjected chimps from their cages. Ignoring the scientist’s desperate warning that the primates are infected with rage, the group’s action sets off a devastating calamity. The rest of the movie takes place 28 days after that incurable virus has spread throughout the UK, and only a tiny handful survivors are left in the city. One of them is Jim (Cillian Murphy) who wakes up completely naked from a coma after a traffic accident. He exits the hospital and keeps walking into the city, baffled as to why the entire city is deserted.

Jim surveys the deserted city of London atop Wenstminster Bridge

The part of Jim in his hospital gown wandering on top of Westminster Bridge with the Big Ben looming in the distance is such an iconic scene, and it’s got such a realistic feel to it as the movie is shot almost entirely on digital video. According to its Wikipedia page, in order to depict these locations as desolate, the film crew closed off sections of street for minutes at a time, usually in early morning to minimize disruption. The quietness of the scene makes the ensuing fracas as Jim discovers the zombies – in a church of all places – all the more terrifying. The incident brings him to the first non-contaminated people, Mark (Noah Huntley) and Selena (Naomie Harris), and they enlighten Jim about the incident that leaves the world in utter chaos and immensely deprived of what we take for granted every day: order (government, police/army), basic necessities (electricity, running water) and any form of communication (TV, radio).

Gleeson, Murphy and Harris were perfectly cast

In their quest for survival, those left standing are united with two additional ‘healthy’ people, a father-daughter duo who occupies an abandoned condominium. The dad, Frank (played brilliantly by Brendan Gleeson), urges the team to go to Manchester to find a band of soldiers he heard over a pre-recorded radio broadcast, that not only promises shelter but also “the answer to infection.” Aboard Frank’s black cab, their journey provides for comic relief – but not entirely devoid of suspense – and gives a nice opportunity to get to know the characters. But as soon as they find the abandoned military blockade, a tragic incident robs another survivor’s life, and the rest of the team are led to a bolstered mansion where seemingly ‘good’ people will offer them protection from the savagery of the ‘infected.’ Yet, we quickly learn that there’s more than meets the eye, and that these seemingly good’ people end up being as harmful and terrifying – if not more so – in their perversion disguised as a ‘survival tactic.’

The movie is not without violent/gory scenes, but they’re served in context of the realities the survivors now face, not for pure shock value. In fact, it isn’t so much a movie about zombies, but more about how the survivors cope with dire circumstances. It also makes a commentary of what people are capable in desperate measures, which can be both horrific and admirable, sometimes even both. The zombie attack scene at Jim’s parents’ house is harrowing not exactly for the actual attack, but when it shows the extent of survival instinct that compels us to do the unthinkable. It’s just one of the many scenes that make your skin crawl and stick to your gut because of what they represent, which is a reflection of human nature that are sadly just as scary as the crime-laden headlines we read every day.

Overall, it’s an impressive film for its witty, no-nonsense script and clever direction, boosted by great performances throughout, particularly Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who’s also excellent in sci-fi flick Sunshine, his second collaboration with Boyle. Both Gleeson and Harris were notable as well, this is the first time I’ve seen the latter, but I hope to see more of the London-based actress in the future.

I’m glad I step out of my comfort zone and give this ‘horror’ flick a chance. It proves that you don’t need a big budget or hi-tech gizmos to create a great film. A must-see indeed.

4 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on either one of these films?

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